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22951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 12, 2010, 01:53:57 PM
Author Robert Fulghum tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.

So, I asked.

"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went something like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

"I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine--in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light--truth, understanding, knowledge--is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world--into the black places in the hearts of men--and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
22952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Karzai reading this thread on: December 12, 2010, 01:50:21 PM
Afghanistan's President Karzai signs deal on gas pipeline project
The proposed 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline would cut through Taliban territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A flurry of 26 deaths over two days highlights difficulties the project would face.

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
December 12, 2010

 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with regional leaders Saturday to sign an agreement for a massive energy project that could eventually net his country billions of dollars in revenue: a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline whose proposed route cuts through the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
As if to highlight the complications facing the project, at least 26 people were killed in attacks Friday and Saturday, including a Taliban commander and several people believed to be with a private security firm, Afghan and NATO officials said.



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The United States strongly supports the proposed pipeline because it could draw Central Asia's significant energy resources to Pakistan and India an bypass Iran, Washington's top adversary in the region.

Karzai met with Turkmen, Indian and Pakistani officials in Ashgabat, the capital of neighboring Turkmenistan, to sign the accord.

"On this very important occasion, let me once again highlight our vision for regional cooperation, which is to contribute to regional stability and prosperity," Karzai said in a statement, "and to enhance the conditions for Afghanistan to resume its central role as a land bridge in this region."

But the proposed $7.6-billion TAPI Gas Pipeline project and any revenue it may generate may be years away. The planned route passes from Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, through violent territory still unsettled by insurgencies, including the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and the Pakistani city of Quetta, which is considered the home of the Taliban leadership.

The latest violence took place in Afghanistan's south and the northern province of Kunduz.

In the most deadly attack, a roadside bomb blast struck a pickup truck carrying Afghan men Friday in a rural stretch of Helmand province, killing 15 people, Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for Helmand's governor, said Saturday.

Also in Helmand, a man described as a senior Taliban commander and three members of his family were killed Saturday in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrike, the official Bakhtar news agency reported.

A car bomb exploded Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of the Information and Culture Directorate in Kandahar, injuring four police officers and two youths, said Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor there.

"The enemies of peace and the people have lost the ability to fight against the government, and now they want to terrorize the public by committing such criminal acts just to show their existence," said a statement issued by the governor's office.

In Kunduz, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car attacked an Afghan army checkpoint, injuring five soldiers and nine civilians in nearby homes, mostly women and children, said Muhbullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

U.S.-led forces also announced an investigation of allegations that seven Afghan members of a private security firm were killed Saturday during a counterinsurgency operation near the eastern Afghan city of Gardez, the site of a Dec. 5 suicide bombing that killed Western troops.

A military news release said the U.S.-led troops opened fire after armed men emerged from a vehicle and compound suspected of being linked to the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban.

"The security force takes civilian casualty allegations seriously and is currently accessing who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in that area at that time of the morning," the news release said.

Protecting civilian lives has become a key component of the international force's strategy in Afghanistan. Deteriorating security erodes the Afghan civilians' trust in the central government and its armed forces, sometimes leading them to turn to the Taliban for protection.

The United States hopes the Afghan army and police force will be able to secure the country and tamp down the Taliban once international troops begin to depart. But attempts at political reconciliation between the central government and the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until the U.S. invasion in 2001, appear to have stalled.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Wednesday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that a large U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan was showing results.

After a meeting with Karzai, Gates told reporters he would return to Washington believing that Afghanistan will be ready for a U.S. troop drawdown by 2014, as set out by President Obama.

daragahi@latimes.com
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 12:55:57 PM
It reads to me like he is leaving civil law issues open , , ,
22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bernanke wants $10 fast food meals (Scott Grannis quoted) on: December 12, 2010, 10:24:39 AM


Bernanke Wants A $10 Three-Piece Chicken Meal
 

Eighteen months ago I decided to get fit and lose weight. I bought a racing bike and hit the roads. I also bought a 2hp Vitamix blender that whips up fruit and protein smoothies faster than you can say Jamba ( JMBA - news - people ) Juice. The payoff has been great. I've lost 15 pounds and with it all kinds of petty inflammations in the ankles, knees and lower back. (I'll share the details of my diet and exercise regimen if you email me at rkarlgaard@forbes.com. Put "Diet" in the subject line.)

But no one is perfect, least of all me. Every once in a while I get a powerful urge to eat greasy food. Not long ago I drove by the window of the local KFC and ordered a three-piece Kentucky Fried Chicken meal, all dark, original recipe, with coleslaw, beans and a root beer. The order came to $9.47.

Let's stop here. Nine and a half bucks for a KFC meal? Seriously? KFC is a fast-food retailer. Fast food is supposed to be cheap. But $9.47 for one ordinary meal is not cheap. What's going on?
Facts such as higher KFC prices reflect the world as it is. These facts contradict recent headlines about Consumer Price Index inflation. The October CPI rose just 0.6% at an annualized rate, the lowest since records began in 1957. Bear in mind that the official scorekeeper for CPI inflation is the U.S. Department of Labor, whose head is politically appointed. At the same time the independent Federal Reserve has its own inflation target, rumored to be 1.5% to 2%.

There you have it. The Fed thinks prices are too low. It wants higher prices--$10 for a chicken dinner at KFC; $40 for a family of four.

Where, oh where, do you start with such destructive nonsense?

For one, it boggles the mind to think the Fed goes along with the Labor Department's exclusion of food and energy prices in the CPI. Good lord, people have to eat. And go places. Gas prices are certainly not cheap. They are low only compared with the summer of 2008.

But the CPI is flawed in other ways that bear no resemblance to the way people actually live. As the always savvy Scott Grannis points out in his Calafia Beach Pundit blog: "If there is any deflation out there, it can be found mainly in the energy and housing sectors, both of which experienced a huge run-up in price in the years prior to 2008. In my book that's not deflation, it's payback. Almost anywhere else you look, prices are rising."

Are you listening, Ben Bernanke? Do you actually get out in the world? The swift backlash against Bernanke's QE2 is borne out in the fact that prices, in real life, are rising faster than most people's wages. QE2 will only take us further down the stagflation path--and will hurt the poor the hardest. There are 40 million Americans already on food stamps. Higher food prices will increase that shameful number.

Ironically, for a Democratic Administration that fancies itself a greater friend of the poor, a cheap dollar slams the working poor the hardest. The working poor--those striving to stay off unemployment and/or welfare--pay the highest percentage of their wages for food. They tend to have the longest commutes in older, gas-guzzling cars. Higher gas prices slam them. Many working poor don't have smartphones or computers or the time and know-how to bargain shop on the Internet. Finally, they have most of their meager assets in cash: paychecks, tips, checking accounts and small savings accounts.

In a misguided attempt to prop up house prices and prevent the next wave of bank failures, the Fed is destroying the value of the working poor's cash.

A crushed dollar hurts the majority of Americans and the economy in general. But the rich--especially the younger affluent--do relatively well. The majority of their assets are in things that hold their value when the dollar goes down: stocks, gold, commodities, beachfront property, etc. The rich can hold just enough cash to take advantage of bargains when they appear. They can also invest in smartphones, 4G mobility and software that facilitate price shopping for the best bargain.
You might like Ben Bernanke if you're 35 years old, made a ton of money on Wall Street and your diversified assets are inflating. You don't like him if you're 60 years old and own a KFC franchise--or eat at one.

A soft dollar will not lift America from its economic doldrums. The opposite is needed. A strong dollar would redirect capital to worthy entrepreneurs--and out of ruinous commodity speculation. For the rest of us it would restore the purchasing power we thought we'd earned in the first place.

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/1220/opinions-rich-karlgaard-digital-rules-bernanke-chicken-meal.html
22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blasphemy in Pakistan on: December 12, 2010, 10:22:08 AM
Blasphemy in Pakisan

http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/12/doctor-arrested-for-blasphemy-police.html
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WW2: Occupied France on: December 12, 2010, 10:14:20 AM
By MODRIS EKSTEINS
We are now more than 65 years away from the end of World War II, but that global conflict and its precursor, the so-called Great War of 1914-18, continue to fascinate and torment us, even as the veterans who fought in them retreat to another realm. What is striking about the current spate of books and movies about these conflicts is that for many in the West, they no longer seem to represent the unequivocal victory of good over evil, right over wrong, liberty over tyranny. A plethora of historical reassessments of the aerial campaigns against German and Japanese cities question not only the moral but also the political validity of the carpet-bombing of civilians. In his recent film, "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino turned all tables when he had Jews behaving like Nazis, and in the massive HBO mini-series "The Pacific" a Marine's reference to "yellow monkeys" reverberates through the entire series.

All wars, but these two in particular, with their mass effort and mass death—the first great democratic wars of history—are now freighted with the toxic irony that came to pervade the 20th century and continues to afflict us still. If today we question traditional narratives, no longer trust our leaders and have lost all faith in grand ideas, the gnarled roots of such skepticism lead back through the World Wars of the last century.

In "And the Show Went On," Alan Riding, former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, tracks a period of particular moral murkiness. He focuses on French writers and artists—the whole lot might, in an act of leveling, be called artistes—and their response to the German invasion of France in 1940. Mr. Riding is less interested, though, in the broader historical implications of his theme than in the human stories that emerge when the imagination is confronted by a violent reality.

For the French the defeat in 1940, and the next four years of German occupation, remain the most sensitive and sensational of all historical topics. Before his execution in February 1945, the openly collaborationist yet highly talented writer Robert Brasillach remarked: "Whatever their outlook, during these years the French have all more or less been to bed with Germany." But, as recently as May 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy continued to claim the high ground: "The true France," he asserted, "never collaborated." A nation that has always cherished its intellectuals, that rightly prides itself on its cultivation of the arts, is still tortured by the notion that the thoughtful, sensitive and most intelligent "Marianne" ever slept with the arrogant and brutal "Fritz." Mr. Riding shows that she did, and with considerable relish at that. As the vivacious actress Arletty put it so unforgettably in pondering her predicament during the occupation: "My heart is French but my ass is international."

And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
By Alan Riding
Knopf, 400 pages, $28.95

.For most of us, Mr. Riding's conclusion is hardly news, certainly not the headline stuff it was in the early 1970s when the historian Robert O. Paxton of Columbia University exploded the myth of a broad French opposition to the occupying Germans—and a broad refusal to collaborate. Until Mr. Paxton's research was published, the French had lived under the comfortable illusion that the true France, as President Sarkozy would have it, had been intrepid members of the Resistance, supporters of Charles de Gaulle and the Free French and anti-German through and through. The can of worms that Mr. Paxton opened has been spoiling the air at the elegant Deux Magots café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain ever since.

 
RoBut what constituted collaboration or resistance? Any attempt to define those terms conjures up all the fundamental problems of our modern and postmodern world, a world not of fixity but of fluidity. Where do we put the philosopher-playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, who continued to publish during the occupation and later reinvented himself as a great résistant? Or the remarkable novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an avowed anti-Semite who nevertheless insisted that he hated the Germans just as much? Or that artistic provocateur, Jean Cocteau, who was at the very center of social life in occupied Paris but later felt abused by the accusation that he had collaborated, claiming ingenuously that "People are always thrusting me into scandals." Notoriety or flattery often seemed more appealing to this group than truth. And what about those world-renowned entertainers Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Sacha Guitry, who clearly needed the bright lights as much for psychological as economic reasons? Piaf's subsequent signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing") reverberated with double meaning. Where, too, should we slot a pan-European like Alfred Fabre-Luce, whose dream was a united Europe and who saw in German conquest, faute de mieux, a step toward that dream?

Mr. Riding is very good at pointing to the complexities and ambiguities of the situation. He retraces much of the ground that Frederic Spotts covered in 2008 in "The Shameful Peace," but the two authors, while both expatriate residents of France, take opposed positions. Mr. Spotts has nothing but scorn for those who compromised between 1940 and 1944, whatever the reason. Mr. Riding, by contrast, finds the behavior of most French thinkers, painters and performers all too human. Many vacillated. Many were concerned merely with survival. Many who joined the Resistance later had been quick to cooperate earlier. The entertainment industry hardly skipped a beat. More plays and movies were produced in those four years than in any comparable four-year period in the French past. The Germans were delighted; such frenetic activity was exactly what they wanted, and they probably exercised less control in France than in any other territory they occupied.

R
.The divide in France on the painful subject of the German occupation during World War II is in part generational and in part political. Because of the difficulty of defining collaboration and resistance, the two sides have found little common ground. Robert O. Paxton initiated the French debate with his landmark "Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-44" (1972). Among more recent books, the British historian Julian Jackson's "The Fall of France" (2003) and "France: The Dark Years, 1940-44" (2001) are exceptional for their industry and integrity.

Irène Némirovsky's enormously successful novel "Suite Française" (first published in English in 2006) gives one a poignant sense of the ambiguities inherent in the situation after June 1940: "Their conversation," she wrote of her characters, "was pessimistic, almost despairing, but their voices light-hearted."

Because it is so troubling, very little of the remarkable work of Ernst Jünger, who accompanied the German occupiers of Paris, has been trans lated into English. The French, however, have always been fascinated by him—his diary for the years of occupation is available en français—and upon his death in February 1998, at age 102, Le Monde titled its obituary "Le Siècle de Jünger," identifying the 20th century with him.

Jean Galtier-Boissière may have kept the most readable French diary during those dark years. Alas, this too has not been translated into English. A brilliant editor, he had founded the satirical monthly Le Crapouillot during the Great War. In its issue of January 1931, devoted to Berlin, the journal announced that, by comparison with the German capital, Paris was tame and chaste—countering the impression that both Alan Riding and Frederic Spotts wish to leave.

On the aesthetics of Nazism, the most intriguing recent contribution is Roger Griffin's "Modernism and Fascism" (2007), which takes the analysis of Nazism far beyond Frederic Spotts's more narrowly focused study "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" (2002). Albert Speer's memoir, "Inside the Third Reich" (1970), remains invaluable, as do the various translated volumes of Joseph Goebbels's diaries. Goebbels was of course the Nazi "minister of enlightenment." The sculptor Arno Breker, whose massive show at the Orangerie in Paris in 1942 attracted much attention, is the subject of a fascinating section in Jonathan Petropoulos's "The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany " (2000).

Film has probably been a more suitable medium for delving into the anguish and complexity of the Nazi occupation than the written word. Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog" (1955), Marcel Ophüls's "The Sorrow and the Pity" (1969), Louis Malle's "Lacombe, Lucien" (1974) and Joseph Losey's "Monsieur Klein" (1976) are a few of the outstanding cinematic contributions.

—Modris Eksteins
.Contradiction would be the offspring of fear and confusion. The writers Ramon Fernandez and Marguerite Duras—the one a convinced collaborationist, the other a member of the Resistance—were neighbors on the Rue Saint-Benoît. While sharing the same cleaning woman, they would intentionally ignore each other's social gatherings, be they of noisy fascists or furtive résistants. In comparable fashion, the writers Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and André Malraux, while political foes, remained personal friends. After a visit to Germany in 1935, Drieu had embraced Nazism, whereas Malraux supported the anti-fascist Popular Front in France. These differences notwithstanding, Drieu would become godfather to one of Malraux's children, and Malraux would seek to protect Drieu after the liberation in 1944.

Unlike Mr. Spotts, Mr. Riding refuses to judge. Instead he cites Anthony Eden, Britain's wartime foreign secretary: "If one hasn't been through the horrors of an occupation by a foreign power, you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that." The logical extension of Mr. Riding's carefully constructed and sympathetic account would be a similar retelling of the other stories of Europe, without the usual polemical and self-righteous tone. In Eastern Europe, where the only choice was between two totalitarian options, communist or fascist, the dilemma was even more horrific than in France. It was easiest not to think about it and just play according to the rules in force that day.

For some the most fascinating chapter in Mr. Riding's evocative book will be the one on Florence Gould, whose tale highlights the moral conundrums of the time. Born in San Francisco of French parents in 1895, she married the enormously wealthy Frank Jay Gould, heir to a railroad fortune and owner of a consortium of hotels and casinos on the Riviera. The Goulds remained in France during the war: he in the south, she principally in Paris, where she ran a vibrant and sumptuous "literary" salon, visited by all sides in the conflict.

In a city where shortages were the norm, her gatherings never lacked for Dom Pérignon or petits fours. Ernst Jünger, the brilliant German soldier and writer, was one of her closest companions (though Mr. Riding rejects the widespread assumption that they were lovers). Florence—even the name evoked angels of mercy and an identity beyond borders—represents, some might say, the more modern Marianne, so feminine, so attractive, yet so cosmopolitan. "I may not know much about literature," she said, "but I know a lot about writers." While Mr. Spotts dismisses her as little more than a spoiled and vulgar tramp, Mr. Riding imbues her with considerable charm. Her long career as hostess and patron, both during and again after the war, lends credence to the latter judgment.

Engrossed in the immediacy of his story, Mr. Riding rarely pans to the wider view. If he had done so, he might have noted that at the heart of the 20th-century tragedy, pumping the blood of Modernism as a broadly based cultural mode and mood, was not Paris or France; it was Berlin and Germany. Many of the impulses for creative destruction—industrial, technological, scientific and intellectual—emanated from this heartland of the European continent. But at the same time the violence that the French were inclined to blame exclusively on the alien intruder, le Boche, had a powerful resonance within.

View Full Image

Roger-Viollet / The Image Works
 
Maurice Chevalier on a visit arranged by occupation authorities to French prisoners of war in Germany in the winter of 1941-42.
.If Friedrich Nietzsche postulated, with some reason, that he was dynamite, Louis Aragon, the French poet and novelist, gave this abstraction a more practical dimension when he said that he could imagine nothing more beautiful than the "splendid and chaotic heap" produced by a cathedral and some dynamite. In the Second Surrealist Manifesto, in 1929, André Breton stated: "The simplest Surrealist act consists in going down into the street, guns in hand, and shooting at random, for as long as possible, into the crowd." This violent motif, this rage against tradition, deeply embedded in French painterly and literary imaginings, predated 1914, let alone 1940. The whole aim of artistic and literary modernism since the tail end of the 19th century had been to break down boundaries, definitions, laws and categories. Artists and intellectuals—the advance guard—were at war with the status quo before the military started fighting in either war.

Correspondingly, the appeal of Hitler and the Third Reich to some of the French and indeed European intelligentsia was based on this anger, resentment and craving for change. But the appeal was fortified by the importance Nazism assigned to the arts. On his only visit to Paris, on June 23, 1940, Hitler asked to see the Garnier opera house before any other building and admitted, according to the sculptor Arno Breker who accompanied him, that he wanted to be "surrounded by artists." With this emphasis on artists and aesthetic considerations, what Nazism did was to accelerate a process whereby politics would be turned into spectacle, an art form for the masses, and art in turn would become inseparable from politics. As reluctant as we may be to admit it, Hitler helped usher in our world.

—Mr. Eksteins is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. His forthcoming book, "Solar Dance," deals with the posthumous success of Vincent van Gogh.
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Yoo on Gitmo on: December 12, 2010, 10:01:41 AM


By JOHN C. YOO
AND ROBERT J. DELAHUNTY
When announcing in 2002 that the U.S. would detain al Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the base as "the best, least worst place." Mr. Rumsfeld's quip distilled a truth: The U.S. would capture enemy fighters and leaders, and their detention, while messy, was of great military value.

For two years, President Barack Obama has pretended that terrorism is a crime, that prisoners are unwanted, and that Gitmo is unneeded. As a presidential candidate, he declared: "It's time to show the world . . . we're not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they're there or what they're charged with." Upon taking office, he ordered Gitmo closed within the year.

But the president's embrace of the left's terrorism-as-crime theories collided with his responsibility to protect a great nation. Now the reality of the ongoing war on terror is helping to shatter the Gitmo myth and end its distortion of our antiterrorism strategies.

This week the intelligence community reported to Congress that one-quarter of the detainees released from Guantanamo in the past eight years have returned to the fight. Though the U.S. and its allies have killed or recaptured some of these 150 terrorists, well over half remain at large. The Defense Department reports that Gitmo alumni have assumed top positions in al Qaeda and the Taliban, attacked allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led efforts to kill U.S. troops.

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Associated Press
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described Guantanamo Bay as "the best, least worst place."



Even that 25% recidivism rate is likely too low. The intelligence community reports that it usually takes about two and a half years before a released detainee shows up on its radar. Our forces probably have yet to re-engage most of the terrorists among the 66 detainees released so far by the Obama administration.

The Bush administration released many more, but those freed by this administration are likely more dangerous. Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base. Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Mr. Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups. None was judged innocent.

All of this is having an impact on Congress, which this week voted overwhelmingly to de-fund any effort to shut down the Gitmo prison. It also barred the Justice Department from transferring detainees to the U.S. homeland. Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's rush to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in downtown New York, the planners of the 9/11 attacks will stay put.

Congress is reflecting the wishes of the American people. In the Gitmo myth, President George W. Bush was a Lone Ranger acting without Congressional permission, and Gitmo was a law-free zone. But the American people never opposed capturing and detaining the enemy. And now Democratic Congress has ratified Mr. Bush's policy.

Freezing the Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't end the serious distortions in Mr. Obama's terrorism policy.

The administration relies on unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta calls it "the only game in town." Drones take no prisoners, but they also ask no questions. Firing missiles from afar cannot substitute for the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders for intelligence. (The real question now is whether CIA agents will decline to interrogate prisoners, thanks to Mr. Holder's criminal investigations into Bush policies.)

As long as no one is sent to Gitmo, the Obama administration will leave itself two options for dealing with terrorists: kill, or catch-and-release. Mr. Obama's drone-heavy policy means that more people will die—not only al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

The Gitmo myth also drove the Justice Department's push to prosecute al Qaeda leaders in U.S. civilian courts. Nowhere else did the Obama administration place its view of terrorism more clearly on display as a law-enforcement problem. The near-acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, the al Qaeda operative who facilitated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, by a New York jury last month has clearly revealed that path as a dead end—even if Mr. Holder remains in denial.

The simple alternative is to continue detentions at Gitmo. Detention is consistent with the rules of war, which allow captured combatants to be held indefinitely without requiring criminal charges to be filed. It also keeps our troops and agents in the field focused on finding and killing the enemy, not on collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Using its constitutional power of the purse, the new Congress should continue to keep Gitmo in operation. It should press President Obama to resume the capture, detention and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders. It should also educate the public about the real state of affairs in Guantanamo: The military has spent millions to create a model facility.

Most importantly, Congress can use its oversight power to probe the decision-making that led to the release of the 150 or more recidivists. It can require a full accounting from the military and intelligence agencies of the harms caused by released detainees, and it can bring to light the risks that these bureaucratic mistakes will pose to American lives.

After the left's long denunciation of Bush-era policies, Mr. Obama should admit that he has made his share of mistakes—not the least of which has been propagating the Gitmo myth. If Americans die at the hands of released detainees, we will know who to blame.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an American Enterprise Institute scholar. Mr. Delahunty is an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Both served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 09:40:52 AM
GM:

"I'm not sure how to dumb this down for you, since this forum doesn't allow for crayons or hand puppets."

You are a bright, well-educated man.  This sort of commentary is not necessary to presenting your case.  Please don't.

Thank you,
Marc

@JDN:

What does the judge do?

22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo-fascist bomber in Sweden on: December 12, 2010, 09:28:27 AM


http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/20...stockholm.html


Quote:
A man blew himself up in a suicide attack in central Stockholm this evening surrounded by Christmas shoppers. A car exploded just minutes earlier on a nearby street, injuring two people.
The man carried six pipe-bombs, but only one exploded. In addition he had a backpack filled with nails, and a possible additional bomb.

According to witnesses, the man shouted something in Arabic before he detonated the bombs.

The bomber was the only one killed in the attack. Several people nearby went into shock and suffered hearing loss.

The bombs detonated at Bryggargatan street. According to one source, if he would have blown up on the nearby Drottninggatan street, it would have been a massacre.

Approximately ten minutes before the explosions occurred, Swedish news agency TT received an email, also addressed to Säpo, in which a reached out to “Sweden and the Swedish people”.

He cites Sweden’s silence surrounding the cartoons by Swedish Lars Vilks which portray the prophet Mohammed as a dog, the Swedish troops in Afghanistan, saying in audio files attached to the email that “now your children, daughters and sisters die like our brothers’ and sisters’ children die”.

“Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you don’t stop your ward against Islam and degrading the prophet and your stupid support of that pig Vilks,” the man said.

The man also urges all Muslims in Sweden to “stop sucking up to and degrading”. He concludes the message with yet another call to “all the mujahedeen in Europe and Sweden”.

“Now it’s time to act, don’t wait any longer. Fear no one, don’t fear prison, don’t fear death.”


The message contained audio files in both Swedish and Arabic. The audio files do not link the man to any organization. The man also says that he's been to the Middle East and asks his family to forgive him for lying to them. "I never went to the Middle East to work or earn money. I went there for Jihad."

The email was also sent to Säpo, the Swedish Security service. They did not see the mail before the explosion.
 
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: December 11, 2010, 11:35:12 AM
Nice find.  It is more than a little too bad for all of us that AG badly lost his way.
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rail gun on: December 11, 2010, 11:31:50 AM


Navy Sets World Record With Incredible, Sci-Fi Weapon

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A theoretical dream for decades, the railgun is unlike any other weapon used in warfare. And it's quite real too, as the U.S. Navy has proven in a record-setting test today in Dahlgren, VA.

Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the technology uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.

"It's an over-used term, but it really changes several games," Rear Admiral Nevin P. Carr, Jr., the chief of Naval Research, told FoxNews.com prior to the test.

For a generation raised on shoot-'em-up video games, the word "railgun" invokes sci-fi images of an impossibly destructive weapon annihilating monsters and aliens. But the railgun is nonetheless very real.

An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn't have any explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing -- more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.

"It bursts radially, but it's hard to quantify," said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager with the Office of Naval Research. To convey a sense of just how much damage, Ellis told FoxNews.com that the big guns on the deck of a warship are measured by their muzzle energy in megajoules. A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph. Multiple that by 33 and you get a picture of what would happen when such a weapon hits a target.

Ellis says the Navy has invested about $211 million in the program since 2005, since the railgun provides many significant advantages over convention weapons. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within 6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it reaches its destination.

Furthermore, current U.S. Navy guns can only reach targets about 13 miles away. The railgun being tested today could reach an enemy 100 miles away. And with current GPS guidance systems it could do so with pinpoint accuracy. The Navy hopes to eventually extend the range beyond 200 miles.

"We're also eliminating explosives from the ship, which brings significant safety benefits and logistical benefits," Ellis said. In other words, there is less danger of an unintended explosion onboard, particularly should such a vessel come under attack.

Indeed, a railgun could be used to inflict just such harm on another vessel.

Admiral Carr, who calls the railgun a "disruptive technology," said that not only would a railgun-equipped ship have to carry few if any large explosive warheads, but it could use its enemies own warheads against them. He envisions being able to aim a railgun directly at a magazine on an enemy ship and "let his explosives be your explosives."

There's also a cost and logistical benefit associated with railguns. For example, a single Tomahawk cruise missile costs roughly $600,000. A non-explosive guided railgun projectile could cost much less. And a ship could carry many more, reducing the logistical problems of delivering more weapons to a ship in battle. For these reasons, Admiral Carr sees the railgun as even changing the strategic and tactical assumptions of warfare in the future.

The Navy still has a distance to go, however, before the railgun test becomes a working onboard weapon. Technically, Ellis says they've already overcome several hurdles. The guns themselves generate a terrific amount of heat -- enough to melt the rails inside the barrel -- and power -- enough to force the rails apart, destroying the gun and the barrel in the process.

The projectile is no cannon ball, either. At speeds well above the sound barrier, aerodynamics and special materials must be considered so that it isn't destroyed coming out of the barrel or by heat as it travels at such terrific speeds.

Then there's question of electrical requirements. Up until recently, those requirements simply weren't practical. However, the naval researchers believe they can solve that issue using newer Navy ships and capacitors to build up the charge necessary to blast a railgun projectile out at supersonic speeds. Ellis says they hope to be able to shoot 6 to 12 rounds per minute, "but we're not there yet."

So when will the railgun become a working weapon? Both Ellis and Carr expect fully functional railguns on the decks of U.S. Navy ships in the 2025 time frame.

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/10/navy-railgun-shoots-bullets-electromagnet/#ixzz17mWbrtS6
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 10, 2010, 10:36:25 PM
My guess is that he figured out that --surprise! Bill had settled in and there was no getting the microphone away from him;  and rather that standing there like a potted plant, he left.  Not the most manly of excuses, but well, no surprise there , , , rolleyes
22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis on: December 10, 2010, 03:14:13 PM
makes a case for bullishness:

http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/
22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: December 10, 2010, 10:51:20 AM
The looming real budget cuts about to hit the Defense Department would be unfortunate in any setting but are likely to present especially acute problems for U.S. forces five or 10 years down the road due to growth in both quantity and quality of Chinese military systems over that time. While U.S. forces are looking at cuts across the board, and already find it difficult to field meaningful numbers of best-in-the-world systems such as the F-22, China is beginning to hit its stride in the production of military systems that compete with U.S. quality.

Chinese fighter aircraft in particular are beginning to encroach on the dominance of American F-15s and F-16s in technical sophistication and flight performance -- not surprising, considering the F-15 entered active service with the U.S. Air Force in 1976 and the F-16 in 1980. China's new F-11B, an improved and entirely Chinese-made upgrade of the Russian SU-27, poses a particular threat to older U.S. aircraft. With the F-22 program capped at 187 aircraft, and with any fight to defend Taiwan requiring U.S. aircraft to fly from distant bases, it is becoming a real possibility that U.S. forces could lose air superiority.

22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: December 10, 2010, 10:46:49 AM
Government & Politics
Framing the Tax Debate
"Tax deal" is the buzz phrase of the week in Washington, as Barack Obama and congressional Republicans came to an agreement Monday on a two-year extension of current income tax rates for all Americans. Predictably, the Left went hysterical. House Democrats promptly held a voice vote to reject the compromise unless undisclosed changes are made to it, though the Senate began debate on a larded-up version of the proposal Thursday night with a test vote scheduled for Monday. As usual, the devil is in the details -- and, in this case, the definitions.

Obama, his fellow Democrats and their acolytes in the media continue to frame the debate in terms of tax "cuts" versus the budget deficit -- as if tax rates before 2001 were the natural order of things and to keep rates where they are is a "cut" that will increase the deficit. On the contrary, without the deal, everyone's taxes will rise by hundreds or even thousands of dollars next year. With the deal, no one's income taxes will be cut. In fact, some taxes will skyrocket. The estate (death) tax will be resurrected at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption -- up from 0 percent this year, but down from the previous 55 percent. The only new cut would be a temporary payroll tax reduction of two percentage points.

The facts, however, don't stop the Left from their dishonest characterization. "The far-reaching package ... would add more than $900 billion to the deficit over the next two years," The Washington Post lamented. Ditto for The New York Times, the Associated Press and others. This assumes that economic behavior won't change if taxes go up, meaning federal revenue will increase by the exact amount of the tax increase. Ergo, if Congress prevents the tax hike, that lost revenue adds to the deficit. It's a wrong assumption, demonstrable by the fact that federal revenue actually went up after the Bush tax cuts went into effect.

Meanwhile, Obama was so concerned about the "cost" that he insisted that unemployment benefits be extended for another year. Now that will actually cost nearly $60 billion, and it will cause the unemployment rate to remain higher than it otherwise should. On top of that, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) secured various energy subsidies in exchange for their votes, and more pork is almost sure to follow.

The fact that Obama conceded to any deal is notable. The Wall Street Journal concludes, "Obama has implicitly admitted that his economic strategy has flopped. He is acknowledging that tax rates matter to growth, that treating business like robber barons has hurt investment and hiring, and that tax cuts are superior to spending as stimulus. It took 9.8% unemployment and a loss of 63 House seats for this education to sink in, but the country will benefit." The flop is so complete that even former economic adviser Larry Summers warned of a "double dip" recession if taxes go up. John Maynard Keynes, call your office.

Though Obama did accept the deal with the GOP, he proved to be a rather disagreeable compromiser, calling Republicans "hostage takers" and the American people the "hostages." Obama thus not only reneged on an oft-repeated campaign promise to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts "for the rich," he also proved utterly ungracious to those lawmakers with whom he had just struck a deal. "ecause of this agreement, middle-class Americans won't see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised," he said. "[But] I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years. In the long run, we simply can't afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them."

Some conservatives are opposing the bill because of the aded deficit spending. Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said, "The plan would resurrect the Death Tax, grow government, blow a hole in the deficit with unpaid-for spending, and do so without providing the permanent relief and security our economy needs to finally start hiring and growing again."

Yet given that Democrats still control the White House and, until January, both houses of Congress, this deal may be the best we can hope for now. Republicans should fight to resist wasteful spending, but tax hikes must be prevented. If they are, taxpayers will keep billions of their hard-earned dollars over the next two years. With that renewed tax stability for small businesses, unemployment should go down, though not as much as if the rates were permanent. In 2012, Republicans could be in far better position to win a permanent solution.

22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer: Swindle of the year on: December 10, 2010, 10:42:19 AM

"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson


===
IMHO CK, for whom I have high regard, misses a key point.  Not raising taxes is not a stimulus!!!  However many good points abound in this piece.
==================
windle of the year

By Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post
Friday, December 10, 2010;

Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 - and House Democrats don't have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years - which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat?

If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.

No mean achievement. After all, these are the same Republicans who spent 2010 running on limited government and reducing debt. And this budget busting occurs less than a week after the president's deficit commission had supposedly signaled a new national consensus of austerity and frugality.

Some Republicans are crowing that Stimulus II is the Republican way - mostly tax cuts - rather than the Democrats' spending orgy of Stimulus I. That's consolation? This just means that Republicans are two years too late. Stimulus II will still blow another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.

At great cost that will have to be paid after this newest free lunch, the package will add as much as 1 percent to GDP and lower the unemployment rate by about 1.5 percentage points. That could easily be the difference between victory and defeat in 2012.

Obama is no fool. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, Tea-Party, this-time-we're-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal responsibility.

And he gets all this in return for what? For a mere two-year postponement of a mere 4.6-point increase in marginal tax rates for upper incomes. And an estate tax rate of 35 percent - it jumps insanely from zero to 55 percent on Jan. 1 - that is somewhat lower than what the Democrats wanted.

No, cries the left: Obama violated a sacred principle. A 39.6 percent tax rate versus 35 percent is a principle? "This is the public option debate all over again," said Obama at his Tuesday news conference. He is right. The left never understood that to nationalize health care there is no need for a public option because Obamacare turns the private insurers into public utilities, thus setting us inexorably on the road to the left's Promised Land: a Canadian-style single-payer system. The left is similarly clueless on the tax-cut deal: In exchange for temporarily forgoing a small rise in upper-income rates, Obama pulled out of a hat a massive new stimulus - what the left has been begging for since the failure of Stimulus I but was heretofore politically unattainable.

Obama's public exasperation with this infantile leftism is both perfectly understandable and politically adept. It is his way back to at least the appearance of centrist moderation. The only way he will get a second look from the independents who elected him in 2008 - and abandoned the Democrats in 2010 - is by changing the prevailing (and correct) perception that he is a man of the left.

Hence that news-conference attack on what the administration calls the "professional left" for its combination of sanctimony and myopia. It was Obama's Sister Souljah moment. It had a prickly, irritated sincerity - their ideological stupidity and inability to see the "long game" really do get under Obama's skin - but a decidedly calculated quality, too. Where, after all, does the left go? Stay home on Election Day 2012? Vote Republican?

No, says the current buzz, the left will instead challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination. Really now? For decades, African Americans have been this party's most loyal constituency. They vote 9 to 1 Democratic through hell and high water, through impeachment and recession, through everything. After four centuries of enduring much, African Americans finally see one of their own achieve the presidency. And their own party is going to deny him a shot at his own reelection?

Not even Democrats are that stupid. The remaining question is whether they are just stupid enough to not understand - and therefore vote down - the swindle of the year just pulled off by their own president.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120904472_pf.html
22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The trouble with our banking system on: December 10, 2010, 10:27:13 AM
An internet friend wrote this:

http://lessonsfromfreemarketeconomics.blogspot.com/2009/05/trouble-with-our-banking-system.html
22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel-Turkey on: December 10, 2010, 10:19:57 AM

U.S. Hopes for Smoother Israeli-Turkish Relations
December 9, 2010 | 1318 GMT
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Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) thanks Turkish pilots for their support in stopping the Carmel Mountain fire near Tirat Hacarmel, Israel, on Dec. 3Summary
There are growing indications that the Israeli government is preparing to make a public apology for the deaths of nine Turkish civilians in the summer Gaza flotilla incident and is willing to pay compensation to the victims’ families. Though the Israeli government can expect Turkey to play up hostilities as Ankara expands its influence in the region, both countries have deeper, underlying reasons to mend ties and put this issue behind them. The United States, meanwhile, can remove a critical obstacle to its relationship with Turkey as Washington looks to Ankara for its cooperation, particularly in relation to Iran and Russia.

Analysis
Turkey and Israel are in negotiations to find a way to normalize relations after the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident in which nine Turkish civilians died. The two have been stumbling toward reconciliation privately for some time but more recently began publicizing their rapprochement through such gestures as Turkey’s sending firefighting aircraft to Israel to help in combating the Carmel Mountain fires. There are signs now that a compromise is in the making, with Israel trying to find a way to apologize to and compensate the families of the victims without having to apologize directly to the Turkish state.

Domestic politics on both sides are hampering the reconciliation process. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs to preserve his credibility in the coming election year and wants to convince Turkish citizens that he has forced Israel to concede on his terms and has arduously defended Turkish sovereignty. For this reason, Erdogan reiterated Dec. 8 that “there is no such distinction as ‘the people’ or ‘the state.’ They [the Israelis] must apologize to the Republic of Turkey.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing criticism from his country’s far right. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman charged the prime minister with “caving in to terrorism” and demanded that Turkey apologize to Israel instead. Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom also criticized the idea — albeit less dramatically — when he said Dec. 8 that it would be inconceivable for Israel to apologize to Turkey as such a move would encourage other countries to act like Ankara.

Looking Beyond Domestic Constraints
Though the domestic complications are substantial, deeper strategic interests are driving Israel and Turkey to work out a compromise so each can move on to other items on their foreign policy agendas. Publicly, Turkey began distancing itself from Israel well before the May 31 flotilla affair by strongly condemning Israel over its January 2009 invasion of Gaza, excluding Israel from Anatolian Eagle air exercises in October 2009 and by lashing out against Israel over the low seat controversy. Though Israel initially might have been surprised by Ankara’s moves, it is also quite accustomed to having diplomatic relationships with countries that need to make outbursts against Israel from time to time. Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan, for example, are vital to Israeli national security interests, but Israel also knows these countries have domestic constituencies, which tend to respond favorably to anti-Israeli rhetoric, to which they must answer. This is something Israel can tolerate, as long as its peace agreements with these countries remain intact.

When Turkey was more insular, there was little need for Ankara to engage in such rhetoric. Now, as Turkey — under the rule of the Islamic-rooted AKP — is steadily expanding its influence across the Middle East, the anti-Israel card acts as a booster to Turkish credibility in the region. Israel will end up having to increasingly tolerate this. The flotilla incident (specifically, the resulting deaths of Turkish civilians) took this dynamic several steps too far, but now that the situation is settling and Turkey has captured the region’s attention, Ankara can demonstrate through the Israeli apology that Turkey is still the only country that can speak and deal with Israel on a level platform.

The U.S. Connection
But these negotiations are not confined to Turkey and Israel. The common bond between these countries is the United States, and when Turkey and Israel are sparring, they both end up risking potentially serious damage to their relationships with Washington. As Israel is discovering, the current U.S. imperative in the region is to find a way to restore a balance of power in the Persian Gulf so that the United States can address pressing concerns in Russia and the Far East. Turkey is the one power in the region with the potential, the assets and historical influence to manage affairs from Syria to Iraq to Iran. Just as important, Turkey’s geopolitical positioning makes it a critical component to any U.S.-led campaign to counter Russian influence in Europe and the Caucasus. Israel simply cannot compete with Turkey in this regard, and though the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains strong, Israel cannot count on Washington to defend it against Turkey if doing so would go against broader U.S. interests in the region. In addition, whether Israel likes it or not, Turkey is building influence with a number of Arab states and players that remain hostile to Israel. If Israel risks a lasting rupture in relations with Turkey, it also risks upsetting its strategy of keeping the Arab states too weak and divided to pose a meaningful threat.

Turkey has more room to maneuver than Israel in handling this diplomatic spat, but is also finding trouble in managing its relationship with Washington while its relationship with Israel is on the rocks. The United States and Turkey are already attempting to work out a number of issues as Turkey continues to assert its regional autonomy and as U.S. policymakers struggle to come to terms with the AKP as a powerful, Islamic-rooted political entity. Still, the United States needs Turkey to assist with an array of regional issues, and Turkey is eager to fill a vacuum in the Middle East as the United States draws down its presence there. For Washington and Ankara to move on to the strategic questions of how they can work together to contain an emerging Iran or a resurgent Russia, they need to clear the air a bit and work through several unresolved issues.

One such issue is ballistic missile defense (BMD). Turkey made an important and symbolic move in signing on to the NATO version of BMD, allowing the United States to signal to countries like Russia and Iran that Turkey remains part of a Western coalition of forces to limit their regional expansion. The BMD commitment was important for the United States to show Turkey is still more or less in league with Washington on issues like limiting Russian and Iranian expansion into Eurasia and the Middle East, respectively.

As for the next steps, U.S. policymakers privately have been urging the Turkish leadership to mend ties with Israel. As long as the United States’ two key allies in the region are throwing rhetorical daggers at each other, it will be politically difficult for Washington to openly conduct policy in the region in coordination with Turkey. The United States has been playing the role of mediator between Israel and Turkey and appears to be making progress in getting Israel to agree to some type of apology to move the rapprochement along. There may also be a connection between Israel’s openly suggesting an apology to the Turkish victims and the United States’ controversial announcement Dec. 7 that it was lifting its long-standing demand for Israel to freeze settlement construction. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration had tried to use this demand to build credibility in the region and demonstrate its willingness to be forceful with the Israelis. Backing down at this point of the peace process — and while Latin American countries are on a recognition drive for a Palestinian state — is channeling a great deal of criticism toward Washington. However, it can also be viewed as a highly visible favor to Israel — a favor perhaps intended to move along the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.

Some type of compromise between Israel and Turkey is inevitable. Though the road to reconciliation will be bumpy, the strategic impetus for U.S.-Turkish cooperation is likely to outweigh domestic political constraints in the end.



Read more: U.S. Hopes for Smoother Israeli-Turkish Relations | STRATFOR
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Poland on: December 10, 2010, 10:16:27 AM

Summary
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski ended a visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The visit comes amid some tensions between Poland and the United States, as Warsaw is dissatisfied with Washington’s level of commitment to Polish security. Poland is thus looking elsewhere for security guarantees to guard against the Russian resurgence. It has begun cooperating with Sweden and discussing security issues with other Central European countries and, more recently, has been developing a cooperative relationship with Turkey.

Analysis
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski wrapped up a two-day visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The most significant result of the visit was U.S. President Barack Obama’s official commitment to a previous Washington proposal to station U.S. land-based SM-3 interceptors in Poland by 2018 as part of its NATO-wide missile defense system and an offer to periodically station F-16 fighter jets and C-130 transport planes in Poland starting in 2013 for joint military exercises. Poland confirmed the latter offer, but Washington has not issued confirmation as of this writing.

The periodic stationing of U.S. Air Force assets in Poland is significant in that it will enhance Poland’s ability to use its own F-16s, purchased from the United States in 2003. However, neither the SM-3s nor the F-16s — nor the current rotational deployment of a unarmed Patriot missile battery — are enough to guarantee that the United States is fully committed to Poland’s defense. Poland therefore could look to enhance its strategic situation through a multitude of partnerships much closer to home, particularly with Sweden, other Central Europeans and potentially Turkey.

Komorowski’s visit to the United States came amid slight tensions between Washington and Warsaw. Recently leaked U.S. diplomatic cables showed that Warsaw was not satisfied with the rotational deployment of the unarmed Patriot missile battery; one senior Polish military official quoted in the cables referred to them as “potted plants.” But the tensions preceded the leaks and even the Patriot missile system’s deployment. Specifically, they have been building ever since September 2009, when Washington reneged on the ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans struck between the previous U.S. administration and Warsaw. What irked Warsaw in particular was the perception that the United States changed the BMD plans in order to gain assurances from Russia that it would not sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran and that it would support the U.S. effort to impose U.N. sanctions on Tehran. The perception in Warsaw was that the United States was trading Poland’s security guarantees for concessions from Russia in a part of the world completely unrelated to Warsaw’s security.

What Poland Wants
Essentially, Warsaw wants Washington to explain its grand strategy so that Poland understands where it fits in it. As Komorowski directly said during his visit, Poland has “no interests either in Iraq or Afghanistan,” and it followed the United States into both countries purely out of principle. In other words, Poland sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that it can receive strong security guarantees from the United States in Europe.

The unarmed Patriot battery, the horse-trading between the United States and Russia on BMD, and the rotational, for-exercise-only deployment of F-16s is an inadequate commitment from Warsaw’s perspective. The deployment of F-16s is not a complete throwaway, however; it will help Poland become proficient in flying and maintaining its own F-16s and thus enhance its security. But Poland has wanted a permanent U.S. deployment of some sort for a long time, a point that Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich reiterated in his visit to Washington on Sept. 30. The rotational and temporary nature of both the Patriot and F-16 offers is insufficient. And the fact that the F-16s only come into the picture in 2013 — and the SM-3 BMD component in 2018 — adds to Poland’s suspicion that the United States simply is not ready to commit itself to Polish security fully.

Poland’s geopolitical situation is difficult. Komorowski pointed this out by saying, “We are between Russia and Germany and this is such a place where, even if someone integrates, even if we have a common European home, or NATO, there are still some drafts. No matter on which floor someone opens a door or window, we Poles still have a runny nose.”

Looking Elsewhere
Without a firm U.S. commitment, Poland is looking to patch up its security holes as best as it can. It has turned to Sweden for help on the diplomatic front, jointly applying pressure on the Russians in Eastern Europe. The Polish and Swedish foreign ministers have made joint visits to Ukraine and Moldova in the past three weeks. Warsaw is also looking to its fellow Central Europeans via the Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — a group that in 2010 began discussing security matters seriously, including cooperation among members’ air forces. It also intends to make EU defense policy — a concept that has not really carried much weight in policymaking circles for much of the last 60 years — one of the main pillars of its EU presidency in the latter part of 2011, a big part of which will mean turning to France to try to spur greater cooperation on defense matters.

However, Poland’s solutions come with their own problems. Cooperation with Sweden has not (yet) included defense matters. The Central Europeans — even combined — do not have the strength to counter Russia (and often bicker with each other). And any EU defense policy would have to include Germany, which is unlikely to offer Poland any true security guarantees due to its budding relationship with Russia.

This is why STRATFOR is watching carefully the cooperation developing between Poland and Turkey. While Komorowski was in Washington, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Ankara meeting with the Turkish leadership. The talks were broad and concentrated on everything from general cooperation in NATO, Turkish EU prospects and a potential EU visa waiver for Turkish citizens. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan specifically stated that cooperation between the countries’ defense industries will increase. But what is interesting is that both Poland and Turkey are sizable regional powers that are trying to manage a Russian resurgence in their own regions. The two countries have no outstanding security concerns, nor are they politically at odds on any significant issue. Neither country wants to be outwardly hostile toward Russia, but both want the credibility and strength to give Moscow notice that there are red lines and limits to the spread of its power. There are differences as well, with Ankara far more reserved about openly aligning with the United States on contentious issues like Russia.

The more Warsaw feels that the U.S. alliance, which Poland has no intentions of abandoning, is insufficient for its security, the more it will look to the countries in its immediate region that perceive the Russian resurgence with as much — or almost as much — trepidation as Poland does. Sweden and Turkey both fit this profile. What they perceive as their own spheres of influence — Stockholm in the Baltics and Ankara in the Balkans and Caucasus — are experiencing heavy Russian involvement. They are therefore potentially useful allies in countering Russia while the United States is constrained by its operations in the Middle East.



Read more: Poland Examines its Defense Partnership Options | STRATFOR
22970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google foreclosure map on: December 10, 2010, 09:57:54 AM
A friend writes:

"The repercussions of the Housing boom & bust are likely to continue for years to come."

Seeing foreclosures nationwide on Google Maps, described at Google Map Foreclosure Tricks: 


Google Maps Foreclosure Listings

1. Punch in any US address into Google Maps.

2. Your options are Earth, Satellite, Map, Traffic and . . . More. (Select “More”)

3. The drop down menu gives you a check box option for “Real Estate.”

4. The left column will give you several options (You may have to select “Show Options”)

5. Check the box marked “Foreclosure."



Note: This map does not reveal any of the millions of REOs that have already been sold by the banks that hold them.

But the maps do reveal an entire nation littered with foreclosure sales. It is an ugly and graphic depiction of how much inventory is out there, and why housing is stillmany years away from being healthy.



22971  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 10:37:40 PM
"In an internal investigation, there is no right to remain silent and no right to an attorney."

Which makes sense to me.

@ZG:  I'm sorry, I am not clear.  You are a naturalized Mexican citizen?  Ay you no doubt know very well, from well before the narco wars the law down there has been and is VERY harsh concerning foreigners and guns.  Additionally, as noted on the US-Mexico thread, the Mex Army is getting concerned about the US military getting involved in Mexico.  Given the conspiracy minded nature of Mexican political thought about the US (not without raw material one might add!) it would be very easy to get caught in the crossfire of these politics-- especially any person of other than native born citizenship as I understand you to be.

I am not unfamiliar with Mexico (e.g. I train the SWAT team for the State Penitentiary for el Estado de Mexico every time I go down there for a seminar.  The situation there is very complicated right now and the narcos have penetrated to very, very high levels.  For example IIRC last year the man who schedules the President's itinerary was caught accepting the equivalent of $400,000 US a month!  Having no personal knowledge of your teammates and their environs upon arrival, I caution you that you would be a pigeon flying with eagles.  This is said with love and respect.
22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Count your fingers after shaking hands with him on: December 09, 2010, 08:11:06 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 09, 2010 -- 8:53 PM ET
-----

Obama Weighs Overhaul of Tax Code to Lower Rates and Close Loopholes

President Obama is considering whether to push early next
year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates
and raise revenues in what would be his first major effort to
begin addressing the long-term growth of the national debt.

While administration officials cautioned on Thursday that no
decisions have been made and that any debate in Congress
could take years, Mr. Obama has directed his economic team
and Treasury Department analysts to review options for
closing loopholes and simplifying income taxes for
corporations and individuals, though the study of the
corporate tax system is farther along, officials said.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
22973  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 08:08:25 PM
PGR= Procuraduria General de la Republica?
22974  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 04:34:18 PM
GM?
22975  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 04:10:44 PM
I have just floated home in a beautific grooviness trance from my Bikram Yoga class to find this  tongue  This is not the tone of conversation that we look to have around here.  angry Let's all take a deep breath, sing kumbaya, and have a group hug please.  
22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Prequel to Iran-Contragate on: December 09, 2010, 03:54:08 PM


http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/the-truth-about-israel-iran-and-1980s-u-s-arms-deals-1.326987
22977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Whoops , , , on: December 09, 2010, 11:10:46 AM
http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/147680-charges-allege-city-hired-unlicensed-police-officers?utm_source=nlet&utm_content=pl_c1_20101209_unlicensedofficers
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Vigilante action on: December 09, 2010, 10:49:52 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/08/AR2010120806379.html
22979  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: December 09, 2010, 10:49:12 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/08/AR2010120806379.html

Posiblemente si Uds no fueron desarmados eso habira ocurido antes ahora , , ,
22980  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga on: December 09, 2010, 10:38:19 AM
From my comments posted on the DBMA Assn forum:

"As I may have mentioned, the last several months I've been having a lot of hip and lower back pain.  Gradually I have been figuring out the solution and feel like I am on the road forward.

"What is helping at the moment is the Bikram Yoga in combination with weight lifting-- I am experiencing a lot of synergy between the two. e.g. Tuesday was Bikram followed by Squat Day yesterday (Wednesday) and I plan to do Bikram again today and maybe tomorrow.  It is intense, but the Bikram people speak of geometric progress with training it on successive days.

"For reasons beyond my ken, I began yesterday with light weight cleans for speed and form; this seemed to set up my shoulder girdle for nice support for the bar as I began squatting.  For some reason I wanted to alternate with incline bench machine (a very good fluid one with well designed bio-mechanics) with my sets of squats-- maybe also related to opening the shoulder girdle.  I hit my mark for the day for squats at 5x221 (45lb bar + 80 klilos in weights) I am now getting into territory which begins to challenge me a bit and do not have a sense yet of whether I should go up 10 or 20 kilos for next week.  Also, the gym has a very interesting new machine for "bicycling" with the arms.  It is EXTREMELY well made and seems to do very good things."

I would add that I LOVE the heat, but am not wild about some of the BY postures for me and find somewhat irksome the pressurefrom teachers pushing me to precision in form that is currently out of reach for me. 
22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How bail outs work , , , on: December 09, 2010, 10:07:39 AM
Bailing out … the Irish, Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese or whoever - SIMPLE

It is a slow day in a damp little Irish town. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the town, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the pub. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note. The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich German will not suspect anything. At that moment the German comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money and leaves town. No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the bailout package works.
22982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blacklisted pilot wins rights case in Canada on: December 09, 2010, 09:56:44 AM
Blacklisted pilot wins rights case against Bombardier
ARI ALTSTEDTER
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Canada’s human-rights laws trump American anti-terrorism efforts in Canada, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal says in a decision released Tuesday.

The tribunal awarded a Pakistani-born Canadian man $319,000 in damages, ruling his human rights were violated when Bombardier Inc. barred him from flight training at a Montreal facility because U.S. authorities had designated him a security threat.

The decision amounts to a repudiation of the process that U.S. authorities use to label people security threats. The Quebec tribunal decided that because of the secrecy of the process, the lack of appeals and alleged racial profiling in an array of national security practices, applying U.S. threat designations in Canada must be considered a violation of Charter rights.

The rejection that sparked the complaint was actually Javed Latif’s second. He had first applied for training under his U.S. pilot’s licence, which alerted Bombardier to his designation as a security threat by American officials. According to the tribunal, the violation occurred when Mr. Latif applied for training under his Canadian pilot’s licence, and was rejected because of the American threat label.

“Those rules do not apply here in Canada, were not adopted here in Canada by Canadian law,” said Athanassia Bitzakadis, the lawyer who represented the Quebec Human Rights Commission, which brought the case before the tribunal. “So Bombardier cannot simply refer to those rules to justify a discriminatory decision to refuse to someone a service, a service that they offer to everyone here in Quebec.”

Tribunal judge Michele Rivet criticized Bombardier for taking the U.S. designation on faith and not objectively assessing whether Mr. Latif was a security threat. She also said Bombardier could have consulted Transport Canada or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Testifying before the tribunal, Steven Gignac, the Bombardier official who denied Mr. Latif’s request, said he considered the U.S. authorities credible when they had deemed Mr. Latif a threat. He said if he agreed to train him there would have been “serious consequences for Bombardier Inc.”

At the time of the incident in 2004, Mr. Latif had been a pilot for 25 years and had flown over U.S. airspace many times.

In 2008, U.S. authorities removed Mr. Latif’s designation as a threat to national security, and he has since trained with Bombardier in Montreal on three occasions.

According to Mr. Latif’s lawyer, Catherine McKenzie, he now works for an airline based in the Middle East, and she has not been able to reach him with word of the decision.

Much of the Quebec Human Rights Commission’s case rested on testimony from Reem Bahdi, an expert on U.S. national security practices. Prof. Bahdi, of the University of Windsor, argued that because of broadly discriminatory practices, a U.S. threat designation must be considered discriminatory if no specific reasons are given. One example she cited was the National Security Entry and Exit Regulation System, which requires citizens of specific countries, all of which happen to be Muslim, to register upon entering and exiting the U.S.

“Basically what they [the tribunal] were presented with was a whole series of policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims alongside a policy that said, and by the way, all of these policies, all of this decision making is going to take place in secret,” she said.

The amount awarded to Mr. Latif by the tribunal includes moral and material damages as well as the highest amount for punitive damages that the tribunal has ever given, $50,000.

Bombardier is reviewing the decision and considering whether to appeal.

Whatever happens, Prof. Bahdi said, this decision must have an effect on how other cross-border companies operate in Canada.

“What this decision says is that Canadian companies have to conform to Canadian standards of justice,” she said. “And we in Canada still take quite seriously the notions of due process, and individuals not being tarnished with the terrorist label and having no ability to clear their names.”

22983  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bikram Yoga on: December 09, 2010, 09:27:33 AM
Cindy and I are taking advantage of an introductory offer of one month in Bikram Yoga.   More on this soon.
22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Confucius Peace Prize on: December 09, 2010, 09:23:50 AM
By JEREMY PAGE
BEIJING—A ceremony Friday to mark the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident, is turning into a global showdown.

China is preventing Mr. Liu, his family and friends from attending the ceremony in Oslo, making it the first time there will be no one at the ceremony to accept the award since 1936, when it went to Carl von Ossietsky, a German journalist held in a concentration camp by Nazi Germany.

A furious Chinese government has deployed its rapidly expanding global influence to challenge the Nobel Committee's legitimacy and to press other countries to boycott the ceremony, which will feature an empty chair with a photograph of Mr. Liu on it. The ceremony will be followed by a concert hosted by Hollywood stars Denzel Washington and Anne Hathaway.

A newly established Chinese organization has even introduced its own version of the award—the Confucius Peace Prize—which it says will be awarded on Thursday to Lien Chan, a politician from Taiwan who has promoted reconciliation with mainland China.

The Nazis and the Soviets both established their own prizes to rival the Nobels.

A key question for the Communist Party is whether its efforts will backfire by drawing domestic attention to Mr. Liu, who was little known in China until state media launched a vitriolic campaign to demonize him.

Mr. Liu, a former literature professor who took part in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "state subversion" over his role in organizing a dissident charter calling for multiparty elections.

For the Nobel Committee, meanwhile, the issue is whether this year's prize—which follows last year's controversial award to President Barack Obama—will promote democratic change in China, as it hopes, or reinforce the party's determination to stifle it.

The committee has, as usual, invited only the ambassadors of the 65 nations that have embassies in Oslo to attend the ceremony. But 20 have declined—double the number last year—including many that either have warming relations with China, or share its resentment of being pushed on human rights and democracy by the West.

The countries that have declined are Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam and China itself.

One diplomat from Sri Lanka initially told The Wall Street Journal that its embassy in Oslo was sure to send someone "if nobody had a cold," but later said that no one would attend, saying: "We are a small country and China is now our friend."

China provided crucial economic aid, arms and diplomatic support to Sri Lanka during the final stages of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebel movement in 2009.

China also was outraged when the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, won the prize in 1989, but made no effort to organize a boycott, isolated as it was after the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square earlier that year.

Activist Laureates
See advocates for political change who have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

View Interactive

Reuters
 .."I don't think they held any kind of campaign in 1989—they just stayed away and showed their displeasure. Of course, China is much stronger now," Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told The Wall Street Journal. "Even the Soviets did not mount a campaign like this."

When the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov won the prize in 1975, Moscow also declined to let him collect it, but did permit his wife, Yelena Bonner, to attend the ceremony.

In 1983, Communist authorities in Poland also permitted the wife of Lech Walesa—the dissident trade unionist—to receive his prize.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition leader, was under house arrest when she won in 1991, but her then-18-year-old son accepted the award on her behalf. Ms. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last month.

The Nobel Committee, Western governments and human-rights activists have repeatedly urged China to free Mr. Liu, as well as his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under effective house arrest since he won the prize.

Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa—another Nobel Peace laureate—made a public appeal last week for China to release Mr. Liu and his wife or risk losing its credibility as a world power.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 
Protesters demand the release of jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, less than a week before the award ceremony in Oslo.
.However, China has gone on the offensive, denouncing the award as part of a Western conspiracy. It has detained scores more dissidents, and prevented dozens of others from leaving China in case they try to attend Friday's ceremony.

It has delayed talks on a trade deal with Norway, even though the government there says it has no influence over the Nobel Committee, and has warned other countries that they will have to "bear the consequences" if they attend the ceremony.

Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tuesday called the Nobel Committee "clowns" and accused the Norwegians of "orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves."

She said more than 100 countries and organizations have expressed explicit support for China's opposition to this year's Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee countered by saying that ambassadors from 44 of the 65 countries invited would attend the ceremony—along with about 30 to 40 of Mr. Liu's supporters from around the world. But only one of those was on a list of 143 that Liu Xia invited to attend, as most have been unable to leave China. He is Wan Yanhai, an AIDS activist who moved to the U.S. last year. "The ceremony is really important—it's a symbolic event for the Chinese democratic movement," Mr. Wan said in an interview. "This will be like a catalyst in a chemical process. What the Communist Party is doing now is to show how ugly authoritarian government is."

22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maybe it was the dot on her forehead that gave her away on: December 09, 2010, 06:53:39 AM


BY TOM WRIGHT
NEW DELHI—India expects Washington to apologize for the patting down of the Indian ambassador to the U.S. during a security check at an airport in Mississippi, a senior Indian diplomat said Thursday.

22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH continues to struggle with what to do about Sarah #2 on: December 09, 2010, 06:01:39 AM
A recent segment of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” her live-action show on TLC, was preceded by a warning that parts of it “may be disturbing to some viewers.” Presumably this referred to scenes of Ms. Palin clubbing to death a huge halibut and then triumphantly holding up a still-beating halibut heart, images that probably did send chills down the spines of animal lovers and moderate Republicans. But no scene in the show is as disturbing as the way she uses it to enhance her political glow.

Sarah PalinThe eight hours of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” are a visually sumptuous — if occasionally bloody — marketing campaign for an ostensibly undeclared presidential candidate. They are yet another in a series of brilliant bypasses of conventional politics that may provide Ms. Palin with a legacy. Other candidates have found new ways to reach voters — Barack Obama’s e-mail fund-raising in 2008 comes to mind — but having one’s own hagiographic reality show is a chapter in an entirely new playbook.

And Ms. Palin is astonishingly good at turning every halibut clubbing and caribou shooting into an advertisement for her own ruggedness or a political parable. The program is theoretically nonpolitical and its producers have a blog intended to siphon off heated arguments among viewers. But having converted her lifestyle and family into political accessories, Ms. Palin never resists temptation when it comes along and the cameras are rolling.

Referring to the 14-foot wall that her husband built for protection from the journalist Joe McGinniss, who moved in next door, Ms. Palin says, “This is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border.” She says she loves that the liberals “get all wee-wee’d up” that her baby shower was held in a shooting range. And she exults that her teenage daughter Willow is gutting salmon instead of texting or partying, perhaps suggesting that her parenting skills are what the nation needs, too.

In the two years since her rocky vice presidential candidacy, Ms. Palin has become famously contemptuous of the “lamestream media,” which she has often described as elite and conspiratorial (against her and America’s exceptionalism). She would not be the first politician who has stumbled and then lashed at the press for its lack of balance. But the parallel structure Ms. Palin has created as an alternative to conventional scrutiny and campaigning has been remarkably effective.

She is a regular on Fox News and its affiliated radio shows, and her book tour (no questions from reporters, please) has taken her largely to Republican-leaning primary states. As a recent article in The New York Times Magazine documented, she has no need for an actual press staff and believes it is sufficient to communicate largely through Twitter and Facebook. And as long as she remains more provocative than substantive, her strategy works.

On Monday, at 3:17 p.m., she issued a Facebook broadside that blamed the Obama administration’s “incompetence” for the latest round of WikiLeak revelations. Within three hours, it was “liked” by more than 4,000 followers and picked up by scores of major news organizations and blogs, though its suggestion that the administration might have been able to stop the leaks was partisan wishful thinking.

“She tweets one thing, and all of a sudden you’ve got a room full of people that want to know,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, complained to The Times Magazine, referring to the White House press corps.

But Mr. Gibbs and his successors will probably have to get used to it. Ms. Palin will not be the last potential candidate to aim her political fire from a camouflage blind, and then retreat to a careful seclusion where only easygoing questions can be asked.

We now live in a world where a politician can be the executive producer of her own precampaign show. A world where a governor can quit her elected job and make far more money, and political headway, creating a television legend as America’s most fearless outdoorswoman and most encouraging mother to her brood of hunters and fishers. A world where millions of supporters flock to this portrait of a way of life that is radically different from the way most Americans now live and get some extremist politics mixed in with the supposed nostalgia. To paraphrase TLC, voter discretion is now advised.

22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China's double-edged sword on: December 09, 2010, 05:45:22 AM


China and its Double-edged Cyber-sword
December 9, 2010


By Sean Noonan

A recent batch of WikiLeaks cables led Der Spiegel and The New York Times to print front-page stories on China’s cyber-espionage capabilities Dec. 4 and 5. While China’s offensive capabilities on the Internet are widely recognized, the country is discovering the other edge of the sword.

China is no doubt facing a paradox as it tries to manipulate and confront the growing capabilities of Internet users. Recent arrests of Chinese hackers and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pronouncements suggest that China fears that its own computer experts, nationalist hackers and social media could turn against the government. While the exact cause of Beijing’s new focus on network security is unclear, it comes at a time when other countries are developing their own defenses against cyber attacks and hot topics like Stuxnet and WikiLeaks are generating new concerns about Internet security.

One of the U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks focuses on the Chinese-based cyber attack on Google’s servers that became public in January 2010. According to a State Department source mentioned in one of the cables, Li Changchun, the fifth highest-ranking member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and head of the Party’s Propaganda Department, was concerned about the information he could find on himself through Google’s search engine. He also reportedly ordered the attack on Google. This is single-source information, and since the cables WikiLeaks released do not include the U.S. intelligence community’s actual analysis of the source, we cannot vouch for its accuracy. What it does appear to verify, however, is that Beijing is regularly debating the opportunities and threats presented by the Internet.


A Shift from Offensive Capabilities

On Nov. 2, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the official paper for the PLA and the primary medium for announcing top-down policy, recommended the PLA better prepare itself for cyber threats, calling for new strategies to reduce Internet threats that are developing “at an unprecedented rate.” While the report did not detail any strategies, it quoted a PLA order issued for computer experts to focus on the issue.

The Nov. 2 PLA announcement is part of a long trend of growing network-security concerns in China. In 2009, Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu emphasized that the development of the Internet in China created “unprecedented challenges” in “social control and stability maintenance.” In June 2010, the State Council Information Office published a white paper on the growing threat of cyber crime and how to combat it. Clearly, these challenges have been addressed this year. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced Nov. 30 that it had arrested 460 suspected hackers thought to have been involved in 180 cases so far in 2010. This is part of the MPS’ usual end-of-year announcement of statistics to promote its success. But the MPS announcement also said that cyber crime had increased 80 percent this year and seemed to blame the attacks only on hackers inside China.

These were cases mainly of producing and selling “Trojan” programs (malware that looks legitimate), organizing botnets, assisting others in carrying out denial-of-service attacks and invading government websites. The MPS also closed more than 100 websites that provided hackers with attack programs and taught them various tactics.

The PLA already has two notoriously large and capable network security units: the Seventh Bureau of the Military Intelligence Department (MID) and the Third Department of the PLA. In simple terms, the MID’s Seventh Bureau is an offensive unit, responsible for managing research institutes that develop new hacking methods, train hackers and produce new hardware and software. The PLA Third Department, defensive in nature, is the third largest signals intelligence-monitoring organization in the world. STRATFOR sources with expertise in network security believe that China’s government-sponsored hacking capabilities are the best in the world. But this perception is based in part on the fact that China demonstrates these capabilities quite often. The United States, on the other hand, is much more restrained in exercising its offensive cyber capabilities and is not inclined to do so until there is a dire and immediate need, such as war.


Piracy Vulnerability

The details of China’s escalating effort to improve network security are still murky, but one recently announced campaign against software piracy is notable. On Nov. 30, Deputy Commerce Minister Jiang Zengwei announced a new six-month crackdown on illegally copied products in China. He said the focus was on pirated software, counterfeit pharmaceuticals and mislabeled agricultural products. The Chinese public has pushed for more regulation of pharmaceuticals and food due to a rising number of cases in which people have become sick or even died because of falsely labeled or tainted products, such as melamine-contaminated milk. But Beijing seems to be even more concerned about the vulnerabilities created by running unlicensed and non-updated software, and publicizing the crackdown is clearly an attempt by Beijing to appease Western governments and businesses that are placing growing pressure on China.

Indeed, China has a sizable counterfeit economy, much to the ire of Western businesses. While Beijing may placate Westerners by announcing crackdowns for the benefit of international audiences, it takes more forceful measures when it sees a larger threat to itself, and the security emphasis now seems to be on the threat of running insecure software on government computers. The problem with unlicensed software is that it does not receive automatic updates from the manufacturer, which usually are sent out to fix vulnerabilities to malware. Unlicensed software is thus left open to viral infiltration. It is also cheap and easy to get, which makes it pervasive throughout both government and private computer networks.

One of the measures Beijing has started to implement is requiring licensed software to be installed on new computers before they are sold, which also gives the government an opportunity to install censorship measures like Green Dam. One persistent problem is that much of the pre-installed software still consists of pirated copies. While China has released statistics showing that the use of legitimate software in China has increased dramatically, the Business Software Alliance, an international software industry group, estimates that 79 percent of the software sold in China in 2009 was illegally copied, creating a loss to the industry of $7.6 billion in revenue. Even more important to Beijing, these statistics mean the vast majority of Chinese computer systems — government and private alike — remain vulnerable to malware.

At the same Nov. 30 news conference at which Jiang announced the new anti-piracy initiative, Yan Xiaohong, deputy head of the General Administration of Press and Publication and vice director of the National Copyright Administration, announced a nationwide inspection of local and central government computers to make sure they were running licensed software. While this suggests Beijing’s major concern is the security of government computers, it also emphasizes how widespread the unlicensed software problem is.

This new focus on using legitimate software, however, will not be a complete solution to China’s Internet vulnerabilities. There has been little effort to stop the selling of copied software, and it is still very easy to download other programs, licensed and unlicensed, and malware along with them (such as QQ). Moreover, the new security measures are dealing only with the symptoms, not the underlying problem, of a counterfeit-heavy economy. A six-month crackdown will not undermine or eliminate software piracy in China; to do so would require an immense and sustained investment of time, money and manpower. Indeed, China has been a hub for pirating software, films and other copyrighted material for so long that the enormous domestic economic base that has grown up around it would be virtually impossible to dismantle. In any case, vulnerabilities still exist in legitimate software, even if it is better protected against novice hackers. New vulnerabilities are constantly being found and exploited until software companies come up with the appropriate patches.


From Nationalist Hackers to Dissident Threats

China’s highly developed hacking capabilities, more offensive than defensive, include Internet censorship measures like the infamous Great Firewall, and the official police force run by the MPS specifically to monitor Chinese Internet traffic and censor websites is 40,000 strong. China also has developed two unofficial methods of censorship. First, operators of private websites and forums must follow certain government regulations to prevent statements critical of the government from being disseminated, which encourages private operators to be their own censors. Second, there is a veritable army of nationalistic computer users in China that include “hacktivist” groups such as the Red Hacker Alliance, China Union Eagle and the Honker Union, with thousands of members each. They became famous after the 1999 “accidental” bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which prompted China-based hackers to attack and deface U.S. government websites. The Chinese government, state-owned enterprises and private companies also engage public relations firms to hire, deploy and manage what have become colloquially known as “Party of Five Maoists.” These are individuals who get paid half a yuan (5 mao) for every positive Internet post they write regarding government policy, product reviews and other issues.

But as China’s Internet-using population nears 400 million, with nearly 160 million using social networking, Beijing recognizes the risk of all this spiraling out of control. Censors have not been able to keep up on the social-networking front. Even with limited or banned access to sites like Twitter and Facebook, their Chinese versions, Weibo and Kaixin, for example, are expanding exponentially. While the government may exercise more control over the Chinese-based sites, it cannot keep up with the huge number of posts on topics the CPC considers disharmonious. The recent announcement of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize is an example of news that was not reported at first in Chinese media but through social networking sites, spreading like wildfire. And the censorship is not exclusive; even non-dissidents can be censored, such as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao when he recently called for limited political reform.

China’s large Internet population will not all be nationalists. And if those who learn skills from informal hackers turn into dissidents, Beijing would consider them a serious threat. The Internet presents exactly the type of tool that could pose a major threat to the CPC because it spans regions, classes and ethnicities. Most social grievances are local and economic or ethnic-based. The potential for one opposition group to be united nationwide over the Internet is one of Beijing’s gravest concerns. It has realized that a weapon it once wielded so deftly against foreign powers and business entities can now be used against Beijing.


Outside Issues

At the same time Beijing reached this realization, WikiLeaks demonstrated the possibility for sensitive government information to be spread globally through the Internet. Beijing saw that if the United States, with its expertise in signals intelligence and security, could be vulnerable to such a threat, so could China. Stuxnet demonstrated the vulnerability of important infrastructure to cyber attack, one reason for China’s new emphasis on licensed software (Iran is known to run unlicensed Siemens software). China’s recent emphasis on network security is likely linked to all of these factors, or it may be due to a threat seen but as yet unpublicized, such as a cyber attack or leak inside China that the government has been able to keep quiet.

Other countries have also been implementing new network security measures, most notably the United States. On Oct. 31, the Maryland-based U.S. Cyber Command became fully operational, and its commander is also the head of the National Security Agency, the premier U.S. government entity for signals intelligence. (Thus, China’s giving Internet security responsibility to the PLA should come as no surprise to the United States.) And as China realizes the difficulties of defending against attacks in cyberspace, which tends to favor the offense, the United States is wrestling with the same problems and complexities as it tries to shield government, civilian and commercial computer systems, all of which require different degrees of control and operate under different laws. As cyber espionage and cyber sabotage become even greater concerns, China will be forced to face the far more difficult task of not only pecking away at the Pentagon’s firewalls but also providing for its own internal system security.

These new efforts all contradict China’s long-standing policy of cultivating a population of nationalistic computer users. This effort has been useful to Beijing when it sees a need to cause disruption, whether by attacking U.S. sites after perceived affronts like the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade or preventing access from powerful foreign entities like Google. But China has also recognized that developing these public capabilities can be dangerous. Nationalist Chinese hackers, if motivated by the right cause and united through the pervasive Internet, can always turn on the government. And the situation seems to have more and more governments on edge, where simple mistakes can raise suspicions. China’s redirection of a large amount of Internet traffic in April caused an outcry from the United States and other countries, though it may well have been an accident.

It is hard to tell what Beijing sees, specifically, as a first-tier cyber threat, but its decision to develop an effective response to all manner of threats is evident.

22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: December 09, 2010, 05:42:35 AM
That's the way I remember it JDN.
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran and Venezuela on: December 09, 2010, 05:41:49 AM
Second post of the morning.  It presents similar deep conceptual questions:

Iran to place missiles in Venezuela according to an article in Die Welt.

http://www.hudson-ny.org/1714/iran-missiles-in-venezuela#_ftn1

22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Who fears the Russian bear? on: December 09, 2010, 05:38:29 AM


Who Fears the Russian Bear?

The global focus on Tuesday returned to the North European Plain, specifically east of the Oder and north of the Pripyat Marshes, where Russia, Poland, Belarus and the three Baltic states continue to share what is the geopolitical version of an awkward Soviet-era communal apartment. Russian envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin, referring to the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealing NATO plans to defend the three Baltic states from Russia, asked that the plans be formally withdrawn at the next NATO-Russia meeting. Rogozin pointed out that the recently penned NATO 2010 Strategic Concept speaks of a “true strategic partnership” — a direct quote from the mission statement — between the alliance and Russia and that the supposed “anti-Russian” military plan to defend the Baltics is incompatible with the document. Referring to the plan, Rogozin rhetorically asked, “Against who else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?”

Rogozin was being sardonic for dramatic effect — Moscow is not actually surprised that NATO has an active war plan against it. Russia completed joint exercises — called “Zapad” (meaning west in Russian) — with Belarus at the end of 2009 that placed 13,000 troops on the borders of the Baltic states and had as its supposed aim the simulation of the liberation of Kaliningrad from NATO forces. Russian defense establishment sources referred to the exercise as a “drill,” as in something that the Russian military routinely prepares for. Russia purposefully allowed the simulation scenario of Zapad to leak, emphasizing to the Baltic states and Poland that it is very much the bear to be feared in the region.

” Polish officials do not have the luxury of dismissing American horse-trading with the Russians over Polish security as a “one-off” affair.”
STRATFOR therefore highly doubts that Rogozin was astonished by the revelation of the defense plans, particularly as the Russian SVR — the foreign intelligence service — does not need WikiLeaks to collect intelligence from the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Moscow is using the recently adopted Strategic Concept as a way to emphasize to the Balts and the rest of Central Europe that the NATO alliance is inconsistent with its security needs — particularly that any security guarantees offered by the alliance are undermined by the very Strategic Concept of that alliance just penned in Lisbon. And ultimately, Western European — and specifically German — lobbying for inclusion of Russia as a “strategic partner” should be the writing on the wall for the region: Its fate was to either adopt a neutral posture and accept Russian security hegemony or keep being pressured by Moscow.

The countries of the region, Poland and the Balts specifically, are therefore — politically as well as geographically — stuck between a Russia that threatens them and a Germany that refuses to offer security guarantees. Berlin instead prefers to develop its own relations with Moscow and dismiss Baltic and Polish insecurities as paranoia, arguing that Russia is best countered with investments, integration into the European economy and offers of security dialogue. Warsaw and the Baltics are therefore left to look expectantly toward the United States for bilateral security guarantees.

The problem, however, is that the United States is distracted, by both its domestic politics and the management of its Middle East entanglements. Furthermore, Poland feels spurned, especially by Washington’s decision first to pull out on the initial ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in September 2009 and then, on a rotational basis, to deploy an unarmed Patriot missile battery to the country with a minimal contingent of 20-30 personnel, when Warsaw hoped for an armed deployment with a more robust — and more importantly, permanent — U.S. military presence.

In this context, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk— symbolically returning from a Monday meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin —referred to the WikiLeaks controversy as a “problem” for Poland because the various dispatches referring to Polish-American relations reveal “illusions over the character of relations between different states.” If we understand Tusk correctly, he essentially hints that the current public Polish-American relationship is an “illusion” and that, in reality, the U.S. security guarantees are insufficient.

It is difficult to disagree with Tusk if we place ourselves in the shoes of Polish policymakers. The United States ultimately decided to back away from the initial BMD version and supposedly also the armed Patriots because it needed Russian help on a number of issues in the Middle East, particularly pressuring Tehran with U.N. sanctions and making sure that Russia does not sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran. To Warsaw, the American decision illustrates that it placed its own interests — in a tangential region of no concern to Central Europe — above the security relationship with Poland. And what is worse, Washington trades Polish security for concessions with Russia in the Middle East.

To Americans, Poland looks like a country with no options. Sure, it feels spurned, but where will the Poles turn? As it did prior to WWII, Germany is making deals with Russia, and French and British security guarantees are unreliable. The United States, remembering its history of fighting wars to defend small allies for the sake of its credibility, would say that the Poles should know better than to doubt American guarantees. An alliance with Poland is therefore not one that needs to be micromanaged. In fact, the guarantees provided by Washington should be seen as sufficient, if not generous. Poland will get over the American spurn and go about pursuing its only option of being a solid American ally. That pretty much sums up Washington’s view on the matter.

That may sound harsh, but there is much truth in that statement. Poland is not going to cease being an American ally — not considering its current geopolitical circumstances. But Polish officials also do not have the luxury of dismissing American horse-trading with the Russians over Polish security. For Poles, it isn’t a “one-off” affair easily reassured with: “But, we’ll be there when it matters.” No nation can make that sort of a bet, not with its security and not when it has a history of seeing Western powers fail to live up to their security guarantees that far east on the North European Plain.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski will travel to the United States on Wednesday, a day after he spent two days with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and half of the Russian Cabinet, inaugurating the supposed new era in Polish-Russian relations. But when Komorowski travels to Washington, he will expect the Americans to have an answer to Warsaw’s burning question of the moment — what exactly is Washington’s global security strategy and where does Poland fit? Because, as Rogozin so aptly stated, Poland is not looking for assurances against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland or against polar bears…but very much so against the Russian bear.

22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela to become base for Iranian missiles? on: December 09, 2010, 05:31:14 AM


http://www.hudson-ny.org/1714/iran-missiles-in-venezuela#_ftn1
22992  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / ?Cohetes Iranes van a Venezuela? on: December 09, 2010, 05:30:13 AM
http://www.hudson-ny.org/1714/iran-missiles-in-venezuela#_ftn1
22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Intelligence on: December 08, 2010, 09:56:33 PM
Konrad Lorenz wrote quite often of "jackdaws".  This was translated from German.  Does anyone know if this is another word for crows?  or?
22994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Paraspinals on: December 08, 2010, 09:49:33 PM
http://abbottcenter.com/bostonpaintherapy/2009/10/21/low-back-pain-causes-lumbar-paraspinal-muscles/
22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Intelligence on: December 08, 2010, 05:58:06 PM
I liked that Freki.
22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 08, 2010, 03:31:32 PM
" I wonder how many fewer lives would have been lost if the enemy wasn't constantly told we were right on the verge of quitting - because of no WMD threat."

My wonderment goes deeper than that.   IMHO the liberal left/progressives/liberal fascists deserve considerable credit/blame for the current state in which we find ourselves in Iraq and vs. Iran due to their destructive temper tantrums and sometimes downright disloyal words and actions and for it not being what could have been achieved but for them. angry angry angry 
22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prepare for dawn on: December 08, 2010, 12:07:30 PM


They say the most profound darkness comes just before the dawn. The harshest oppression of our forefathers in Egypt came just before their liberation.

That was a coarse darkness of slavery of the body. Today it is a darkness of the soul, a deep slumber of the spirit of Man. There are sparks of light, glimmerings of a sun that never shone before --but the darkness of night overwhelms all.

Prepare for dawn.


22998  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zebra vs. Lion on: December 08, 2010, 11:57:43 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx796zSg5gs&feature=player_embedded
22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jon Stewart on Bernanke on: December 08, 2010, 10:56:43 AM

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-7-2010/the-big-bank-theory
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China-Philippines agreement coming soon? on: December 08, 2010, 10:40:11 AM
Summary
High-level meetings between Philippine and Chinese military officials beginning Dec. 7 are expected to culminate in the signing of a bilateral military logistics agreement to aid the Armed Forces of the Philippines. As the U.S.-Philippine military relationship cools, China sees an opportunity to gain a foothold in the country as it aggressively pushes toward its Southeast Asian periphery. Manila, meanwhile, sees U.S.-Chinese military competition as a way to maneuver its relationship with both countries for its own benefit.

Analysis
The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Ricardo David Jr., flew to Beijing on Dec. 7 for a five-day visit to meet with officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and sign a military logistics agreement. Details of the agreement were not disclosed, but an AFP spokesman described it as a possible starting point for increased military ties between Beijing and Manila that would have a substantial benefit for the AFP’s 130,000 troops.

The AFP is one of Asia’s weakest military forces, according to a 2007 report by the Jamestown Foundation, despite being one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid (and the oldest U.S. ally) in the Pacific region. Currently, its military force is unable to fully defend against internal threats to the country, let alone handle external security challenges such as control of its many islands and sea-lanes. Thus, the deal would both help the AFP to diversify its sources of military funding and send a message to Washington that Manila has other options for such aid. The anticipated deal is the latest manifestation of the Philippine government’s recent strategy to leverage military assistance from other countries, particularly China and the United States as the two compete for military influence in the region.

The Philippines established defense relations with the United States during the U.S. colonial period from 1898-1946, and these defense relations were enshrined after World War II by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The Philippines occupied a strategic location to U.S. interests in the Pacific. Until November 1992, the United States maintained and operated military facilities at Clark Air Base, Subic Bay Naval Complex and several other subsidiary installations in the country. The United States closed these facilities in 1992, but U.S. forces returned seven years later through the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a bilateral agreement deal that allows U.S. soldiers to be stationed on Philippine soil.

Washington has considerably stepped up its military assistance to the country since the Sept. 11 attacks, viewing it as a frontline for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that the United States has donated more than $500 million-worth of military equipment and supplies since then and provided a vital deterrence capability against potential external threats. However, AFP’s heavy reliance on aid and second-hand weapons systems — including aircraft, patrol boats and small arms from the United States — to equip, train and deploy its forces, means the country still lacks the resources to deal with its security threats.

As the country shifted its focus primarily to internal security threats, particularly from various Islamist separatist groups, namely the Abu Sayyaf Group and Moro Islamist Liberation Front in the southern islands, and the communist group the New People’s Army, an urgent request was made to upgrade Philippine defense capability. The country initiated a military modernization program in 1992, which in 1995 became the AFP Modernization Act. The law aimed to upgrade AFP enough to be able to safeguard the country’s territory and assist government agencies in socio-economic development, but this modernization plan made no substantial gains in the ensuing decade. After newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office, the modernization plan was again placed as the top military priority, and China has become a potential alternative to the United States in this endeavor.

Opportunities began emerging for China soon after U.S.-Philippine military relations hit a high point after Aquino returned from a trip to the United States in September and brought back billions of dollars in aid and investment opportunities. In October, Manila began reviewing the VFA. Washington has repeatedly emphasized the deal’s importance, pointing out long-standing military and security assistance to the Philippines. However, Manila argues that the United States has failed in its VFA-mandated obligation to help modernize the AFP and that more aid is needed. Bilateral ties also were strained when the White House released a travel advisory warning of potential terrorism in Manila, which the Philippine government interpreted as retaliation for the VFA review.

Seeing the opening, Beijing stepped up ties with the Philippines, with Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao meeting with senior Philippine defense officials on Nov. 11 to deliver 172 million Philippine pesos-worth ($3.95 million) of heavy equipment to the AFP. China’s “military” aid consists of a small consignment of heavy construction equipment — neither the military hardware the Philippines needs for its counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts nor anything approaching the scale of U.S. aid — but the delivery reflects Beijing’s growing efforts to get a foothold in the country. Along these lines, China has since 2007 offered to sell eight Harbin Z-9 utility helicopters to the Philippines to replace the country’s aging Bell UH-1H helicopters, as well as other modern armaments. It is not clear whether those arms would be included in the deal to be signed by David, but it would be an important indicator to measure any substantial progress in Chinese military assistance to the country.

In the past decade, China has become a major investor in Philippine infrastructure, energy and agriculture and has stepped up its influence on the political and military front. China recognizes U.S. dominance in this sphere, however, and its attempts to gain ground remain cautious to avoid a direct challenge to Washington. However, China may be shifting that behavior to move more aggressively to secure relationships in its periphery, both diplomatically and militarily, since it feels greater pressure from the United States and wants to establish tangible ties to dissuade neighbors from working against China and increase the costs if they choose to do so. Since Manila is the formal U.S. mutual defense treaty ally in the region, the potential for Chinese military influence is somewhat limited, but for the same reason the gains China makes in drawing the Philippines closer are all the more valuable.

Ultimately, the Philippines will remain a close U.S. ally and within the U.S. sphere of influence in the region, but from Manila’s point of view, the renewed U.S. interest in the region, in part to counterbalance China’s growing power, has provided the country room to maneuver its relations with the two powers for its own benefit. Nevertheless, it has to carefully manage these relations to avoid a bold challenge to either side or getting caught in the middle of a brawl between the two giants.

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