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22951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: February 09, 2011, 08:26:49 AM
I strongly favored Newt for 2008 and, although I have felt a bit let down by him in the last few years, he remains someone I consider seriously.  Here is some of his current thinking.

Reagan's Lessons for the Crisis in Egypt
by Newt Gingrich

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Over 10,000 conservatives attended last year's CPAC, worried about the left-wing overreach of the Obama administration and determined to do what it takes to defeat the Left at the polls in November.

This historic attendance at CPAC in 2010 was followed by a historic election, in which we saw the largest one party pickup in the House of Representatives since 1948. It was an enormous victory for the power of conservative principles.

Of course, after such a historic victory, there is the question, "Now what?"

Remarkably, attendance for this year's CPAC will be even larger than last year's record attendance. Almost 12,000 people have registered. It is clear that the momentum against President Obama and the left is building as people realize the 2012 elections will be a decisive moment for the country.

Many conservatives, however, also recognize that the next two years should not only be spent preparing to win at the polls. We must also develop broad support for a governing agenda that can be implemented by a new conservative President and conservative Congress.


In other words, CPAC this year will be important not just in outlining why we must reject the left wing governance of the Obama administration and Reid Senate, but also in articulating what a center right coalition would replace it with.

With this challenge of replacement in mind, I will focus my speech tomorrow at CPAC on one such area that badly needs replacement if we are to keep America safe and create robust economic growth with millions of new jobs: American energy policy.

I will be driving four main themes during my speech:

It is in our national security interest to produce more American energy. We must reduce the world's dependence on oil from dangerous and unstable countries, especially in the Middle East.

In contrast to this urgent national security need, the Obama administration's policy has been almost the exact opposite of what is required.  In effect, they have been waging war against the American energy industry.

A comprehensive energy strategy that maximized all forms of American energy development would not only make the US and our allies dramatically safer, it would make us much better off economically.

Part of this strategy would be to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an Environmental Solutions Agency ] that achieves better environmental outcomes through an emphasis on the transformative power of new technology and a collaborative approach with industry and state and local governments (as opposed to the bureaucratic, regulatory model of the current EPA that does more to kill jobs and halt American energy development than it does to protect the environment). 
You can watch my speech live  at 12:30 ET tomorrow by signing up at the CPAC website.

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years Old, But Still a Timeless Message
This year's CPAC conference is well-timed on the heels of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday.

Callista and I were fortunate enough to participate in Reagan Centennial events in Illinois and at the Reagan Library last weekend, including a visit to Ronald Reagan's birthplace in Tampico, IL. You can see pictures of our visit at my Facebook page.

It was Ronald Reagan who delivered one of the most memorable CPAC speeches in 1975, calling for the Republican Party to raise a "banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors".

This advice is as true today as it has been at any time before. Boldness would be an especially effective contrast to the timidity and confusion that has characterized the Obama administration's response to the protests in Egypt.

There is, however, another speech delivered by Ronald Reagan at CPAC that may resonate even more today.

Titled, America's Purpose in the World the speech argues that American leadership requires us to understand and express forcefully what makes America great and similarly to understand and speak clearly about how starkly our enemies stand in opposition to those values:

"The themes of a sound foreign policy should be no mystery, nor the result of endless agonizing reappraisals. They are rooted in our past -- in our very beginning as a nation...Our principles were revolutionary...Our example inspired others, imperfectly at times, but it inspired them nevertheless...To this day, America is still the abiding alternative to tyranny. That is our purpose in the world -- nothing more and nothing less."

"To carry out that purpose, our fundamental aim in foreign policy must be to ensure our own survival and to protect those others who share our values. Under no circumstances should we have any illusions about the intentions of those who are enemies of freedom."

"...If we are to continue to be that example -- if we are to preserve our own freedom -- we must understand those who would dominate us and deal with them with determination."

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #1:
Know Our Values and Protect Those Who Share Our Values
It is hard to read Reagan's message from his 1978 CPAC speech and not think immediately about today.

Reagan was referring to the failure of the United States under Jimmy Carter to stand up for human rights against Soviet totalitarianism. But the same principles apply today to our struggle with radical Islamism and, in particular, to the unfolding crisis in Egypt.

First, it must be the policy of the United States to defend consistently and resolutely the standards for the universal rights of man outlined in the Declaration of Independence and codified into law in the Constitution.

This principle has much deeper and more complicated ramifications than a shallow support for democratic elections. Instead, we should be on the side of genuine freedom for the people of the world.

The fact that the two U.S. backed democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq are refusing to protect the religious liberty of Christians and other minority religions (or worse, are complicit in their persecution) is evidence of a total lack of clarity regarding the purpose of US foreign policy. ( See here and here for examples.)

With regards to the situation in Egypt, the principles Reagan outlined in this speech tell us that, of course, we should be on the side of the Egyptian people and we should be prepared to help them move toward a democracy.

These principles also tell us, though, that the people of Egypt will be no better off if the Mubarak dictatorship is replaced by a Radical Islamist dictatorship that implements an even worse form of oppression. A replay of what happened in Gaza in 2006 when Hamas was able to strong-arm a victory in their elections would be a disaster.

This means that the United States must be willing to stand by the military and other stable institutions within Egypt as they oversee a transition period that allows for genuinely free and fair elections, with new political parties and leaders in an environment that protects freedoms of speech, the press and free assembly.

Moving toward elections too soon will create an enormous opening for the radical Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which despite its official ban in Egypt is still the largest and most organized opposition group to the government. Under no circumstances should the United States be willing to support a government in Egypt that lifts this ban against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ronald Reagan would also have understood that despite troublesome aspects of his rule, Hosni Mubarak has been a U.S. ally who has kept the peace with Israel. Compared to Obama, Reagan would have been much more discreet about pressuring Mubarak to leave office, recognizing that publicly abandoning him would send the wrong signal to other world leaders about how the U.S. treats its allies.

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #2:
Understand Our Enemies and Speak the Truth About Them
There has been a lot of left-wing "sophisticated" analysis arguing that the United States should treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate democratic voice in the Middle East.

This is nonsense.

The Brotherhood's insignia is two crossed swords under the Koran. Its founding slogan is " Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Its Palestinian branch is Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

It is evidence of the elite's profound confusion that they cannot bring themselves to say the obvious: the Muslim Brotherhood is our enemy, and the enemy of free people everywhere. They are the self professed enemy of Western notions of freedom and liberty. Their goal is an Islamic state. By any rational standard they are the personification of the West's struggle against radical Islamism.

Yet, Barack Obama actually invited the Muslim Brotherhood to his speech in Cairo in 2009 and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations in the United States are routinely looked to by our government and the mainstream press as voices of moderation.

Ronald Reagan would have recognized the elite's total unwillingness to speak honestly about the nature of our enemies; he spent much of his career combating their similar inability to speak the truth about the totalitarian goals and aims of the Soviet Union.

Reagan would have been prepared to have an honest conversation about the ideological connection that unites our enemies and motivates them. He would have been prepared to say quite bluntly that we are in a long war against radical Islamism, a belief system adhered to by a minority of Muslims but nonetheless a powerful and organized ideology within Islamic thought that is totally incompatible with the modern world.

Reagan would also have consistently found ways to reach out to all Muslims who genuinely recognize the same universal rights of man laid out at our nation's founding and who stand up for our Constitutional principles and the importance of religious freedom for all.

Furthermore, Reagan would have vigorously rebuked those who jump on any honest discussion about radical Islamism as an attack against all Muslims. After all, they're the ones conflating radical Islamists with all Muslims, not those trying to speak honestly about our enemies. In fact, knowing Reagan's humor, he probably would have found a way to make a joke about their confusion.

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #3:
Focus on the Goal, Our Rendezvous with Destiny
Many on the Left may find it odd that I cite Ronald Reagan as guidance on how to handle our challenges with radical Islamism in the Middle East.

After all, they will say, Reagan helped arm the Afghans. He backed Saddam Hussein against the Iranian government, etc.

Reagan had, however, one foreign policy goal: defeat the Soviet Union. Every decision he made was measured against the yardstick of whether it fit within his strategy to defeat the Soviets.

The result was that eleven years after he was elected President, the Soviet Union disappeared.

Today, our foreign policy goal is equally simple, but no less daunting than defeating the Soviet Union: isolate, discredit, and defeat those who promote the radical Islamist ideology that motivates those who seek to destroy Western civilization.

We must be similarly focused on this goal if we have any chance to succeed. Every aspect of our foreign policy must be in service of a strategy to achieve victory.

This is our generation's rendezvous with destiny. And ultimately, Ronald Reagan's most instructive message for meeting our challenge would probably be, "I did my generation's job. Now it's your turn."

Your Friend,

22952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Endgame? on: February 09, 2011, 07:55:55 AM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) greets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in September 2010Related Special Topic Page
The Egypt Unrest: Full Coverage
A suite at a luxury hospital clinic in southwestern Germany is being prepared for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, German news website Spiegel Online reported Feb. 7. The report, dovetailing similar rumors reported by The New York Times on Feb. 5, went into more detail, alleging that talks were under way among Egyptian, U.S. and German officials for Mubarak to find exile in the Max-Grundig-Klinik Buehlerhoehe in the southwestern German town of Buhl near Baden-Baden.

The rumors have not been confirmed, but they fit an endgame scenario to the Egypt crisis that STRATFOR has long been considering. The Egyptian military may see Mubarak as an enormous liability, but it is also trying to construct a legitimate and orderly political transition. Mubarak is 82 years old, in poor health and suffering from cancer. His sickness serves as an ideal alibi to frame his exit from the political scene without the military appearing as though it had to resort to extraordinary measures to remove him or bend to the opposition’s demands. STRATFOR had earlier heard rumors of Mubarak staying at his resort home in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula. Meanwhile, negotiations are under way over how to handle the billions of dollars worth of assets that Mubarak’s family is attempting to retain. Such negotiations take a great deal of time and energy, which may explain the repeated calls for patience by the regime elite, as well as by U.S. officials.

The subject of Mubarak’s future exile may well have been discussed at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 5, where both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that the transition in Egypt would take time and, as Clinton said, “there are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare.” Merkel said, “There will be a change in Egypt, but clearly, the change has to be shaped in a way that it is a peaceful, a sensible way forward.” Members of Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, as well coalition partner Free Democratic Party, have also issued similar statements calling for an orderly transition for Mubarak.

The peaceful and sensible way forward for Mubarak may well be in Germany, where Mubarak reportedly travels for annual medical visits and where he had gallbladder surgery in 2010 at Heidelberg University Hospital, roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the rumored exile clinic. STRATFOR cannot help but be reminded of similar arrangements made for the embattled Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who at age 60 and suffering from an enlarged spleen and lymphatic cancer jumped from country to country, including the United States, in exile to seek medical treatment before ending up in Egypt, where he is buried today. This time, the United States appears more interested in avoiding the political complications of receiving an unpopular leader in exile while including a third party, perhaps the Germans, to help manage the transition.

The opposition’s reaction to these rumors must thus be watched closely. An implicit understanding could be in the making, in which Mubarak may remain president in exile, but as a mere figurehead until elections can be held — planned for September — or a less complicated scenario in which he hands power to his vice president, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, while on “medical leave.” The Egyptian military, along with U.S. officials, likely hopes this will be enough to take the steam out of the street demonstrations and move Egypt beyond the current crisis. Whether that expectation holds true remains to be seen, but the political expediency of the current crisis could have an impact on the speed in which Mubarak’s health reportedly deteriorates in the coming days.

Read more: A Sign of the Endgame in Egypt? | STRATFOR
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MB-2 on: February 09, 2011, 07:53:33 AM
MB beyond Egypt

Shortly after its rise in Egypt, the MB spread to other parts of the Arab world. The Syrian branch founded in the late 1930s to early 1940s grew much more radical than its parent, wholeheartedly adopting armed struggle — which sparked a major crackdown in 1982 by Syrian President Hafez al Assad’s regime that killed tens of thousands. In sharp contrast, the MB in Jordan in the early 1940s very early on established an accommodationist attitude with the Hashemite monarchy and became a legal entity and founded a political party.

Until the Israeli capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, the Palestinian and Jordanian branches constituted more or less a singular entity. The Gaza-based branch was affiliated with the Egyptian MB, which Israel used to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization. Those elements went on to form Hamas in 1987, which has pursued its activities on a dual track — political pragmatism in intra-Palestinian affairs and armed struggle against Israel. Hamas also emerged in the West Bank though not on the same scale as in Gaza.

Similarly, in the Arabian Peninsula states, Iraq and North Africa, there are legal opposition parties that do not call themselves MB but are ideological descendants of the MB. The parent MB, by contrast, was never legalized and has never formed a political party per se. While the MB in Egypt is the parent body and there is a lot of coordination among the various chapters in different countries, each branch is an independent entity, which has also allowed for a variety of groups to evolve differently in keeping with the circumstances in the various countries.

Despite dabbling in militancy, Egypt’s MB always remained a pragmatic organization. Egypt’s true militant Islamists in fact represent a rejection of the MB’s pragmatism. Decades before al Qaeda came on the scene with its transnational jihadism, Egypt was struggling with as many as five different jihadist groups — born out of a rejection of the MB approach — fighting Cairo. Two of them became very prominent: Tandheem al-Jihad, which was behind Sadat’s assassination, and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which led a violent insurgency in the 1990s responsible for the killings of foreign tourists. The jihadist movement within the country ultimately was contained, with both Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah renouncing violence — though smaller elements from both groups joined up with the al Qaeda-led transnational jihadist movement.

Global perceptions of the MB and of political Islamists have not distinguished between pragmatist and militant Islamists, especially after the 9/11 attack and rising fears over Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s successes. Instead, the MB often has been lumped in with the most radical of the radicals in Western eyes. Very little attention has been paid to the majority of Islamists who are not jihadists and instead are political forces. In fact, even Hamas and Hezbollah are more political groups than simply militants.

There is a growing lobby within the United States and Europe, among academics and members of think tanks, that has sought to draw the distinction between pragmatists and radicals. For more than a decade, this lobby has pushed for seeking out moderates in the MB and other Islamist forces in the Arab and Muslim world to better manage radicalism and the changes that will come from aging regimes crumbling.


Because Egypt has never had free and fair elections, the MB’s popularity and its commitment to democracy both remain untested. In Egypt’s 2005 election, which was less rigged than any previous Egyptian vote, given the Bush administration’s push for greater democratization in the Middle East, MB members running as independents managed to increase their share of the legislature fivefold. It won 88 seats, making it the biggest opposition bloc in parliament.

But the MB is internally divided. It faces a generational struggle, with an old guard trying to prevent its ideals from being diluted while a younger generation (the 35-55 age bracket) looks to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a role model.

The MB also lacks a monopoly over religious discourse in Egypt. A great many religious conservatives do not support the MB. Egypt also has a significant apolitical Salafist trend. Most of the very large class of theologians centered around Al-Azhar University has not come out in support of the MB or any other Islamist group. There are also Islamist forces both more pragmatic and more militant than the MB. For example, Hizb al-Wasat, which has not gotten a license to operate as an official opposition party, is a small offshoot of the MB that is much more pragmatic than the parent entity. What remains of Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which renounced violence and condemned al Qaeda, are examples of radical Islamist groups. And small jihadist cells inspired by or linked to al Qaeda also complicate this picture.

Taken together, the MB remains an untested political force that faces infighting and competitors for the Islamist mantel and a large secular population. Given these challenges to the MB, confrontation with the West is by no means a given even if the MB emerged as a major force in a post-Mubarak order.

The MB is also well aware of the opposition it faces within Egypt, the region and the West. The crumbling of the Mubarak regime and perhaps the order that damaged the MB for decades is a historic opportunity for the movement, which it does not wish to squander. Therefore it is going to handle this opportunity very carefully and avoid radical moves. The MB is also not designed to lead a revolution; rather, its internal setup is such that it will gradually seek a democratic order.

The United States in recent years has had considerable experience in dealing with Islamist forces with Turkey, under the AKP, being the most prominent example. Likewise in Iraq, Washington has dealt with Islamists both Sunni (Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for many years was a prominent figure in the Iraqi chapter of the MB called the Iraqi Islamic Party) and Shiite (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, Muqtada al-Sadr, etc.) as part of the effort to forge the post-Baathist republic.

That said, the MB of Egypt is viewed as a very opaque organization, which increases U.S. and Israeli trepidations. Neither of these powers are willing to place their national security interests on the assumption that the MB would remain a benign force — as it appears to be — in the event that it came into power. Concerns also exist about potential fissures within the organization that may steer the movement into a radical direction, especially when it comes to foreign policy issues such as the alliance with the United States and the peace treaty with Israel.

The possible looming collapse of the 60-year Egyptian order presents a historic opportunity for the MB to position itself. Even though the movement has remained pragmatic for much of its history, seeks to achieve its goals via constitutional and electoral means, and has opted for peaceful civil obedience and working with the military as a way out of the current impasse, its commitment to democratic politics is something that remains to be seen. More important, it is expected to push for a foreign policy more independent from Washington and a tougher attitude toward Israel.

At this stage, however, it is not clear if the MB will necessarily come to power. If it does, then it will likely be circumscribed by other political forces and the military. There are also structural hurdles in the path of the MB’s taking power. First, the ban on the movement would have to be lifted. Second, the constitution would have to be amended to allow for religious parties to exist for the MB to participate as a movement. Alternatively, it could form a political party along the lines of its Jordanian counterpart. Being part of a future coalition government could allow the United States to manage its rise. Either way, the MB, an enormously patient organization, senses its time finally may have come.

22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Muslim Brotherhood on: February 09, 2011, 07:52:30 AM
Much here worth noting:

With Egypt’s nearly 60-year-old order seemingly collapsing, many are asking whether the world’s single-largest Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), is on the verge of benefiting from demands for democracy in Egypt, the most pivotal Arab state.

Western fears to the contrary, the MB is probably incapable of dominating Egypt. At best, it can realistically hope to be the largest political force in a future government, one in which the military would have a huge say.

The MB and the Egyptian State

The fear of Islamism for years allowed the single-party state to prevent the emergence of a secular opposition. Many secular forces were aligned with the state to prevent an Islamist takeover. Those that did not remained marginalized by the authoritarian system. As a result, the MB over the years has evolved into the country’s single-largest organized socio-political opposition force.

Even though there is no coherent secular group that can rival the MB’s organizational prowess, Egypt’s main Islamist movement hardly has a monopoly over public support. A great many Egyptians are either secular liberals or religious conservatives who do not subscribe to Islamist tenets. Certainly, the bulk of the people out on the streets in the recent unrest are not demanding that the secular autocracy be replaced with an Islamist democracy.

Still, as Egypt’s biggest political movement, the MB has raised Western and Israeli fears of an Egypt going the way of Islamism, particularly if the military is not able to manage the transition. To understand the MB today — and thus to evaluate these international fears — we must first consider the group’s origins and evolution.

Origins and Evolution of the MB

Founded in the town of Ismailia in 1928 by a schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna, the MB was the world’s first organized Islamist movement, though Islamism as an ideology had been in the making since the late 19th century. It was formed as a social movement to pursue the revival of Islam in the country and beyond at a time when secular left-leaning nationalism was rising in the Arab and Muslim world.

It quickly moved beyond just charitable and educational activities to emerge as a political movement, however. Al-Banna’s views formed the core of the group’s ideology, an amalgamation of Islamic values and Western political thought, which rejected both traditional religious ideas as well as wholesale Westernization. The MB was the first organizational manifestation of the modernist trend within Muslim religio-political thought that embraced nationalism and moved beyond the idea of a caliphate. That said, the movement was also the first organized Islamic response to Western-led secular modernity.

Its view of jihad in the sense of armed struggle was limited to freedom from foreign occupation — British occupation in the case of Egypt and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. But it had a more comprehensive understanding of jihad pertaining to intellectual awakening of the masses and political mobilization. It was also very ecumenical in terms of intra-Muslim issues. Each of these aspects allowed the movement to quickly gain strength; by the late 1940s, it reportedly had more than a million members.

By the late 1930s, there was great internal pressure on the MB leadership to form a military wing to pursue an armed struggle against the British occupation. The leadership was fearful that such a move would damage the movement, which was pursuing a gradual approach to socio-political change by providing social services and the creation of professional syndicates among lawyers, doctors, engineers, academics, etc. The MB, however, reluctantly did allow for the formation of a covert militant entity, which soon began conducting militant attacks not authorized by al-Banna and the leadership.

Until the late 1940s, the MB was a legal entity in the country, but the monarchy began to view it as a major threat to its power, especially given its emphasis on freedom from the British and opposition to all those allied with the occupation forces. The MB was at the forefront of organizing strikes and nationalist rallies. It also participated, though unsuccessfully, in the 1945 elections.

While officially steering clear of any participation in World War II, the MB did align with Nazi Germany against the United Kingdom, which saw the movement become involved in militancy against the British. MB participation in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war further energized the militants. That same year, the covert militant entity within the movement assassinated a judge who had handed prison sentences to a MB member for attacking British troops.

It was at this point that the monarchy moved to disband the movement and the first large-scale arrests of its leadership took place. The crackdown on the MB allowed the militant elements the freedom to pursue their agenda unencumbered by the movement’s hierarchy. The assassination of then-Prime Minister Nokrashy Pasha at the hands of an MB militant proved to be a turning point in the movement’s history.

Al-Banna condemned the assassination and distanced the movement from the militants but he, too, was assassinated in 1949, allegedly by government agents. Al-Banna was replaced as general guide of the movement by a prominent judge, Hassan al-Hudaybi, who was not a member of the movement but held al-Banna in high regard. The appointment, which conflicted with the MB charter, created numerous internal problems and exacerbated the rift between the core movement and the militant faction.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government’s October 1951 decision to abrogate the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian treaty set off nationwide agitation against British rule. Armed clashes between British forces and Egyptians broke out. The MB’s militant faction took part while the core movement steered clear of the unrest. It was in the midst of this unrest that the 1952 coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser against the monarchy took place. The MB supported the coup, thinking they would be rewarded with a political share of the government. The cordial relationship between the new Free Officers regime and the MB did not last long, however, largely because the military regime did not want to share power with the MB and, like the monarchy, saw the MB as a threat to its nascent state.

Initially, the new regime abolished all political groups except the MB. The Nasser regime, in an attempt to manage the power of the MB, asked it to join the Liberation Rally — the first political vehicle created by the new state. Unsuccessful in its attempts to co-opt the MB, the Nasser regime began to exploit the internal differences within the movement, especially over the leadership of al-Hudaybi. The MB leader faced mounting criticism that he had converted the movement into an elite group that had reduced the movement to issuing statements and had taken advantage of the notion of obedience and loyalty to the leader to perpetuate his authoritarian hold. However, al-Hudaybi prevailed, and the MB disbanded the covert militant entity and expelled its members from the movement.

In 1954, the regime finally decided to outlaw the MB, accusing it of conspiring to topple the government and arresting many members and leaders, including al-Hudaybi. Meanwhile, the military regime ran into internal problems with Nasser locked in a power struggle with Gen. Muhammad Naguib, who was made the first president of the modern republic (1953-54). Nasser succeeded in getting the support of al-Hudaybi and the MB to deal with the internal rift in exchange for allowing the MB to operate legally and releasing its members.

The government reneged on its promises to release prisoners and the complex relationship between Nasser and al-Hudaybi further destabilized the MB from within, allowing for the militant faction to regain influence. The MB demanded the end of martial law and a restoration of parliamentary democracy. Cairo in the meantime announced a new treaty with London over the Suez Canal, which was criticized by the al-Hudaybi-led leadership as tantamount to making Egypt subservient to the United Kingdom.

This led to further police action against the movement and a campaign against its leadership in the official press. The Nasser government also tried to have al-Hudaybi removed as leader of the MB. Between the internal pressures and those from the regime, the movement had moved into a period of internal disarray.

The covert militant faction that was no longer under the control of the leadership because of the earlier expulsions saw the treaty as treasonous and the MB as unable to confront the regime, so it sought to escalate matters. Some members allegedly were involved in the assassination attempt on Nasser in October 1954, which allowed the regime to engage in the biggest crackdown on the MB in its history. Thousands of members including al-Hudaybi were sentenced to harsh prison terms and tortured.

It was during this period that another relative outsider in the movement, Sayyid Qutb, a literary figure and a civil servant, emerged as an influential ideologue of the group shortly after joining up. Qutb also experienced long periods of imprisonment and torture, which radicalized his views. He eventually called for the complete overthrow of the system. He wrote many treatises, but one in particular, “Milestones,” was extremely influential — not so much within the movement as among a new generation of more radical Islamists.

Qutb was executed in 1966 on charges of trying to topple the government, but his ideas inspired the founding of jihadism. Disenchanted with the MB ideology and its approach, a younger generation of extremely militant Islamists emerged. These elements, who would found the world’s first jihadist groups, saw the MB as having compromised on Islamic principles and accepted Western ideas. Further galvanizing this new breed of militant Islamists was the Arab defeat in the 1967 war with Israel and the MB’s formal renunciation of violence in 1970.

Anwar Sadat’s rise to power after Nasser’s death in 1970 helped the MB gain some reprieve in that Sadat gradually eased the restrictions on the movement — but retained the ban on it — and tried to use it to contain left-wing forces. After almost two decades of dealing with state repression, the MB had been overshadowed by more militant groups such as Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which had risen to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Close ties with Saudi Arabia, which sought to contain Nasserism, also helped the organization maintain itself.

While never legalized, the MB spent the years after Sadat’s rise trying to make use of the fact that the regime tolerated the movement to rebuild itself. Its historical legacy helped the MB maintain its status as the main Islamist movement, as well as its organizational structure and civil society presence. Furthermore, the regime of Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, was able to crush the jihadist groups by the late 1990s, and this also helped the MB regain its stature.

The MB thus went through different phases during the monarchy and the modern republic when it tried to balance its largely political activities with limited experiments with militancy, and there were several periods during which the state tried to suppress the MB. (The first such period was in the late 1940s, the second phase in the mid-1950s when the Nasser regime began to dismantle the MB and the third took place in the mid-1960s during the Qutbist years.)

22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wesbury: Mark-to-market on: February 09, 2011, 07:38:46 AM
FASB Surrenders - America Wins To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/7/2011

If an accounting rule falls down and decays in the woods, and the business punditry and politicians completely ignore it, does it still have an impact on the economy?

The answer is YES. Especially when that rule is Mark-To-Market Accounting – aka: Fair Value Accounting. Everyone should breathe a huge sigh of relief…we are.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) wanted to broaden the reach of its fair value accounting rules. Somehow it believes that marking everything to market (even when that market is illiquid) will somehow make the world a better and safer place. So, even after almost destroying the economy in 2008, FASB was pushing to have banks mark their loans – yes their loans – to a bid in the market place.
The good news, which went virtually un-reported on January 25, 2011, was that FASB surrendered on fair value accounting for loans. In the face of overwhelming opposition, banks will be allowed to carry loans on their books at amortized cost, reflecting cash flow (payments), as well as reasonable estimates of likely loan losses.
This decision is a huge win for the markets and the economy. Like the sword of Damacles, mark-to-market accounting has been hanging over the head of the economy. As long as it could be broadened, or brought back in the form it took in 2008, the risk of turning the next recession into a panic or even a depression was very real.
Most people don’t know this, but mark-to-market accounting played a role in the Great Depression. According to Milton Friedman (in his book The Great Contraction), fair value accounting was the predominant force for bank closures in the early stages of the Depression. These bank failures fed on themselves making the Depression worse.
In 1938, Franklin Roosevelt ended mark-to-market accounting and the economy recovered. There is absolutely no academic research on the role of MTM accounting in the Great Depression, but the more we study the issue the more convinced we become that it played a major role in that fiasco and the recovery from it.
One reason that its role is ignored is that government wants the story of economic crisis to be a simple one that blames business and praises government (or at least blames government for something that requires more government). Conventional wisdom blames a bubble in the stock market, greedy business people and a lack of government oversight for the Great Depression. This story-line led to the creation of the SEC and many other government agencies, programs and regulations.
Nothing has changed. Back in 2009, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill based on a flimsy theory of the crisis’s causes even before the report from The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. But that report would not have changed much policy anyway. On January 24, 2011 – the same week as FASB’s surrender - the FCIC said that the debacle was caused by a combination of stupid and unscrupulous business practices mixed with lax oversight by regulators. No surprise there.
Clearly, some people in the private sector made mistakes in assessing the riskiness of loans. That’s easy to see in hindsight. But, government’s role was much more detrimental than this, but was totally ignored by the FCIC majority.
A dissenting opinion was penned by Peter Wallison. He blames Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Community Reinvestment Act, and mark-to-market accounting for creating the crisis. We completely agree, but we would also add the policy of 1% interest rates by Alan Greenspan to the list.  If the federal funds rate would have been left at 3.5% or above, the bubble in housing would have likely never existed or would have been much, much smaller.
It was on March 9, 2009 that Barney Frank’s committee announced a hearing on fair value accounting. FASB was brought to the table and forced to correct its misguided rule. The stock market bottomed on that day and has virtually doubled since then. The recession was not ended by stimulus, TARP, regulations, PPIP, or any of the other alphabet soup government programs. It was ended by the correction of mark-to-market accounting. The risk of another Depression ended on that day and the economy and market have done nothing but move higher ever since.
With FASB finally giving in on the issue for good, the future looks a lot brighter than most people suspect. The accounting rule fell, it has been ignored by most, but the impact of that fall is very good for America.
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 09, 2011, 07:35:04 AM
FWIW I've always regarded O'Reilly as a bit of a mediocrity.  I grant the intimidating nature of interviewing an American President and I respected the way Bill opened the interview with praise for the State Dept's action on behalf of FOX's attacked reporters in Egypt.

Where Bill came up profoundly short though was in failing to directly question/disupte Obama on taxes and redistribution.

I agree with BD that BO came across well (partially enabled by O'Reilly's failure to challenge him on two whopping lies).  It appears that BO has gotten something out of his reads about President Reagan-- at least the parts about his personality.  Indeed IMHO the ultimate reason that BO beat McCain was that BO spoke in positives.  He is going to be a much more formidable opponent in 2012 for it.  If the Reps are not both shrewd and careful while being aggressive, they are going to get outplayed.
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And then came Reagan on: February 09, 2011, 07:27:17 AM
"It's hard for many people to remember just how discouraged many Americans felt in 1980. In the previous decade, the United States had suffered a humiliating loss of nerve, if not outright defeat, in Vietnam. We'd witnessed Soviet expansion in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America. Fifty-two Americans were being held hostage in Iran -- for more than a year -- after attempts to rescue them had failed miserably, leaving eight American servicemen dead in the desert. The economy was in recession; mortgage rates were 13 percent and the prime rate went over 20 percent during the year; inflation was running at almost 14 percent and unemployment at 7.5 percent. Reagan gave Americans hope -- but he also changed the country, dramatically and quickly. His policies reined in inflation, allowed Americans to keep more of the money they earned, and helped create jobs in the private sector -- the largest peacetime expansion since World War II -- by lowering tax rates. But even more importantly, in my view, Reagan rebuilt the nation's defenses, helped stop the expansion of communism in our own hemisphere, and advanced the development of new weapons that made it impossible for the Soviets to keep up, which hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. ... Happy Birthday." --columnist Linda Chavez

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Planned Parenthood on: February 09, 2011, 07:25:39 AM
"This week, the Planned Parenthood abortion business was caught in the latest undercover video investigation -- this time helping two people representing themselves as sex-trafficking-ring operatives bent on getting abortions for the underage girls they victimize. ... It's one thing for pro-choice advocates to talk a good game about women's rights, but it's another for the day-to-day abortion activists to defend these videos to anyone watching as paid staffers help supposed sex-trafficking perpetrators secure abortions. Average Americans viewing the videos will be appalled to see supposed sex traffickers being shown how to get young, illegally imported girls back on the street to further the sex trade shortly after their abortions. They will be astonished to see how those acting as sex traffickers are directed by Planned Parenthood officials to another, shadier abortion center that will give them less grief about abortions on the young women. ... The power of the footage on-screen and the sick nature of the revelations the videos contain have the potential to continue to break the abortion debate wide open." --Steven Ertelt, editor of
22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on: February 09, 2011, 07:24:00 AM

"[A]fter every multiple murder, liberals come up with some crackpot idea to 'do something' that invariably involves infringing on some aspect of our Second Amendment rights. ... In an open society that includes Sheriff Dumbnik and the ACLU, deranged individuals may explode into murder and mayhem now and then. The best we can do is enact policies that will reduce the death toll when these acts of carnage occur. There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect. And the effect was not small. States that allowed citizens to carry concealed handguns reduced multiple-shooting attacks by 60 percent and reduced the death and injury from these attacks by nearly 80 percent. When there are no armed citizens to stop mass murderers, the killers are able to shoot unabated, even pausing to reload their weapons, until they get bored and stop. ... Consider just the school shootings -- popular sites for mass murder because so many schools are 'gun-free zones.' Or, as mass murderers call them, 'free-fire zones.'" --columnist Ann Coulter
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The necessary and proper argument analyzed on: February 09, 2011, 07:21:35 AM
"Recognizing the vulnerability of relying on the Commerce Clause alone [to justify ObamaCare], the Obama administration in the Florida case shifted its emphasis to the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. That clause empowers Congress to enact 'all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution' its enumerated powers. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly explained, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not expand the scope of Congress's enumerated powers. Instead, it gives Congress the ability to select among various means of exercising them. ... The Obama administration claimed that the individual mandate is a necessary and proper means of carrying out its reforms in the health-insurance market. These reforms include requiring insurers to offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, to extend coverage to dependents up to age 26, and to eliminate lifetime coverage caps. Because these reforms make health insurance more expensive, the government's lawyers claim that unless everyone is forced to buy health insurance, too many healthy people will sit on the market sidelines as 'free riders' until they become ill. So in order to make the 'reformed' health-insurance market work, it's necessary and proper to force everyone to buy insurance. Judge [Roger] Vinson flatly rejected the administration's attempt.... His decision acknowledges that, while reforming an insurance market is a regulation of commerce, Congress cannot artificially create its own 'free rider' crisis in the insurance market and then use that crisis to justify an otherwise unconstitutional mandate as 'necessary and proper' to save the market from collapse. This novel use of the Necessary and Proper Clause, if allowed to stand, would fundamentally transform our constitutional scheme from limited to unlimited federal power, narrowing the scope of individual liberty." --law professors Randy Barnett and Elizabeth Price Foley
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: February 09, 2011, 07:14:20 AM
a) FWIW IMHO the problems in which we find ourselves are not due not enough compromise by Republicans-- quite the contrary.

b) Given the results of his support for amnesty for illegal aliens (which I supported at the time) if he were still with us, I suspect were he with us today regarding current efforts I suspect he would be saying something like "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."
Patriot Post

"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man." --Thomas Jefferson on George Washington

The Gipper

Happy Birthday to the Gipper"I never thought of myself as a great man, just a man committed to great ideas. I've always believed that individuals should take priority over the state. History has taught me that this is what sets America apart -- not to remake the world in our image, but to inspire people everywhere with a sense of their own boundless possibilities. There's no question I am an idealist, which is another way of saying I am an American." --Ronald Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"It's been more than six years since our nation bid farewell to Ronald Reagan, born 100 years ago [yesterday]. Yet at times it seems as though he never left. ... It's worth reminding ourselves as we mark the centennial of Reagan's birth what he accomplished -- and how. It's important to do this in part because much of what passes for praise of Reagan is veiled criticism. Reagan is hailed, for example, as a great communicator. And with good reason; few politicians could match his rhetorical skill and his ability to articulate great themes that resonated with the American people. But that's where many on the Left stop. What they really seek to emulate is not his policies or his agenda. They hope that, by studying his methods, a little of his 'magic' will rub off on the liberal policies that have proven such a hard sell over the last two years. Dress the liberal agenda in 'Reaganesque' terms, and the electorate is yours, right? What condescending nonsense. It wasn't just Reagan's ability to communicate that endeared him to millions of Americans. It was the fact that he was articulating their most deeply cherished beliefs. It went well beyond the optimistic outlook -- which, although welcome, is something any president can attempt. It was because he spoke in direct terms that avoided the usual 'buzzword' approach we get from Washington. And he used that approach to say what many Americans thought: Taxes are too high -- let's cut them. Inflation is too high -- let's tame it. The Cold War can be won, not managed, and the world made safer for everybody -- let's do it. The fable of the Left (the hard Left, anyway -- many others are coming around) is that this was all smoke and mirrors. But the facts tell a different story." --Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner

Political Futures
"The only good conservative is a dead conservative. That, in a nutshell, describes the age-old tradition of liberals suddenly discovering that once-reviled conservatives were OK after all. It's just we-the-living who are hateful ogres, troglodytes and moperers. Over the last decade or so, as the giants of the founding generation of modern American conservatism have died, each has been rehabilitated into a gentleman-statesman of a bygone era of conservative decency and open-mindedness. ... But it's Ronald Reagan who really stands out. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Gipper is enjoying yet another status upgrade among liberals. Barack Obama took a Reagan biography with him on his vacation. A slew of liberals and mainstream journalists (but I repeat myself) complimented Obama's State of the Union address as 'Reaganesque.' Time magazine recently featured the cover story 'Why Obama (Hearts) Reagan.' ... Now, on one hand, there's something wonderful about the overflowing of love for Reagan. When presidents leave office or die, their partisan affiliation fades and, for the great ones, eventually withers away. Reagan was a truly great president, one of the greatest according to even liberal historians like the late John Patrick Diggins. As you can tell from the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth from the far left, the lionization of Reagan is a great triumph for the right, and conservatives should welcome more of it. On the other hand, what is not welcome is an almost Soviet airbrushing of the past to serve liberalism's current agenda." --columnist Jonah Goldberg

22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Carrier-capable killer drones on: February 09, 2011, 06:59:03 AM

America’s fleet of 11 big-deck aircraft carriers just got a lot closer to becoming a lot more dangerous. On Friday afternoon, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, a prototype for the Navy’s first carrier-capable killer drone, flew for the first time from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
“Taking off under hazy skies, the X-47B climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet, flew several racetrack-type patterns, and landed safely at 2:38 PM PST,” Northrop crowed in a press release. “The flight provided test data to verify and validate system software for guidance and navigation, and the aerodynamic control of the tailless design.”

“Designing a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft from a clean sheet is no small feat,” Northrop veep Janis Pamiljans added. While omitting a plane’s tail makes it way more stealthy, it also makes it harder to control.

If Northrop and the Navy can prove the X-47 works over the planned, three-year demonstration program, combat-ready X-47s could begin flying off carrier decks before the end of the decade.

The benefits are clear. With far greater range than the Navy’s existing F/A-18 strike fighters, the X-47 would allow Navy carrier groups to sail farther from shore when launching air strikes, helping protect the priceless vessels from the increasingly dangerous anti-ship missiles being fielded by nations such as China. The X-47 would also be able to sneak through the defensive umbrella of today’s “Triple-Digit” anti-aircraft missiles.

For these reasons, the X-47 could prove “among the most fungible and useful platforms in America’s future defense portfolio,” Navy undersecretary Bob Work wrote in 2007, back when he was still a lowly analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C.

Despite its enormous potential, the X-47 almost didn’t make it this far. The triangular drone was originally designed back in the early 2000s for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System competition, which pitted the Northrop bot versus Boeing’s similar X-45. The winner would have joined the Navy and the Air Force. But in 2005, the Air Force abandoned the contest, and the X-47 and X-45 both wound up orphaned.

Thanks in part to Work’s lobbying, the Navy agreed to continue work on the X-47. (The X-45 survived, too, as a Boeing-funded effort.) As confidence in the new killer drone increased, so did the scope of — and funding for — its test program. In January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates singled out the X-47 and other Navy drones as beneficiaries of billions of dollars in budgetary shifts.

Which isn’t to say the whole Navy is on board. Last month, Navy Vice Adm. Mark Fox told reporters he was skeptical that drones would be ready for carrier operations anytime soon. “Anything that takes off and lands on an aircraft carrier has to be pretty robust,” he said. “You test something in the desert and it works great. But the maritime world is a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

Plus, Fox added, “there’s still an enormous amount of merit in having somebody in the cockpit making decisions about whether you employ ordnance or not.”

But Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, Fox’s boss, calls the shots — and he said last fall that he wanted the X-47 or a similar drone on carriers before 2018. That’s probably just do-able under the current schedule, which sees the X-47 fly off a carrier and refuel mid-air by 2013.

Even so, Roughead agrees with Fox on one key point: the Navy still needs old-school manned fighters, too — specifically, the F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. “As rapidly as we want to engage with the unmanned system on carriers,” Roughead said, “we’re also moving forward with JSF.”

22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 06:41:58 AM
Well, so much for my occasionally reliable source's theory , , , cheesy
22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / day by day cartoon on: February 09, 2011, 12:38:26 AM
22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 09, 2011, 12:26:35 AM
These interest rates are still well below the rate of inflation-- and if we add tax considerations into the calculation the rates are even more negative in real terms.

At these rates, working from memory here, we are currently paying something like 1/8 of our tax revenues on interest payments on the national debt.  Double interest rates i.e. take them up to something like zero or slightly positive in real terms, and the contradictions of what we are doing are going to become a lot more apparent.  Take them into normal positive range and , , ,
22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friedman on: February 08, 2011, 04:58:19 PM
Egypt, Israel and a Strategic Reconsideration
February 8, 2011

By George Friedman

The events in Egypt have sent shock waves through Israel. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel have been the bedrock of Israeli national security. In three of the four wars Israel fought before the accords, a catastrophic outcome for Israel was conceivable. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, credible scenarios existed in which the Israelis were defeated and the state of Israel ceased to exist. In 1973, it appeared for several days that one of those scenarios was unfolding.

The survival of Israel was no longer at stake after 1978. In the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the various Palestinian intifadas and the wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in Gaza in 2008, Israeli interests were involved, but not survival. There is a huge difference between the two. Israel had achieved a geopolitical ideal after 1978 in which it had divided and effectively made peace with two of the four Arab states that bordered it, and neutralized one of those states. The treaty with Egypt removed the threat to the Negev and the southern coastal approaches to Tel Aviv.

The agreement with Jordan in 1994, which formalized a long-standing relationship, secured the longest and most vulnerable border along the Jordan River. The situation in Lebanon was such that whatever threat emerged from there was limited. Only Syria remained hostile but, by itself, it could not threaten Israel. Damascus was far more focused on Lebanon anyway. As for the Palestinians, they posed a problem for Israel, but without the foreign military forces along the frontiers, the Palestinians could trouble but not destroy Israel. Israel’s existence was not at stake, nor was it an issue for 33 years.

The Historic Egyptian Threat to Israel
The center of gravity of Israel’s strategic challenge was always Egypt. The largest Arab country, with about 80 million people, Egypt could field the most substantial army. More to the point, Egypt could absorb casualties at a far higher rate than Israel. The danger that the Egyptian army posed was that it could close with the Israelis and engage in extended, high-intensity combat that would break the back of the Israel Defense Forces by imposing a rate of attrition that Israel could not sustain. If Israel were to be simultaneously engaged with Syria, dividing its forces and its logistical capabilities, it could run out of troops long before Egypt, even if Egypt were absorbing far more casualties.

The solution for the Israelis was to initiate combat at a time and place of their own choosing, preferably with surprise, as they did in 1956 and 1967. Failing that, as they did in 1973, the Israelis would be forced into a holding action they could not sustain and forced onto an offensive in which the risks of failure — and the possibility — would be substantial.

It was to the great benefit of Israel that Egyptian forces were generally poorly commanded and trained and that Egyptian war-fighting doctrine, derived from Britain and the Soviet Union, was not suited to the battle problem Israel posed. In 1967, Israel won its most complete victory over Egypt, as well as Jordan and Syria. It appeared to the Israelis that the Arabs in general and Egyptians in particular were culturally incapable of mastering modern warfare.

Thus it was an extraordinary shock when, just six years after their 1967 defeat, the Egyptians mounted a two-army assault across the Suez, coordinated with a simultaneous Syrian attack on the Golan Heights. Even more stunning than the assault was the operational security the Egyptians maintained and the degree of surprise they achieved. One of Israel’s fundamental assumptions was that Israeli intelligence would provide ample warning of an attack. And one of the fundamental assumptions of Israeli intelligence was that Egypt could not mount an attack while Israel maintained air superiority. Both assumptions were wrong. But the most important error was the assumption that Egypt could not, by itself, coordinate a massive and complex military operation. In the end, the Israelis defeated the Egyptians, but at the cost of the confidence they achieved in 1967 and a recognition that comfortable assumptions were impermissible in warfare in general and regarding Egypt in particular.

The Egyptians had also learned lessons. The most important was that the existence of the state of Israel did not represent a challenge to Egypt’s national interest. Israel existed across a fairly wide and inhospitable buffer zone — the Sinai Peninsula. The logistical problems involved in deploying a massive force to the east had resulted in three major defeats, while the single partial victory took place on much shorter lines of supply. Holding or taking the Sinai was difficult and possible only with a massive infusion of weapons and supplies from the outside, from the Soviet Union. This meant that Egypt was a hostage to Soviet interests. Egypt had a greater interest in breaking its dependency on the Soviets than in defeating Israel. It could do the former more readily than the latter.

(click here to enlarge image)
The Egyptian recognition that its interests in Israel were minimal and the Israeli recognition that eliminating the potential threat from Egypt guaranteed its national security have been the foundation of the regional balance since 1978. All other considerations — Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the rest — were trivial in comparison. Geography — the Sinai — made this strategic distancing possible. So did American aid to Egypt. The substitution of American weapons for Soviet ones in the years after the treaty achieved two things. First, they ended Egypt’s dependency on the Soviets. Second, they further guaranteed Israel’s security by creating an Egyptian army dependent on a steady flow of spare parts and contractors from the United States. Cut the flow and the Egyptian army would be crippled.

The governments of Anwar Sadat and then Hosni Mubarak were content with this arrangement. The generation that came to power with Gamal Nasser had fought four wars with Israel and had little stomach for any more. They had proved themselves in October 1973 on the Suez and had no appetite to fight again or to send their sons to war. It is not that they created an oasis of prosperity in Egypt. But they no longer had to go to war every few years, and they were able, as military officers, to live good lives. What is now regarded as corruption was then regarded as just rewards for bleeding in four wars against the Israelis.

Mubarak and the Military
But now is 33 years later, and the world has changed. The generation that fought is very old. Today’s Egyptian military trains with the Americans, and its officers pass through the American command and staff and war colleges. This generation has close ties to the United States, but not nearly as close ties to the British-trained generation that fought the Israelis or to Egypt’s former patrons, the Russians. Mubarak has locked the younger generation, in their fifties and sixties, out of senior command positions and away from the wealth his generation has accumulated. They want him out.

For this younger generation, the idea of Gamal Mubarak being allowed to take over the presidency was the last straw. They wanted the elder Mubarak to leave not only because he had ambitions for his son but also because he didn’t want to leave after more than a quarter century of pressure. Mubarak wanted guarantees that, if he left, his possessions, in addition to his honor, would remain intact. If Gamal could not be president, then no one’s promise had value. So Mubarak locked himself into position.

The cameras love demonstrations, but they are frequently not the real story. The demonstrators who wanted democracy are a real faction, but they don’t speak for the shopkeepers and peasants more interested in prosperity than wealth. Since Egypt is a Muslim country, the West freezes when anything happens, dreading the hand of Osama bin Laden. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was once a powerful force, and it might become one again someday, but right now it is a shadow of its former self. What is going on now is a struggle within the military, between generations, for the future of the Egyptian military and therefore the heart of the Egyptian regime. Mubarak will leave, the younger officers will emerge, the constitution will make some changes and life will continue.

The Israelis will return to their complacency. They should not. The usual first warning of a heart attack is death. Among the fortunate, it is a mild coronary followed by a dramatic change of life style. The events in Egypt should be taken as a mild coronary and treated with great relief by Israel that it wasn’t worse.

Reconsidering the Israeli Position
I have laid out the reasons why the 1978 treaty is in Egypt’s national interest. I have left out two pieces. The first is ideology. The ideological tenor of the Middle East prior to 1978 was secular and socialist. Today it is increasingly Islamist. Egypt is not immune to this trend, even if the Muslim Brotherhood should not be seen as the embodiment of that threat. Second, military technology, skills and terrain have made Egypt a defensive power for the past 33 years. But military technology and skills can change, on both sides. Egyptian defensiveness is built on assumptions of Israeli military capability and interest. As Israeli ideology becomes more militant and as its capabilities grow, Egypt may be forced to reconsider its strategic posture. As new generations of officers arise, who have heard of war only from their grandfathers, the fear of war declines and the desire for glory grows. Combine that with ideology in Egypt and Israel and things change. They won’t change quickly — a generation of military transformation will be needed once regimes have changed and the decisions to prepare for war have been made — but they can change.

Two things from this should strike the Israelis. The first is how badly they need peace with Egypt. It is easy to forget what things were like 40 years back, but it is important to remember that the prosperity of Israel today depends in part on the treaty with Egypt. Iran is a distant abstraction, with a notional bomb whose completion date keeps moving. Israel can fight many wars with Egypt and win. It need lose only one. The second lesson is that Israel should do everything possible to make certain that the transfer of power in Egypt is from Mubarak to the next generation of military officers and that these officers maintain their credibility in Egypt. Whether Israel likes it or not, there is an Islamist movement in Egypt. Whether the new generation controls that movement as the previous one did or whether they succumb to it is the existential question for Israel. If the treaty with Egypt is the foundation of Israel’s national security, it is logical that the Israelis should do everything possible to preserve it.

This was not the fatal heart attack. It might not even have been more than indigestion. But recent events in Egypt point to a long-term problem with Israeli strategy. Given the strategic and ideological crosscurrents in Egypt, it is in Israel’s national interest to minimize the intensity of the ideological and make certain that Israel is not perceived as a threat. In Gaza, for example, Israel and Egypt may have shared a common interest in containing Hamas, and the next generation of Egyptian officers may share it as well. But what didn’t materialize in the streets this time could in the future: an Islamist rising. In that case, the Egyptian military might find it in its interest to preserve its power by accommodating the Islamists. At this point, Egypt becomes the problem and not part of the solution.

Keeping Egypt from coming to this is the imperative of military dispassion. If the long-term center of gravity of Israel’s national security is at least the neutrality of Egypt, then doing everything to maintain that is a military requirement. That military requirement must be carried out by political means. That requires the recognition of priorities. The future of Gaza or the precise borders of a Palestinian state are trivial compared to preserving the treaty with Egypt. If it is found that a particular political strategy undermines the strategic requirement, then that political strategy must be sacrificed.

In other words, the worst-case scenario for Israel would be a return to the pre-1978 relationship with Egypt without a settlement with the Palestinians. That would open the door for a potential two-front war with an intifada in the middle. To avoid that, the ideological pressure on Egypt must be eased, and that means a settlement with the Palestinians on less-than-optimal terms. The alternative is to stay the current course and let Israel take its chances. The question is where the greater safety lies. Israel has assumed that it lies with confrontation with the Palestinians. That’s true only if Egypt stays neutral. If the pressure on the Palestinians destabilizes Egypt, it is not the most prudent course.

There are those in Israel who would argue that any release in pressure on the Palestinians will be met with rejection. If that is true, then, in my view, that is catastrophic news for Israel. In due course, ideological shifts and recalculations of Israeli intentions will cause a change in Egyptian policy. This will take several decades to turn into effective military force, and the first conflicts may well end in Israeli victory. But, as I have said before, it must always be remembered that no matter how many times Israel wins, it need only lose once to be annihilated.

To some it means that Israel should remain as strong as possible. To me it means that Israel should avoid rolling the dice too often, regardless of how strong it thinks it is. The Mubarak affair might open a strategic reconsideration of the Israeli position.

22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 08, 2011, 04:30:39 PM
Thank you for the clarification and citation.
22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 08, 2011, 04:20:45 PM
As best as I can tell, it would make sense to limit the democratic process to those that believe in it.  Put the MB on the spot with their words elevating theocracy above democracy.
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 08, 2011, 03:44:24 PM
Sorry, I am not clear here.  Was it Bush or BO who slimed the Brits?
22970  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: February 08, 2011, 03:39:00 PM
No worries I am sure.  I was once embarassed to discover that I had been misspelling his last name for years without him telling me cheesy

Changing subjects:  Spartacus keeps getting better and better.  This weeks episode was AWESOME!
22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Magnetic polar shifts? on: February 08, 2011, 02:53:25 PM
Forwarded to me by an occasionally reliable source-- but it does have a plausible ring to it.  Any comments from our educated folk here?

Magnetic polar shifts causing massive global superstorms?
by Terrence Aym

NASA has been warning about it…scientific papers have been written about  it
…geologists have seen its traces in rock strata and ice core  samples…

Now "it" is here: an unstoppable magnetic pole shift that has sped up and 
is causing life-threatening havoc with the world's weather.

Forget about global warming—man-made or natural—what drives planetary 
weather patterns is the climate and what drives the climate is the sun's 
magnetosphere and its electromagnetic interaction with a planet's own magnetic 

When the field shifts, when it fluctuates, when it goes into flux and 
begins to become unstable anything can happen.
And what normally happens is that all hell breaks loose.

Magnetic polar shifts have occurred many times in Earth's history.
It's happening again now to every planet in the solar system including 

The magnetic field drives weather to a significant degree and when that 
field starts migrating superstorms start erupting.

The superstorms have arrived

The first evidence we have that the dangerous superstorm cycle has  started
is the devastating series of storms that pounded the UK during late  2010.

On the heels of the lashing the British Isles sustained, monster storms 
began to pummel North America. The latest superstorm—as of this writing—is a 
monster over the U.S. that stretched across 2,000 miles affecting more than
150  million people.

Yet even as that storm wreaked havoc across the Western, Southern, 
Midwestern and Northeastern states, another superstorm broke out in the Pacific 
and closed in on Australia.

The southern continent had already dealt with the disaster of historic 
superstorm flooding from rains that dropped as much as several feet in a matter
 of hours. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. After the
deluge  bull sharks were spotted swimming between houses in what was once
the quiet town  of Goodna.

Shocked authorities now numbly concede that some of the water may never 
dissipate and have wearily resigned themselves to the possibility that region 
will now contain a small inland sea.

But then only a handful of weeks later another superstorm—the mega-monster 
cyclone Yasi—struck northeastern Australia. The damage it left in its wake
is  being called by rescue workers a war zone.

The incredible superstorm packed winds near 190mph. Although labeled as a 
category-5 cyclone, it was theoretically a category-6. The reason for that
is  storms with winds of 155mph are considered category-5, yet Yasi was
almost 22  percent stronger than that.

A cat's cradle

Yet Yasi may only be a foretaste of future superstorms.
Some climate researchers, monitoring the rapidly shifting magnetic field, 
are predicting superstorms in the future with winds as high as 300 to 

Such storms would totally destroy anything they came into contact with  on

The possibility more storms like Yasi or worse will wreak havoc on our 
civilization and resources is found in the complicated electromagnetic 
relationship between the sun and Earth. The synergistic tug-of-war has been 
compared by some to an intricately constructed cat's cradle. And it's in a 
constant state of flux.
The sun's dynamic, ever-changing electric  magnetosphere interfaces with
the Earth's own magnetic field affecting, to a  degree, the Earth's rotation,
precessional wobble, dynamics of the planet's  core, its ocean currents and—
above all else—the weather.

Cracks in Earth's Magnetic Shield

The Earth's northern magnetic pole was moving towards Russia at a rate  of
about five miles annually. That progression to the East had been happening 
for decades.

Suddenly, in the past decade the rate sped up. Now the magnetic pole is 
shifting East at a rate of 40 miles annually, an increase of 800 percent. And
it  continues to accelerate.

Recently, as the magnetic field fluctuates, NASA has discovered  "cracks"
in it. This is worrisome as it significantly affects the ionosphere, 
troposphere wind patterns, and atmospheric moisture. All three things have an 
effect on the weather.

Worse, what shields the planet from cancer-causing radiation is the 
magnetic field. It acts as a shield deflecting harmful ultra-violet, X-rays and 
other life-threatening radiation from bathing the surface of the Earth. With
the  field weakening and cracks emerging, the death rate from cancer could
skyrocket  and mutations of DNA can become rampant.

Another federal agency, NOAA, issued a report caused a flurry of panic 
when they predicted that mammoth superstorms in the future could wipe out most 
of California. The NOAA scientists said it's a plausible scenario and would
be  driven by an "atmospheric river" moving water at the same rate as 50
Mississippi  rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Magnetic field may dip, flip and disappear

The Economist wrote a detailed article about the magnetic field and  what's
happening to it. In the article they noted:

"There is, however, a growing body of evidence that the Earth's  magnetic
field is about to disappear, at least for a while. The geological  record
shows that it flips from time to time, with the south pole becoming the  north,
and vice versa. On average, such reversals take place every 500,000  years,
but there is no discernible pattern. Flips have happened as close  together
as 50,000 years, though the last one was 780,000 years ago. But, as 
discussed at the Greenland Space Science Symposium, held in Kangerlussuaq this 
week, the signs are that another flip is coming soon."

Discussing the magnetic polar shift and the impact on weather, the 
scholarly paper "Weather and the Earth's magnetic field" was published in the 
journal Nature. Scientists too are very concerned about the increasing danger of
 superstorms and the impact on humanity.

Superstorms will not only damage agriculture across the planet leading  to
famines and mass starvation, they will also change coastlines, destroy
cities  and create tens of millions of homeless.

Superstorms can also cause certain societies, cultures or whole countries 
to collapse. Others may go to war with each other.

A Danish study published in the scientific journal Geology, found  strong
correlation between climate change, weather patterns and the magnetic  field.

"The earth's climate has been significantly affected by the planet's 
magnetic field, according to a Danish study published Monday that could 
challenge the notion that human emissions are responsible for global  warming.

"'Our results show a strong correlation between the strength of the 
earth's magnetic field and the amount of precipitation in the tropics,' one of 
the two Danish geophysicists behind the study, Mads Faurschou Knudsen of the 
geology department at Aarhus University in western Denmark, told the
Videnskab  journal.
"He and his colleague Peter Riisager, of the Geological Survey of  Denmark
and Greenland (GEUS), compared a reconstruction of the prehistoric  magnetic
field 5,000 years ago based on data drawn from stalagmites and  stalactites
found in China and Oman."

In the scientific paper "Midday magnetopause shifts earthward of 
geosynchronous orbit during geomagnetic superstorms with Dst = -300 nT" the  magnetic
intensity of solar storms impacting Earth can intensify the effects of  the
polar shift and also speed up the frequency of the emerging  superstorms.

Possible magnetic pole reversal may also be initiating new Ice  Age

According to some geologists and scientists, we have left the last 
interglacial period behind us. Those periods are lengths of time—about 11,500  years
—between major Ice Ages.

One of the most stunning signs of the approaching Ice Age is what's 
happened to the Chandler wobble.

The Earth's wobble has  stopped.

As explained in the geology and space science website, "The Chandler wobble was first discovered back in 1891 by  Seth Carlo
Chandler an American astronomer. The effect causes the Earth's poles  to move
in an irregular circle of 3 to 15 meters in diameter in an oscillation.  The
Earth's Wobble has a 7-year cycle which produces two extremes, a small 
spiraling wobble circle and a large spiraling wobble circle, about 3.5 years 

"The Earth was in October 2005 moving into the small spiraling circle  (the
MIN phase of the wobble), which should have slowly unfolded during 2006 and
 the first few months of 2007. (Each spiraling circle takes about 14
months). But  suddenly at the beginning of November 2005, the track of the
location of the  spin axis veered at a very sharp right angle to its circling

"The track of the spin axis began to slow down and by about January 8, 
2006, it ceased nearly all relative motion on the x and y coordinates which are
 used to define the daily changing location of the spin axis."

And the Earth stopped wobbling—exactly as predicted as another strong sign 
of an imminent Ice Age.

So, the start of a new Ice Age is marked by a magnetic pole reversal, 
increased volcanic activity, larger and more frequent earthquakes, tsunamis, 
colder winters, superstorms and the halting of the Chandler  wobble.
Unfortunately, all of those conditions are being met.


22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 08, 2011, 02:16:18 PM
It would have been nice if the article had bothered to mention the history of the politicization (sp?) of all this which IMHO the Dems deserve the substantial majority of the credit.  Also it would have been nice if the article had bothered to delve into what kind of people Obama, who IMO is a genuine radical when it comes to Constitutional Law (see his Chicago Public Radio interview of 2003 or so for a hair-raising glimpse at just how radical he is) is nominating.  Oh well, tis Pravda on the Potomac reporting, so no surprise.
22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 08, 2011, 02:08:12 PM
My personal favorite is Aretha Franklin's rendition preceding Thomas Hearns fighting for (and winning) the Light Heavy Weight title from Dennis Andries in Detroit.
22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 08, 2011, 01:53:08 PM
a) Tim, welcome to the conversation.

b) regarding those fg new light bulbs, my understanding is that the law mandating them was written by my Congresswoman, Jane Harman (who has just announced her retirement in the last few days after having been re-elected in November in order to head up some think tank-- leaving we the people to pay for a new election to replace the third richest member of Congress $185M or so because she married Dick Harman of Harman Electronics , , , but I digress)
   Glenn Beck had an outstanding bit a year or so ago on this where he had an associate act of the directions of what to do in the event of a break.
   Also, most of these new fg bulbs are made in China, that paradigm of green manufacturing, and IIRC are shipped to the US in diesel smoke belching ships.
   Fg brilliant.
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Patriot's History on: February 08, 2011, 01:43:00 PM
I have been reading "A Patrioit's History of the United States" by Schweikart & Allen because it was recommended by Glenn Beck.  I am up to the beginning of the Civil War.  The book is quite good and has really expanded and deepened my understanding and knowledge of our history-- including the States Rights issues.
22976  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Musangwe - "makes the heart strong" on: February 08, 2011, 01:12:14 PM
 cool cool cool
22977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 08, 2011, 01:08:12 PM
Grateful for a wonderful four days in Chicago doing the first DBMA SP seminar while staying at my sister's house and spending some wonderful family time with her husband, my three nephews and her, seeing Green Bay win the Superbowl, and coming home to my family.
22978  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: February 08, 2011, 01:05:48 PM

He is probably too shy to bring it to your attention, but Brian's DB name is "Porn Star Dog" not "Porn Dog".  The latter gives the impression he masturbates a lot, whereas the former gives the idea to the girls that he is qualified to be the star of a porn movie. In realit though, we are just riffing on the fact that his last name ends with the letters "porn".  cheesy
22979  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA School Program on: February 08, 2011, 12:59:08 PM
In the wake of the DBMA SP seminar there this past weekend, we are proud to announce the first school in the DBMA School Program:  Pete Juska's school in Chicago (actually, the western suburbs of Chicago.) 

We will be posting the proper info in the proper places in the coming days.
22980  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Feb 4-6: Guro Crafty in Chicago on: February 08, 2011, 12:56:41 PM
Ummm , , , sorry folks, that foto is of the Vancouver seminar  embarassed

Guro Boo Dog and I had a fine time this past weekend and want to thank all who braved the snows and the temptations of using the Superbowl as an excuse for not attending grin
22981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Fotos on: February 08, 2011, 12:55:21 PM
A bunch of fotos of the Vancouver seminar:!/album.php?fbid=10150406920225657&id=611240656&aid=616873
22982  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vision test and concussions on: February 03, 2011, 09:09:36 PM
Any comments from our educated folks on this?

22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Non-farm productivity; non-mfr index on: February 03, 2011, 01:23:23 PM
GM:  Remember that prediction of yours, made when the DOW was at 6,500 that 6,000 was next?  grin  If I remember correctly, I did not disagree embarassed

Non-farm productivity rose at a 2.6% annual rate in Q4 To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/3/2011

Non-farm productivity (output per hour) rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter. Non-farm productivity is up 1.7% versus last year.

Real (inflation-adjusted) compensation per hour in the non-farm sector declined at a 0.6% annual rate in Q4, but is up 0.3% versus last year. Unit labor costs declined at a 0.6% rate in Q4 and are down 0.2% versus a year ago.
In the manufacturing sector, the Q4 growth rate for productivity (5.8%) was much higher than among non-farm businesses as a whole. The faster pace of productivity growth was due to declining hours. Real compensation per hour was up in the manufacturing sector (+0.2%), but, due to rapid productivity growth, unit labor costs declined at a 2.9% annual rate.
Implications:  Productivity beat consensus expectations in the fourth quarter, rising at a 2.6% annual rate, equaling the robust average pace of the past ten years. What’s impressive about the fourth quarter is that the gains in productivity came at the same time that the number of hours worked increased at a healthy 1.8% rate. Oftentimes, once a recovery gets to the point where firms are vigorously increasing hours, the pace of productivity growth slows down. Although that happened in the first half of 2010, in the latter half of the year companies found a way to generate efficiencies while still demanding more hours. Not only are hours up but compensation per hour is up as well. Despite this, productivity is pushing down unit labor costs – how much companies have to pay workers per unit of production. In other words, productivity growth has been rapid enough to both generate pay increases and, at the same time, make it worth more for companies to hire. As a result, we expect private sector hiring to accelerate in 2011. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance declined 42,000 last week to 415,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits fell 84,000 to 3.93 million. In other recent news on the job market, the ADP Employment index, a measure of private-sector payrolls, increased 187,000 in January. This is consistent with our forecast that the official Labor Department report, released tomorrow morning, will show an increase of 195,000 in private payrolls.
The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 59.4 in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/3/2011

The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 59.4 in January from 57.1 in December, easily beating the consensus expected gain to 57.2. (Levels above 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)

The key sub-indexes were all higher in January and remain at levels indicating robust economic growth. The new orders index increased to 64.9 from 61.4 and the business activity index rose to 64.6 from 62.9, both multi-year highs. The employment index increased to 54.5 from 52.6 and the supplier deliveries index rose to 53.5 from 51.5.
The prices paid index increased to 72.1 in January, the highest since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, from 69.5 in December.   
Implications:    The US economy continues to pick up steam and we are now seeing strong economic growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors. Today’s ISM Services report delivered a broad array of data that continued to trace out a V-shaped (possibly a check-mark-shaped) recovery. The overall services index was at 59.4, the highest since 2005. The business activity index, which has an even higher correlation with real GDP growth, hit 64.6, also the highest since 2005. The new orders index was the highest since 2004 and the employment index increased to 54.5, the highest level since 2006. The employment index has been above the key 50 level for five straight months. On the inflation front, the prices paid index increased to 72.1, the highest since the financial panic started in late 2008. The Federal Reserve’s ultra-easy monetary policy is getting increasingly inappropriate.  In other recent news, cars and light trucks were sold at a 12.6 million annual rate in January, up 0.6% versus December and up 17.4% versus a year ago.  Over the next couple of years, these sales will continue to increase to about a 15-16 million annual rate, the pace that offsets the annual scrappage of autos as well as changes in the driving-age population. The service sector is getting stronger, firms are hiring again, and workers are confident enough about the future to ramp up their purchases of big-ticket items. 

22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto on: February 03, 2011, 08:55:57 AM
"At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled 'The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,' " Judge Roger Vinson observed Monday in his ruling in Florida v. HHS, which did just that.

It would have been a lot harder had ObamaCare enjoyed wide political support. But it did not and does not. Americans never bought the bill of goods that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and their supporters in the formerly mainstream media tried to sell. A good deal of the credit goes to Sarah Palin, for coining the phrase "death panel" in an August 2009 Facebook post.

Four months later, a project of the left-leaning St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, named the phrase "lie of the year":

Her assertion--that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care--spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really?"
In truth, PolitiFact was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious. What she wrote was this:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
Palin put the term "death panel" in quotes to indicate that she was using it figuratively. She was not lying but doing just the opposite: conveying a fundamental truth about ObamaCare. Proponents were describing it as a sort of fiscal perpetual-motion machine: We're going to give free insurance to tens of millions of people and reduce the deficit! As a matter of simple arithmetic, the only way to do that is by drastically curtailing medical benefits.

Associated Press
Keep your laws off her baby!
."Health care by definition involves life and death decisions," Palin wrote. ObamaCare necessarily expands the power of federal bureaucrats to make such decisions, and it creates enormous fiscal pressures to err on the side of death. Whether it establishes literal panels for that purpose is a hair-splitting quibble. By naming this "lie of the year," PolitiFact showed itself to be less seeker of truth than servant of power.

President Obama, meanwhile, treated Palin's criticism as a joke. As we noted at the time, he told a New Hampshire town meeting: "The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for 'death panels' that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't--it's too expensive to let her live anymore." The transcript records that the audience laughed at this callous "joke."

The perpetual-motion claim wasn't the only deception at the heart of the argument for ObamaCare. Consider the individual mandate, whose unconstitutionality was the center of Judge Vinson's ruling. In a footnote, Vinson quotes a critic of the idea as observing, "If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house." Guess who? digs up the full context:

"Both of us want to provide health care to all Americans. There's a slight difference, and her plan is a good one. But, she mandates that everybody buy health care. She'd have the government force every individual to buy insurance and I don't have such a mandate because I don't think the problem is that people don't want health insurance, it's that they can't afford it," [then-Sen. Barack] Obama said in a Feb. 28, 2008 appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' television show. "So, I focus more on lowering costs. This is a modest difference. But, it's one that she's tried to elevate, arguing that because I don't force people to buy health care that I'm not insuring everybody. Well, if things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn't."
Obama ran for office on opposition to the individual mandate, then made it the centerpiece of his signature legislative initiative. Perhaps this should have been "lie of the year." At, it wasn't even a runner-up.

And what is the individual mandate, anyway? In September 2009, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos argued in an interview with the president that it is a tax increase. Obama strenuously denied it and indeed accused Stephanopoulos of dishonesty: "For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. . . . George, you--you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase."

By last July, the administration was--well, just making up that language and deciding that that's called a tax increase. As even the New York Times reported:

When Congress required most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, Democrats denied that they were creating a new tax. But in court, the Obama administration and its allies now defend the requirement as an exercise of the government's "power to lay and collect taxes."
And that power, they say, is even more sweeping than the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.
Administration officials say the tax argument is a linchpin of their legal case in defense of the health care overhaul and its individual mandate, now being challenged in court by more than 20 states and several private organizations.
Lie of the year? Nope, again not even a runner-up. The winner for 2010, announced Dec. 16, was "The Democrats' health care reform law is a 'government takeover of health care.' " This was a "lie," PolitiFact averred, because the government did not formally nationalize the health-insurance industry via the so-called public option.

The same day that PolitiFact was announcing its 2010 "lie of the year," an exchange in Judge Vinson's courtroom was giving the lie to it. As Bloomberg reported:

"We've always exercised the freedom whether we want to buy or not buy a product," Vinson told the Obama administration's lawyer.
[Justice Department lawyer Ian] Gershengorn said health insurance is "a financing mechanism," not a product. "It's not shoes," he said. "It's not cars. It's not broccoli."
As we wrote at the time:

Under the scheme envisioned by ObamaCare, in which insurers would be obliged to cover all comers, a medical policy would no longer be insurance--that is, a contract to indemnify the policyholder against risk. It would instead be, as Gershengorn describes it, a "financing mechanism" for medical services. . . . Because participation would be mandatory, the "premium," and not just the penalty for failure to pay it, would effectively be a tax.
In a famous 2003 video, Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, declared, "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program." That is, Obama wished for a system of outright socialization of health-care costs, in which the government would pay for medical treatment using tax dollars. ObamaCare differs from such a system only in that ostensibly private insurance companies act as the government's middleman, collecting the taxes and paying the benefits.
"Government takeover," like "death panel," is a true description of ObamaCare's essence. These phrases are "inaccurate" only in that they cut through formal distinctions designed to deceive the public. (We wish we could use a barnyard vulgarity in place of the unwieldy clause "formal distinctions designed to deceive the public," but The Wall Street Journal is a family newspaper.)

"Death panel" was especially effective at cutting through the hockey. Lots of people warned about rationing, but, as PolitiFact grudgingly acknowledged, it was Palin's vivid language that "launched the health care debate into overdrive. The term was mentioned in news reports approximately 6,000 times in August and September, according to the Nexis database. By October, it was still being mentioned 150 to 300 times a week."

Many of these media mentions were disparaging, "raising issues," as PolitiFact prissily puts it, about "the bounds of acceptable political discussion." In other words, Palin's statement was widely propagated by journalists who thought it "unacceptable." Americans recognized the essential truth of Palin's words and strongly opposed ObamaCare.

Palin got the truth out with the help of journalists determined to bolster the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare. She was instrumental in winning the political argument that looks increasingly likely to render ObamaCare's legislative victory a Pyrrhic one. Sarah Palin outsmarted the formerly mainstream media simply by being blunt and honest. That is why they burn with a mindless rage against her
22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baseline Budgeting on: February 03, 2011, 08:42:23 AM
IMHO this is one of the most important issues there is when it comes to rolling back spending and establishing honest, sound policies; I've mentioned it here before, to little effect-- but until we get this, we our without solution to our dilemas:

Move over, Chris Christie. New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is bidding to join the New Jersey Republican as the national spokesman for fiscal sanity, and he's doing so in a politically clever way that House Republicans could learn from.

The budget that Mr. Cuomo unveiled this week closes a gaping deficit with major budget reductions, calling for spending cuts in state hiring, education, health care, aid to universities and payments to cities. The plan would balance the Empire State's $135 billion budget without a dime of new taxes or borrowing. Remarkably, if his budget passed, the state would spend $3.5 billion less than it did last year.

And remember, we're talking about politically liberal New York, not New Hampshire. If you're surprised by this, you should see long-time Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who looks as though he stuck his finger in the electric socket.

These cuts are impressive on their own, but Mr. Cuomo's real conceptual breakthrough is to expose the rigged-game of "baseline budgeting." This is a gambit by which spending increases automatically each year even before a Governor submits his budget. The "baseline" grows each year due to spending formulas that legislatures build into the law even before they take a single vote.

Mr. Cuomo put it this way in a New York Post op-ed on Tuesday: "When a governor takes office, in many ways the die has already been cast. Unbelievably, this year these rates and formulas in total call for a 13 percent increase in Medicaid and a 13 percent increase in education funding next year."

This means that if Mr. Cuomo proposes a spending increase for Medicaid that is less than 13%, he will be attacked for "cutting" spending. Yet overall Medicaid spending would still increase. As Mr. Cuomo notes, "this process frames the dialogue around the budget and biases the political discourse." That is precisely the goal of government unions and the politicians who follow their orders because it allows them to increase spending even as they cry fiscal havoc.

Mr. Cuomo points out that under the automatic baseline formulas, the New York state budget deficit this year is estimated to be $10 billion. Yet if the state operated like families do, with a new budget for each year starting from a base of what the state spent the year before, the deficit would be closer to $2 billion. Closing a deficit of that size suddenly becomes a lot easier, making it much harder to justify the tax increases that Mr. Silver and his cronies are famous for.

View Full Image

Associated Press
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
.The Governor is proposing a reform that would deflate these baselines with more reasonable and affordable spending projections. For example, his budget would base a spending increase for Medicaid on the rate of medical inflation, which is less than half the 13% increase previously assumed in the budget. He would hold education funding to the rate of personal income growth, about half the growth built into the baseline for school budgets. By fixing this fraudulent convention, Mr. Cuomo's budget reduces spending for years to come without having to fight political battles every year.

There's a vital lesson here for House Republicans because the same baseline games have long prevailed in Washington. The Democrats who wrote the budget rules also built in formulas that increase spending each year before Congress even takes a vote. Those same Democrats are now lying in wait for Republicans to propose their budget, and they will describe even increases in spending as brutal "cuts." The media will dutifully play along.

Republicans ought to follow Mr. Cuomo's savvy lead and blow the whistle on this rigged process early and often. Alas, we fear too many Republicans want to brag about their "cuts" to impress the tea party even if they come from an inflated baseline. This is a recipe for letting Democrats frame the budget debate in ways that will make it harder for Republicans to achieve their budget goals, even as the GOP suffers political damage in the process. They would be smarter to take Mr. Cuomo's cue.

This is not to say Mr. Cuomo's budget is perfect. The Governor reduces education aid by 7.3% and tells schools to get their costs under control, thin bloated payrolls, and do more with less. He would also allow New York City and other cities to lay off thousands of "nonteaching teachers." But he doesn't propose to let cities lay off teachers based on merit, as opposed to seniority—which means that many of the youngest and best teachers will lose their jobs. Mr. Cuomo seems to think this would be too difficult to pass given his other priorities, but such a reform will never pass if it isn't part of his first budget when his political capital is at its peak.

Mr. Cuomo nonetheless deserves credit for breaking Democratic type and following through on his campaign promise to shape up Albany. His fight has only begun, but he's off to a shrewd and useful start.

22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rove on: February 03, 2011, 08:31:01 AM
ObamaCare has recently been dealt three body blows. Speaker John Boehner pushed a bill to repeal it through the House. GOP leader Mitch McConnell will get to put Senate Democrats on record with a vote on repeal as well. And this week, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson declared the law unconstitutional.

The White House's reaction is dismissive. The nation doesn't want to "re-litigate" ObamaCare, we're told. So long as Mr. Obama sits in the Oval Office, repeal is going nowhere. The Supreme Court will uphold the law. And by 2012, health care will be a winning issue for Democrats.

I'm not so sure. Take the question of Granny. In a speech last Friday defending his health-care law's effect on seniors against GOP attacks, Mr. Obama said, "I can report that Granny is safe." She may not feel that way if she's one of the 700,000 seniors whose private Medicare Advantage insurance policy was not renewed last year because her insurance provider quit the business.

There will be more nonrenewals in 2011. This year's funding cuts to Medicare Advantage will be $2 billion; next year's will be $6 billion. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimate that half of those with Medicare Advantage policies—seven million seniors—will lose their coverage eventually. And 60% the doctors surveyed by the nonprofit Physicians Foundation said health-care reform would "compel them to close or significantly restrict" the number of patients in their practices, especially those on Medicare or Medicaid.
Granny's daughter, son and grandchildren are not all that safe, either. Providers such as Guardian Life and the Principal Financial Group are dropping their health-insurance businesses. And companies will be tempted to drop coverage for their employees and dump them onto the government's tab.

No taxpayer is safe, either. Last week Richard Foster, CMS's chief actuary, confirmed to Congress that ObamaCare's Medicare cuts couldn't be used to reduce both Medicare's unfunded liability and to pay for ObamaCare's expense. Since the Obama administration is relying on this double counting to rig the numbers, Mr. Foster's testimony was particularly damaging.

What the country most needs—and what the GOP must now advocate—is a fundamentally new approach to containing health-care costs.

The most promising model for Medicare comes from Clinton Budget Director Alice Rivlin and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). Under their plan, starting in 2021 those turning 65 and going on Medicare would get a fixed contribution to use to purchase insurance, allowing them in many instances to keep their existing coverage. Consumers will be in charge.

Annual support would grow at the same yearly rate as the economy plus 1%. Medicare payments would be adjusted by income, geography and health risk. Poor seniors would get extra help for out-of-pocket expenses.

This bipartisan model builds on the success of the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed in 2003. This market- and competition-oriented experiment gave seniors a fixed sum they could use to purchase drug insurance coverage. In response, drug companies and insurance providers flooded the market with options that drove prices for consumers down.

Though more seniors signed up for the benefit, signed up quicker and used it more than expected, the program costs much less than estimated (the original Congressional Budget Office estimate was $552 billion for the first 10 years, but the estimated cost is now $385 billion). Competition and consumer choice are far more effective in containing costs than is bureaucratic price-setting.

We're at an unprecedented moment. The huge historic advantage Democrats have enjoyed on the health-care issue has evaporated. ObamaCare is increasingly less popular. Its unpopularity is up nine points in the last month, to 50%, in a Kaiser/Harvard survey. The public is now taking a close look at what the Republican Party might have to offer.
The Rivlin-Ryan alternative plan is bold and not without risk. Past efforts at entitlement reform haven't been successful. Having worked in the Bush White House during the 2005 Social Security battle, I know of what I speak. Still, the Rivlin-Ryan plan is right on substance. And unlike 2005, it may also be the right moment.

Thanks in good measure to Mr. Obama's profligacy, the entitlement crisis is no longer a vague, abstract concern. More and more Americans understand the current course leads to a disaster for the nation's finances. And so the public may be willing to go places and do things that in the past it may not have.

This is an unusual and fluid moment. My hunch is voters are more inclined than ever to reward the political party that addresses entitlement reform—and more inclined than ever to punish the one that fiddles while America's fiscal house burns.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: New army rifle? on: February 03, 2011, 08:27:38 AM
For the first time in almost 50 years, the U.S. Army wants to replace the
standard rifle shouldered by hundreds of thousands of frontline troops
around the world.

The service this week advertised its interest in a new weapon that would
incorporate futuristic sights and other advances in rifle design and be able
to handle improved ammunition.

The gun would potentially supplant the M4 carbine, a shorter-barrel version
of the M16, the Army's main infantry weapon for decades.

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US Army
A soldier with an XM25 weapon system, an advanced grenade launcher being
tested by the Army.

Operations in Afghanistan—where troops often engage the enemy over long
distances—have rekindled debate over the quality of the Army's
standard-issue rifles and their reliability in dusty, primitive conditions.
An Army report on a 2008 battle in Wanat, Afghanistan, cited soldier
complaints about jamming and overheating M4s, in particular. Nine servicemen
died in that fight.

Critics have also raised concerns about the range and lethality of the 5.56
mm cartridge of the M16/M4.

Col. Doug Tamilio, the service's project manager for soldier weapons, said
in a statement the Army sought to find "the most effective, accurate, and
reliable" weapon for its soldiers. "We're challenging industry to develop
the next-generation carbine and we're looking forward to the results."

An "industry day" for small-arms manufacturers is planned for March 30. The
Army said it would pick a winner after two years of rigorous evaluation.
Gerald Dinkel, the president and CEO of Colt Defense LLC, said the Army has
"held out the M4 as a high standard, and somebody is going have to come out
and really beat it."

The M16, made by both Colt and FN Manufacturing LLC, a unit of FN Herstal SA
of Belgium, along with the M4, have long enjoyed the loyalty of Army leaders
who say the weapons are "combat proven." The M4 has slightly less range than
the M16, but is easier to handle, particularly in urban combat.

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The M1 Garand entered service in the 1930s. The .30-calibre rifle weighed
about 10 pounds and had a range of around 500 meters.

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The M16 Rifle entered service in the 1960s. The 5.56-mm rifle weighed about
8.8 pounds and had a range of approximately 550-800 meters.

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The M4 Carbine entered service in the 1990s. The 5.56-mm rifle weighs about
7.5 pounds and has a range of 500-600 meters.

But Army commanders have also long faced questions about the rifles' design:
Both are built around a gas-operated system that cuts down on moving parts,
but requires consistent cleaning.

Experts have often noted that the M16/M4 also fares poorly in terms of
ruggedness and reliability compared with Soviet-designed Kalashnikov assault
rifles, which are a favorite weapon of insurgents around the world.

In 2007, the M4 fared worse than three other weapons—the Heckler & Koch
HK416, the FN Herstal Mk16 Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle and the
Heckler & Koch XM8—in comparative reliability testing conducted by the Army.

The current M16 and M4 in many respects bear little resemblance to
Vietnam-era antecedents: They are usually have advanced optics, and can be
fitted with accessories such as flashlights. But critics on Capitol Hill,
including Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), have in the past questioned why the
service chose to stick with upgrades instead of seeking a replacement.

In Afghanistan, the Army has introduced the M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle, an
upgraded version of the M14 rifle, which is chambered for a full-power rifle
round that has a longer effective range than the M4 or M16. The Army is also
experimenting with more futuristic infantry weapons in Afghanistan.

In parallel with the contest for a new rifles, the Army is considering
additional improvements to the M4, including ambidextrous controls. The Army
may also study alternatives to the rifle's gas operating system, according
to an official fact sheet.

Last year, the service began field trials of the XM25 Counter Defilade
Target Engagement System, an advanced grenade launcher equipped with a laser
range finder and onboard computer.

It fires a programmable 25mm round that is designed to go off just above—or
just behind — its target. The concept is to create a lethal weapon that can
hit enemies behind cover.

James Carafano, a retired Army officer who is a senior fellow at the
Heritage Foundation, predicted in a recent interview that more of these
weapons would soon be in the hands of the individual soldier.

"Precision weaponry is going to get really personal," Mr. Carafano said.
"You're eventually going to see an individual soldier dropping a round down
a chimney."

Write to Nathan Hodge at
22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hernando de Soto on: February 03, 2011, 08:25:06 AM
Hernando de Soto is someone I hold in high regard.  He has done superb work in South America (Peru especially IIRC).

The headline that appeared on Al Jazeera on Jan. 14, a week before Egyptians took to the streets, affirmed that "[t]he real terror eating away at the Arab world is socio-economic marginalization."

The Egyptian government has long been concerned about the consequences of this marginalization. In 1997, with the financial support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government hired my organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. It wanted to get the numbers on how many Egyptians were marginalized and how much of the economy operated "extralegally"—that is, without the protections of property rights or access to normal business tools, such as credit, that allow businesses to expand and prosper. The objective was to remove the legal impediments holding back people and their businesses.

After years of fieldwork and analysis—involving over 120 Egyptian and Peruvian technicians with the participation of 300 local leaders and interviews with thousands of ordinary people—we presented a 1,000-page report and a 20-point action plan to the 11-member economic cabinet in 2004. The report was championed by Minister of Finance Muhammad Medhat Hassanein, and the cabinet approved its policy recommendations.

Egypt's major newspaper, Al Ahram, declared that the reforms "would open the doors of history for Egypt." Then, as a result of a cabinet shakeup, Mr. Hassanein was ousted. Hidden forces of the status quo blocked crucial elements of the reforms.

Today, when the streets are filled with so many Egyptians calling for change, it is worth noting some of the key facts uncovered by our investigation and reported in 2004:

• Egypt's underground economy was the nation's biggest employer. The legal private sector employed 6.8 million people and the public sector employed 5.9 million, while 9.6 million people worked in the extralegal sector.

• As far as real estate is concerned, 92% of Egyptians hold their property without normal legal title.

• We estimated the value of all these extralegal businesses and property, rural as well as urban, to be $248 billion—30 times greater than the market value of the companies registered on the Cairo Stock Exchange and 55 times greater than the value of foreign direct investment in Egypt since Napoleon invaded—including the financing of the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. (Those same extralegal assets would be worth more than $400 billion in today's dollars.)

The entrepreneurs who operate outside the legal system are held back. They do not have access to the business organizational forms (partnerships, joint stock companies, corporations, etc.) that would enable them to grow the way legal enterprises do. Because such enterprises are not tied to standard contractual and enforcement rules, outsiders cannot trust that their owners can be held to their promises or contracts. This makes it difficult or impossible to employ the best technicians and professional managers—and the owners of these businesses cannot issue bonds or IOUs to obtain credit.

Nor can such enterprises benefit from the economies of scale available to those who can operate in the entire Egyptian market. The owners of extralegal enterprises are limited to employing their kin to produce for confined circles of customers.

Without clear legal title to their assets and real estate, in short, these entrepreneurs own what I have called "dead capital"—property that cannot be leveraged as collateral for loans, to obtain investment capital, or as security for long-term contractual deals. And so the majority of these Egyptian enterprises remain small and relatively poor. The only thing that can emancipate them is legal reform. And only the political leadership of Egypt can pull this off. Too many technocrats have been trained not to expand the rule of law, but to defend it as they find it. Emancipating people from bad law and devising strategies to overcome the inertia of the status quo is a political job.

The key question to be asked is why most Egyptians choose to remain outside the legal economy? The answer is that, as in most developing countries, Egypt's legal institutions fail the majority of the people. Due to burdensome, discriminatory and just plain bad laws, it is impossible for most people to legalize their property and businesses, no matter how well intentioned they might be.

The examples are legion. To open a small bakery, our investigators found, would take more than 500 days. To get legal title to a vacant piece of land would take more than 10 years of dealing with red tape. To do business in Egypt, an aspiring poor entrepreneur would have to deal with 56 government agencies and repetitive government inspections.

All this helps explain who so many ordinary Egyptians have been "smoldering" for decades. Despite hard work and savings, they can do little to improve their lives.

Bringing the majority of Egypt's people into an open legal system is what will break Egypt's economic apartheid. Empowering the poor begins with the legal system awarding clear property rights to the $400 billion-plus of assets that we found they had created. This would unlock an amount of capital hundreds of times greater than foreign direct investment and what Egypt receives in foreign aid.

Leaders and governments may change and more democracy might come to Egypt. But unless its existing legal institutions are reformed to allow economic growth from the bottom up, the aspirations for a better life that are motivating so many demonstrating in the streets will remain unfulfilled.

Mr. de Soto, author of "The Mystery of Capital" (Basic Books, 2000) and "The Other Path" (Harper and Row, 1989), is president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy based in Lima, Peru.

22989  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA School Program on: February 03, 2011, 08:07:03 AM
Assuming Chicago is functioning by tomorrow morning  shocked I am off to our first DBMA SP seminar  cool
22990  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Training Death on: February 03, 2011, 08:05:47 AM
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: February 03, 2011, 07:54:03 AM
House Republicans are debating whether to propose new limits on the growth of Medicare and other entitlement programs, weighing a gamble that voters are more concerned about trimming the federal deficit than holding on to promised benefits.

Some Republicans are warning that the party faces a backlash if it fails to produce a budget that limits entitlement growth, given the anger at federal debt that drove the party's mid-term election gains.

"I believe strongly that we have to act on entitlement reform, and we have to do it sooner rather than later," said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), a member of the committee that oversees Medicare and Social Security. "The longer we wait, the worse it gets."

Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said: "You'd look ridiculous after the 2010 campaign to go mum on 60% of the budget.'' The magazine has urged Republicans to propose an entitlement overhaul in this year's budget process.

Efforts to curb entitlement spending have long been an element of the budget debate—often discussed, but rarely acted on because of their political sensitivity. Rather than aim immediately at entitlements, leaders of the new House Republican majority have focused on fulfilling their promise to cut domestic discretionary spending to 2008 levels, which would require about $100 billion in cuts.
But even cuts of that magnitude would only nick a federal deficit projected to reach $1.5 trillion this year. Discretionary spending accounts for about 33% of the federal budget. Entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up more than 60% of the budget.

"You still cannot have a long-term budget fix without doing entitlement reform," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R., Ga.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that annual outlays will grow an average of 5.4% for Social Security and 6.8% for Medicare through the end of the decade, compared with a 1% increase in discretionary spending.

Talk of trying to revamp entitlements is also taking on prominence because one of the GOP's boldest advocates of such a change, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has become chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Lawmakers in both parties have long believed that it would be politically foolhardy to propose changes in Medicare or Social Security without bipartisan backing in Congress and support from the president.

When Republicans last tried to slow the growth of Medicare, under House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, the plan became embroiled in a budget stand-off with President Bill Clinton that was widely viewed as a lasting political liability for the GOP.

Some recent polling underscores the political dangers. In a January survey for the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 68% of respondents said the country's budgetary problems can be addressed without reductions in Medicare, while 28% said reductions to the program should be on the table.

But some lawmakers sense growing public support for slowing the growth of entitlement spending, and a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey in August found broad acceptance for some possible changes.

Asked about various options for dealing with the federal deficit, 74% of respondents said it would be acceptable to make Medicare more needs-based, so that low-income seniors received larger subsidies than higher-income seniors. Some 64% approved of capping payment increases to doctors and hospitals.

In the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority, GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said that no entitlement changes will be made without Mr. Obama taking the lead. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) is an advocate of entitlement curbs but has called for a bipartisan summit to get the ball rolling.

In the House, the larger fiscal battles will be fought in the Budget Committee when Republicans draft a blueprint setting spending and revenue targets for 2012. Mr. Ryan's allies say he will try to incorporate key elements of his "Roadmap for America's Future"—a deficit reduction plan that calls for, among other things, converting Medicare from a guaranteed-benefit insurance program into a voucher system for people who now are 55 or younger.

Mr. Ryan himself has tried to tamp down those expectations, saying he has to write a budget that can win broad support among Republican lawmakers.
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Indonesia on: February 03, 2011, 07:46:14 AM
JAKARTA—One of Indonesia's pop stars was sentenced to prison Monday for making sex tapes that triggered a national outcry and a public debate about morals when they were leaked onto the Internet last year.

One of Indonesia's pop stars is sentenced to prison for making sex tapes that triggered a national outcry and a public debate about morals when they were leaked on the Internet last year.

The 29-year-old Nazril Irham—lead singer of a popular band called Peterpan and known to his fans and friends by the nickname "Ariel"—was sentenced to 3½ years in jail and fined $28,000 for two blurry, homemade sex videos seen by Internet users across Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim-majority nation. One video shows him and his current girlfriend, a well-known actress. The other shows him with a former girlfriend, also an actress.

A court in Bandung, the capital of West Java, where Mr. Irham resides, said the trial proved it was Mr. Irham in the videos. It rejected the argument that the videos had been stolen and released without Mr. Irham's permission, saying he hadn't done enough to stop their distribution—violating the strict anti-pornography law that went into effect three years ago.

A lawyer for Mr. Irham said he would appeal the ruling, local media reported.

The case became a sensation in Indonesia and underscored the continuing tension between its many moderate Muslim residents and an influential core of conservative residents who feel the country is becoming too secular, especially with the spread of the Internet.
Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners protested near the court on Monday, saying the sentence wasn't harsh enough. Other Indonesians, though, including human-rights activists, called the sentence heavy-handed and said it showed how courts can be bullied by a radical minority.

"The whole legal process began with public pressure in the name of religion and morality," said Hendardi, the chairman of the Setara Institute, a human-rights organization in Jakarta. "The legal system bowed to public pressure, even though the public opinion it was responding to does not really represent the majority" of Indonesians, said Mr. Hendardi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

While Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country, the Southeast Asian nation of 240 million has long been seen as moderate and largely secular. A small but vocal—and sometimes violent—minority has at times sought to impose its will, serving as a sort of moral police for the country.

Islamist terrorists, meanwhile, have launched attacks on Western targets, including the popular beach resort of Bali and five-star hotels in the capital city of Jakarta.

The frequent public demonstrations of some conservative Muslims against what they see as Western influences in Indonesia, and their support of new laws—such as the pornography prohibition and various local government initiatives to restrict gambling, the use of alcohol and other activities frowned upon by more religious residents—have brought them occasional victories with local governments and in courts, parliament and other public offices.

Indonesia's Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, a member of the country's Islamic PKS party, threatened to shut down Indonesia's BlackBerry services if the Canadian company behind the telephone, email and instant-messaging device, Research In Motion Ltd., failed to block pornographic sites. Research In Motion agreed to oblige earlier this month.
In 2010, the editor in chief of Playboy Indonesia started a two-year prison term for publishing pictures of scantily clad women.

Many analysts have argued that the influence of conservative Islamic groups has waned in recent years under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has emphasized the country's emergence as a rising economic power and its desire to attract more foreign investment. But the continued debates over whether to limit some Internet searches and otherwise restrict behavior linked to looser morals indicates that conservative factions are still powerful, they say.

—Yayu Yuniar contributed to this article.
Write to Eric Bellman at

22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 03, 2011, 07:37:51 AM
Well, Stratfor agrees with you GM:

The Egyptian Transition in a Quandary

Egypt’s beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak in his second address to the nation within four days announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in the presidential polls slated for September, but would oversee the transition of power to a more democratic system until then — a move that was immediately rejected by his opponents. Shortly thereafter, U.S. President Barack Obama called for an orderly transition that would include people from across the Egyptian political spectrum. The two leaders had talked earlier in the day.

Washington and Cairo (meaning its military establishment) realize that the Egyptian political system, which has been in place for six decades, cannot avoid change. The issue is how to manage the process of change. For those who have supported the Mubarak presidency since 1981, the goal is how to avoid regime change. For the Obama administration, which is already having a difficult time dealing with Iran and the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation, the goal is to ensure that a post-Mubarak Egypt doesn’t alter its behavior, especially on the foreign policy front.

“Washington and Cairo realize that the Egyptian political system, which has been in place for six decades, cannot avoid change.”
Both rely on the country’s military and its ability to oversee the transition. By all accounts, all sides — the military, the various opposition forces and the United States — appear to be in consensus that the way forward entails moving toward a democratic dispensation. Should that be the case, it is reasonable to assume that the country’s single largest and most organized political group, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), would emerge as a key stakeholder in a future regime.

In other words, the two key stakeholders would be the military and the Islamist movement. Of course, there are many other secular opposition forces, but none of them appear to be able to rival the prowess of the MB. Ironically, the only secular group that comes close is the ruling National Democratic Party, whose political future is in doubt.

That said, the military would likely try to encourage the creation of a broad-based alliance of secular forces to counter the MB. The goal would be to have a coalition government to make sure that there are sufficient arrestors in the path of the Islamist movement. The hope is that once the country can move beyond the current impasse, the opposition forces that are united in their desire to see the Mubarak regime fall from power will turn against one another, preferably along ideological lines.

Indeed, STRATFOR is told that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is also the country’s defense minister and emerged as deputy premier in the Egyptian government’s new Cabinet announced on Saturday, is looking at the Algerian model as a way to influence future politics in Cairo. The Algerian military in the 1990s was able to guide the formation of a new multi-party democratic political system, one in which all forces (centrists, Islamists and leftists) were accommodated. But the Algerian model was only made possible after a decadelong bloody Islamist insurgency, which was triggered by the army annulling elections in which the country’s then-largest Islamist movement was headed toward a landslide victory in the 1990 parliamentary elections, then the army engaging in a massive crackdown on the Islamists.

Clearly, the Egyptian army would want to avoid that scenario, especially given the state of unrest developing throughout the region. The other thing is that imposing martial law doesn’t appear to be a viable option. Not that such an outcome is inevitable, but the key question is how would the military react to a situation in which the MB would win in a free and fair election.

22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Inconvenient Reality leaves Al Gore unphased on: February 03, 2011, 07:34:24 AM
22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: Social Media on: February 03, 2011, 07:29:18 AM
Social Media as a Tool for Protest
February 3, 2011

By Marko Papic and Sean Noonan

Internet services were reportedly restored in Egypt on Feb. 2 after being completely shut down for two days. Egyptian authorities unplugged the last Internet service provider (ISP) still operating Jan. 31 amidst ongoing protests across the country. The other four providers in Egypt — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr — were shut down as the crisis boiled over on Jan. 27. Commentators immediately assumed this was a response to the organizational capabilities of social media websites that Cairo could not completely block from public access.

The role of social media in protests and revolutions has garnered considerable media attention in recent years. Current conventional wisdom has it that social networks have made regime change easier to organize and execute. An underlying assumption is that social media is making it more difficult to sustain an authoritarian regime — even for hardened autocracies like Iran and Myanmar — which could usher in a new wave of democratization around the globe. In a Jan. 27 YouTube interview, U.S. President Barack Obama went as far as to compare social networking to universal liberties such as freedom of speech.

Social media alone, however, do not instigate revolutions. They are no more responsible for the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt than cassette-tape recordings of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini speeches were responsible for the 1979 revolution in Iran. Social media are tools that allow revolutionary groups to lower the costs of participation, organization, recruitment and training. But like any tool, social media have inherent weaknesses and strengths, and their effectiveness depends on how effectively leaders use them and how accessible they are to people who know how to use them.

How to Use Social Media

The situations in Tunisia and Egypt have both seen an increased use of social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter to help organize, communicate and ultimately initiate civil-disobedience campaigns and street actions. The Iranian “Green Revolution” in 2009 was closely followed by the Western media via YouTube and Twitter, and the latter even gave Moldova’s 2009 revolution its moniker, the “Twitter Revolution.”

Foreign observers — and particularly the media — are mesmerized by the ability to track events and cover diverse locations, perspectives and demographics in real time. But a revolution is far more than what we see and hear on the Internet — it requires organization, funding and mass appeal. Social media no doubt offer advantages in disseminating messages quickly and broadly, but they also are vulnerable to government counter-protest tactics (more on these below). And while the effectiveness of the tool depends on the quality of a movement’s leadership, a dependence on social media can actually prevent good leadership from developing.

The key for any protest movement is to inspire and motivate individuals to go from the comfort of their homes to the chaos of the streets and face off against the government. Social media allow organizers to involve like-minded people in a movement at a very low cost, but they do not necessarily make these people move. Instead of attending meetings, workshops and rallies, un-committed individuals can join a Facebook group or follow a Twitter feed at home, which gives them some measure of anonymity (though authorities can easily track IP addresses) but does not necessarily motivate them to physically hit the streets and provide fuel for a revolution. At the end of the day, for a social media-driven protest movement to be successful, it has to translate social media membership into street action.

The Internet allows a revolutionary core to widely spread not just its ideological message but also its training program and operational plan. This can be done by e-mail, but social media broaden the exposure and increase its speed increases, with networks of friends and associates sharing the information instantly. YouTube videos explaining a movement’s core principles and tactics allow cadres to transmit important information to dispersed followers without having to travel. (This is safer and more cost effective for a movement struggling to find funding and stay under the radar, but the level of training it can provide is limited. Some things are difficult to learn by video, which presents the same problems for protest organizers as those confronted by grassroots jihadists, who must rely largely on the Internet for communication.) Social media can also allow a movement to be far more nimble about choosing its day of action and, when that day comes, to spread the action order like wildfire. Instead of organizing campaigns around fixed dates, protest movements can reach hundreds of thousands of adherents with a single Facebook post or Twitter feed, launching a massive call to action in seconds.

With lower organizational and communications costs, a movement can depend less on outside funding, which also allows it to create the perception of being a purely indigenous movement (without foreign supporters) and one with wide appeal. According to the event’s Facebook page, the April 6 Movement in Egypt had some 89,250 people claiming attendance at a Jan. 28 protest when, in fact, a much smaller number of protestors were actually there according to STRATFOR’s estimates. The April 6 Movement is made up of the minority of Egyptians who have Internet access, which the OpenNet Initiative estimated in August 2009 to be 15.4 percent of the population. While this is ahead of most African countries, it is behind most Middle Eastern countries. Internet penetration rates in countries like Iran and Qatar are around 35 percent, still a minority of the population. Eventually, a successful revolutionary movement has to appeal to the middle class, the working class, retirees and rural segments of the population, groups that are unlikely to have Internet access in most developing countries. Otherwise, a movement could quickly find itself unable to control the revolutionary forces it unleashed or being accused by the regime of being an unrepresentative fringe movement. This may have been the same problem that Iranian protestors experienced in 2009.

Not only must protest organizers expand their base beyond Internet users, they must also be able to work around government disruption. Following the Internet shutdown in Egypt, protesters were able to distribute hard-copy tactical pamphlets and use faxes and landline telephones for communications. Ingenuity and leadership quickly become more important than social media when the government begins to use counter-protest tactics, which are well developed even in the most closed countries.

Countering Social Media

Like any other tool, social media have their drawbacks. Lowering the costs of communication also diminishes operational security. Facebook messages can be open for all to see, and even private messages can be viewed by authorities through search warrants in more open countries or pressure on the Internet social media firms in more closed ones. Indeed, social media can quickly turn into a valuable intelligence-collection tool. A reliance on social media can also be exploited by a regime willing to cut the country off from Internet or domestic text messaging networks altogether, as has been the case in Egypt.

The capability of governments to monitor and counteract social media developed alongside the capability of their intelligence services. In order to obtain an operating license in any country, social networking websites have to come to some sort of agreement with the government. In many countries, this involves getting access to user data, locations and network information. Facebook profiles, for example, can be a boon for government intelligence collectors, who can use updates and photos to pinpoint movement locations and activities and identify connections among various individuals, some of whom may be suspect for various activities. (Facebook has received funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, and many Western intelligence services have start-up budgets to develop Internet technologies that will enable even deeper mining of Internet-user data.)

In using social media, the tradeoff for protest leaders is that they must expose themselves to disseminate their message to the masses (although there are ways to mask IP addresses and avoid government monitoring, such as by using proxy servers). Keeping track of every individual who visits a protest organization’s website page may be beyond the capabilities of many security services, depending on a site’s popularity, but a medium designed to reach the masses is open to everyone. In Egypt, almost 40 leaders of the April 6 Movement were arrested early on in the protests, and this may have been possible by identifying and locating them through their Internet activities, particularly through their various Facebook pages.

Indeed, one of the first organizers of the April 6 Movement became known in Egypt as “Facebook Girl” following her arrest in Cairo on April 6, 2008. The movement was originally organized to support a labor protest that day in Mahalla, and organizer Esraa Abdel Fattah Ahmed Rashid found Facebook a convenient way to organize demonstrations from the safety of her home. Her release from prison was an emotional event broadcast on Egyptian TV, which depicted her and her mother crying and hugging. Rashid was then expelled from the group and no longer knows the password for accessing the April 6 Facebook page. One fellow organizer called her “chicken” for saying she would not have organized the protest if she had thought she would be arrested. Rashid’s story is a good example of the challenges posed by using social media as a tool for mobilizing a protest. It is easy to “like” something or someone on Facebook, but it is much harder to organize a protest on the street where some participants will likely be arrested, injured or killed.

Beyond monitoring movement websites, governments can also shut them down. This has been common in Iran and China during times of social unrest. But blocking access to a particular website cannot stop tech-savvy Internet users employing virtual private networks or other technologies to access unbanned IP addresses outside the country in order to access banned sites. In response to this problem, China shut down Internet access to all of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the location of ethnic Uighur riots in July 2009. More recently, Egypt followed the same tactic for the entire country. Like many countries, Egypt has contracts with Internet service providers that allow the government to turn the Internet off or, when service providers are state-owned, to make life difficult for Internet-based organizers.

Regimes can also use social media for their own purposes. One counter-protest tactic is to spread disinformation, whether it is to scare away protestors or lure them all to one location where anti-riot police lie in wait. We have not yet witnessed such a government “ambush” tactic, but its use is inevitable in the age of Internet anonymity. Government agents in many countries have become quite proficient at trolling the Internet in search of pedophiles and wannabe terrorists. (Of course, such tactics can be used by both sides. During the Iranian protests in 2009, many foreign-based Green Movement supporters spread disinformation over Twitter to mislead foreign observers.)

The most effective way for the government to use social media is to monitor what protest organizers are telling their adherents either directly over the Internet or by inserting an informant into the group, counteracting the protestors wherever and whenever they assemble. Authorities monitoring protests at World Trade Organization and G-8 meetings as well as the Republican and Democratic national conventions in the United States have used this successfully. Over the past two years in Egypt, the April 6 Movement has found the police ready and waiting at every protest location. Only in recent weeks has popular support grown to the point where the movement has presented a serious challenge to the security services.

One of the biggest challenges for security services is to keep up with the rapidly changing Internet. In Iran, the regime quickly shut down Facebook but not Twitter, not realizing the latter’s capabilities. If social media are presenting a demonstrable threat to governments, it could become vital for security services to continually refine and update plans for disrupting new Internet technology.

Quality of Leadership vs. Cost of Participation

There is no denying that social media represent an important tool for protest movements to effectively mobilize their adherents and communicate their message. As noted above, however, the effectiveness of the tool depends on its user, and an overreliance can become a serious detriment.

One way it can hurt a movement is in the evolution of its leadership. To lead a protest movement effectively, an organization’s leadership has to venture outside of cyberspace. It has to learn what it means to face off against a regime’s counterintelligence capabilities in more than just the virtual world. By holding workshops and mingling among the populace, the core leadership of a movement learns the different strategies that work best with different social strata and how to appeal to a broad audience. Essentially, leaders of a movement that exploits the use of social media must take the same risks as those of groups that lack such networking capability. The convenience and partial anonymity of social media can decrease the motivation of a leader to get outside and make things happen.

Moreover, a leadership grounded in physical reality is one that constructs and sticks to a concerted plan of action. The problem with social media is that they subvert the leadership of a movement while opening it to a broader membership. This means that a call for action may spread like wildfire before a movement is sufficiently prepared, which can put its survival in danger. In many ways, the Iranian Green Revolution is a perfect example of this. The call for action brought a self-selected group of largely educated urban youth to protest in the streets, where the regime cracked down harshly on a movement it believed was not broad enough to constitute a real threat.

A leadership too reliant on social media can also become isolated from alternative political movements with which it may share the common goal of regime change. This is especially the case when other movements are not “youth movements” and therefore are not as tech savvy. This can create serious problems once the revolution is successful and an interim government needs to be created. The Serbian Otpor (Resistance) movement was successful in the 2000 Serbian democratic revolution precisely because it managed to bring together a disparate opposition of pro-Western and nationalist forces. But to facilitate such coalition building, leaders have to step away from computers and cell phones and into factories, rice paddies and watering holes they normally would never want to enter. This is difficult to do during a revolution, when things are in flux and public suspicion is high, especially of those who claim to be leading a revolution.

Even when a media-savvy leader has a clear plan, he or she may not be successful. For instance, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand and telecommunications magnate, has used his skills to hold video conference calls with stadiums full of supporters, and launched two massive waves of protests involving some 100,000 supporters against the Thai government in April 2009 and April and May 2010, yet he still has not succeeded in taking power. He remains a disembodied voice, capable of rocking the boat but incapable of taking its helm.

Simply a Convenience

Shutting down the Internet did not reduce the numbers of Egyptian protesters in the streets. In fact, the protests only grew bigger as websites were shut down and the Internet was turned off. If the right conditions exist a revolution can occur, and social media do not seem to change that. Just because an Internet-based group exists does not make it popular or a threat. There are Facebook groups, YouTube videos and Twitter posts about everything, but that does not make them popular. A neo-Nazi skinhead posting from his mother’s basement in Illinois is not going to start a revolution in the United States, no matter how many Internet posts he makes or what he says. The climate must be ripe for revolution, due to problems like inflation, deflation, food shortages, corruption and oppression, and the population must be motivated to mobilize. Representing a new medium with dangers as well as benefits, social media do not create protest movements; they only allow members of such movements to communicate more easily.

Other technologies like short-wave radio, which can also be used to communicate and mobilize, have been available to protestors and revolutionaries for a long time. In reality, so has the Internet, which is the fundamental technological development that allows for quick and widespread communications. The popularity of social media, one of many outgrowths of the Internet, may actually be isolated to international media observation from afar. We can now watch protest developments in real time, instead of after all the reports have been filed and printed in the next day’s newspaper or broadcast on the nightly news. Western perceptions are often easily swayed by English-speaking, media-savvy protestors who may be only a small fraction of a country’s population. This is further magnified in authoritarian countries where Western media have no choice but to turn to Twitter and YouTube to report on the crisis, thus increasing the perceived importance of social media.

In the Middle East, where Internet penetration is below 35 percent (with the exception of Israel), if a movement grows large enough to effect change it will have been joined through word of mouth, not through social networking. Still, the expansion of Internet connectivity does create new challenges for domestic leaders who have proved more than capable of controlling older forms of communication. This is not an insurmountable challenge, as China has shown, but even in China’s case there is growing anxiety about the ability of Internet users to evade controls and spread forbidden information.

Social media represent only one tool among many for an opposition group to employ. Protest movements are rarely successful if led from somebody’s basement in a virtual arena. Their leaders must have charisma and street smarts, just like leaders of any organization. A revolutionary group cannot rely on its most tech-savvy leaders to ultimately launch a successful revolution any more than a business can depend on the IT department to sell its product. It is part of the overall strategy, but it cannot be the sole strategy.

22996  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Krabi Krabong dvd on: February 03, 2011, 07:25:09 AM
Bjung (a.k.a. Porn Star Dog) has very good KK, better than mine.  I would add only to his sound advice the image that works for me, given to me by a teacher:  Think of a triangle formed by your two hands (roughly, near your hips) and the tips of the stick.
22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Egypt's Bumbling Brotherhood on: February 03, 2011, 07:20:00 AM
FWIW here's this from the op-ed page of Pravda on the Hudson-- is there any merit here?
Egypt’s Bumbling Brotherhood
Published: February 2, 2011
AS Egyptians clash over the future of their government, Americans and Europeans have repeatedly expressed fears of the Muslim Brotherhood. “You don’t just have a government and a movement for democracy,” Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said of Egypt on Monday. “You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction.”

The previous day, the House speaker, John Boehner, expressed hope that Hosni Mubarak would stay on as president of Egypt while instituting reforms to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists from grabbing power.

But here’s the real deal, at least as many Egyptians see it. Ever since its founding in 1928 as a rival to Western-inspired nationalist movements that had failed to free Egypt from foreign powers, the Muslim Brotherhood has tried to revive Islamic power. Yet in 83 years it has botched every opportunity. In Egypt today, the Brotherhood counts perhaps some 100,000 adherents out of a population of over 80 million. And its failure to support the initial uprising in Cairo on Jan. 25 has made it marginal to the spirit of revolt now spreading through the Arab world.

This error was compounded when the Brotherhood threw in its lot with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and Nobel Prize winner. A Brotherhood spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, told Al Jazeera, “Political groups support ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime.” But when Mr. ElBaradei strode into Tahrir Square, many ignored him and few rallied to his side despite the enormous publicity he was receiving in the Western press. The Brotherhood realized that in addition to being late, it might be backing the wrong horse. On Tuesday, Dr. Erian told me, “It’s too early to even discuss whether ElBaradei should lead a transitional government or whether we will join him.” This kind of flip-flopping makes many Egyptians scoff.

When the army allowed hundreds of Mubarak supporters and plainclothes policemen through barricades on Wednesday to muscle out protesters, the Muslim Brotherhood may have gained an opportunity. It might be able to recover lost leverage by showing its organizational tenacity in resisting the attempts to repress the demonstrators.

Nonetheless, the Brotherhood did not arrive at this historical moment with the advantage of wide public favor. Such support as it does have among Egyptians — an often cited figure is 20 percent to 30 percent — is less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstance: the many decades of suppression of secular opposition groups that might have countered it. The British, King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat all faced the same problem that Hisham Kaseem, a newspaper editor and human rights activist, described playing out under Mr. Mubarak. “If people met in a cafe and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the cafe and arrest us,” Mr. Kaseem said. “But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”

If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me, the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman.”

Many people outside Egypt believe that the Brotherhood gains political influence by providing health clinics and charity for the poor. But the very poor in Egypt are not very politically active. And according to Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, the group has only six clinics in Cairo, a city of 18 million. Many of the other clinics are Islamic in orientation simply because most Egyptians are Islamic. The wealthier businessmen who often sponsor them tend to shun the Brotherhood, if only to protect their businesses from government disapproval.

Although originally the Brotherhood was organized into paramilitary cells, today it forswears violence in political struggle. This has made it a target of Al Qaeda’s venom. In January 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, the former leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda’s leading strategist, blasted the Brotherhood’s willingness to participate in parliamentary elections and reject nuclear arms. You “falsely affiliated with Islam,” he said in vilifying the group. “You forget about the rule of Shariah, welcome the Crusaders’ bases in your countries and acknowledge the existence of the Jews who are fully armed with nuclear weapons, from which you are banned to possess.”


People in the West frequently conflate the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. And although their means are very different, even many Egyptians suspect that they share a common end that is alien to democracy. When I asked Dr. Erian about this, he retorted that the United States and Mr. Mubarak had conspired after Sept. 11 to “brainwash” people into thinking of all Muslim activists as terrorists, adding that “the street” knew the truth.

The street, however, manifests little support for the Brotherhood. Only a small minority of the protesters in Tahrir Square joined its members in prayers there (estimates range from 5 percent to 10 percent), and few Islamic slogans or chants were heard.
Obviously the Brotherhood wants power and its positions, notably its stance against Israel, are problematic for American interests. “Israel must know that it is not welcome by the people in this region,” Dr. Erian said. Moreover, the Brotherhood will probably have representatives in any freely elected government. But it is because democracies tolerate disparate political groups that they generally don’t have civil wars, or wars with other democracies. And because the Brotherhood itself is not monolithic — it has many factions — it could well succumb to internal division if there really were a political opening for other groups in Egypt.

What we are seeing in Egypt is a revolt led by digitally informed young people and joined by families from all rungs of society. Though in one sense it happened overnight, many of its young proponents have long been working behind the scenes, independent of the Brotherhood or any old guard opposition. Egyptians are a pretty savvy lot. Hardly anyone I talked to believes that democracy can be established overnight.

The Brotherhood leadership talks of a year or two of transition, although that may reflect a vain hope of using that time to broaden its popular support enough to reach a controlling plurality. The more common assessment even among democracy advocates is that the military will retain control — Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief and new vice president, will be acceptable to Egyptians if the army gets rid of Mr. Mubarak now — and over the next decade real democratic reforms will be instituted.

“Egypt is missing instruments essential to any functioning democracy and these must be established in the transition period — an independent judiciary, a representative Parliament, an open press,” Mr. Kaseem said. “If you try to push democracy tomorrow we’ll end up like Mauritania or Sudan,” both of which in recent decades have had coups on the heels of democratic elections.

A military in control behind the scenes — for a while — is probably the best hope for a peaceful transition. “Let the U.S.A. stay away,” urged Mr. Kaseem, who insisted that he is pro-American and abhors the Brotherhood. “They are only bungling things with calls for immediate reforms and against the Brotherhood. We are handling this beautifully. Even a military leader with an I.Q. of 30 wouldn’t go down the same path as Mubarak because he would understand that the people of Egypt who are out in the streets are no longer apathetic, their interests are mostly secular, they are connected and they will get power in the end.”

If America’s already teetering standing among Egyptians and across the Arab and Muslim world is not to topple altogether, the United States must now publicly hold Mr. Mubarak responsible for the violence and privately inform the Egyptian Army that it cannot support any institution that is complicit.

But there is little reason for the United States to fear a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. If Egypt is allowed to find its own way, as it so promisingly began to do over the past week, the problems of violent extremism and waves of emigration that America and Europe most fear from this unhappy region could well fade as its disaffected youth at last find hope at home.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of “Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists.”

22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / David Horowitz on: February 03, 2011, 07:00:25 AM
DH Comments on GB's shows this week:
22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Superior firepower on: February 02, 2011, 01:23:44 PM
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 02, 2011, 10:15:32 AM

That Brit hit piece on Beck is so utterly devoid of merit that I too wonder at its presence here.  Has the man ever even watched the show?  Certainly he never caught the episodes of GB discussing Father Coughlin!

GM:  I watched last night's show; very interesting.  I would note that he was careful to say the scenario he was outlining was a worst case scenario. 
       I understand that the world can be a dark, dangerous place sometimes and that sometimes we need to deal with bad people, but this brings with it its own costs.
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