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23101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 21, 2008, 11:04:59 AM
JDN:

I get your point about the legal theory of it all, and I suspect that GM does too, but is that really responsive to his point about the real world of it all?  His post about the poor Sabia Rani seems to support his case rather vividly , , ,
23102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: November 21, 2008, 10:58:44 AM
Don't the Japanese profitably make cars here in the US?  huh
23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That Fcuker Al Franken on: November 21, 2008, 10:53:45 AM
WSJ:

Al Franken's campaign takes exception to our recent description of the curious goings-on in Minnesota's Senate vote count. We're delighted to hear his growing vote total is all routine. But who needs to worry about votes discovered in a car when the Franken campaign is now suing in court to steal the election?

Minnesota this week began its official statewide recount, and Mr. Franken isn't hanging on the outcome. Instead, he's trying to conjure up enough other, previously disqualified, ballots to overturn Mr. Coleman's 215-vote lead. The Democrat needs to invent votes because he knows it will be tough to win a normal recount. Minnesota uses optical scanning machines, which are far more accurate than the punchcard paper ballots of the 2000 Florida recount. Prior recounts in Minnesota have resulted in few vote changes.

So off to court he goes, with Mr. Franken demanding that the state canvassing board delay certifying the initial election results. His campaign claims that absentee votes may have been wrongly rejected by election judges. Team Franken filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County (the state's second largest, and an area Mr. Franken won decisively) demanding a list of these absentee voters, so that the Democrat can contact them, get them to declare their ex post facto preference, and, presto, he wins.

The state attorney general's office ruled against a canvassing board delay, finding that certification was purely an administrative function and that any question of absentee ballots ought to be left to the courts. The problem is that at least one court has entertained this Franken ploy. Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman this week ordered county officials to give Mr. Franken a list of voters who had cast rejected absentee ballots.

In today's Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

The Waxman DemocratsAl Franken's MinnesotaAmerica the Popular

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Declarations: Keep Gates
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Senate Play
– Kimberley A. Strassel

COMMENTARY

Al Qaeda Detainees and Congress's Duty
– Michael B. MukaseyThe Auto Makers Are Already Bankrupt
– Paul IngrassiaLessons in Gross National Happiness
– Emily ParkerWhat Do We Really Know About the Uninsured?
– William SnyderPut aside that these ballots have already been ruled on by trained election judges. Put aside, too, the invasion of voter privacy. The real problem of allowing Mr. Franken to conduct his own voter discovery operation is that this is changing the rules after the election has been held. The gambit introduces subjective judgment and political pressure into a voting process that is supposed to be immune to both.

Opening up the rejected-ballot question is also a recipe for potential fraud. When the Franken campaign filed its initial lawsuit demanding access to the voter lists, it used as an example an 84-year-old woman in Beltrami County whose vote was supposedly rejected because she'd had a stroke, and therefore her signature on her absentee ballot did not match the one on file. After some outside investigation, the Franken campaign admitted that the story was not true, and that her ballot had been rejected for entirely different (and legitimate) reasons.

Mr. Franken is also trying to raise public doubt about an "undervote" -- suggesting that only machine error can explain why he received 12.2 percentage points fewer votes than did Barack Obama. But the Senate race had three serious candidates, not two. Maybe fewer Minnesotans liked a left-wing candidate who ran a nasty campaign. In any case, the same Democrats who claimed Florida was "stolen" by faulty ballot machines are now trying to discredit the optical-scanners that they have demanded -- all in order to sway the human judges who'll rule on Mr. Franken's legal challenges.

The joker's goal is to sow enough doubt about the vote so that if he loses the recount he can attract public support to challenge the final result in court. This is a slap at Minnesota, which, so far at least, appears to be doing all it can to make the recount open and transparent. Minnesota should respond by telling Mr. Franken that even a celebrity has to play by the rules.

 
23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Good manners, social graces, and etiquette on: November 21, 2008, 07:46:52 AM
Indeed it is.  Its even better when rendered the verb is in agreement with the subject:  evil

"Our society has been sheltered for so long it has forgotten what used to lay beyond the firelight."

or

"People have been sheltered for so long they have forgotten what used to lay beyond the firelight."



23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 21, 2008, 07:43:59 AM
"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

—George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Leaving too soon? on: November 20, 2008, 05:08:19 PM
U.S. shifts its approach in Iraq
Focus shifts to reconciling factions through programs and peace marches
By Mary Beth Sheridan
The Washington Post
updated 12:17 a.m. PT, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2008

BAGHDAD - It was billed as a peace concert in war-scarred Baghdad. But after 30 minutes of poetry and patriotic songs, only a scattering of tribal leaders and dark-suited bureaucrats were sitting in the vast expanse of white plastic chairs before a stage painted with doves.

That didn't trouble Col. Bill Hickman, whose soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division helped organize the event.

"We have sheiks from different places who will sit here and talk to each other," he said, standing at the edge of the audience with his men, a striking sight in their body armor and night-vision goggles.

With violence down sharply this year, the U.S. military is broadening its efforts to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites, reintegrate former insurgents into society and repair the rift between residents and their government.

But as American forces begin to withdraw, some Iraqis question the long-term impact of the pacification campaign. Iraq has no history of democracy, and the government that has come to power since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion is sharply divided along sectarian lines.

"The idea or identity of this is American, not Iraqi," Kassim Daoud, a former Iraqi national security minister, said of the U.S. efforts. Although the Iraqi government has declared its support for reconciliation, he said, "it hasn't got a real program or a map."

Reality lags behind rhetoric
At the concert, city officials spoke glowingly about reconciliation. But some in the audience acknowledged that reality lagged far behind.

Abdul Ameer, 48, a Shiite who attended the event with his two young sons, said he had Sunni friends but couldn't visit them. The friends live in the town of Tarmiyah north of Baghdad, he explained: "It's only for Sunnis. I can't feel safe if I go there."

The U.S. reconciliation campaign includes some major projects, but much of the American effort is decentralized, consisting of reconstruction programs, peace marches and meetings with rival tribal leaders over platters of rice and lamb. In many cases, soldiers are making up the details as they go along.

Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, 42, has had to figure out how to keep the peace in an area of northwestern Baghdad that was previously a hotbed of Sunni insurgents. He became worried last spring when U.S. commanders announced a plan to release thousands of Iraqis detained for alleged ties to insurgents.

"We're like, man, how are we going to keep these guys from falling back into it?" asked Willoughby, an earnest, freckled officer from Clever, Mo., who commands the 4th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to the 101st Airborne.

Willoughby decided he needed someone to help the detainees reenter society. And that is how a squadron of macho U.S. infantrymen and gung-ho tankers came to hire their first professional nurturer.

Fawaz Kashmoola is their "rehabilitation manager."

"The role I play is, when the prisoners get released, I show them love and mercy," said the Iraqi lawyer, a 45-year-old with combed-back hair.

Love, housing and jobs
Love isn't all the former detainees get. Kashmoola and his fellow managers line up housing as well as jobs or training programs. Then the managers check up on the men to ensure they stay out of trouble.

On a recent sunny Thursday, Kashmoola and Willoughby attended a detainee release ceremony on the lawn of a blue-domed mosque. The U.S. military has made these into gala affairs, with flag-waving crowds and speeches from Muslim leaders and Iraqi army officers. The 48 newly freed men were handed gift-wrapped bags of chocolates by U.S. soldiers who a year ago might have flex-cuffed them.

Willoughby said the military is sending a message to men who might be tempted by insurgents' offers to attack the Americans: "We have reconciled with you. We are giving you your next chance. Your community cares about you. We want you to learn a trade, provide for your family -- not be putting IEDs for $200."

In his area, only one of 82 freed detainees has been rearrested. Several other battalions in Baghdad have hired their own versions of Kashmoola.


Detainee-release ceremonies reflect a dramatic change in military doctrine. The Army issued a field manual last month on "stability operations" to guide its troops in facilitating reconciliation and providing essential services. It was produced after the Department of Defense in 2005 elevated "stability operations" to the same level in its doctrine as offensive and defensive operations.

"It's a very different Army from the one that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003," said John Nagl, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security and a former Army officer.

Building support for government institutions is a key part of the U.S. military's pacification effort in Iraq. In Willoughby's area of northwestern Baghdad, for example, American troops have cleaned out sewers, rebuilt schools and put in a swimming pool.

"As you, as a citizen, are looking on, you've got to say, 'It's nice to live here,' " Willoughby said. If insurgents return, the U.S. officers hope, Iraqis will consider what they have to lose.

It can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of some of the American programs. Hickman's soldiers, for example, have helped organize soccer games between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, providing the young players with T-shirts or uniforms.

The matches aren't billed as peace events, he said, but the parents mingle, re-creating an atmosphere that existed before the invasion. The games draw them from neighborhoods divided by giant blast walls and painful memories of sectarian warfare.

"The nuance here is for the Sunni and Shiite to come together," said Hickman, who commands the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Peace concert problems
U.S. troops had envisioned the Baghdad peace concert as an event for the public to enjoy. But they organized it jointly with Iraqi officials, who are still unaccustomed to such unscripted activities. Park officials barred most people without a government invitation from entering, resulting in scores of empty seats.

Iraqi government officials have praised the American peace efforts but say they have their limits.

Safa Rasul Hussein, the deputy national security adviser, said the U.S. programs had been helpful, particularly on outreach to the Sunni minority. But he noted that some Iraqi parties and armed groups refuse to talk to the American military.

"Maybe reconciliation will be more when they leave," he said.

The Iraqi government has launched a number of its own reconciliation activities, from organizing political conferences to setting up assistance centers for families displaced by violence.

Sons of Iraq fear U.S. pullout
One of the U.S. military's biggest reconciliation efforts involves the Sons of Iraq, once-hostile Iraqis who became American-paid neighborhood guards. The U.S. military considers the mostly Sunni guards to be a critical factor in the drop in violence over the past year.

It has urged Iraq to integrate the guards into its security forces, but the Shiite-led government has been slow to do so. On Oct. 1, the Iraqi government assumed control of about half the 100,000 guards and last week started paying them.

But the U.S. military is taking no chances. It held two high-level meetings with Iraqi officials to ensure they were prepared to pay the guards under their control. When the Sons of Iraq protested that the Iraqi government wanted to cut their monthly salaries from $300 to $250, the U.S. military stepped in and got the decision changed. On payday, American soldiers sat next to the Iraqi troops handing out the cash.

The Sons of Iraq say they're nervous about what will happen if the American role diminishes, especially because many of them haven't been told yet what their new jobs will be.

"There was some talk in the Iraqi media that the Iraqi government wasn't accepting the Sons of Iraq as it should. We don't know what is going to happen in the future," said one guard, Alaa Ghazi.

Ghazi, 27, is one of hundreds of guards who have been accepted into the Iraqi police academy. On a recent day, he took a break from drilling on a dusty parade ground outside the facility.

The Sons of Iraq program would continue to work well "with the help and support" of the U.S. forces, he said. But asked whether it could succeed without them, he shook his head.

"No, no, no!" he cried.
23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: November 20, 2008, 04:53:13 PM
Good read Mig.
23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 20, 2008, 04:37:27 PM
Pulling up the chair and the popcorn , , ,

Over to you JDN  grin
23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: November 20, 2008, 04:34:16 PM
"Having waded through a ton of islamic religious writing, I can tell you that the islamic world is the most fcuked up culture on the topic of sex, ever. IMHO, Muhammad had some serious psych issues, and as his thoughts are now islamic holy writ, they have become a meta-pathology."

For some reason, this provoked me to laugh and laugh ,l , , I suppose the pithiness of it all  cheesy
23110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 20, 2008, 02:08:48 PM
I gather that amongst its effects is an increase in the use of fertilizer, which, inter alia, runs down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico where it greatly adds to a scarily large and growing dead zone (no oxygen) in the Gulf.
23111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Vote Fraud (ACORN et al) on: November 20, 2008, 02:03:54 PM
Not always a reliable site, but the subject matter here resonates with me:
========
http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/fec_audit_obama/2008/11/19/153172.html?s=al&promo_code=71A1-1

Elections Officials May Audit Obama's Fundraising
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 6:01 PM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman 

According to a published report earlier this week, the Federal Election Commission is unlikely to vote to audit the Obama campaign finances, and will sweep aside a formal demand for an full audit that was filed by the Republican National Committee on Oct. 6. But interviews with current and former FEC officials, as well as a review of public statements by FEC commissioners, suggest that the commission could pursue an “audit for cause” of the Obama campaign, based in part on allegations of widespread fraud and illegal donors as reported by Newsmax.com and other publications during the election season.

“There are standards in a bureaucratic sense for who might be eligible for an audit for cause,” said FEC spokesman Bob Biersack. “Those are objective standards. Committees that meet those standards are eligible to be audited.”

Confusion or concern with information in the campaign finance reports submitted by the committees are generally what trigger such an audit, Biersack added. Such concerns can include a significant number of donors who have exceeded the limits of $2,300 per election. According to the Obama campaign’s own disclosures, more than 4,000 of its donors fit that bill. Those concerns can also include receiving money from foreign donors. The FEC compiled a list last month of more than 16,000 contributions from overseas sources. A Newsmax survey of roughly one-fifth of those names found 118 individuals who appeared to be foreign citizens.

The Republican National Committee based its demand for an audit of the Obama campaign on reports from Newsmax and other media organizations that suggested widespread irregularities, including taking money from foreign donors and from donors with fictitious names.

“We’re still awaiting action on our complaint and will press forward,” RNC spokesman Alex Conant told Newsmax on Friday.

Three Republicans and three Democrats now sit on the FEC as commissioners. But until June of this year, the commission was crippled because of partisan wrangling.

Helping to cripple the FEC was the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who placed a “hold” on a Republican nominee in October 2007.  angry That action had the effect of keeping the commission on the sideline for the entire primary season.  angry angry angry

But will the commission act now? Incoming commissioners Don McGahn, a Republican, and Cynthia Bauerly, a Democrat, insisted that they would hear cases at the FEC in terms of their merits, not party affiliation. Even though they had both worked on partisan campaigns in the past, Bauerly told senators during her confirmation hearing in May that “the most important determination is to be objective and to read the law as objectively and fairly as possible.” McGahn said that in his view, commissioners were no longer partisans. “Ultimately, the commission’s core constituency is the general public,” he said at the May 21 hearing.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt dismissed talk of an audit earlier this week. “We have had a first rate compliance operation for an unprecedented national grassroots fundraising effort,” he told reporters.

But the Obama campaign more often than not failed to respond within the statutory 60 day limit to the more than dozen letters it received from the FEC asking for clarification of apparent foreign donors, or the refund of excess contributions, a Newsmax review of the correspondance shows.

For example, on April 15, 2008, the FEC asked the Obama campaign to refund or reassign contributions from two brothers in the Gaza Strip, Hosam and Monir Edwan. Together, they had given over $31,000 to the Obama campaign. And yet, three months later, much of the money had yet to be returned.

Most of the contributions from the Edwan brothers were made in October 2007, so the Obama campaign was able to use the money for cash-flow when it needed it the most and when the FEC was down to just two commissioners. In the April 15 letter, the FEC failed to point out that the two brothers had listed their address as “Gaza Strip, Rafah,” and had obviously used a foreign currency credit card to make the donations. On May 6, the FEC questioned excessive contributions from a woman identified as Deborah Heitz of La Canada, Calif. As of Jan. 31, 2008, she had given $17,900 to the campaign, nearly eight times the limit per election. In this case, the Obama campaign began refunding the money soon afterwards. But once again, they had gained precious cash flow at the peak of the primary campaign, without ever paying a price.

On June 25, FEC analysts sent the Obama campaign a sharply worded notice with a 58-page single-spaced list of donors whose contributions were over the limits. The June 25 letter first identified excess contributions from a donor named “Will, Good” from Austin, Texas. The list of Mr. Good Will’s contributions the FEC sent the Obama campaign ran seven pages. And yet, the campaign was slow to start returning the money.

As Newsmax revealed in September, the Obama campaign still showed a positive balance from Mr. Good Will of $8,950 as of their Sept. 20, 2008 report to the FEC, three months after they were warned about these contributions in June.


[Editor's Note: See "Secret, Foreign Money Floods Into Obama Campaign."]

The FEC letters all include a stern warning, “Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action.”   And yet, despite repeated delays or just downright refusals to respond to the FEC letters, the Obama campaign has yet not been audited nor has the FEC announced any enforcement action.


Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, saw little reason for an audit. “The assumption is, the more money you raise, the less potential there is for any single individual or groups of individuals to corrupt your campaign.” There had been “a few instances of contributions that shouldn’t have made their way into the Obama campaign or the McCain campaign,” he added. But when it came to Obama, “the corrupting influence of a few contributions here or there that shouldn’t have made it in the door is negligible.”


CPR lobbied heavily for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act of 2002, which imposed limits on how much federal candidates could raise and spend in their campaigns. The Washinton, DC based group calls itself “nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit.”


In case you thought that position would have brought them to criticize the Obama campaign for abandoning the McCain-Feingold campaign finance limits, think again.

“Obama's victory in the general election was aided by his tremendous fundraising success,” the CPR website says. “After becoming his party's nominee, Obama declined public financing and the spending limits that came with it, making him the first major-party candidate since the system was created to reject taxpayers' money for the general election.”

On the day after the election. RNC chairman Mike Duncan told reporters at the National Press Club that public financing of presidential campaigns was dead.

“Presidential campaign finance as we know it died last night,” he said. “No major candidate will ever again submit to public funding restrictions. Less than two election cycles since the passage of campaign finance reform, the system has failed.”

On Thursday, the RNC filed filed two additional complaints, one in Louisiana, and the other in Washington, DC, challenging the constitutionality of key parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the official title of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: November 20, 2008, 01:21:23 PM
SB:

Post 408 was pretty good smiley
23113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: November 20, 2008, 01:16:11 PM
Agreed!  Indeed one suspects a correlation between this and the beautiful sheep contests which are sometimes held in the mid-east. shocked cheesy

That said, does it not also bother you that a Christian dating service has been bullied into having to offer gay dating service?

23114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 20, 2008, 01:11:29 PM
1)  For the record "In Britain, beth din courts do not decide whether a Jewish couple’s marriage should end. They simply put their stamp of approval on the dissolution of the marriage when both parties agree to it."  This is different than determining whether the divorce should take place.

2) GM:  JDN's point seems fairly reasoned.  What say you?
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 20, 2008, 11:48:47 AM
Going for the Big Money

A highly placed Democrat tells the Arizona Republic that Governor Janet Napolitano's nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security in an Obama administration is "a pretty done deal."

Some national Democrats are puzzling over why Gov. Napolitano would leave midway through her second term, turning over the job to Arizona's Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, thus giving the GOP control of both houses of the legislature and the executive branch.

The answer may be twofold. A change of scenery might be welcome given Arizona's ugly budget crisis, brought on by years of overspending and lax oversight by all the state's political players. Secondly, a cabinet secretary earns $191,300 a year, more than double the stingy $90,000 annual salary that Arizona's constitution allows its governor. Arizona is also one of a handful of states that doesn't provide its chief executive with a governor's mansion. "It's a win-win for Janet," one Arizona elected official told me. "She escapes having to make massive budget cuts or tax hikes that would be unpopular and gets to play with the major players in Washington."

-- John Fund

If Hillary Gets the Nod . . .

It still seems unlikely, but the camps of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seem to be working hard to smooth her appointment as Secretary of State. Many of Mr. Obama's advisers still have doubts about the wisdom of the choice, but others are swept away by what Politico.com calls a potential "masterstroke on the road to creating the most unified, powerful Democratic leadership in living memory." With Mrs. Clinton out of the Senate, only Wisconsin maverick Russ Feingold might be left to stir up meaningful Democratic opposition to Obama policy initiatives in the U.S. Senate.

New York Governor David Paterson is already reviewing potential replacements for Mrs. Clinton's Senate seat should it fall vacant. Topping the list is Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general and a potential rival to Mr. Paterson's ambitions to win a term in his own right in 2010 (Mr. Paterson was elevated from the Lt. Governorship when Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal). Other possibilities include Rep. Nita Lowey, a strong Hillary ally who would likely hold the seat for a short time given her age -- 71. Another is Rep. Nydia Velazquez, whose appointment would recognize the growing clout of Hispanics in New York state politics.

Meanwhile, key to Mrs. Clinton's appointment are discussions over Bill Clinton's conflict-laden philanthropic efforts. Representing Mr. Clinton in negotiations are his former White House counsels Bruce Lindsey and Cheryl Mills. Representing Mr. Obama is his transition chief John Podesta, himself a former Clinton chief of staff. Together, in meetings that must be surreal, these former Clintonites are hashing out disclosure rules for Mr. Clinton and his high-rolling donors.

-- John Fund

Howard's End

Tom Daschle yesterday quickly accepted Barack Obama's offer to head the Health and Human Services Department. Perhaps even more interesting is who didn't get the job: Soon-to-be-former DNC Chief Howard Dean.

Mr. Dean certainly had a liberal fan club pushing for him. A medical doctor by training, he burst onto the presidential scene in 2004 on the strength of his "universal health care" plan as governor of Vermont. The militant Netroots crowd -- which he was among the first Democrats to cultivate -- has remained loyal and has been howling for his appointment. Some left-wing Democrats also felt he deserved the job as payment for the electoral victories he oversaw as head of the DNC.

Back in reality, however, Mr. Obama was having none of it. Plenty of top Democrats were fine with letting Mr. Dean run the DNC. His attack-dog style and Internet savvy were well suited to a job that was focused on winning elections. But his personal aggressiveness couldn't be more at odds with Mr. Obama's cool demeanor. And putting Mr. Dean in control of one of Mr. Obama's most cherished initiatives (health care) would've made John McCain's Sarah Palin pick look safe.

Mr. Dean didn't help himself by squabbling endlessly with party leaders during his DNC tenure. He had some particularly nasty go-rounds with Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who was angry the DNC chair wasn't sending him more money to help elect Congressional Democrats. Mr. Emanuel will now be Mr. Obama's White House chief of staff.

Mr. Dean has already said he won't seek a second DNC term, no doubt because he knows the position would lose much of its profile with a Democratic president in the White House. Team Obama may well feel the need to reward Mr. Dean with a post, but finding one that would match his expectations could prove tough. Any job that Mr. Dean might want is a job that Mr. Obama might prefer not to entrust to an unpredictable rabble-rouser with a notoriously sharp tongue.

-- Kim Strassel

Quote of the Day I

"I honestly think I will not mind not having to answer to the press. It's very different than a few years ago. The press doesn't focus on issues anymore -- it's whether who's winning or losing, who's happy or sad and so on, and educating the public about issues isn't something the press wants to do anymore. I will not miss that aspect of it. I will love having my privacy. Let me put it in a positive way" -- retiring Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, quoted at Politico.com about what he will miss least about his job.

Quote of the Day II

"[A]s every horror fan knows the monster never dies. In the case of the credit-crunch the risk of a final lunge comes from a damaging political response. . . . The major lesson from the Great Depression of the 1930s was that terrible policies managed to turn a financial crisis into a disaster. The infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was introduced by US policymakers to block imports in a desperate attempt to protect domestic jobs. But it helped worsen the recession by freezing world trade. At the same time policymakers were encouraging firms to collude and workers to unionize to raise prices and wages. The current backlash against capitalism risks leading to this repeat. . . . Although 2009 will be a year of shrinking rapidly, if politicians protect free markets 2010 should see a return to growth" -- Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, writing at Voxeu.org.

Boehner Hangs On

Despite low enthusiasm for the party's House leadership, Ohio Rep. John Boehner kept his spot atop the GOP House conference yesterday after beating back a weak challenge from California Rep. Dan Lungren.

Mr. Boehner, who despite the party's lackluster performance keeps good personal relations with much of the caucus, survived by giving conservatives what they wanted. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri announced shortly after Election Day that he wouldn't seek the post again. He will be replaced by his chief deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, a brainy up-and-coming conservative voice in the conference.

Florida Rep. Adam Putnam, last cycle's Conference Chairman, also agreed to forgo a re-election bid. He will hand his conference gavel to Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a former head of the Republican Study Committee and a popular ex-radio host with a big following among conservatives.

Reps. Cantor and Pence were both rumored to be interested in Mr. Boehner's job, so accommodating them with new positions might have spared Mr. Boehner a tougher challenge than he got from the late entry Mr. Lungren. Mr. Pence had previously tried to unseat the Minority Leader after the 2006 elections. Mr. Boehner's reelection comes despite antagonizing some conservatives by cooperating with Democrats to approve this fall's $700 billion bank bailout. As Republicans move right, meanwhile, House Democrats are moving left. The Democratic caucus this morning voted to oust John Dingell from the powerful energy and commerce committee in favor of the ultraliberal class-warrior Rep. Henry Waxman.

Mr. Boehner also succeeded this week in electing a new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a thankless position over the last two cycles, which have seen the GOP lose more than 50 seats and the majority. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions ousted Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole to take the helm for what most expect will be a brighter year for Republicans.

Messrs. Boehner and Cole had clashed often over staffing issues and what some called Mr. Cole's hands-off approach in Republican primaries. Democrats were much more active during the primaries in helping those candidates they considered the best fit for the districts in question. Republicans did not adopt a similar strategy until late in the cycle.

-- Reid Wilson, RealClearPolitics.com



23116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran: Enough to build a bomb on: November 20, 2008, 11:01:22 AM
Iran Said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon
 
By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: November 19, 2008

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”

Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.

While some Iranian officials have threatened to bar inspectors in the past, the country has made no such moves, and many experts inside the Bush administration and the I.A.E.A. believe it will avoid the risk of attempting “nuclear breakout” until it possessed a larger uranium supply.

Even so, for President-elect Barack Obama, the report underscores the magnitude of the problem that he will inherit Jan. 20: an Iranian nuclear program that has not only solved many technical problems of uranium enrichment, but that can also now credibly claim to possess enough material to make a weapon if negotiations with Europe and the United States break down.

American intelligence agencies have said Iran could make a bomb between 2009 and 2015. A national intelligence estimate made public late last year concluded that around the end of 2003, after long effort, Iran had halted work on an actual weapon. But enriching uranium, and obtaining enough material to build a weapon, is considered the most difficult part of the process.

Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile “underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option.”

In the report to its board, the atomic agency said Iran’s main enrichment plant was now feeding uranium into about 3,800 centrifuges — machines that spin incredibly fast to enrich the element into nuclear fuel. That count is the same as in the agency’s last quarterly report, in September. Iran began installing the centrifuges in early 2007. But the new report’s total of 630 kilograms — an increase of about 150 — shows that Iran has been making progress in accumulating material to make nuclear fuel.

That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said.

“They have a weapon’s worth,” Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that tracks atomic arsenals, said in an interview.

He said the amount was suitable for a relatively advanced implosion-type weapon like the one dropped on Nagasaki. Its core, he added, would be about the size of a grapefruit. He said a cruder design would require about twice as much weapon-grade fuel.

“It’s a virtual milestone,” Dr. Cochran said of Iran’s stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about “where they’re going.”

The agency’s report made no mention of the possible military implications of the size of Iran’s stockpile. And some experts said the milestone was still months away. In an analysis of the I.A.E.A. report, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, estimated that Iran had not yet reached the mark but would “within a few months.” It added that other analysts estimated it might take as much as a year.

Whatever the exact date, it added, “Iran is progressing” toward the ability to quickly make enough weapon-grade uranium for a warhead.

Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist, cautioned that the Iranian stockpile fell slightly short of what international officials conservatively estimate as the minimum threatening amount of nuclear fuel. “They’re very close,” he said of the Iranians in an interview. “If it isn’t tomorrow, it’s soon,” probably a matter of months.

In its report, the I.A.E.A., which is based in Vienna, said Iran was working hard to roughly double its number of operating centrifuges.

A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.

The atomic energy agency said Iran was continuing to evade questions about its suspected work on nuclear warheads. In a separate report released Wednesday, the agency said, as expected, that it had found ambiguous traces of uranium at a suspected Syrian reactor site bombed by Israel last year.

“While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use,” the report said, the building’s features “along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.” Syria has said the uranium came from Israeli bombs.
23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 20, 2008, 10:54:53 AM
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."

—John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
23118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pay up or else! on: November 20, 2008, 10:52:19 AM
PS:  Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told energy company Gazprom to collect Ukraine’s $2.4 billion natural gas debt “either voluntarily or compulsory in line with current laws and within the framework of bilateral relations,” Interfax reported Nov. 20.

23119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alternate Afg routes; deeper into Pak on: November 20, 2008, 10:51:16 AM
Afghanistan: The Search for Safer Supply Routes
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2324 GMT

TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani paramilitary soldiers leading supplies for NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan at the Pakistani border town of JamrudSummary
The United States is considering Central Asia as an alternate route for ferrying supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan. However, considerable logistical and geopolitical issues require the United States to continue depending on Pakistan despite the deteriorating conditions in that country.

Analysis
An uptick in attacks by Pakistani Taliban fighters on convoys ferrying supplies through Pakistan to U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan has forced the United States to explore alternative routes from Central Asia into landlocked Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Nov 19. According to the report, which cites an Oct. 31 Pentagon document, Washington has already begun negotiations with countries along what the Pentagon has called a new northern route. An agreement with Georgia has been reached, and talks are ongoing with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. Transportation Command, however, said it does not expect transit agreements with Uzbekistan or Iran, and is seeking contractors that could handle as many as 50,000 rail containers per year through a Europe-Caucasus route and/or through Central Asia.

Though the deteriorating political, economic and security situation in Pakistan is making it harder for the United States and its NATO allies to move food, ammunition, fuel and other supplies through the country, the alternatives are no less problematic. Thus, for the foreseeable future, Pakistan will remain the land corridor through which Western forces will continue receiving their supplies, and Washington will pressure Pakistan to improve the security of these shipments.

Related Links
Afghanistan: The Russian Monkey Wrench
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Battlespace of the Border
There are good reasons why some three-quarters of U.S./NATO supplies goes through Pakistan. It is the shortest overland route to places like Kabul and Kandahar; supplies are shipped from U.S. and European ports to Karachi, then transported via road through two routes — one going through the southwestern Pakistani border town of Chaman into the Kandahar region, and the other going through Torkham in northwestern Pakistan and over the Khyber Pass. In using Pakistan as a supply route, Washington has the ease of dealing with a single government with whom it has had a working (albeit troubled) relationship since the mission in Afghanistan began in late 2001.

Additionally, refineries in Pakistan provide the vast majority of fuels for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Two other refineries (one in Baku, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea, and one in Turkmenistan) provide most of the rest. It could be difficult to move away from the Pakistani refineries, and especially so to find spare capacity elsewhere; the U.S. and NATO forces consume on the order of 75 million gallons of various fuels annually — most of it aviation fuel refined in Pakistan.

For the longest time, there were hardly any security issues threatening the logistical supply chain running through Pakistan. The military regime headed by former President Pervez Musharraf was firmly entrenched in Islamabad and extended considerable facilities to Washington and NATO. More importantly, there was no Pakistani Taliban insurgency. (It did not appear until late 2006 or early 2007.)

Musharraf’s complex relationship with Washington on one hand and the Taliban on the other, however, weakened his hold on power. Even before he was forced out of office, Pakistan had come under the grip of a fierce jihadist insurgency. While the focus of this insurgency has been Pakistani security targets, there have been many attacks on trucks carrying shipments meant for U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan, which is why the U.S. Defense Department is looking into northerly routes in order to decrease dependency on Pakistan as a transit state.





(click map to enlarge)
But the option under consideration has its own set of problems in that it is a much longer, more expensive and politically complex route. Goods would have to be shipped from U.S. and European ports through the Black Sea to Georgia. From there, the containers would have to be put on rail to Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea ports, where they would have to be loaded onto ships to Turkmenistan and then travel by road either directly to Afghanistan or via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Even if the United States and its NATO allies were willing to incur the physical hassle of shipping supplies through the above route — which would add one ship reloading and two countries, at minimum, to the supply chain — there is the huge issue of dependency on Russia. This is the Kremlin’s near abroad, and Moscow will want to exact a significant price to guarantee the route’s security. At a time when Russia is trying to re-emerge as the United States’ main global rival, this becomes a huge issue for Washington.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of its military intervention in Georgia, Russia made some subtle insinuations about threatening NATO supply lines going to Afghanistan. The Uzbek and Turkmen governments also are very wary of the threat of U.S.-engineered color revolutions.

The “best” alternative, logistically speaking, would be using Iran as a transit state. Given what is happening in terms of Iraq and both the current and incoming U.S. administrations’ efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, this is not beyond the pale if the political issues can be sorted out. Supplies could be offloaded from ships docking at the Chahbahar port in the Persian Gulf and then sent by road to the southwestern Afghan town of Zaranj, which is connected to the main Afghan highway by a road recently completed by the Indian army’s engineer corps.

The Iranians, given their massive interests in Afghanistan, would be more than willing to provide this assistance. Iran has a long border with Afghanistan and has deep ethnic, linguistic and sectarian ties to the country. Furthermore, after securing Iraq, Tehran does not want its regional archrival, Saudi Arabia, to use Afghanistan as a tool against it.

But this depends on how fast the United States and Iran can put three decades of hostility behind them. Given that the two sides cooperated significantly in the move to oust the Taliban from power following the 9/11 attacks, this is quite feasible. However, like the Russians, the Iranians would want to exact a price for providing security for the convoys. More importantly, it would take time to build the trust for such an option to be pursued. The U.S. military is not about to link its operational capabilities to the goodwill of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, even if the two sides were to find a way to bury the hatchet. Also, the United States would be concerned that Iran could use the supply line as leverage in future talks.

Between the huge actual and political costs associated with the Central Asian route and the political hurdles of using Iran as a transit state, the United States and NATO will likely continue to work with Pakistan, despite its problems. But the fact that the United States was willing to take a concerted look at alternative routes raises questions about how bad the Pentagon feels the Pakistani routes have become — and how bad they are expected to get.
=======
United States: Pushing Deeper into Pakistan
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2310 GMT

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
A U.S. Air Force UAV in August 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev.Summary
A U.S. missile strike in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Nov. 19 killed five al Qaeda members, including Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, thought to have been a high-ranking member of the group. Until now, all reported missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan had been in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Hitting targets in NWFP will test the boundaries on how far the United States will go in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Analysis
In the early hours of Nov. 19, two missiles suspected to have been launched from a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hit a house in the Pakistani village of Hindi Khel, about 8 miles west of Bannu city in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the house was Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader who, according to U.S. security officials, was closely linked to deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and acted as a liaison to the Taliban. Al-Saudi was killed in the strike, along with four or five other foreign militants. Seven civilians in the vicinity were injured.

UAV-launched missile strikes have become quite common in Pakistan along the Afghan border. Strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially in North and South Waziristan, have been occurring once or twice a week since September and have become so routine that Stratfor no longer issues situation reports when they occur. That this strike hit some 3 miles over the FATA and NWFP border border in NWFP — an area that had been immune from U.S. strikes — suggests the United States is pushing the envelope in its hunt for al Qaeda prime and in its effort to undermine the Taliban’s war-making capabilities in Afghanistan.

Pakistani opposition to U.S. attacks in the FATA has been vocal, with politicians in Islamabad demanding an end to airstrikes on their territory. But there has been no serious retaliation by the Pakistanis and the strikes continue. There has also been a certain logic to the FATA focus. The United States contends that the tribal areas actually are not part of sovereign Pakistan since they are partially autonomous and ruled by local governments; moreover, by cutting deals with militants, Islamabad has relinquished its writ over the area. Furthermore, al Qaeda and the Taliban use the FATA as a launchpad for attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, giving the United States all the more reason to carry out strikes there. There are even reports of an understanding between Washington and Islamabad in which the latter has agreed to U.S. strikes in Pakistan’s tribal badlands.

But the NWFP is another story. It is a full-fledged province of Pakistan where the governing party (the Awami National Party, or ANP) has cooperated in opposing Islamist militants. However, the NWFP (not the FATA) is where the primary leaders of al Qaeda are most likely hiding. Hard by the border, the FATA is too close to Afghanistan and al Qaeda’s U.S. and NATO enemies for it to be such a sanctuary, while the NWFP is farther away and somewhat buffered by the FATA. The death of al-Saudi, who was an important link between al Qaeda and the Taliban, further suggests that the apex leadership of al Qaeda is likely hiding in NWFP.

The U.S. strategy may be to slowly creep closer and closer to al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries until UAV airstrikes in NWFP’s target-rich environment seem just as routine as those in the FATA. Meanwhile, the United States will have a good chance to weigh the range of responses from its allies on this latest escalation during a meeting of NATO defense chiefs that began Nov. 19 in Brussels. Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Kayani will be in attendance.

We are also likely to see additional attacks in NWFP districts located along the north-south expanse of the FATA. These districts have seen considerable Taliban activity over the past year or so while Islamabad’s writ in the area has diminished. Indeed, this “Talibanization” has spread further east into settled areas such as Peshawar, the NWFP capital. A more aggressive U.S. campaign in these areas will incite increasing public outrage and make Islamabad’s job of maintaining stability that much more difficult. Ultimately, the United States is much more capable of going after Islamist militants in Pakistan’s border region than the Pakistani army is — a fact not lost on Islamabad.

The United States is currently in political flux as President George W. Bush closes out his administration and President-elect Barack Obama readies his. Unable to craft and implement a comprehensive strategy to play out the end game against al Qaeda and the Taliban, the Bush administration has used an interim strategy of increased UAV strikes while a conclusive strategy awaits an Obama administration.

23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranian bond proposal on: November 20, 2008, 10:45:41 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Bond Announcement and High Hopes For Talks
November 20, 2008 | 0104 GMT

Iran’s deputy central bank governor, Hossein Qazavi, said Nov. 19 that Iran is considering issuing a $1 billion international bond “to attract international investment,” seven months after it repaid its last bond. The issuance would be Iran’s first since 2002, and only its third since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Through a bond market, countries look to “sell” their debts to international investors by parceling them into portions that can be bought individually. Raising money through the bond market is often easier than getting a loan from one or several banks; because the debt is divided into portions that investors of nearly any size can afford, banks and/or individuals with less capital on hand can come to the table. By getting more players involved, the country that needs its debt serviced can increase competition over the bond and thus decrease the price it has to pay for it. Of course, for this to work, someone actually has to want to buy the bond. Unlike a loan that is negotiated with one or several financial institutions, a bond market works on the principle of a market. It rewards credit-worthy countries whose debts are highly sought after (due to the state’s perceived financial strength and, therefore, its ability to repay the “loan” plus interest), and punishes countries that are not credit-worthy. In those terms, forays into the bond market are risky, as they potentially expose states to investor scrutiny.

The current conditions in global credit markets make investment in Iranian bonds highly unlikely, as very few sovereign or private investors have any money on hand, particularly to buy risky bonds. But leaving this aside, Qazavi’s announcement leads one to wonder about the overall health of the Islamic Republic.

With oil prices poised to sink below $50 per barrel any day now, Iran is scrambling to cover its budgetary costs, with potential social unrest looming if various government subsidies — particularly those for gasoline, which refinery-poor and gasoline-guzzling Iran must import — have to be cut. Tehran is staring social unrest in the face, and desperate times might call for such desperate measures as begging cash-strapped foreign investors for $1 billion.

Another problem with the bond issuance in the current geopolitical climate is that it is unclear whether any European or Asian bank would dare to finance the bond. Since 2002, when Iran’s last bond was issued, the United States has specifically targeted Iranian banks, cajoling the European Union to stop doing business with certain Iranian banks and getting more than 40 international banks to agree to halt business with Tehran. In October 2007, Washington also designated several Iranian banks as supporters of terrorism.

Furthermore, the United States’ Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), currently in place until 2011, strongly discourages foreign companies from investing in Iran’s energy sector and pledges retaliatory sanctions against those who do. In his announcement, Qazavi noted that the bond issuance would let investors “safely invest and take part in various projects including petrochemicals” — investments in which the ISA specifically tries to discourage the participation of non-U.S. entities. It’s unclear whether the ISA would give Washington the authority to put Iranian bond purchasers under sanctions, but the possibility clearly exists, and it will be enough to deter already bearish global investors.

On the flip side, Qazavi’s comments might be evidence that the latest round of negotiations between the Americans and Iranians are progressing well, and that they might even be nearing a conclusion. Washington’s ultimate goal in the negotiations is to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, while Tehran wants to limit the United States’ ability to roll forces eastward from Baghdad. Negotiations began as early as months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but ultimately stalled on the most important issues, as an emboldened United States rejected Iran’s offers for a comprehensive deal on Iraq. Iran responded to the rebuff by restarting its nuclear program, and by supporting Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel in the summer of 2006, as well as backing Shiite groups in a flare-up of violence in Iraq in November of that year. The two sides went back to the negotiating table after the 2007 U.S. troop surge.

With the United States and Iraq inking a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in three years, it appears that Washington and Tehran also are now close to a deal. Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, confirmed as much on Nov. 18, when he said the Iraqi government had done “very well” in approving the SOFA. It was the first time Tehran had voiced any sort of approval of the agreement. The United States of course hopes that the Baghdad of 2011 will be able to resist Tehran’s influence, and that the troop withdrawal will therefore be possible.

Qazavi’s comments on the $1 billion bond, put in the context of ongoing negotiations, suggest that Tehran might be betting that talks with the Americans are near an end. A U.S. rapprochement with Iran would certainly place a stamp of approval on foreign investment in Iran. Without such a stamp, any bond issuance would make little sense. Therefore, Iran either must be desperate for capital due to serious economic problems, or preparing for a positive announcement on the negotiating front.
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hand to hand! on: November 20, 2008, 10:42:35 AM
http://www.armytimes.com/legacy/new/0-ARMYPAPER-2329490.php
Training at hand
Fighting in Iraq, one soldier decides he isn?t going to die lying down

By Staff Sgt. Paul McCully


The following story was told by infantryman Staff Sgt. Paul McCully, 24,
during a post-action interview for the Army Combatives School.


On June 1, 2005, at about 2 a.m., my platoon was staged by the main gate of
Forward Operating Base Courage in Mosul, Iraq, as the quick-reaction force
for our battalion.

We received a call that Iraqi commandos were conducting a raid on a
suspected insurgent safe house. When the commandos entered the house they
found one male, one nude female and next to them was a bomb.

They immediately left the house because of the bomb and sat outside in the
middle of the street and wherever they could while they waited for us to
come and secure the objective. There were guys sleeping, smoking cigarettes
and just hanging around. There were at least 100 of these commandos.

When we showed up, it was a blind hit. All the Iraqi commandos told us was
that they had taken fire from that building earlier. They left out that it
was a safe house for bad guys and that the people who had been there had
jumped the roof to the next house.

At the home of the bomb couple, my team was the second in to secure the
first floor and establish a foothold. Once we cleared the house, my platoon
sergeant stepped on what seemed to be a loose tile in the kitchen floor.

When we removed it we found a large cache of rocket-propelled grenades,
ammo, U.S. government-issued C4 explosive, two-way radios and multiple
weapons systems, but no people.

Since the roof was connected to the roof of the house behind the one we were
in, the call was made to move around and clear that house, too. Once my team
moved into position to breach the second house, we were given the word to
move and secure it.

Immediately upon entry, we were confronted by about 20 men, women and
children, who were all awake and seemed scared. The fact that they were
bunched together like that was a red flag that something was not right.

Once we secured the first floor, my team moved in to secure the group of
people so we could move up to the next floor and to the roof entrance.

The door was barricaded from the inside with a bed frame to keep people from
coming in. Once we managed to move the barricade, we stacked on the door and
proceeded to clear the roof.

I was the second man in the stack, and Sgt. Joshua Owens was first.

We were spread thin, so we mixed our teams to keep the forward momentum.

Owens went out and turned right. I followed him and went left, but there was
a wall, so I fanned right to cover Owens.

We were only a couple of steps outside the door; I was just to the left of
Owens, and about two seconds had passed by, when a bright flash lit us up.

I wasn?t sure what had happened, I just knew I was laid out on my stomach,
and I couldn?t feel my hands or legs. I could hear Owens screaming, and I
was checking myself to see if I was physically intact when another explosion
went off, a hand grenade, but it wasn?t as loud as the first one.

I felt the shrapnel impact my helmet but was still in a daze and confused as
to what was going on.

Then I felt something that seemed to be tapping my helmet and everything
sounded muffled.

My initial thought was that it was my guys pulling me out of there, but when
I looked up, everything came back to me ? sound, reality, cleared vision.

There was a bad guy standing over me.

I was looking up at him and expecting him to unload his AK47 on me, but he
was screaming and butt-stroking me in the head.

The second I realized that it wasn?t my guys, I got up as fast as I could
and grabbed his AK muzzle with my right hand and his shirt on his right
shoulder with my left hand.

I don?t even remember placing my hands on the ground to push myself up; it
just seemed like I floated up ? that?s how fast it happened.

After I grabbed him and his weapon, I was jerking it in an outward motion
but making sure to keep the muzzle away from me.

After what seemed to be two or three seconds, I got the AK out of his hands
and on the ground to the right of me a couple of feet. I had finally jerked
it free, and it went flying.

He tried to dive for the AK, but I grabbed him and went to the clinch with
him to control him. A clinch is when you control a person?s upper body by
placing both your hands around his neck. Our bodies were close together; I
had his hair in my right hand, pushing his head down, and my left hand was
controlling his left shoulder.

I immediately started throwing right uppercuts and knees to [mess] him up.

I did that because I thought that there were more of my own guys behind me,
but it turns out that Owens and I were the only ones to make it outside
before the initial explosion. The No. 3 and No. 4 men got blown back into
the building.

After I threw the blows, I held on to him with the shirt and hair and
extended my arms to allow the guys who I thought were behind me to have a
clear shot. But that never happened. It seemed like I was alone, and nobody
was there to help me.

He was screaming stuff about Allah as I continued to hit him as he was
struggling to get to his weapon. Owens came running up to me with his pistol
drawn. He had lost his M4 rifle in the blast also, so he pulled his M9
pistol.

He came up to my right side, right next to me so he wouldn?t shoot me in the
struggle. Right as he fired one shot into the enemy?s stomach, the enemy had
reached up and grabbed Owen?s pistol.

At that moment I let go and took a step back and secured my M4. Owens had
swung him around to the left, which put him right in front of me.

With Owens and the bad guy fighting for Owens? M9, I put the barrel of my
rifle in the bad guy?s right side, point-blank, right underneath his armpit,
and fired a single shot.

The bad guy squealed like a pig and hit the ground like a sack, landing on
his back. I immediately placed the barrel of my rifle in his face and fired
ten shots to finish him. All of this happened within a matter of about 20
seconds, but seemed like forever.

As far as my kit goes, I didn?t have a knife on me at that time. I was
wearing a Tactical Taylor plate carrier with 7.62 x 61mm armor-piercing
incendiary-proof plates, hatch operator gloves, ballistic eye-pro and knee
pads.

After I shot him in the face, I took a knee and was trying to comprehend
everything that had just happened. It was just kind of, I was like, ?Holy
shit, did this just happen?? It was kind of like a weird euphoria thing
going on.

My platoon leader came out and asked if we were hit, and I told him nothing
hurt, but my leg felt different. They pulled me and Owens into the building
for the medic. Since we had blood and charred flesh and hair all over us, it
was hard for the medic to tell what was ours and what wasn?t.

So Spc. Danny Pech, our platoon medic, and Spc. Joshua Curley, my rifleman,
with the help of Spc. Jay Banuelos, carried us down to the designated
casualty collection point and started stripping us down so they could
administer aid.

My wound was first reported as a gunshot wound to my right thigh, and Owens
had a bullet graze on his right shin and shrapnel to the arms and legs.

Once we were medevaced to the main combat support hospital on Forward
Operating Base Diamondback in Mosul, we were given morphine and sent for
X-rays to see what was inside us.

My wound was actually shrapnel, which split into three pieces when it
impacted my leg, stopping just short of my femoral artery. Owens had
shrapnel in his arm and leg and a bullet graze on his right shin.

I?ve always been a pretty aggressive person, but having some stuff to back
you up, the Army combatives training, is great. Knowledge and experience is
always good to have.

When I looked up and saw [the enemy] standing over me, all I really thought
about was, ?This guy?s going to blast me.? I was thinking about how I was
going to let my kids down, and I just said, ?Screw it, I?m not going to die
lying down like this.? I just jumped up and expected him to pull the
trigger, but he never got the chance.

The writer is assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, in
Vilseck, Germany. At the time of the events, he was a member of B Company,
3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division,
Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of Fort Lewis, Wash.

23122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: November 20, 2008, 10:27:46 AM
Part 3: Outside Intervention
Stratfor Today » November 20, 2008 | 1201 GMT
Summary
Because Ukraine is vital to Russia’s defense and survival as any kind of world power, it has become the cornerstone of the geopolitical battle between Russia and the West. Russia has many levers it could use to influence the course of Ukraine’s future, though the West is not without its tools. The eventual outcome of the battle for Ukraine is uncertain.

Analysis
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series on Ukraine.

Since Ukraine is essentially too internally shattered to make sweeping changes or reforms, its future is at the whim of foreign powers. Because of this — and because of Ukraine’s geographic location — the country is now the chief arena for the struggle between Russia and the West.

Related Links
Countries in Crisis
Part 1: Instability in a Crucial Country
Part 2: Domestic Forces and Capabilities
The Cornerstone
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West (particularly under the guises of the European Union and NATO) has pushed eastward, making its way toward Russia’s doorstep. As the West tries to continue its advance and as Russia tries to stave it off, Ukraine has become paramount to both sides — not just as a potentially lucrative territory, but because Ukraine is the key to Russia’s defense and survival as any sort of power.





(click image to enlarge)
Although Ukraine hosts the largest Russian community in the world outside of Russia, the battle for Ukraine is about far more than ethnic kin. Even before the Soviet era, Ukraine was integrated into Russia’s industrial and agricultural heartland, and eastern Ukraine remains integral to the Russian heartland to this day. Furthermore, Ukraine is the transit point for Russian natural gas to Europe and a connecting point for nearly all meaningful infrastructures running between Russia and the West — whether pipeline, road, power or rail.

Without Ukraine, Russia could not project political or military power into the Northern Caucasus, the Black Sea or Eastern Europe, and Russia would be nearly entirely cut off from the rest of Europe. Ukraine also goes deep into former Soviet territory, with borders a mere 300 miles from either Volgograd or Moscow, and the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea has long been the Russian military’s only deep, warm-water port.

To put it simply, as long as Ukraine is in its orbit, Russia can maintain strategic coherence and continue on its path of resurging in an attempt to resume its superpower status. Without Ukraine, Russia would face a much smaller set of possibilities.

This is why the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought in Ukraine’s first pro-Western government was Russia’s deepest nightmare. Russia knows that the Orange Revolution was a U.S.-backed project, supported by U.S. allies such as Poland. Since that color revolution, Moscow has been content with simply destabilizing Ukraine in order to ensure it does not fully fall into the West’s sphere.

Russia’s Levers
Russia has a slew of levers inside Ukraine to keep the country unstable. It also has quite a few tools it could use to either pull the country back into Moscow’s fold or break the country apart.

Politics: Russia is the very public sponsor of Viktor Yanukovich and his Party of Regions; though in the past three months, Moscow has also started granting its favor to Yulia Timoshenko — breaking the Orange Coalition and isolating President Viktor Yushchenko and his party. The topic of how to respond to a strengthening Russia has been a constant point of contention in Ukraine’s different coalitions and governments.

Energy: Since Russia supplies 80 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas, energy is one of Moscow’s favorite levers to use against Kiev. Moscow has proven in the past that it is not afraid of turning off the heat at the height of winter in Ukraine to not only hurt the country but also to push Kiev into the heart of a firestorm as European countries’ supplies get cut off when Russia cuts supplies to Ukraine. The price Russia charges Ukraine for natural gas is also constantly being renegotiated, with Kiev racking up billions of dollars in debt to Moscow every few months.

Economics: Russia controls a large portion of Ukraine’s metals industry, owning factories across the eastern part of the country, where most of Ukraine’s wealth is held. Russia also controls much of Ukraine’s ports in the south.

Oligarchs: Quite a few of Ukraine’s oligarchs pledge allegiance to Russia because of relationships from the Soviet era, because of assets held in Russia or because Moscow bought or supported certain oligarchs during their rise. Rinat Akhmetov is the most notable pro-Russian oligarch; not only does he do the Kremlin’s bidding inside Ukraine, but he is also rumored to have recently helped the Kremlin during Russia’s financial crisis. Moscow controls many other notable Ukrainian oligarchs, such as Viktor Pinchuk, Igor Kolomoisky, Sergei Taruta and Dmitri Firtash. This has allowed the Kremlin to shape much in these oligarchs’ business ventures and have a say in how these oligarchs support certain politicians.

Ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet during the celebration of the fleet’s 225th anniversaryMilitary: Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is headquartered and based in Ukraine’s Crimea region, in Sevastopol. Compared to Kiev’s small fleet, Russian naval power in the Black Sea is overwhelming. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet also contributes to the majority of the Crimea region’s economy. Though imposing a military reality on Ukraine would be another thing entirely from imposing a military reality on South Ossetia and Georgia, there is little doubt that Russia — and the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea — is committed to retaining the decisive hand in the fate of the Crimea, even if the Russian Fleet withdraws in 2017, when its lease expires.

Intelligence: Ukraine’s intelligence services were essentially born from Russia’s heavy KGB presence in the country before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Security Service of Ukraine originated in Moscow’s KGB presence in Ukraine, and the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine sprung forth from Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. Many of the senior officials in both agencies were actually KGB trained and worked for them during the early days of their careers. Russia’s current spy agency, the Federal Security Service (a descendant of the KGB), has a heavy presence within Ukraine’s intelligence agencies. This gives the Russians a big opening they can use to serve their own interests in Ukraine.

Organized crime: Russian organized crime is the parent of Ukrainian organized crime and is still deeply entrenched in the current system (even among the oligarchs). Russia has been especially successful in setting up shop in the Ukraine involving shady natural gas deals, the arms trade, the drug trade and other illicit business arrangements. Population: Ukraine is dramatically split between a population that identifies with Russia and a population that identifies with the West. It has a complex and multifaceted demography: A large Russian minority comprises 17.3 percent of the total population, more than 30 percent of all Ukrainians speak Russian as their native language and more than half of the country belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarch. Geographically speaking, Ukrainians living east of the Dnieper River tend to identify more with Russia than with the West, and those in Crimea consider themselves much more Russian than Ukrainian. This divide is something Russia can use not only to keep the country in chaos, but to split the country in half should the need arise.

The West’s Levers and Concerns

The West, on the other hand, is split over what exactly to do with Ukraine. In 2004, during the Orange Revolution, it was the United States’ time to push up against Russia; but other Western heavyweights such as Germany have never really liked or trusted any government in Kiev. Berlin would love to see a pro-Western government in Kiev to work with, but the Germans know that meddling in Ukraine costs them something, unlike the Americans. This was seen in 2006, when Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine, which led to the lights going out in quite a few European countries as well. So the Europeans see the upheaval of Ukraine as yet another mess the Americans have gotten them into.

Since the Orange Revolution, the West has used two main levers — cash and protection — to try to keep Kiev on a pro-Western path. It has thrown cash at Ukraine, but there are two problems with this move. First, whoever has been in charge in Kiev has squandered and mismanaged any cash given to Ukraine rather than working to alleviate the economic, financial, institutional and systematic problems the country is facing. For example, the West is offering Ukraine an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $16.5 billion with only a few strings — banking reform and an end to government squabbling — attached, but Kiev cannot manage these changes, and now the IMF is considering withdrawing its offer. Second, as the West faces its own financial crisis, it is not in any position currently to offer Kiev any more help.

The West’s other move — again championed by Washington — is to pull Ukraine into NATO. Ukraine is ill-qualified as a potential member of the Atlantic alliance, but the move would permanently break Russia’s hold over Ukraine.

Years of concerted, focused and well-funded military reform could move Kiev meaningfully toward eligibility, but there appears to be no firm consensus — especially with Germany and France against it — on pushing for Ukrainian admittance into the membership action plan. Also, NATO’s members have neither troops available to be stationed in the country nor the defense dollars to support such an expensive modernization and reform program.

The battle for the soul of Ukraine is on. The country is shattered internally in nearly every possible way: politically, financially, institutionally, economically, militarily and socially. The global financial crisis is simply showing the problems that have long existed in the country. In the near future, there is no conceivable or apparent way for any force within the country to stabilize it and begin the reforms needed. It will take an outside power to step in — which leads to the larger tussle between the West and Russia over control of one of the most geopolitically critical regions between the two. Russia has far more tools to use to keep Ukraine under its control, but the West has laid a lot of groundwork in order to undermine Moscow, leaving the future of Ukraine completely uncertain.

23123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: November 20, 2008, 09:41:02 AM
Russia to build nuclear reactor for Chávez

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev expected to sign a nuclear agreement next week

Rory Carroll in Caracas
Luke Harding in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday November 18 2008 20.55 GMT


Russia's deepening strategic partnership with Venezuela took a dramatic step forward today when it emerged that Moscow has agreed to build Venezuela's first ever nuclear reactor.

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, during a visit to Latin America next week, part of a determined Russian push into the region.

The reactor is to be named after Humberto Fernandez Moran, a late Venezuelan research scientist and former science minister, Chávez has announced. It is one of many accords he hopes to sign while hosting Medvedev in Caracas next week.

The prospect of a nuclear deal between Moscow and Caracas, following a surge in Russian economic, military, political and intelligence activity in Latin America, is likely to alarm the US and present an early challenge to the Obama administration.

"Hugo Chávez joins the nuclear club," Russian's Vedomosti newspaper trumpeted today.

Venezuela's socialist leader said the reactor may be based in the eastern state of Zulia. He stressed that the project would be for peaceful purposes. As if to underline that point, four Japanese survivors from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs visited Venezuela this week at the government's invitation.

The energy ministry, which is scouting locations, said the project was at a very early stage. A report which mooted a nuclear reactor long before Chávez came to power has been dusted off.

Despite abundant oil reserves, Venezuela's energy infrastructure is creaking and prone to blackouts. A nuclear reactor would enable the country to utilise its rich uranium deposits and allay criticism that the government has neglected energy investment.

More importantly for Moscow and Caracas, a nuclear deal will showcase a partnership which advocates creating new "poles" of power to check American hegemony.

Nick Day, a Latin American specialist, said the nuclear deal was deliberately timed to pile pressure on the US administration during a moment of transition and weakness.

"Russia is manoeuvring hard in the time between Obama's election and his inauguration. What the Russians are trying to do is to set up a chessboard that gives them greater mobility in negotiations when he [Obama] comes to power," Day said.

He added: "Russia's message is: 'We can exert influence in your backyard if you continue to exert influence in our backyard. If you don't take your missiles out of Poland and end Nato expansion we're going to increase our influence in Latin America and do things to provoke you.'"

According to Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia's federal nuclear agency, no reactor can be built until both countries have signed a preliminary agreement on nuclear cooperation. This will be signed next week, Novikov told Vedomosti.

Both presidents are also expected to firm up details of a Russian-Venezuelan energy consortium to jointly produce and sell oil and gas.

Russian companies which are already exploring oilfields in Venezuela could then extend their reach to fields in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Venezuela has bought $4bn of Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets, making it one of Moscow's best clients. Chávez has spoken of also buying Project 636 diesel submarines, Mi-28 combat helicopters, T72 tanks and air-defence systems.

Despite the spending spree, Venezuela's military has not tipped the regional balance of power.

Chávez's armed forces lag behind that of Brazil, Chile and Colombia and analysts question Venezuelan effectiveness.

For Russia's president, however, Caracas is a valuable springboard into Latin America. In addition to Venezuela, Medvedev will visit Peru, Brazil and Cuba — the first trip by a Russian leader to Havana in eight years.

Moscow has spoken of reviving Soviet-era intelligence cooperation with the communist island and in a sign of dramatically improved ties, President Raul Castro last month attended the opening of a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Havana.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008...ssia-venezuela
23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy on: November 20, 2008, 03:09:57 AM
WSJ

Let's Have a Real Middle-Class Tax Cut
Obama's tax credits won't stimulate the economy.By NEWT GINGRICH and PETER FERRARAArticle
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President-elect Barack Obama is right: America needs a real and meaningful middle-class tax cut. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, that is not what his proposals offer.

 
AP
Newt Gingrich
Mr. Obama's tax plan includes creating or expanding nine or more federal income tax credits mostly focused on low- and moderate-income earners, with an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. These tax credits are provided for certain social purposes, such as child care, health care, education, housing and retirement. Buried amid these is Mr. Obama's purported tax cut for the middle class.

For the bottom 40% of income earners, who pay no federal income taxes on net today, these refundable income tax credits will not reduce tax liability but instead result in new checks from the federal government for the targeted social purposes. That's not a tax cut. It's welfare.

These tax credits will do little or nothing to promote economic growth because they do not reduce marginal tax rates -- the rate on the next dollar of income -- to provide powerful, meaningful incentives for productive activities such as investment, entrepreneurship and work. A tax credit is effectively a cash grant that can only affect incentives up to the amount of the grant. Indeed, such tax credits would likely reduce economic growth because the credits are phased out as income rises, and so effectively impose higher marginal tax rates over those income levels.

For a real middle-class tax cut, we should cut the 25% income tax rate that now applies to single workers earning $32,550 to $78,850, and married couples earning $65,100 to $131,450. We should reduce that rate down to the 15% rate paid by workers below these income levels. That would, in effect, establish a flat-rate tax of 15% for close to 90% of American workers.

Marginal tax rates for middle-income families in the 25% tax bracket are too high. Add in effective payroll tax rates of 15% and state income taxes, and these workers are laboring under marginal tax rates of close to 50%. No wonder middle-income wage growth has slowed sharply. Reducing the marginal tax rates for these middle-income earners would lead to income increases for middle-income workers, just as reducing excessive marginal tax rates for higher-income workers did, going all the way back to the Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s.

This 40% cut in middle-class income tax rates would provide a powerful boost to the economy, greatly expanding incentives for savings, investment and work. This would be much more effective than Mr. Obama's tax plan with it's $1.3 trillion in redistributive tax credits, as well as yet another so-called stimulus package based on another $300 billion or more in increased government spending.


Taxing or borrowing from the economy and then spending hundreds of billions more through government bureaucracies will have zero effect in promoting economic growth, as did the failed stimulus package adopted by the Bush administration this year.

We could add to this alternative tax proposal an increase in the personal exemption from $3,500 to $7,000. The package would then cut taxes for all taxpayers, including those in the lower tax brackets. Of course, reducing the top income tax rates of 28%, 33% and 35%, capital gains tax rates, and the excessive 35% corporate tax rate, would boost the economy even more. But these are the "hate" rates imposed on those who liberals think are too productive, work too hard, and earn too much. Liberals deride these taxpayers as corporate fat cats and "the rich."

Fine. Leave those rates for a future initiative. For now we should focus on the middle-income tax rates that are attractive to cut in the current political climate. This would continue the tax cuts for low- and moderate-income workers Republicans have been adopting for 30 years now.

Because of the highly beneficial effect of these middle-class rate reductions on our economy, and the freedom they would give workers to spend, save or invest their money as they choose, this proposal would likely enjoy broad public support and present a viable alternative to the liberal social purposes of President-elect Obama's tax credits.

Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the House. Mr. Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation.
23125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Fcuk it on: November 20, 2008, 03:05:14 AM
Ignore the Stock Market Until February
The current volatility is less about fundamentals than forced selling.By ANDY KESSLERArticle
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Down in the morning, up in the afternoon. Or is it the other way around? The topsy-turvy stock market is tough to read.

In the last year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has briefly been over 13,000 and below 8,000. The past month has felt like the Cyclone roller coaster on Brooklyn's Coney Island -- lots of ups and downs, the whole rickety thing feeling like it's going to crash at any minute.

 
David KleinGreat investors are taught to listen to the market. Each tick of the tape has something to say about expectations for growth, inflation, policy changes and looming recessions. The stock market is like a giant mass of pulsing plasma doing price discovery and a game of hot potato, getting stocks into the correct hands with the right risk profile. It's way too big for any one person to manipulate, let alone touch directly. Instead, millions of us provide input with our buying and selling decisions.

When it's at its most efficient, with buyers and sellers neatly matched up at the right price, it's a pretty good predictor. The Crash of 1929 announced a recession, and the wake-up call unheeded might have caused many of the bad policies leading to the Great Depression. The Crash of 1987? Not so much.

You see, the market is a great manipulator. In September, the Dow dropped 700 points intraday after the House of Representatives voted down the Treasury's TARP bank-rescue bill. Spooked, the House passed the bill the next week. Or how about this? The Dow was up 300 points on Election Day applauding an Obama victory and then down 1,600 points since.

The market can also be a bold-faced liar. On Jan. 22, the Fed announced an emergency 75-basis-point rate cut in response to huge drops in European markets. A few days later, it came out that a rogue trader at Société Générale lost them $7 billion and the bank was unwinding his positions. Oops.

So which is it now: an efficient mechanism or a manipulating liar? Should you listen to it warning of doom or anticipating renewal? I'd say stick wax in your ears and don't listen to the market until February.

Don't get me wrong. The freezing of the credit markets is wreaking havoc on the world economy. Corporate profits are dropping. Central banks are fighting off deflation and may not turn off the spigots fast enough -- which could ignite runaway inflation. But because of the credit mess, I am convinced the stock market is at its least efficient today. Don't read too much into any move. Here are the five biggest dislocations taking place:

- Tax-loss selling: Whenever you have a loss in a stock -- and who doesn't -- it's always tax smart to sell it, take a tax loss and either buy something similar or wait 30 days and buy the original one back. December can be an ugly month of indiscriminate selling. The December effect will be huge this year.

- Mutual-fund redemptions: Mutual funds are also dumped for tax losses. When the stock market is down in the morning, it's usually because of mutual-fund redemptions.

Fidelity's giant Magellan fund, down 56%, is one of many in the $6 trillion stock-fund business having an awful year. As investors call or click to get out of these funds, Fidelity and the others have to unload shares the next morning to raise cash. This forced-selling overwhelms the system. New York Stock Exchange specialists, who are supposed to maintain an orderly market, stop buying and back away. You get huge drops, which can unnerve even more investors and cause them to redeem.

- Mutual fund cap-gain distributions: To make matters worse, in December mutual funds do capital-gains distributions. In a down year like 2008, you would think there are no taxes to pay. Think again. Legg Mason's Value Trust, run by Bill Miller, outperformed the market for 15 years by buying many "unvalue" names like Amazon. As investors redeem, he is forced to sell many of these stocks originally purchased at very low prices, triggering huge capital gains in a year his fund is down 62%. You can almost guarantee investors also will sell more of these funds to pay their unexpected tax bill.

- Hedge-fund redemptions: Instead of overnight selling like mutual funds, hedge funds typically require 45 days' notice for investors to get out of a fund. They've been furiously selling since September to raise cash to pay investors. This usually shows up as a set of stocks that just go down and down and down with no obvious explanation.

Rubbing salt in hedge-fund wounds is the fact that Lehman Brothers was a prime broker to many hedge funds, holding their shares. While Lehman's bankruptcy was not a problem in the U.S., in England the policy is to freeze accounts until the mess can be sorted out. There are billions in assets locked in this bankruptcy, and hedge funds are forced to sell positions in the U.S. and elsewhere to raise cash, exacerbating the downside here.

Today in Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

The Obama Health Plan EmergesA Capital MessageThe Politics of Entitlement

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Wonder Land: Mad Max and the Meltdown
– Daniel HenningerNow Obama Has to Govern
– Karl Rove

COMMENTARY

Ignore the Stock Market Until February
– Andy KesslerLet's Have a Real Middle-Class Tax Cut
– Newt Gingrich and Peter FerraraObama Should Look Into Putin's Record, Not His Eyes
– Garry KasparovAn Auto Bailout Would Be Terrible for Free Trade
– Matthew J. SlaughterBy the way, when hedge funds are down for the year, they work practically for free until they make up the loss. We'll see hedge funds close and stocks liquidated as -- no surprise -- hedge-fund managers like to get paid.

- Margin calls: Whenever stocks go down sharply, you quickly find who owns them with debt. We have seen spectacular margin calls, a requirement for more capital to cover share losses. Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon unloaded 33 million shares to cover losses. Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone had a forced sale of $400 million in Viacom and CBS shares because of a margin call on other stocks. You can bet many not-so-public margin calls are behind many huge price drops. These usually take place in the last 30 minutes of trading.

So won't January be alright once these dislocations weighing on the market are lifted? The January effect is supposed to be positive.

Well, often money managers are fired at the end of disastrous years. A new manager comes in, looks at the existing positions and dumps them all and remakes the portfolio with new stocks that he likes, thus generating more selling. My favorite Wall Street adage suggests that the stock market trades to inflict the maximum amount of pain. Remember, you can only ignore the stock market for so long. Once everyone thinks it can only go down . . . it might go up.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).
23126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: November 20, 2008, 02:57:55 AM
The Obama Health Plan Emerges Article
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"Universal" government-run health care proved too ambitious even for FDR, who stripped it out of the Social Security Act of 1935. Lyndon Johnson settled for Medicare and Medicaid. Now liberals think the political moment has finally arrived to achieve what has eluded every other Democratic President from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.

 
APOne signal is yesterday's news that Barack Obama has selected Tom Daschle, the very liberal former Senate warhorse, to head the Health and Human Services Department. But a even clearer sign was last week's release by Montana Senator Max Baucus of a policy blueprint that closely resembles the one Mr. Obama campaigned on for 17 months. The plan is significant not only because its author is Chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, which oversees taxes and about half of all government spending. Mr. Baucus is also one of the more moderate, and cautious, senior Democrats.

If the Obama White House decides that reorganizing the 17.1% of the economy that the U.S. is likely to spend on health care in 2010 is a first-year priority, then Mr. Baucus's bill will be the place they start. Americans need to learn what they'd be paying for.

First, Democrats want the government to create a national insurance exchange, or marketplace, in which all comers could buy into a range of heavily regulated private policies at group rates. These private plans would then "compete" with a new public insurance option, i.e., a program managed by the government and modeled after Medicare. Lower-income earners would get subsidies to make coverage "affordable." Businesses that didn't cover their employees would pay a tax on some portion of their payroll.

The last cog is the "individual mandate." This requirement that everyone buy coverage has grabbed most media scrutiny of the Baucus plan, because Mr. Obama opposed it during the campaign. But the many moving parts don't work together unless the young and healthy foot the bill for care of the older and sicker -- one reason Hillary Clinton kept nagging Mr. Obama about the individual mandate during the primaries.

The irony is that the public option -- not the mandate -- is far and away the most radical part of the plan. Green eyeshade objections are obviously out of favor in modern Washington, but the reality is that the Baucus-Obama plan would be extraordinarily expensive as it slowly but relentlessly grew the government's share of health spending. The draft doesn't include an exact cost, though casually notes the ballpark "investment" could run as high as $150 billion a year.

Even those huge outlays are likely conservative, considering that subsidies would go to families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level. According to the Census Bureau, that would apply to 61.5% of the American population, or about 184 million people -- less those already on Medicare and Medicaid.

Some financing will come from the "pay or play" tax on businesses, but because Mr. Baucus is no more omniscient than anyone else, the tax rate is left undefined. If it is too low, companies will have every incentive to "cash out" their employee liabilities and pay the tax instead. Then workers will flood the public option.

The Baucus plan expects to make up more of the money with nips like better health technology and tucks such as "a national focus on wellness." But those don't come close to adding up to $150 billion -- or the health system would have made them already. As for the claim that centralizing health spending will lead to more "efficiency" . . . well, that is the triumph of hope over evidence.

 Over the past 40 years, per capita health spending has grown an average of 2.1 percentage points faster than the economy. The dominant U.S. insurer -- Medicare -- has had no success in mitigating this climb, despite valiant attempts. Since the 1980s, Medicare has actually controlled the prices that physicians and hospitals are paid for thousands of billable services. In 2007, the program spent some $425 billion according to these arbitrary guesses. Because of its huge purchasing power, and because many private plans adopt its reimbursement rates, Medicare significantly shapes all health-care financing and delivery.

Now the Democrats want to double down with the public option, apparently on the theory that the bureaucracies fail only when they're too small. Even without the new program, Medicare and Medicaid costs are rising substantially both as a share of the economy and the federal budget. The nearby chart tracks the historical behavior of government health spending and the Congressional Budget Office's post-2007 fiscal scenario in the absence of reform. Today, health entitlements account for 4% of GDP but will rise to 7% in 2025 and about 15% in 2062.

Not that the current level of benefits will ever be paid. According to the Medicare trustees, the program's excess costs over the next 75 years -- that is, the difference between expected outlays and revenues -- is more than $36 trillion, which even they acknowledge is several trillion too low given current trends. Even if Congress doubled all individual and corporate tax rates, it still wouldn't raise enough revenue to pay for Medicare and Medicaid.

The Obama-Baucus solution to this slow-motion catastrophe is to add tens of millions more people to the federal balance sheet. Because the public option will enjoy taxpayer sponsorship, it will offer generous packages to consumers that no private company could ever afford or justify. And because federal officials will run not only the new plan but also the "market" in which it "competes" with private programs -- like playing both umpire and one of the teams on the field -- they will crowd out private alternatives and gradually assume a health-care monopoly.

Many proponents of plans similar to Mr. Baucus's openly cite this as one of their goals. Eventually, the public option will import Medicare's price controls into the private sector as it tries to manage the inevitable cost overruns. When that doesn't work, Congress will deal with the problem by capping overall spending and rationing care through politics (instead of prices) -- like Canada does today.

Either Senator Baucus and President-elect Obama are making promises that can't possibly be kept. Or they're not being honest about their plans for U.S. health care.

 
23127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: November 20, 2008, 02:46:00 AM
Duh embarassed
23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another parting gift from Bush on: November 20, 2008, 02:43:57 AM
BUSH’S LEGACY: EUROPEAN SOCIALISM
By Dick Morris
11.19.2008
Published on TheHill.com on November 18, 2008.

The results of the G-20 economic summit amount to nothing less than the seamless integration of the United States into the European economy. In one month of legislation and one diplomatic meeting, the United States has unilaterally abdicated all the gains for the concept of free markets won by the Reagan administration and surrendered, in toto, to the Western European model of socialism, stagnation and excessive government regulation. Sovereignty is out the window. Without a vote, we are suddenly members of the European Union. Given the dismal record of those nations at creating jobs and sustaining growth, merger with the Europeans is like a partnership with death.


At the G-20 meeting, Bush agreed to subject the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and our other regulatory agencies to the supervision of a global entity that would critique its regulatory standards and demand changes if it felt they were necessary. Bush agreed to create a College of Supervisors.

According to The Washington Post, it would “examine the books of major financial institutions that operate across national borders so regulators could begin to have a more complete picture of banks’ operations.”

Their scrutiny would extend to hedge funds and to various “exotic” financial instruments. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), a European-dominated operation, would conduct “regular vigorous reviews” of American financial institutions and practices. The European-dominated College of Supervisors would also weigh in on issues like executive compensation and investment practices.

There is nothing wrong with the substance of this regulation. Experience is showing it is needed. But it is very wrong to delegate these powers to unelected, international institutions with no political accountability.

We have a Securities and Exchange Commission appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, both of whom are elected by the American people. It is with the SEC, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve that financial accountability must take place.

The European Union achieved this massive subrogation of American sovereignty the way it usually does, by negotiation, gradual bureaucratic encroachment, and without asking the voters if they approve. What’s more, Bush appears to have gone down without a fight, saving his debating time for arguing against the protectionism that France’s Nicolas Sarkozy was pushing. By giving Bush a seeming victory on a moratorium against protectionism for one year, Sarkozy was able to slip over his massive scheme for taking over the supervision of the U.S. economy.

All kinds of political agendas are advancing under the cover of response to the global financial crisis. Where Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism by regulating it, Bush, to say nothing of Obama, has given the government control over our major financial and insurance institutions. And it isn’t even our government! The power has now been transferred to the international community, led by the socialists in the European Union.

Will Obama govern from the left? He doesn’t have to. George W. Bush has done all the heavy lifting for him. It was under Bush that the government basically took over as the chief stockholder of our financial institutions and under Bush that we ceded our financial controls to the European Union. In doing so, he has done nothing to preserve what differentiates the vibrant American economy from those dying economies in Europe. Why have 80 percent of the jobs that have been created since 1980 in the industrialized world been created in the United States? How has America managed to retain its leading 24 percent share of global manufacturing even in the face of the Chinese surge? How has the U.S. GDP risen so high that it essentially equals that of the European Union, which has 50 percent more population? It has done so by an absence of stifling regulation, a liberation of capital to flow to innovative businesses, low taxes, and by a low level of unionization that has given business the flexibility to grow and prosper. Europe, stagnated by taxation and regulation, has grown by a pittance while we have roared ahead. But now Bush — not Obama — Bush has given that all up and caved in to European socialists.

The Bush legacy? European socialism. Who needs enemies with friends like Bush?
23129  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: November 19, 2008, 08:40:20 PM
Ruff edit of the Ohio footage of DLO 3 came in today.
23130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen) on: November 19, 2008, 08:28:25 PM
Certainly on point with regard to piracy, as well as , , , other matters. wink  Note the date.
=======
http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2001/cr101001.htm

AIR PIRACY REPRISAL AND CAPTURE ACT OF 2001 -- HON. RON PAUL (Extensions of Remarks - October 10, 2001)



HON. RON PAUL
OF TEXAS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001 and the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001. The Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001 updates the federal definition of ``piracy'' to include acts committed in the skies. The September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 provides Congressional authorization for the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal to appropriate parties to seize the person and property of Osama bin Laden and any other individual responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11. Authority to grant letters of marque and reprisal are provided for in the Constitution as a means of allowing Congress to deal with aggressive actions where a formal declaration of war against a foreign power is problematic, Originally intended to deal with piracy, letters of marque and reprisal represent an appropriate response to the piracy of the twentieth century: hijacking terrorism.

All of America stood horrified at the brutal attacks of September 11 and all of us stand united in our determination to exact just retribution on the perpetrators of this evil deed. This is why I supported giving the President broad authority to use military power to respond to these attacks. When Congress authorized the use of force to respond to the attacks of September 11 we recognized these attacks were not merely criminal acts but an ``unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security.''

Congress must use every means available to fight the terrorists behind this attack if we are to fulfill our constitutional obligations to provide for the common defense of our sovereign nation. Issuance of letters of marque and reprisal are a valuable tool in the struggle to exact just retribution on the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In fact, they may be among the most effective response available to Congress.

Since the bombing there has been much discussion of how to respond to warlike acts carried out by private parties. The drafters of the Constitution also had to wrestle with the problem of how to respond to sporadic attacks on American soil and citizens organized by groups not formally affiliated with a government. In order to deal with this situation, the Constitution authorized Congress to issue letters of marque and reprisal. In the early days of the Republic, marque and reprisal were usually used against pirates who, while they may have enjoyed the protection and partnership of governments, where not official representatives of a government.

Although modern America does not face the threat of piracy on the high seas, we do face the threat of international terrorism, Terrorism has much in common with the piracy of days gone by. Like the pirates of old, today's terrorists are private groups operating to assault the United States government as well as threaten the lives, liberty and property of United States citizens. The only difference is that while pirates sought financial gains, terrorists seek to advance ideological and political agendas through terroristic violence.

Like the pirates who once terrorized the high seas, terrorists today are also difficult to punish using military means. While bombs and missiles may be sufficient to knock out the military capability and the economic and technological infrastructure of an enemy nation that harbors those who committed the September 11 attacks, traditional military force may not be suitable to destroy the lawless terrorists who are operating in the nations targeted for military force. Instead, those terrorists may simply move to another base before our troops can locate them. It is for these reasons that I believe that, were the drafters of the Constitution with us today, they would counsel in favor of issuing letters of marque and reprisal against the terrorists responsible for this outrageous act.

Specifically, my legislation authorizes the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal to all appropriate parties to capture Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda or any other persons involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The President is also authorized to use part of the $40 billion appropriated by this Congress to respond to the attack, to establish a bounty for the capture of Osama bin Laden. My legislation singles out Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda because the information available to Congress and the American people indicates bin Laden and his organization were responsible for this action. By vesting authority in the President to issue the letters, my legislation ensures that letters of marque and reprisal can be coordinated with the administration's overall strategy to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice.

Letters of marque and reprisal resolve one of the most vexing problems facing the country: how do we obtain retribution against the perpetrators of the attacks without inflicting massive damage on the Middle East which could drive moderate Arabs into an allegiance with bin Laden and other terrorists. This is because using letters of marque and reprisal shows the people of the region that we are serious when we say our quarrel is not with them but with Osama bin Laden and all others who would dare commit terrorist acts against the United States.

Mr, Speaker, I ask that my colleagues join with me in providing the additional ``necessary weapon of war'' and to help defend our fellow citizens, our sovereign nation, and our liberty by cosponsoring the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 and the Air Piracy Reprisal and Capture Act of 2001.



****************************************************************************************************************************
Text of H.R. 3076 [107th]: September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h107-3076
23131  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / There's no kissing in MMA! on: November 19, 2008, 08:21:16 PM
With apologies to Tom Hanks's character in "League of their own" cheesy

More seriously now, what is with all the kissing I see with the fighters at the end of a fight?  I could swear there was even a kiss on the lips this past UFC!  tongue

WTF?!? tongue tongue tongue


23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: November 19, 2008, 07:47:59 PM
What an extraordinary world we live in!

What does "proboscidean" mean?
23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 19, 2008, 07:43:43 PM
 cheesy cheesy cheesy
23134  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Barrio Azteca (en ingles) on: November 19, 2008, 07:38:49 PM
   
The Barrio Azteca Trial and the Prison Gang-Cartel Interface
November 19, 2008




By Fred Burton and Ben West

Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
On Nov. 3, a U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas, began hearing a case concerning members of a criminal enterprise that calls itself Barrio Azteca (BA). The group members face charges including drug trafficking and distribution, extortion, money laundering and murder. The six defendants include the organization’s three bosses, Benjamin Alvarez, Manuel Cardoza and Carlos Perea; a sergeant in the group, Said Francisco Herrera; a lieutenant, Eugene Mona; and an associate, Arturo Enriquez.

The proceedings represent the first major trial involving BA, which operates in El Paso and West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The testimony is revealing much about how this El Paso-based prison gang operates, and how it interfaces with Mexican drug cartel allies that supply its drugs.

Mexico’s cartels are in the business of selling drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the United States. Large amounts of narcotics flow north while large amounts of cash and weapons flow south. Managing these transactions requires that the cartels have a physical presence in the United States, something a cartel alliance with a U.S. gang can provide.

Of course, BA is not the only prison gang operating in the United States with ties to Mexico. Prison gangs can also be called street gangs — they recruit both in prisons and on the street. Within the United States, there are at least nine well-established prison gangs with connections to Mexican drug cartels; Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, the Mexican Mafia and the Texas Syndicate are just a few such groups. Prison gangs like BA are very territorial and usually cover only a specific region, so one Mexican cartel might work with three to four prison or street gangs in the United States. Like BA, most of the U.S. gangs allied with Mexican cartels largely are composed of Mexican immigrants or Mexican-Americans. Nevertheless, white supremacist groups, mixed-race motorcycle gangs and African-American street gangs also have formed extensive alliances with Mexican cartels.

Certainly, not all U.S. gangs the Mexican cartels have allied with are the same. But examining how BA operates offers insights into how other gangs — like the Latin Kings, the Texas Syndicate, the Sureños, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and transnational street gangs like MS-13 — operate in alliance with the cartels.

Barrio Azteca Up Close
Spanish for “Aztec Neighborhood,” BA originated in a Texas state penitentiary in 1986, when five inmates from El Paso organized the group as a means of protection in the face of the often-brutal ethnic tensions within prisons. By the 1990s, BA had spread to other prisons and had established a strong presence on the streets of El Paso as its founding members served their terms and were released. Reports indicate that in the late 1990s, BA had begun working with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Federation drug trafficking organization, which at the time controlled drug shipments to Ciudad Juarez, El Paso’s sister city across the Rio Grande.

According to testimony from several different witnesses on both sides of the current trial, BA now works only with the Juarez cartel of Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, which has long controlled much of Mexico’s Chihuahua state and Ciudad Juarez, and broke with the Sinaloa Federation earlier in 2008. BA took sides with the Juarez cartel, with which it is jointly running drugs across the border at the Juarez plaza.

BA provides the foot soldiers to carry out hits at the behest of Juarez cartel leaders. On Nov. 3, 10 alleged BA members in Ciudad Juarez were arrested in connection with 12 murders. The suspects were armed with four AK-47s, pistols and radio communication equipment — all hallmarks of a team of hit men ready to carry out a mission.

According to testimony from the ongoing federal case, which is being brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, drugs are taken at discount from the supplier on the Mexico side and then distributed to dealers on the street. These distributors must then pay “taxes” to BA collectors to continue plying their trade. According to testimony from Josue Aguirre, a former BA member turned FBI informant, BA collects taxes from 47 different street-level narcotics operations in El Paso alone. Failure to pay these taxes results in death. One of the murder charges in the current RICO case involves the death of an El Paso dealer who failed to pay up when the collectors arrived to collect on a debt.

Once collected, the money goes in several different directions. First, BA lieutenants and captains, the midlevel members, receive $50 and $200 per month respectively for compensation. The bulk of BA’s profit is then transferred using money orders to accounts belonging to the head bosses (like Alvarez, Cardoza and Perea) in prison. Cash is also brought back to Ciudad Juarez to pay the Juarez cartel, which provided the drugs in the first place.

BA receives discounts on drugs from the Juarez cartel by providing tactical help to its associates south of the border. Leaders of Carrillo Fuentes’ organization in Juarez can go into hiding in El Paso under BA protection if their lives are in danger in Juarez. They can also order BA to track down cartel enemies hiding in El Paso. Former BA member Gustavo Gallardo testified in 2005 that he was sent to pick up a man in downtown El Paso who had cheated the Juarez cartel of money. Once Gallardo dropped him off at a safe house in El Paso, another team took the man — who was bound with rope and duct tape — to Ciudad Juarez, where Gallardo assumes he was killed.

BA and the World of Prison Gangs
Prison gangs are endemic to prison systems, where safety for inmates comes in numbers. Tensions (usually along racial lines) among dangerous individuals regularly erupt into deadly conflict. Prison gang membership affords a certain amount of protection against rival groups and offers fertile recruiting ground.

Once a prison gang grows its membership (along with its prestige) and establishes a clear hierarchy, its leader can wield an impressive amount of power. Some even wind up taking over prisons, like the antecedents of Russian organized crime did.

It might seem strange that members on the outside send money and answer to bosses in prison, since the bosses are locked up. But these bosses wield a great deal of influence over gang members in and out of prison. Disobedience is punishable by death, and regardless of whether a boss is in prison, he can order a hit on a member who has crossed him. Prison gang members also know that if they end up in prison again — a likely outcome — they will once again be dependent on the help of the boss to stay alive, and can perhaps even earn some money while doing time.

BA’s illegal activities mean its members constantly cycle in and out of prison. Many BA members were involved in smaller, local El Paso street gangs before they were imprisoned. Once in prison, they joined BA with the sponsorship of a “godfather” who walks the recruit through the process. BA then performs a kind of background check on new recruits by circulating their name throughout the organization. BA is particularly interested in any evidence that prospective members have cooperated with the police.

Prison authorities are certainly aware of the spread of BA, and they try to keep Mexican nationals separated from known BA members, who are mostly Mexican-American, to prevent the spread of the gang’s influence. BA has organizations in virtually every penitentiary in Texas, meaning that no matter where a BA member is imprisoned, he will have a protection network in place. BA members with truly extensive prison records might personally know the leader of every prison chapter, thus increasing the member’s prestige. Thus, the constant cycling of members from the outside world into prison does not inhibit BA, but makes its members more cohesive, as it allows the prison system to increase bonds among gang members.

Communication challenges certainly arise, as exchanges between prisoners and those on the outside are closely monitored. But BA seems to have overcome this challenge. Former BA member Edward Ruiz testified during the trial that from 2003 to 2007, he acted as a clearinghouse for jailed members’ letters and packages, which he then distributed to members on the outside. This tactic ensured that all prison communications would be traceable to just one address, thus not revealing the location of other members.

BA also allegedly used Sandy Valles New, who worked in the investigations section of the Office of the Federal Public Defender in El Paso from 1996 to 2002, to pass communications between gang members inside and outside prison. She exploited the access to — and the ability to engage in confidential communications with — inmates that attorneys enjoy, transmitting information back and forth between BA members inside and outside prison. Taped conversations reveal New talking to one of the bosses and lead defendants, Carlos Perea, about her fear of losing her job and thus not being able to continue transmitting information in this way. She also talked of crossing over to Ciudad Juarez to communicate with BA members in Mexico.

While BA had inside sources like New assisting it, the FBI was able to infiltrate BA in return. Josue Aguirre and Johnny Michelleti have informed on BA activities to the FBI since 2003 and 2005, respectively. Edward Ruiz, the mailman, also handed over stacks of letters to the FBI.

BA and the Mexican Cartels
As indicated, BA is only one of dozens of prison gangs operating along the U.S.-Mexican border that help Mexican drug trafficking organizations smuggle narcotics across the border and then distribute them for the cartels. Mexican drug trafficking organizations need groups that will do their bidding on the U.S. side of the border, as the border is the tightest choke point in the narcotics supply chain.

Getting large amounts of drugs across the border on a daily basis requires local connections to bribe border guards or border town policemen. Gangs on the U.S. side of the border also have contacts who sell drugs on the retail level, where markups bring in large profits. The current trial has revealed that the partnership goes beyond narcotics to include violence as well. In light of the high levels of violence raging in Mexico related to narcotics trafficking, there is a genuine worry that this violence (and corruption) could spread inside the United States.

One of the roles that BA and other border gangs fill for Mexican drug-trafficking organizations is that of enforcer. Prison gangs wield tight control over illegal activity in a specific territory. They keep tabs on people to make sure they are paying their taxes to the gang and not affiliating with rival gangs. To draw an analogy, they are like the local police who know the situation on the ground and can enforce specific rules handed down by a governmental body — or a Mexican cartel.

Details emerging from the ongoing trial indicate that BA works closely with the Juarez cartel and has contributed to drug-related violence inside the United States. While the killing of a street dealer by a gang for failure to pay up on time is common enough nationwide and hardly unique to Mexican drug traffickers, apprehending offenders in El Paso and driving them to Ciudad Juarez to be held or killed does represent a very clear link between violence in Mexico and the United States.

BA’s ability to strike within the United States has been proven. According to a Stratfor source, BA is connected to Los Zetas — the U.S.-trained Mexican military members who deserted to traffic drugs — through a mutual alliance with the Juarez cartel. The Zetas possess a high level of tactical skill that could be passed along to BA, thus increasing its effectiveness.

The Potential for Cross-Border Violence
The prospect for enhanced cross-border violence is frightening, but the violence itself is not new. So far, Mexican cartels and their U.S. allies have focused on those directly involved in the drug trade. Whether this restraint will continue is unclear. Either way, collateral damage is always a possibility.

Previous incidents, like one that targeted a drug dealer in arrears in Phoenix and others that involved kidnappings and attacks against U.S. Border Patrol agents, indicate that violence has already begun creeping over from Mexico. So far, violence related to drug trafficking has not caused the deaths of U.S. law enforcement officials and/or civilians, though it has come close to doing so.

Another potential incubator of cross-border violence exists in BA’s obligation to offer refuge to Juarez cartel members seeking safety in the United States. Such members most likely would have bounties on their heads. The more violent Mexico (and particularly Ciudad Juarez) becomes, the greater the risk Juarez cartel leaders face — and the more pressure they will feel to seek refuge in the United States. As more Juarez cartel leaders cross over and hide with BA help, the cartel’s enemies will become increasingly tempted to follow them and kill them in the United States. Other border gangs in California, Arizona and New Mexico probably are following this same trajectory.

Two primary reasons explain why Mexican cartel violence for the most part has stopped short of crossing the U.S. border. First, the prospect of provoking U.S. law enforcement does not appeal to Mexican drug-trafficking organizations operating along the border. They do not want to provoke a coordinated response from a highly capable federal U.S. police force like the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or FBI. By keeping violence at relatively low levels and primarily aimed at other gang members and drug dealers, the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations can lessen their profile in the eyes of these U.S. agencies. Conversely, any increase in violence and/or the killing of U.S. police or civilians would dramatically increase federal scrutiny and retaliation.

The second reason violence has not crossed the border wholesale is that gangs like BA are in place to enforce the drug-trafficking organizations’ rules. The need to send cartel members into the United States to kill a disobedient drug dealer is reduced by having a tight alliance with a border gang that keeps drugs and money moving smoothly and carries out the occasional killing to maintain order.

But the continued integrity of BA and its ability to carry out the writ of larger drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico might not be so certain. The Nov. 3 trial will undermine BA activity in the crucial trafficking corridor of El Paso/Ciudad Juarez.

The indictment and possible incarceration of the six alleged BA members would not damage the gang so badly — after all, BA is accustomed to operating out of prison, and there must certainly be members on the outside ready to fill in for their incarcerated comrades. But making BA’s activities and modus operandi public should increase scrutiny on the gang and could very well lead to many more arrests.

In light of the presence of at least two FBI informants in the gang, BA leaders have probably moved into damage control mode, isolating members jeopardized by the informants. This will disrupt BA’s day-to-day operations, making it at least temporarily less effective. Stratfor sources say BA members on both sides of the border have been ordered to lie low until the trial is over and the damage can be fully assessed. This is a dangerous period for gangs like BA, as their influence over their territory and ability to operate is being reduced.

Weakening BA by extension weakens the Juarez cartel’s hand in El Paso. While BA no doubt will survive the investigations the trial probably will spawn, given the high stakes across the border in Mexico, the Juarez cartel might be forced to reduce its reliance on BA. This could prompt the Juarez cartel to rely on its own members in Ciudad Juarez to carry out hits in the United States and to provide its own security to leaders seeking refuge in the United States. It could also prompt it to turn to a new gang facing less police scrutiny. Under either scenario, BA’s territory would be encroached upon. And considering the importance of controlling territory to prison gangs — and the fact that BA probably still will be largely intact — this could lead to increased rivalries and violence.

The Juarez cartel-BA dynamic could well apply to alliances between U.S. gangs and Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos in Houston, the Texas Syndicate and Tango Blast operating in the Rio Grande Valley and their allies in the Gulf cartel; the Mexican Mafia in California and Texas and its allies in the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels; and other gangs operating in the United States with ties to Mexican cartels like Mexikanemi, Norteños and the Sureños.

Ultimately, just because BA or any other street gang working with Mexican cartels is weakened does not mean that the need to enforce cartel rules and supply chains disappears. This could put Mexican drug-trafficking organizations on a collision course with U.S. law enforcement if they feel they must step in themselves to take up the slack. As their enforcers stateside face more legal pressure, the cartels’ response therefore bears watching.

Tell Stratfor What You Think

 
23135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Queerly Beloved on: November 19, 2008, 07:32:51 PM
World Net Daily is not my idea of a very reliable site, but it seems hard to imagine how they could have gotten the essence of this piece wrong.  What this article reports strikes me as profoundly wrong.

(Trivia:  James Dobson once sat next to me on a transcontinental flight)
===========================================================

QUEERLY BELOVED
eHarmony.com to match 'gays'
Dating site promoted by James Dobson bows to lawsuit, creates special service

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: November 19, 2008
3:30 pm Eastern
By Chelsea Schilling
© 2008 WorldNetDaily


Internet dating service eHarmony has officially agreed to begin matching homosexual couples, beginning next year.


The popular California-based service has been known for focusing on long-term relationships, especially marriage, which has been said to align with founder Clark Warren's early work with Focus on the Family's evangelical Christian base and perspective.

Warren, a psychologist with a divinity degree, has had three of his 10 books on love and dating published by Focus on the Family. It was an appearance on James Dobson's radio program, in 2001, that triggered a response of 90,000 new referrals to the website, starting a climb of registered participants on the site from 4,000 to today's 20 million clients.

As WND reported, the company originally said it was " based on the Christian principles of Focus on the Family author Dr. Neil Clark Warren." It stood firm on its decision to reject homosexuals from its profiling and matching services. Its entire compatibility system is based on research of married heterosexual couples.

In 2005, Warren told USA Today the company's goal is marriage and that same-sex marriage is illegal in most states.

"We don't really want to participate in something that's illegal," he said.

But now the company has been compelled to changed its nationwide policy as part of a New Jersey lawsuit settlement.

On March 14, 2005, Eric McKinley filed a lawsuit against eHarmony, claiming the company discriminated against him when it refused to accept his advertisement for a "gay" partner.

McKinley's complaint triggered a state investigation into the dating service.

(Story continues below)

     


Last week, eHarmony agreed to begin providing an eHarmony-affiliated "Compatible Partners" service to gays and lesbians, with listings labeled "male seeking male" and "female seeking female" by March 31, 2009.

For complying, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights has dismissed the complaint against eHarmony, and Warren is considered "absolved of liability." Also, the dating site has been ordered to pay the division $50,000 for investigation-related administrative costs and give McKinley $5,000. It has agreed to provide a free one-year membership to its "gay" service to McKinley, plus free six-month memberships to "the first 10,000 users registering for same-sex matching within one year of the initiation on the same-sex matching service," according to the settlement.

A new release by New Jersey's Office of the Attorney General reveals that eHarmony has also agreed to the following terms:

eHarmony, Inc. will post photos of same-sex couples in the "Diversity" section of its website as successful relationships are created using the company's same-sex matching service. In addition, eHarmony, Inc. will include photos of same-sex couples, as well as individual same-sex users, in advertising materials used to promote its same-sex matching services

eHarmony, Inc. will revise anti-discrimination statements placed on company websites, in company handbooks and other company publications to make plain that it does not discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation"

The company has committed to advertising and public relations/ marketing dedicated to its same-sex matching service and will retain a media consultant experienced in promoting the "fair, accurate and inclusive" representation of gay and lesbian people in the media to determine the most effective way of reaching the gay and lesbian communities.

eHarmony's new logo for homosexual dating service
 


In addition to McKinley's complaint, a California lesbian also filed a lawsuit against the company in May 2007.

Linda Carlson submitted her complaint to Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation. Lawyers have attempted to turn it into a class-action lawsuit on behalf of homosexuals who wanted to use eHarmony's services.

Carlson's lawyer told Reuters the complaint was "about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love."

Antone Johnson, vice president of legal affairs at eHarmony, said the new settlement could compel California complainants to drop their lawsuit.

"We believe that this case is now essentially moot, and we're confident that we will prove that in court," Johnson said. "Now that we're entering the same-sex matching market, we fail to see what the Carlson plaintiffs could achieve through further litigation."

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, outside counsel to the company, said, "Even though we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle this case with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable. eHarmony looks forward to moving beyond this legal dispute, which has been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance its business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long-term relationships."

An attorney for eHarmony told WND legal battles required a great deal of effort and resources from the dating organization.

"The company spent three years defending against this proceeding," he said. "It was a burden in terms of the high costs of litigation and the time and resources management devoted to it."
23136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barrio Azteca on: November 19, 2008, 07:23:54 PM
   
The Barrio Azteca Trial and the Prison Gang-Cartel Interface
November 19, 2008
By Fred Burton and Ben West

Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels

On Nov. 3, a U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas, began hearing a case concerning members of a criminal enterprise that calls itself Barrio Azteca (BA). The group members face charges including drug trafficking and distribution, extortion, money laundering and murder. The six defendants include the organization’s three bosses, Benjamin Alvarez, Manuel Cardoza and Carlos Perea; a sergeant in the group, Said Francisco Herrera; a lieutenant, Eugene Mona; and an associate, Arturo Enriquez.

The proceedings represent the first major trial involving BA, which operates in El Paso and West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The testimony is revealing much about how this El Paso-based prison gang operates, and how it interfaces with Mexican drug cartel allies that supply its drugs.

Mexico’s cartels are in the business of selling drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the United States. Large amounts of narcotics flow north while large amounts of cash and weapons flow south. Managing these transactions requires that the cartels have a physical presence in the United States, something a cartel alliance with a U.S. gang can provide.

Of course, BA is not the only prison gang operating in the United States with ties to Mexico. Prison gangs can also be called street gangs — they recruit both in prisons and on the street. Within the United States, there are at least nine well-established prison gangs with connections to Mexican drug cartels; Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, the Mexican Mafia and the Texas Syndicate are just a few such groups. Prison gangs like BA are very territorial and usually cover only a specific region, so one Mexican cartel might work with three to four prison or street gangs in the United States. Like BA, most of the U.S. gangs allied with Mexican cartels largely are composed of Mexican immigrants or Mexican-Americans. Nevertheless, white supremacist groups, mixed-race motorcycle gangs and African-American street gangs also have formed extensive alliances with Mexican cartels.

Certainly, not all U.S. gangs the Mexican cartels have allied with are the same. But examining how BA operates offers insights into how other gangs — like the Latin Kings, the Texas Syndicate, the Sureños, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and transnational street gangs like MS-13 — operate in alliance with the cartels.

Barrio Azteca Up Close
Spanish for “Aztec Neighborhood,” BA originated in a Texas state penitentiary in 1986, when five inmates from El Paso organized the group as a means of protection in the face of the often-brutal ethnic tensions within prisons. By the 1990s, BA had spread to other prisons and had established a strong presence on the streets of El Paso as its founding members served their terms and were released. Reports indicate that in the late 1990s, BA had begun working with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Federation drug trafficking organization, which at the time controlled drug shipments to Ciudad Juarez, El Paso’s sister city across the Rio Grande.

According to testimony from several different witnesses on both sides of the current trial, BA now works only with the Juarez cartel of Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, which has long controlled much of Mexico’s Chihuahua state and Ciudad Juarez, and broke with the Sinaloa Federation earlier in 2008. BA took sides with the Juarez cartel, with which it is jointly running drugs across the border at the Juarez plaza.

BA provides the foot soldiers to carry out hits at the behest of Juarez cartel leaders. On Nov. 3, 10 alleged BA members in Ciudad Juarez were arrested in connection with 12 murders. The suspects were armed with four AK-47s, pistols and radio communication equipment — all hallmarks of a team of hit men ready to carry out a mission.

According to testimony from the ongoing federal case, which is being brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, drugs are taken at discount from the supplier on the Mexico side and then distributed to dealers on the street. These distributors must then pay “taxes” to BA collectors to continue plying their trade. According to testimony from Josue Aguirre, a former BA member turned FBI informant, BA collects taxes from 47 different street-level narcotics operations in El Paso alone. Failure to pay these taxes results in death. One of the murder charges in the current RICO case involves the death of an El Paso dealer who failed to pay up when the collectors arrived to collect on a debt.

Once collected, the money goes in several different directions. First, BA lieutenants and captains, the midlevel members, receive $50 and $200 per month respectively for compensation. The bulk of BA’s profit is then transferred using money orders to accounts belonging to the head bosses (like Alvarez, Cardoza and Perea) in prison. Cash is also brought back to Ciudad Juarez to pay the Juarez cartel, which provided the drugs in the first place.

BA receives discounts on drugs from the Juarez cartel by providing tactical help to its associates south of the border. Leaders of Carrillo Fuentes’ organization in Juarez can go into hiding in El Paso under BA protection if their lives are in danger in Juarez. They can also order BA to track down cartel enemies hiding in El Paso. Former BA member Gustavo Gallardo testified in 2005 that he was sent to pick up a man in downtown El Paso who had cheated the Juarez cartel of money. Once Gallardo dropped him off at a safe house in El Paso, another team took the man — who was bound with rope and duct tape — to Ciudad Juarez, where Gallardo assumes he was killed.

BA and the World of Prison Gangs
Prison gangs are endemic to prison systems, where safety for inmates comes in numbers. Tensions (usually along racial lines) among dangerous individuals regularly erupt into deadly conflict. Prison gang membership affords a certain amount of protection against rival groups and offers fertile recruiting ground.

Once a prison gang grows its membership (along with its prestige) and establishes a clear hierarchy, its leader can wield an impressive amount of power. Some even wind up taking over prisons, like the antecedents of Russian organized crime did.

It might seem strange that members on the outside send money and answer to bosses in prison, since the bosses are locked up. But these bosses wield a great deal of influence over gang members in and out of prison. Disobedience is punishable by death, and regardless of whether a boss is in prison, he can order a hit on a member who has crossed him. Prison gang members also know that if they end up in prison again — a likely outcome — they will once again be dependent on the help of the boss to stay alive, and can perhaps even earn some money while doing time.

BA’s illegal activities mean its members constantly cycle in and out of prison. Many BA members were involved in smaller, local El Paso street gangs before they were imprisoned. Once in prison, they joined BA with the sponsorship of a “godfather” who walks the recruit through the process. BA then performs a kind of background check on new recruits by circulating their name throughout the organization. BA is particularly interested in any evidence that prospective members have cooperated with the police.

Prison authorities are certainly aware of the spread of BA, and they try to keep Mexican nationals separated from known BA members, who are mostly Mexican-American, to prevent the spread of the gang’s influence. BA has organizations in virtually every penitentiary in Texas, meaning that no matter where a BA member is imprisoned, he will have a protection network in place. BA members with truly extensive prison records might personally know the leader of every prison chapter, thus increasing the member’s prestige. Thus, the constant cycling of members from the outside world into prison does not inhibit BA, but makes its members more cohesive, as it allows the prison system to increase bonds among gang members.

Communication challenges certainly arise, as exchanges between prisoners and those on the outside are closely monitored. But BA seems to have overcome this challenge. Former BA member Edward Ruiz testified during the trial that from 2003 to 2007, he acted as a clearinghouse for jailed members’ letters and packages, which he then distributed to members on the outside. This tactic ensured that all prison communications would be traceable to just one address, thus not revealing the location of other members.

BA also allegedly used Sandy Valles New, who worked in the investigations section of the Office of the Federal Public Defender in El Paso from 1996 to 2002, to pass communications between gang members inside and outside prison. She exploited the access to — and the ability to engage in confidential communications with — inmates that attorneys enjoy, transmitting information back and forth between BA members inside and outside prison. Taped conversations reveal New talking to one of the bosses and lead defendants, Carlos Perea, about her fear of losing her job and thus not being able to continue transmitting information in this way. She also talked of crossing over to Ciudad Juarez to communicate with BA members in Mexico.

While BA had inside sources like New assisting it, the FBI was able to infiltrate BA in return. Josue Aguirre and Johnny Michelleti have informed on BA activities to the FBI since 2003 and 2005, respectively. Edward Ruiz, the mailman, also handed over stacks of letters to the FBI.

BA and the Mexican Cartels
As indicated, BA is only one of dozens of prison gangs operating along the U.S.-Mexican border that help Mexican drug trafficking organizations smuggle narcotics across the border and then distribute them for the cartels. Mexican drug trafficking organizations need groups that will do their bidding on the U.S. side of the border, as the border is the tightest choke point in the narcotics supply chain.

Getting large amounts of drugs across the border on a daily basis requires local connections to bribe border guards or border town policemen. Gangs on the U.S. side of the border also have contacts who sell drugs on the retail level, where markups bring in large profits. The current trial has revealed that the partnership goes beyond narcotics to include violence as well. In light of the high levels of violence raging in Mexico related to narcotics trafficking, there is a genuine worry that this violence (and corruption) could spread inside the United States.

One of the roles that BA and other border gangs fill for Mexican drug-trafficking organizations is that of enforcer. Prison gangs wield tight control over illegal activity in a specific territory. They keep tabs on people to make sure they are paying their taxes to the gang and not affiliating with rival gangs. To draw an analogy, they are like the local police who know the situation on the ground and can enforce specific rules handed down by a governmental body — or a Mexican cartel.

Details emerging from the ongoing trial indicate that BA works closely with the Juarez cartel and has contributed to drug-related violence inside the United States. While the killing of a street dealer by a gang for failure to pay up on time is common enough nationwide and hardly unique to Mexican drug traffickers, apprehending offenders in El Paso and driving them to Ciudad Juarez to be held or killed does represent a very clear link between violence in Mexico and the United States.

BA’s ability to strike within the United States has been proven. According to a Stratfor source, BA is connected to Los Zetas — the U.S.-trained Mexican military members who deserted to traffic drugs — through a mutual alliance with the Juarez cartel. The Zetas possess a high level of tactical skill that could be passed along to BA, thus increasing its effectiveness.

The Potential for Cross-Border Violence
The prospect for enhanced cross-border violence is frightening, but the violence itself is not new. So far, Mexican cartels and their U.S. allies have focused on those directly involved in the drug trade. Whether this restraint will continue is unclear. Either way, collateral damage is always a possibility.

Previous incidents, like one that targeted a drug dealer in arrears in Phoenix and others that involved kidnappings and attacks against U.S. Border Patrol agents, indicate that violence has already begun creeping over from Mexico. So far, violence related to drug trafficking has not caused the deaths of U.S. law enforcement officials and/or civilians, though it has come close to doing so.

Another potential incubator of cross-border violence exists in BA’s obligation to offer refuge to Juarez cartel members seeking safety in the United States. Such members most likely would have bounties on their heads. The more violent Mexico (and particularly Ciudad Juarez) becomes, the greater the risk Juarez cartel leaders face — and the more pressure they will feel to seek refuge in the United States. As more Juarez cartel leaders cross over and hide with BA help, the cartel’s enemies will become increasingly tempted to follow them and kill them in the United States. Other border gangs in California, Arizona and New Mexico probably are following this same trajectory.

Two primary reasons explain why Mexican cartel violence for the most part has stopped short of crossing the U.S. border. First, the prospect of provoking U.S. law enforcement does not appeal to Mexican drug-trafficking organizations operating along the border. They do not want to provoke a coordinated response from a highly capable federal U.S. police force like the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or FBI. By keeping violence at relatively low levels and primarily aimed at other gang members and drug dealers, the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations can lessen their profile in the eyes of these U.S. agencies. Conversely, any increase in violence and/or the killing of U.S. police or civilians would dramatically increase federal scrutiny and retaliation.

The second reason violence has not crossed the border wholesale is that gangs like BA are in place to enforce the drug-trafficking organizations’ rules. The need to send cartel members into the United States to kill a disobedient drug dealer is reduced by having a tight alliance with a border gang that keeps drugs and money moving smoothly and carries out the occasional killing to maintain order.

But the continued integrity of BA and its ability to carry out the writ of larger drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico might not be so certain. The Nov. 3 trial will undermine BA activity in the crucial trafficking corridor of El Paso/Ciudad Juarez.

The indictment and possible incarceration of the six alleged BA members would not damage the gang so badly — after all, BA is accustomed to operating out of prison, and there must certainly be members on the outside ready to fill in for their incarcerated comrades. But making BA’s activities and modus operandi public should increase scrutiny on the gang and could very well lead to many more arrests.

In light of the presence of at least two FBI informants in the gang, BA leaders have probably moved into damage control mode, isolating members jeopardized by the informants. This will disrupt BA’s day-to-day operations, making it at least temporarily less effective. Stratfor sources say BA members on both sides of the border have been ordered to lie low until the trial is over and the damage can be fully assessed. This is a dangerous period for gangs like BA, as their influence over their territory and ability to operate is being reduced.

Weakening BA by extension weakens the Juarez cartel’s hand in El Paso. While BA no doubt will survive the investigations the trial probably will spawn, given the high stakes across the border in Mexico, the Juarez cartel might be forced to reduce its reliance on BA. This could prompt the Juarez cartel to rely on its own members in Ciudad Juarez to carry out hits in the United States and to provide its own security to leaders seeking refuge in the United States. It could also prompt it to turn to a new gang facing less police scrutiny. Under either scenario, BA’s territory would be encroached upon. And considering the importance of controlling territory to prison gangs — and the fact that BA probably still will be largely intact — this could lead to increased rivalries and violence.

The Juarez cartel-BA dynamic could well apply to alliances between U.S. gangs and Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos in Houston, the Texas Syndicate and Tango Blast operating in the Rio Grande Valley and their allies in the Gulf cartel; the Mexican Mafia in California and Texas and its allies in the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels; and other gangs operating in the United States with ties to Mexican cartels like Mexikanemi, Norteños and the Sureños.

Ultimately, just because BA or any other street gang working with Mexican cartels is weakened does not mean that the need to enforce cartel rules and supply chains disappears. This could put Mexican drug-trafficking organizations on a collision course with U.S. law enforcement if they feel they must step in themselves to take up the slack. As their enforcers stateside face more legal pressure, the cartels’ response therefore bears watching.



 
23137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 19, 2008, 12:16:43 PM
Closely related to debt is the matter of interest rates.  The Fed/Govt has been pushing interest rates to artificially low levels for quite some time now-- to the point where interest rates are actually negative!!!  shocked

Who on earth wants to save when in constant dollars after inflation and taxes you lose money?

Who doesn't want to borrow at no money down with negative interest rates?
23138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Micheal Yon on: November 19, 2008, 12:12:44 PM
Published: 19 November 2008

Email Address

Happy Ending

Between 2007 and 2008, I got to know a man in South Baghdad whose codename was “Bishop.”  This is the short story of his life.

His parents were Kurdish Sunnis.  They moved to Baghdad 34 years ago – recently married and excited to make a new life for themselves and create a family.  Bishop’s real name was Bashar Akram Ameen; the name given to him when he was born on October 6, 1978 in the Abu Ghraib apartments in Baghdad.  Bashar had three sisters and one brother.  His schooling included graduating from a Baghdad high school in the class of ’96 and attending the Agriculture College of Baghdad University from 1997 until 2002 when he graduated.  America had just set its sights on toppling Saddam.
 
Shortly after graduating, Bashar began service in the Iraqi Army Reserve, but that lasted only three months, because the U.S. crushed a great part of the Iraqi Army and then officially dissolved the rest.  For three months, Bashar was one of those unemployed young men we worried about.  He got a job in October of 2003 as a bodyguard for an Iraqi judge.  His first job didn’t last long because insurgents assassinated the judge.  Feeling lost and a bit frightened, Bashar decided to look for a “safer” job, and began interpreting for, as he called it, “the Sally Port Security Company” in al-Mansour, Baghdad.  Insurgents in his neighborhood figured out that he was working for an American company, and on February 21, 2006, as he left his job at 6:00 pm, they started shooting at him in his car, “…but I miraculously survived,” Bashar  explained to me, “and that was the reason to leave my job at that company.”

His own safety, and therefore that of his loved ones, was in jeopardy, and so, as Bashar recalled, “I quit visiting my family for over four months.”  Though he had used caution, his family was forced to flee in order to avoid imminent suffering or death from the insurgents. Bashar explained, “They had killed our neighbor’s son, so their father gave the key of his house to my father to keep the house safe until maybe the situation getting better.  Then, on the next day, the same killers of our neighbors came to my father and asked him about the key, so he refused to give it away and he said that he don’t have it and he don’t know anything about it.”  The insurgents warned Bashar’s father that they would check the validity of his information, and if it was untrue, “they will teach my father and us a lesson.” His family, doing what they must to survive, reluctantly left their home.  Bashar wrote to me, “My father packed some basic stuff and moved from our own house in Ameriya, Baghdad; Iraq.”

By now, the civil war was raging in Baghdad.
 
Not everything was so bleak.  Even at the height of the civil war, life went on.  Bashar met a woman named Alyaa, who worked in legal administration at the “Sally Port Security Company.”  They courted for a year, and got married on September 14, 2006 –  all the while, sectarian violence raged around Iraq.  A year later their first son, Mustafa, was born. Around that time, however, the local Shia militia (called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM) figured out that Bashar, who is Sunni, had worked for the Americans at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon (where he got the codename “Bishop”). “They began coming around to bother my wife while I was at work,” he recalls. “So we moved again to live in al-Mansour, Baghdad. And since then, I stopped making any type of relationships with the neighbors just because you can’t trust anybody.  In al-Mansour, we had very quiet time….”
 
And so Bashar began working for the American Army as an interpreter, for various units, at the time of peak fighting.  I first met Bishop when he worked for 1-4 Cav in South Baghdad.  The 1-4 Cav soldiers kept Bishop busy, working him hard, and he became one of the team.  As the months rolled by and I came back to 1-4 on several occasions, their area had become quieter and quieter until, really, there was nothing going on except progress.  The younger infantrymen were proud of the progress, but wanted to get up to Mosul or out to Afghanistan, where the fighting was.  But not Bishop.  He’d seen the worst of it and did not want to see any more war.  He was old beyond his years and wanted peace.
 

Bishop with General Petraeus (center) and LTC Crider (right)



The two most dangerous jobs for Iraqis were probably journalist and interpreter.  Bishop wanted to come to the United States.  As a result, 1-4 Cav Commander, LTC James Crider, and some of the soldiers Bishop had worked with helped with the paperwork.
 
Just a small aside: LTC Crider and his battalion were serious contributors to success in Iraq.  I got e-mails from LTC Crider about his struggles with Iraqi bureaucracy on behalf of Bishop, even after he went home to America.  I’d seen this LTC Crider go to bat for Iraqis over and over again in Iraq.  In just one example, Crider and his staff waded for months through the Iraqi legal labyrinth to try to free a man who had been wrongfully detained for a bombing he could not have committed; the bombing had never occurred.  Crider and his battalion were welcome fixtures in that neighborhood, because he and his men had brought peace and serenity to a place that had previously been one of the most perilous places in Iraq.  The last time I was there, I walked around with no body armor or helmet, and bought popcorn on the street.  (I was just there again on about November 15; the progress continues without violence.)

I heard that many Iraqis cried when 1-4 redeployed to America.  One captain had even been offered a home if he would come back to live in the neighborhood.  The captain knew how to get things done, while still making the time to learn the names of every kid there.  And he knew their mothers and fathers, too.  But that was it; 1-4 went home and Bishop was left behind, with his family scattered by the war.
 
His father died in July 2007, his mother and two sisters still live in Baghdad, his brother in Kirkuk, and another sister in Syria.
 
LTC Crider and others struggled…and struggled…and finally succeeded.  On November 6, 2008, Bishop emigrated to America, landing in Nolensville, Tennessee along with his wife, Alyaa (who is carrying their second child), and their son, Mustafa.  And the amazing 1-4 Cav keeps winning battles, without firing a shot, long after leaving the war.

So now, Bashar is no longer “Bishop,” and he has begun an American life, with the many ups and downs we all have to face.  His next fight is to find a job in our troubled economy and overcome a high-voltage dose of culture shock.  He will come to understand that our culture is just as complicated as the one he left behind – but without the violence, threats and scars of war.

Many people have welcomed him to America.  I think Bashar can be of particular value to America at this time, simply by getting on the radio stations and talking to reporters and telling his story – the story of Iraq –  and showing people how it really is over here.  (I write this from Iraq.)  Perhaps he can explain why many of us think that it was all worth it.  I asked Bashar if I could publish his e-mail address, and he agreed.

This is not just a happy ending, but a happy beginning.  Please welcome this new family to America and pass this story to your local papers and radio stations.  Ask them to talk with a real Iraqi who just got here.  People need to know what happened in Iraq.   

Bashar can be reached at: bash.amen@yahoo.com
23139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: November 19, 2008, 10:41:31 AM
November 19, 2008 | 0258 GMT

Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of military intelligence in Israel, said that he would not regard a dialogue between Washington and Iran as necessarily negative. In a public speech, Yadlin said, “Dialogue is not appeasement.” Even if the talks failed, Yadlin said, they could lead to a strengthening of sanctions and might lead to some success as well. He said, “Iran will do anything not to be cornered in the position of Iraq or North Korea,” adding that “Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the (financial) crisis.”

This is a shift in Israeli thinking. While the future of Israel’s government is unclear, to say the least, Yadlin is certainly expressing more than his private views. He is certainly speaking for the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces and in all probability for the Israeli intelligence community. Over the past months, there has been a shift in the way Israelis have presented the imminence of the threat from Iran, indicating that the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is neither as immutable nor as near as previously thought. Yadlin’s statement brings Israel one step further in this direction.

The change in tone tracks with the change in Iranian-U.S. relations. While hardly warm, there are signs of some thawing, as we have discussed. U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration appears to be moving toward more extensive, open discussions with Iran, and President-elect Barack Obama has indicated a commitment to exploring dialogue with Iran. Under those circumstances, Israel is not going to simply oppose talks. Israel cannot stray too far from the American position, and given that the Bush and Obama positions are converging, Israel cannot attempt to play off political disagreements in Washington.

Yadlin’s statement was far from an enthusiastic endorsement of diplomatic dialogue, since he recognized that a failure in talks between Washington and Tehran would open the door to harsher sanctions against Iran. He did point out that Israel recognizes two weaknesses in the Iranian position. First, Iran does not want to be a pariah state like North Korea or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Second, Iran — whose economy was already fragile — is under heavy pressure because of the global financial crisis. Given Iran’s long-term fear of isolation and attack, and its immediate financial problems, Yadlin seemed to be saying that if there are going to be talks with Iran, now is the time to have them.

The Israelis have been shifting positions on a number of issues in the past few months. Israel shifted its position on Georgia even before the war with Russia began, and then reached out to the Russians in the hope of preventing arms sales to Syria. Now Israel is shifting its views on talks with Iran. A great deal of this redefinition undoubtedly has to do with Obama’s election, but some of it has to do with a recognition that the dynamics of the world are changing and Israel’s posture was not aligned with new realities. Russia is becoming a more important player that Israel cannot take for granted, and talks with Iran are inevitable.

There is one deeper level here. The Israelis always wanted a balance of power between Iraq and Iran. They saw Iran as a block to Arab aspirations. Whatever the internal ideology of Iran, the tension between Iran and the Arabs benefits Israel. Many Israelis were less than thrilled by the U.S. invasion of Iraq because it collapsed that balance. A permanent presence of American forces in Iraq would of course have compensated, but the new Status of Forces Agreement means that U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq — and perhaps leaving it stronger than when they arrived. If there is going to be a strong Iraq, Israel will want a strong Iran. Now we are far from a strong Iraq, but we are also far from a glowing endorsement of U.S.-Iranian dialogue. What Yadlin has done is open the door to the idea that talking to Iran would not mean catastrophe for Israel. For the moment, that is quite enough.
23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: November 19, 2008, 10:39:04 AM
November 19, 2008 | 1204 GMT
Summary
Within Ukraine there are several forces that, in theory, could steer the country in one direction or another. However, the political forces have been locked in a battle for control for the past four years. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s oligarchs and other forces with both economic and political clout are too distracted by the current global financial crisis to take action. Thus, Ukraine has been left with no ability to handle its own crisis or determine its own future.

Analysis
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series on Ukraine.

Ukraine’s government is simply far too shattered and chaotic to handle the country’s current financial and economic problems or make any of the reforms needed in its defunct financial, economic, military and energy sectors. Kiev has been a confused and chaotic mass of shifting coalitions and governments since the 2004 Orange Revolution, which was supposed to herald a new era in which Ukraine would be part of the West rather than a Russian satellite.

From the Orange Revolution through today, Ukraine’s political scene has been dominated by three main parties (though there are myriad smaller parties):

Our Ukraine: The vehemently pro-Western party under current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko

Bloc Yulia Timoshenko: A coalition of parties under current Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko that can flip to either the pro-Western or pro-Russian side; and

Party of Regions: The vehemently pro-Russian party led by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
Our Ukraine and Timoshenko’s bloc were the parties behind the Orange Revolution, though all three major parties have flip-flopped into different coalitions half a dozen times in the past four years. Most of the breaks and alliances among the three groups have not necessarily come about because of changes in ideology; rather, they are driven by the personalities and egos of Yushchenko, Timoshenko and Yanukovich. Typically, with each turnover in the government and coalitions, the laws and reforms passed by the former ruling group are either undone or ignored. This has seriously retarded any restructuring or improvement in almost any sector or institution in the country.


Furthermore, each political group generally controls a certain region of the country, so the parties look out for those industries, oligarchs and regional economics that pertain to their regions. This means that if a political party is booted from power, any restructuring or deals in place for its favorite region, industry or business can be overturned. The result is a business environment as chaotic and confusing as the political environment.

Ukraine is still suffering from political chaos. There has been one small internal shift: So many political figures outside of the big three personalities are so worn down from the constant bickering that they have started a wave of new political parties and groups. Parliamentary elections could be held in December of January, with a presidential election in late 2009 or early 2010. And with 72 percent of Ukrainians saying they are tired of the political infighting, these new smaller parties could end up changing the political landscape and making Ukraine’s political future even more unpredictable.

The Oligarchs

As in neighboring Russia, Ukraine also has the political and economic force of the oligarchs — those who swooped in after the Soviet era to snatch up certain enterprises and businesses, making themselves incredibly wealthy and powerful very quickly. The oligarchs are very politically active. Some started out in politics and then seized wealth and position to become oligarchs; others began by securing wealth and position to use as leverage in politics. Just as in Russia, Ukraine’s oligarchs either back certain political forces — paying for campaigns and receiving kickbacks once their chosen players are in power (such as the oligarchs backing Yushchenko and Yanukovich) — or they establish their own political parties as a means to influence distribution of resources and advantageous business deals (as with Timoshenko). This has helped fuel the constant government chaos and sustained a level of distrust in Ukrainian businesses and those who run them.

But at the moment, the oligarchs are unable to shape the political or economic landscape in Ukraine because they are being crushed by the economic crisis. According to some records, Ukrainian oligarchs’ assets have lost some 90 percent of their value in the past few months. For example, Viktor Pinchuk (a Timoshenko backer), who controls Ukraine’s leading steel company Interpipe, has lost $2 billion. Sergei Taruta (a Yanukovich backer), who controls another metallurgical giant ISD, has lost $4.8 billion.

While Ukraine’s oligarchs are scrambling to keep their businesses and wealth intact, they are too preoccupied to be as politically active as usual. With two critical elections looming, there could be a shift in that the oligarchs will not be able to dole out cash as easily as in the past. For example, Timoshenko has already heard from one of her financial backers — Konstantin Zhevago, who owns Financial and Credit Group and iron producer Poltavsky — that he will not be dishing out his usual funding because he recently lost most of his wealth. The crisis among the oligarchs has led both Timoshenko and Yanukovich to try to postpone elections, knowing they do not heave enough cash to run full campaigns.

Rinat Akhmetov

The one Ukrainian oligarch who is not absent from the political scene is the wealthiest in the country — Rinat Akhmetov, who owns assets in energy, steel, coal, banking, hotels, telecommunications, media and soccer. Most Ukrainian oligarchs are worth only a fraction of what Akhmetov is worth. Much of his wealth was not in the hard-hit equity markets, and so he has only lost a reported $7 billion of his $36 billion in the economic slowdowns; thus, he still has quite a bit of influence to wield in politics and economics.

Akhmetov is looking to take advantage of others’ economic misfortune and wants to expand his reach over more assets (especially in coal and electricity) not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary. He has long been the puppet master behind the Party of Regions and Yanukovich; Stratfor has learned from sources that he also holds a great deal of leverage over Yushchenko and Timoshenko. Long kept in the shadows, Akhmetov is considering running for the presidency, knowing he has the financial capabilities, political backing from his leash holder (Russia) and enough clout against the big three political leaders to possibly really shake things up.

Other Forces

The only other forces in Ukraine that can affect the political or economic landscapes are the military, intelligence services and organized crime. As stated earlier, Ukraine’s military — much like its stockpile of Soviet weaponry — is seriously deteriorating without the political or economic backing needed to push for and coordinate modernization and reforms.

Ukraine’s intelligence and security apparatus — mainly the Security Service of Ukraine — is currently tangled in an identity crisis stemming from its break with its former master, the Soviet KGB, and the constant restructuring and leadership changes. Ukraine’s intelligence and security services consist of seven agencies and institutes that are responsible for identifying threats to Ukraine both at home and abroad, collecting intelligence and analyzing data. All agency heads are appointed by and report to the president, but the parliament must approve the appointments — which means the intelligence and security services are another casualty of the political chaos as the president and prime minister fight for control.

Organized crime is another major political and economic force in Ukraine, having proliferated since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukrainian organized crime started off as a function of physical security for the oligarchs who controlled Ukraine’s resources and backed favored politicians, but expanded because the country’s weak central government was unable to effectively police criminals. Organized crime became a pillar of the state through the political-criminal nexus in which politicians, businessmen and criminals provided each other with services and favors. It has branched out considerably, with Ukrainian organized crime groups forming partnerships or acting alone in countries throughout Eastern and Central Europe — and because Ukraine remains essentially a weak state dependent on outside patronage, foreign organized criminal elements have found a market there for illicit goods and human trafficking. But organized crime, just like other businesses, is suffering during the economic and financial crisis as criminal groups lose funds in foreign banks and customers have less cash to spend on services and goods.

23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's giant sucking sound on: November 19, 2008, 08:53:28 AM
His friends advise Barack Obama to launch a "New" New Deal. Maybe that's because the old New Deal is sinking fast.

Mr. Obama's one deeply false note during the campaign was his harping on "deregulation" as if that were the source of current troubles. His real problem is the crack-up of the world FDR built.

 
AP
Barack Obama gets taken for a ride by the UAW.
Fannie Mae was a New Deal creation, subsidizing the securitization of mortgage debt. FDR's successors piled on the subsidies for housing debt and incentives directed at low-income borrowers. Kaboom.

Then there's the UAW, born in 1935. For decades the UAW steadily traded away domestic auto market-share to imports and transplants to keep its aging membership toiling away toward their golden pensions and collecting wages and benefits twice those of their competitors. It worked for a while . . .

Mr. Obama must be looking around and beginning to suspect he will be pouring his political capital, along with considerable taxpayer capital, down bottomless holes for the next four years. He won't be building a legacy as the new FDR, but cleaning up after the last one.

Fannie and its twin, Freddie Mac, have already come back for a second helping of taxpayer money as their once-profitable business model devolves into a politically directed subsidy machine for propping up home prices and delaying foreclosures. Their next meltdown, in government hands, is all but written in the cards.

AIG, an otherwise healthy insurance company that went bust betting on housing debt, has already consumed taxpayer loans and capital injections nearly as big as AIG's $200 billion market cap when it was one of the world's most admired firms. AIG still has a valuable insurance business, but ignoramuses in Congress and the press are busy destroying it. The company sells many of its products through busy independent agents. It uses lush "seminars" to encourage them to sit still for pitches about why AIG should still be trusted despite AIG's purgatory in the headlines. But these seminars only produce more outraged grandstanding from the political commentariat.

It will take years for the government to get AIG off its hands, and there likely won't be much value left for taxpayers when it finally does.

But the really giant sucking sound is the auto sector, getting ready to gobble up whatever hopes Mr. Obama might have had for an ambitious, forward-looking presidency.

He and Nancy Pelosi naturally insist that any "bailout" must hit multiple bogies. They want UAW jobs to be preserved. They want the shibboleth of energy independence advanced. They want "green" cars to please the Tom Friedmans of the world. They want to tell taxpayers they're getting more for their money than just a bailout of Detroit.

All this makes sense to a politician, but not to any practical person, who knows that multiple bogies are bound to be conflicting bogies. You could just barely envision a bailout that wouldn't necessarily be a disastrous waste of money, one that would help Detroit create a competitive cost structure in pursuit of building products that are competitive in the marketplace. But this is just the opposite of what Mr. Obama and his Democrats have in mind.

Prepare to witness, then, the awesome capacity of an unreformed Detroit to consume taxpayer billions with nothing to show for it.

That Mr. Obama had been sent by history to assuage the insecurities of the middle class with a "New" New Deal was always a tad detached from reality anyway. The reason is those giant legacies of existing New Dealism known as Social Security and Medicare, about which he was careful to say nothing intelligible during the campaign. These programs worked for a while too, but now their expected revenues are (in present value) about $99.2 trillion short of the expected outlays required to assure present and future workers their promised comfort in retirement.

Then again, Mr. Obama did say something in his campaign about tax rebates for all these payroll taxpayers. He also said something about government matching contributions to incentivize today's low- and middle-income workers to save for their own retirement.

Voilà, personal accounts funded by payroll-tax givebacks -- strangely similar to the solution our current president promoted to help workers escape the impending insolvency of the government retirement programs. Mr. Obama envisioned himself extending FDR's work. He may end up finishing George Bush's.
23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 19, 2008, 08:46:21 AM
On Saturday, off the coast of East Africa, pirates seized their largest catch ever: a giant Saudi-owned oil tanker called the Sirius Star. The brazen attack came on the heels of the capture of a Ukrainian vessel (loaded with armaments destined for Kenya) by Somali pirates in September. Humanitarian food shipments into Somalia have had naval escort for nearly a year -- evidence of how much the security of sea-lanes has eroded. Media reports suggest that Somali pirates have already attacked more than 80 ships in 2008.

 
Chad CroweThese are unprecedented and dangerous developments. Suppressing piracy and the slave trade, accomplished by the last quarter of the 19th century, were among mankind's great civilizing achievements. These were brought about by major maritime powers such as Great Britain and the United States. Indeed, in the American republic's earliest days, President Jefferson dispatched the infant U.S. Navy to confront the Barbary pirates, both on shore and at sea.

By the 1970s, as a part of a growing chaos in parts of Africa and Asia, incidents of piracy began to pick up. But it was not until the 21st century that piracy has experienced a meteoric rise, with the number of attacks increasing by double-digit rates per year. Last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, 263 actual and attempted pirate attacks took place. Large maritime areas have now become known as pirate heavens, where mariners can expect to be routinely molested. The Victorian self-confidence that drove pirates from the seas is gone.

Twenty-first century economics being what they are, the pirates have been more interested in the payment of ransom by anxious owners and insurers than in the vessels or their cargoes. Piracy is nonetheless a vicious and violent activity that exposes the world's merchant mariners to additional risk of death or injury. Even more fundamentally, the dramatic surge in piracy is, like terrorism, part of a broad challenge to civilization and international order.

Experience -- especially that of colonial America -- suggests that a few sporadic antipirate efforts will not be enough to solve the problem. Only a dedicated naval campaign, along with a determined effort to close the pirates' safe havens, will succeed in sending piracy back to the history books.

There has been some progress on this front. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has dispatched a formidable multinational force -- including British, Italian and Greek ships -- to join the American, French, Canadian and Danish vessels already cruising off Somalia's vast coastline. France has also aggressively pursued pirates, freeing captured vessels and hostages.

Capturing pirates is not the critical problem. Rather, the issue is how to handle those in captivity. Traditionally, pirates fell within that category of illegitimate hostiles that once included slave traders, brigands on the roads and, in wartime, unprivileged or "unlawful" enemy combatants. As Judge Nicholas Trott, presiding over a pirate trial, explained in 1718: "It is lawful for any one that takes them, if they cannot with safety to themselves bring them under some government to be tried, to put them to death." This law, of course, has changed since the 18th century. Pirates, brigands and unlawful combatants must now be tried before they can be punished.

One solution would be for the capturing state to press charges based on the much misunderstood and abused principle of "universal" jurisdiction. This is the notion that any state may criminalize and punish conduct that violates certain accepted international-law norms. Although its application in most circumstances is dubious -- there is very little actual state practice supporting the right of one state to punish the nationals of a second for offenses against the citizens of a third -- piracy is one area where a strong case for universal jurisdiction can be made (if only because piratical activities often take place on the high seas, beyond any state's territorial jurisdiction).

Moreover, given the nature of naval operations, discerning who is a pirate is usually a much easier task than separating Taliban and al Qaeda members from innocent bystanders. This fact, all things being equal, should make the task of prosecuting captured pirates an easier process, both from a legal and public-relations perspective.

key problem is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model. Although piracy is certainly a criminal offense, treating it like bank robbery or an ordinary murder case presents certain problems for Western states.

To begin with, common criminals cannot be targeted with military force. There are other issues as well. Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head- and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

In the last few years, France determined to return its pirate prisoners to Somalia based on assurances of humanitarian treatment. The U.S. has, of course, rendered terror prisoners to foreign governments based on similar assurances, and only time will tell whether they are genuine. An equally important question is whether the transfer of captured pirates to local authorities will result in prosecution at all. In many areas, local governments may be subject to corruption or intimidation by strong pirate gangs.

One thing is certain: As in the war on terror, the new campaign against piracy will test the mettle of Western governments. It will also require them to balance the rights of lawbreakers against the indisputable rights of the law-abiding to not live their lives in danger and fear.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
===============
The latest ship to fall into the hands of pirates off the coast of northern Africa is a Hong Kong-registered cargo vessel captured yesterday in the Gulf of Aden. The unfortunately named Delight is now steaming toward Somalia, where it presumably will be held for ransom. It joins the Saudi supertanker, Sirius Star, seized over the weekend.

 
AP
The MV Sirius Star.
The assault on the Delight is one of 90-plus attacks on ships this year by Somali pirates, more than double last year's tally, according to the International Maritime Bureau. It says that pirates are currently holding 15 ships and more than 250 sailors. That includes a Ukrainian ship carrying Russian tanks intended for southern Sudan; it was captured in September.

The pirates' headquarters is Somalia, whose dysfunctional government lacks basic law-enforcement agencies, on or off shore, to disrupt pirates. It has a 1,000-mile coastline along the Gulf of Aden, where marauders and their boats can hide easily. Yemen and Djibouti, which also border the Gulf of Aden, are more politically stable, but have few capabilities. The same is true for Kenya, off whose coast the supertanker was taken.

The pirates prey on commercial vessels, which in this computerized age usually carry small, mostly unarmed, crews; the Sirius Star, three times the size of an aircraft carrier, is run by a crew of just 25. The pirates are equipped with modern weapons and high-tech devices such as GPS trackers and satellite phones. Three years ago they used rocket-propelled grenades against a cruise ship carrying 150 American, Australian and European passengers. The ship managed to outrun the pirates.

As Somalia falls apart and the pirates proliferate, it's been left to the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world to police them. The main vehicle for doing so is a global maritime effort called Combined Task Force 150. It was set up after 9/11 by the Bush Administration and falls under the aegis of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Commanders have hailed from France, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and Pakistan. The current commander is a Commodore of the Danish Royal Navy.

CTF 150 has 2.5 million square miles to patrol. Fighting piracy poses knotty legal problems too, as David Rivkin and Lee Casey describe here, not least what to do with captured pirates. Build a Captain Jack Sparrow wing at Guantanamo to contain them?

Antipiracy efforts are working elsewhere in the world. Pirates thrived in the Strait of Malacca, which is transited annually by 60,000 ships, but last year there were only 73 pirate attacks, down from 276 five years earlier. The decline is the result of a coordinated policing effort by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, with help from the U.S., which provided training and equipment. Captured pirates are tried in local courts. They aren't treated lightly.

That's Asia. What remains to be seen is how the U.S. and Old Europe deal with this escalating assault. The world has been here before, circa 1805. That was the year of the Battle of Derne, the first fight on foreign soil of the new United States of America. It is recorded in the Marine Hymn's famous line about the "shores of Tripoli." President Thomas Jefferson ordered the Marines into action against the Barbary Coast pirates, who had been exacting ransom from the major maritime powers in return for seized ships and kidnapped citizens.

This problem obviously spills into the lap of the newly arriving President. Though relatively small, the pirates are a challenge to established authority in a way understandable to all. If the high seas are allowed to degrade into a no-man's land, the world's thugs will notice and press forward elsewhere. It's going to require an exercise of U.S. power to push back, or allow global piracy to flourish.

23143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Britain grapples with Sharia on: November 19, 2008, 08:15:51 AM
The always suspect NY Times, on a subject wherein it is particulalry suspect:
==============================

Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice
by ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: November 18, 2008

LONDON — The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

Suhaib Hasan spoke with a woman who was trying to divorce her husband in London. But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.

The Church of England has its own ecclesiastical courts. British Jews have had their own “beth din” courts for more than a century.

But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.

Boxed between the two, the government has taken a stance both cautious and confusing, a sign of how volatile almost any discussion of the role of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims can become.

“There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Shariah principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law,” the justice minister, Jack Straw, said last month. But he added that British law would “always remain supreme,” and that “regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law.”

Conservatives and liberals alike — many of them unaware that the Islamic courts had been functioning at all, much less for years — have repeatedly denounced the courts as poor substitutes for British jurisprudence.

They argue that the Islamic tribunals’ proceedings are secretive, with no accountability and no standards for judges’ training or decisions.

Critics also point to cases of domestic violence in which Islamic scholars have tried to keep marriages together by ordering husbands to take classes in anger management, leaving the wives so intimidated that they have withdrawn their complaints from the police.

“They’re hostages to fortune,” said Parvin Ali, founding director of the Fatima Women’s Network, a women’s help group based in Leicester. Speaking of the courts, she said, “There is no outside monitoring, no protection, no records kept, no guarantee that justice will prevail.”

But as the uproar continues, the popularity of the courts among Muslims has blossomed.

Some of the informal councils, as the courts are known, have been giving advice and handing down judgments to Muslims for more than two decades.

Yet the councils have expanded significantly in number and prominence in recent years, with some Islamic scholars reporting a 50 percent increase in cases since 2005.

Almost all of the cases involve women asking for divorce, and through word of mouth and an ambitious use of the Internet, courts like the small, unadorned building in London where the father stepped in to plead his daughter’s case have become magnets for Muslim women seeking to escape loveless marriages — not only from Britain but sometimes also from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany.

Other cases involve disputes over property, labor, inheritances and physical injury. The tribunals stay away from criminal cases that might call for the imposition of punishments like lashing or stoning.

Indeed, most of the courts’ judgments have no standing under British civil law. But for the parties who come before them, the courts offer something more important: the imprimatur of God.

“We do not want to give the impression that Muslims are an isolated community seeking a separate legal system in this country,” said Shahid Raza, who adjudicates disputes from an Islamic center in the West London suburb of Ealing.

“We are not asking for criminal Shariah law — chopping of hands or stoning to death,” he continued. “Ninety-nine percent of our cases are divorce cases in which women are seeking relief. We are helping women. We are doing a service.”
======
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Still, there is ample room for clashes with British custom. Three months ago, for example, a wealthy Bangladeshi family asked Dr. Raza’s council to resolve an inheritance dispute. It was resolved according to Shariah, he said. That meant the male heirs received twice as much as the female heirs.

Courts in the United States have endorsed Islamic and other religious tribunals, as in 2003, when a Texas appeals court referred a divorce case to a local council called the Texas Islamic Court.

But Shariah has been rejected in the West as well.

The Canadian province of Ontario had allowed rabbinical courts and Christian courts to resolve some civil and family disputes with binding rulings under a 1991 law. But when the Islamic Institute on Civil Justice there tried to create a Shariah court, it was attacked as a violation of the rights of Muslim women.

As a result, Ontario changed the entire system in 2006 to strip the rulings of any religious arbitration of legal validity or enforceability.

In Britain, beth din courts do not decide whether a Jewish couple’s marriage should end. They simply put their stamp of approval on the dissolution of the marriage when both parties agree to it. The beth din also adheres to the rules of Britain’s 1996 Arbitration Act and can function as an official court of arbitration in the consensual resolution of other civil disputes, like inheritance or business conflicts.

“People often come to us for reasons of speed, cost and secrecy,” said David Frei, registrar of the London Beth Din. “There’s nothing to prevent Muslims from doing the same thing.”

In Britain’s Islamic councils, however, if a wife wants a divorce and the husband does not, the Shariah court can grant her unilateral request to dissolve the marriage.

Most Shariah councils do not recognize the Arbitration Act, although Mr. Straw has been pushing them in recent months to do so. The main reason for their opposition is that they do not want the state involved in what they consider to be matters of religion.

The conflict over British Shariah courts comes at a time when Islamic principles are being extended to other areas of daily life in Britain.

There are now five wholly Islamic banks in the country and a score more that comply with Shariah.

An insurance company last summer began British advertising for “car insurance that’s right for your faith” because it does not violate certain Islamic prohibitions, like the one against gambling.

Britain’s first Shariah-compliant prepaid MasterCard was begun in August.

Here in London, Suhaib Hasan’s “courtroom” is a sparsely furnished office of the Islamic Shariah Council in Leyton, a working-class neighborhood in the eastern corner of the city. It has no lawyers or court stenographer, no recording device or computer, so Dr. Hasan takes partial notes in longhand.

“Please, will you give him another chance?” he asked the woman in black who was seeking divorce — that is, before she brought in the weighty voice of her father.

“No, no!” the woman, a 24-year-old employment consultant who had come seeking justice from 200 miles away, replied. “I gave him too many chances. He is an evil, evil man.”

“I’ll give you one month’s time to try to reconcile,” Dr. Hasan ruled.

Then her father tipped the scales.

“He was not a cucumber that we could cut open to know that he was rotten inside,” the father testified. “The only solution is divorce.”

Apparently convinced, Dr. Hasan said he would recommend divorce at the London Central Mosque, where he and several other religious scholars meet once a month to give final approval to cases like this.

Dr. Hasan, a silver-bearded, Saudi-educated scholar of Pakistani origin, handles the Pakistani community; an Egyptian ministers to the ethnic Arab community, while a Bangladeshi and a Somali work with their own communities.

The council in Leyton is one of the oldest and largest courts in the country. It has been quietly resolving disputes since 1982 and has dealt with more than 7,000 divorce cases.

Under some interpretations of Islamic law, a woman needs the blessing of a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence to be divorced, while a man can simply say three times that he is divorcing his wife.

Dr. Hasan counsels women that they must have their civil marriages dissolved in the British civil system.

“We always try to keep the marriages together, especially when there are children,” said Dr. Hasan’s wife, Shakila Qurashi, who works as an unofficial counselor for women.

If the husband beats her, she should go to the police and have a divorce, Ms. Qurashi said. “But if he’s slapped her only once or something like that,” she said, “and he admits he has made a mistake and promised not to do it again, then we say, ‘You have to forgive.’ ”

One recent afternoon, the waiting room was full of women and their family members.

A Pakistan-born 33-year-old mother of five explained that her husband would beat her and her children. “He threatens to kill us,” she said, as her daughter translated from Urdu. “He calls me a Jew and an infidel.” Dr. Hasan told her to immediately get police protection and request an Islamic divorce.

Another woman, 25, wanted out of a two-year-old arranged marriage with a man who refused to consummate the relationship. Dr. Hasan counseled dialogue.

“Until we see the husband,” he said, “we can’t be sure that what you’re saying is true.”
23144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Speak Truth on: November 19, 2008, 07:49:26 AM
"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."

—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August, 19 1785
23145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 19, 2008, 07:41:01 AM
And on a more mundane level, we also need to end gerrymandering and to kill "campaign finance reform"-- both of which make it harder to take on an incumbent.  I don't know what the current numbers are, but not so lmany years ago, the incumbency re-election rate was well above 95%!!!
23146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Reproductive issues on: November 19, 2008, 07:36:07 AM
My problem with this smoothly written piece is this:

"I suppose you don't have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions, but you do have to somehow (1) give women the tools to prevent pregnancy in the first place, and (2) allow women the resources to make childbirth a viable option. Outlawing abortion doesn't do either of those things, which is why it's phenomenally unsuccessful at actually decreasing the abortion rate."

As a practical matter I have no problem with the first of these--making brith control methods widely available-- but doubt that money really is the issue-- if you can afford to take a woman out, you or she can afford the condom or other method.  If you can't afford a condom you probably aren't getting laid very much anyway.  cheesy   That said, "allowing women the resources" is a glib euphemism for taking money from some people, who might want to spend it on their own children, and giving it to others, who should be not getting pregnant, but are.

The fundamental problem for me with the approach suggested by this article is this-- it seems devoid of a sense that people should be responsible for the consequences of their own actions-- a core principle of a free society.

I simply don't find its logic of poor= higher abortion rates, therefor give the poor money, persuasive.  Yes there may be a correlation of higher abortion rates in the poor (tangentially I wonder if the rate has been the same over time-- if not, does it not suggest other variables are work?), but a discussion of all this there should include a discussison of the fact that birth rates are higher too.  For me, leaving this out is either poor methodology or disingenuous, or both.   Otherwise one could just as easily argue that the far lower than replacement birth rates of higher income people means that we should prevent wealth in order to increase birth rates to at least a replacement level-- and as logically consistent as it might be to do so, one doubt the author of this piece would approve of such logic!

For me, the answer lies in the right values.  That does NOT mean saying "Unless the State takes money from you and gives it to me, I will kill this Life inside me", which is what the logic of this piece reduces to, is a form of moral blackmail.    The right values are rather consistenly denigrated in movies, on TV, in popular culture-- and one suspects that there is a rather direct correlation between abortion rates and the inculcation of these liberal cultural values.   Because it is so important, and so utterly off the typical liberal radar screen, I mention in particular the importance of fathers and marriage.  I'm guessing that one finds a rather strong correlation between a woman considering an abortion and her being unmarried.  Where is the discussion of this in the article? I'm guessing there is a rather strong correlation between the woman wanting an abortion, and not being sure who the father is.  Where is the discussion of this in the article?

The bottom line reduces to this: BE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU DO.  If you want to have sex but don't want to have a baby, use birth control. 


23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Schneier on: November 18, 2008, 10:12:41 PM
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/05/is_big_brother_1.html
Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.

« The Most Secure Car Park in the World | Main | Sex Toy Security Risk »

May 11, 2007
Is Big Brother a Big Deal?
Big Brother isn't what he used to be. George Orwell extrapolated his totalitarian state from the 1940s. Today's information society looks nothing like Orwell's world, and watching and intimidating a population today isn't anything like what Winston Smith experienced.

Data collection in 1984 was deliberate; today's is inadvertent. In the information society, we generate data naturally. In Orwell's world, people were naturally anonymous; today, we leave digital footprints everywhere.

1984's police state was centralized; today's is decentralized. Your phone company knows who you talk to, your credit card company knows where you shop and Netflix knows what you watch. Your ISP can read your email, your cell phone can track your movements and your supermarket can monitor your purchasing patterns. There's no single government entity bringing this together, but there doesn't have to be. As Neal Stephenson said, the threat is no longer Big Brother, but instead thousands of Little Brothers.

1984's Big Brother was run by the state; today's Big Brother is market driven. Data brokers like ChoicePoint and credit bureaus like Experian aren't trying to build a police state; they're just trying to turn a profit. Of course these companies will take advantage of a national ID; they'd be stupid not to. And the correlations, data mining and precise categorizing they can do is why the U.S. government buys commercial data from them.

1984-style police states required lots of people. East Germany employed one informant for every 66 citizens. Today, there's no reason to have anyone watch anyone else; computers can do the work of people.

1984-style police states were expensive. Today, data storage is constantly getting cheaper. If some data is too expensive to save today, it'll be affordable in a few years.

And finally, the police state of 1984 was deliberately constructed, while today's is naturally emergent. There's no reason to postulate a malicious police force and a government trying to subvert our freedoms. Computerized processes naturally throw off personalized data; companies save it for marketing purposes, and even the most well-intentioned law enforcement agency will make use of it.

Of course, Orwell's Big Brother had a ruthless efficiency that's hard to imagine in a government today. But that completely misses the point. A sloppy and inefficient police state is no reason to cheer; watch the movie Brazil and see how scary it can be. You can also see hints of what it might look like in our completely dysfunctional “no-fly��? list and useless projects to secretly categorize people according to potential terrorist risk. Police states are inherently inefficient. There's no reason to assume today's will be any more effective.

The fear isn't an Orwellian government deliberately creating the ultimate totalitarian state, although with the U.S.'s programs of phone-record surveillance, illegal wiretapping, massive data mining, a national ID card no one wants and Patriot Act abuses, one can make that case. It's that we're doing it ourselves, as a natural byproduct of the information society.We're building the computer infrastructure that makes it easy for governments, corporations, criminal organizations and even teenage hackers to record everything we do, and -- yes -- even change our votes. And we will continue to do so unless we pass laws regulating the creation, use, protection, resale and disposal of personal data. It's precisely the attitude that trivializes the problem that creates it.

This essay appeared in the May issue of Information Security
23148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gingrich: Crony Capitalism on: November 18, 2008, 07:47:05 PM
Other names for Liberal Fascism are Corporatism (running society as if it were one giant corporation) and Crony Capitalism:

==================================================

Crony Capitalism, Predatory Politicians, and the Detroit Three
by  Newt Gingrich

There’s a term that’s commonly applied to the economic systems of some Asian and Latin American countries.  It’s “crony capitalism.”

Crony capitalism is when government controls significant parts of the economy.  Under this kind of bureaucratic micromanagement, politicians -- not the free market -- call the shots.  And that means that the decisions that control the economy are of necessity political decisions, not economic ones.

Crony capitalism is bad for government.  Economic power in the hands of politicians breeds corruption.  Crony capitalism is bad for democracy.  Individuals and businesses outside favored industries have an unequal voice in self-government.  Crony capitalism is bad for business.  Politicians wedded to the status quo stifle growth and innovation.  And there’s one more thing about crony capitalism:  It’s come to America.

Predatory Politicians Practicing Crony Capitalism Created the Economic Crisis

It’s the nature of crony capitalism to expand -- for government to acquire more and more of the economy. The agents of this expansion are elected officials.  Call them “predatory politicians.”

Crony capitalism practiced by predatory politicians is at the root of the current financial meltdown.  In exchange for campaign cash and support for favored constituents, predatory politicians aided and abetted the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they created and fed the subprime mortgage market. Now Predatory Politicians Are About to Make It Worse

And to fix the mess they created, what have predatory politicians turned to?  Why, more crony capitalism of course.

First, they designed Wall Street bailouts in which a former chairman of Goldman Sachs got a blank check to disburse hundreds of billions of dollars to his former colleagues on Wall Street.  Then they took over an insurance company at a hugely inflated cost. Now predatory politicians want taxpayers to fund a bailout of three bloated, stagnant companies that have been losing money for years, one of which is currently hemorrhaging over $1 billion a month.

The Detroit Three:  An Investment Only a Predatory Politician Would Propose

To reward the unions that helped produce its electoral victory, the newly empowered Democratic Congress is proposing that American taxpayers pony up $25 billion to bail out the Detroit Three automakers, Ford, GM and Chrysler.  Democrats are using the current financial crisis as their excuse to bailout the autos.  But in fact, the Detroit three were unprofitable long before the current crisis hit.  According to one economist, GM and Ford made more money-losing investments in the 1980s than any other U.S. companies.  And the Detroit money pit only got deeper in the ensuing two decades.  Since 1998, GM has been losing an astonishing $1.5 billion a month.

That’s an investment only a predatory politician would propose.

Bringing Fannie and Freddie Style Accountability to the Auto Industry

One of the things that makes crony capitalism so profitable for politicians is that Washington exempts itself from the economic and financial rules it imposes on private industry.  For example, in 2003, federal regulators discovered that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had engaged in Enron-style accounting fraud.  But while executives at private companies who engaged in similar fraud went to prison -- and Congress responded by imposing the draconian and business-killing Sarbanes-Oxley bill on private businesses -- Fannie and Freddie executives barely received a slap on the wrist. 

One of the reasons was House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).  Frank fought tenaciously against the regulation that would have held Fannie and Freddie executives accountable and might have averted the financial crisis. Now Chairman Frank wants to bring his particular style of crony capitalism to the auto industry.

Any Detroit Bailout Government Board Should Be Subject To Sarbanes-Oxley

On “Face the Nation” this Sunday, Chairman Frank announced that not only would he push for a taxpayer bailout of the Detroit Three during the special session of Congress this week, but he would also create a government oversight board for the three companies -- in effect, a board of directors made up of predatory politicians.

I believe that it would be a mistake for the taxpayers to be forced to bail out Detroit.  Companies at which union workers make $71 an hour in wages and benefits -- compared to just $47 an hour at Toyota’s U.S. plants -- are not going to be saved by a $25 billion government check.

But if Democrats do find the votes to bring crony capitalism to Detroit, Americans should at the very least insist that any government board of directors created for the auto industry be subject to the criminal penalties and lengthy prison sentences in Sarbanes-Oxley.

What’s fair for the rest of us is fair for predatory politicians.

A Chance For President-Elect Obama to Deliver Real Change

The solution to our economic problems, be they in Detroit or on Wall Street, isn’t more crony capitalism; it’s economic growth. 

While politicians in Washington are constantly calling on taxpayers to put up more and more money to bail out flagging businesses, there are practical things that wouldn't cost the taxpayers a penny that we could do to make America a better place to create jobs.

One of these things is to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley.  As I outline in more detail here, Sarbanes-Oxley has had the unintended consequences of stifling innovation, killing new business start-ups and driving listings overseas.

President-elect Obama won an historic victory two weeks ago on the promise of delivering change to the American people.  Bailing out the Detroit auto dinosaurs is not change. It is crony capitalism in service of a failed status quo. 

President-elect Obama should stand up to congressional Democrats and say “no” -- “no” to saddling future generations of Americans with the bill for today’s crony capitalism.

That would be change we could believe in.

Your friend,




23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 18, 2008, 07:30:53 PM
http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=HA1JK-oGo4M
23150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: November 18, 2008, 05:41:14 PM
Right now most parents face a monopsony.  Charter schools would end that without spending any more than we currently spend.

Agree with GM about getting the Feds out of education through high school.
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