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23051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Philippines wondering WTF was that? on: March 04, 2011, 10:35:08 AM
Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines wants China to explain why two of its patrol boats harassed a Philippine ship searching for oil in a disputed area of the South China Sea, an official said Friday.

The incident occurred Wednesday at Reed Bank near the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

"We're in conversation with our Chinese friends and we are seeking an explanation from them," Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a news conference.

China Confronts Philippine Oil Vessel, Spurring Dispute

.Reed Bank—about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Philippine province of Palawan—"is our territory," he added.

Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the military's Western Command headquartered in Palawan, said two warplanes were deployed Wednesday after oil explorers from the Philippine Department of Energy complained of harassment. When the planes reached the area, the Chinese vessels had left, he said.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun reiterated his country's claim to the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters, but said Beijing was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the area and resolving disputes through peaceful negotiations.

A Philippine military official said Thursday the Chinese boats maneuvered close to the Philippine vessel at least twice, apparently threatening to ram it but then turning away. They did not fire any warning shots, he said.

A Philippine navy patrol ship has been deployed to secure the oil exploration, which will resume, the official added.

The Spratlys have rich fishing grounds and are believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits. They also straddle busy sea lanes that are a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling China's fast-expanding economy and those of other Asian nations. They have long been regarded as a potential flash point for conflict in Asia.

23052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: 12.7% increase in military budget on: March 04, 2011, 10:31:40 AM

BEIJING—China announced plans to increase its defense budget by 12.7% this year, a pickup from last year's sharply lower growth that comes amid fresh confrontations over territorial issues with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

China expects to spend 601.1 billion yuan ($91.4 billion) on defense in 2011, up from 533.4 billion yuan last year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress, said Friday, ahead of the start of the legislature's annual session on Saturday.

Mr. Li said the military budget would be used for purposes including "appropriate armament development," training and human resources, while stressing that it remained relatively low as a proportion of China's GDP and overall budget, and dismissing concerns that it threatened neighboring countries.

"China's defense spending is relatively low in the world," he said. "Every bit of China's limited military strength will be used for safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and this will not pose a threat to any country."

The projected rise is faster than last year's 7.5% increase—the slowest clip in decades—but is significantly slower than the roughly 19% annual growth in years before 2010.

The headline figure does not, however, include key items such as arms imports and the program to develop a stealth fighter and an aircraft carrier, according to foreign military experts who estimate that China's real defense spending is far higher.

The figure's announcement also comes amid signs that China's growing economic and military power is prompting other nations in the region to beef up their own militaries, pushing Asia into a new arms race, and in many cases to shore up defense ties with the U.S.

Japan, which revised its national-defense guidelines last year to focus more on the threat from China, expressed fresh concern Friday about the rise in Chinese military spending.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters that China's defense expenditure was "very high," and urged the Chinese government to be more transparent about how it planned to use its newfound military firepower.

"Whether it should be regarded as offensive or defensive would require a close look," he said, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

On Wednesday, Japan scrambled fighter jets to chase off two Chinese military planes which it said flew within 34 miles of disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China.

Japanese government spokesman Yukio Edano said Japan would not protest formally as the Chinese planes did not leave international airspace, but he also voiced concern over China's growing military power and said Japan would monitor the situation. China's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relations between Asia's two biggest economies plunged to their lowest ebb in years in September following collisions near the islands between two Japanese coast guard patrol boats and a Chinese fishing vessel.

China's more forceful stance on that and other territorial issues last year also alarmed other countries in the region.

On Wednesday, the Philippines deployed two war planes to protect oil explorers who complained that they were being harassed by two Chinese patrol boats in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

The Philippine government demanded an explanation Friday for the incident at Reed Bank near the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun reiterated his country's claim to the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters, but said Beijing was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the area and resolving disputes through peaceful negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

South Korea's Coast Guard said Friday it seized two Chinese fishing boats and their crews on Thursday after they were found fishing illegally in South Korea's Exclusive Economic Zone, 64 miles southwest of Keokrulbiyeol island in the west sea.

During the process, one South Korean policeman was hurt by a weapon wielded by Chinese fishermen, and one Chinese fisherman was shot in his leg, the coast guard said.

China's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on that incident.

But Chinese officials and academics have toned down their rhetoric this year in an apparent bid to address concerns that China plans to use its expanding military clout to assert its territorial claims, and to challenge U.S. military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

In January, China jolted the region with a test flight of a new stealth jet fighter, indicating that China is further along in using the advanced technology than previous Pentagon statements had suggested.

China is also developing an antiship ballistic missile that could threaten U.S. naval vessels in the Asia-Pacific region, where the U.S. has long been dominant.

However, Mr. Li pointed out that China's military spending accounted for only about 6% of China's national budget, which he said was lower than in recent years—and well below the level of the U.S.

The defense budget "will see some increase, but the ratio of spending to GDP is quite low -- lower than in many countries," he added.

23053  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 04, 2011, 10:28:20 AM
A buddy of mine who had a number of amateur kickboxing fights out of Benny "the Jet" Urquidez's gym did a fight scene with JCVD in "Lionheart" (the remake of Charles Bronson's "Hard Times").  He told me JC had no footwork, no range awareness, and in general sucked.

You ever see the clip of JC on the Arsenio Hall show wherein he admits that he and Dolph Lungren staged a pushing match at Cannes as a publicity stunt to help promote a movie?
23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: March 04, 2011, 10:21:45 AM
With an intention of figuring out how to get away with doing this in the US,  highly placed anonymous sources who regularly read this forum for its penetrating insight, have asked us to see if we can ferret out GM's response to this development  cheesy
23055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ATF runs guns?!? on: March 04, 2011, 10:16:07 AM
23056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 04, 2011, 12:12:48 AM
I too found it a useful analysis for cutting through progressive FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).
23057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay pre-empts Christianity in UK? on: March 04, 2011, 12:00:00 AM
23058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Beach on Newt on: March 03, 2011, 05:42:20 PM,0,2306522.story
23059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wall of Lies on: March 03, 2011, 05:40:40 PM
Good thumbnail refutations of the most common lies about Israel.
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 03, 2011, 05:33:59 PM
Re 2:  The AFL-CIO is a socialist organization, so too many others with whom the police are standing with regard to matters in WI.  By allowing commies like VJ to participate, the Fraternal Order of Police et al are lending their patina of respectability to them.

4: VJ et al have infiltrated NY State school books and are using them to spread the socialist message.

and from GB's email today:

5: In a very candid interview, President Obama said that 'race is still an issue' for him and that a 'key component' of the Tea Party is racism. That's quite a claim considering there's no evidence of racism - the best argument supporting that theory is 'President Obama is African American. Tea Parties oppose the President's policies. Therefore Tea Parties are racist. What'd Glenn think of the comments? He explained on radio today.
23061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Remember the Alamo on: March 03, 2011, 03:39:40 PM
America's Third War: Texas Farmers Under Attack at the Border

By Kris Gutiérrez

Published March 03, 2011


In Texas, nearly 8,200 farms and ranches back up to the Mexican border.  The men and women who live and work on those properties say they’re under attack from the same drug cartels blamed for thousands of murders in Mexico.

“It’s a war, make no mistake about it,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “And it’s happening on American soil.”

Texas farmers and ranchers produce more cotton and more cattle than any other state, so Staples is concerned this war could eventually impact our food supply, and calls it a threat to our national security.

“Farmers and ranchers are being run off their own property by armed terrorists showing up and telling them they have to leave their land,” Staples said.

To raise awareness, Commissioner Staples launched the website It’s a place where frustrated and scared farmers can share their stories.

One Texas farmer, who asked not to be identified, said it’s common for him to see undocumented immigrants walking through his property.

“I see something, I just drive away,” he said. “It is a problem, I’ve learned to live with it and pretty much, I’ve become numb to it.”

Another farmer, Joe Aguilar, said enough is enough. After walking up on armed gunmen sneaking undocumented immigrants into the United States through his land, Aguilar decided to sell his farm.“It’s really sad to say, you either have to beat ‘em or join ‘em and I decided not to do either,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar's family farmed 6,000 acres of land along the Texas-Mexico border for nearly 100 years.

“Our farmers and ranchers can’t afford their own security detail,” Staples said. “We’re going to become more dependent on food from foreign sources.  Americans don’t like being dependent on foreign oil, they won’t stand for being dependent on foreign food.”

For more on the battle at our border, visit

23062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mass murder stopped by killing man? on: March 03, 2011, 02:37:51 PM
Associated Press$57108

A heavily armed man who crashed his pickup truck, then shot an EMT responding to the accident before being killed by police appeared to be on his way to carry out a mass killing, police said Wednesday.

The man, who was not identified by police, had a rifle strapped to his chest, and extra ammunition inserted in elongated wristbands on his arms, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey told reporters. He had six weapons in his possession, including a Tec-9 automatic pistol.

"It is clear to us that this man was out to commit mayhem in this county," Mulvey said of the suspect, whom he described as about 31. Police believe he moved to Long Island from Florida in the past year. The Ford pickup truck he was driving had Florida license plates.

"There may have been some turmoil in his personal life," Mulvey said, but he would not elaborate. The suspect had an arrest record for petty larceny, but there were no arrests for any violence, police said.

The EMT, identified as 20-year-old Justin Angell of Bellmore, was in stable condition at Nassau University Medical Center. He posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was getting better.

"To everyone ... thank u so much for the calls concerns and visits ... just got up and walked a bit," said part of the message.

Shooting erupted at about 10 p.m. Tuesday in Bellmore after the man hit a utility pole with his truck. When the volunteer ambulance crew arrived, he fired at least eight shots at them from an assault rifle, wounding Angell.

Police responding to the crash then shot the man when he threatened them; the rifle the gunman was carrying had a laser scope and two officers realized they were being targeted. Mulvey said the fatal shot came from a third officer with the K-9 unit, who believed he was assisting with the car crash.

"None of us expect when they come upon the scene of an accident to be fired on," Mulvey said.

It was not clear whom the gunman may have been targeting, but Mulvey was convinced had the crash not occurred, a mass shooting was imminent.

"He has strapped to his chest a firearm with a scope. He has in his lap a long barreled revolver, and in his pocket a semiautomatic pistol," Mulvey said. "He's utilizing an assault weapon with a laser scope and there's a Tec-9 behind the passenger seat within easy arm reach of his hand, and another weapon in the car.

"It all evokes to me evidence that had he not been stopped by police, there very well could have been mayhem committed in this community."

Nassau County, located just east of New York City, is often considered America's first suburb. About 1.5 million people live in the county, which has been described as one of the wealthiest in the U.S.

23063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 03, 2011, 01:57:30 PM
Mitt has patrician guilt complex and when push comes to shove will always fold to race baiting and class warfare.
23064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: ISI and CIA on: March 03, 2011, 08:37:08 AM
Pakistani Intelligence and the CIA: Mutual Distrust and Suspicion
March 3, 2011

By Scott Stewart

On March 1, U.S. diplomatic sources reportedly told Dawn News that a proposed exchange with the Pakistani government of U.S. citizen Raymond Davis for Pakistani citizen Aafia Siddiqui was not going to happen. Davis is a contract security officer working for the CIA who was arrested by Pakistani police on Jan. 27 following an incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt. Siddiqui was arrested by the Afghan National Police in Afghanistan in 2008 on suspicion of being linked to al Qaeda.

During Siddiqui’s interrogation at a police station, she reportedly grabbed a weapon from one of her interrogators and opened fire on the American team sent to debrief her. Siddiqui was wounded in the exchange of fire and taken to Bagram air base for treatment. After her recovery, she was transported to the United States and charged in U.S. District Court in New York with armed assault and the attempted murder of U.S. government employees. Siddique was convicted in February 2010 and sentenced in September 2010 to 86 years in prison.

Given the differences in circumstances between these two cases, it is not difficult to see why the U.S. government would not agree to such an exchange. Siddique had been arrested by the local authorities and was being questioned, while Davis was accosted on the street by armed men and thought he was being robbed. His case has served to exacerbate a growing rift between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI).

Pakistan has proved to be a very dangerous country for both ISI and CIA officers. Because of this environment, it is necessary for intelligence officers to have security — especially when they are conducting meetings with terrorist sources — and for security officers to protect American officials. Due to the heavy security demands in high-threat countries like Pakistan, the U.S. government has been forced to rely on contract security officers like Davis. It is important to recognize, however, that the Davis case is not really the cause of the current tensions between the Americans and Pakistanis. There are far deeper issues causing the rift.

Operating in Pakistan

Pakistan has been a very dangerous place for American diplomats and intelligence officers for many years now. Since September 2001 there have been 13 attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions and motorcades as well as hotels and restaurants frequented by Americans who were in Pakistan on official business. Militants responsible for the attack on the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008 referred to the hotel as a “nest of spies.” At least 10 Americans in Pakistan on official business have been killed as a result of these attacks, and many more have been wounded.

Militants in Pakistan have also specifically targeted the CIA. This was clearly illustrated by a December 2009 attack against the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, in which the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, used a Jordanian suicide operative to devastating effect. The CIA thought the operative had been turned and was working for Jordanian intelligence to collect intelligence on al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan. The attack killed four CIA officers and three CIA security contractors. Additionally, in March 2008, four FBI special agents were injured in a bomb attack as they ate at an Italian restaurant in Islamabad.

Pakistani intelligence and security agencies have been targeted with far more vigor than the Americans. This is due not only to the fact that they are seen as cooperating with the United States but also because there are more of them and their facilities are relatively soft targets compared to U.S. diplomatic facilities in Pakistan. Militants have conducted dozens of major attacks directed against Pakistani security and intelligence targets such as the headquarters of the Pakistani army in Rawalpindi, the ISI provincial headquarters in Lahore and the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) and police academies in Lahore.

In addition to these high-profile attacks against facilities, scores of military officers, frontier corps officers, ISI officers, senior policemen and FIA agents have been assassinated. Other government figures have also been targeted for assassination. As this analysis was being written, the Pakistani minorities minister was assassinated near his Islamabad home.

Because of this dangerous security environment, it is not at all surprising that American government officials living and working in Pakistan are provided with enhanced security to keep them safe. And enhanced security measures require a lot of security officers, especially when you have a large number of American officials traveling away from secure facilities to attend meetings and other functions. This demand for security officers is even greater when enhanced security is required in several countries at the same time and for a prolonged period of time.

This is what is happening today in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The demand for protective officers has far surpassed the personnel available to the organizations that provide security for American officials such as the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the CIA’s Office of Security. In order to provide adequate security for American officials in high-threat posts, these agencies have had to rely on contractors provided by large companies like Blackwater/Xe, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy and on individual contract security officers hired on personal-services contracts. This reliance on security contractors has been building over the past several years and is now a fact of life at many U.S. embassies.

Using contract security officers allows these agencies not only to quickly ramp up their capabilities without actually increasing their authorized headcount but also to quickly cut personnel when they hit the next lull in the security-funding cycle. It is far easier to terminate contractors than it is to fire full-time government employees.

CIA Operations in Pakistan

There is another factor at play: demographics. Most CIA case officers (like most foreign-service officers) are Caucasian products of very good universities. They tend to look like Bob Baer and Valerie Plame. They stick out when they walk down the street in places like Peshawar or Lahore. They do not blend into the crowd, are easily identified by hostile surveillance and are therefore vulnerable to attack. Because of this, they need trained professional security officers to watch out for them and keep them safe.

This is doubly true if the case officer is meeting with a source who has terrorist connections. As seen in the Khost attack discussed above, and reinforced by scores of incidents over the years, such sources can be treacherous and meeting such people can be highly dangerous. As a result, it is pretty much standard procedure for any intelligence officer meeting a terrorism source to have heavy security for the meeting. Even FBI and British MI5 officers meeting terrorism sources domestically employ heavy security for such meetings because of the potential danger to the agents.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the primary intelligence collection requirement for every CIA station and base in the world has been to hunt down Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. This requirement has been emphasized even more for the CIA officers stationed in Pakistan, the country where bin Laden and company are believed to be hiding. This emphasis was redoubled with the change of U.S. administrations and President Barack Obama’s renewed focus on Pakistan and eliminating the al Qaeda leadership. The Obama administration’s approach of dramatically increasing strikes with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) required an increase in targeting intelligence, which comes mostly from human sources and not signals intelligence or imagery. Identifying and tracking an al Qaeda suspect amid the hostile population and unforgiving terrain of the Pakistani badlands also requires human sources to direct intelligence assets toward a target.

This increased human intelligence-gathering effort inside Pakistan has created friction between the CIA and the ISI. First, it is highly likely that much of the intelligence used to target militants with UAV strikes in the badlands comes from the ISI — especially intelligence pertaining to militant groups like the TTP that have attacked the ISI and the Pakistani government itself (though, as would be expected, the CIA is doing its best to develop independent sources as well). The ISI has a great deal to gain by strikes against groups it sees as posing a threat to Pakistan, and the fact that the U.S. government is conducting such strikes provides the ISI a degree of plausible deniability and political cover.

However, it is well known that the ISI has long had ties to militant groups. The ISI’s fostering of surrogate militants to serve its strategic interests in Kashmir and Afghanistan played a critical role in the rise of transnational jihadism (and this was even aided with U.S. funding in some cases). Indeed, as we’ve previously discussed, the ISI would like to retain control of its militant proxies in Afghanistan to ensure that Pakistan does not end up with a hostile regime in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal from the country. This is quite a rational desire when one considers Pakistan’s geopolitical situation.

Because of this, the ISI has been playing a kind of a double game with the CIA. It has been forthcoming with intelligence pertaining to militants it views as threats to the Pakistani regime while refusing to share information pertaining to groups it hopes to use as levers in Afghanistan (or against India). Of course, the ability of the ISI to control these groups and not get burned by them again is very much a subject of debate, but at least some ISI leaders appear to believe they can keep at least some of their surrogate militants under control.

There are many in Washington who believe the ISI knows the location of high-value al Qaeda targets and senior members of organizations like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which are responsible for many of the attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This belief that the ISI is holding back intelligence compels the CIA to run unilateral intelligence operations (meaning operations it does not tell the ISI about). Many of these unilateral operations likely involve the recruitment of Pakistani government officials, including members of the ISI. Naturally, the ISI is not happy with these intelligence operations, and the result is the mistrust and tension we see between the ISI and the CIA.

It is important to remember that in the intelligence world there is no such thing as a friendly intelligence service. While services will cooperate on issues of mutual interest, they will always serve their own national interests first, even when that places them at odds with an intelligence service they are coordinating with.

Such competing national interests are at the heart of the current tension between the CIA and the ISI. At present, the CIA is fixated on finding and destroying the last vestiges of al Qaeda and crippling militant groups in Pakistan that are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Americans can always leave Afghanistan; if anarchy and chaos take hold there, it is not likely have a huge impact on the United States. However, the ISI knows that after the United States withdraws from Afghanistan it will be stuck with the problem of Afghanistan. It is on the ISI’s doorstep, and it does not have the luxury of being able to withdraw from the region and the conflict. The ISI believes that it will be left to deal with the mess created by the United States. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to try to control the shape of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, and that means using militant proxies like Pakistan did after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

This struggle between the CIA and ISI is a conundrum rooted in the conflict between the vital interests of two nations and it will not be solved easily. While the struggle has been brought to the public’s attention by the Davis case, this case is really just a minor symptom of a far deeper conflict.

23065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A conspiracy lining in a silver cloud on: March 03, 2011, 08:06:10 AM
I took a good size position in PAAS at around 8.50.  It is now nearly 4x that, so this article was of great interest to me.


As Americans know all too well by this point, commodity prices — for corn, wheat, soybeans, crude oil, gold and even farmland — have been going through the roof for what seems like forever. There are many causes, primarily supply and demand pressures driven by fears about the unrest in the Middle East, the rise of consumerism in China and India, and the Fed’s $600 billion campaign to increase the money supply.

Nonetheless, how to explain the price of silver? In the past six months, the value of the precious metal has increased nearly 80 percent, to more than $34 an ounce from around $19 an ounce. In the last month alone, its price has increased nearly 23 percent. This kind of price action in the silver market is reminiscent of the fortune-busting, roller-coaster ride enjoyed by the Hunt Brothers, Nelson Bunker and William Herbert, back in 1970s and early 1980s when they tried unsuccessfully to corner the market. When the Hunts started buying silver in 1973, the price of the metal was $1.95 an ounce. By early 1980, the brothers had driven the price up to $54 an ounce before the Federal Reserve intervened, changed the rules on speculative silver investments and the price plunged. The brothers later declared bankruptcy.

Accusations that JPMorganChase and HSBC allegedly manipulated precious metal markets are worth looking into.
.The Hunts may be gone from the market, but there are still plenty of people suspicious about the trading in silver, and now they have the Web to explore and to expand their conspiracy narratives. This time around — according to bloggers and commenters on sites with names like Silverseek, 321Gold and Seeking Alpha — silver shot up in price after a whistleblower exposed an alleged conspiracy to keep the price artificially low despite the inflationary pressure of the Fed’s cheap money policy. (Some even suspect that the Fed itself was behind the effort to keep silver prices low, as a way to keep the dollar’s value artificially high.) Trying to unravel the mysterious rise in silver’s price is a conspiracy theorist’s dream, replete with powerful bankers, informants, suspicious car accidents and a now a squeeze on short sellers. Most intriguingly, however, much of the speculation seems highly plausible.
The gist goes something like this: When JPMorgan Chase bought Bear Stearns in March 2008, it inherited Bear Stearns’ large bet that the price of silver would fall. Over time, it added to that bet, and then the international bank HSBC got into the market heavily on the bear side as well. These actions “artificially depressed the price of silver dramatically downward,” according to a class-action lawsuit initiated by a Florida futures trader and filed against both banks in November in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

“The conspiracy and scheme was enormously successful, netting the defendants substantial illegal profits” in the billions of dollars between June 2008 and March 2010, according to the suit. The suit claims that JPMorgan and HSBC together “controlled over 85 percent the commercial net short positions” in silvers futures contracts at Comex, a Chicago-based exchange on which silver is traded, along with “25 percent of all open interest short positions” and a “a market share in excess of 9o percent of all precious metals derivative contracts, excluding gold.”

In the United States, trading in precious metals and other commodities is regulated and closely monitored by a federal agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In September 2008, after receiving hundreds of complaints that silver future prices were being manipulated downward by JPMorgan and HSBC, the commission’s enforcement division started an investigation. In November 2009, an informant, described in the law suit only as a former employee of Goldman Sachs and a 40-year industry veteran, approached the commission with tales of how the silver traders at JPMorgan were bragging about all the money they were making “as a result of the manipulation,” which entailed “flooding the market” with “short positions” every time the price of silver started to creep upward. The idea was that by unloading its short positions like a time-released capsule, JPMorgan’s traders were keeping the price of silver artificially low.

Soon enough, the informant was identified as Andrew Maguire, an independent precious metals trader in London. On Jan. 26, 2010, Maguire sent Bart Chilton, a member of the futures trading commission, an e-mail urging him to look into the silver trading that day. “It was a good example of how a single seller, when they hold such a concentrated position in the very small silver market can instigate a sell off at will,” Maguire wrote.

On Feb. 3, 2010, Maguire gave the futures trading commission word about an impending “manipulation event” that he said would occur two days later, when the Labor Department’s non-farm payroll numbers would be released. He then spelled out two trading scenarios about which he had been told. “Both scenarios will spell an attempt by the two main short holders” — JPMorganChase and HSBC — “to illegally drive the market down and reap very large profits,” Maguire wrote in an e-mail to a trading-commission investigator.

On Feb. 5, Maguire took a victory lap, writing in another e-mail to the trading commission that “silver manipulation was a great success and played out EXACTLY to plan as predicted.” He added, “I hope you took note of how and who added the short sales (I certainly have a copy) and I am certain you will find it is the same concentrated shorts who have been in full control since JPM took over the Bear Stearns position … I feel sorry for all those not in this loop. A serious amount of money was made and lost today and in my opinion as a result of the CFTC’s allowing by your own definition an illegal concentrated and manipulative position to continue.”

In March 2010, Maguire released his e-mails publicly, in part because he felt the trading commission’s enforcement arm was not taking swift enough action. He was also unhappy over not being invited to a commission hearing on position limits scheduled for March 25. Then came the cloak and dagger element: the day after the hearing, Maguire was involved in a bizarre car accident in London. As he was at a gas station, a car came out of a side street and barreled into his car and two others; London police, using helicopters and chase cars, eventually nabbed the hit-and-run driver. Reports that the perpetrator was given a slap on the wrist inflamed the online crowds that had become captivated by Maguire’s odd story.

In any case, the class-action lawsuit contends that between March 2010 and November 2010, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC reduced their short positions in the silver market by 30 percent, causing the metal’s price to rise dramatically, but leaving them still with a large short position. Now, with the value of silver rising nearly every day, the two banks are caught in a “massive short squeeze,” according to one market participant, that appears to be costing them the billions they made originally plus billions more. Whether these huge losses will show up on the books of JPMorgan Chase and HSBC remains to be seen. (Parsing through the publicly filed footnotes of derivative trades is no easy task.)

Nonetheless, the conspiracy-minded have claimed that the Fed must have somehow agreed to make JPMorgan and HSBC whole for any losses the banks suffered if and when the price of silver rose above the artificially maintained low levels — as in right now, for instance. (About all this, a JPMorganChase spokesman declined to comment.)

Some two-and-a-half years later, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s investigation is still unresolved, and at least one commissioner — Bart Chilton — thinks that after interviewing more than 32 people and reviewing more than 40,000 documents, there has been enough investigating and not enough prosecuting. “More than two years ago, the agency began an investigation into silver markets,” Chilton said at a commission hearing last October. “I have been urging the agency to say something on the matter for months … I believe violations to the Commodity Exchange Act have taken place in silver markets and that any such violation of the law in this regard should be prosecuted.”

What’s more, Chilton said in an interview last week, that “one participant” in the silver market still controlled 35 percent of the silver market as recently as a few months ago, “enough to move prices,” he said, and well above the 10 percent “position limits” the commission has proposed to comply with Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Since that law’s passage last summer, the commodities exchanges have issued waivers permitting the ownership of silver positions above the limits the C.F.T.C. has proposed, and which were supposed to be in place by January of this year. Yet the waivers remain in place, and the big traders have not been penalized, much to Chilton’s frustration And the mystery deepens: last Thursday, the price of silver fell $1.50 per ounce in less than an hour before recovering. “This was robbery at its most obvious and most vindictive,” wrote Richard Guthrie, a London-based trader, in an e-mail to Chilton. “How many investors lost money and positions to the financial benefit of an elite few?”

It’s getting harder and harder to continue to brush off Andrew Maguire’s claims as the rantings of a rogue trader with a nutty online following. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission should immediately release the files from its investigation into the supposed manipulation of the silver market so the public can determine whether JPMorganChase and HSBC did anything illegal, with or without the help of the Fed. In addition, the commission should start enforcing the 10 percent threshold on silver positions it has proposed to comply with Dodd-Frank law. Basically, the other commissioners must join with Bart Chilton to do the job they are required to do: Protecting the sanctity of the markets and preventing the sorts of manipulation we’ve seen all too often.

23066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 02, 2011, 11:56:02 PM
Fear of Domestic Unrest in Saudi Arabia
Unrest in the Persian Gulf region has been limited to small countries like Bahrain, Yemen and Oman. On Tuesday, however, the region’s powerhouse, Saudi Arabia, seemed to be inching closer to unrest within its borders. Reuters reported that authorities in the Eastern Province city of al Hafouf arrested a Shiite cleric who, in a sermon during congregational prayers last Friday, called for a constitutional monarchy. Reuters quoted a local rights activist as saying that state security forces arrested Tawfiq al-Amir, who was previously detained for demanding religious freedom.

“The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority.”
Ever since popular risings toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents, the Saudis have worried about the potential for unrest within the kingdom. But when street demonstrations erupted in neighboring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia became even more concerned because Bahrain’s opposition is largely made up of the small island country’s 70 percent Shiite majority.

Terrified at the prospect of empowerment of the Bahraini Shia, Riyadh has been closely working with Manama to contain the unrest. The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority (estimated at 20 percent of the population, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province and linked to Bahrain via a causeway). The arrest of the Saudi Shiite cleric, however, could accelerate matters. The world’s largest exporter of crude could experience unrest even before the Bahraini Shia are able to extract concessions from their minority Sunni rulers.

Compounding matters for the Saudis is the fact that this is not just a sectarian rising: There are a great many Sunnis within the kingdom who desire political reforms, too. Such demands create problems for the house of al-Saud at a time when the royal family is reaching a historic impasse due to an aging leadership.

Between the need to manage the transition, contain the general calls for political reforms, and deal with a restive Shiite population, the Saudi kingdom becomes vulnerable to its archrival, Iran, which is looking at the regional unrest as an opportunity to project power across the Persian Gulf. Even if there had been no outbreak of public agitation, Arabian Peninsula leaders were gravely concerned about a rising originating in Iran. From the Saudis’ point of view, the 2011 withdrawal of American forces from Iraq will leave them exposed to an assertive Iran.

And now, domestic turmoil, especially turmoil involving the Shia, exacerbates matters for the Saudis. Political reforms in the kingdom threaten the Saudis’ historic hold on power. But any such reforms also translate into enhanced status of the minority Shiite population, which in turn means more room for potential Iranian maneuvers.

The Saudis are thus facing a predicament in which pressures to effect change on the domestic level have serious geopolitical implications.

23067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 02, 2011, 07:52:38 PM
I thought GB did a good job of summarizing the possible 3 point attack plan:

a)getting lots of money with the manipulation of the oil market in 2007-2008
b) naked bear raids on Bear Stearns and Lehman and the intended direconsequences thereto which nearly occurred according to some
c) the intention to finish off the dollar as an international currency.
23068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 02, 2011, 03:32:36 PM
23069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 02, 2011, 03:30:31 PM

If you are in touch with Fay, please give her my warm greetings.
@ All:  As usual, BD brings soundly reasoned analysis.
23070  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jean Claude Van Damme to kickbox fight? on: March 02, 2011, 11:13:36 AM
23071  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Calderon Security on: March 02, 2011, 11:01:08 AM
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is visiting the United States March 2 and March 3. We thought it would be a good time to discuss the unique threat assessment that will be written pertaining to President Calderon’s visit.

Calderon’s visit comes at a very critical time with the confluence of issues that are taking place not only inside of Mexico, but in the United States, which makes this threat assessment much more difficult than any current head of state visiting. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. You have the politics of the immigration issue, as well as the politics of guns, meaning the guns flowing into Mexico from the United States and the domestic politics of that issue in general. Another element that will be factored into the threat assessment, regardless of the likelihood of this occurring, would be the cartels’ ability to pay for high-priced mercenaries or assassins to carry out some sort of attack.

One other aspect that is also factored into the threat assessment is the radical fringe link to domestic groups of concern. Specifically the Secret Service will be calling their database looking for adverse intelligence on individuals that have surfaced in connection to the immigration or gun issue that may have made threats against public officials. This issue is a significant one on the heels of the shooting of the congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Another element that would be factored into the threat assessment would be president Calderon’s statements as recent as last week, where he raised the issue of drug consumption in the United States fueling cartel violence, as well as the United States government not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

Given all the concern surrounding Calderon’s visit to the United States, there will be an effort to minimize public exposure and at any kind of event that is open, you will find enhanced screening for firearms specifically to mitigate the risk from these unknown variables — such as another John Hinckley surfacing — that may not have raised the awareness of the secret service in Washington.

The “Above the Tearline” aspect is the politics of Calderon’s visit at this moment in time due to the confluence of events that have taken place, make this threat assessment much more complex, and also raises the risks to President Calderon.

23072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Calderon Security on: March 02, 2011, 11:00:27 AM
I saw this morning that the ICE agent recently murdered in Mexico was killed by a Texas bought AK; the second such killing in recent events according to the article.


Mexican President Felipe Calderon is visiting the United States March 2 and March 3. We thought it would be a good time to discuss the unique threat assessment that will be written pertaining to President Calderon’s visit.

Calderon’s visit comes at a very critical time with the confluence of issues that are taking place not only inside of Mexico, but in the United States, which makes this threat assessment much more difficult than any current head of state visiting. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. You have the politics of the immigration issue, as well as the politics of guns, meaning the guns flowing into Mexico from the United States and the domestic politics of that issue in general. Another element that will be factored into the threat assessment, regardless of the likelihood of this occurring, would be the cartels’ ability to pay for high-priced mercenaries or assassins to carry out some sort of attack.

One other aspect that is also factored into the threat assessment is the radical fringe link to domestic groups of concern. Specifically the Secret Service will be calling their database looking for adverse intelligence on individuals that have surfaced in connection to the immigration or gun issue that may have made threats against public officials. This issue is a significant one on the heels of the shooting of the congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Another element that would be factored into the threat assessment would be president Calderon’s statements as recent as last week, where he raised the issue of drug consumption in the United States fueling cartel violence, as well as the United States government not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

Given all the concern surrounding Calderon’s visit to the United States, there will be an effort to minimize public exposure and at any kind of event that is open, you will find enhanced screening for firearms specifically to mitigate the risk from these unknown variables — such as another John Hinckley surfacing — that may not have raised the awareness of the secret service in Washington.

The “Above the Tearline” aspect is the politics of Calderon’s visit at this moment in time due to the confluence of events that have taken place, make this threat assessment much more complex, and also raises the risks to President Calderon.

23073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Plans for Sharia in America on: March 01, 2011, 08:36:19 PM
23074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 01, 2011, 07:52:19 PM
Good summary! cheesy

I would add to Number 3 that VJ speaks in cognito; he has learned to be a communist without sounding like one.
23075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Modern Evolving Egypt 2 on: March 01, 2011, 04:15:41 PM
Metamorphosis During the Sadat Era

Nasser’s death due to a heart attack in September 1970 cut short his plans and brought Sadat to power. It was under Sadat’s rule that the major moves to separate the government from the military took place. Initially, Sadat ran into a number of challenges, including the fact that he lacked Nasser’s stature and was opposed by those loyal to his predecessor both within the military and the ruling ASU.

As a result, within the first three years Sadat had to get rid of two sets of senior regime leaders — first, the Nasser loyalists, and then those he himself had brought to replace the pro-Nasser elements. For example, he replaced his vice president, Sabri, with el-Shafei, whom he eventually replaced with Mubarak in 1975. Sadat skillfully used the 1971 constitution and his “Corrective Revolution” to forge a new establishment. Like his predecessor, Sadat relied on the military for his support and legitimacy. Unlike his predecessor, he went one step further by playing the officer corps off each other. To this end, Sadat made full use of his presidential powers and the weakening of the military during the end of the Nasser era.

While Sadat picked up on Nasser’s move to separate the military from governance, he was also making good use of Soviet assistance to rebuild the armed forces in preparation for another war with Israel to reverse the 1967 outcome. Egypt’s “victory” in the 1973 war with Israel greatly contributed to Sadat’s ability to establish his leadership credentials and bring the military under his control.

The following year, he initiated the open-door economic policy, known in Arabic as “infitah,” which steered the country away from the Nasserite vision of a socialist economy and led to the creation of a new economic elite loyal to Sadat. To further weaken the Nasserites and the left wing, he also worked to eliminate the idea of a single-party system by calling for the creation of separate platforms within the ASU for leftist, centrist and rightist forces.

As a result, the ASU weakened and was dissolved in 1978 and its members formed the NDP. In addition to a new ruling party, Sadat allowed multiparty politics in 1976. Sadat also relaxed curbs on the country’s largest Islamist movement, the MB, allowing it to publish material and carve out a limited space in civil society as part of his efforts to counter left-wing forces.

In sharp contrast with the Nasser era, when the government was heavy with serving military officers, the Sadat era saw the creation of a new civilian elite consisting largely of ex-military officers. The elimination of Nasser’s allies, the rise of a new generation of military officers, and the building of a relationship of trust between the serving and former military officers were key factors in shaping a new order in which the military did not feel the need to rule the country directly.

The 1967 defeat had weakened the military’s position in the state, and there were concerns that Nasser’s death and Sadat’s rise would force it to resort to extra-constitutional means to regain power. A mix of purges and the relatively positive outcome of the 1973 war helped rehabilitate the institution, which went a long way toward strengthening the relationship between the presidency and the military.

By this time, Egypt had also switched sides in the Cold War, with Sadat establishing close relations with the United States. The move led to the creation of a new generation of U.S.-trained military officers. Even more important, U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s administration mediated a 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and its historic foe, Israel. That he faced no opposition from within the military in recognizing the state of Israel — still a controversial move among wider Egyptian society — underscores the extent to which Sadat had consolidated his hold on power, and how much Egypt had drifted away from its Nasserist roots.

The 1978 peace treaty made the military more comfortable with its exclusion from government. It did raise concerns about a reduction in the military budget, however, especially when Sadat’s economic policies were leading to the creation of a new civilian economic elite.

Sadat salved the military’s concerns by giving it the freedom to engage in business enterprises. While on one hand he promoted economic liberalization, allowing for the return of the private sector, he also promulgated Law 32 in 1979, which gave the armed forces financial and economic independence from the state. The military became heavily involved in the industrial and service sectors, including weapons, electronics, consumer products, infrastructure development, agribusinesses, aviation, tourism and security. According to the reasoning behind the move, this would keep the military from draining state coffers. In fact, it did drain the state’s coffers via subsidies for the military’s businesses.

In the 1980s, during the days of Defense Minister Mohamed Abu Ghazala, the military created two key commercial entities: the National Services Projects Organization and the Egyptian Organization for Industrial Development. It also created a variety of joint ventures with both domestic and international manufacturing firms.

In addition to the enrichment of the military as an institution, senior officers have long benefited in individual capacities through commissions on contracts involving hardware procurement. Even in the political realm, the military was able to have its say. This especially was true regarding succession, where Sadat appointed former air force chief Mubarak as his vice president.

The strong links via institutional mechanisms and informal norms were key to stability: Retired officers were able to run the show without having to worry about a coup. The political leadership felt it needed to prevent the emergence of a new civilian elite, which it feared could upset the relationship between the presidency and the military and thus increase the chances of a coup.

From the military establishment’s point of view, the new arrangement under Sadat was actually better than the arrangement under Nasser. Under Sadat, the military did not have to shoulder the responsibility of governance, but its interests in the government still were being looked after by people from military backgrounds. This allowed the military to avoid the hassles of governance and accountability for mistakes in governance and to maintain a democratic facade for domestic and foreign consumption.

The military still could briefly intervene should the need arise, as during the 1977 bread riots, when domestic law enforcement was unable to cope with unrest. The military was able to exact a price for helping Sadat then, forcing him to do away with the austerity measures. Overall, common origins, shared socialization, and academy and institutional experiences shaped a collective worldview. This created tight links between the presidency and the military, paving the way for the military to go into the background.

Institutionalization and Decline Under Mubarak

The changes that Sadat brought did not alter the reality that the military was embedded throughout the fabric of state and society. Senior serving officers in the presidential staff and at the Defense Ministry, governors in most provinces, and a parallel military judicial system provided a structural mechanism through which the security establishment maintained a say in policymaking. Even so, the move toward greater civilian political and economic space initiated by Sadat went into effect under Mubarak.

As Sadat did when he first came to power, Mubarak engaged in limited reforms and expanded on the process of developing institutions in an effort to consolidate the regime. The new president freed political prisoners and allowed for a slightly freer press. During the 1980s, Egypt also began having multiparty parliamentary elections in accordance with Law 40 enacted by the Sadat government in 1977 allowing for the establishment of political parties.

While carefully developing political institutions, the regime under Mubarak began addressing the presence of radical Islamist sympathizers in light of Sadat’s assassination. Emergency laws helped immensely to this end; they also helped the military preserve its clout at a time of increasing civilianization of the regime.

While Mubarak sought to broaden his base of support, his government fought the two main Islamist militant movements at the time, Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah. To do this, the Mubarak government reached out to the country’s main and moderate Islamist movement, the MB. The need to work with the MB to combat jihadists, who, in assassinating Sadat, had threatened the state, allowed the Islamist movement to expand.

The MB remained proscribed, preventing it from operating as a political entity. But the Mubarak government allowed it to spread itself in civil society through academic and professional syndicates as well nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in social services. Elections also allowed the MB to enhance its public presence.

In the 1984 elections, the MB won 58 seats out of a total of 454 in a coalition with the Wafd party, and in the 1987 polls, an MB alliance with the Labor and Liberal parties bagged 60 seats with the MB getting 30, Labor securing 27 and Liberals three. The rise of opposition forces, especially the MB, in the 1980s saw the regime institute new electoral laws in 1990. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the mixed voting system was unconstitutional, however, given that it did not allow for people to run as independents.

On its face, the judgment looked like it would help the opposition, freeing it from being bound by lists and thresholds to securing its candidates’ election. The way in which the NDP implemented the new system, however, gave the ruling party an advantage through redistricting. The outcome was a reduced presence of opposition parties in the legislature.

By 1992, the Algerian experiment with democracy had further scared the Mubarak government about the risks of allowing multiparty polls. The Algerian elections almost saw a relatively new Islamist movement, Front Islamique du Salut, secure a two-thirds majority in parliament. An army intervention annulling the polls denied victory to the Algerian Islamists but sparked a decade-long insurgency by more militant Islamist forces. From the point of view of the Mubarak government, the MB was far more organized than Front Islamique du Salut, and Egypt’s jihadist movements were just as well established. This viewpoint received validation from Gamaa al-Islamiyah attacks against the government.

Having political opponents operating within constitutional bounds served the military by stabilizing the regime and giving it a democratic veneer. But the move to allow these forces to create space had unintended consequences, namely the rise of the MB. The NDP could only go so far in rigging the system in favor of the government, which meant the ruling party needed to take steps to enhance its domestic standing.

While the Mubarak regime was toiling with how to have a democratic political system while maintaining the ruling party’s grip, it was also experimenting with economic liberalization. There were efforts toward the privatization of state-owned enterprises in the mid-1990s. But the army made it very clear that its holdings were off-limits to any such moves.

The economic liberalization and the need to bolster the ruling party allowed for the rise of a younger generation of businessmen and politicians. Toward the end of the 1990s, Mubarak’s son Gamal was heading the Future Foundation, an NGO supported by pro-privatization businessmen. Gamal floated the idea of founding a Future Party, but his father brought him into the ruling party and Gamal still presided over the NGO.

The Gamal group included prominent businessmen Mohammed Abul-Einen and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz. This new guard led by Gamal quickly rose through the ranks of the NDP, and by February 2000, Gamal, Ezz and another key businessman, Ibrahim Kamel, became members of the NDP’s General Secretariat. Their entry immediately created a struggle between the military-backed old guard and the business-supported rising elements within the NDP, given that new voices had begun contributing to the policymaking process.

The 2000 parliamentary polls were a defining moment in the history of the NDP because of the need to balance parliamentarian candidacies between the business community and the old guard. Further complicating matters was a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that members of the judiciary must oversee polling, which meant the usual electoral engineering would become difficult to pull off. Gamal wanted younger candidates who could revitalize the party and improve its public image, something rejected by old guard figures such as NDP Secretary-General Youssef Wali and organizational secretaries Kalam al-Shazli and Safwat Sharif, who later became secretary-general.

Eventually a compromise was reached in which some 42 percent of the NDP candidates were from the rising elements, with as many as a hundred of them in the 30-40 years age bracket. The party also benefited by the move of some 1,400 NDP members to run as independents, an average of six per constituency. In the end, the opposition parties bagged only 38 seats, 17 for the MB and the remaining 21 divided among the legal opposition parties.

While the struggle within the NDP actually benefited the ruling party on election day, it reshaped the landscape of the party. Only 172 of the official NDP candidates (39 percent) won, while another 181 NDP independents won, later joining the NDP. Another 35 genuine independent members of parliament also joined the ruling party, giving the party a total of 388 seats.

Thus, for a time, the NDP was forced to rely on its members who had run as independents to sustain its hold on the legislature. The outcome triggered an internal debate in which Gamal was able to make the case that the party needed internal reforms and pressed for a meritocratic method of candidate selection. Consequently, for the first Consultative Council polls and then local council elections, the NDP formed caucuses that allowed party members to vote for candidates.

This new system further enhanced Gamal’s stature within the party to the extent that he and two of his allies, lawmaker Zakariya Azmi and Minister of Youth and Sports Ali Eddin Hilal, were given membership in the NDP Steering Committee in 2002. This move brought parity between the old guard and the rising elements in the six-member body. In the 2002 party conference, Gamal was also appointed head of the party’s new Policies Secretariat.

Additional business class parliamentarians such as Hossam Awad and Hossam Badrawi gained entry into the NDP General Secretariat. In an election, 6,000 delegates voted in favor of Gamal’s agenda calling for technocratic reforms and economic liberalization, giving his faction majority control of the NDP’s central board. While the old guard under Sharif’s leadership held onto the post of secretary-general, the No. 2 position after Mubarak, Gamal’s influence rivaled that of Sharif.

Essentially, the need to revitalize the ruling party enabled a new generation of businessmen to enter the political realm via the parliamentary vote. The rise of these elites was likely seen as disturbing to the military-backed old guard, as it threatened their political and economic interests. But it served the military’s need to see the NDP sustain its hold on power in order to ensure regime stability.

The Roots and Future of the Current Crisis

It did not take long for the situation to change, however. Sept. 11, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the George W. Bush administration’s push for democracy in the region complicated matters for the regime. They forced Mubarak to focus on the home front, as opposition forces became emboldened and sought to expand their presence.

Of all the opposition groups, the MB benefited most from this development, winning 88 seats in the 2005 elections. For their part, secular opposition forces began organizing protests under the banner of the Kifayah movement. The combined pressure forced Mubarak to permit a multi-candidate presidential election, though arranged in such a fashion as to make it extremely difficult for an opposition candidate to win.

Most significantly, these changes took place as the aging Mubarak’s health rapidly failed. Regime continuity post-Mubarak became the critical issue for the military and the old guard. These elements did not accept Gamal, as he was seen as leading a group that might bring in a new ruling elite. The old guard disagreed over who from within the regime would be best to succeed Mubarak, in great part because Mubarak failed to appoint a vice president as his predecessors had.

The internal struggle to succeed Mubarak intensified in recent years, especially in the past 18 months. The outbreak of popular protests in Egypt in the wake of the Tunisian unrest vastly complicated this process. The military sought to channel these protests to its advantage to better manage the transition from Mubarak. In the process, it had to engage in domestic security, governance and managing a crisis for the first time since the early 1970s.

Now that Mubarak is out, a military-led provisional authority controlled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is in power for a six-month interim period. The military council is composed of 18 generals and is chaired by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the military. It has moved to suspend the constitution but has thus far not issued an interim legal framework order. Instead, it has appointed an eight-member committee, headed by a renowned legal personality and including a representative of the MB, to work on amendments to the constitution. The amendments will enable the holding of competitive parliamentary and presidential elections, at which time the military council intends to cancel the emergency law.

In addition to stabilizing the situation, a core intent behind the democratization of the political system is the military’s imperative to avoid regime change. The military will need a party aligned with the establishment, especially since it still dominates the caretaker Cabinet, and this is where the fate of the NDP is a significant factor. Besides, the military needs a political force strong enough to counter the MB; however, strength is not just a function of party machinery but also public support, which is where the NDP is seriously lacking.

The history of the modern Egyptian republic and its evolution in the past six decades provides for a great deal of experience. The current crop of generals can use its experience to manage the transition in a way that placates popular demands for a democratic political system while maintaining the military’s grip on power. There are numerous options for revamping the order established in 1952, but none of them will be easy, as the current transition leaders’ predecessors never faced such a robust popular demand for democracy. Regardless, Egypt has essentially returned to the 1952-type situation in which there are only two organized forces in the country, the MB and the military, and the country is in the hands of a provisional military authority.
23076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Evolving Moder Egyptian Republic-1 on: March 01, 2011, 04:14:45 PM

The Evolving Modern Egyptian Republic: A Special Report
March 1, 2011 | 1312 GMT
PRINT :   

The Egyptian establishment faced internal strife over the transition of power from President Hosni Mubarak even before massive public unrest demanding regime change erupted in mid-January. With Mubarak now out of office, some hope for democracy while others fear the rise of radical Islamist forces. Though neither outcome appears likely, the Egyptian state plainly is under a great deal of stress and is being forced to make changes to ensure its survival.

The modern Egyptian state is a new polity, founded a mere 60 years ago in the wake of a military coup organized by midranking officers under the leadership of Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser overthrew a 150-year-old Albanian dynasty to establish a military-dominated regime. Mubarak was only the third leader of the order established in 1952. Under his rule and that of his predecessor, President Anwar Sadat, Egypt evolved into a complex civil-military Leviathan.

Since the late 1960s, the military has not directly governed the country, allowing for the consolidation of single-party governments led by former military officers assisted by an increasingly civilian-dominated ruling elite. In recent years, however, the military had begun to reassert itself given the succession question, a process accelerated by the outbreak of popular demonstrations. The military has thus assumed a more direct role in security, governance and managing the transition. The National Democratic Party (NDP) regime depends upon the military to ensure its survival, and opposition forces, including the country’s main Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), are reliant upon the Egyptian armed forces to realize their objectives.

The provisional military authority, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by the country’s top general, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will play the pivotal role in the post-Mubarak era. To understand what Egypt’s future holds, one must examine the evolution of the incumbent political arrangement, the central role played by the military in the formation of the state, previous transitions, and the reasons behind the regime’s need to oust one of its own.

Founding and the Nasser Days

On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Movement, a group of largely junior military officers from lower middle class backgrounds, overthrew the monarchy and established a new political system based on their left-wing Arab nationalist ideology. Within days, King Farouk was exiled after having been forced to abdicate. Within a matter of months, parliament was dissolved and political parties outlawed. A Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) comprising the leadership committee of the Free Officers Movement — a group that included Lt. Col. Nasser, Maj. Abdel Hakim Amer, Lt. Col. Anwar Sadat, Maj. Salah Salem, Maj. Kamal el-Din Hussein, Wing Cmdr. Gamal Salem, Squadron Leader Hassan Ibrahim, Maj. Khaled Mohieddin, Wing Cmdr. Abdel Latif Baghdadi, Maj. Hussein el-Shafei and Lt. Col. Zakaria Mohieddin — was formed and began forging the country’s new political and economic structure.

Among the RCC’s most important changes were radical agrarian reform and the confiscation of private property. By limiting land ownership to 80 hectares (200 acres) per person — reduced to 20 hectares in 1969 — and redistributing some of the confiscated land to peasants, the military established its populist roots. The nationalization of the industry and service sector and the creation of a mammoth public sector were other key factors sustaining the military regime.

As it steered the country away from its monarchical past, early on the new military order encountered internal problems. Within two months of the coup, the civilian figurehead premier, Ali Mahir Pasha, was dismissed due to his differences with the RCC over land reform policy. Maj. Gen. Muhammad Naguib succeeded him. Four months later, in January 1953, the RCC had Naguib disband all political parties, abolish the 1923 constitution and declare a three-year period of transitional military rule.

Issues also emerged with the Regency Council. The council had replaced the ousted monarch and was tasked with exercising the prerogatives of the infant King Fuad II, Farouk’s son. The three-member body included Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim, a cousin of King Farouk; Col. Rashad Mehanna, a free officer with close connections with the MB; and Bahieddin Barakat, a former president of the Senate. Problems arose when Mehanna also turned against the RCC over the land reform policies. The clash resulted in Mehanna’s being imprisoned over charges of plotting a counter-coup. With Mehanna’s departure, the Regency Council was reduced to a ceremonial status.

Though the Wafd, the MB and the Communists had been neutralized with the move to outlaw political parties, the old order was not officially abolished until June 18, 1953. Egypt now was officially a republic, with Naguib holding both the portfolios of the president and prime minister. While the military would run the show for several years, Nasser laid the foundations of a civilian single-party state in 1953 with the creation of an entity called the Liberation Rally.

Nasser became deputy prime minister, Abdel Hakim Amer succeeded Naguib as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Abdel Latif Baghdadi took over as minister of war and Salah Salem became the minister of national guidance and Sudan affairs. Just who was the ultimate leader of the new regime remained unclear, however, leading to strains between Naguib and Nasser.

The two disagreed on a variety of issues, including the British withdrawal from Egypt; the MB, which Nasser was hostile toward; and the issue of resuming parliamentary life, which Nasser and his supporters opposed. (Their vilification of the politicians led to factionalization within the RCC.) These differences made Nasser distrust Naguib and his mild attitude toward the conservative Wafd and the Islamist MB.

Nasser ultimately began to view Naguib as an obstacle to the revolution. Nasser and his colleagues in the RCC were in a rush to institute their envisioned political order. Naguib in turn regarded Nasser and his supporters as impatient young men who lacked his experience.

Naguib proved the loser in this contest. He tendered a first resignation Feb. 23, 1954, but was restored to office due to pressure from a public that still supported him and out of fears that Khaled Mohieddin was engineering a revolt in the cavalry corps. His second and final resignation came April 19, 1954, as a result of Nasser’s behind-the-scenes efforts to portray Naguib as supporting a return of the Wafd and of the old order in general.

Nasser assumed the positions of prime minister and chairman of the RCC. All the members of the RCC were inducted into the new Cabinet except Mohieddin, the most left-leaning member of the RCC, who was sent away to Europe. Nasser and officers in the RCC loyal to him thus took full control of Egypt.

In January 1955, the RCC appointed Nasser president of Egypt. It took another year to draft the new constitution. That same year, the National Union replaced the Liberation Rally as the state’s sole political party. The new party selected Nasser as its presidential candidate, and in June 1956, Nasser was overwhelmingly elected president in a national referendum.

Nasser’s election as president brought the three-year transitional period from the monarchy to an end. The RCC was dissolved and its members resigned from the military to assume civilian positions. The new constitution established an institutional framework for the new regime, which concentrated power in a strong executive branch.

Now firmly in control, Nasser began paying more attention to foreign policy, in particular, to his Pan-Arab goals. As a first step, he nationalized the Suez Canal, which led to the 1956 war and in the process made Nasser a national hero and enhanced his stature in the wider Arab world. His involvement in regional and international affairs — which saw alignment with the Soviets and hostile relations with the West and Israel; involvement in Syrian, Yemeni, Iraqi, Algerian and Lebanese domestic politics; and tensions with Saudi Arabia and Jordan — had an impact on his efforts to consolidate power at home.

Nasser’s most unusual foreign policy move was the brief merger of Egypt and Syria into the so-called United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. North Yemen sought to join the merged state the same year to create a loose confederation known as the United Arab States. While the Yemeni component retained its autonomy, the Egyptian-Syrian merger required adjustments to the still nascent political structure of Egypt. A new constitution in 1958 for the UAR created a legislature and two vice presidents, one for Egypt and Syria, which had become provinces of the UAR.

Merging with Syria proved challenging, however. The Syrians resented that Egyptians dominated the UAR. Using Syria as a base to engineer a coup against Iraqi leader Abdel-Kareem Qasim also exacted a toll on the union between Cairo and Damascus. The UAR ultimately collapsed when Syrian army units declared the country independent in 1961 and forced the Egyptians out of Syria.

Fearing that the collapse of the UAR would undermine his position at home, Nasser embarked on a more aggressive drive toward socialist political economy. A new National Charter was devised in 1962, and a new ruling party called the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) replaced the National Union. More than half of the country’s businesses underwent nationalization, and Nasser’s opponents in the military were purged from the ranks.

While Nasser was working on a new constitution in the post-UAR period, the rise to power of pro-Nasser military officers in a coup that overthrew the monarchy in North Yemen once again pulled the Egyptian leader out of domestic politics and into regional geopolitics. A proxy war ensued between the Egyptians, who supported the new Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), and the Saudis, who threw their weight behind the forces of ousted Imam Muhammad al-Badr. Unable to impose a military solution, Egyptian forces backing YAR troops became locked in a stalemate with Yemeni monarchist forces. Many of Nasser’s top comrades came to oppose the military adventure in Yemen.

Further afield, the 1963 coup in Iraq brought pro-Nasser forces to power, and there was once again a move toward a new Arab union. The idea never gained traction because Nasser insisted on his own vision, and by this time Nasser faced serious domestic challenges from individuals who had been with him since the Free Officer and RCC days, including Amer, Sadat and Baghdadi.

A provisional constitution was enacted in 1964 that created a 350-member parliament. Elections were held and the new legislature completed one four-year term and another half term from the 1969 legislative elections before yet another constitution was enacted in 1971. Nasser secured a second six-year term in a fresh presidential election, taking his oath of office in March 1965.

While Nasser and many of his close allies had become civilian leaders, the military remained very much part of the government. It was not until Egypt’s crushing defeat at the hands of Israel in the June 1967 war that the military truly began moving away from actual governance. The defeat was a major setback for the military establishment’s reputation. In the period of introspection that followed the defeat, the regime decided that the military’s direct involvement in governance had degraded its professionalism. The 1967 war was seen as the culmination of a series of miscalculations, including the lack of preparation for the British-French-Israeli assault in the wake of the 1956 nationalization of the Suez Canal; the 1961 military coup by Syrian military officers, which led to the collapse of the union between Egypt and Syria; and the losses incurred in Yemen.

In an attempt to recover from the 1967 war, Nasser was forced to make changes to the military order he had established a mere 15 years earlier, removing senior military officers including military chief Field Marshal Amer, air force chief Gen. Muhammad Sidqi Mahmud and nine other generals. (Replaced as commander of the armed forces by Gen. Muhammad Fawzi, Amer eventually committed suicide.) The changes saw a second generation of military commanders come to the fore, a group that, with the exception of the army chief, had no direct ties to the Free Officers Movement. Under pressure from anti-government demonstrations triggered by the 1967 defeat, Nasser embarked on the March 30 Program, an initiative aimed at overhauling the military and the political system. In 1968, Nasser promulgated a law designed to separate the military from the formal government structures, but because the Israelis controlled the Sinai Peninsula, the army retained a privileged position within the state.

Despite these problems on the home front, which remained volatile, Nasser continued to dabble in foreign policy but by now had backed off from his desire to control the Arab world. Instead, he sought an Arab alignment against Israel. Nasser gave himself the additional roles of prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In December 1969, he appointed Sadat and Hussein el-Shafei as his vice presidents. He had fallen out with a number of his associates from the RCC days, such as Khaled and Zakaria Mohieddin and former Vice President Ali Sabri. Having reconciled with Baghdadi, Nasser considered him as a replacement to Sadat.

23077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 01, 2011, 04:07:28 PM
Second post of day:

While the world’s attention is still on Libya because of the fighting over there, the slow-simmering situation in the Persian Gulf is far more important. We’ve already seen Bahrain and Yemen erupt, but now we have Oman in play, and this is forcing other states like Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and, most significantly Saudi Arabia, to engage in pre-emptive measures.

The countries on the Arabian Peninsula are very complex entities. First of all, there are many of them, and each of them has its own unique dynamic internally that will then shape any potential unrest. If we look at what’s happened in the Persian Gulf area so far, what we have is Bahrain and Yemen already in motion. In Bahrain, there are protests that the government is tolerating, and the same situation is in Yemen, but there is an ongoing negotiation in both states as well, which will lead to some sort of a compromise. That compromise is going to be a slippery slope in terms of the state making concessions.

While that is happening, we now see the contagion spreading to Oman, where there has been violent unrest, and there we see the government trying to deal with the situation, both using security forces as well as other incentives to ensure that any unrest can be contained. Meanwhile, in other places like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and more importantly, Saudi Arabia, we see governments trying to deal with the situation in a pre-emptive manner. Not only are they trying to sort things out internally within their own respective countries, but they’re also moving on a regional level, hoping that they can contain what is taking place in Oman, and in Bahrain, and in Yemen before it hits their countries.

Instability in this part of the world has huge implications. There is the obvious repercussion for the world’s energy supply — some 40 percent of total global energy output via sea comes through the Persian Gulf — but it’s not just about oil. Each one of those states, from Oman all the way up to Kuwait, houses major American military installations. They are very vital for U.S. military operations in this part of the world, particularly at a time when the United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from Iraq, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

In addition to just the general nature of American military operations in the region, unrest in the Persian Gulf complicates the U.S.-Iranian dynamic. The United States is already withdrawing from Iraq, which allows Iran to flex its muscles, and if, in addition, we see unrest destabilizing the Persian Gulf states, that gives Iran further room to maneuver and project power, not just on its side of Persian Gulf but also across into the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, while the world is still focused on Libya, there is a need to shift focus to the Persian Gulf where the stakes are much higher and the situation much more complex.

23078  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New DBMA Classes Starting March 1st in Chino Hills, California on: March 01, 2011, 02:40:52 PM
An Adventure begins  cool
23079  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AELE on: March 01, 2011, 09:51:15 AM
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23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Israel first myth on: March 01, 2011, 08:54:26 AM
In the past few weeks, we've seen revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, a brutal and continuing attempt to put down a rebellion in Libya, and varying degrees of unrest, sometimes violent, in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Sudan and Yemen.

If only Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, we would have peace in the Middle East!

Ha ha. Hardly anybody is saying that now, but it's worth remembering that it has been the accepted view among Mideast "experts" for decades. Israeli cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who draws the syndicated Dry Bones strip, had a terrific one a few weeks ago. It showed a pair of such experts yammering, "Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Gaza," ad nauseam. In the second panel, the experts are shaken as a voice yells "EGYPT!" In the third panel, they stand silently, trying to make sense of it all.

Nick Cohen of London's Observer, a rare British leftist who does not loathe Israel, confronts his ideological brethren in an excellent column:

To a generation of politically active if not morally consistent campaigners, the Middle East has meant Israel and only Israel. In theory, they should have been able to stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated. Few, however, have been able to oppose oppression in all its forms consistently. . . .
Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors. Europeans have no right to be surprised. Of all people, we ought to know from our experience of Nazism that antisemitism is a conspiracy theory about power, rather than a standard racist hatred of poor immigrants. Fascistic regimes reached for it when they sought to deny their own people liberty. . . .
Syrian Ba'athists, Hamas, the Saudi monarchy and Gaddafi eagerly promoted the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion], for why wouldn't vicious elites welcome a fantasy that dismissed democracy as a fraud and justified their domination? Just before the Libyan revolt, [Muammar] Gaddafi tried a desperate move his European predecessors would have understood. He tried to deflect Libyan anger by calling for a popular Palestinian revolution against Israel. That may or may not have been justified, but it assuredly would have done nothing to help the wretched Libyans.
Cohen also claims that "the right has been no better than the liberal-left in its Jew obsessions. The briefest reading of Conservative newspapers shows that at all times their first concern about political changes in the Middle East is how they affect Israel."

Maybe he's right--we haven't been following British coverage closely enough to say--but here in America, the anti-Semitic canard that neoconservatives are loyal to Israel first has been disproved. Politico reported Feb. 3:

As Israeli leaders worriedly eye the protests and street battles in neighboring Egypt, they've been dismayed to find that the neoconservatives and hawkish Democrats who are usually their most reliable American advocates are cheering for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's fall. . . .
In particular, neoconservatives such as Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Bush National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, and scholar Robert Kagan are essentially saying good riddance to Mubarak and chiding Obama mainly for not making the same sporadic push for democracy as President George W. Bush.
"If [the Israelis] were to say, 'This is very worrying because we don't know what the future will bring and none of us trust the [Muslim] Brotherhood'--we would all agree with that. But then they then go further and start mourning the departure of Mubarak and telling you that he is the greatest thing that ever happened," said Abrams, who battled inside the Bush administration for more public pressure on Arab allies to reform.
"They don't seem to realize that the crisis that now exists is the creation of Mubarak," he said. "We were calling on him to stop crushing the moderate and centrist parties--and the Israelis had no sympathy for that whatsoever."
One can see why Israelis would be especially anxious about the outcome of the revolution in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and one that has waged war against Israel several times. On "The Journal Editorial Report" a couple of weeks ago, Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and a pro-democracy neoconservative, raised an analogy that seems to us pertinent:

There's really been too much hand-wringing. Yes, there are a lot of ways this can go wrong. But, you know, I'm reminded that when the Berlin Wall came down, someone I admire, Margaret Thatcher, and her counterpart in France, Francois Mitterrand, were wringing their hands with the specter of a revived German threat in Europe. And President [George H.W.] Bush said: Look, let's celebrate what the Germans have done, let's embrace unity, and then we'll have a chance to steer this in the right direction. . . .
Look, when the tide of freedom is sweeping, we should love it. And when it's headed in the wrong direction, then we'll have a lot more credibility to say, "Whoa, this isn't freedom anymore."
We agree with Wolfowitz, but there's a more sympathetic way of looking at Thatcher's and Mitterand's unease over German unification--one that ought to inspire some empathy for Israel's anxiety. Germany was in their backyard and had waged a vicious war on both England and France just a few decades earlier. The same is true of Egypt today vis-à-vis Israel. And Egypt's future is harder to predict than Germany's in 1989, when most of the country was already stable, democratic and allied with the West. Regime change in Egypt produces uncertainty about the 1978 peace treaty, an agreement that is essential to Israel's security.

On the other hand, we've long argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely a product of Arab dictators, a point even Thomas Friedman acknowledges in a recent column: "The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion." But Friedman still manages to get it backward:

If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won't). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people's priorities, which are for more schools not wars.
In truth, a more democratic Arab world--which is now a real possibility, though by no means a certainty--is a necessary precondition for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. On this point Friedman has long been obtuse. Nine years ago, he suggested the Arab states offer "a simple, clear-cut proposal to Israel to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse: In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees."

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in a 2002 interview with Friedman, enthusiastically endorsed the idea, which Friedman started calling "the Abdullah plan." But as Friedman acknowledged in a 2009 column, Abdullah, who became king in 2005, "always stopped short of presenting his ideas directly to the Israeli people." That 2009 column included the latest Friedman brainstorm, "what I would call a five-state solution," involving the creation of a Palestinian state and promises by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia aimed at guaranteeing Israel's security.

It was fanciful of Friedman to think that Arab dictators--whom he now acknowledges have depended on scapegoating Israel to maintain their hold on power--would have agreed to such plans. But what if they had?

A little history is perhaps apposite here. From Israel's creation in 1948 until the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jerusalem had close relations with the authoritarian government of the shah. The current regime in Iran is dedicated to Israel's destruction. It's hard to see how Israel would be better off today if it had entrusted its security to the Arab dictators whose own people have suddenly made them an endangered species.

Two Columnists in One!

■"Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. . . . Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein. . . . Iraq won't follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that's the system many Iraqis seek. . . . We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq."--Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, June 24, 2003
■"Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people--Arabs, Chinese and Africans--are incompatible with democracy. . . . This line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. . . . It's condescending and foolish to suggest that people dying for democracy aren't ready for it."--Kristof, Times, Feb. 27, 2011
23081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: ICC for Kadaffy on: March 01, 2011, 08:45:35 AM
Second post

President Obama has trumpeted Saturday's U.N. Security Council decision to refer Moammar Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. Although Gadhafi deserves punishment, the ICC will not accomplish it. Invoking this marginal organization as an instrument of justice is simply an abdication of responsibility. It pretends to an address an international crisis while actually doing the opposite.

The ICC is one of the world's most illegitimate multilateral institutions. The court's vast prosecutorial authority is unaccountable to any democratic polity. Americans rejected this approach at our founding, separating the prosecutorial and judicial powers and placing the prosecutors under elected executive branch officials to ensure accountability and legitimacy. The Bush administration wisely reversed the Clinton administration's endorsement of the ICC by "unsigning" its foundational treaty in 2002. It then secured more than 100 bilateral agreements to prevent U.S. citizens from being transferred into ICC custody.

To date, the ICC has been weak and ineffective, essentially acting as a European court for African miscreants. Nonetheless, its prosecutor is an international version of our own post-Watergate "independent counsel" model. Based on the execrable record of these prosecutors, the U.S. Congress, with broad bipartisan support, allowed the law authorizing the appointment of these counsels to sunset in 1999, although there has been sporadic resort to such procedures since.

Under whatever guise, the independent-counsel approach has led to gross miscarriages of justice, such as Patrick Fitzgerald's 2003-07 investigation of how Valerie Plame's CIA employment became public. In that case, one target, Scooter Libby, was pursued into the ground while others more culpable were allowed to emerge unscathed.

Champions of the ICC theorize it will deter future crimes. Reality proves otherwise. The court has been operational since 2002, so the most persuasive evidence is that almost 10 years after the court's inception, Gadhafi was sufficiently unimpressed that he is doing what comes naturally for terrorists and dictators. History is full of cases where even military force or the threat of retaliation failed to deter aggression or gross criminality. If the West is not prepared to use cold steel against Gadhafi, why should he or any future barbarian worry about the ICC?

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AFP/Getty Images
A general view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
.The plain if deeply unpleasant fact is that history's hard men are not deterrable by the flimsy threat of eventual prosecution. This underlines why the court itself is so otherworldly. It does not operate in a civil society of shared values and history, but in the chaotic, often brutal realm of international politics. Resorting to the ICC cannot change matters of international politics and power into matters of law.

A new Libyan government should be responsible for dealing with Gadhafi's atrocities. Every crime he is responsible for, from the terrorist bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, to his current street massacres, has been done in the name of the Libyan people. They are the ones who should judge Gadhafi, as Iraqis did with Saddam Hussein.

Gadhafi's fate will raise hard questions for any successor Libyan government. But it is entirely appropriate that it be Libyans who confront and decide such issues and bear the consequences, good and bad, of determining how to dispense justice to him. Political maturation for Libya's citizens, as for those of any country, will not come from outsiders making judgments for them, but from them making their own decisions and living with the results.

Obviously, Libya is in no condition today to deal with Gadhafi and his cohorts. But if he and his key aides survive the current violence, they can be incarcerated and tried later, with international assistance to new Libyan authorities if appropriate. Immediate logistical difficulties do not justify shifting the moral and political responsibility of dealing with Gadhafi away from his countrymen to remote international bureaucrats.

Mr. Obama's ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.

Mr. Bolton served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

23082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What is BO waiting for? on: March 01, 2011, 08:37:37 AM
The rebellion in Libya is moving quickly, with antiregime forces consolidating their hold over the east, setting up a provisional government and restarting oil exports. From his bunker in Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi vows to fight to the end while his elite units and African mercenaries kill the Libyan people to protect him and his sons.

Not moving rapidly has been the world's sole superpower, which remains behind the curve, struggling to respond and reluctant to lead. President Obama waited until last Wednesday to make his first public statement. He didn't mention Gadhafi by name and deferred to the Europeans to push for U.N. sanctions. White House officials are now explaining his reticence by saying the U.S. couldn't act forcefully until all Americans were evacuated from Libya.

In a front page article in Sunday's Washington Post, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, was in full self-justification mode: "When you're sitting in government and you're told that ignoring that advice"—to temper U.S. rhetoric and action in Libya—"could endanger American citizens, that's a line you don't feel very comfortable crossing."

A U.S. President must take care to protect Americans. But even if this was the White House calculation, you don't want to talk about it publicly. In trying to blunt criticism of his boss at home, Mr. Rhodes has told the next rogue regime in Gadhafi-like straits how easy it is to paralyze U.S. policy. You don't even need to hold Americans hostage. All you need to do is keep them around with an implicit threat that you might do so. This will not make it easier to get Americans out of harm's way in the next crisis.

Throughout the Libyan uprising, European leaders—especially Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy—haven't been tongue- or action-tied by the plight of their nationals. This weekend, German and British special forces rescued a couple hundred of their nationals in covert missions without Libyan assent. The U.S. sent a catamaran and ferry to Tripoli, after Libya denied permission for a plane to land. The ships were stuck in port for two days due to bad weather and finally brought the 167 Americans out by Friday night.

European leaders continue to show more energy than President Obama. Mr. Cameron said he is working with allies on a plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi from using his air force against rebel forces. General Andul Fatteh Younes, who resigned as interior minister and defected to the opposition, told al Jazeera yesterday that his forces want a no-fly zone as long as no foreign plane lands on Libyan soil. "We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets," Mr. Cameron said.

If only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be as direct. Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which voted to "suspend" Libya's membership yesterday, she said that "we will continue to explore all possible options for actions. . . . Nothing is off the table." But she didn't put much on the table.

While the French sent two planes with humanitarian relief supplies to Libya, the U.S. set aside $10 million and pledged to study Libya's needs. The Pentagon yesterday announced plans to move armed forces into the region—a process that should have started more than a week ago. The U.S. made no promises to support a no-fly zone. Mrs. Clinton spent her time lobbying the Russians for their continued support in the U.N. Security Council, while the battles in Libya raged on.

The U.S. could begin to exceed a Belgian level of global leadership by reaching out to the opposition and extending formal recognition to their provisional government. Though this might make Mr. Obama uncomfortable, America remains a global power with exceptional standing to provide a new Libyan government with legitimacy. We should also be prepared to sell arms to the opposition if they request it. The U.N.'s new arms embargo isn't likely to deter anyone who is still willing to sell Gadhafi arms at this point, but it might cause some countries not to arm the opposition. The world made that blunder in Bosnia.

The moral and strategic case for U.S. leadership in Libya is obvious. A terrorist regime is slaughtering people who will appreciate America's support and protection. A bloody civil war could create chaos that turns Libya into a northern African failed state, an ideal home for terrorist groups. The U.S. should support a provisional government that can take over when the regime collapses to restore order with as little bloodshed as possible. What is Mr. Obama waiting for?

The Pentagon is repositioning warships and planes in the waters off Libya to be ready to enforce a no-fly zone or deliver humanitarian aid, military officials said Monday.

By shifting Naval and air forces in the Mediterranean, the U.S. is preparing the groundwork for possible intervention in the civil war that has engulfed Libya. In recent days, U.S. military leaders have been planning for a range of options, in the event the White House steps up the U.S. response.

"I think it's safe to say as part of that we're repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are be able to provide options and flexibility," Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Monday.

Pentagon officials have been loathe to spell out specific contingency plans they are considering for Libya, but officials have acknowledged that they are preparing for humanitarian missions as well as a campaign to forcibly ground Libyan military aircraft.

International support appears to be growing for a coordinated effort to prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from using helicopters or fighter planes to fire on protesters or the rebel army.

In Geneva Monday, foreign ministers from the U.S., Italy, France, the U.K. and Germany discussed the no-fly option, as well as the possibility of creating a humanitarian area in Libya under United Nations control.

The ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also demanded that Mr. Gadhafi step down.

Military officials said Navy ships and Air Force planes were being repositioned closer to Libya. But, for security reasons, the officials would not provide additional details.

Ms. Clinton said the U.S. was exploring "all possible options for action."

The U.S. does not currently have any aircraft carriers or big-deck amphibious ships in the Mediterranean.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise went through the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea on Feb 15. Although there are no plans to send the ship back to the Mediterranean, the fighter jets based on the carrier could be used to assist in a Libyan no-fly zone, as long as Egypt granted permission for the planes to pass through its air space, a military official said.

23083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Duplicative and overlapping Fed programs, agencies on: March 01, 2011, 08:33:55 AM
The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A report from the nonpartisan GAO, to be released Tuesday, compiles a list of redundant and potentially ineffective federal programs, and it could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), who pushed for the report, estimated it identifies between $100 billion and $200 billion in duplicative spending. The GAO didn't put a specific figure on the spending overlap.

The GAO examined numerous federal agencies, including the departments of defense, agriculture and housing and urban development, and pointed to instances where different arms of the government should be coordinating or consolidating efforts to save taxpayers' money.

The agency found 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality; 80 to help disadvantaged people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help people understand finances, according to a draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Instances of ineffective and unfocused federal programs can lead to a mishmash of occasionally arbitrary policies and rules, the report said. It recommends merging or consolidating a number of programs to both save money and make the government more efficient.

"Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services," the report said.

There have been multiple efforts to cull the number of federal programs in recent years, but they often run into opposition from lawmakers in both parties who rush to defend individual spending provisions. In fact, GAO's recommendations are often ignored or postponed by federal agencies and lawmakers, particularly when they could require difficult political votes.

The report says policy makers should consider creating a single food-safety agency because of a number of redundancies. The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that chicken eggs are "safe, wholesome, and properly labeled" while a division of the Department of Agriculture "is responsible for the safety of eggs processed into egg products."

Spokespeople for the Department of Agriculture and FDA pointed to the Obama administration's creation of the Food Safety Working Group, which works to better coordinate the government's regulators.

The report says there are 18 federal programs that spent a combined $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance, but little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of these programs because they haven't been well studied.

The report took particular aim at government funding for surface transportation, including the building of roads and other projects, which the administration has made a major part of its push to update the country's infrastructure.

The report said five divisions within the Department of Transportation account for 100 different programs that fund things like highways, rail projects and safety programs.

One program that funnels transportation funds to the states "functions as a cash-transfer general-purpose grant program, rather than as a tool for pursuing a cohesive national transportation policy," the report said. Similarly, it chided the government over encouraging federal agencies to purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles while having policies that agencies reduce electricity consumption. It said government agencies have purchased numerous vehicles that run on alternative fuels only to find many gas stations don't sell alternative fuels. This has led government agencies to turn around and request waivers so they didn't have to use alternative fuels.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the president's budget for fiscal year 2012 "proposes to cut waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy by consolidating over 55 separate highway programs into five core programs, and by merging six transit programs into two programs."

On teacher quality, the report identified 82 programs that often have similar descriptions and goals and are spread across 10 federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Nine of these programs are linked to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fifty-three of the programs are relatively small, receiving $50 million or less, "and many have their own separate administrative processes."

The GAO highlighted 80 different economic development programs at the Department of Commerce, HUD, Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration, that spent a combined $6.5 billion last year and often overlapped. For example, the four agencies combined to have 52 different programs that fund "entrepreneurial efforts," 35 programs for infrastructure, and 26 programs for telecommunications. It said 60% of the programs fund only one or two activities, making them "the most likely to overlap because many of them can only fund the same limited types of activities."

The report took aim at several military programs, which could prove thorny because many lawmakers from both parties are wary to cut defense spending. It said there were 130,000 military and government medical professionals, 59 Defense Department hospitals and hundreds of clinics that could benefit from consolidating administrative, management and clinical functions.

For example, it said the government "may have developed duplicate" programs to counter improvised explosive devices, with the Marine Corps and the Army paying to develop similar "mine rollers." The Marine mine roller costs $85,000, and the Army mine roller costs $77,000 to $225,000. "Officials disagree about which system is most effective, and [the Pentagon] has not conducted comparative testing and evaluation of the two systems," the report said. The Pentagon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The GAO study was required by a provision inserted by Sen. Coburn into a law that raised the federal borrowing limit last year. This report is the first produced in response to the provision.

23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Land War in Asia on: March 01, 2011, 08:14:03 AM
Never Fight a Land War in Asia
March 1, 2011

By George Friedman

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaking at West Point, said last week that “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” In saying this, Gates was repeating a dictum laid down by Douglas MacArthur after the Korean War, who urged the United States to avoid land wars in Asia. Given that the United States has fought four major land wars in Asia since World War II — Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq — none of which had ideal outcomes, it is useful to ask three questions: First, why is fighting a land war in Asia a bad idea? Second, why does the United States seem compelled to fight these wars? And third, what is the alternative that protects U.S. interests in Asia without large-scale military land wars?

The Hindrances of Overseas Wars

Let’s begin with the first question, the answer to which is rooted in demographics and space. The population of Iraq is currently about 32 million. Afghanistan has a population of less than 30 million. The U.S. military, all told, consists of about 1.5 million active-duty personnel (plus 980,000 in the reserves), of whom more than 550,000 belong to the Army and about 200,000 are part of the Marine Corps. Given this, it is important to note that the United States strains to deploy about 200,000 troops at any one time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that many of these troops are in support rather than combat roles. The same was true in Vietnam, where the United States was challenged to field a maximum of about 550,000 troops (in a country much more populous than Iraq or Afghanistan) despite conscription and a larger standing army. Indeed, the same problem existed in World War II.

When the United States fights in the Eastern Hemisphere, it fights at great distances, and the greater the distance, the greater the logistical cost. More ships are needed to deliver the same amount of materiel, for example. That absorbs many troops. The logistical cost of fighting at a distance is that it diverts numbers of troops (or requires numbers of civilian personnel) disproportionate to the size of the combat force.

Regardless of the number of troops deployed, the U.S. military is always vastly outnumbered by the populations of the countries to which it is deployed. If parts of these populations resist as light-infantry guerrilla forces or employ terrorist tactics, the enemy rapidly swells to a size that can outnumber U.S. forces, as in Vietnam and Korea. At the same time, the enemy adopts strategies to take advantage of the core weakness of the United States — tactical intelligence. The resistance is fighting at home. It understands the terrain and the culture. The United States is fighting in an alien environment. It is constantly at an intelligence disadvantage. That means that the effectiveness of the native forces is multiplied by excellent intelligence, while the effectiveness of U.S. forces is divided by lack of intelligence.

The United States compensates with technology, from space-based reconnaissance and air power to counter-battery systems and advanced communications. This can make up the deficit but only by massive diversions of manpower from ground-combat operations. Maintaining a helicopter requires dozens of ground-crew personnel. Where the enemy operates with minimal technology multiplied by intelligence, the United States compensates for lack of intelligence with massive technology that further reduces available combat personnel. Between logistics and technological force multipliers, the U.S. “point of the spear” shrinks. If you add the need to train, relieve, rest and recuperate the ground-combat forces, you are left with a small percentage available to fight.

The paradox of this is that American forces will win the engagements but may still lose the war. Having identified the enemy, the United States can overwhelm it with firepower. The problem the United States has is finding the enemy and distinguishing it from the general population. As a result, the United States is well-suited for the initial phases of combat, when the task is to defeat a conventional force. But after the conventional force has been defeated, the resistance can switch to methods difficult for American intelligence to deal with. The enemy can then control the tempo of operations by declining combat where it is at a disadvantage and initiating combat when it chooses.

The example of the capitulation of Germany and Japan in World War II is frequently cited as a model of U.S. forces defeating and pacifying an opposing nation. But the Germans were not defeated primarily by U.S. ground troops. The back of the Wehrmacht was broken by the Soviets on their own soil with the logistical advantages of short supply lines. And, of course, Britain and numerous other countries were involved. It is doubtful that the Germans would have capitulated to the Americans alone. The force the United States deployed was insufficient to defeat Germany. The Germans had no appetite for continuing a resistance against the Russians and saw surrendering to the Americans and British as sanctuary from the Russians. They weren’t going to resist them. As for Japan, it was not ground forces but air power, submarine warfare and atomic bombs that finished them — and the emperor’s willingness to order a surrender. It was not land power that prevented resistance but air and sea power, plus a political compromise by MacArthur in retaining and using the emperor. Had the Japanese emperor been removed, I suspect that the occupation of Japan would have been much more costly. Neither Germany nor Japan are examples in which U.S. land forces compelled capitulation and suppressed resistance.

The problem the United States has in the Eastern Hemisphere is that the size of the force needed to occupy a country initially is much smaller than the force needed to pacify the country. The force available for pacification is much smaller than needed because the force the United States can deploy demographically without committing to total war is simply too small to do the job — and the size needed to do the job is unknown.

U.S. Global Interests

The deeper problem is this: The United States has global interests. While the Soviet Union was the primary focus of the United States during the Cold War, no power threatens to dominate Eurasia now, and therefore no threat justifies the singular focus of the United States. In time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States must still retain a strategic reserve for other unanticipated contingencies. This further reduces the available force for combat.

Some people argue that the United States is insufficiently ruthless in prosecuting war, as if it would be more successful without political restraints at home. The Soviets and the Nazis, neither noted for gentleness, were unable to destroy the partisans behind German lines or the Yugoslav resistance, in spite of brutal tactics. The guerrilla has built-in advantages in warfare for which brutality cannot compensate.

Given all this, the question is why the United States has gotten involved in wars in Eurasia four times since World War II. In each case it is obvious: for political reasons. In Korea and Vietnam, it was to demonstrate to doubting allies that the United States had the will to resist the Soviets. In Afghanistan, it was to uproot al Qaeda. In Iraq, the reasons are murkier, more complex and less convincing, but the United States ultimately went in, in my opinion, to convince the Islamic world of American will.

The United States has tried to shape events in the Eastern Hemisphere by the direct application of land power. In Korea and Vietnam, it was trying to demonstrate resolve against Soviet and Chinese power. In Afghanistan and Iraq, it was trying to shape the politics of the Muslim world. The goal was understandable but the amount of ground force available was not. In Korea, it resulted in stalemate; in Vietnam, defeat. We await the outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, but given Gates’ statement, the situation for the United States is not necessarily hopeful.

In each case, the military was given an ambiguous mission. This was because a clear outcome — defeating the enemy — was unattainable. At the same time, there were political interests in each. Having engaged, simply leaving did not seem an option. Therefore, Korea turned into an extended presence in a near-combat posture, Vietnam ended in defeat for the American side, and Iraq and Afghanistan have turned, for the time being, into an uncertain muddle that no reasonable person expects to end with the declared goals of a freed and democratic pair of countries.

Problems of Strategy

There are two problems with American strategy. The first is using the appropriate force for the political mission. This is not a question so much of the force as it is of the mission. The use of military force requires clarity of purpose; otherwise, a coherent strategy cannot emerge. Moreover, it requires an offensive mission. Defensive missions (such as Vietnam and Korea) by definition have no terminal point or any criteria for victory. Given the limited availability of ground combat forces, defensive missions allow the enemy’s level of effort to determine the size of the force inserted, and if the force is insufficient to achieve the mission, the result is indefinite deployment of scarce forces.

Then there are missions with clear goals initially but without an understanding of how to deal with Act II. Iraq suffered from an offensive intention ill suited to the enemy’s response. Having destroyed the conventional forces of Iraq, the United States was unprepared for the Iraqi response, which was guerrilla resistance on a wide scale. The same was true in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency is occupation warfare. It is the need to render a population — rather than an army — unwilling and incapable of resisting. It requires vast resources and large numbers of troops that outstrip the interest. Low-cost counter-insurgency with insufficient forces will always fail. Since the United States uses limited forces because it has to, counterinsurgency is the most dangerous kind of war for the United States. The idea has always been that the people prefer the U.S. occupation to the threats posed by their fellow countrymen and that the United States can protect those who genuinely do prefer the former. That may be the idea, but there is never enough U.S. force available.

Another model for dealing with the problem of shaping political realities can be seen in the Iran-Iraq war. In that war, the United States allowed the mutual distrust of the two countries to eliminate the threats posed by both. When the Iraqis responded by invading Kuwait, the United States responded with a massive counter with very limited ends — the reconquest of Kuwait and the withdrawal of forces. It was a land war in Asia designed to defeat a known and finite enemy army without any attempt at occupation.

The problem with all four wars is that they were not wars in a conventional sense and did not use the military as militaries are supposed to be used. The purpose of a military is to defeat enemy conventional forces. As an army of occupation against a hostile population, military forces are relatively weak. The problem for the United States is that such an army must occupy a country for a long time, and the U.S. military simply lacks the ground forces needed to occupy countries and still be available to deal with other threats.

By having an unclear mission, you have an uncertain terminal point. When does it end? You then wind up with a political problem internationally — having engaged in the war, you have allies inside and outside of the country that have fought with you and taken risks with you. Withdrawal leaves them exposed, and potential allies will be cautious in joining with you in another war. The political costs spiral and the decision to disengage is postponed. The United States winds up in the worst of all worlds. It terminates not on its own but when its position becomes untenable, as in Vietnam. This pyramids the political costs dramatically.

Wars need to be fought with ends that can be achieved by the forces available. Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of war. You do not engage in war if the army you have is insufficient. When you understand the foundations of American military capability and its limits in Eurasia, Gates’ view on war in the Eastern Hemisphere is far more sound than Rumsfeld’s.

The Diplomatic Alternative

The alternative is diplomacy, not understood as an alternative to war but as another tool in statecraft alongside war. Diplomacy can find the common ground between nations. It can also be used to identify the hostility of nations and use that hostility to insulate the United States by diverting the attention of other nations from challenging the United States. That is what happened during the Iran-Iraq war. It wasn’t pretty, but neither was the alternative.

Diplomacy for the United States is about maintaining the balance of power and using and diverting conflict to manage the international system. Force is the last resort, and when it is used, it must be devastating. The argument I have made, and which I think Gates is asserting, is that at a distance, the United States cannot be devastating in wars dependent on land power. That is the weakest aspect of American international power and the one the United States has resorted to all too often since World War II, with unacceptable results. Using U.S. land power as part of a combined arms strategy is occasionally effective in defeating conventional forces, as it was with North Korea (and not China) but is inadequate to the demands of occupation warfare. It makes too few troops available for success, and it does not know how many troops might be needed.

This is not a policy failure of any particular U.S. president. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have encountered precisely the same problem, which is that the forces that have existed in Eurasia, from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Korea to the Taliban in Afghanistan, have either been too numerous or too agile (or both) for U.S. ground forces to deal with. In any war, the primary goal is not to be defeated. An elective war in which the criteria for success are unclear and for which the amount of land force is insufficient must be avoided. That is Gates’ message. It is the same one MacArthur delivered, and the one Dwight Eisenhower exercised when he refused to intervene in Vietnam on France’s behalf. As with the Monroe Doctrine, it should be elevated to a principle of U.S. foreign policy, not because it is a moral principle but because it is a very practical one.

23085  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 28, 2011, 12:20:45 PM
Gong Fu:

I've made arrangements for you to have a seven foot staff.  You have email.
23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Right to Work on: February 28, 2011, 12:19:20 PM
How ironic that Wisconsin has become ground zero for the battle between taxpayers and public- employee labor unions. Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining for government workers (in 1959), following a tradition where it was the first to introduce a personal income tax (in 1911, before the introduction of the current form of individual income tax in 1913 by the federal government).

Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state—or even across states—can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty.

In fact, labor unions were subject to U.S. antitrust laws in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which was first applied in 1894 to the American Railway Union. However, organized labor managed to obtain exemption from federal antitrust laws in subsequent legislation, notably the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

Remarkably, labor unions are not only immune from antitrust laws but can also negotiate a "union shop," which requires nonunion employees to join the union or pay nearly equivalent dues. Somehow, despite many attempts, organized labor has lacked the political power to repeal the key portion of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act that allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which now prohibit the union shop in 22 states. From the standpoint of civil liberties, the individual right to work—without being forced to join a union or pay dues—has a much better claim than collective bargaining. (Not to mention that "right to work" has a much more pleasant, liberal sound than "collective bargaining.") The push for right-to-work laws, which haven't been enacted anywhere but Oklahoma over the last 20 years, seems about to take off.

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Associated Press
 .The current pushback against labor-union power stems from the collision between overly generous benefits for public employees— notably for pensions and health care—and the fiscal crises of state and local governments. Teachers and other public-employee unions went too far in convincing weak or complicit state and local governments to agree to obligations, particularly defined-benefit pension plans, that created excessive burdens on taxpayers.

In recognition of this fiscal reality, even the unions and their Democratic allies in Wisconsin have agreed to Gov. Scott Walker's proposed cutbacks of benefits, as long as he drops the restrictions on collective bargaining. The problem is that this "compromise" leaves intact the structure of strong public-employee unions that helped to create the unsustainable fiscal situation; after all, the next governor may have less fiscal discipline. A long-run solution requires a change in structure, for example, by restricting collective bargaining for public employees and, to go further, by introducing a right-to-work law.

There is evidence that right-to-work laws—or, more broadly, the pro-business policies offered by right-to-work states—matter for economic growth. In research published in 2000, economist Thomas Holmes of the University of Minnesota compared counties close to the border between states with and without right-to-work laws (thereby holding constant an array of factors related to geography and climate). He found that the cumulative growth of employment in manufacturing (the traditional area of union strength prior to the rise of public-employee unions) in the right-to-work states was 26 percentage points greater than that in the non-right-to-work states.

Beyond Wisconsin, a key issue is which states are likely to be the next political battlegrounds on labor issues. In fact, one can interpret the extreme reactions by union demonstrators and absent Democratic legislators in Wisconsin not so much as attempts to influence that state—which may be a lost cause—but rather to deter politicians in other states from taking similar actions. This strategy may be working in Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder recently asserted that he would not "pick fights" with labor unions.

In general, the most likely arenas are states in which the governor and both houses of the state legislature are Republican (often because of the 2010 elections), and in which substantial rights for collective bargaining by public employees currently exist. This group includes Indiana, which has recently been as active as Wisconsin on labor issues; ironically, Indiana enacted a right-to-work law in 1957 but repealed it in 1965. Otherwise, my tentative list includes Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska (with a nominally nonpartisan legislature), Kansas, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The national fiscal crisis and recession that began in 2008 had many ill effects, including the ongoing crises of pension and health-care obligations in many states. But at least one positive consequence is that the required return to fiscal discipline has caused reexamination of the growth in economic and political power of public-employee unions. Hopefully, embattled politicians like Gov. Walker in Wisconsin will maintain their resolve and achieve a more sensible long-term structure for the taxpayers in their states.

Mr. Barro is a professor of economics at Harvard and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution
23087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I did not snopes this lest on: February 28, 2011, 12:16:05 PM
it ruin the fun  cheesy

 US Navy cruiser anchored in Mississippi for a week's shore leave.
The first evening, the ship's Captain received the following note from 
the wife of a wealthy plantation owner:

"Dear Captain, Thursday will be my daughter Melinda's Debutante Ball.
I would like you to send four well-mannered, handsome, unmarried
officers in their formal dress uniforms to attend the dance.. They   
should arrive promptly at 8:00 PM prepared for an evening of polite
Southern conversation. They should be excellent dancers, as they will
be the escorts of lovely refined young ladies. One last point: No
Jews, please!!
"Sending a written message by his own yeoman, the captain
replied: Madam, thank you for your invitation. In order to present
the widest possible knowledge base for polite conversation, I am
sending four of my best and most prized officers. One is a lieutenant
commander, and a graduate of Annapolis    with an additional Masters
degree from MIT in fluid technologies and ship design. The second is
a Lieutenant, one of our helicopter pilots, and a   graduate of
Northwestern University in Chicago , with a BS in Aeronautical   
Engineering. His Masters Degree and PhD. in Aeronautical and Mechanical
Engineering are from Texas Tech University and he is also an
astronaut candidate The third officer is also a lieutenant, with
degrees in both computer systems and information technology from SMU
and he is awaiting notification on his Doctoral Dissertation from Cal
Tech. Finally, the fourth officer, also a lieutenant commander, is
our ship’s doctor, with an undergraduate degree from the University of
Georgia and his medical degree is from the University of North
Carolina . We are very proud of him, as he is also a senior fellow in
Trauma Surgery at Bethesda .

Upon receiving this letter, Melinda’s mother was quite excited and
looked forward to Thursday with pleasure. Her daughter would be   
escorted by four handsome naval officers without peer (and the other
women in her social circle would be insanely jealous).

At precisely 8:00 PM on Thursday, Melinda's mother heard a polite rap
at the door which she opened to find, in full dress uniform, four   
handsome, smiling black officers. Her mouth fell open. But pulling
herself together, she stammered, "There must be some mistake."

"No, Madam," said the first officer. "Captain Goldberg never makes
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chalabi on: February 28, 2011, 12:12:53 PM

Your google fu continues to amaze.

That said, a quick read says to me that claims were put to rest.

Anyway, changing subjects, some of us may recognize the name of the author of the following piece from today's WSJ:

As we watch Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi lash out at his subjects with all the murderous force at his disposal, those of us in Iraq are reminded of another uprising and another dictator who butchered thousands to preserve his reign of terror.

In 1991, at the end of the first Gulf War, the Iraqi people heeded President George H.W. Bush's call to rid themselves of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The regular Iraqi army had either disappeared or was in open mutiny, and Saddam's loyalist forces were in disarray. Within days, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces were out of the regime's control, and more than half of Iraq's population had their first taste of freedom in a generation.

The noose was closing around Saddam's neck when a fateful decision was made in Washington. Prompted by foreign policy "realists" in his administration—such as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs Richard Haass—Mr. Bush allowed Saddam to fly military aircraft to put down the uprising.

What followed was a massacre. Up to 330,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by Saddam's brutal tactics, which included using helicopter gunships to strafe neighborhoods and tanks to blast schools, hospitals and places of worship. While thousands of U.S. troops were still on Iraqi soil and in some cases were close enough to watch, the tyrant unleashed the power of modern weaponry against men, women and children.

The news from Libya is an all-too-chilling reminder of those dark days in Iraq. It is no coincidence that Gadhafi often mentions Iraq in his tirades. He knows how Saddam clung to power by sheer brute force while playing on the West's fear of instability.

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Associated Press
 .The Libyan regime has already used aircraft against unarmed protesters, among other atrocities. That's why it is imperative for the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over the most populous areas of Libya. Its resolution this weekend imposing sanctions on the regime was necessary but not sufficient to help the Libyans who have voted with their lives against dictatorship.

The international community that sold Gadhafi his arsenal now has a responsibility to help the Libyans liberate themselves. Direct assistance to the forces of change and democracy is the best way to ensure a transition to democracy. The Security Council should open a dialogue with the Libyan opposition immediately with the aim of providing humanitarian, and possibly military, assistance.

It was only after Saddam's mass killings provoked a tidal wave of refugees from Iraq into neighboring countries in March and April 1991 that the international community sprung into action. The Security Council passed Resolution 688, which established a legal separation between the Iraqi people and the regime, and called on Saddam to cease the repression of the people. The coalition used Resolution 688 as the legal basis for imposing a no-fly zone first in northern and later in southern Iraq. These actions may have come too late for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in 1991, but they serve as a good precedent for preventing a similar bloodbath in Libya.

In all the debate about the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war, it is hardly ever mentioned that after Saddam was removed we found 313 mass graves in Iraq. I will never forget the day in May 2003 when we visited a newly uncovered site south of Baghdad near the town of Hilla. Saddam's forces had dumped 12,000 bodies from the 1991 uprising there. The victims were civilians, killed for daring to stand up to a dictator and yearn for freedom.

A surviving Gadhafi regime, murderous and wounded, would be a nightmare for the Libyan people and a threat to international peace. The international community owes it to the Libyans to help them remove the tyrant and prevent history from repeating itself.

No foreign troops are necessary, just assistance. Twenty years ago in these pages I called on the West to drop its policy of supporting Arab dictatorship in order to maintain stability. The best way to consign that short-sighted and immoral policy to the ash heap of history is to help Arabs liberate themselves.

Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi legislator.
23089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Mental activity can be regulated? on: February 28, 2011, 12:05:48 PM
Another federal judge ruled last week that ObamaCare is constitutional, and Democrats are saying this makes the score 3-2 for their side. We disagree with the decision, but it's worth noting the judge's reasoning because it so neatly illustrates the constitutional stakes.

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Associated Press
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler
.The crux of these cases is whether the government's power to regulate "Commerce . . . among the several States" is so broad that it can mandate that everyone buy health insurance. Judge Gladys Kessler of the D.C. district court says in her 64-page opinion that this power includes regulating even "mental activity, i.e., decision-making."

The distinction between activity and inactivity is "of little significance," Judge Kessler writes. "It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not 'acting' . . . Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin."

Whoa. In other words, there is no constitutional principle that limits federal coercion. Any decision that doesn't conform to what the government thinks you should do is an economic decision and therefore everything is subject to regulation. Though she may not have intended it, Judge Kessler has shown that the real debate is between a government of limited and enumerated powers as understood by the Founders, and a government whose reach includes "mental activity."

23090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 28, 2011, 12:02:03 PM
The Chinese opera starring Huawei Technologies Co. and Washington regulators hit another high note Friday when a spurned Huawei issued a public plea for understanding, fairness—and access to the rich U.S. telecom market.

Why has Washington repeatedly said no to Huawei as the China telecom giant tries to tap into the lucrative U.S. market? The Journal's John Bussey and Simon Constable discuss.

There are two lessons to draw from all the yodeling:

First, this drama isn't just about the Chinese suitor Huawei. It's about China Inc. and cybersecurity in the U.S. Because of that, Huawei may not be getting into the U.S. market in a big way anytime soon.

And second, Huawei—one of the biggest suppliers of telecom equipment in the world—may be the least of America's problems when it comes to thwarting aspiring cyberspies.

Huawei's latest travails stem from a tiny deal the company struck in California. It bought some patents and hired some employees from an outfit called 3Leaf Systems that did work in cloud computing. The Pentagon demanded Huawei retroactively seek approval of the transaction from a secretive panel called CFIUS, which reviews foreign investment that might threaten national security.

Huawei cried foul and said the deal didn't merit review because it wasn't an outright acquisition. Sens. Jim Webb and Jon Kyl and other U.S. lawmakers fired back, likening Huawei to a dangerous arm of communist China intent on snatching U.S. secrets. This month, CFIUS essentially ordered Huawei to unwind the purchase. As the dust settled, a Chinese government spokesman condemned the decision and, in an ironic footnote, grumbled that the U.S. should be "more transparent" in how it treats foreign investors.

Then on Friday, Huawei publicly challenged the U.S. to investigate the company and clear the air.

"Huawei is Huawei," says Bill Plummer, the company's spokesman. "It's a multinational company. It isn't China. It shouldn't be held hostage to the tense relationship between the two governments." Huawei's supporters say U.S. companies are missing out on quality Huawei gear that's safely sold to virtually every major phone company in the world.

Maybe so, but a range of intelligence agencies that sit on CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., appear to feel differently. Huawei's plea "seems disingenuous," says an individual familiar with the government's thinking. "Why come out with that offer publicly? We've been asking for transparency" from the company for years.

The problem is that Huawei lives in a certain context. Its founder served in the People's Liberation Army. The company has prospered greatly in its home market and has grown almost overnight into a global giant. And while Huawei insists it is entirely independent of the Chinese government, the company thrives in an authoritarian country where success on so large a scale is usually carefully observed, and carefully prescribed. There are few subjects of greater interest to Beijing than telecommunications and technology—and creating national champions in both.

Rightly or wrongly, Huawei to many people in Washington is a proxy for China. They fear the company's equipment may contain bugs that could spy on American industrial secrets, shut down communications during a conflict, or make networks easier to hack. Huawei says that's nonsense.

CFIUS proceedings are secret, and a spokeswoman declined to comment on the Huawei case. But actions speak loudly. The committee, which includes the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, has blocked Huawei's access to the U.S. repeatedly, including Huawei's bid to buy electronics maker 3Com Corp. in 2008, its effort to upgrade Sprint Nextel Corp.'s network in 2010, and now the 3Leaf deal.

Noting the importance of context, a former intelligence official says: "You have senior officials in Washington going to work every week and their assistants telling them, 'Sir, the Chinese have hacked into your system and are reading your email again. We're trying to get them out. Don't use your computer.' China is contemptuous when we complain about this, and that probably deepens the reaction toward Huawei," he says.

Even Washington knows that at the end of the day Huawei is but a blip on a much larger radar screen of worry. Virtually every technology company is plugged into a global supply chain and gets its products from multiple sources. A given piece of consumer or industrial electronics can cross borders dozens of times as it is designed, coded and assembled before landing in the U.S. The rogue might be anywhere: in China, or in the piece of equipment stamped INDIA that was preassembled in China.

"The cyber side is where the real national-security issues are growing exponentially, the vulnerabilities created by the global supply chain," says Nova Daly, a consultant with Wiley Rein in Washington who previously managed the CFIUS program at the Treasury Department. "We need clear cyberpolicy from the administration and Congress."

That effort is under way, there are some early steps to better vet the source of key electronics distributed in the U.S. Scrubbing software and hardware before it crosses the border is a tricky business. Experts say it's almost impossible to find every bug.

So trusting the source of origin becomes all the more important.

Read more:
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Developments in internet privacy on: February 28, 2011, 11:54:24 AM
As the surreptitious tracking of Internet users becomes more aggressive and widespread, tiny start-ups and technology giants alike are pushing a new product: privacy.

Companies including Microsoft Corp., McAfee Inc.—and even some online-tracking companies themselves—are rolling out new ways to protect users from having their movements monitored online. Some are going further and starting to pay people a commission every time their personal details are used by marketing companies.

"Data is a new form of currency," says Shane Green, chief executive of a Washington start-up, Personal Inc. , which has raised $7.6 million for a business that aims to help people profit from providing their personal information to advertisers.

The Wall Street Journal's year-long What They Know investigation into online tracking has exposed a fast-growing network of hundreds of companies that collect highly personal details about Internet users—their online activities, political views, health worries, shopping habits, financial situations and even, in some cases, their real names—to feed the $26 billion U.S. online-advertising industry.

In the first nine months of last year, spending on Internet advertising rose nearly 14%, while the overall ad industry only grew about 6%, according to data from PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP and WPP PLC's Kantar Media.

Testing the new privacy marketplace are people like Giles Sequeira, a London real-estate developer who recently began selling his own personal data. "I'm not paranoid about privacy," he says. But as he learned more, he says, he became concerned about how his data was getting used.

People "have no idea where it is going to end up," he says.

So in December, Mr. Sequeira became one of the first customers of London start-up Allow Ltd. , which offers to sell people's personal information on their behalf, and give them 70% of the sale. Mr. Sequeira has already received one payment of £5.56 ($8.95) for letting Allow tell a credit-card company he is shopping for new plastic.

"I wouldn't give my car to a stranger" for free, Mr. Sequeira says, "So why do I do that with my personal data?"

As people are becoming more aware of the value of their data, some are seeking to protect it, and sometimes sell it. In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, executives and academics gathered to discuss how to turn personal data into an "asset class" by giving people the right to manage and sell it on their own behalf.

"We are trying to shift the focus from purely privacy to what we call property rights," says Michele Luzi, a director at consulting firm Bain & Co. who led the Davos discussion.

Allow, the company that paid Mr. Sequeira, is just one of nearly a dozen start-ups hoping to profit from the nascent privacy market. Several promise to pay people a commission on the sale of their data. Others offer free products to block online tracking, in the hopes of later selling users other services—such as disposable phone numbers or email addresses that make personal tracking tougher. Still others sell paid services, such as removing people's names from marketing databases.

"Entrepreneurs smell opportunity," says Satya Patel, venture capitalist at Battery Ventures, which led a group of investors that poured $8 million in June into a start-up called SafetyWeb , which helps parents monitor their children's activities on social-networking sites and is rolling out a new privacy-protection service for adults, .

For the lightly regulated tracking industry, a big test of the new privacy marketplace is whether it will quiet the growing chorus of critics calling for tougher government oversight. Lawmakers this month introduced two separate privacy bills in Congress, and in December the Obama administration called for an online-privacy "bill of rights." The Federal Trade Commission is pushing for a do-not-track system inspired by the do-not-call registry that blocks phone calls from telemarketers.

The industry is hustling on several fronts to respond to regulatory concerns. Last week, Microsoft endorsed a do-not-track system. Microsoft also plans to add a powerful anti-tracking tool to the next version of its Web-browsing software, Internet Explorer 9. That's a reversal: Microsoft's earlier decision to remove a similar privacy feature from Explorer was the subject of a Journal article last year.

The online-ad industry itself is also rolling out new privacy services in hopes of heading off regulation. Most let users opt out of seeing targeted ads, though they generally don't prevent tracking.
The privacy market has been tested before, during the dot-com boom around 2000, a time when online tracking was just being born. A flurry of online-privacy-related start-ups sprang up but only a few survived due to limited consumer appetite.

As recently as 2008, privacy was so hard to sell that entrepreneur Rob Shavell says he avoided even using the word when he pitched investors on his start-up, Abine Inc. , which blocks online tracking. Today, he says, Abine uses the word "privacy" again, and has received more than 30 unsolicited approaches from investors in the past six months.

It's rarely a coincidence when you see Web ads for products that match your interests. WSJ's Christina Tsuei explains how advertisers use cookies to track your online habits.
In June, another company, TRUSTe, raised $12 million from venture capitalists to expand its privacy services. At the same time, Inc. raised $15 million and tripled its investments in new privacy initiatives including a service that removes people's names from online databases and a tool to let people encrypt their Facebook posts.

"It's just night and day out there," says Abine's Mr. Shavell.

Online advertising companies—many of which use online tracking to target ads—are also jumping into the privacy-protection business. AOL, one of largest online trackers, recently ramped up promotion of privacy services that it sells.

And in December, enCircle Media, an ad agency that works with tracking companies, invested in the creation of a privacy start-up, IntelliProtect . Last month IntelliProtect launched a $8.95-a-month privacy service that will, among other things, prevent people from seeing some online ads based on tracking data.

In its marketing material, IntelliProtect doesn't disclose its affiliation with the ad company, enCircle Media, that invested in it. When contacted by the Journal, IntelliProtect said it would never give or sell customer data to other entities, including its parent companies.
A cofounder of Allow, Justin Basini, also traces his roots to the ad industry. Mr. Basini came up with the idea for his new business when working as head of brand marketing for Capital One Europe. He says he was amazed at the "huge amounts" of data the credit-card companies had amassed about individuals.

But the data didn't produce great results, he says. The response rate to Capital One's targeted mailings was 1-in-100, he says—vastly better than untargeted mailings, but still "massively inefficient." Mr. Basini says. "So I thought, 'Why not try to incentivize the customer to become part of the process?"

People feel targeted ads online are "spooky," he says, because people aren't aware of how much personal data is being traded. His proposed solution: Ask people permission before showing them ads targeted at their personal interests, and base the ads only on information people agree to provide.

In 2009, Mr. Basini left Capital One and teamed up with cofounder Howard Huntley, a technologist. He raised £440,000 ($708,400) from family, friends and a few investors, and launched Allow in December. The company has attracted 4,000 customers, he says.

Mr. Basini says his strategy is to first make individuals' data scarce, so it can become more valuable when he sells it later. To do that, Allow removes its customers from the top 12 marketing databases in the U.K., which Mr. Basini says account for 90% of the market. Allow also lists its customers in the official U.K. registries for people who don't want to receive telemarketing or postal solicitations.

Currently, Allow operates only in the U.K., which (unlike the U.S.) has a law that requires companies to honor individuals' requests to be removed from marketing databases.

Then, Mr. Basini asks his customers to create a profile that can contain their name, address, employment, number of kids, hobbies and shopping intent—in other words, lists of things they're thinking about buying. Customers can choose to grant certain marketers permission to send them offers, in return for a 70% cut of the price marketers pay to reach them. Allow says it has finalized a deal with one marketer and has five more deals it hopes to close soon.

Mr. Basini says Allow tries to prevent people from "gaming" the system by watching for people who state an intention to buy lots of things, but don't follow through.
Because Allow's data comes from people who have explicitly stated their interest in being contacted about specific products, it can command a higher price than data gathered by stealthier online-tracking technologies. For instance, online-tracking companies routinely sell pieces of information about people's Web-browsing habits for less than a penny per person. By comparison, Allow says it sells access to Mr. Sequeira for £5 to £10 per marketer.

Mr. Sequeira, the London real-estate executive, says that after he filled out an "intention" to get a new credit card, he received a £15.56 credit in his Allow account: a £10 signing fee plus a £5.56 payment from the sale of his data to a credit-card marketer. So far, he says, he hasn't received a card offer from the company.

"I don't think it's going to make a life-changing amount of money," says Mr. Sequeira. But, he says he enjoyed the little windfall enough that he is now letting Allow offer his data to other advertisers. "I can see this becoming somewhat addictive."

Write to Julia Angwin at and Emily Steel at
23092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Duke Snider on: February 28, 2011, 11:50:18 AM
A baseball player of my youth that I liked, Duke Snider, RIP.
23093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Gates goes nuke on: February 28, 2011, 11:39:12 AM

Bill Gates reshaped the computer industry by pumping out new versions of Microsoft Windows software every few years, fixing and fine tuning it as he went along.  He's now betting that he can reshape the energy industry with a project akin to shipping Windows once and having it work, bug-free, for 50 years.

Thanks to his role funding and guiding a start-up called TerraPower LLC, where he serves as chairman, Mr. Gates has become a player in a field of inventors whose goal is to make nuclear reactors smaller, cheaper and safer than today's nuclear energy sources. The 30-person company recently completed a basic design for a reactor that theoretically could run untouched for decades on spent nuclear fuel. Now the company is seeking a partner to help build the experimental reactor, and a country willing to host it.

It's a long-term, risky endeavor for Mr. Gates and his fellow investors. The idea will require years to test, billions of dollars (not all from him) and changes in U.S. nuclear regulations if the reactor is to be built here. Current U.S. rules don't even cover the type of technology TerraPower hopes to use.

"A cheaper reactor design that can burn waste and doesn't run into fuel limitations would be a big thing," Mr. Gates says. He adds that in general "capitalism underinvests in innovation," particularly in areas with "long time horizons and where government regulations are unclear."

TerraPower is one of a host of inventors, reactor makers and electric utilities trying to kick-start innovation in a field that hasn't seen a big technological advance in decades. President Barack Obama wants to help, too, designating $853 million for nuclear research, including small-scale reactors, in his proposed 2012 budget.

The type of reactor TerraPower is working on, a traveling-wave reactor, could reduce the need for enrichment and reprocessing of uranium. Executives at the Bellevue, Wash., company say their reactor could even be buried in the ground, where it could run for 100 years.

Green Wood
To understand how a traveling-wave reactor works, think of a wood-burning stove. Today's reactors use dried wood—enriched uranium-235—that burns hot and quickly. A traveling-wave reactor would start with a little bit of dried wood to get a hot flame going, but most of the fuel would be green, or wet, wood—depleted uranium-238. The wet logs wouldn't burn as hot as the dried ones, but they would continue to burn long after the hot flame goes out.

Burning the enriched uranium would shoot neutrons into the depleted uranium making up roughly 90% of the fuel. That process would produce plutonium, which would create energy as it continued to get hit by even more neutrons. It's a slow, controlled reaction that could continue over many years without need of human intervention. And in TerraPower's design, the core of the reactor, where fission takes place, would be small: a cylinder about 10 feet wide and 13 feet long.

Another plus: Large supplies of depleted uranium are available as a byproduct of today's water-cooled reactors. Removing it from those reactors and reprocessing it for reuse is a costly procedure, and a source of worry that radioactive material might fall into the wrong hands. Reducing the need for reprocessing could save money and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The idea for traveling-wave reactors has been around for decades but was mothballed amid waning U.S. interest in nuclear power. Then came a boost in the 1990s from a research paper by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, including Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb and the brain behind Ronald Reagan's Star Wars missile-defense initiative; and an acolyte of Mr. Teller's named Lowell Wood.

Mr. Wood recently found a receptive ear in Nathan Myrhvold, a former Microsoft executive and head of Intellectual Ventures, a patent and invention firm in Bellevue. Mr. Myrhvold is a close friend of Mr. Gates, who is also an investor in Intellectual Ventures. In recent years the three men have done a lot of brainstorming about future technologies, including the traveling-wave reactor.

The reactor idea intrigued Mr. Gates, who was studying energy and climate change at the time. Among the reactor's other potential advantages, Mr. Gates says he was interested in its potential for producing cheap, zero-carbon energy and its ability to turn "what is a waste product into fuel."

Mr. Gates got the project rolling with seed money in the tens of millions of dollars. Venture-capital firms Charles River Ventures and Khosla Ventures invested $35 million last year. Nuclear-industry veteran John Gilleland is TerraPower's chief executive; a network of part-time researchers and scientists around the country offer input.

Looking for a Home
The traveling-wave reactor is still virtual, existing only in software on computers at TerraPower headquarters. Mr. Myrhvold says there is a basic design, not a full blueprint. But it's enough for the next step: building a test version of the reactor. TerraPower is looking for a customer, such as an electric utility, and a country that is willing to house an experimental reactor.

The company has made pitches in France and Japan, Mr. Myrhvold says; both have big nuclear-power industries. He's also made the rounds in Russia, China and India, he says. So far, there have been no takers.

One country he is certain won't be a customer anytime soon is the U.S., which doesn't yet have a certification process for reactors like TerraPower's. It would likely be a decade or more before the reactor could be tested on U.S. soil. "I don't think the U.S. has the willpower or desire to build new kinds of nuclear reactors," Mr. Myrhvold says. "Right now there's a long, drawn-out process."

Policy experts say that's with good cause. "Our regulatory process, while burdensome, is there for a reason, and it does represent the gold standard around the world for nuclear safety," says Paul Genoa, director of policy development at the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington.

Mr. Myrhvold says he hopes the process will speed up and spark innovation to meet the world's growing energy demand. "Let's try 20 ideas," he says. "Maybe five of them work. That's the only way to invent our way out of the pickle we're in."

Mr. Guth is the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at

23094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: That is what community organizers do on: February 28, 2011, 11:27:07 AM
February 22, 2011
But That’s What Community Organizers Do
by Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media

During the Republican convention of 2008, Rudy Giuliani rhetorically asked: what is a community organizer? I think we always knew the answer without even referencing the guidebook of Saul Alinsky.

President Obama need not worry about budget deficits in the manner of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Unlike state officials, he can print money, and raise fees and taxes. The nation’s more affluent, unlike blue-state refugees seeking red-state low tax sanctuaries, cannot flee anywhere. That makes it easy for President Obama to weigh in on the Wisconsin unrest by suggesting an insolvent state government was more interested in destroying the public unions than meeting a $3 billion budget shortfall.

That characteristic eagerness to grandstand on extraneous issues, while ignoring federal crises, is characteristic of this administration. It will not make meaningful progress in addressing its own massive trillion-dollar debts, reexamine the looming disaster of ObamaCare, gear up to produce more gas and oil in the face of skyrocketing energy costs, or seriously explore ways to get unemployment down below 9%.

Yet in the last twenty-four months, we have learned that the president will indeed declare that: the governor of Wisconsin is using his state budget disaster largely to punish public servants; the police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, act “stupidly” and racially stereotype minorities (“typically”) as do most police departments; the state of Arizona harasses Hispanic children when they go out to eat ice cream, and thus Mexico’s efforts to sue the state should be joined by the US government; much of our ills are due to “fat cat” bankers who junket to Las Vegas and the Super Bowl and cannot seem to grasp that at some point they have made enough money; the pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Tehran are not to be encouraged by our “meddling” (because of our past sins of involvement in Iran), but their counterparts in Cairo are to be encouraged by our meddling (despite our past sins of involvement in Egypt).

In addition, why would the president call for “sacrifice” in lean times, advising Americans to cut out going to dinner and to “put off” a vacation — while favoring Martha’s Vineyard for vacation, as the first lady (of erstwhile “downright mean country” repute) seems especially fond of Vail ski escapes in winter and Costa del Sol Mediterranean jaunts in summer? Is not symbolism important in these hard times?

Why, why, why all this? In a word, because that is what community organizers are supposed to do, even — or rather, especially — when they become the establishment. Cannot we answer Giuliani’s question? As a general rule, the “organizer” is not indigenous to the community, but as a sort of roaming utopian he travels widely to detect supposed foci of injustice (think an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson), even to the point of worrying about professors being locked out of their homes or the tranquility of ice cream parlors in Arizona.

Almost immediately there is an artificial divide constructed between an oppressive “them” and a victimized “us,” usually on rigid class, gender, and racial lines. Some such university study is cited to “prove” injustice based on the absence of parity in income, healthcare, or education. Then the community organizer rallies the “community” to “get in their face” and agitate, which can encompass anything from suing in court, holding mass rallies, conducting voter registration drives with accordant intimidation, visiting the private homes of supposedly culpable officials, bankers, and the wealthy, and threatening strikes, slow-downs and disruptions. These metaphorical “hostage takers” must be “punished” as “enemies,” relegated to a proverbial backseat, and in such a fight have their knives rhetorically trumped by our guns.

Indeed, the supposed exploiters are deemed “fat cats” who often favor “Wall Street,” enjoy privileges that accord them Super Bowl or Las Vegas junkets, continually “raise the bar” on the rest of us folks, and can’t seem to figure out that at some point they have surely made enough money from others.

The remedy is always adolescent — the perceived government program and entitlement are demanded without any worry about who is to fund them or how. The community’s perceived “needs” are the sole point of contention, not society’s ability to meet them. The assumption of the community organizer is that there is an amorphous “they” (so often white, male, heterosexual, upper-middle class, Christian) who have done something wrong, or whose ancestors have done something wrong, that both results in their own present privilege and requires appropriate redress, in the moral sense.

The logic is circular — more public money to deserving constituents ensures political support and in turn requires higher taxes from others to pay for it, a two-pronged redistribution plan of taking from the undeserving to allot to the more worthy. Absent from the community organizer’s ideology is any sense that the individual might in some cases bear some responsibility for the ensuing inequality — encounters with the criminal justice system, poor family planning, reckless use of easy credit, involvement with dangerous and addictive drugs, no interest in formal education, or adoption of a popular culture that promotes anti-intellectualism, misogyny, illegitimacy, and defiance of accepted norms. Again, some sort of deliberate prejudice is more likely, and thus state money is justified as a sort of reparation for the collective sins of society, as well as a wise investment to prevent social disequilibrium, if not outright public unrest.

Note the flip side: those who are better off enjoy such benefaction largely as a result of birth, privilege based on the exploitation of others, bias against someone who does look like them, random chance, accident, illegality, or immorality — rarely is success due to harder work, careful planning, more education and training, deferred gratification, or wiser personal decisions. The point is not how someone got more than others, but the suspect system that allowed them to get that more — and how to correct it.

There is never any followup (think audit of the second stimulus, or reexamination of ObamaCare) about the cost effectiveness of the new grant or program. The key is getting the money, not ensuring that it is well used. The organizer — often far better educated than his constituents — then moves on, either to other crisis spots or into politics on his way up his planned cursus honorum. Moreover, the organizer feels a certain sense of entitlement, given his good works — an exemption as it were to live a particular and much deserved lifestyle not always that different from (and indeed at times far better than) the supposed purveyors of social injustice. That the creation of huge entitlements creates social dependency, disrupts traditional local and family networks of mutual help and reliance, emphasizes poverty entirely in a political rather than a spiritual framework, or enables rather than addresses destructive behavior is of less interest to the careerist organizer — either because he sees problems only in classical material terms, or because he is long gone after the money is allotted, or because unanticipated disasters are not his purview, or because dependency, not alleviation of pathology, is the more important goal.

So we should cease being surprised that the president editorializes about extraneous issues while ignoring critical ones, or that the administration is now addressing breast pumps, or that Obama has ignored the findings of his own debt commission, or that he has added 200,000 new federal workers at a time of fiscal insolvency, and on and on.

You see, that is what community organizers do, now and in the past.

©2011 Victor Davis Hanson
23095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH calls for death panels? on: February 28, 2011, 11:14:49 AM
A NY TImes (Pravda on the Hudson) editorial today:

The number of kidneys available for transplants falls far short of the need, so there is no choice but to ration them. An emotionally difficult proposal to change the first-come-first-served transplant system makes good sense.

There are nearly 90,000 people on waiting lists to receive kidney transplants, and in 2009 there were only some 10,400 kidneys from dead donors to give them. And about 6,300 kidneys were transplanted from living people who donated one of their two kidneys and usually specified the recipient.

Currently the kidneys from dead donors are provided, through an organ procurement and transplantation network, to people who have been waiting the longest. That may seem fair since many transplant candidates wait for years, and some die while waiting.

But the system has serious shortcomings. Some elderly recipients get kidneys that could function far longer than they will live and that could have done more good for a younger recipient. Some younger recipients get kidneys that will fail and will need to be replaced, using up another scarce kidney.

These problems could be eased through a proposal under consideration at the transplant network to better match the likely longevity of the patient with the likely functional life of the kidney.

The patients and kidneys would each be graded separately. About 20 percent of the kidneys predicted to have the longest functional lives would be provided to the youngest and healthiest patients. The other 80 percent of kidneys would go to patients who are no more than 15 years older or younger than the donor.

The approach seems likely to make it harder for elderly people to get a kidney. But when kidneys are already scarce — and apt to get scarcer as much of the population ages and sickens — it is a rational choice.

23096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: AQ at crossroads on: February 28, 2011, 11:03:05 AM

Published: February 27, 2011
For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role.

 In fact, the motley opposition movements that have appeared so suddenly and proved so powerful have shunned the two central tenets of the Qaeda credo: murderous violence and religious fanaticism. The demonstrators have used force defensively, treated Islam as an afterthought and embraced democracy, which is anathema to Osama bin Laden and his followers.
So for Al Qaeda — and perhaps no less for the American policies that have been built around the threat it poses — the democratic revolutions that have gripped the world’s attention present a crossroads. Will the terrorist network shrivel slowly to irrelevance? Or will it find a way to exploit the chaos produced by political upheaval and the disappointment that will inevitably follow hopes now raised so high?

For many specialists on terrorism and the Middle East, though not all, the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism.

“So far — and I emphasize so far — the score card looks pretty terrible for Al Qaeda,” said Paul R. Pillar, who studied terrorism and the Middle East for nearly three decades at the C.I.A. and is now at Georgetown University. “Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”

If the terrorists network’s leaders hope to seize the moment, they have been slow off the mark. Mr. bin Laden has been silent. His Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has issued three rambling statements from his presumed hide-out in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region that seemed oddly out of sync with the news, not noting the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose government detained and tortured Mr. Zawahri in the 1980s.

“Knocking off Mubarak has been Zawahri’s goal for more than 20 years, and he was unable to achieve it,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert at the New America Foundation. “Now a nonviolent, nonreligious, pro-democracy movement got rid of him in a matter of weeks. It’s a major problem for Al Qaeda.”

The Arab revolutions, of course, remain very much a work in progress, as the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, orders a bloody defense of Tripoli, and Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, negotiates to cling to power. The breakdown of order could create havens for terrorist cells, at least for a time — a hazard both Colonel Qaddafi and Mr. Saleh have prevented, winning the gratitude of the American government.

“There’s an operational advantage for militants in any place where law enforcement and domestic security are weak and distracted,” said Steven Simon, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of “The Age of Sacred Terror.” But over all, he said, developments in the Arab countries are a strategic defeat for violent jihadism.

“These uprisings have shown that the new generation is not terribly interested in Al Qaeda’s ideology,” Mr. Simon said. He called the Zawahri statements “forlorn, if not pathetic.”

There is evidence that the uprisings have enthralled some jihadists. One Algerian man associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the network’s North African affiliate, welcomed the uprisings in a weekend interview and said militants were returning from exile to join the battle in Libya, arming themselves from government weapons caches.

“Since the land is in chaos and Qaddafi is helping through his reactions and actions to increase the hatred of the population against him, it will be easier for us to recruit new members,” said the Algerian man, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Salman. He said that Libyans and Tunisians who had fought in Iraq or Afghanistan were now considering a return home.

“There is lots of work to do,” he said. “We have to help the people fighting and then build an Islamic state.”

Abu Khaled, a Jordanian jihadist who fought in Iraq with the insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, suggested that Al Qaeda would benefit in the long run from dashed hopes.

“At the end of the day, how much change will there really be in Egypt and other countries?” he asked. “There will be many disappointed demonstrators, and that’s when they will realize what the only alternative is. We are certain that this will all play into our hands.”

Michael Scheuer, author of a new biography of Mr. bin Laden and head of the C.I.A.’s bin Laden unit in the late 1990s, thinks such enthusiasm is more than wishful thinking.

Mr. Scheuer says he believes that Americans, including many experts, have wildly misjudged the uprisings by focusing on the secular, English-speaking, Westernized protesters who are a natural draw for television. Thousands of Islamists have been released from prisons in Egypt alone, and the ouster of Al Qaeda’s enemy, Mr. Mubarak, will help revitalize every stripe of Islamism, including that of Al Qaeda and its allies, he said.

“The talent of an organization is not just leadership, but taking advantage of opportunities,” Mr. Scheuer said. In Al Qaeda and its allies, he said, “We’re looking over all at a more geographically widespread, probably numerically bigger and certainly more influential movement than in 2001.”

If Al Qaeda faces an uncertain moment, so does the Obama administration. For a decade, the United States has been preoccupied with the Muslim world as a source of terrorist violence — one reason both the Bush and Obama administrations had friendly relations with the authoritarian governments now under fire.

It was such a dominant theme of American policy that even Colonel Qaddafi, the quixotic and brutal Libyan leader who President Obama said Saturday should step down, had drawn American praise as a bulwark against jihadists. A cable from the American Embassy in Tripoli briefing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before a 2008 visit called Libya “a strong partner in the war against terrorism,” noting “excellent” intelligence cooperation and specifically lauding Colonel Qaddafi’s efforts to block the return of Libyan militants from Afghanistan and Iraq and to “blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.”

Such perceived dividends of cooperation with the likes of Colonel Qaddafi are now history, and that is a point not lost on the C.I.A., the State Department and the White House. As during the United States’ halting adjustment to the fall of Communist governments from 1989 to 1991, officials are scrambling to balance day-to-day crisis management with consideration of how American policy must adjust for the long term.

“There has to be a major rethinking of how the U.S. engages with that part of the world,” said Christopher Boucek, who studies the Middle East at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We have to make clear that our security no longer comes at the expense of poor governance and no rights for the people in those countries.

“All of the givens,” Mr. Boucek said, “are gone.”

Souad Mekhennet contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / DOMA on: February 28, 2011, 10:51:08 AM
"Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness." --James Wilson

Opinion in Brief

Obama's next plan for America?"Attorney General Eric Holder announced that President Obama had concluded that the administration would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. ... As he has in so many other areas (EPA, the offshore drilling ban, IMF), Obama has usurped the authority of the other two coequal branches of government to make himself, in effect, not just chief executive but super-legislator and a supreme judicial authority. Holder admitted in his statement that the Justice Department 'has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense,' but not otherwise. But it is preposterous to suggest there are no reasonable arguments to defend the statute when 5,000 years of human history and the express act of Congress fly in the face of that statement. According to professor John Yoo, 'in the few cases that the Supreme Court has heard gay rights cases, it has never adopted (the standard Obama is applying).' In announcing a new standard, Obama claims that the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since DOMA was passed. You know the drill: Society has 'evolved.' ... t is not Obama's place to make this determination, especially when the people have already done so in such emphatic terms through their duly elected congressmen. ... [W]e have an imperial president who is refusing to enforce a law passed by powerful congressional majorities while persisting in enforcing a law (Obamacare) that two federal courts have already invalidated. The only common denominator is that Obama believes he is the law." --columnist David Limbaugh

"One of the most insidious practices of the insidious Obama Justice Department is the sabotaging of litigation -- i.e., DOJ purports to defend some statute or government policy so that it can appear to be moderate, but uses its resulting control over how the case gets litigated to forfeit some of the best legal arguments supporting the statute/policy. This way, DOJ can steer the case toward the radical outcome the Obama base desires rather than the outcome DOJ is ostensibly pursuing. On balance, I far prefer that Obama's Justice Department openly advocates for the outcome desired by Obama's base, as it is finally doing with DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. This way, the court can appoint lawyers who will truly defend the statute with the best legal arguments available. ... Regardless of where the DOMA litigation goes from here, what's interesting is the administration's political calculation as the president gears up for the 2012 campaign. Obama has clearly decided that it's more important to be publicly aligned with his base -- which he desperately needs to drum up enthusiasm for his reelection -- than to pursue the more subtle (and effective, albeit unethical) strategy of masquerading as DOMA's defender while actually undermining the statute." --columnist Andrew C. McCarthy

23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU on: February 28, 2011, 09:04:24 AM
But were those claims not put to rest with the deals under Bush 2 accepting the surrender of his nuke program?
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: February 28, 2011, 09:03:08 AM
GM's point is rational, but , , , this is politics.

And there is also Newt's brief dalliance with global warming, and his backing of a liberal in Republican clothing in that special election in upstate NY because that was who the Rep machine chose. 

I too would like to seem him run and to see what the response is.
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU on: February 28, 2011, 08:48:16 AM
Mubarak and his military were not gunning down his people; Mubarak did not have a long list of terrorism (Lockerbie and more); Mubarak had not tried developing nukes; Mubark HAD kept a peace treaty with Israel, etc etc.

Libya appears to offer a clear cut opportunity for the US to stand for people fighting oppression, yet BO could not even name Kaddafy and has failed to prepare meaningful options.
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