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23101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Destabilizing from within? on: June 17, 2009, 12:20:59 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Islamic Republic Destabilizing From Within?
June 16, 2009
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran on Monday to protest results of the June 12 election, which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. State broadcasters reported that seven people were killed in shooting that erupted after the Basij militia opened fire on protesters, who hurled rocks at a Basij compound near the main protest. The protests have now spread beyond Tehran to several other cities.

Clearly, the situation on the streets has escalated exponentially since the initial weekend protests in Tehran, when the number of demonstrators was much lower. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters are likely to lead to greater unrest in the days ahead; such events tend to feed off one another and build in intensity. The last time Iran experienced so great a level of unrest was during the 1979 revolution, which brought the current regime to power. Consequently, questions are being raised about the stability of the Islamic Republic.

These questions are not being raised only by outside observers. In fact, we are told that the most powerful figures within the clerical establishment — including the second most powerful cleric, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — have warned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the situation could metastasize and lead to the collapse of the regime unless election results are annulled and a fresh vote ordered. Rafsanjani is joined by many other powerful conservatives, who are working behind the scenes to steer the country away from what appears to be an increasingly explosive situation.

Rafsanjani and those who agree with him are obviously concerned about the almost unprecedented unrest on the streets and the possibility that it could destabilize the regime from within. But the radical advice of these conservatives to the Supreme Leader is being driven by the threat to their own political interests that comes not from the public, but from Ahmadinejad and his allies — who would like to use their election win to set the stage for an eventual purge of Rafsanjani and those like him. In other words, Ahmadinejad’s enemies within the system would like to use the current crisis to launch a preemptive strike and neutralize the threat they face from his re-election.

Khamenei, who has long acted as the ultimate arbiter between factions in Tehran, is therefore in the biggest quandary of his political career. He does not want to see the Islamic Republic collapse on his watch. But he has little room to maneuver: He can neither contain the unrest in the streets without a brutal crackdown that could radicalize both the opposition and key government factions, nor can he move easily toward a fresh vote. Ahmadinejad and his allies will not back down after winning what was, ostensibly, a landslide election in their favor.

While many compelling arguments have been made about the improbability of Ahmadinejad winning the election by several million votes, there is insufficient empirical evidence to support the claim of fraud. Foul play on such a large scale would not be possible without the involvement of a very large number of people. Furthermore, requests for the kind of data that could corroborate such fraud have been ignored.

Iran’s powerful Guardians Council, which must certify the election results, has begun a probe into the matter, and therefore it is quite possible that in the next several days such evidence may emerge. But what is stunning is how, thus far, there have been no leaks to the press on the details of the alleged vote tampering. So long as there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing, Ahmadinejad’s opponents cannot make a convincing case against his government.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict the trajectory of events — but this election has clearly resulted in a breach within the Islamic Republic that could prove difficult to mend, regardless of the outcome of the clash between the president and his opponents. Until Friday’s vote, Iran had proven quite resilient — weathering a devastating eight-year war, decades of international sanctions, multiple rebel groups, and a long confrontation with the United States. In the last four days, the regime has found that the greatest threat to its existence comes from within.
23102  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: toronto dbma training camp featuring Crafty Dog, Top Dog and Sled Dog Aug 21-23 on: June 16, 2009, 09:05:39 PM
Woof Dog Rene:

Would you please post here EXACTLY what you want us to post on our seminar page.

Thank you,
Guro C.
23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Delphi on: June 16, 2009, 12:50:03 PM
The Obama Administration's fast-track sale of bankrupt auto-parts supplier Delphi hit a speed bump late last week when Judge Robert Drain ordered that Delphi conduct an open auction for its assets. That has a number of distressed-debt investors circling. It may also mean that the public will get some answers about the curiously structured sale that GM had quietly put forward the same day it filed for bankruptcy protection itself.

Under that deal, a bankrupt GM -- which is to say, taxpayers -- was set to provide most of the funding for Delphi's exit from bankruptcy, with private-equity firm Platinum Equity throwing in some cash and getting a sizable equity stake in return. The investors who have so far provided most of the debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing during Delphi's four-year bankruptcy case would have gotten as little as 20 cents on the dollar -- almost unheard-of in bankruptcy cases.

Those investors cried foul, pointing out that DIP financers generally have the right to take control of the company if they can't be paid in full. GM and the government at first threatened to play hardball, claiming that Platinum was the only buyer acceptable to GM and so its deal was the only one on the table. Judge Drain wasn't buying it, however. "I don't know what makes Platinum acceptable to GM and why Platinum is unique," he said. "Unless I hear more, there's something going on here that doesn't to me make sense."

That's putting it mildly. When the government arranged the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, it noted with some justification that, as the DIP financer for the cases, it had wide latitude to determine the companies' fates and ownership structure. But when it comes to Delphi's private DIP lenders, it has taken a very different position, apparently in the interests of wrapping up Delphi's case as quickly as possible to speed GM's own exit from bankruptcy. Taxpayers and investors alike deserve to know more about what looks like a sweetheart deal for one favored group of investors, and Judge Drain deserves kudos for putting on the brakes.
23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 16, 2009, 11:02:24 AM
Good source of economic charts and other data:

http://zimor.com/
23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Netanyahu's speech on: June 16, 2009, 08:53:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Netanyahu's Speech and the Peace Process
June 15, 2009
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday gave his long-awaited speech, which was in effect a response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s demand that Israel stop expanding its settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu framed his response in the context of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory. His argument was essentially that the problem was not the presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank, but rather the attitude of Palestinians, Arabs and Iranians to Israel. In doing this, Netanyahu is trying to transform the discussion of the Palestinian peace process, particularly in the United States.

Netanyahu argued that the occupation was not the problem. First, he pointed out that Palestinians had rejected peace with Israel prior to 1967, just as much as after. He went on to say, “Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.” In other words, the U.S. demand for a halt to settlement expansions misses the point. There was no peace before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, and there was no peace when Israel withdrew or offered to withdraw from those territories.

Therefore, he argued, the problem is not what Israel does, but what the Palestinians do, and the core of the problem is the refusal of the Palestinians and others to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Essentially, the problem is that the Palestinians want to destroy Israel — not that Israel is occupying Palestinian territories.

The prime minister went on to make an offer that is radically different from the traditional concept of two states. He accepted the idea of a Palestinian state — but only as a disarmed entity, with Israel retaining security rights in the territories. Having defined the problem as Palestinian hostility, he redefined the solution as limiting Palestinian power.

This clearly puts Netanyahu on a collision course with the Obama administration. He rejected the call to stop the expansion of settlements. He has accepted the idea of a two-state solution — but on the condition that it includes disarmament for the Palestinians — and he has rejected the notion of “land for peace,” restructuring it as “land after peace.” This is not a new position by Netanyahu, and it will come no surprise to the United States.

The game Obama is playing is broader than the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He is trying to reshape the perception of the United States in the Islamic world. In his view, if he can do that, the threat to the United States from terrorism will decline and the United States’ ability to pursue its interests in the Muslim world will improve. This is the essential strategy Washington is pursuing, while maintaining a presence in Iraq and prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

There is obviously a tension in U.S. policy. In order for this strategy to work, Obama must deliver something, and the thing that he believes will have the most value is a substantial Israeli gesture leading to a resumption of the peace process. That’s why Obama focused on settlements: It was substantial and immediate, and carried with it some pain for Israel.

Netanyahu has refused to play. He has rejected not only the settlements issue but also the basic concepts behind the peace process that the United States has been pushing for a generation. He has rejected land for peace and, in some ways, the principle of full Palestinian sovereignty. Rather than giving Obama what he wanted, Netanyahu is taking things off the table.

Netanyahu has said his piece. Now Obama must decide what, if anything, he is going to do about it. He has few choices other than to persuade Netanyahu to back off, sanction Israel or let it slide. Netanyahu cannot be persuaded, but he might be forced. Sanctioning Israel in the wake of the Iranian election would not be easy to do. Letting it slide undermines Obama’s wider strategy in the Muslim world.

Netanyahu has called Obama’s hand. All Obama can do is pass, fold or raise. According to Reuters, the White House has responded to Netanyahu’s speech by announcing that Obama “believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel’s security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a viable state.” Obama is trying to pass for the moment. The Arabs won’t let him do that for long.
23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Corruption, Skullduggery, and Treason on: June 16, 2009, 08:40:55 AM
Glenn Beck has done some good work bringing attention to this case:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Whats-behind-Obamas-sudden-firing-of-the-AmeriCorps-inspector-general-47877797.html


Today the WSJ jumps in:

President Obama swept to office on the promise of a new kind of politics, but then how do you explain last week's dismissal of federal Inspector General Gerald Walpin for the crime of trying to protect taxpayer dollars? This is a case that smells of political favoritism and Chicago rules.

A George W. Bush appointee, Mr. Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.

 
Associated Press
 
Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation For National and Community Service, was fired by President Barack Obama.
Mr. Walpin's investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.

At the end of May, Mr. Walpin's office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be "suspended" from receiving federal funds. The Corporation's official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin's office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

So far, so normal. But that all changed last fall, when Mr. Johnson was elected mayor of Sacramento. News of the suspension had become public, and President Obama began to discuss his federal stimulus spending. A city-hired attorney pronounced in March that Sacramento might be barred from receiving stimulus funds because of Mr. Johnson's suspension.

The news caused a public uproar. The U.S. Attorney's office, which since January has been headed by Lawrence Brown -- a career prosecutor who took over when the Bush-appointed Attorney left -- had already decided not to pursue criminal charges. Media and political pressure then mounted for the office to settle the issue and lift Mr. Johnson's suspension. Mr. Walpin agreed Mr. Johnson should pay back money but objected to lifting the suspension. He noted that Mr. Johnson has never officially responded to the Corporation's findings and that the entire point of suspension is to keep federal funds from individuals shown to have misused them.

Mr. Brown's office responded by cutting off contact with Mr. Walpin's office and began working directly with the Corporation, the board of which is now chaired by one of Mr. Obama's top campaign fundraisers, Alan Solomont. A few days later, Mr. Brown's office produced a settlement draft that significantly watered down any financial repayment and cleared Mr. Johnson. Mr. Walpin told us that in all his time working with U.S. Attorneys on cases he'd referred, he'd never been cut out in such fashion.

Mr. Walpin brought his concerns to the Corporation's board, but some board members were angry over a separate Walpin investigation into the wrongful disbursement of $80 million to the City University of New York. Concerned about the St. HOPE mess, Mr. Walpin wrote a 29-page report, signed by two other senior members of his office, and submitted it in April to Congress. Last Wednesday, he got a phone call from a White House lawyer telling him to resign within an hour or be fired.

We've long disliked the position of inspectors general, on grounds that they are creatures of Congress designed to torment the executive. Yet this case appears to be one in which an IG was fired because he criticized a favorite Congressional and executive project (AmeriCorps), and refused to bend to political pressure to let the Sacramento mayor have his stimulus dollars.

There's also the question of how Mr. Walpin was terminated. He says the phone call came from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, who said the President felt it was time for Mr. Walpin to "move on," and that it was "pure coincidence" he was asked to leave during the St. HOPE controversy. Yet the Administration has already had to walk back that claim.

That's because last year Congress passed the Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the President to give Congress 30 days notice, plus a reason, before firing an inspector general. A co-sponsor of that bill was none other than Senator Obama. Having failed to pressure Mr. Walpin into resigning (which in itself might violate the law), the Administration was forced to say he'd be terminated in 30 days, and to tell Congress its reasons.

White House Counsel Gregory Craig cited a complaint that had been lodged against Mr. Walpin by Mr. Brown, the U.S. Attorney, accusing Mr. Walpin of misconduct, and of not really having the goods on Mr. Johnson. But this is curious given that Mr. Brown himself settled with St. HOPE, Mr. Johnson and his assistant, an agreement that required St. HOPE (with a financial assist from Mr. Johnson) to repay approximately half of the grant, and also required Mr. Johnson to take an online course about bookkeeping.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, a co-sponsor of the IG Reform Act, is now demanding that the Corporation hand over its communications on this mess. He also wants to see any contact with the office of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has taken a particular interest in AmeriCorps, and whose former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, recently arrived at the Corporation as a "senior adviser."

If this seems like small beer, keep in mind that Mr. Obama promised to carefully watch how every stimulus dollar is spent. In this case, the evidence suggests that his White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.
23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Spengler on: June 16, 2009, 08:20:39 AM
second post

 Feb 24, 2009 
 
 
 
 Sex, drugs and Islam
By Spengler

Political Islam returned to the world stage with Ruhollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution in Iran, which became the most aggressive patron of Muslim radicals outside its borders, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers
have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the "decadent" West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

"Iran is dying for a fight," I wrote in 2007 (Please see Why Iran is dying for a fight, November 13, 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.

Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American "great Satan" have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran's leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran's neighbors.

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing.

First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later, and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution ... they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law."

There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. "A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women," I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world's hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran's prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today's Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran's prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.

A year ago I observed that prices for Tehran luxury apartments exceeded those in Paris, as Iran's kleptocracy distributed the oil windfall to tens of thousands of hangers-on of the revolution. $35 billion went missing from state oil funds, opposition newspapers charged at the time. Corruption evidently has made whores of Tehran's educated women. (Please see Worst of times for Iran, June 24, 2008.)

Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, "Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts." That is, 5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent (from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population.

Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China's throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran's startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization.

For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran's youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country's Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.

As I reported in the cited essay, the potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. This winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat.

The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.

In a recent paper entitled "Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran [2], American and Iranian demographers observe:
A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country and only 1.5 for the Tehran area (which has about 8 million people) ... A decline in the TFR [total fertility rate] of more than 5.0 in roughly two decades is a world record in fertility decline. This is even more surprising to many observers when one considers that it happened in one of the most Islamic societies. It forces the analyst to reconsider many of the usual stereotypes about religious fertility differentials.
The census points to a continued fall in fertility, even from today's extremely low levels, the paper maintains.

Most remarkable is the collapse of rural fertility in tandem with urban fertility, the paper adds:
The similarity of the transition in both urban and rural areas is one the main features of the fertility transition in Iran. There was a considerable gap between the fertility in rural and urban areas, but the TFR in both rural and urban areas continued to decline by the mid-1990s, and the gap has narrowed substantially. In 1980, the TFR in rural areas was 8.4 while that of urban areas was 5.6. In other words, there was a gap of 2.8 children between rural and urban areas. In 2006, the TFR in rural and urban areas was 2.1 and 1.8, respectively (a difference of only 0.3 children).
What the professors hoped to demonstrate is that as rural literacy levels in Iran caught up with urban literacy levels, the corresponding urban and rural fertility rates also converged. That is a perfectly reasonable conjecture whose only flaw is that the data on which it is founded were faked by the Iranian regime.

The Iranian government's official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran's Literacy Movement Organization admitted last year (according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008) that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million (or an adult population of about 52 million). This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data.

A better explanation of Iran's population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini's revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process.

Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran's collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.

Theocracy subjects religion to a political test; it is hard for Iranians to repudiate the regime and remain pious, for religious piety and support for political Islam are inseparable, as a recent academic study documented from survey data [3].

As in the decline of communism, what follows on the breakdown of a state ideology is likely to be nihilism. Iran is a dying country, and it is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with a nation all of whose available choices terminate in oblivion.

[1] Der Standard, Die Wahrheit hinter der islamischen Fassade
.

[2] Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran
.

[3] Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran, by Gunes Murat Tezcur and Tagh Azadarmaki.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 
   
 
 

 
 

 

23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: June 16, 2009, 07:47:14 AM
"It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823
23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler on: June 16, 2009, 07:34:51 AM
Middle East

Jun 16, 2009

 


Hedgehogs and flamingos in Tehran
By Spengler

In Wonderland, Alice played croquet with hedgehogs and flamingos. In the Middle East, United States President Barack Obama is attempting the same thing, but with rats and cobras. Not only do they move at inconvenient times, but they bite the players. Iran's presidential election on Friday underscores the Wonderland character of American policy in the region.

America's proposed engagement of Iran has run up against the reality of the region, namely that Iran cannot "moderate" its support for its fractious Shi'ite allies from Beirut to Pakistan's northwest frontier. It also shows how misguided Obama was to assume that progress on the Palestinian issue would help America solve more urgent strategic problems, such as Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons.

By assigning 64% of the popular vote to incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in last weekend's elections, Iran's reigning mullahs, if there was indeed rigging, made a statement - but to whom? The trumpet which dare not sound an uncertain note was a call to Tehran's Shi'ite constituency, as well as to a fifth of Pakistani Muslims. Religious establishments by their nature are conservative, and they engage in radical acts only in need.

Tehran is tugged forward by the puppies of war: Hezbollah in Lebanon and its co-sectarians in Pakistan. With a population of 170 million, Pakistan has 20 million men of military age, as many as Iran and Turkey combined; by 2035 it will have half again as many. It also has nuclear weapons. And it is in danger of disintegration.

Against a young, aggressive and unstable Pakistan, Iran seems a moribund competitor. Iran's fertility decline is the fastest that demographers ever have observed. As I reported on this site last February (Sex, drugs and Islam, February 24, 2009), Iranian fertility by some accounts has fallen below the level of 1.9 births per female registered in the 2006 census to only 1.6, barely above Germany's.

Collapsing fertility is accompanied by social pathologies, including rates of drug addiction and prostitution an order of magnitude greater than in any Western country. Of the 15 countries that show the biggest drop in population growth since 1980, eight are in the Middle East, and the head of the United Nations population division calls the collapse of Islamic population growth "amazing". Pakistan is the great exception, and that makes it the fulcrum of the Muslim world.

Ahmadinejad's invective may be aimed at Jerusalem, but his eye is fixed on Islamabad. That explains the decisions of his masters in Tehran's religious establishment who may have rigged, or at least exaggerated, his election victory. Pakistan's ongoing civil war has a critical sectarian component which the Shi'ites never sought: the Taliban claim legitimacy as the Muslim leadership of the country on the strength of their militancy against the country's Shi'ite minority. Were the Taliban to succeed in crushing Pakistan's Shi'ites, Iran's credibility as a Shi'ite power would fade, along with its ability to project influence in the region.

As Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes asks, "Why did [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei select Ahmadinejad to "win" the election? Why did he not chose a president-puppet who would present a smile to the world, including Obama, handle the economy competently, not rile the population, and whose selection would not inspire riots that might destabilize the regime? Has Khamenei fallen under the spell of Ahmadinejad or does he have some clever ploy up his sleeve? Whatever the answer is, it baffles me."

The issue is less baffling when raw numbers are taken into account. The issues on which Iran's supposed moderation might be relevant, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, are less pressing for Tehran than the problems on its eastern border. Of the world's 200 million Shi'ite Muslims, about 30% reside in Iran. Another 10% live in neighboring Iraq, and comprise about two-thirds of the country's population. Yet another 30% of the Shi'ite live in the Indian sub-continent, about equally divided between India and Pakistan. Pakistani Shi'ites make up only about one-fifth of the country's population. Their numbers are just large enough to make the Sunnis ill at ease with their presence.

                           Shi'ite                         Sunni

 

TOTAL                   219,667,367            1,238,699,792

Iran                        61,924,500                  6,880,500

Pakistan                  33,160,712               127,668,738

India                       30,900,000               123,600,000

Iraq                        18,158,400                  9,777,600

Turkey                    14,550,000                 58,200,000


Shi'ite leaders of the region believe that they stand on the verge of an irreversible breakdown of Islamic civilization, a thesis which Iraqi leader Ali W Allawi argued forcefully in a recent book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. Allawi wrote, "The much heralded Islamic 'awakening' of recent times will not be a prelude to the rebirth of an Islamic civilization; it will be another episode in its decline. The revolt of Islam becomes instead the final act of the end of a civilization." I reviewed Allawi's book on this site in (Predicting the death of Islam May 5, 2009).

Iran's aspirations for a restored Islamic civilization cannot exclude Pakistan's 30 million Shi'ites. The Taliban's insurgency inside Pakistan is directed against the Shi'ites more than any other target, and to make matters worse, Pakistani intelligence is agitating among Iran's own Sunni minority.

On June 12, the day before Iran's election, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi in Lahore, the leader of the pro-government Barelvi Muslim current in Pakistan. As Pakistan's Daily Times wrote June 14, "The reason for this murder was not far too seek. Mufti Naeemi, arguably the most influential of the Ahle Sunnat-Barelvi school of thought in Pakistan, had recently presided over an all-Barelvi conference in Islamabad condemning the Taliban practice of suicide-bombing, and presenting to the nation, as it were, a choice between the extremist Deobandi Taliban and the moderate Ahle Sunnat clerical confederation."

The Deobandi wing of Sunni Islam preaches violence against Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, whose position would be fragile were the Taliban to take power. Although Deobandi Islam is a minority current among Pakistani Sunnis, "The conduct of covert jihad by the state has thrown the Barelvis into obscurity and a lack of street power over the years," the Daily Times wrote. "Their mosques, once in a majority in the country, were either grabbed by the more powerful Deobandis with trained jihadi cadres who could be violent, or simply outnumbered by the more resourceful Deobandi-linked ones."

The threat to Iran from the Pakistani Taliban extends to Iran's eastern provinces. A May 28 bomb destroyed a mosque in the Kordestan city of Zahedan, on the Pakistani border. Iran called in Pakistan's ambassador to protest alleged official support for the terrorists of the Pakistan-based Jundallah Sunni group which planted the bomb. Tehran also has circulated murky allegations that Israel's secret service was behind the mosque bombing.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi wrote on June 3 in Asia Times Online, "Where Iran has Hezbollah, Israel has Jundallah, given Israel's apparent efforts to destabilize Iran by playing an 'ethnic card' against it. This, by some reports, it is doing by nurturing the Sunni Islamist group Jundallah to parallel Tehran's support for Lebanon's formidable Shi'ite group, Hezbollah." (Please see Hezbollah spices up Israel-Iran mix.)

In addition to Israel, Xinhua reported May 30, "Iran also blamed the United States, Britain and some other Western countries behind these attacks, accusing them of destabilizing the Islamic Republic, a charge denied by Washington and London."

It is hard to guess who might be funding Jundallah. Pakistan's secret service as well as the Saudis have a motive to do so. Washington's interest is to strengthen the coalition against the Pashtun-speaking Taliban, which means keeping several ethnic minorities allied against the Taliban with the Punjabi core of Pakistan's armed forces. These include the Dari-speaking Kabuli Pashtuns, the Tajiks and the mainly Shi'ite Hazara, a Turkic tribe whom the Iranians tend to deprecate. That is where Washington looks for help from Teheran.

If Tehran were playing a two-sided chess game with Washington, a moderate face like that of Hossein Mousavi would have served Iranian interests better than Ahmadinejad, as Pipes suggests. But Tehran also has to send signals to the sidelines of the chess match. With the situation on its eastern border deteriorating and a serious threat emerging to the Shi'ites of Pakistan, Iran has to make its militancy clear to all the players in the region. Washington's ill-considered attempts at coalition building are more a distraction than anything else.

Because Tehran's credibility is continuously under test, it cannot hold its puppies of war on a tight leash. Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon will continue to nip at the Israelis and spoil the appearance of a prospective settlement. The louder Iran has to bark, the less credible its bite. Iran's handling of last weekend's presidential election results exposes the weakness of the country's strategic position. That makes an Israeli strike against its alleged nuclear weapons facilities all the more likely - not because Tehran has shown greater militancy, but because it has committed the one sin that never is pardoned in the Middle East - vulnerability.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things (www.firstthings.com).

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
23110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 16, 2009, 06:57:01 AM
 cheesy
23111  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: June 15, 2009, 05:03:04 PM
Today we worked our way along a nice little progression that led to boxing gloves on and entry with Dodger-Dracula against the Jab Cross with follow ups.

The last 40 minutes (typical session is 90-120 minutes) were dedicated to the Ilustrisimo step vs the MT round kick.
23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Border incident in Region V on: June 15, 2009, 03:46:04 PM
Border Incident Yesterday in Region V

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

From One Of My Sources. IMHO, running away solves nothing

Subject: Border Incident Yesterday in Region V


All:
This is a short recap about the incident yesterday in Region V during which two of our employees (Mark F******* and Matt W******) along with a Pima County employee (Joe ********) came under gun fire from what appeared to be drug traffickers from south of the border.

About mid afternoon our people were on three quads in the Tumacacori Mountains doing recon for an access project with Pima County south of Bear Grass Tank about four miles due east of Arivaca Lake. In a small canyon area through which the road they were on traversed they came upon at close quarters and surprised a group of hispanic males (at least 4) dressed in camo who were in the immediate vicinity and probably using water jugs left by the “No More Deaths” organization (this organization has recently been successfully prosecuted for their water jug distribution activities under the littering laws on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge; and now their activities have directly put our people at risk as well).

Upon the initial sighting of the first two camo clad persons who immediately fled a short distance up a hill from the area dropping down into the grass our people backed out of the immediate vicinity and regrouped. After a few minutes Mark F******* crept up to small rise about 30 yards from the road to look over the scene with his binoculars; he observed another 2 hispanic males also in camo in the area but over in a different direction from the first two. At that point Mark started back down to the quads and a shot was heard coming from the direction where the first two suspects had fled.

The bullet impacted the ground within ten feet or so behind Mark. At that point, with two of the quads with drivers and already pointed in the necessary exit direction, Mark ran and jumped on the back of the quad with Joe as the driver; Matt was on the other quad. Both quads with our three people quickly and immediately departed the area heading back to high ground closer to Arivaca to make contact with radio.

Once in contact with dispatch, we called in Border Patrol, Pima County SO and DPS Ranger to the area to join up with our people and take care of the situation. Within 30 to 45 minutes approximately 15 – 20 BP, 15 – 20 SO, and three helicopters were in the area to handle and investigate the situation. Subsequently, and unfortunately, the suspects were able to evade the search party, however SO as the lead for the investigation, did recover several fresh shot 9mm casings from the area where the initial shot likely came from, indicating that subsequent shots may have been fired at our people as they were getting out of the area. The third quad was recovered and had not been touched by the suspects.

I am glad to say that Mark, Matt and Joe made all of the right decisions and moves when things went bad, and most importantly, they ended the day safe and sound. We will study and learn from this matter with the objective of continuing to keep our people safe along the treacherous border area. Please distribute this information as you see fit so as to quell any misinformation, and should you have any questions please give me a call. Thank you.

Leonard L. Ordway
Region V Supervisor

Arizona Game and Fish Department
Region V Office
555 N. Greasewood Road
Tucson, AZ 85745
23113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Prisoner policy on: June 15, 2009, 11:32:43 AM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is revamping its detention policies in Afghanistan, borrowing practices from Iraq that are designed to rehabilitate detainees by teaching them moderate Islam, literacy and vocational skills.

Senior U.S. military officials said the new approach is meant to separate extremist Afghan detainees from more moderate ones. Militant detainees will then be isolated, while the remainder will be given job training and courses in civics, mathematics, and other subjects. U.S. officials say they hope these detainees will eventually be freed.

"You can't lock guys up forever," said a U.S. military official in Afghanistan. "The idea is to change how they see the world and give them the tools that at least give them a chance at a decent life."

The new effort is being temporarily overseen by Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, a Marine who ran a similar effort in Iraq that led to the release of tens of thousands of detainees. It is the latest sign that the Obama administration's new commanders in Afghanistan aim to revitalize the war effort there with methods honed in Iraq.

The shift comes as the Pentagon restructures its management of the war effort and floods Afghanistan with 21,000 American reinforcements. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the top American officer in Kabul, Gen. David McKiernan, and replaced him with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is set to assume command Saturday.

On Friday, Mr. Gates said Gen. McChrystal would work to minimize Afghan civilian casualties, a source of growing public anger within Afghanistan.

"Every civilian casualty -- however caused -- is a defeat for us and a setback for the Afghan government," he said during a stop in Brussels.

The new effort is based at the U.S. detention facility at Bagram Air Base, near Kabul. The facility is being renovated to create separate holding areas -- similar to conventional U.S. jails -- for detainees judged to be extremist. Construction is set to be finished this fall.

The remaining detainees will be allowed to take carpentry, sewing and classes in moderate Islamic thought, taught by Afghan contractors and clerics.

Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, alluded to the new approach in a speech in Washington Thursday. He said it reflected lessons learned in Iraq, where moderate and extremist detainees were for years held in the same facilities, giving militants ample opportunity to win over new recruits.

"We had created terrorist university," he said. "We had the baddest of the bad guys right in with the not-quite-so-bad guys, and they were recruiting al Qaeda in Iraq operatives."

Gen. Stone, a Marine reservist who has run software firms in civilian life, worked to change those dynamics in Iraq by separating out hard-core detainees, which he saw as a minority of the total population, and rehabilitating the remaining detainees.

"Make no mistake, detainees operation is certainly a battlefield," Gen. Stone wrote in a strategy document for Iraq. "It is the battlefield of the mind, and it is one of the most important fights in counterinsurgency."

Senior military officials said Gen. Stone and a small group of other military personnel from Task Force 134, which ran detainee operations in Iraq, will be at Bagram for several weeks conducting a broad review of American detainee operations.

As in Iraq, part of his work is designed to improve the public reputation of the detention facilities themselves. Army investigators found evidence that two Afghan detainees -- one a taxi driver arrested after driving near the base -- were beaten to death at Bagram in 2002 by U.S. personnel. The incidents were later featured in a documentary film, "Taxi to the Dark Side."

More recently, Bagram has been at the center of a legal battle over detainee rights. A U.S. district court judge ruled that non-Afghans seized overseas and then brought to Bagram had the right to challenge their detentions in American courts. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.
23114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: The Neocon conspiracy on: June 15, 2009, 10:23:29 AM
"[F]or years, mainstream liberalism and other outposts of paranoid Bush hatred have portrayed neoconservatives -- usually code for conservative Jews and other supporters of Israel -- as an alien, pernicious cabal. 'They have penetrated the culture at nearly every level from the halls of academia to the halls of the Pentagon,' observed the New York Times. '...They've accumulated the wherewithal financially (and) professionally to broadcast what they think over the airwaves to the masses or over cocktails to those at the highest levels of government.' NBC's Chris Matthews routinely used the word 'neocon' as if it was code for 'traitor.' He asked one guest whether White House neocons are 'loyal to the Kristol neoconservative movement, or to the president?' [Holocaust Museum shooter James] Von Brunn may have wondered the same thing, which is why he reportedly had the offices of Bill Kristol's 'Weekly Standard' on his hit list. Unhinged Bush-hater Andrew Sullivan insists that, 'The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right.' Leading liberal intellectual Michael Lind warned about the alarming fact that 'the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique' of neoconservative plotters. Even with Bush out of the picture, some see the problem emerging again. Just this week, Jeremiah Wright, the president's longtime mentor and pastor, whined that, 'Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me.' Maniacs like von Brunn connect dots that aren't there because that's what paranoid anti-Semites do. What's the left's excuse?" --National Review editor Jonah Goldberg
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; J. Adams on: June 15, 2009, 10:20:42 AM
"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
=====================

"The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. ... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?" --John Adams
23116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part 2 on: June 15, 2009, 10:08:52 AM


Part of the Russian government’s latest recapitalization efforts is the $89 billion crisis measure fund, which was announced in April and will come on line sometime in June or July. A large part of the package, $52.9 billion, will go to various banking programs intended to recapitalize the banks; $23 billion will go to industry (the largest chunk to profit tax cuts that should benefit energy exporters and auto industry support); and $13.1 billion to labor market measures (including helping pensioners and unemployed people weather the crisis). The latter is intended to nip in the bud any social unrest stemming from rising unemployment. Russia’s steel industry, for instance, is strategic, has a powerful lobby and employs many people. Interestingly, while global steel demand and prices remain depressed, the utilization of production capacities at Russian steel companies has increased from around 57 percent to 71 percent since the beginning of the year. Despite the Kremlin’s measures, domestic steel demand remains weak, and thus the increase does not so much reflect increased foreign demand for Russian steel for government-funded infrastructure projects in China, India, and the Middle East. Rather, it reflects pressure by the Kremlin on Russian steelmakers to keep production going — therefore ensuring employment and stability in Russia’s one-industry towns — even if it means exporting steel below cost.

Social unrest, however, rarely causes revolutionary political change in Russia. The most famous examples of social unrest resulting in part from economic crisis, such as the revolutions of 1905 and February (March by the Gregorian calendar) 1917, essentially failed and had to wait for an elite-driven revolution (such as the October 1917) to succeed. In fact, when ruled by a focused and powerful central government, Russia’s population can be heavily strained, a fact that served Stalin’s industrialization efforts of the 1930s well. In order for the Kremlin to attain its goals of rapid industrialization, it drove much of the population into the ground. The social aspects of this effort are particularly notable and are different from other countries — particularly those in the West — in that the government’s economic efforts are not focused on profit, lowering unemployment and social stability. Russia’s main economic imperatives are dictated by its massive security costs, and are therefore concentrated on maintaining security and clamping down on social dissent and internal political or ethnic fragmentation, or both.

The current economic crisis is not without a social evolution of its own, although it is one where the government has turned on an elite group that threatened the Kremlin’s grip on Russia’s economy: the oligarchs. Because most successful regime changes in Russia are elite-driven, the oligarchs at one time represented a serious challenge to the Kremlin’s power. One of the most fundamental changes this economic crisis has had on the Russian economic system is that it has stripped the power of independent business empires run by the oligarchs. Indebted abroad when the crisis hit, the oligarchs were told that they would receive access to state funding only if they made substantial capital injections into the Russian economy themselves — particularly into the crashing stock market. In fact, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made it a point to call all the major oligarchs to a meeting at the Kremlin as the crisis was unfolding, giving them a choice of either helping immediately or forsaking any future help from the state.





(click chart to enlarge)
After that initial choice, the oligarchs were essentially told that they would either toe the Kremlin’s line on economic and political matters, or receive no help at all as foreign banks recalled their debts. Once the oligarchs were sufficiently bled of capital, the state offered to bail them out in select cases, with funding coming with strings attached. The oligarchs that survive the culling will be the ones the Kremlin has selected for survival, thus creating evolutionary pressures that will breed loyalty and subservience. An illustration of this dynamic was Russian steel magnate Igor Zyuzin, who gave the Kremlin billions, reducing his worth from more than $10 billion to just $1 billion. Only after he proved his loyalty, which at the time had been questioned due to a public fallout with Putin, did the state-controlled Vnesheconombank offer him credit.





(Click here for interactive chart)

Oligarchs will still exist as an elite, but they essentially will be reduced to the role of “capital emissaries” of the Kremlin to the West and the rest of the world. As such, they will be a powerful (but not independent) tool for the Kremlin’s foreign policy designs, another addition to the already-powerful arsenal that also contains intelligence networks and energy exports. Oligarchs may have acquired their fortunes through guile and luck, but they are also the most business-savvy elite — particularly in terms of Western business practices — in Russia. They know exactly how the West is run, having made many partnerships abroad through acquisitions and investments. This makes them extremely valuable, particularly as the Kremlin begins to direct its resources to foreign investments in strategic industries (such as energy), and for political reasons.

An example of this new role for the oligarchs is Oleg Deripaska, who at one point was the richest man in Russia. Deripaska is the chief of RUSAL, the world’s second-largest aluminum producer, and investment firm Basic Element. Deripaska’s wealth dropped from an estimated $36 billion to somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion as he poured immense funds into his company and the Kremlin. As a reward for his efforts, Deripaska could become the chief of a rumored consolidated — and state- directed — metals conglomerate, giving him enormous power, but power that he will exercise at the whim of the Kremlin.

He also will be one of the Kremlin’s first “capital emissaries” abroad, as signified by a recent partnership between the state-owned Sberbank and Deripaska-controlled auto manufacturer GAZ in the purchase of German carmaker Opel. Deripaska was able to use his partnership with Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International Inc., and state funding through Sberbank, to form a partnership that will see Opel producing cars in Russia. This is exactly the sort of deal the Kremlin wants to encourage. It is also the kind of deal that the Russian oligarchs, with their considerable foreign business acumen, can provide — combining foreign partners acquired through their businesses, Russian state financing and impressive personal charisma to conclude politically motivated business deals.

With the purchase of Opel, Russia has come to the aid of a crucial European power and its leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, three months before general elections — a favor Merkel will not forget should she return to power, which she most likely will. In the past, Moscow would have been unable to so effectively pair government funding and oligarch business acumen. Now it can do so in pursuit of foreign policy goals. The Opel bailout is part of Moscow’s strategic move to widen the rift emerging between Germany and the United States, and is therefore an extremely important — and very well-played — foreign policy initiative, and not just any other business deal.

In the long term, greater government control will not resolve the endemic problems Russia faces. Combined with its geographic and infrastructural challenges, Russia is also facing a daunting demographic challenge — a low birthrate combined with rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS and drug use — and an overall economic overreliance on energy exports. The share of energy exports as a percentage of overall exports has increased from 50.3 percent in 2000 to 65.8 percent in 2008, despite rhetoric from the Kremlin that it had been seeking to diversify the economy since Putin’s arrival on the political scene in 1999. Furthermore, demographic and geographical challenges are continuing to depress Russian productivity, with Russian labor productivity at only one-third of U.S. productivity.

Nonetheless, when the account of the costs and benefits of the current financial crisis is made, it will show that the crisis cost the Kremlin much of its currency reserves and money accumulated during the boom years between 1999 and 2008. However, the crisis also returned the Kremlin to the driver’s seat of the Russian economy, which is in fact the natural state of affairs because of Russia’s geography and impediments to security. It is from this position that the Kremlin will face the much more serious challenge to Russian economic well-being in the next five years: decreasing energy exports caused by European diversification efforts away from Russian natural gas, and the continuing demographic challenge. While the current recession may have bolstered the Kremlin’s powers in the short term, how the Kremlin tackles the long-term crises will define Russia in the 21st century.

23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia on: June 15, 2009, 10:08:18 AM
Summary
The economic outlook for Russia appears bleak, and the road to recovery appears to be a long one. Rising unemployment, falling industrial production and the flight of foreign investment have put a dent in Russia’s massive currency reserves. However, the Kremlin has reasserted its power over the country and is in prime position to overcome its short-term challenges.

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth part in a series on the global recession and signs indicating how and when the economic recovery will — or will not — begin.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev spoke of “alarming figures” when discussing the Russian economy during an exclusive interview with U.S. news network CNBC on June 2, pointing specifically to rising unemployment and falling industrial production. Medvedev also highlighted the expected Russian gross domestic product (GDP) decline, which according to him will be “no less than 6 percent” in 2009, but most likely close to 7.5 percent, a figure not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Indeed, the prognosis for Russia appears grim. Russian GDP contracted by 9.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009; industrial production has averaged double-digit contraction since January, and the April contraction equaled 17 percent year-on-year. Foreign investment has declined 30 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009, and unemployment is likely to reach double digits by the end of 2009 — a dramatic increase over the 7.7 percent rate of 2008.

Moscow’s attempt to rein in the crisis is costing it its precious currency reserves and bloating its budget deficit after years of commodity-fueled surpluses. The budget deficit stood at 11 percent of GDP in April, and revenue destined for government coffers declined by a whopping 16.2 percent of GDP between April and May. Russia is staring at an approximate $100 billion budget deficit, a figure that is likely to consume all the cash in its Reserve Fund.

Russia does have a lot of money in its various government reserves, the combined value of which totals nearly $600 billion. (Its currency reserves stood at $409 billion on June 1, with the Reserve Fund at $100.9 billion and the National Welfare Fund at $89.9 billion.) There also is potentially another $40 billion to $50 billion in a third, less public fund. This is not too far from the $750 billion Russia had at the beginning of the economic crisis, but the expected $100 billion budget deficit in 2009 will further drain the reserves very quickly. The Russian Finance Ministry said recently that it might have to enter the international bond market to seek external funding for its budget deficit.

However, the effects of the current economic crisis do not foreshadow the decline of the Russian state. Conversely, the crisis has already strengthened the Kremlin’s grip on the country’s financial sector and its once-independent business elite, the oligarchs. With oil prices starting to rise again and the Kremlin now firmly in control of the country’s finances, it is likely that Russia will come out of the crisis with the Kremlin firmly in control of the economy, a natural order for Russia.

The Geography of the Russian Economy
Russia is blessed geologically and geographically, with its vast territory containing the world’s largest proven natural gas reserves, second-largest proven coal reserves, third-largest known and recoverable uranium reserves and eighth-largest proven oil reserves. However, from an economic development standpoint, Russia is anything but well endowed.

Throughout history, Russia has lacked navigable river transportation and access to ocean trading routes. Furthermore, Russia’s population is scattered across its vast territory, its natural resources are mostly found in unpopulated areas and a number of regional challengers constantly threaten its territorial integrity. Russia’s core is essentially the northeastern portion of European Russia. It has no natural borders, forcing Russia to strive continually to extend its control of territory to natural buffers (as far down the North European Plain as possible, to the Carpathian Mountains to the southwest, the Caucasus and Hindu Kush to the south and the Altai Mountains, Tian Shan and Stanovoy Range in the Far East).

With vast territory, constant expansion to the buffers and a lack of internal transportation, Russia requires a substantial amount of resources to maintain and defend its borders. It requires top-down management of the economy to focus resources on overcoming geographical impediments to development and security. As such, Russia is not a capital-rich country; it is starved for capital by its infrastructural needs, security costs, chronic low economic productivity, harsh climate and geography. Unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, where industrial and post-industrial economic development can spring forth with little or no direction thanks to favorable geography (intricate river transportation systems in the United States and access to oceanic trade routes for both) and the relative security of oceanic barriers, Russia has had to rely on firm state-driven economic development.

The current crisis has therefore returned the Russian economic system to its “natural” state, one in which the state is the main driver of activity. Gone is the experiment with nonstate-directed capitalism (roughly between 1991 and 2003), the Wild West, Russian style, where different elites and power groupings vied for economic and political power. The state’s ability to now marshal and focus resources toward infrastructure projects and resource exploration will help Russia in the short term. State direction and control will also help Russia focus its financial resources toward certain key foreign policy goals. In the long term, however, a lack of nonstate funding and private capital will be a problem, creating inefficiencies across the spectrum, particularly in areas where the state does not focus all of its resources. Additionally, Russia is facing a staffing problem. Running the vast country and its economy may simply be far too complex for its ever-more powerful executive.

The Current Recession: The Government Reclaims Control
To understand how the Russian state has fully returned to its natural position as the helmsman of the Russian economy, it is important to examine the effects of the crisis on the Russian financial and corporate systems.

The main negative effect of the current crisis for Russia is the credit crunch, which is even more serious than low commodity prices. Credit in Russia is scarce and is therefore essentially one of the most important imports for the country. Businesses that are not state-controlled require funding from abroad because the state hoards capital and only lends it through political links. As a result, Russian private banks and corporations that had gorged on the cheap credit that flowed on the international markets since 2001 were particularly hungry for foreign capital. The government was not going to supply this capital by sharing the surplus from commodity sales, particularly if the capital was going to private entities it did not control. While the credit crunch does not hurt Russia’s government-controlled strategic industries — whose profits are in dollars anyway — it will cause a restructuring of the private financial and corporate sectors.

When the financial crisis hit in mid-September 2008, the first place foreign investors looked to pull capital from were emerging markets. Investors had already soured on Russia because of the Kremlin’s repeated meddling in foreign ventures, and because of Russia’s August 2008 intervention in Georgia (after which $63 billion in foreign investment was pulled immediately). Consequently, Russia was first on the list of places to withdraw from. Net capital outflows from Russia reached a record $130 billion in 2008, followed by $39 billion in the first quarter of 2009. Investors scrambled to sell their Russian assets and then used those rubles to buy dollars, francs, yen or gold. When this deluge of rubles hit the foreign exchange market, the ruble’s value fell off a cliff, stoking fears in Russia of another “ruble crisis” that could cause social discontent, as it did in 1998.

To counteract the effects of capital outflows pushing the ruble’s value down, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) intervened, using its massive reserves of dollars and euros to purchase rubles on the open market. Had domestic banks not sold their ruble-denominated government handouts, the CBR’s $210 billion defense of the ruble might have been less expensive. But instead of letting the ruble crash, the Kremlin opted to manage the inevitable decline and has since bought the ruble enough times for it to be supported by real demand.

Though the ruble has now stabilized, its fall in value has been a considerable problem for private banks and corporations, particularly those not engaged in commodity sales. Russian enterprises that engaged in commodity exports had no problem with a declining ruble, because all of their revenue is in foreign currency, and their costs (salaries, operation costs, etc.) are in rubles. However, private banks and corporations that depend on internal demand and consumption for revenue — everything from regional retail banks to auto manufacturers — were suddenly left holding enormous foreign-denominated loans with no way to repay them. Russian banks and corporations owe approximately $400 billion in external debt over the next four years, with $90 billion worth of debt due between the second and fourth quarters of 2009 for banks alone (although it is estimated that about $40 billion of that may be held by foreign bank subsidiaries). In 2010, Russian banks will have to repay another $75 billion.

This is where the Kremlin has firmly stepped in. Its strategy from the very beginning of the crisis has been to consolidate the banking system under its control, with the primary source of capitalization being short-term, high-interest loans designed to quickly transfer banks’ obligations from foreign hands into the Kremlin’s steely grip. These loans will now be coming due for small regional banks, and it is likely that Russian state-owned banking behemoths Sberbank and VTB will greatly enhance their market share as result of the consolidation. The government is already the single largest creditor to banks, with 12 percent of all bank liabilities held by the state (mostly short-term loans with 8.5 percent interest). At the same time, banks and businesses that owe money to the state, but that the state does not want to save, will be allowed to fail, further consolidating different economic sectors in the hands of a few government-controlled or directly owned enterprises.

The culling of the Russian banking system will not be without its serious effects, and the transition from private hands to government ownership will not be smooth. The recession has already cut domestic demand, which is a problem because Russian industry (aside from extractive industry) depends almost solely on domestic consumers, with some trade with the other Former Soviet Union states — which are themselves facing a difficult recession. Domestic manufacturing was already down 25 percent in April year-on-year, a figure that foreshadows a mounting number of bankruptcies.

As bankruptcies rise and companies default on their loans, the rate of nonperforming loans (NPLs) rises as well; it is already more than 4 percent and predicted to reach 10 percent. NPLs are usually a solid gauge of how well an economy is performing, and in the Western world, a rate of above 3 percent is usually considered a serious problem. In 1998, the rate of NPLs in Russia hit 40 percent. However, according to Renaissance Capital’s calculations, even if the share of NPLs reaches 20 percent in the current recession, the required recapitalization (money the state would have to throw at the problem in order to fix it) would be less than $30 billion — easily covered by Russian state coffers. This is mainly because the government has already devoted a considerable amount of money to the problem. But though the banks now have abundant capital (albeit in foreign currency), they are loath to lend to businesses, thus further exacerbating the crisis.
23118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Declining standard of living on: June 14, 2009, 11:24:41 PM
A friend writes:

"Iif prices go up while the population does not have (at least nominally correspondingly) increasing incomes, that's not inflation.  That is a decline in the standard of living.
 
"When one lives in a poor country (been there, done that) everything seems expensive -  and that has little to do with inflation.
 
"One of the side effects of defining inflation as a general increase in prices is that  it becomes quite easy to mistake growing poverty for inflation.  "Inflation" which in reality is a progressive decline in the standard of living is, in fact, deflationary - the economy slows, and people are willing to work for less."
 
23119  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 14, 2009, 11:22:12 PM
WHEN was Mercer fighting?  It seems like QUITE a long time ago.  IIRC he came to boxing late in life, with little but lots of power and lots of chin and that his last several fights were quite hard on him.
23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Rights are from the Creator on: June 14, 2009, 10:06:38 PM
Alabama 1901, Preamble
We the people of the State of Alabama , invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution..


Alaska 1956, Preamble We, the people of Alaska , grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land.

Arizona 1911, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arizona , grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution...

Arkansas 1874, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arkansas , grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government...

California 1879, Preamble We, the People of the State of California , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom...

Colorado 1876, Preamble We, the people of Colorado , with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe...

Connecticut 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.

Delaware 1897, Preamble Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences...

Florida 1885, Preamble We, the people of the State of Florida , grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution...

Georgia 1777, Preamble We, the people of Georgia , relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution...

Hawaii 1959, Preamble We , the people of Hawaii , Grateful for Divine Guidance ... Establish this Constitution.

Idaho 1889, Preamble We, the people of the State of Idaho , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.

Illinois 1870, Preamble We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil , political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.

Indiana 1851, Preamble We, the People of the State of Indiana , grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government.

Iowa 1857, Preamble We, the People of the St ate of Iowa , grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings, establish this Constitution.

Kansas 1859, Preamble We, the people of Kansas , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.

Kentucky 1891, Preamble.. We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties..

Louisiana 1921, Preamble We, the people of the State of Louisiana , grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.

Maine 1820, Preamble We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity .. And imploring His aid and direction.

Maryland 1776, Preamble We, the people of the state of Maryland , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty...

Massachusetts 1780, Preamble We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe In the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction

Michigan 1908, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Michigan , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, establish this Constitution.

Minnesota, 1857, Preamble We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings:

Mississippi 1890, Preamble We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.

Missouri 1845, Preamble We, the people of Missouri , with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness . Establish this Constitution...

Montana 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty establish this Constitution ...

Nebraska 1875, Preamble We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom . Establish this Constitution.

Nevada 1864, Preamble We the people of the State of Nevada , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, establish this Constitution...

New Hampshire 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

New Jersey 1844, Preamble We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.

New Mexico 1911, Preamble We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty..

New York 1846, Preamble We, the people of the State of New York , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.

North Carolina 1868, Preamble We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those...

North Dakota 1889, Preamble We , the people of North Dakota , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain...

Ohio 1852, Preamble We the people of the state of Ohio , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common.

Oklahoma 1907, Preamble Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty, establish this

Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences

Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance....

Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing...

South Carolina , 1778, Preamble We, the people of he State of South Carolina grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

South Dakota 1889, Preamble We, the people of South Dakota , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties ...

Tennessee 1796, Art. XI..III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience...

Texas 1845, Preamble We the People of the Republic of Texas , acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.

Utah 1896, Preamble Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.
Vermont 1777, Preamble Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man ..

Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other

Washington 1889, Preamble We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution

West Virginia 1872, Preamble Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God ....

Wisconsin 1848, Preamble We, the people of Wisconsin , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility...

Wyoming 1890, Preamble We, the people of the State of Wyoming , grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties, establish this Constitution...
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran: Election reactions on: June 14, 2009, 03:33:25 PM
Summary
Iranian police broke up demonstrations in Tehran on June 13 when supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets to protest the results of Iran’s presidential election. Rumors are still circulating about the election and whether powerful political figures like Expediency Council chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will make a move in support of Mousavi. That said, the ruling clerics seem to have made it clear that they support Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner. Ahmadinejad can now be expected to use his new mandate to purge Tehran of opposition under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign.

Analysis
It is now after 4:30 a.m. local time in Iran, and police have broken up a throng of some 20,000 demonstrators protesting the final results of the Iranian elections, which gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a clear victory over his reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. The final results showed Ahmadinejad with 62.63 percent of the vote and Mousavi with 33.75 percent.

The number of pro-Mousavi supporters in Tehran grew from a few hundred to several thousand by word of mouth after businesses closed and students got out of class the evening of June 13 to gather around the Interior Ministry building where the votes were counted, in an attempt to demonstrate that Mousavi represented more than 33 percent of the electorate. In some spots, protesters clashed with police. Protesters with whom STRATFOR has communicated said they had been roughed up and have returned home.

Judging both from history and from pictures and anecdotes of protesters on the streets of Tehran, Iran’s security apparatus appears more than capable of breaking up these demonstrations should they continue through the next day. SMS messaging and Facebook have been shut down intermittently in Iran to prevent the protests from gaining momentum. Considering that most of Mousavi’s supporters are among Iran’s urban liberal upper class — who would use SMS messaging and Facebook — these security measures have been moderately effective in keeping protesters from organizing mass demonstrations.

There are a number of claims that the vote was rigged, but it does not appear that such claims can or will be verified. Some level of electoral engineering was likely to have taken place, but the final vote breakdown gives Ahmadinejad a wide enough margin to prevent the opposition from making a strong case that the election was rigged.

Mousavi has been reluctant to lead the protests himself in an open challenge against the state. As a member of the Expediency Council, Mousavi has to look out for his own political future and cannot be seen as the one instigating unrest in the streets. Instead, he is appealing both publicly and privately to clerics and other powerful members of the establishment, including Expediency Council chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, to back up his claims of voter fraud. Unless Mousavi gets support from someone in the ruling elite, his protest is likely to fizzle out.

Rumors began circulating several hours ago that Rafsanjani would speak out against the election results and that he had even resigned from his posts in the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts. If true, Rafsanjani’s backing would have revitalized and added some much-needed legitimacy to Mousavi’s campaign, and could have led to a major breach within the ruling elite. STRATFOR sources say Rafsanjani did hold a three-hour meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after the election results were announced, but the reports of his resignation and other dubious rumors of the Election Commission admitting vote fraud do not appear credible. STRATFOR will continue keeping a close watch to see if Rafsanjani makes a move against the establishment over the vote, but for now we see that as a slim possibility. Larijani, meanwhile, is looking out for his political future and his close relationship with the Supreme Leader. He is unlikely to back Mousavi in his protest, despite his opposition to Ahmadinejad.

Khamenei, Interior Minister Sadiq Mahsouli and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi have all proclaimed that the elections were conducted freely and fairly, making clear that any move to dispute the results would represent a direct challenge to the state. The resounding silence from powerful figures like Rafsanjani and Larijani is a strong indication that the election results and claims of fraud are not compelling enough to cause a split within the ruling elite.

Even if the final tally of votes was fudged to give Ahmadinejad an edge, this election has shed light on an underlying reality that is difficult for most Western analysts and media agencies to accept. Mousavi derives most of his support from urban professional classes who responded positively to “Obamaesque” calls for change and felt that their time had come to take Iran in a different direction. The fact remains, however, that the clerical regime still carries broad support, and Ahmadinejad — despite being lambasted by his political rivals for mishandling the economy and foreign relations — has strong support among the rural, poorer and mostly deeply religious population. Ahmadinejad campaigned heavily for this election and made sure during the campaign to visit rural provinces, where some 24 million Iranians, or 34 percent of the total population, make their living. He also put a lot of money into his campaign to buy popular support. Mousavi, on the other hand, returned into the political limelight only about four months ahead of the election and struggled to connect with Iran’s lower classes, who fail to identify with the working elite or with an Ahmadinejad rival and Mousavi supporter like Rafsanjani, who is widely known and criticized for his corruptive practices.

Ahmadinejad faces opposition even among the ruling elite, but he is already laying the groundwork to unseat his opponents under the veil of an anti-corruption drive. With his renewed mandate, the Iranian president will work through the system to gradually weaken his rivals and stack the various organs of the state with more loyalists. The state is cracking down on dissenters, and unconfirmed rumors are circulating that Mousavi and his fellow reformist candidate and cleric Mehdi Karroubi and reformist supporter and cleric Gholamhossein Karbaschi have been placed under house arrest.

STRATFOR will continue keeping an eye on the streets for more demonstrations and potential moves from Rafsanjani. The situation may be tense over the next few days as Mousavi carries on his campaign to protest the results. But for now the state has spoken, and Iran looks content enough to live with the status quo.
23122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kyrgyzstan says no to BO on: June 14, 2009, 03:31:36 PM
 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124476677973008511.html

The Kyrgyz say 'nyet' to Obama

Not to deny President Obama's diplomatic charms, but they seem lost on the world's harder cases. The latest is Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation of five million that has been home to a U.S. air base at Manas, a critical transit center to supply troops in Afghanistan.

In February, hours after securing $2 billion in aid from Russia, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced -- in Moscow no less -- that the U.S. will have to leave by August 18. Mr. Obama this week sent a confidential letter to the Kyrgyz leader implicitly asking him to reconsider by "expressing his gratitude to the nation and government of Kyrgyzstan for its efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and in the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking," according to a summary released by the Kyrgyz government yesterday.

The Kyrgyz quickly shot those hopes down. "The decision to abolish the agreement on the military air base, Manas, has been made, and there is no turning back from this," Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev told a Kyrgyz news agency.

Russian fingerprints are all over this U.S. setback. Like many other authoritarians, Vladimir Putin's regime in Moscow derives its legitimacy in part from anti-Americanism. No "restart" in relations promised by Mr. Obama can easily change that. And for Russia, in its neighborhood, the policy consequence is to push America out and prop up local dictators.

That's true whether the U.S. President is named Obama or Bush. Perhaps this young Administration can learn with experience that goodwill alone gets one only so far in the real world.
---------------------
There is another more in-depth article discussing Putin's craft here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124467909278604353.html
23123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The other Friedman on: June 14, 2009, 03:13:38 PM
The occasionally insightful Thomas Friedman:

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: June 13, 2009
Twenty years ago, I wrote a book about the Middle East, and recently I was thinking of updating it with a new introduction. It was going to be very simple — just one page, indeed just one line: “Nothing has changed.”

Skip to next paragraph
 
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

Go to Columnist Page »
Related
Times Topics: Iran | LebanonIt took me two days covering the elections in Beirut to realize that I was dead wrong. No, something is going on in the Middle East today that is very new. Pull up a chair; this is going to be interesting.

What we saw in the Lebanese elections, where the pro-Western March 14 movement won a surprise victory over the pro-Iranian Hezbollah coalition, what we saw in the ferment for change exposed by the election campaign in Iran, and what we saw in the provincial elections in Iraq, where the big pro-Iranian party got trounced, is the product of four historical forces that have come together to crack open this ossified region.

First is the diffusion of technology. The Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones, particularly among the young — 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 — is giving Middle Easterners cheap tools to communicate horizontally, to mobilize politically and to criticize their leaders acerbically, outside of state control. It is also enabling them to monitor vote-rigging by posting observers with cellphone cameras.

I knew something had changed when I sat down for coffee on Hamra Street in Beirut last week with my 80-year-old friend and mentor, Kemal Salibi, one of Lebanon’s greatest historians, and he told me about his Facebook group!

The evening of Lebanon’s election, I went to the Beirut home of Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 coalition, to interview him. In a big living room, he had a gigantic wall-size television broadcasting the results. And alongside the main TV were 16 smaller flat-screen TVs with electronic maps of Lebanon. Hariri’s own election experts were working on laptops and breaking down every vote from every religious community, village by village, and projecting them on the screens.

Second, for real politics to happen you need space. There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. “It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”

When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result. Elections in the Arab world were a joke — literally. They used to tell this story about Syria’s president, Hafez al-Assad. After a Syrian election, an aide came in and told Assad: “Mr. President, you won 99.8 percent of the votes. It means that only two-tenths of one percent of Syrians didn’t vote for you. What more could ask for?”

Assad answered: “Their names!”

Lebanese, by contrast, just waited up all night for their election results — no one knew what they’d be.

Third, the Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through. In the vacuum, the parties most organized to seize power were the Islamists — Hezbollah in Lebanon; pro-Al Qaeda forces among Iraqi Sunnis, and the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Mahdi Army among Iraqi Shiites; the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Hamas in Gaza.

Fortunately, each one of these Islamist groups overplayed their hand by imposing religious lifestyles or by dragging their societies into confrontations the people didn’t want. This alienated and frightened more secular, mainstream Arabs and Muslims and has triggered an “awakening” backlash among moderates from Lebanon to Pakistan to Iran. The Times’s Robert Mackey reported that in Tehran “chants of ‘Death to America’ ” at rallies for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week were answered by chants of “Death to the Taliban — in Kabul and Tehran” at a rally for his opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi.

Finally, along came President Barack Hussein Obama. Arab and Muslim regimes found it very useful to run against George Bush. The Bush team demonized them, and they demonized the Bush team. Autocratic regimes, like Iran’s, drew energy and legitimacy from that confrontation, and it made it very easy for them to discredit anyone associated with America. Mr. Obama’s soft power has defused a lot of that. As result, “pro-American” is not such an insult anymore.

I don’t know how all this shakes out; the forces against change in this region are very powerful — see Iran — and ruthless. But for the first time in a long time, the forces for decency, democracy and pluralism have a little wind at their backs. Good for them.

The public editor’s column will return next week.
23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Change on: June 14, 2009, 01:03:34 PM
Change
Print this Page

By Tzvi Freeman
That which can be grasped will change.

That which does not change cannot be grasped
23125  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty 8/1-2 Fort Hood, TX on: June 13, 2009, 03:23:59 PM
If you have it, you may be glad your brought some forearm protection for one arm.

I will write more later, but for now I will simply say that I am REALLY looking forward to this seminar and helping DBMA Training Group Leader SFC Gus Reina establish a really strong group. 
23126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in India reports on: June 13, 2009, 09:46:35 AM
From a well regarded friend in India in response to my forwarding the previous post to him:
================================


Unless, there is a big cover up...it seems that there is not much to worry, no one is talking about a possible kidnapping.
 
"Mr Mahalingam is a fairly low level employee who was moved to HR and training duties because he was not found appropriate for placement elsewhere. Mr Mahalingam trains some apprentices and others who work at the power plant.

Mr Mahalingam worked at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. This facility is used solely for power generation and is not the repository of any state or atomic secrets. Its a profit center for the NPCIL which is headquartered in Bombay. Most of the Kaiga activities are controlled from there, like from any headquarters.


"Top nuclear expert missing in India" is a motivated and prejudiced media hype that is being perpetrated by interested parties ( US and our good neighbors, both pakis and the chinks.) and our very own DDM (desi dork media) who is definitely being paid off.

Top nuclear expert is not something that even Mr Mahalingam would describe himself, even in his wildest dreams.

He was, in an earlier posting also found "missing" for a number of days and created a similar controversy. On his return, he claimed that he had gone to seek spiritual solace.

Let us hope that he finds the solace that he seeks and soon so that he can return to his family at the earliest."
23127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Limited Government on: June 13, 2009, 09:39:22 AM
What about retitling the thread to:  "The American Creed/Limited Government"?
23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Limited Government on: June 12, 2009, 02:56:22 PM
I agree that we need something for what you want to address here , , , Are you aware of this thread?
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1850.0

@All:

Should I bring it over to this forum?
23129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nuke expert missing on: June 12, 2009, 02:52:39 PM
Top nuclear expert missing in India

One of India's leading nuclear scientists has gone missing in mysterious circumstances provoking fears he has been kidnapped for classified information

By Barney Henderson in Mumbai
Published: 5:13PM BST 12 Jun 2009

Lokanathan Mahalingam had access to some of the country's most sensitive nuclear information and the government has ordered an inquiry into his disappearance.

Mr Mahalingam, 47, worked at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, close to Project Seabird, a major military base.

He went for a walk early on Monday morning and has not been seen since.

Authorities are not yet sure whether his disappearance poses a security threat and the Indian Intelligence Bureau is investigating whether he has been eaten by leopards, committed suicide, disappeared wilfully or been kidnapped.

Colleagues said that Mr Mahalingam, who works in the simulator training division of the nuclear power plant, is an introvert with few friends but no enemies.

A manhunt is under way in the 1000 acres of dense forest of the Western Ghats that surrounds the Kaiga plant.

Police played down the threat to classified information, but they have not ruled out the possibility that Mr Mahalingam has been kidnapped by a group attempting to sabotage the plant.

Five years ago, a heavily armed gang attempted to kidnap an official from India's Nuclear Power Corporation in the same forest, but he managed to escape.

"The investigation is being handled at a very high level due to the sensitive nature of the case," an investigating officer said. "At the moment it is a complete mystery and we are looking at every possibility.

"There are man-eating leopards in the jungle so that is a possibility and we are of course looking into whether he has been kidnapped too. There are four separate teams searching for clues and we hope to make a breakthrough soon."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-in-India.html
23130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO seeks to end run second via treaty on: June 12, 2009, 03:30:04 AM
and inform foreign govts of US gun owners to boot!

http://wearechangecoloradosprings.org/blog/?p=594
23131  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Services for Tony Adams on: June 12, 2009, 03:17:40 AM
Services for Tony Adams
Sunday June 14, 2009
11:00 am
Royal Palm Beach
DIRECTIONS
Take 110 Freeway South Until it Ends on "Gaffey Street"
in San Pedro
Exit Left onto Gaffey Street
Follow Gaffey Street till it ends and veers right at Paseo
Del Mar
Turn onto Paseo Del Mar and Travel about a Mile and a
Half till you see an Entry Point to White Point / Royal
Palms (There's a Guard Shack there and Gate).
Pay for Parking and Proceed all the way Down the Hill.
When you reach the Bottom - Turn Right and Park all the
way at the end.
Remembering Tony Adams
For further information please contact:
Zeke Rodriguez
zekeiii@hotmail.com
23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: June 11, 2009, 06:11:48 PM
This is highly significant -- and very Alinskyesque.

Remember the one Republican that BO was going to appoint to his cabinet would normally have been in charge of the census, but part of the deal was that he would not be.  The BO White House is determined to take this over from its usual bureaucratic bailiwick.
23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: June 11, 2009, 03:36:53 PM
By KARL ROVE

It was a sobering breakfast with one of the smartest Republicans on Capitol Hill. We can fix a lot of bad stuff President Barack Obama might do, he told me. But if Mr. Obama signs into law a "public option," government-run insurance program as part of health-care reform we won't be able to undo the damage.

I'd go the Republican member of Congress one further: If Democrats enact a public-option health-insurance program, America is on the way to becoming a European-style welfare state. To prevent this from happening, there are five arguments Republicans must make.

 
The first is it's unnecessary. Advocates say a government-run insurance program is needed to provide competition for private health insurance. But 1,300 companies sell health insurance plans. That's competition enough. The results of robust private competition to provide the Medicare drug benefit underscore this. When it was approved, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost $74 billion a year by 2008. Nearly 100 providers deliver the drug benefit, competing on better benefits, more choices, and lower prices. So the actual cost was $44 billion in 2008 -- nearly 41% less than predicted. No government plan was needed to guarantee competition's benefits.

Second, a public option will undercut private insurers and pass the tab to taxpayers and health providers just as it does in existing government-run programs. For example, Medicare pays hospitals 71% and doctors 81% of what private insurers pay.

Who covers the rest? Government passes the bill for the outstanding balance to providers and families not covered by government programs. This cost-shifting amounts to a forced subsidy. Families pay about $1,800 more a year for someone else's health care as a result, according to a recent study by Milliman Inc. It's also why many doctors limit how many Medicare patients they take: They can afford only so much charity care.

Fixing prices at less than market rates will continue under any public option. Sen. Edward Kennedy's proposal, for example, has Washington paying providers what Medicare does plus 10%. That will lead to health providers offering less care.

Third, government-run health insurance would crater the private insurance market, forcing most Americans onto the government plan. The Lewin Group estimates 70% of people with private insurance -- 120 million Americans -- will quickly lose what they now get from private companies and be forced onto the government-run rolls as businesses decide it is more cost-effective for them to drop coverage. They'd be happy to shift some of the expense -- and all of the administration headaches -- to Washington. And once the private insurance market has been dismantled it will be gone.

Fourth, the public option is far too expensive. The cost of Medicare -- the purest form of a government-run "public choice" for seniors -- will start exceeding its payroll-tax "trust fund" in 2017. The Obama administration estimates its health reforms will cost as much as $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. It is no coincidence the Obama budget nearly triples the national debt over that same period.

Medicare and Medicaid cost much more than estimated when they were adopted. One reason is there's no competition for these government-run insurance programs. In the same way, Americans can expect a public option to cost far more than the Obama administration's rosy estimates.

Fifth, the public option puts government firmly in the middle of the relationship between patients and their doctors. If you think insurance companies are bad, imagine what happens when government is the insurance carrier, with little or no competition and no concern you'll change to another company.

In other words, the public option is just phony. It's a bait-and-switch tactic meant to reassure people that the president's goals are less radical than they are. Mr. Obama's real aim, as some candid Democrats admit, is a single-payer, government-run health-care system.

Health care desperately needs far-reaching reforms that put patients and their doctors in charge, bring the benefits of competition and market forces to bear, and ensure access to affordable and portable health care for every American. Republicans have plans to achieve this, and they must make their case for reform in every available forum.

Defeating the public option should be a top priority for the GOP this year. Otherwise, our nation will be changed in damaging ways almost impossible to reverse.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
23134  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality of the street...interface with the law on: June 11, 2009, 12:17:09 PM
Apparently my pasting missed giving the author's name.  embarassed  It is Darren Laur. 

23135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A rare spontaneous moment on MSNBC on: June 11, 2009, 11:17:18 AM


http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f28_1244651491
23136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Col. Brooks on: June 11, 2009, 10:32:14 AM
"Under all those disadvantages no men ever show more spirit or prudence than ours. In my opinion nothing but virtue has kept our army together through this campaign."

--Colonel John Brooks, letter to a friend, January 5, 1778
23137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT US Commander in Afg given more leeway on: June 11, 2009, 08:28:33 AM


U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Given More Leeway
By THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: June 10, 2009

WASHINGTON — The new American commander in Afghanistan has been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans, as he moves to carry out an ambitious new strategy that envisions stepped-up attacks on Taliban fighters and narcotics networks.

lThe extraordinary leeway granted the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, underscores a view within the administration that the war in Afghanistan has for too long been given low priority and needs to be the focus of a sustained, high-level effort.

General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With his promotion approved by the Senate late on Wednesday, General McChrystal and senior members of his command team were scheduled to fly from Washington within hours of the vote, stopping in two European capitals to confer with allies before landing in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

General McChrystal’s confirmation came only after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, went to the floor to make an impassioned plea for Republicans to allow the action to proceed, fearing that political infighting would delay approval of the appointment. He told of a phone call on Wednesday from Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Reid said that Admiral Mullen had told him that there was a sense of urgency that General McChrystal be able to go to Afghanistan that very night. He said that according to Admiral Mullen, “McChrystal is literally waiting by an airplane” to go to Afghanistan as the new commander.

Almost a dozen senior military officers provided details about General McChrystal’s plans in interviews after his nomination. The officers insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the effort, and insisted that their comments not be used until the Senate vote, so as not to preempt lawmakers.

For the first time, the American commander in Afghanistan will have a three-star deputy. Picked for the job of running day-to-day combat operations was Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who has commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez have been colleagues and friends for more than 30 years, beginning when both were Ranger company commanders as young captains.

General McChrystal also has picked the senior intelligence adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, to join him in Kabul as director of intelligence there. In Washington, Brig. Gen. Scott Miller, a longtime Special Operations officer now assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff but who had served previously under General McChrystal, is now organizing a new Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell.

Admiral Mullen said that he personally told General McChrystal that “he could have his pick from the Joint Staff. His job, the mission he’s going to command, is that important. Afghanistan is the main effort right now.”

Just how this new team will grapple with the increasingly violent Taliban militancy in Afghanistan is unclear, although General McChrystal has said he will focus on classic counterinsurgency techniques, in particular protecting the population.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has asked General McChrystal to report back within 60 days of taking command with an assessment of the mission and plans for carrying out President Obama’s new strategy.

“Success will be difficult to define but will come in reduction in I.E.D.’s, reduction in poppy, more interdiction of Taliban crossing the border, some anticorruption arrests/exiles, and greater civilian effort possible as a result of a reduction in the threat,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Gilchrist, a retired British officer and a former deputy commander of allied forces in Afghanistan who praised General McChrystal’s appointment.

At the Pentagon, under General McChrystal’s direction, a large area of the Defense Department’s underground, round-the-clock emergency operations facility — called the National Military Command Center — has already been shifted to the Afghan war effort.

The makeover in the American military command is not the only major set of personnel changes in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has surrounded the new United States ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry, a recently retired three-star Army general, with three former ambassadors to bolster diplomatic efforts in the country.

Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., a former ambassador to Egypt and the Philippines, has been tapped as General Eikenberry’s deputy. Earl Anthony Wayne, a former ambassador to Argentina, is heading up economic development initiatives in the embassy. Joseph A. Mussomeli, the former ambassador to Cambodia, will be an assistant ambassador in Kabul.

As director of intelligence on the Joint Staff, General Flynn holds a position, called the J-2, that has often been a springboard to a senior executive position across the alphabet soup of American intelligence agencies. But General Flynn, who was General McChrystal’s intelligence boss at the Joint Special Operations Command, has chosen to return to the combat zone.

In a sign of the importance being given to explaining the new strategy to Afghans, across the region and the world, General McChrystal will also be taking the first flag officer to serve as chief of public affairs and communications for the military in Afghanistan.

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, who has served as director of communications and spokesman in Iraq during the troop increase under Gen. David H. Petraeus, had been scheduled to retire this summer. But officials said he received a personal request from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to serve in the same capacity for General McChrystal.

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting from New York, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Austin, Tex.
23138  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cues on: June 11, 2009, 08:17:27 AM
Ritualized Combat:


Ritualized Combat was termed by a police trainer by the name of Roland Ouellette. Basically, these "body language signs" are rituals that the human body will, in most cases, go through just prior, during, and after a physical confrontation ( not so different from the animal kingdom). These signs are important, why?, because they are really good warning signals to let you know what your potential attacker may be contemplating, even though he may not be “verbally” communicating this fact to you. Ritualized Combative signs have been both scientifically and empirically researched in such fields as “Human Performance” and “Neuro Linguistic Psychology.” Here in Canada, I have used “Ritualized Combative Signs” successfully in the Courts during expert testimony in Self-Defense cases. I also possess hundreds of hours of videotape of actual street fights, and when reviewed both in real time and in slow motion, everyone of the Ritualized Combative signs that I share in my articles and training, are seen prior, during, and after these fights. This is why I believe that all in the self-protection field should know about “Ritualized Combat”. So what are these signs?


Assault Not Imminent But Possible:

- Head, neck, shoulders go back (person making themselves look bigger)
- Face is red, twitching, jerking
- Lips pushed forward bearing teeth (you see the same things in dogs before attack)
- Breathing is fast and shallow (oxygenating the body preparing for fight, flight, hyper vigilance)
- Beads of sweat appear about the face/neck
- Thousand mile glare
- Exaggerated movements
- Finger pointing/ head pecking
- Totally ignores you
- Gives you excessive attention during normal conversation such as direct uninterrupted eye contact
- Goes from totally un-cooperative to totally cooperative ( people do not go from hot to cold they de-escalate over time)
- Acts stoned or drunk
- Directs anger towards other inanimate items such as tables, chairs, walls



If you find yourself confronted by a subject presenting these signs, awareness/self protection strategies should go up, and distance should be created. Your body language should be assertive but not threatening and don’t be afraid to allow the person to vent verbally.


Assault Is Imminent:


- face goes from red to white ( during a physical confrontation the blood will leave the surface of the body and pool to the big muscles and internal organs of the body needed for survival) In my job as a police officer I see this all the time and when I do one of two things are going to happen, the suspect is either going to fight or run
- Lips tighten over teeth
- Breathing is fast and deep
- Change of stance, their body blades and shoulder drops
- Hands closed into a fist (not uncommon to see the whites of knuckles due to hands being so tight)
- Bobbing up and down or rocking back and forth on feet (this is the bodies way to hide/ mask the initial movement of a first strike)
- Target glace (here you will see your opponent look to where he is going to hit, or where he is going to run/escape)
- Putting head and shin down (body wants to protect the airway, this action does so to a degree)
- Eye brows brought forward into a frown( again the body wants to naturally protect the visual system, this action does so to a degree)
- Stops all movements/ freezes in place
- Dropping center or lowering of body (no different that a cat or dog getting ready to pounce)
- Shedding cloths ( very common, you will see your attacker take his hat, coat, shirt, or bag off just prior to the assault)
- One syllable replies ( go from full sentences to one syllable replies….. reptilian brain is clicking in)


In this group of signs, you have about 1-1.5 seconds to act before your attacker either attacks or runs. If walking and talking your way out is inappropriate or unreasonable, then I teach “First Strike” philosophy, and continue on with a compound attack until your attacker is no longer a risk.


In both the Assault not Imminent and Assault Imminent phases, I do teach my students ( in some situations) to bring to the attention of the attacker what they are seeing why:

1) The attacker may not know what they are doing. A lot of these signs are autonomic in nature, meaning they happen without conscious thought.
2) The bigger reason, I believe, is for this purpose; most attackers will only attack you when they believe that they have the element of surprise. By sharing with them what you see, you take this primary tactic away from them.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU SHOULD NOT LET THE PERSON KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SEEING, THUS USING THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE!!!!!!!!!!


If you have been able to deescalate the situation you have found yourself in, non-verbally, verbally or physically, also look for these Ritualized Combat signs that are good indicators to let you know that your opponent is no longer thinking about fighting:


Signs Of Submission:

- Putting hands up in front of body with palms facing out…. ( universal sign for stop stay back)
- Face returns to normal skin tone and color
- shaking hand. (almost as if the person has Alzheimer’s disease…. This shaking can be slight to extreme ….. bodies natural way to burn out the adrenalin, nor-adrenalin, epinephrine that it dumped into the body for fight, flight, hypervigilance but was not used)
- turning of back with their hands covering their head ( ensure you can see their hands if not create distance NOW)
- backing off
- bowing of head and lowering of eyes
- verbal tone, volume, rate, slows back to normal / full sentences once again
- falling to the ground almost in a fetal position
- grooming gestures ( this one is weird but you will see it time and time again… person will adjust their clothing, play with their hair/mustache/beard, pick lint of their body….. you see this in cat and dogs after they fight and then groom themselves)


In all of the above noted signs, don’t just look for one, but rather clusters of two or more. If you see one and know what to look for, you will see others guaranteed. As a police officer who has been involved in many physical encounters, I can share with you and others that “Ritualized Combat” is a tool that you can use to your advantage. Many of my students , who are not police officers, who have found themselves in ‘situations” have also echoed the tactical benefit of such knowledge. One should also remember that a skilled attacker “may” be able to mask some of these signs, so never drop you guard and fall into a false sense of confidence !!!!!! Also remember that if the voice and body don’t match, always believe the body because the voice can LIE !!!!!! If your attacker is verbalizing the fact that he doesn’t want to fight, but yet he is showing Ritualized Combative signs that show otherwise, he’s a LLPOF ( liar, liar pants on fire)


Some people who don’t know about Ritualized Combat, call it “gut instinct/intuition” They are right !!!!!! The reason it is a “gut instinct/intuition” rather than a known empirical thing, is because no one has explained to them what “Ritualized Combat” is. What is happening in the “gut/ instinct” group, is that their “sub-conscious/reptilian brain” is picking up on these signs (rather than the conscious critical mind), thus turning on the warning bells. Some listen (the more experience), but most do not. Why can I say this, I am also a certified hypnotherapist and working towards my masters in Neuro Linguistic Psychology.
23139  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pre-emption in NY law on: June 11, 2009, 07:59:14 AM


"Initial aggressor” means the person who first attacks or threatens to attack; that is, the first person who uses or threatens the imminent use of offensive physical force. The actual striking of the first blow or inflicting of the first wound, however, does not necessarily determine who was the initial aggressor.

A person who reasonably believes that another is about to use physical force upon him/her need not wait until he/she is struck or wounded. He/she may, in such circumstances, be the first to use physical force, so long as he/she reasonably believed it was about to be used against him/her or someone else.



(Quote from:
http://www.nycourts.gov/cji/1-...n.Physical_Force.pdf
JUSTIFICATION: USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE IN DEFENSE OF A PERSON
PENAL LAW 35.15 (Effective Sept. 1, 1980) )
23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: June 11, 2009, 12:08:19 AM
GM:

My informed friend responds to your question:

Marc

"What of a High Energy Radio Frequency burst directed to the "fly by wire"  system?"

"Electrical and Avionics systems must all test a series of “HIRF” tests: High Intensity Radio Frequency.  Components are put in a sealed room and blasted with a wide range of frequencies and the whole aircraft is subjected to a system test which I believe is conducted in an empty hangar with lots of antennas pumping electromagnetic energy around.  And there are also lightning tests, direct hits to boxes, and direct hits to larger subassemblies including cable assemblies.  At least that was the protocol years ago.  I am sure it is more thorough now.  It is one reason why these things cost so much."
23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pigs fly; LA Times supports incorporating the 2d! on: June 10, 2009, 04:40:59 PM

A legal shootout over the right to own a gun

Conflicting court opinions gun may result in linking the 2nd Amendment with the 14th.

June 10, 2009

Two federal appeals court opinions -- one signed by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor -- have created a quandary for those who cherish the protections of the Bill of Rights and also believe in meaningful gun control. But the way out of the dilemma is not to urge the high court to pick and choose which constitutional rights are protected against state and local laws.

Among the charges leveled by some conservatives against Sotomayor is that she has been insufficiently protective of the 2nd Amendment, which says that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Exhibit A was the judge's role in a decision by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the constitutionality of a New York state law banning the possession of nunchucks.

Sotomayor and two other judges ruled that the 2nd Amendment applies only to the federal government, a long-standing view that the Supreme Court didn't address when it struck down a gun control law in Washington, D.C., last year. In legal jargon, the high court hasn't explicitly "incorporated” the 2nd Amendment in the 14th Amendment, which protects "liberty" against state interference. Other amendments long have been incorporated, making it possible to sue the states for violating many of the protections of the Bill of Rights.

Using the 2nd Circuit decision to portray Sotomayor as an opponent of gun rights became harder last week when two of the nation's most prominent conservative judges issued an opinion espousing the same view. The opinion for a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was written by Judge Frank Easterbrook, a President Reagan appointee. The justices may soon address the incorporation question in order to resolve a conflict between the position taken by the 2nd and 7th circuits and the opposite view adopted by the San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It's tempting for supporters of gun control -- including this page -- to hope that the high court will rule that the 2nd Amendment doesn't apply to the states. That would be a mistake and would give aid and comfort to conservative legal thinkers, among them Justice Clarence Thomas, who have questioned the incorporation doctrine.

We were disappointed last year when the Supreme Court ruled that the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right, giving short shrift to the first part of the amendment, which refers to "a well-regulated militia." But we also believe the court has been right to use the doctrine of incorporation to bind states to the most important protections of the Bill of Rights. If those vital provisions are to be incorporated in the 14th Amendment, so should the right to keep and bear arms.
23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The second, the fourteenth, & incorporation on: June 10, 2009, 03:10:13 PM
See entry #16 for a fascinating piece on these issues:

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1850.0
23143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rev. Wright on: June 10, 2009, 11:30:06 AM
GM's post moved here

dailypress.com/news/dp-local_wright_0610jun10,0,7603283.story

dailypress.com

Rev. Wright says he doesn't regret severed relationship with president

By DAVID SQUIRES

247-4639

June 10, 2009

HAMPTON –


The Rev. Jeremiah Wright says he does not feel any regrets over his severed relationship with President Barack Obama, a former member of the Chicago church in which Wright was the longtime pastor.

Wright also said that he had not spoken to his former church member since Obama became president, implying that the White House won't allow Obama to talk to him. He did not indicate whether he had tried to reach Obama.

"Regret for what... that the media went back five, seven, 10 years and spent $4,000 buying 20 years worth of sermons to hear what I've been preaching for 20 years?

"Regret for preaching like I've been preaching for 50 years? Absolutely none," Wright said.

Wright said that when he went to the polls, he did not hold any grudge against Obama.

"Of course I voted for him; he's my son. I'm proud of him," Wright said. "I've got five biological kids. They all make mistakes and bad choices. I haven't stopped loving any of them.

"He made mistakes. He made bad choices. I've got kids who listen to their friends. He listened to those around him. I did not disown him."

Asked if he had spoken to the President, Wright said: "Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office. ...

"They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. ... I said from the beginning: He's a politician; I'm a pastor. He's got to do what politicians do."

Wright also said Obama should have sent a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not do so for fear of offending Jews and Israel.

"Ethic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing of the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don't want Barack talking like that because that's anti-Israel," Wright said.

Wright is in Hampton this week attending Hampton University's 95th Annual Ministers Conference. The son of a pastor, Wright said he has attended the conference since he was a child – though he was not spotted at the conference in 2008 during the heat of the debate over comments he made that many in the media branded racially divisive.

Perhaps without the Wright controversy, the issue of race might not have become a part of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

After the initial rounds of the controversy, Obama made his famous speech in Philadelphia on race relations, in which he said he could no more disown Wright than his own grandmother.

But the issue heated up after more comments by Wright at the National Press Club and from other controversial speakers at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama eventually distanced himself from the church.
23144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 10, 2009, 11:25:36 AM
Yes, please!
23145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The settlements and the future of US-Isreali relations on: June 10, 2009, 08:49:45 AM
WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS AND THE FUTURE OF U.S.-ISRAELI RELATIONS

By George Friedman

Amid the rhetoric of U.S. President Barack Obama's speech June 4 in Cairo, there was one substantial indication of change, not in the U.S. relationship to the Islamic world but in the U.S. relationship to Israel. This shift actually emerged prior to the speech, and the speech merely touched on it. But it is not a minor change and it must not be underestimated. It has every opportunity of growing into a major breach between Israel and the United States.

The immediate issue concerns Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The United States has long expressed opposition to increasing settlements but has not moved much beyond rhetoric. Certainly the continued expansion and development of new settlements on the West Bank did not cause prior administrations to shift their policies toward Israel. And while the Israelis have occasionally modified their policies, they have continued to build settlements. The basic understanding between the two sides has been that the United States would oppose settlements formally but that this would not evolve into a fundamental disagreement.

The United States has clearly decided to change the game. Obama has said that, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to stop building new settlements, but not to halt what he called the "natural growth" of existing settlements.

Obama has positioned the settlement issue in such a way that it would be difficult for him to back down. He has repeated it several times, including in his speech to the Islamic world. It is an issue on which he is simply following the formal positions of prior administrations. It is an issue on which prior Israeli governments made commitments. What Obama has done is restated formal U.S. policy, on which there are prior Israeli agreements, and demanded Israeli compliance. Given his initiative in the Islamic world, Obama, having elevated the issue to this level, is going to have problems backing off.

Obama is also aware that Netanyahu is not in a political position to comply with the demand, even if he were inclined to. Netanyahu is leading a patchwork coalition in which support from the right is critical. For the Israeli right, settling in what it calls Samaria and Judea is a fundamental principle on which it cannot bend. Unlike Ariel Sharon, a man of the right who was politically powerful, Netanyahu is a man of the right who is politically weak. Netanyahu gave all he could give on this issue when he said there would be no new settlements created. Netanyahu doesn't have the political ability to give Obama what he is demanding. Netanyahu is locked into place, unless he wants to try to restructure his Cabinet or persuade people like Avigdor Lieberman, his right-wing foreign minister, to change their fundamental view of the world.

Therefore, Obama has decided to create a crisis with Israel. He has chosen a subject on which Republican and Democratic administrations have had the same formal position. He has also picked a subject that does not affect Israeli national security in any immediate sense (he has not made demands for changes of policy toward Gaza, for example). Obama struck at an issue where he had precedent on his side, and where Israel's immediate safety is not at stake. He also picked an issue on which he would have substantial support in the United States, and he has done this to have a symbolic showdown with Israel. The more Netanyahu resists, the more Obama gets what he wants.

Obama's read of the Arab-Israeli situation is that it is not insoluble. He believes in the two-state solution, for better or worse. In order to institute the two-state solution, Obama must establish the principle that the West Bank is Palestinian territory by right and not Israeli territory on which the Israelis might make concessions. The settlements issue is fundamental to establishing this principle. Israel has previously agreed both to the two-state solution and to not expanding settlements. If Obama can force Netanyahu to concede on the settlements issue, then he will break the back of the Israeli right and open the door to a rightist-negotiated settlement of the two-state solution.

In the course of all of this, Obama is opening doors in the Islamic world a little wider by demonstrating that the United States is prepared to force Israel to make concessions. By subtext, he wants to drive home the idea that Israel does not control U.S. policy but that, in fact, Israel and the United States are two separate countries with different and sometimes conflicting views. Obama wouldn't mind an open battle on the settlements one bit.

For Netanyahu, this is the worst terrain on which to fight. If he could have gotten Obama to attack by demanding that Israel not respond to missiles launched from Gaza or Lebanon, Netanyahu would have had the upper hand in the United States. Israel has support in the United States and in Congress, and any action that would appear to leave Israel's security at risk would trigger an instant strengthening of that support.

But there is not much support in the United States for settlements on the West Bank. This is not a subject around which Israel's supporters are going to rally very intensely, in large part because there is substantial support for a two-state solution and very little understanding or sympathy for the historic claim of Jews to Judea and Samaria. Obama has picked a topic on which he has political room for maneuver and on which Netanyahu is politically locked in.

Given that, the question is where Obama is going with this. From Obama's point of view, he wins no matter what Netanyahu decides to do. If Netanyahu gives in, then he has established the principle that the United States can demand concessions from a Likud-controlled government in Israel and get them. There will be more demands. If Netanyahu doesn't give in, Obama can create a split with Israel over the one issue he can get public support for in the United States (a halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank), and use that split as a lever with Islamic states.

Thus, the question is what Netanyahu is going to do. His best move is to say that this is just a disagreement between friends and assume that the rest of the U.S.-Israeli relationship is intact, from aid to technology transfer to intelligence sharing. That's where Obama is going to have to make his decision. He has elevated the issue to the forefront of U.S.-Israeli relations. The Israelis have refused to comply. If Obama proceeds with the relationship as if nothing has happened, then he is back where he began.

Obama did not start this confrontation to wind up there. He calculated carefully when he raised this issue and knew perfectly well that Netanyahu couldn't make concessions on it, so he had to have known that he was going to come to this point. Obviously, he could have made this confrontation as a part of his initiative to the Islamic world. But it is unlikely that he saw that initiative as ending with the speech, and he understands that, for the Islamic world, his relation to Israel is important. Even Islamic countries not warmly inclined toward Palestinians, like Jordan or Egypt, don't want the United States to back off on this issue.

Netanyahu has argued in the past that Israel's relationship to the United States was not as important to Israel as it once was. U.S. aid as a percentage of Israel's gross domestic product has plunged. Israel is not facing powerful states, and it is not facing a situation like 1973, when Israeli survival depended on aid being rushed in from the United States. The technology transfer now runs both ways, and the United States relies on Israeli intelligence quite a bit. In other words, over the past generation, Israel has moved from a dependent relationship with the United States to one of mutual dependence.

This is very much Netanyahu's point of view, and from this point of view follows the idea that he might simply say no to the United States on the settlements issue and live easily with the consequences. The weakness in this argument is that, while Israel does not now face strategic issues it can't handle, it could in the future. Indeed, while Netanyahu is urging action on Iran, he knows that action is impossible without U.S. involvement.

This leads to a political problem. As much as the right would like to blow off the United States, the center and the left would be appalled. For Israel, the United States has been the centerpiece of the national psyche since 1967. A breach with the United States would create a massive crisis on the left and could well bring the government down if Ehud Barak and his Labor Party, for example, bolted from the ruling coalition. Netanyahu's problem is the problem Israel has continually had. It is a politically fragmented country, and there is never an Israeli government that does not consist of fragments. A government that contains Lieberman and Barak is not one likely to be able to make bold moves.

It is therefore difficult to see how Netanyahu can both deal with Obama and hold his government together. It is even harder to see how Obama can reduce the pressure. Indeed, we would expect to see him increase the pressure by suspending minor exchanges and programs. Obama is playing to the Israeli center and left, who would oppose any breach with the United States.

Obama has the strong hand and the options. Netanyahu has the weak hand and fewer options. It is hard to see how he will solve the problem. And that's what Obama wants. He wants Netanyahu struggling with the problem. In the end, he wants Netanyahu to fold on the settlements issue and keep on folding until he presides over a political settlement with the Palestinians. Obama wants Netanyahu and the right to be responsible for the agreement, as Menachem Begin was responsible for the treaty with Egypt and withdrawal from the Sinai.

We find it difficult to imagine how a two-state solution would work, but that concept is at the heart of U.S. policy and Obama wants the victory. He has put into motion processes to create that solution, first of all, by backing Netanyahu into a corner. Left out of Obama's equation is the Palestinian interest, willingness and ability to reach a treaty with Israel, but from Obama's point of view, if the Palestinians reject or undermine an agreement, he will still have leverage in the Islamic world. Right now, given Iraq and Afghanistan, that is where he wants leverage, and backing Netanyahu into a corner is more important than where it all leads in the end.


This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to www.stratfor.com.

Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
23146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maybe not , , , on: June 10, 2009, 08:24:44 AM
GM:

I was intrigued enough by your previous post to share it with someone with a background in aviation far deeper than his humble reply here indicates.  Here is what he said:

"Hack into an aircraft fly by wire system?  Seems damn near impossible, and it would become immediately obvious to the computer system provoking an alarm and disabling of functions to maintain safety.  It seems highly unlikely and very difficult for one to plant a software bomb and not have it detected.  Even with my little airplane with FAA approved electronic flight controls, the self check routine takes two minutes after start up, and the number of errors the system can detect is in the hundreds.

Unlike our home computers running an operating system upon which are operated the various programs we use, control systems are their own operating systems constantly doing only the tasks they are assigned, continuously and without interruption.  In that respect they are very stripped down.  They also have many levels of internal checking, and if something wrong is detected, various levels of isolation and shutdown are automatically invoked. 

My money is on an in flight break-up due to the strong turbulence and up and down drafts that were apparently present.  The impact of turbulence may have been worsened if the pitot tube (velocity sensing instrument) problem that has been mentioned by Airbus was in play.  It would make it more likely for the crew to fly at a higher than planned airspeed which worsens the impact of turbulence.   These folks may have been recipients of some really bad weather luck.  Occasionally, like rogue waves in the ocean, the atmosphere generates something truly ugly, of only for a moment.

Big thunderstorms break up big and little airplanes and have done for decades.  The survival rate for a plane penetrating a big thunderstorm is better than 99%, but the chances of a bad outcome are still lousy compared to the risks we take elsewhere.  Thunderstorms are to be avoided.
23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Wilson: The Object of government on: June 10, 2009, 08:19:56 AM
"Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind."

--James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790
23148  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: June 09, 2009, 06:31:17 PM
The Humor/WTF? thread on the SCE forum would have worked too, but not worth the bother to change it  cheesy

I'm having a hard time picturing how the goose allowed itself to get grabbed , , ,
23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newsweek editor: BO is like God on: June 09, 2009, 06:13:26 PM

http://foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com/20...s-sort-of-god/
23150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: June 09, 2009, 06:02:35 PM
Before BBG gets to this, if I may respond as an Angeleno who was born and raised in NYC?

Los Angeles is a reallly, really spread out area.  To use a train of some sort means having to get to the train station and having to do something to get to one's actual destination after getting off the train at the other end.  Bottom line, the trains lose money.  LOTS of money.  Rail does not make sense-- but it does cost billions and billions of dollars, not that we have gotten around yet to paying for it , , , 

Not speaking from specific knowledge, but my sense of things is that the city's bus system is an economic clusterfcuk.  Yet for some strange reason (e.g. public union objections  angry ) the city vociferously opposes jitneys.

Even in the Boston-NY-Philadelphia-DC corredor, AMTRAK is a multi-billion dollar annual drain on the public coffers , , , what a bargain price for having gotten Joe Biden from home to the Senate all these years , , ,

DC's metro train system was built with the taxes of the nation.  Why?

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