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23101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Duke Snider on: February 28, 2011, 11:50:18 AM
A baseball player of my youth that I liked, Duke Snider, RIP.
23102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Gates goes nuke on: February 28, 2011, 11:39:12 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Guth is the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at rob.guth@wsj.com.

23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: That is what community organizers do on: February 28, 2011, 11:27:07 AM
February 22, 2011
But That’s What Community Organizers Do
by Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2011 Victor Davis Hanson
23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH calls for death panels? on: February 28, 2011, 11:14:49 AM
A NY TImes (Pravda on the Hudson) editorial today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: AQ at crossroads on: February 28, 2011, 11:03:05 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Souad Mekhennet contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / DOMA on: February 28, 2011, 10:51:08 AM
"Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness." --James Wilson

Opinion in Brief

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

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

23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU on: February 28, 2011, 09:04:24 AM
But were those claims not put to rest with the deals under Bush 2 accepting the surrender of his nuke program?
23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: February 28, 2011, 09:03:08 AM
GM's point is rational, but , , , this is politics.

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

I too would like to seem him run and to see what the response is.
23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU on: February 28, 2011, 08:48:16 AM
Mubarak and his military were not gunning down his people; Mubarak did not have a long list of terrorism (Lockerbie and more); Mubarak had not tried developing nukes; Mubark HAD kept a peace treaty with Israel, etc etc.

Libya appears to offer a clear cut opportunity for the US to stand for people fighting oppression, yet BO could not even name Kaddafy and has failed to prepare meaningful options.
23110  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 27, 2011, 07:50:31 PM
A very enjoyable day today.  Thanks to Guide Dog for the assist.
23111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 27, 2011, 10:11:25 AM
I get that, but is that really the subject of your post (or GM's response)? Your post was an asssertion of cognitive dissonance on the part of BO critics with regard to US policy concerning various Arab countries.  I've offered 3 alternatives if you want to keep this particular discussion going.
23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 27, 2011, 09:51:34 AM
This belongs on "War, Peace, and SNAFU" or "US Foreign Policy" or "Other Arab countries" , , , not here  cheesy
23113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Get out in front on Libya on: February 27, 2011, 09:48:36 AM
Intuitively this makes sense to me:

www.newsrealblog.com/2011/02/26/nrbs-ryan-mauro-on-fox-news-u-s-should-help-finish-off-qaddafi/

23114  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 27, 2011, 09:22:04 AM
Everyone must have one for each and every Gathering.

I will check with the boss about the form for this one.
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Hydrofracking for Natural Gas a threat to water on: February 27, 2011, 09:20:14 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

A long piece, seems serious, but its POTH so caveat lector.
23116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 27, 2011, 09:13:45 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23
Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers
 
By IAN URBINA
Published: February 26, 2011
 
 
The American landscape is dotted with hundreds of thousands of new wells and drilling rigs, as the country scrambles to tap into this century’s gold rush — for natural gas.

Drilling Down


The gas has always been there, of course, trapped deep underground in countless tiny bubbles, like frozen spills of seltzer water between thin layers of shale rock. But drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years.
So energy companies are clamoring to drill. And they are getting rare support from their usual sparring partners. Environmentalists say using natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal and oil. Lawmakers hail the gas as a source of jobs. They also see it as a way to wean the United States from its dependency on other countries for oil.

But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

That has experts worried.

“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” said John H. Quigley, who left last month as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In shifting away from coal and toward natural gas, we’re trying for cleaner air, but we’re producing massive amounts of toxic wastewater with salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and it’s not clear we have a plan for properly handling this waste.”

The risks are particularly severe in Pennsylvania, which has seen a sharp increase in drilling, with roughly 71,000 active gas wells, up from about 36,000 in 2000. The level of radioactivity in the wastewater has sometimes been hundreds or even thousands of times the maximum allowed by the federal standard for drinking water. While people clearly do not drink drilling wastewater, the reason to use the drinking-water standard for comparison is that there is no comprehensive federal standard for what constitutes safe levels of radioactivity in drilling wastewater.

Drillers trucked at least half of this waste to public sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2009, according to state officials. Some of it has been sent to other states, including New York and West Virginia.

Yet sewage treatment plant operators say they are far less capable of removing radioactive contaminants than most other toxic substances. Indeed, most of these facilities cannot remove enough of the radioactive material to meet federal drinking-water standards before discharging the wastewater into rivers, sometimes just miles upstream from drinking-water intake plants.
=============
There are 4 more pages to the article
23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Newt on: February 27, 2011, 09:03:51 AM


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Newt Gingrich needs no introduction to most Republican audiences. It is the reintroduction that is the challenge.

If Mr. Gingrich moves forward with a presidential bid, as his advisers and friends say he is poised to do as soon as this week, he will start with a reputation as one of his party’s most creative thinkers and a record of leading Republicans back to power in the 1990s and confronting Democrats on spending.
But he will also have to grapple with aspects of his life and career that could give pause to elements of the Republican primary electorate, including a lack of a well-established association with religious conservatives and attendant questions about his two divorces.

So as he travels the country, he is striking two related notes: that the nation faces not just a fiscal crisis but also a loss of its moral foundation, and that his conversion to Catholicism two years ago is part of an evolution that has given him a deeper appreciation for the role of faith in public life.

On a recent winter night here, Mr. Gingrich, 67, stood on stage at a Catholic school with his wife, Callista, and introduced a film they produced about the role Pope John Paul II played in the fall of Communism in Poland. As Mr. Gingrich looked out over a crowd of 1,300 people, he warned that the United States had become too secular a society.

“To a surprising degree, we are in a situation similar to Poland’s in 1979,” he told the audience, which had gathered at a banquet for Ohio Right to Life, one of the nation’s oldest anti-abortion groups. “In America, religious belief is being challenged by a cultural elite trying to create a secularized America, in which God is driven out of public life.”

To most audiences, Mr. Gingrich does not talk directly about converting to Catholicism, but his faith has become an important part of his dialogue with conservative voters.

In an interview, Mr. Gingrich said he knew that a campaign would bring new attention on the full scope of his personal and political background. Last week, in an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania, he grew testy when he received a question from a Democratic student activist about the details of his two divorces.

“There are things in my life I’m not proud of, and there are things in my life I’m very proud of,” Mr. Gingrich said in the interview when asked what effect his background would have on a candidacy. “People have to decide who I am. Am I a person they want to trust to lead the country or not?”

In Washington, Mr. Gingrich, one of his party’s best known and most polarizing figures, may still be remembered for a spectacular rise and fall: the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, the confrontation with President Bill Clinton that led to a government shutdown the next year, ethics battles and his resignation as speaker in 1998. He also acknowledged having an extramarital affair with Callista Bisek, then a House staff member, while leading impeachment proceedings against Mr. Clinton for lying about his own sexual transgressions.

But elsewhere, Mr. Gingrich’s reinvention has long been under way, amplified through regular appearances on the Fox News Channel, as he tries to build support among the voters who will choose the 2012 Republican nominee.

Rival Republicans marvel at his deep well of ideas, his innate intellect and his knowledge of government. They also point to the strategic approach taken by the Gingrich team in the 2010 elections, including holding training sessions for a new generation of elected officials. He has secured important endorsements, including one from the new majority leader of the Iowa House, who has been courted by all potential presidential candidates.

Mr. Gingrich said he believed that the 2012 election was comparable in historic scope to 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover and ushered in the New Deal, and to 1860, when Abraham Lincoln prevailed over Stephen A. Douglas, setting the stage for the Civil War.

He urges Republicans to not settle for “rejection conservatism,” which simply casts aside liberal arguments, instead of “replacement conservatism,” which would fundamentally change institutions that he believes have outlived their effectiveness.

“That’s part of what the Republican Party has to come to grips with,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Does it want to be a party prepared to replace the failed institutions and move to a very bold new approach? Or does it want to try to muddle through accepting the framework of the systems that are failing?”

As always, Mr. Gingrich continues to mix the abstract and the more politically concrete.

The man who introduced the Contract with America in 1994, which still stands as a gold standard of political branding, now has a snappier jingle for today’s shorter attention span. The message is so concise that he pulls it from the breast pocket of his suit, no matter if he is delivering an intimate dinner speech or addressing a large audience, as he did recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The note card reads: “2 + 2 = 4.”

It is an elementary lesson on spending and debt, he said, that has eluded the Obama administration. He uses it to present his broader view that the next presidential election should be a major debate over the size and scope of government.

=========

Page 2 of 2)



When President Obama changed his position last week and said he believed that the 1996 law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, Mr. Gingrich waited a full day to offer his reaction. In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Gingrich kept his criticism confined to process, rather than the merits of marriage, saying: “The president is replacing the rule of law with the rule of Obama.”

It remains an open question how a new inspection of Mr. Gingrich’s record would hold up to scrutiny by voters, including his own spending votes and the 1995 government shutdown, but his advisers believe that it could be well received, given the sentiment of Tea Party supporters. And in the early going, Mr. Gingrich appears to be getting another look from religious conservatives, especially Catholics, a traditional swing constituency.
Before and after his appearance here, dozens of people lined up to buy books, movies and other mementos that help finance the operations of Mr. Gingrich’s array of business enterprises and provide a window into his growing popularity among some social conservatives. Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich sat for more than an hour signing inscriptions, with his best-selling book, “Rediscovering God in America,” a particularly popular item on this snowy night in Ohio.

Dr. Jack Willke, an early leader in the anti-abortion movement in Ohio and across the country, was among those waiting for an autograph. Dr. Willke said he was delighted that Mr. Gingrich had increased the role of faith in his public appearances, something that he said he did not recall during Mr. Gingrich’s tenure as speaker of the House.

“We were there long before he was,” Mr. Willke said. “It was never a big public thing for Newt, but he’s surfaced now as considerably more so.”

As Dr. Willke and his wife, Barbara, mingled with others in the crowd, Mrs. Willke said she was delighted to read about Mr. Gingrich’s baptism as a Catholic in March 2009. When one woman asked about his conversion, Mrs. Willke replied: “His Catholicism certainly sounds legit, and even more so since Callista is in the picture now.”

A few feet away, another woman pulled a reporter aside and asked how many times Mr. Gingrich had been married. When told that the answer was three times, the woman said simply, “Oh.” (In 1981, he and his first wife, Jackie, divorced, and he married his second wife, Marianne, that year. In an episode often cited by his detractors, he visited Jackie in the hospital in 1980 while she was recovering from a cancer operation to discuss terms of their divorce. Mr. Gingrich disputes the account.)

When the conversation turned to marriage at the end of the 30-minute interview, Mr. Gingrich seemed displeased, but fully expecting questions about his personal life along with his ideas to change the country. He said he hoped voters would “look at the totality of someone who is 67 years old and a grandfather.”

Asked if he believed that people were forgiving, he replied, “We’ll find out.”
23118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 05:48:21 PM
Also to be avoided is peeing into the wind of historical forces-- which may or may not be present.
23119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 26, 2011, 04:22:53 PM
My first reaction to that is that the Chinese have LOTS of money tucked away for a rainy day and they are far better suited to survive oil shocks than we are; cf the US as a creditor nation coming out of WW1
23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 04:20:29 PM
Who are our remaining allies and how do we support them?  Do we give them money?  Guns and more serious toys?  Military protection?  What? 

What I understand you to be suggesting seems to me like it could well turn out like what we have now in Pakistan.
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 03:33:08 PM
So, what do you suggest?
23122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 26, 2011, 03:32:20 PM
That sounds plausible.
23123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 26, 2011, 11:05:14 AM
Ya:

You have an astute eye.  That is very interesting.
23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 10:48:10 AM
For one possible course of action I duplicate this from the Islam and Theocracy thread:

===========
By BARI WEISS For 18 days, the people of Cairo massed in Tahrir Square to bring down their pharaoh. Many carried signs: "Mubarak: shift + delete," "Forgive me God, for I was scared and kept quiet," or simply "Go Away." Barbara Ibrahim, a veteran professor at the American University in Cairo, wore large photographs of her husband—Egypt's most famous democratic dissident—as a makeshift sandwich board.

Her husband, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, couldn't be there. After being imprisoned and tortured by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003, he went into a sort of exile, living and teaching abroad. But the day Hosni Mubarak gave up power, Feb. 11, Mr. Ibrahim hopped a plane from JFK International. Landing in his native Cairo, he went directly to the square.

"It was just like, how do you say, the day of judgment," Mr. Ibrahim says. "The way the day of judgment is described in our scripture, in the Quran, is where you have all of humanity in one place. And nobody recognizes anybody else, just faces, faces."

And what faces they were: bearded, shorn, framed by hijabs, young, old—and at one point even a bride and groom. "The spirit in the square was just unbelievable," says Mr. Ibrahim, whose children and grandchildren were among the masses. "These people, these young people, are so empowered. They will never be cowed again by any ruler—at least for a generation."

For the 72-year-old sociologist, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak has been many years in the making. His struggle began 10 years ago with a word: jumlukiya. A combination of the Arabic words for republic (jumhuriya) and monarchy (malikiya), the term was coined by Mr. Ibrahim to characterize the family dynasties of the Mubaraks of Egypt and the Assads of Syria.

He first described jumlukiya on television during the June 2000 funeral of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Then he wrote about it in a magazine article that "challenged all the autocrats of the region to open up and have a competitive election."

The magazine appeared on the morning of June 30, 2000. But it vanished from Egyptian newsstands by midday. By midnight, Mr. Ibrahim was arrested at his home. "Then began my confrontation with the Mubarak regime—the trials, and three year imprisonment, and the defamation, all of that. That was the beginning."

Not a month before, he had written a speech about women's rights for Mr. Mubarak's wife Suzanne—Mr. Ibrahim had been her thesis adviser in the 1970s at the American University in Cairo, when her husband was vice president to Anwar Sadat. None of it mattered. In the end, some 30 people connected to Mr. Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center—the Muslim world's leading think tank for the study of democracy and civil society—were rounded up.

Most were ultimately released. But Mr. Ibrahim was tried in a cage within a courtroom, sentenced for "defaming" Egypt (criticizing Mr. Mubarak) and "embezzlement" (for accepting a grant to conduct election monitoring through his center). His stints in prison—always in solitary confinement and, for a period, enduring sleep deprivation and water torture—left him with a serious limp. The former runner now relies on a cane.

Yet he believes that his case helped create the atmosphere for this year's uprising. "It started as a series of challenges with individuals. With me, with [liberal opposition leader] Ayman Nour . . . What you saw is the accumulation of all these incremental steps that have taken place in the past 10 years," he says.

"But to give credit where it is due," Mr. Ibrahim adds, "the younger generation was more innovative and far more clever than we were by using the technology at their disposal. These guys discovered the tools that could not be combated by the government." He notes that many of them, like Wael Ghonim from Google, operated from outside of Egypt. "That's something new."

With elections set for September, the most urgent question facing Egypt is how to structure the democratic process—and how dominant the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood may become. In a 2005 election, the Brotherhood won 20% of the seats in parliament. According to the Ibn Khaldun Center's research, the group could earn about 30% in an upcoming vote.


Mr. Ibrahim thinks that holding elections six months from now is "not wise." If he had his druthers, it would be put off for several years to allow alternative groups to mature. Still, he insists that the Brothers—some of whom he knows well from prison, including senior leader Essam el-Erian—are changing.

"They did not start this movement, nor were they the principal actors, nor were they the majority," he says. When they showed up in Tahrir Square on the fourth day of the protests, most were members of the group's young guard. Mr. Ibrahim points out that they didn't use any Islamist slogans. "Their famous slogan is 'Islam is the solution.' They use that usually in elections and marches. But they did not." This time, they chose "Religion is for God, country is for all." That slogan dates to 1919 and Egypt's secular nationalist movement.

What's more, some Brothers carried signs depicting the crescent and the cross together. "One of the great scenes was of young Copts [Christians], boys and girls, bringing water for the Muslim brothers to do their ablution, and also making a big circle—a temporary worship space—for them. And then come Sunday, the Muslims reciprocated by allowing space for the Copts to have their service. That of course was very moving. "

Maybe so. But this week Muslim Brotherhood member Mohsen Radi declared that the group finds it "unsuitable" for a Copt or a woman to hold a high post like the presidency. Then there's the Brotherhood's motto: "'Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Looking around Egypt's neighborhood, it's not hard to guess what life would be like for Coptic Christians, let alone women, under a state guided by Quranic Shariah law.

"That's still their creed and their motto," Mr. Ibrahim says. "What they have done is to lower that profile. Not to give it up, but to lower it." He adds that the Brothers have promised not to run a candidate for the presidency for the next two election cycles.

To skeptics like me, such gestures seem like opportunism—superficial ploys aimed at winning votes, not a genuine transformation. I press Mr. Ibrahim and he insists that the younger guard is evolving, and that they are "fairly tolerant and enlightened." Enlightened seems a stretch, but nevertheless, what other option is there? Banning the Brotherhood, as the Mubarak regime did, is a nonstarter.

If Mr. Ibrahim is a fundamentalist about anything, it's democracy. And his hope is that participating in the democratic process will liberalize the Muslim Brothers over the long term. They "have survived for 80 years, and one mechanism for survival is adaptation," he says. "If the pressure continues, by women and by the middle class, they will continue to evolve. Far from taking their word, we should keep demanding that they prove that they really are pluralistic, that they are not going to turn against democracy, that they are not going to make it one man, one vote, one time."

He compares the Brothers to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II. "They started with more Christianity than democracy 100 years ago. Now they are more democracy than Christianity." True, but the Christian Democrats never embraced violent radicalism in the way the Muslim Brotherhood has.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP)—formerly the Virtue Party—is a more recent model. "The Muslim Brothers seem to be moving in the same direction," he says.

That would probably be a best case, but it too is problematic. The AKP—and, by extension, contemporary Turkey—is democratic but hardly liberal. Over the past decade, it has dramatically limited press freedom, stoked anti-Semitism, supported Hamas, and defended murderous figures like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Still, the Turkish scenario is far better than the Iranian one—the hijacking of Egypt's revolution by radical clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who returned from Qatar to Cairo last week. For his part, Mr. Ibrahim doesn't think that Mr. Qaradawi—a rock-star televangelist with an Al Jazeera viewership of some 60 million—is positioned to dominate the new Egypt as Ayatollah Khomeini dominated post-1979 Iran.

Mr. Qaradawi had messages of Muslim-Christian unity for the hundreds of thousands who heard him preach in the square. But about Jews, he has said that Hitler "managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers [Muslims]."

When I asked Mr. Ibrahim about the scourge of anti-Semitism in the Middle East generally, he's dismissive. "Have you seen any pogroms in Morocco or Tunisia or Egypt?" he asks rhetorically. As I point out, though, the Arab Middle East has had a negligible Jewish population since 1948, when roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled. It's hard to carry out a pogrom when Jews aren't around.

So what if the Brothers prove increasingly radical, not moderate? "I would struggle against them. . . . As a democrat and as a human rights activist I would fight, just as I fought Mubarak, like I fought Nasser. All my life I've been fighting people who do not abide by human rights and basic freedoms."

Might he run for political office when his professorship at New Jersey's Drew University ends in May? "I'm 72 years old. And I'd really like to see a younger generation." But, he adds, "in politics you never say no."

"I am more interested in having the kind of presidential campaign similar to what you have here or in Western Europe. . . . That's part of creating or socializing our people into pluralism—to see it at work, to have debates, to have a free media," he says.

One political role he's already playing is as an informal adviser to Obama administration officials, his friends Michael McFaul and Samantha Power, scholars who serve on the National Security Council staff. But he doesn't mince words about Mr. Obama's record so far. The president "wasted two and a half years" cozying up to dictators and abandoning dissidents, he says. "Partly to distance himself from Bush, democracy promotion became a kind of bad phrase for him." He also made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict his top priority, at the expense of pushing for freedom. "By putting the democracy file on hold, on the back burner, he did not accomplish peace nor did he serve democracy," says Mr. Ibrahim.


'Dislikable as [President Bush] may have been to many liberals, including my own wife, we have to give him credit," says Mr. Ibrahim. "He started a process of some conditionality with American aid and American foreign policy which opened some doors and ultimately was one of the building blocks for what's happening now." That conditionality extended to Mr. Ibrahim: In 2002, the Bush administration successfully threatened to withhold $130 million in aid from Egypt if Mr. Mubarak didn't release him.

So what should the White House do? "Publicly endorse every democratic movement in the Middle East and offer help," he says. The least the administration can do is withhold "aid and trade and diplomatic endorsement. Because now the people can do the job. America doesn't have to send armies and navies to change the regimes. Let the people do their change."

Ms. Weiss is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.

23125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Saad Eddin Ibrahim on: February 26, 2011, 10:44:24 AM
By BARI WEISS For 18 days, the people of Cairo massed in Tahrir Square to bring down their pharaoh. Many carried signs: "Mubarak: shift + delete," "Forgive me God, for I was scared and kept quiet," or simply "Go Away." Barbara Ibrahim, a veteran professor at the American University in Cairo, wore large photographs of her husband—Egypt's most famous democratic dissident—as a makeshift sandwich board.

Her husband, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, couldn't be there. After being imprisoned and tortured by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003, he went into a sort of exile, living and teaching abroad. But the day Hosni Mubarak gave up power, Feb. 11, Mr. Ibrahim hopped a plane from JFK International. Landing in his native Cairo, he went directly to the square.

"It was just like, how do you say, the day of judgment," Mr. Ibrahim says. "The way the day of judgment is described in our scripture, in the Quran, is where you have all of humanity in one place. And nobody recognizes anybody else, just faces, faces."

And what faces they were: bearded, shorn, framed by hijabs, young, old—and at one point even a bride and groom. "The spirit in the square was just unbelievable," says Mr. Ibrahim, whose children and grandchildren were among the masses. "These people, these young people, are so empowered. They will never be cowed again by any ruler—at least for a generation."

For the 72-year-old sociologist, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak has been many years in the making. His struggle began 10 years ago with a word: jumlukiya. A combination of the Arabic words for republic (jumhuriya) and monarchy (malikiya), the term was coined by Mr. Ibrahim to characterize the family dynasties of the Mubaraks of Egypt and the Assads of Syria.

He first described jumlukiya on television during the June 2000 funeral of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Then he wrote about it in a magazine article that "challenged all the autocrats of the region to open up and have a competitive election."

The magazine appeared on the morning of June 30, 2000. But it vanished from Egyptian newsstands by midday. By midnight, Mr. Ibrahim was arrested at his home. "Then began my confrontation with the Mubarak regime—the trials, and three year imprisonment, and the defamation, all of that. That was the beginning."

Not a month before, he had written a speech about women's rights for Mr. Mubarak's wife Suzanne—Mr. Ibrahim had been her thesis adviser in the 1970s at the American University in Cairo, when her husband was vice president to Anwar Sadat. None of it mattered. In the end, some 30 people connected to Mr. Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center—the Muslim world's leading think tank for the study of democracy and civil society—were rounded up.

Most were ultimately released. But Mr. Ibrahim was tried in a cage within a courtroom, sentenced for "defaming" Egypt (criticizing Mr. Mubarak) and "embezzlement" (for accepting a grant to conduct election monitoring through his center). His stints in prison—always in solitary confinement and, for a period, enduring sleep deprivation and water torture—left him with a serious limp. The former runner now relies on a cane.

Yet he believes that his case helped create the atmosphere for this year's uprising. "It started as a series of challenges with individuals. With me, with [liberal opposition leader] Ayman Nour . . . What you saw is the accumulation of all these incremental steps that have taken place in the past 10 years," he says.

View Full Image

Chris Serra
 ."But to give credit where it is due," Mr. Ibrahim adds, "the younger generation was more innovative and far more clever than we were by using the technology at their disposal. These guys discovered the tools that could not be combated by the government." He notes that many of them, like Wael Ghonim from Google, operated from outside of Egypt. "That's something new."

With elections set for September, the most urgent question facing Egypt is how to structure the democratic process—and how dominant the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood may become. In a 2005 election, the Brotherhood won 20% of the seats in parliament. According to the Ibn Khaldun Center's research, the group could earn about 30% in an upcoming vote.


Mr. Ibrahim thinks that holding elections six months from now is "not wise." If he had his druthers, it would be put off for several years to allow alternative groups to mature. Still, he insists that the Brothers—some of whom he knows well from prison, including senior leader Essam el-Erian—are changing.

"They did not start this movement, nor were they the principal actors, nor were they the majority," he says. When they showed up in Tahrir Square on the fourth day of the protests, most were members of the group's young guard. Mr. Ibrahim points out that they didn't use any Islamist slogans. "Their famous slogan is 'Islam is the solution.' They use that usually in elections and marches. But they did not." This time, they chose "Religion is for God, country is for all." That slogan dates to 1919 and Egypt's secular nationalist movement.

What's more, some Brothers carried signs depicting the crescent and the cross together. "One of the great scenes was of young Copts [Christians], boys and girls, bringing water for the Muslim brothers to do their ablution, and also making a big circle—a temporary worship space—for them. And then come Sunday, the Muslims reciprocated by allowing space for the Copts to have their service. That of course was very moving. "

Maybe so. But this week Muslim Brotherhood member Mohsen Radi declared that the group finds it "unsuitable" for a Copt or a woman to hold a high post like the presidency. Then there's the Brotherhood's motto: "'Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Looking around Egypt's neighborhood, it's not hard to guess what life would be like for Coptic Christians, let alone women, under a state guided by Quranic Shariah law.

"That's still their creed and their motto," Mr. Ibrahim says. "What they have done is to lower that profile. Not to give it up, but to lower it." He adds that the Brothers have promised not to run a candidate for the presidency for the next two election cycles.

To skeptics like me, such gestures seem like opportunism—superficial ploys aimed at winning votes, not a genuine transformation. I press Mr. Ibrahim and he insists that the younger guard is evolving, and that they are "fairly tolerant and enlightened." Enlightened seems a stretch, but nevertheless, what other option is there? Banning the Brotherhood, as the Mubarak regime did, is a nonstarter.

If Mr. Ibrahim is a fundamentalist about anything, it's democracy. And his hope is that participating in the democratic process will liberalize the Muslim Brothers over the long term. They "have survived for 80 years, and one mechanism for survival is adaptation," he says. "If the pressure continues, by women and by the middle class, they will continue to evolve. Far from taking their word, we should keep demanding that they prove that they really are pluralistic, that they are not going to turn against democracy, that they are not going to make it one man, one vote, one time."

He compares the Brothers to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II. "They started with more Christianity than democracy 100 years ago. Now they are more democracy than Christianity." True, but the Christian Democrats never embraced violent radicalism in the way the Muslim Brotherhood has.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP)—formerly the Virtue Party—is a more recent model. "The Muslim Brothers seem to be moving in the same direction," he says.

That would probably be a best case, but it too is problematic. The AKP—and, by extension, contemporary Turkey—is democratic but hardly liberal. Over the past decade, it has dramatically limited press freedom, stoked anti-Semitism, supported Hamas, and defended murderous figures like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Still, the Turkish scenario is far better than the Iranian one—the hijacking of Egypt's revolution by radical clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who returned from Qatar to Cairo last week. For his part, Mr. Ibrahim doesn't think that Mr. Qaradawi—a rock-star televangelist with an Al Jazeera viewership of some 60 million—is positioned to dominate the new Egypt as Ayatollah Khomeini dominated post-1979 Iran.

Mr. Qaradawi had messages of Muslim-Christian unity for the hundreds of thousands who heard him preach in the square. But about Jews, he has said that Hitler "managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers [Muslims]."

When I asked Mr. Ibrahim about the scourge of anti-Semitism in the Middle East generally, he's dismissive. "Have you seen any pogroms in Morocco or Tunisia or Egypt?" he asks rhetorically. As I point out, though, the Arab Middle East has had a negligible Jewish population since 1948, when roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled. It's hard to carry out a pogrom when Jews aren't around.

So what if the Brothers prove increasingly radical, not moderate? "I would struggle against them. . . . As a democrat and as a human rights activist I would fight, just as I fought Mubarak, like I fought Nasser. All my life I've been fighting people who do not abide by human rights and basic freedoms."

Might he run for political office when his professorship at New Jersey's Drew University ends in May? "I'm 72 years old. And I'd really like to see a younger generation." But, he adds, "in politics you never say no."

"I am more interested in having the kind of presidential campaign similar to what you have here or in Western Europe. . . . That's part of creating or socializing our people into pluralism—to see it at work, to have debates, to have a free media," he says.

One political role he's already playing is as an informal adviser to Obama administration officials, his friends Michael McFaul and Samantha Power, scholars who serve on the National Security Council staff. But he doesn't mince words about Mr. Obama's record so far. The president "wasted two and a half years" cozying up to dictators and abandoning dissidents, he says. "Partly to distance himself from Bush, democracy promotion became a kind of bad phrase for him." He also made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict his top priority, at the expense of pushing for freedom. "By putting the democracy file on hold, on the back burner, he did not accomplish peace nor did he serve democracy," says Mr. Ibrahim.


'Dislikable as [President Bush] may have been to many liberals, including my own wife, we have to give him credit," says Mr. Ibrahim. "He started a process of some conditionality with American aid and American foreign policy which opened some doors and ultimately was one of the building blocks for what's happening now." That conditionality extended to Mr. Ibrahim: In 2002, the Bush administration successfully threatened to withhold $130 million in aid from Egypt if Mr. Mubarak didn't release him.

So what should the White House do? "Publicly endorse every democratic movement in the Middle East and offer help," he says. The least the administration can do is withhold "aid and trade and diplomatic endorsement. Because now the people can do the job. America doesn't have to send armies and navies to change the regimes. Let the people do their change."

Ms. Weiss is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.

23126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / West: The Responsible Right and GB on: February 26, 2011, 02:29:53 AM


I almost forgot how the Pundit Right smacked down Glenn Beck over his wholly rational concern that out of Tahrir Square a new caliphate might arise in the Islamic world until I read William Kristol's op-ed this week.

Earlier this month, Weekly Standard editor and Fox analyst Kristol had led off the anti-Beck attack with a heated column accusing Beck of "hysteria" for his "rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East" and connections to the American Left. Kristol was seconded by National Review editor Rich Lowry. The New York Times' David Brooks entered the debate lambasting Beck for his "delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back" while "the conservative establishment" saw Mubarak's fall as "a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan's democracy dream." (Count me out.)

For the next week or so, taunting "delusional" Beck became a regular feature on cable TV. The Pundit Left congratulated the responsible Right for "addressing" the Beck "problem." And maybe a solution was near. "I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand," Time's Joe Klein blogged. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon."

Somehow it all slipped my mind.

And then I read Kristol's Wednesday lament in the Washington Post over what he sees as President Obama's dithering over what he also sees as "Arab spring." This is a jarringly dainty euphemism for a blur of regional events that now includes: the triumphal return to Egypt of the poisonous Yusef al Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's favorite cleric who just drew 2 million Egyptians back to Tahrir Square where he prayed for the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem; panicky EU promises of billions of dollars in aid (protection money?) to its "Southern neighborhood"; emergency preparations for as many as 300,000 Islamic "migrants" washing up on just Italy's shores any day. By the way, one disastrous effect of mass Islamic immigration (hijra) to Europe to date may be gleaned from the current political climate in which a new edition of Jean Raspail's 1973 novel "Camp of the Saints," the prophetic account of France's inability to survive massive Third World immigration, is expected to land the 85-year-old author and his publisher in French court on "hate speech" charges.

But I digress, sort of. What is noteworthy about the beef against Beck is the rock-hard certitude with which his critics, Right and Left, dismiss the caliphate concept as though it were a mythological beast, not a historical system of Islamic governance still revered and yearned for by most Muslims. Speaking of Tahrir Square, a 2007 University of Maryland/WorldOpinon poll indicated that 74 percent of Egyptians favor "strict Shariah," while 67 percent favor a "caliphate" uniting all of Islam.

But woe to anyone who takes notice. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, for example, was recently accused on a noted blog of "(slinging) caliphate tripe" when Ferguson pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood "remains by far the best organized opposition force in the country, and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Shariah." "Hilariously stupid" was the not-so-hilariously stupid comment.

But even if "Arab spring" should fail, Kristol writes, "there would be still be a case, for reasons of honor and duty ... to stand with the opponents of tyranny." Doing so, he continues, would not only "vindicate American principles and mean a gain for American interests but because we claim those American principles to be universal principles."

Here is what is "delusional": the belief that American principles -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equality before the law -- have a natural place as "universal principles" in a culture grounded in Shariah principles. This is the pure fantasy that has driven our foreign policy through a decade of "nation-building" wars. Meanwhile, the only way I know how to get to anything you might call "universal principles" into the Islamic world is through the establishment of ... a caliphate
=========
Marc: So, what does she propose?  What does Beck propose?  What do we propose?
23127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick on: February 26, 2011, 02:21:15 AM


On Wednesday night, Israelis received our first taste of the new Middle East with the missile strikes on Beersheba. Iran’s Palestinian proxy, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood known as Hamas, carried out its latest war crime right after Iran’s battleships entered Syria’s Latakia port.

Their voyage through the Suez Canal to Syria was an unadulterated triumph for the mullahs.

For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s warships sailed across the canal without even being inspected by the Egyptian, US or Israeli navies.

On the diplomatic front, the Iranian-dominated new Middle East has had a pronounced impact on the Western-backed Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s political posture towards the US.

The PA picked a fight with America just after the Obama administration forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power.

Mubarak’s departure was a strategic victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and for its sister branch Hamas in Gaza.

As part of his efforts to neutralize the threat the Muslim Brotherhood posed to his regime, Mubarak sealed off Gaza’s border with Egypt after Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

The Gaza-Sinai border was breached during last month’s revolution. Since Mubarak’s forced resignation, the military junta now leading Egypt has failed to reseal it.

The revolution in Egypt happened just after the PA was thrown into a state of disarray. Al- Jazeera’s exposure of PA documents indicating the leadership’s willingness to make minor compromises with Israel in the framework of a peace deal served to discredit Fatah leaders in the eyes of the Israel-hating Palestinian public.

In the wake of the Al-Jazeera revelations, senior PA leaders escalated their anti-Israel and anti- American pronouncements. The PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was forced to resign.

The shift in the regional power balance following Mubarak’s fall has caused Fatah leaders to view their ties to the US as a strategic liability.

If they wish to survive, they must cut a deal with Hamas. And to convince Hamas to cut a deal, they need to abandon the US.
23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula on: February 25, 2011, 11:16:09 PM
Saudi Arabia and the Context of Regional Unrest
On Thursday, much of the global media remained fixated on the continuing turmoil in Libya, but STRATFOR’s attention was drawn to Saudi Arabia. According to a DPA report, a Saudi youth group called for a peaceful demonstration on Friday in the kingdom’s western Red Sea port city of Jeddah, in an expression of solidarity with anti-government protesters in Libya. The group, calling itself Jeddah Youth for Change, distributed a printed statement throughout Riyadh asking people to demonstrate near the al-Beia Roundabout and vowed not to give up its right to demonstrate peacefully.

Ever since the mass risings spread from Tunisia to other parts of the Arab world, the key question has been whether or not the Saudi kingdom could experience similar unrest. The reason why this question is posed is two-fold: 1) The country is the world’s largest exporter of crude, and any unrest there could have massive ramifications for the world’s energy supply; and, 2) The Saudi socio-political culture is such that public demonstrations have been an extremely rare occurrence.

Riyadh’s actions since the ouster of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents show its grave concern that the regional unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia. Domestically, the Saudi state announced a new $11 billion social welfare package. Regionally, the Saudis have been working hard to ensure that the protests in bordering countries do not destabilize those states (particularly Bahrain and Yemen), which could have a spillover effect into the kingdom.

“The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.”
Since the establishment of their first polity in 1744, the Saudis have demonstrated remarkable resilience and skill in dealing with challenges to their authority. They have weathered a litany of problems in their nearly 270-year history. These include a collapse of their state in the face of external aggression on two occasions (1818 and 1891), feuds within the royal family leading to the abdication of a monarch (1964), the assassination of a second at the hands of a nephew (1975), challenges from the country’s highly influential and expansive ulema class (1960s and 1990s), and rebellions mounted by religious militants on three occasions (1929, 1979 and 2003-04).

The unique nature of the Saudi state and its shared religious and cultural norms in part explain its ability to deal with such threats. Unlike many authoritarian Arab countries, the Saudi state is not detached from the average man; instead, it is very much rooted in the masses. The House of Saud is not the typical elite royal family; on the contrary, it is connected to the entire tribal landscape of the country through marriages.

In addition to the tribal social organization, there is a considerable degree of homogeneity of religious and cultural values. The historical relationship between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi religious establishment has proven effective in sustaining the legitimacy of the regime. Reinforcing all these bonds is the country’s oil wealth.

This arrangement has served the Saudis well for a very long time. But it now appears that they have reached a significant impasse — for a number of reasons.

First, the kingdom is due for a major leadership change considering that the king and the top three princes are extremely old and could die in fairly quick succession. Second is the rise of the kingdom’s archrival, Iran, and its Arab Shiite allies (in Iraq, Lebanon and now Bahrain), which represents the biggest external threat to the kingdom. Third, the regional wave of popular unrest, demanding that the region’s autocratic regimes make room for democracy, is something the Saudis have not had to deal with thus far.

The configuration of the Saudi state and society will likely serve as an arrestor to serious unrest. This means Saudi Arabia is unlikely to be immediately overwhelmed by protests, as has been the case with Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. But the kingdom is unlikely to contain such pressures for long, especially as a new generation of leaders assumes the mantle.

The future rulers will likely build upon the cautious reforms that have been spearheaded by King Abdullah in recent years. But in the emerging regional climate, it will be difficult to manage the pace and direction of reforms. The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.

23129  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 25, 2011, 04:59:16 PM
You have PM Frankfurter.
23130  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zapata's Howl on: February 25, 2011, 04:58:40 PM

"Zapata's Howl" (c 2010 DBI)
Guro Crafty

 Back in the mid 90s, on various occasions a friend and I spent several wonderful days on a ranch 25 miles up a dirt road in Baja California, Mexico located at about 2,000' altitude on the side of "Diablo de Picacho" (or something like that) the largest mountain in Baja California.  The ranch was an interesting place.  It had been in the hands of the Meling family since the late 1800s.  Culturally they were American cowboys, but having been born and raised there for over 100 years, they were 100% Mexican citizens and completely bilingual.  Conversation over meals was fascinating.

 We spent the day riding horses (in that wonderfully unconcerned-about-lawsuits way so common in Mexico).  Zapata, the Akita in our logo, was in his glory chasing the huge jack rabbits.

The area is quite remote and the air completely clean.  Due to the extremely low population density and there being very little electricity, light pollution is non-existant.  There was a stream with some small trout and some frogs and at night the three of us sat listening to the frogs, the hoots of an owl, and the cries of the coyotes and looking at some of the brightest clearest views we had ever seen of the night sky.

 I commented on this at breakfast one morning and was informed that due to three factors- the clean air, the non-existant light pollution, and the fact that the mountain was over 10,000' tall-- the world's third largest telescope was located there on the peak of the mountain.  So, after breakfast digested we drove up a very ragged dirt road to the observatory there.

What a magnificent view!  The Sea of Cortez to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and no sight or sound of civilization-- just a bright sun, and the rustling of the wind over an unmarked expanse not unlike some of that in the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" though at 10,000' there were more pine trees than cactus.

 Such a moment in such a place is like a tuning fork for the soul-- something that allows us to put ourselves back in tune the inner vibrations of our Creator and his works.

 The three of us sat a while and breathed.  As Zapata lay sphinx-like next to me, his vibrations were part of the larger tuning fork of it all for me.

 On the way down, at about 7,000 feet altitude, there was a primitive little wooden sign saying "Meling Ranch".  At lunch I asked about it.  Andy Meling told me they had a property there of about 9 hectarias, including a year round spring, that they would sell me for $25,000.  Intrigued, the next morning the three of us went back up to investigate.   Andy, pointed out the lay of the land, which included a "fifth wheel" type RV camper which was to serve as our tent-cabin while we stayed there, feeling out the land.

 The camper was pretty ratty, and obviously field mice were present.  "Well, if you buy the land, just get yourself an old cat or two, and they will take care of the problem"  Andy advised.

 Why, I wondered, should the cats be old?

 "Because the owls will get the young ones" he explained "You want old ones that have already survived a close scrape."

 As some of you may know, not only is clear title to land ownership in Mexico sometimes fraught with problems but also from the Constitution on down Mexico has some very specific language concerning foreigners owning land. 

With some of these issues in mind Zapata and I set out on patrol to survey as best we could the boundaries of the land and to see what the neighboring lands looked like.  Of particular interest in this regard was the spring.  As we hiked up the mountain side well above the Meling's land in search the spring's source the terrain became both steeper and more rugged.  The boulders, juniper brush, and occasional cactus became ever more challenging.  Yellow jacket nests were not rare, and the possibility of rattlesnakes ever present.  Eventually we got to a spot where Zapata simply could not continue with me and I worried for his safety should I allow him to continue to try.

So I told him to go back to the camper-cabin, which was then about 3/4 of a mile away through rugged terrain.  I'm not really sure how he could understand my intention, but he did.  So he turned around and headed back down the mountain side as I continued upwards in search of the spring's source.

 About twenty minutes later, a tremendous wolf howl came.  Zapata was letting me know that he had arrived.

 This howl was the only time in his life he ever did so-- but in this moment I saw that the wolf, and its howl, was always there within him.

 I have many Zapata stories, (the coyote pack at the Bay of Whales-- again in Baja California wilderness-- the fight with the Rotttweiler with a fight collar unleashed by a neighborhood punk, humping the steroid bodybuilder, and many others) but this one is perhaps my favorite.

When he was riddled with cancer the day came when it was time to go for his last walk and go to the vet.  We walked on the path along the boardwalk along the ocean in Hermosa Beach, the wind in our faces. He was weak and his fur no longer glistened but still he walked in his gloriously arrogant way, but much slower than before.   It was a beautiful day and we drank it in, though only I knew it was to be his last.

Some clueless idiot with a young intact male Great Dane came up quickly on us from behind undetected by Zapata due to the wind's direction.  As the Dane drew alongside Zapata (at the angle that a dog seeking dominance goes for) Zapata became aware of him and without hesitation went for him and drove him back-- truly a warrior for all his days.

The Dane's owner and I were able to quickly separate the two and we all went on our respective ways, which for Zapata and me was the vet.

We were led into a back room.  Zapata was tired, and as we sat together on the floor he lay his head on my lap.  Of course he could feel my emotions. I held him as the vet administered the shot.

His urn sits in plain sight on my desk now, and when I need it he sends me a howl.
23131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 25, 2011, 04:30:36 PM
Anne Jolis writing in the Journal's Political Diary e-newsletter, Feb. 23:


News of the mass protests—and government and military defections—that are threatening to topple the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya has dominated headlines for days. But over the weekend, another defection from yet another Middle Eastern dictatorship went relatively unnoticed. Ahmad Maleki, head of Iran's consular office in Milan, resigned his post on Sunday to protest Tehran's "barbaric actions against the Iranian nation," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, adding that he now plans to join Iran's pro- democracy Green Movement.

Egypt's and Tunisia's uprisings have breathed new life into the Iranian resistance. . . . After a year of lying low, tens of thousands of Green Movement protesters marched through Iran's streets on Sunday and last Monday. Whereas in 2009 they called for fresh elections, they are now calling to overthrow their government and to end the country's "religious dictatorship."

Tehran has responded with swarms of armed guards, firing into the crowds and beating protesters with steel batons and chains, witnesses tell The Wall Street Journal. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest for more than a week. . . . Mr. Maleki, who previously served Tehran in Portugal and Kenya, tells RFE/RL that there are "many others in the [Iranian Foreign Ministry] who are unhappy with the government." Mr. Maleki is the fourth Iranian diplomat to resign in the past year, after Iranian envoys stepped down in Norway, Finland and Brussels.

23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor's George Friedman on: February 25, 2011, 04:19:46 PM
There’s an arc of uncertainty in the Muslim world from Casablanca to Cairo and from Aden on the Red Sea through Bahrain to Baghdad and Tehran. Some but not all the uncertainty is caused by uprisings. Where will this all end?

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.

Colin: George, what are the potential geopolitical implications of these events on the rest of the Middle East and beyond?

George: The situation in North Africa has for the moment clarified itself. You’ve got a military junta running Egypt. It’s promised elections and we’ll see if they happen. Tunisia has settled into an unsettled state and of course we have the chaos in Libya. But Libya is simply not that important a country to have broader geopolitical implications. The most important things are happening are happening in Bahrain. And they’re happening in Bahrain right now because Bahrain is both connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, has a large Shiite population, a Sunni ruling family, and is a port for the U.S. 5th Fleet. Everything comes together.

What we need to be looking at right now is Bahrain and beyond that Saudi Arabia to see if this wave of unrest enters Saudi Arabia, which would be an enormous event or if it bypasses it. It’s altogether possible, I don’t know, but it is possible that everything will settle down. But even if everything settled down internally, we would still be facing the Iranian question of the Iran’s status in the Persian Gulf once the United States completes the withdrawal from Iraq. And, along with that, we’d be facing the question — it’s a very difficult one — of what is the relationship between the Shiite communities of the Middle East, and particularly of the Persian Gulf, to the Iranian regime. And I think that’s really what we have to be focusing about. The most important geopolitical event is the rise of Iran, the role of the Shiites in that rise and what happens next.

Colin: You said people who start revolutions very seldom finish them. Should that happen will the region to descend into chaos?

George: Well, in the first place, let’s understand what I’m saying by that. I’m saying that just as in the Russian Revolution, the revolution was begun by liberals supporting Kerensky, what ended the revolution was the Bolsheviks. The people who finally take power are frequently those who are the most coherent and well-organized group whereas the initial demonstrators lose power because, while they are able to bring down the regime, they’re not able to create a replacement. One of the places that we saw that in was in Iran, where the demonstrators in 1979 came from a fairly wide group of people but at the same time it was Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters that took control. So one of the reasons that I don’t think the region will descend into chaos is simply because there will emerge movements that are better organized, better controlled, that’ll stop the chaos, but they’ll probably implement regimes that are inimical to what the original demonstrators wanted. Certainly they won’t be what Western liberals were expecting to see happen. Revolution opens the door to the best organized and most ruthless.

Colin: Do you see Islamists, if not jihadists, gaining power and influence as a result of this instability?

George: You really, the only way to answer the question of “Are the Islamists or Jihadists taking power?” is to look at each country separately. I mean it’s a massive mistake to look at the region as a whole; it’s highly differentiated. For Egypt my expectation is that the jihadists will not be strengthened. The army is still very strong; it is quite hostile to the jihadists and has a tense relationship with Islamists; it is pro-American; it maintains its treaty with Israel. I see it as possible that the army is forced out of this position but they won’t go easily. So my expectation is that no, that won’t happen. In the Persian Gulf the question is not going to be whether jihadists of the Sunni variety take control, it’s the degree to which the Shiites of the Iranian persuasion, if you will, take control. And that’s a very different question. So the expectation of chaos in the region I think really misses the point. This also has to be remembered that this is a region that had tremendous political instability back in the 1960s and early 1970s. There were revolutions sponsored by Egypt’s Nasserite government, sponsored by the Soviets, in many countries and there’s been quite a bit of instability. But since 1970, these regimes have been extremely stable, so stable in fact that people have conducted revolutions and grown old in them as we can see with Gadhafi, as we saw with Mubarak, as we saw with others. So the region I think is not descending into chaos. It is not even necessarily descending into change yet. What it is doing at this point is rotating leaders and there is a big difference between that and revolutionary change.

Colin: Thanks George, George Friedman ending this week’s Agenda. Thanks for listening.

23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: State Business Tax Revolt on: February 25, 2011, 04:11:42 PM
President Obama says he wants corporate tax reform but hasn't proposed how to do it. Maybe he should take a look at the states, where as many as 10 new Governors are moving ahead to reform and reduce business taxes. The motive is to attract more businesses and create more jobs, while avoiding the fate of California and New York.

Take Iowa, which has the highest state corporate rate at 12%. Add that to the federal rate of 35%, and the Tax Foundation says the Hawkeye State may have the highest levy in the developed world. Governor Terry Branstad, back for a second stint in Des Moines after 12 years, wants to cut the top corporate rate in half to 6% because "we just can't compete with this high tax rate anymore." Mr. Branstad has been sending letters trying to recruit Illinois businesses, where the small business tax rose by 67% and the corporate rate by 30% to 9.5% in January.

Iowa's corporate tax suffers from the same defects that hobble the federal system. It imposes an onerous rate on those companies that get stuck paying it, but the legislature has carved out so many credits and loopholes for politically favored firms that the tax doesn't raise much revenue. So even though Iowa has the highest statutory rate, it ranks 36th in per capita collections. It's all pain for little gain.

Michigan has led the nation in job losses during this past decade, while former Governor Jennifer Granholm sought to attract businesses with special tax favors. New Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the GOP legislature are trying a different strategy and moving forward on a business tax makeover.

Their plan would replace an unpopular gross receipts tax that forces many small firms to pay inflated tax bills even when they don't record a profit. It would also eliminate big industry exemptions, such as the Hollywood movie maker's credit, and instead install a flat 6% corporate profits tax. That's still too high for our liking and for competitive purposes, but at least it would level the playing field across businesses and save them about $1.5 billion each year.

Florida's Rick Scott is pursuing arguably the most ambitious plan. He promised voters he'd abolish the state's $2 billion a year corporate tax over seven years, and his first budget gets that started. "Once we eliminate the corporate tax, and, remember, we don't have a state income tax, there will be no reason for businesses not to come to Florida," he says. South Carolina's Nikki Haley also campaigned on eliminating her state's $200 million a year corporate tax.

The message from these states is similar: In a global economy you can't attract businesses by extracting an undue share of their profits. Bringing rates down is especially important for competitiveness given that five states—Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming—have no corporate income tax.

Our preference, which is supported by most of the economic evidence, is that cutting personal and small business income tax rates should be the highest tax priority for states. But corporate tax systems are complicated and onerous, while only generating between 5% and 8% of state revenues.

Workers also bear the cost of excessive corporate taxes. A 2009 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City examined three decades of data on business taxes and worker pay checks. The study found that "corporate taxes reduce wages and that the magnitude of the negative relationship between the taxes and the wages has increased over the past 30 years." Businesses in high tax states invest less, the study found, and this leads to lower productivity and eventually lower average pay for workers.

These Governors can only do so much because the biggest hurdle to new investment is the federal tax of 35% that is the second highest in the world and far above the international average. The President's own tax commission concluded that this tax sends jobs abroad. What is Mr. Obama's Treasury Department waiting for?

23134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ piece cranks WI numbers on: February 25, 2011, 03:53:53 PM
ROBERT M. COSTRELL
The showdown in Wisconsin over fringe benefits for public employees boils down to one number: 74.2. That's how many cents the public pays Milwaukee public-school teachers and other employees for retirement and health benefits for every dollar they receive in salary. The corresponding rate for employees of private firms is 24.3 cents.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal would bring public-employee benefits closer in line with those of workers in the private sector. And to prevent benefits from reaching sky-high levels in the future, he wants to restrict collective-bargaining rights.

The average Milwaukee public-school teacher salary is $56,500, but with benefits the total package is $100,005, according to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools. When I showed these figures to a friend, she asked me a simple question: "How can fringe benefits be nearly as much as salary?" The answers can be found by unpacking the numbers in the district's budget for this fiscal year:

•Social Security and Medicare. The employer cost is 7.65% of wages, the same as in the private sector.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Teachers protest in at the State Capitol in Madison.
.Slideshow: Teachers Revolt
Public employee protests spread across the Midwest.
.•State Pension. Teachers belong to the Wisconsin state pension plan. That plan requires a 6.8% employer contribution and 6.2% from the employee. However, according to the collective-bargaining agreement in place since 1996, the district pays the employees' share as well, for a total of 13%.

•Teachers' Supplemental Pension. In addition to the state pension, Milwaukee public-school teachers receive an additional pension under a 1982 collective-bargaining agreement. The district contributes an additional 4.2% of teacher salaries to cover this second pension. Teachers contribute nothing.

•Classified Pension. Most other school employees belong to the city's pension system instead of the state plan. The city plan is less expensive but here, too, according to the collective-bargaining agreement, the district pays the employees' 5.5% share.

Overall, for teachers and other employees, the district's contributions for pensions and Social Security total 22.6 cents for each dollar of salary. The corresponding figure for private industry is 13.4 cents. The divergence is greater yet for health insurance:

•Health care for current employees. Under the current collective- bargaining agreements, the school district pays the entire premium for medical and vision benefits, and over half the cost of dental coverage. These plans are extremely expensive.

This is partly because of Wisconsin's unique arrangement under which the teachers union is the sponsor of the group health-insurance plans. Not surprisingly, benefits are generous. The district's contributions for health insurance of active employees total 38.8% of wages. For private-sector workers nationwide, the average is 10.7%.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
.•Health insurance for retirees. This benefit is rarely offered any more in private companies, and it can be quite costly. This is especially the case for teachers in many states, because the eligibility rules of their pension plans often induce them to retire in their 50s, and Medicare does not kick in until age 65. Milwaukee's plan covers the entire premium in effect at retirement, and retirees cover only the growth in premiums after they retire.

As is commonly the case, the school district's retiree health plan has not been prefunded. It has been pay-as-you-go. This has been a disaster waiting to happen, as retirees grow in number and live longer, and active employment shrinks in districts such as Milwaukee.

For fiscal year 2011, retiree enrollment in the district health plan is 36.4% of the total. In addition to the costs of these retirees' benefits, Milwaukee is, to its credit, belatedly starting to prefund the benefits of future school retirees. In all, retiree health-insurance contributions are estimated at 12.1% of salaries (of which 1.5% is prefunded).

Overall, the school district's contributions to health insurance for employees and retirees total about 50.9 cents on top of every dollar paid in wages. Together with pension and Social Security contributions, plus a few small items, one can see how the total cost of fringe benefits reaches 74.2%.

What these numbers ultimately prove is the excessive power of collective bargaining. The teachers' main pension plan is set by the state legislature, but under the pressure of local bargaining, the employees' contribution is often pushed onto the taxpayers. In addition, collective bargaining led the Milwaukee public school district to add a supplemental pension plan—again with no employee contribution. Finally, the employees' contribution (or lack thereof) to the cost of health insurance is also collectively bargained.

As the costs of pensions and insurance escalate, the governor's proposal to restrict collective bargaining to salaries—not benefits—seems entirely reasonable.

Mr. Costrell is professor of education reform and economics at the University of Arkansas.

23135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 25, 2011, 03:51:19 PM
BD:

Interesting question presented there , , ,
23136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / To dairy or not to dairy on: February 25, 2011, 03:38:16 PM
Dairy: food of the Gods or neolithic agent of disease?
February 8, 2011

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One of the most contentious issues in the Paleo nutrition community is whether dairy products are health-promoting or disease-causing.

On one end of the spectrum you have Loren Cordain and his group, who claim that dairy is not fit for human consumption for two reasons: 1) because it’s a neolithic food and not part of our evolutionary heritage, and 2) because of proposed physiological mechanisms by which dairy causes harm when consumed. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got folks like Kurt Harris, Stephan Guyenet, Chris Masterjohn and the Weston A. Price Foundation who have pointed out the many health benefits of dairy and are generally in favor of its consumption.

My answer to the question of whether dairy is healthy are harmful is, in short: it depends. But before we get into the factors I think the answer depends on, I want to briefly address why I don’t take the evidence against dairy very seriously at this point.

Paleo re-enactment isn’t the goal
I agree with Dr. Kurt Harris on this one. We can look to the Paleo era to determine what was evolutionarily normal for humans, but it doesn’t follow that anything that falls outside of that norm is automatically harmful. The argument that we shouldn’t eat dairy now because we didn’t eat it 2 million years ago – without supporting clinical evidence – is not convincing.

There’s also the inconvenient (for the anti-dairy set) matter of people like the Masai and Loetschental Swiss that Weston A. Price studied, who were free of modern, degenerative disease despite receiving a large percentage of calories from dairy products.

Human evidence is more convincing than proposed mechanisms
Cordain’s group has published and reviewed several papers proposing various physiological mechanisms by which dairy causes harm. One recent example is a paper by Melnik called Milk Signalling in the Pathogenesis of Type 2 Diabetes. The theory presented is that milk consumption beyond the weaning period may overstimulate pancreatic beta-cells and promote beta-cell apoptosis. Since proliferation and apoptosis of beta-cells are hallmarks of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), it follows that milk consumption must contribute to T2DM.

Or does it?

If that theory were true, we might expect to see increased rates of T2DM in people consuming dairy products. But in fact we see just the opposite.

This study looked at serum levels of trans-palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, and correlated them with risk factors for diabetes. Here’s what they found:

At baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity, after adjustment for other risk factors. During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes, with about a 60% lower risk among participants in the highest quintile (fifth) of trans-palmitoleic acid levels, compared to individuals in the lowest quintile.

Translation: people with the highest trans-palmitoleate levels had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the three years volunteers were followed. Not only that, after adjusting for confounding factors trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with smaller waist circumfrence, lower triglycerides, higher HDL and lower C-reactive protein.

Since trans-palmitoleic acid is a fatty acid found in the – you guessed it – fat of milk, the study also supports the idea that full-fat, whole dairy products are beneficial. This directly contradicts the low-fat hysteria we’ve been brainwashed with for so many years. But I digress.

Stephan Guyenet blogged about this study and re-wrote the authors’ conclusion in more straightforward terms:

Our findings support eating as much butter as possible****. Don’t waste your money on low-fat cream, either (half-n-half). We’re sorry that public health authorities have spent 30 years telling you to eat low-fat dairy when most studies are actually more consistent with the idea that dairy fat reduces the risk obesity and chronic disease.

Since this was an observational study, it doesn’t prove that dairy fat reduces the risk of T2DM. But it does suggest that the converse isn’t true.

Another study found that people with the highest levels of milk fat biomarkers, suggesting they consumed the most dairy fat, were actually at lower risk of heart attack; for women, the risk was reduced by 26 percent, while for men risk was 9 percent lower.

Another study showed that people who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69% lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate the least.

Finally, this literature review of 10 studies found that milk drinking is associated with a small but significant reduction in heart disease and stroke risk.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Which is this: evidence of what happens when people actually consume dairy products is a lot more convincing to me than proposed mechanisms of how dairy may effect humans.

The problem with isolating certain effects of a nutrient or food, and then making predictions based on those effects, is that we might miss some other quality about that food that negates the proposed effect. That’s a mouthful, so let me explain.

T. Colin Campbell is (in)famous for his research linking casein, a protein in dairy products, with cancer. He then made the huge and unsupportable leap to concluding that all animal proteins cause cancer and should be avoided. Most of you know the rest of that story.

However, what Campbell neglected to notice, or mention, is that whey, another protein found in dairy, has anti-cancer effects that completely cancel out the cancer-promoting effects of casein. Oops! This is why it’s so important to study whole foods, not just nutrients.

So let me finish this section by saying that I believe the weight of the evidence on dairy consumption suggests that it is not only not harmful, but quite beneficial.

When dairy may not be beneficial
However, as in most things, there are exceptions. Many of you reading this are probably sensitive to dairy and don’t tolerate it well. I certainly have patients that this is true for, and it’s not at all uncommon.

What’s the deal? Why does it seem to benefit some, but cause problems for others? In my opinion the answer boils down to the health of the gut. If someone has compromised intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, it’s more likely that their immune system will respond to potentially allergenic components in milk such as alpha- and beta-casein, casomorphin and butyrophillin.

This is especially true for people who are gluten intolerant, because it has been shown that milk proteins commonly cross-react with gluten. Put another way, if you react to gluten, it’s more likely that you’ll also react to milk.

Along these same lines, people with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – which is one of the major causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – may be more likely to react to milk because the bacteria in their small intestine aggressively ferments lactose, the sugar in milk, causing gas, bloating and other G.I. symptoms.

Not all milk is created equal
Something that irritates me is that raw and pasteurized dairy is often discussed as if it’s the same thing. It’s not. Raw dairy is a whole food, and pasteurized dairy is a processed food.

While it’s true that some people (described above) react to the proteins in milk, most who are sensitive are reacting to the sugar in milk: lactose. The enzyme lactase must be present to hydrolyze lactose into its constituent compounds, glucose and galactose. Somewhere between 1% – 95% of people don’t produce lactase on their own, depending on race and ethnicity.

In a sign of nature’s wisdom, raw milk contains lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Pasteurization, however, kills lactase. So if you don’t produce your own lactase, you’ll have a hard time digesting pasteurized milk. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tolerate raw milk. I can’t tolerate pasteurized dairy myself, but I don’t seem to have any problems with raw dairy.

So the answer to the question I posed in the title of this article isn’t so simple, and it depends on several factors:

The status of your gut barrier
Whether or not you have SIBO or IBS
Whether or not you’re gluten intolerant
Whether you’re eating raw or pasteurized dairy
If you’re not sure where you stand with dairy, the best approach is to remove it for 30 days and then reintroduce and see what happens. Elimination/reintroduction is still the gold-standard for determining sensitivity to a particular food.

But if you tolerate it well, I haven’t seen any evidence in the literature that convinces me you shouldn’t be eating liberal amounts of full-fat dairy.

Tagged as: butter, cream, dariy, disease, gut, leaky, milk, neolithic, paleo
23137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / South Park's revenge on: February 25, 2011, 12:45:24 PM
"Our man formerly in Iraq" comments:
=========================

I figure within a month or two Chesser will be getting passed around the prison in a sex for cigarettes program.

Man who threatened 'South Park' creators gets 25 years in prison
www.cnn.com

A 21-year-old man who admitted posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV series "South Park" was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison...
23138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Highly recommended on: February 25, 2011, 10:24:05 AM
I subscribe to this free newsletter and recommend it highly.  Also, I make an annual donation.

http://patriotpost.us/promote/
23139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Rebels seek to establish governance on: February 25, 2011, 08:44:35 AM
BENGHAZI, Libya — The rebels here said they caught a spy in the court building, the nerve center of the uprising, recording insurgent plans on a cellphone camera. The response was swift. Prosecutors interrogated the man on Thursday, and the rebels said they planned to detain him, for now.


“We want to know if he’s alone,” said Fathi Terbil, the lawyer whose detention set off Libya’s rebellion and who is now one if its leaders.
In the city where the Libyan uprising began, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and average citizens who oppose the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are adjusting to unfamiliar roles: they are keepers both of an evolving rebellion, as well as law and order in Libya’s second largest city.

And they fret that their gains will be reversed, by people and groups sympathetic to Colonel Qaddafi, who still maintain a presence.

Since Sunday, when government forces withdrew and Benghazi became the first major city to fall under rebel control, residents and rebels here have been left to hammer out a new way of life and governance.

On Thursday, the fruits of that effort were beginning to take a rough shape. A judge, still wearing his robes, wandered through traffic, ordering drivers to put on their seat belts. At another intersection, three young men helped an elderly police officer direct a traffic jam.

Dozens of banks opened for business, and by late afternoon, stores shuttered for days had started to open as well.

In Benghazi’s new order, the court building overlooking the Mediterranean has become both a seat of rebel power and the town hall.

A battery of newly formed committees meet there to discuss security, negotiate with the army and sort out how to get people back to work. “We needed something temporary, to manage the day-to-day life,” said Imam Bugaighis, an orthodontist who has become a spokeswoman for the caretaker administration.

She said her sister, a lawyer, is also an organizer of the effort, whose leadership remains very loose. Lawyers and judges were at the vanguard of the uprising.

“They are in charge,” Dr. Bugaighis said. Then she added, “Nobody is in charge.”

After Libya’s revolt began here on Feb. 15, there was intense fighting for several days. The local hospital is still coping with the influx of those who survived. At the height of the uprising, about a hundred people a day were admitted with bullet wounds and other injuries, according to the chief surgeon, who gave his name only as Dr. Abdullah because the government’s agents were still lurking. “We’ve been under threats for 40 years,” he said.

Badly wounded men lay in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and doctors confided privately that they did not expect them to live. They included a 30-year-old man whose chest was filled with bullet fragments. “He’s deeply comatose,” Dr. Abdullah said.

Dr. Abdullah said that 140 people died during the unrest here, while local rebel leaders said the number could be as high as 300. The doctors said many patients arrived with bullet wounds to the chest and the head. Many of them are paralyzed.

In the morgue, nine green bags contained charred remains. Dr. Abdullah said that they had been recovered from the local military base, and that he was told they were soldiers who were executed and then burned by their commanders after they refused to fire on civilians. But he could not be sure.

“It was chaos,” he said.

The chaos had started with the detention of Mr. Terbil, a lawyer who represents families of those killed in a massacre of more than 1,000 inmates in Abu Slim prison in Tripoli in 1996. The families planned to be part of a protest on Feb. 17, and Mr. Terbil said that the authorities detained him on Feb. 15, hoping to head off the demonstrations.

During an interview in a second-floor office in the court building on Thursday, Mr. Terbil said his interrogation stretched out over two days, as his supporters protested outside the security building where he was detained. Using carrots and sticks, the authorities told him to find a way to end the demonstrations.

“I told them it’s already on Facebook and Twitter,” he said he told the officer interrogating him. “We can’t stop it. We can make it peaceful.”

The interrogator’s response, Mr. Terbil said, was: “We cannot allow protests like that to take place. Blood will be shed.”
23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 25, 2011, 08:41:56 AM
Although I find GB's take on the events in the Arab world to be very worthwhile, for the record I would like to register a complaint.

It is well-known that many in the Arab world use the word "genocide" as much as they can so as to obscure the true genocide that was attempted, and is intended, for Jews.  Sometimes too, it is just a matter of melodrama.

Whatever the case, someone in Libya this week, either a soldier or a defecting diplomat, spoke of Kadaffy attempting genocide; as murderous as what Kaddaffy Duck is trying to do may be, is he really trying to wipe out a people?  I think not.  

Yet GB has taken up the word "genocide" in his description of what is going on, as in "Why didn't BO take the time to do XYZ to help stop the genocide in Libya?"

This devalues the word, a word whose meaning should be respected and protected.

23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: US pulling out of Pech Valley on: February 25, 2011, 08:34:22 AM
It is not unknown for Pravda on the Hudson (POTH/NYTimes) to shade things against US military efforts.  Caveat Lector
==================================================
This article is by C. J. Chivers, Alissa J. Rubin and Wesley Morgan
 
KABUL, Afghanistan — After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

The reorganization, which follows the complete Afghan and American withdrawals from isolated outposts in nearby Nuristan Province and the Korangal Valley, runs the risk of providing the Taliban with an opportunity to claim success and raises questions about the latest strategy guiding the war.

American officials say their logic is simple and compelling: the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance; those forces could be deployed in other areas; and there are not enough troops to win decisively in the Pech Valley in any case.

“If you continue to stay with the status quo, where will you be a year from now?” General Campbell said. “I would tell you that there are places where we’ll continue to build up security and it leads to development and better governance, but there are some areas that are not ready for that, and I’ve got to use the forces where they can do the most good.”

President Obama’s Afghan troop buildup is now fully in place, and the United States military has its largest-ever contingent in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s reinforced campaign has switched focus to operations in Afghanistan’s south, and to building up Afghan security forces.

The previous strategy emphasized denying sanctuaries to insurgents, blocking infiltration routes from Pakistan and trying to fight away from populated areas, where NATO’s superior firepower could be massed, in theory, with less risk to civilians. The Pech Valley effort was once a cornerstone of this thinking.

The new plan stands as a clear, if unstated, repudiation of earlier decisions. When Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former NATO commander, overhauled the Afghan strategy two years ago, his staff designated 80 “key terrain districts” to concentrate on. The Pech Valley was not one of them.

Ultimately, the decision to withdraw reflected a stark — and controversial — internal assessment by the military that it would have been better served by not having entered the high valley in the first place.

“What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone,” said one American military official familiar with the decision. “Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.”

Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, a former commander of the region’s Afghan Border Police, agreed with some of this assessment. He said that residents of the Pech Valley bristled at the American presence but might tolerate Afghan units. “Many times they promised us that if we could tell the Americans to pull out of the area, they wouldn’t fight the Afghan forces,” he said.

It is impossible to know whether such pledges will hold. Some veterans worry that the withdrawal will create an ideal sanctuary for insurgent activity — an area under titular government influence where fighters or terrorists will shelter or prepare attacks.

=====

While it is possible that the insurgents will concentrate in the mountain valleys, General Campbell said his goal was to arrange forces to keep insurgents from Kabul, the country’s capital.


“There are thousands of isolated mountainous valleys throughout Afghanistan, and we cannot be in all of them,” he said.
The American military plans to withdraw from most of the four principal American positions in the valley. For security reasons, General Campbell declined to discuss which might retain an American presence, and exactly how the Americans would operate with Afghans in the area in the future.

As the pullback begins, the switch in thinking has fueled worries among those who say the United States is ceding some of Afghanistan’s most difficult terrain to the insurgency and putting residents who have supported the government at risk of retaliation.

“There is no house in the area that does not have a government employee in it,” said Col. Gul Rahman, the Afghan police chief in the Manogai District, where the Americans’ largest base in the valley, Forward Operating Base Blessing, is located. “Some work with the Afghan National Army, some work with the Afghan National Police, or they are a teacher or governmental employee. I think it is not wise to ignore and leave behind all these people, with the danger posed to their lives.”

Some Afghan military officials have also expressed pointed misgivings about the prospects for Afghan units left behind.

“According to my experience in the military and knowledge of the area, it’s absolutely impractical for the Afghan National Army to protect the area without the Americans,” said Major Turab, the former second-in-command of an Afghan battalion in the valley, who like many Afghans uses only one name. “It will be a suicidal mission.”

The pullback has international implications as well. Senior Pakistani commanders have complained since last summer that as American troops withdraw from Kunar Province, fighters and some commanders from the Haqqani network and other militant groups have crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to create a “reverse safe haven” from which to carry out attacks against Pakistani troops in the tribal areas.

The Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups are all but certain to label the withdrawal a victory in the Pech Valley, where they could point to the Soviet Army’s withdrawal from the same area in 1988. Many Afghans remember that withdrawal as a symbolic moment when the Kremlin’s military campaign began to visibly fall apart.

Within six months, the Soviet-backed Afghan Army of the time ceded the territory to mujahedeen groups, according to Afghan military officials.

The unease, both with the historical precedent and with the price paid in American blood in the valley, has ignited a sometimes painful debate among Americans veterans and active-duty troops. The Pech Valley had long been a hub of American military operations in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces.

American forces first came to the valley in force in 2003, following the trail of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami group, who, like other prominent insurgent leaders, has been said at different times to hide in Kunar. They did not find him, though Hezb-i-Islami is active in the valley.

Since then, one American infantry battalion after another has fought there, trying to establish security in villages while weathering roadside bombs and often vicious fights.

Along with other slotlike canyons that the United States has already largely abandoned — including the Korangal Valley, the Waygal Valley (where the battle of Wanat was fought in 2008), the Shuryak Valley and the Nuristan River corridor (where Combat Outpost Keating was nearly overrun in 2009) — the Pech Valley was a region rivaled only by Helmand Province as the deadliest Afghan acreage for American troops.

On one operation alone in 2005, 19 service members, including 11 members of the Navy Seals, died.

As the years passed and the toll rose, the area assumed for many soldiers a status as hallowed ground. “I can think of very few places over the past 10 years with as high and as sustained a level of violence,” said Col. James W. Bierman, who commanded a Marine battalion in the area in 2006 and helped establish the American presence in the Korangal Valley.

In the months after American units left the Korangal last year, insurgent attacks from that valley into the Pech Valley increased sharply, prompting the current American battalion in the area, First Battalion, 327th Infantry, and Special Operations units to carry out raids into places that American troops once patrolled regularly.

Last August, an infantry company raided the village of Omar, which the American military said had become a base for attacks into the Pech Valley, but which earlier units had viewed as mostly calm. Another American operation last November, in the nearby Watapor Valley, led to fighting that left seven American soldiers dead.
23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya's split on: February 24, 2011, 11:50:31 PM
Libya's Split Between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania
Compared to the past few days in Libya that were marked by aerial bombardments on opposition strongholds, bizarre speeches by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and deadly clashes between protesters and African mercenaries, Wednesday was eerily quiet in the North African country.

The reason behind this apparent sense of quietude is because Libya is currently stuck in a historical east-west stalemate, with the threat of civil war looming.

The Gadhafi regime has effectively lost control of the east, where opposition forces are concentrated in and around the cities of Benghazi and Al Baida. The opposition is also encroaching on Libya’s dividing line, the energy-critical Gulf of Sidra, with the directors of several subsidiaries of the state-owned National Oil Corporation announcing they were splitting from Gadhafi and joining the people.

To the west, Gadhafi and his remaining allies appear to be digging in for a fight. Residents in Tripoli, many of whom turned on Gadhafi after witnessing the gratuitous violence used on protesters, are reportedly stockpiling arms, unsure of what will come next, but expecting the worst.

“Without a clear alternative, and with Libya fundamentally divided, there is no Plan B for the Gadhafi regime that generates much enthusiasm.”
A swath of nearly 500 miles of desert lies between the opposition and Gadhafi strongholds. And herein lies the historical challenge in ruling Libya: the split between ancient Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaica region has a long and rich history, dating back to the 7th Century B.C. This is a region that has seen many rulers, including Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Ottomans, Italians and British, and has long been at odds with the rival power base of Tripolitania, founded by the Phoenicians. At the time of Libya’s independence and through the reign of King Idris I (whose base of power was Cyrenaica), Libya was ruled by two capitals, Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east. For most Cyrenaics, Benghazi — and not Tripoli — is seen as their true capital.

It was not until Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 1969 military coup that overthrew the monarchy that the Tripolitanians could truly claim dominance over the fledgling Libyan state. But in a country divided by myriad dialects, tribes and ancient histories, Tripolitanian power could only be held through a complex alliance of tribes, the army’s loyalty and an iron fist.

Gadhafi thus finds himself in a serious dilemma, with what appears to be a winnowing number of army units and tribes remaining loyal to him in Tripoli and Sirte, his tribal homeland located on the western edge of the Gulf of Sidra. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to see how Gadhafi will be able to project power militarily to the east to retake the resource-rich territory and ultimately save his regime. It is equally difficult at the moment to imagine a contingent of opposition forces from the east charging across the desert and successfully retaking Tripoli. Even if a coup is attempted by Tripolitanians in the west against Gadhafi, the successor will face an extraordinary challenge in trying to exert control over the rest of the country to resolve the east-west split. When it comes to the Tripolitania-Cyrenaica divide, neither side is likely to make a move until they feel confident about their ability to co-opt or destroy enough forces on the enemy side.

A period of negotiations must first take place, as the Cyrenaica-based opposition forces attempt to reach a political understanding with forces already in Tripoli, who may already have ideas of their own on how to eliminate Gadhafi. That way, if they do move forces, they will at least have prior arrangements that they are not going to be challenged and ideally can be logistically supported from stocks in Tripoli. This explains the current quietude, as each side maneuvers in negotiations and conserves forces.

Whether those negotiations actually lead somewhere is another question. Gadhafi may be losing more credibility by the day, but he appears to be gambling on two things: that he can retain enough military and tribal support to make the cost of invading Tripoli too high for the opposition to attempt, and that the foreign bystanders to this conflict will be too fearful of the consequences of his regime collapsing.

The fear of the unknown is what is keeping the main external stakeholders in this conflict in limbo at the moment. From the U.S. president to the CEO of Italian energy firm ENI, nobody appears willing to rush a regime collapse that could very well result in civil war. This may explain the notably vague statements coming out of Tuesday’s U.N. Security Council meetings that focused on condemning the violence and not much else, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement on Wednesday, in which he said, “I have asked my administration to prepare a full range of options. This includes unilateral options, those with partners and those with international organizations.”

It is no coincidence that to this day, not a single leading opposition figure in Libya can be named. This is a testament to Gadhafi’s strategy of consolidating power: to prevent the creation of alternative bases of power and keep the institutions around him, including the army, deliberately weak. Without a clear alternative, and with Libya fundamentally divided, there is no Plan B for the Gadhafi regime that generates much enthusiasm.

And so we wait. Opposition forces in the east will conduct quiet negotiations in the west to determine who will defect and who will resist; the United States and Italy will be lobbied endlessly by the opposition to enforce a no-fly zone over the country; the external powers will continue to deliberate among a severely limited number of bad options; and Gadhafi and his remaining allies will dig in for the fight.

If neither side can acquire the force strength to make a move, Libya will return to its historic split between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica with separate bases of power. If one side takes a gamble and makes a move, civil war is likely to ensue. Sometimes it really is that simple.

23143  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Poi Dog on: February 24, 2011, 08:36:03 PM
Let the Howl go forth:

The list of DBMA Guros is quite short, but now there is one more:

Poi Dog is now Guro Poi Dog. Cool Cool Cool

WAAWFAYD!
Guro Crafty
23144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: February 24, 2011, 05:45:58 PM
The analogy I think is this:  As in bankruptcy reorganization, when a company is going bankrupt, the federal bankruptcy judge can come in an re-jigger the contractual rights of bondholders and other creditors, employees, and stockholders so that the company can survive.  if possible this is of greater value to all concerned than having to liquidate the company and sell its assets off, typically for pennies on the dollar.

By the way, Obama showed great disrespect for the sanctity of law by fg the secured creditors of GM and putting the unions ahead of them -- contrary to law.  I haven't the time or the inclination to spell all this out, but I make the claim simply, clearly, and with confidence.  Anyone interested should go look it up for themselves.

Also, worth keeping in mind is the American Contract Law includes some very flexible concepts that certainly surprised me when I started law school and I think might surprise some of us here.  It places a very high value on economic efficiency and allows for people to break contracts far more than you might think.
23145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: February 24, 2011, 11:47:00 AM
The Real Story in Wisconsin
 Our nation is in the stranglehold of Progressive Democrat dominated unions that are producing a crisis dropout rate across the country.  The Wisconsin government is saying that the Public Teachers Union is making more than double on average than the average voter that they are taking money from (1).  The current bill allows them to keep their collective bargaining for salary but have to give it up for benefits, and yes contribute a small sum toward their healthcare and retirement like the rest of America.  The Progressives are screaming, calling people Hitler, jumping up and down, for a very small reasonable cut to their bargaining power and salary.  Tea Party people finally got upset about Obama taking over one seventh of the economy in Obamacare and spending $3 Trillion of their grandchildren's money, by giving it to unions and special interests.

The Even Bigger Story
The bigger story is the public connection from the Democrat dominated teachers unions to the democrat President of the United States.  So the even bigger story is that Progressive Democrat Obama and Democrat Pelosi took the time to make a public press release showing their support for the Teachers Unions in Wisconsin.  What is significant is that they took their valuable time to support a single State single Democrat dominated Teachers Union, with the Middle East on fire, Iranians sending ships through the Suez Canal for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, China building a military that might challenge ours, the counter-demonstrations to the Sharia led government in Iran, or the 100s of thousands of people that have been murdered in the Sudan by Muslims.  They have not made a press release in announcing that the progressive Obama government  is embarking on the largest sale of arms to the Middle East of any of our past administrations (Fortune Magazine Cover Story 2/28/11).   Yet the two most powerful Democrats have time to talk about a local State issue where Teachers get paid almost twice as much as the private sector and produce underperforming students.     

The bottom line is that Progressive Democrats have dominated the Teacher's Unions across this country, and the Union donations to public officials for over 40 years.  They give hundreds of millions to choose their boss (elected officials) and their boss pays them back with salary and pension increases.  Cozy!  The result is a curriculum that leans overwhelmingly progressive and amounts to indoctrination, and you wonder why your kids come out of public school with some of the attitudes they do.  It is a broken system without competition that has degraded in quality to the point of a crisis.  In Los Angeles county the dropout rate is over 34% and is about 1 in 3 or 4 nation wide (32% drop out rate)(2).  About one-fifth of the nongraduates hail from 25 large school districts, including New York City; Los Angeles; and Clark County, Nev. (3)

So Wisconsin is really about the future education of your children and grand children in every state and who is going to be teaching them for a majority of their life.  And it is about the future freedom of all of our lives by ending the unholy alliance of big unions and big government. 

(1) The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.  http://maciverinstitute.com/2010/03/average-mps-teacher-compensation-tops-100kyear/

(2) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/05/high-school-dropout-rate-climbs-to-349.html

(3) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0610/Graduation-rate-for-US-high-schoolers-falls-for-second-straight-year

You have a few more days to purchase your Early Bird Tickets, don't delay.  Also some of you asked how you can support this event.  You can buy our Patriot Partner Ticket; these tickets are what help us break even.  You can also bring a couple of friends and neighbors, better yet buy them a ticket, pick them up and get them to the event.  You can forward this invitation to as many people as you know, with a personal recommendation.  Buy your tickets here - www.CelebrateFreedomAmerica.com

For Freedom, Gary Aven
23146  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Serious hand speed on: February 24, 2011, 11:17:10 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj8r4DoCeSc
23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq Hamlet Obama's statement yesterday on: February 24, 2011, 10:33:31 AM
I felt so proud yesterday that our President, having cleverly said nothing during days of mass killing by the serial terrorist killer Kadaffy and the loyal portion of his armed forces, came out with the forthright warning shot across the bow that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary "Atilla the Hen" Clinton to Geneva to meet with the UN Human Rights Council there , , , including Council member Libya.  How shrewd of him to have reversed President Bush's policy of not participating in the HRC because of the presence of states such as Syria and Libya!  But for that, maybe they would not be deigning to talk with Secretary Clinton right now!

How shrewd of him to have not responded to the events in Tunisia and Egypt by not ordering a US aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean!  Had he done so we now would be capable of imposing a no-fly zone so that the Libyan airforce would not be able to continue strafing its people as requested by defecting military and diplomats and wouldn't that be terrible!  Had he done so, Iran would have had to think twice about sending its navy ships through the Suez Canal-- and we wouldn't want that! My heart beats with pride at his eloquent denunciation of "violence" while subtly not mentioning its perpetrator (sp?) by name!  After all, we wouldn't want to make He Who Shall Not Be Named mad the way Reagan did when Reagan tried killing him, or Bush 2 did when our overthrow of Hussein in Iraq intimidated him into giving up his secret nuke program.  This subtle hammering Mubarak, our ally of 30 years, while not naming He Who Must Not Be Named, will make our President's positions "perfectly clear" to one and all.  After all, in troubled times, it can be so very important to not be mistaken for being weak. 

Otherwise someone might think to try us and serious wars can get started that way.
23148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Opportunity for Islamo Fascism in Libya? on: February 24, 2011, 10:20:29 AM


Jihadist Opportunities in Libya
February 24, 2011


By Scott Stewart

As George Friedman noted in his geopolitical weekly “Revolution and the Muslim World,” one aspect of the recent wave of revolutions we have been carefully monitoring is the involvement of militant Islamists, and their reaction to these events.

Militant Islamists, and specifically the subset of militant Islamists we refer to as jihadists, have long sought to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world. With the sole exception of Afghanistan, they have failed, and even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was really more a matter of establishing a polity amid a power vacuum than the true overthrow of a coherent regime. The brief rule of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in Somalia also occurred amid a similarly chaotic environment and a vacuum of authority.

However, even though jihadists have not been successful in overthrowing governments, they are still viewed as a threat by regimes in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In response to this threat, these regimes have dealt quite harshly with the jihadists, and strong crackdowns combined with other programs have served to keep the jihadists largely in check.

As we watch the situation unfold in Libya, there are concerns that unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising in Libya might result not only in a change of ruler but also in a change of regime and perhaps even a collapse of the state. In Egypt and Tunisia, strong military regimes were able to ensure stability after the departure of a long-reigning president. By contrast, in Libya, longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi has deliberately kept his military and security forces fractured and weak and thereby dependent on him. Consequently, there may not be an institution to step in and replace Gadhafi should he fall. This means energy-rich Libya could spiral into chaos, the ideal environment for jihadists to flourish, as demonstrated by Somalia and Afghanistan.

Because of this, it seems an appropriate time to once again examine the dynamic of jihadism in Libya.


A Long History

Libyans have long participated in militant operations in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Iraq. After leaving Afghanistan in the early 1990s, a sizable group of Libyan jihadists returned home and launched a militant campaign aimed at toppling Gadhafi, whom they considered an infidel. The group began calling itself the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in 1995, and carried out a low-level insurgency that included assassination attempts against Gadhafi and attacks against military and police patrols.



(click here to enlarge image)
Gadhafi responded with an iron fist, essentially imposing martial law in the Islamist militant strongholds of Darnah and Benghazi and the towns of Ras al-Helal and al-Qubbah in the Jabal al-Akhdar region. After a series of military crackdowns, Gadhafi gained the upper hand in dealing with his Islamist militant opponents, and the insurgency tapered off by the end of the 1990s. Many LIFG members fled the country in the face of the government crackdown and a number of them ended up finding refuge with groups like al Qaeda in places such as Afghanistan.

While the continued participation of Libyan men in fighting on far-flung battlefields was not expressly encouraged by the Libyan government, it was tacitly permitted. The Gadhafi regime, like other countries in the region, saw exporting jihadists as a way to rid itself of potential problems. Every jihadist who died overseas was one less the government had to worry about. This policy did not take into account the concept of “tactical Darwinism,” which means that while the United States and its coalition partners will kill many fighters, those who survive are apt to be strong and cunning. The weak and incompetent have been weeded out, leaving a core of hardened, competent militants. These survivors have learned tactics for survival in the face of superior firepower and have learned to manufacture and effectively employ new types of highly effective improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In a Nov. 3, 2007, audio message, al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri reported that the LIFG had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This statement came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the core al Qaeda group has long had a large number of Libyan cadre in its senior ranks, including men such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi, Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay) and Abu Laith al-Libi, who was killed in a January 2008 unmanned aerial vehicle strike in Pakistan.

The scope of Libyan participation in jihadist efforts in Iraq became readily apparent with the September 2007 seizure of a large batch of personnel files from an al Qaeda safe house in the Iraqi city of Sinjar. The Sinjar files were only a small cross-section of all the fighters traveling to Iraq to fight with the jihadists, but they did provide a very interesting snapshot. Of the 595 personnel files recovered, 112 of them were of Libyans. This number is smaller than the 244 Saudi citizens represented in the cache, but when one considers the overall size of the population of the two countries, the Libyan contingent represented a far larger percentage on a per capita basis. The Sinjar files suggested that a proportionally higher percentage of Libyans was engaged in the fighting in Iraq than their brethren from other countries in the region.

Another interesting difference was noted in the job-description section of the Sinjar files. Of those Libyan men who listed their intended occupation in Iraq, 85 percent of them listed it as suicide bomber and only 13 percent listed fighter. By way of comparison, only 50 percent of the Saudis listed their occupation as suicide bomber. This indicates that the Libyans tended to be more radical than their Saudi counterparts. Moroccans appeared to be the most radical, with more than 91 percent of them apparently desiring to become suicide bombers.

The Libyan government’s security apparatus carefully monitored those Libyans who passed through the crucible of fighting on the battlefield in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and then returned to Libya. Tripoli took a carrot-and-stick approach to the group similar to that implemented by the Saudi regime. As a result, the LIFG and other jihadists were unable to pose a serious threat to the Gadhafi regime, and have remained very quiet in recent years. In fact, they were for the most part demobilized and rehabilitated.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, oversaw the program to rehabilitate LIFG militants, which his personal charity managed. The regime’s continued concern over the LIFG was clearly demonstrated early on in the unrest when it announced that it would continue the scheduled release from custody of LIFG fighters.

The Sinjar reports also reflected that more than 60 percent of the Libyan fighters had listed their home city as Darnah and almost 24 percent had come from Benghazi. These two cities are in Libya’s east and happen to be places where some of the most intense anti-Gadhafi protests have occurred in recent days. Arms depots have been looted in both cities, and we have seen reports that at least some of those doing the looting appeared to have been organized Islamists.

A U.S. State Department cable drafted in Tripoli in June 2008 made available by WikiLeaks talked about this strain of radicalism in Libya’s east. The cable, titled “Die Hard in Derna,” was written several months after the release of the report on the Sinjar files. Derna is an alternative transliteration of Darnah, and “Die Hard” was a reference to the Bruce Willis character in the Die Hard movie series, who always proved hard for the villains to kill. The author of the cable, the U.S. Embassy’s political and economic officer, noted that many of the Libyan fighters who returned from fighting in transnational jihad battlefields liked to settle in places like Darnah due to the relative weakness of the security apparatus there. The author of the cable also noted his belief that the presence of these older fighters was having an influence on the younger men of the region who were becoming radicalized, and the result was that Darnah had become “a wellspring of foreign fighters in Iraq.” He also noted that some 60-70 percent of the young men in the region were unemployed or underemployed.

Finally, the author opined that many of these men were viewing the fight in Iraq as a way to attack the United States, which they saw as supporting the Libyan regime in recent years. This is a concept jihadists refer to as attacking the far enemy and seems to indicate an acceptance of the transnational version of jihadist ideology — as does the travel of men to Iraq to fight and the apparent willingness of Libyans to serve as suicide bombers.


Trouble on the Horizon?

This deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya brings us back to the beginning. While it seems unlikely at this point that the jihadists could somehow gain control of Libya, if Gadhafi falls and there is a period of chaos in Libya, these militants may find themselves with far more operating space inside the country than they have experienced in decades. If the regime does not fall and there is civil war between the eastern and western parts of the country, they could likewise find a great deal of operational space amid the chaos. Even if Gadhafi, or an entity that replaces him, is able to restore order, due to the opportunity the jihadists have had to loot military arms depots, they have suddenly found themselves more heavily armed than they have ever been inside their home country. And these heavily armed jihadists could pose a substantial threat of the kind that Libya has avoided in recent years.

Given this window of opportunity, the LIFG could decide to become operational again, especially if the regime they have made their deal with unexpectedly disappears. However, even should the LIFG decide to remain out of the jihad business as an organization, there is a distinct possibility that it could splinter and that the more radical individuals could cluster together to create a new group or groups that would seek to take advantage of this suddenly more permissive operational environment. Of course, there are also jihadists in Libya unaffiliated with LIFG and not bound by the organization’s agreements with the regime.

The looting of the arms depots in Libya is also reminiscent of the looting witnessed in Iraq following the dissolution of the Iraqi army in the face of the U.S. invasion in 2003. That ordnance not only was used in thousands of armed assaults and indirect fire attacks with rockets and mortars, but many of the mortar and artillery rounds were used to fashion powerful IEDs. This concept of making and employing IEDs from military ordnance will not be foreign to the Libyans who have returned from Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter).

This bodes ill for foreign interests in Libya, where they have not had the same security concerns in recent years that they have had in Algeria or Yemen. If the Libyans truly buy into the concept of targeting the far enemy that supports the state, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for them to begin to attack multinational oil companies, foreign diplomatic facilities and even foreign companies and hotels.

While Seif al-Islam, who certainly has political motives to hype such a threat, has mentioned this possibility, so have the governments of Egypt and Italy. Should Libya become chaotic and the jihadists become able to establish an operational base amid the chaos, Egypt and Italy will have to be concerned about not only refugee problems but also the potential spillover of jihadists. Certainly, at the very least the weapons looted in Libya could easily be sold or given to jihadists in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, turning militancy in Libya into a larger regional problem. In a worst-case scenario, if Libya experiences a vacuum of power, it could become the next Iraq or Pakistan, a gathering place for jihadists from around the region and the world. The country did serve as such a base for a wide array of Marxist and rejectionist terrorists and militants in the 1970s and 1980s.

It will be very important to keep a focus on Libya in the coming days and weeks — not just to see what happens to the regime but also to look for indicators of the jihadists testing their wings.

23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 23, 2011, 11:53:42 PM
Good stuff Ya; grateful for your contributions here.
23150  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 23, 2011, 11:45:22 PM
Grateful finally to have written a difficult letter today.
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