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23151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wave of protests coming tomorrow! on: February 22, 2009, 03:56:54 AM
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.

In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release.

“Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” wrote Michael F. Hertz, acting assistant attorney general.

The closely watched case is a habeas corpus lawsuit on behalf of several prisoners who have been indefinitely detained for years without trial. The detainees argue that they are not enemy combatants, and they want a judge to review the evidence against them and order the military to release them.

The Bush administration had argued that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear such a case because the prisoners are noncitizens being held in the course of military operations outside the United States. The Obama team was required to take a stand on whether those arguments were correct because a federal district judge, John D. Bates, asked the new government whether it wanted to alter that position.

The Obama administration’s decision was generally expected among legal specialists. But it was a blow to human rights lawyers who have challenged the Bush administration’s policy of indefinitely detaining “enemy combatants” without trials.

The power of civilian federal judges to review individual decisions by the executive branch to hold a terrorism suspect as an enemy combatant was one of the most contentious legal issues surrounding the Bush administration. For years, President Bush’s legal team argued that federal judges had no authority under the Constitution to hear challenges by detainees being held at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s legal view for prisoners held at Guantánamo in landmark rulings in 2004 and 2006. But those rulings were based on the idea that the prison was on United States soil for constitutional purposes, based on the unique legal circumstances and history of the naval base.

Rights lawyers have been hoping that courts would extend those rulings to allow long-term detainees being held at United States military bases elsewhere in the world to sue for release, too. There are about 600 detainees at Bagram and several thousand in Iraq.

Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, said it was too early to tell what the Obama administration would end up doing with the detainees at Bagram. He said some observers believed that the Obama team would end up making a major change in policy but simply needed more time to come up with it, while others believed that the administration had decided “to err on the side of doing things more like the Bush administration did, as opposed to really rethinking and reorienting everything” about the detention policies it inherited because it had too many other problems to deal with.

“It may take some time before we see exactly what is going on — whether this is just a transitory policy or whether this is really their policy: ‘No to Guantánamo, but we can just create Guantánamo in some other place,’ ” Mr. Balkin said.

After becoming president last month, Mr. Obama issued orders requiring strict adherence to antitorture rules and shuttering the Guantánamo prison within a year. He also ordered a review of whether conditions there meet the standards of humane treatment required by the Geneva Conventions, and a review of what could be done with each of the 245 detainees who remain at the prison.

On Friday, government officials said that a Pentagon official had completed the Guantánamo report, concluding that the site complies with the Geneva Conventions’ requirements for humane treatment — including procedures for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike by strapping them down and inserting a nasal tube, a practice prisoners’ lawyers have denounced. The report does recommend that some prisoners be given greater human contact, however.
23152  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: February 22, 2009, 01:29:17 AM
More KT with the same folks.  A lot of hands on interaction.  Good times. cool
23153  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 22, 2009, 01:03:19 AM
Grateful for you guys who keep this thread alive.

Grateful for a wonderful 4 hour nap this afternoon!
23154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq reports on: February 22, 2009, 12:56:08 AM
To our Brit friends-- alll the love and respect in the world.  Please take our intrepid reporter's words below in the spirit of brotherly banter.

The Iraqis I met in Basrah basically hold the Brits in utter disdain.  They feel the Brits came but did not come to fight.  They played pussyfoot with the militias down there.  They negotiated things like "we will stay in our bases if you don't attack us."  The Iraqis I met flat out said the Brits are what made the situation so bad down there.
Then several years ago came the Iraqi Army "Operation of the Knights."  This was the Iraqi Army ground operation (supported by U.S. air power) and personally led my Maliki (in Sadr City also).  The Iraqi Army came to kick ass.  And they did for the most part.  When the militias heard that the U.S. Marine Corps was in reserve and they would come in and "Fallujah" Basrah, the militias wanted no part of that and negotiated a solution (that kept them alive).
When I asked so what has become of the militias I was told they are either all dead, in prison or they have have disappeared into the woodwork because they don't want to be dead.  And this was all the Iraqi Army.  The IA rules Basrah.  Let there be no mistake about that.  Good men can argue about whether they could have dominated Basrah the way they did without U.S. support, but it is the IA who killed all the militiamen and sent the rest fleeing for their lives.  And it is the IA who have maintained those gains with essentially zero help from the Brits.
The Brits are held in contempt by the Iraqis in Basrah.  The Americans are held in very high regard.  Because the Iraqis know Americans come to fight and will kill people who need killin'.
23155  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 360 degrees on: February 21, 2009, 09:35:06 AM
23156  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Sam Tendencia on: February 21, 2009, 08:54:22 AM
Some of you may remember the name Sam Tendecia.  He appears in our "The Grandfathers Speak" DVD,  and has done some wonderful hilot healing work on both Top Dog and me. 

He is in his late 80s now and recently we received word of his new website and are glad to post hear about it:
23157  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: La Tercera Guerra on: February 21, 2009, 08:23:09 AM
Por Fred Burton y Scott Stewart

México tiene bastante mucho siempre fue un áspero y lugar de caída. En los últimos años, sin embargo, el ambiente de la seguridad ha empeorado rápidamente, y las partes del país han llegado a ser increíblemente violentas. Es ahora común ver granadas militares de armas como fragmentación y asaltar rifles utilizados casi diario en ataques.

De hecho, justo la semana pasada nosotros notamos two separate strings of grenade attacks Dirigido contra policía en Durango y Michoacan indica. En el incidente de Michoacan, la policía en Uruapan y Lazaro Cardenas fue concentrada en por tres ataques de granada durante un período de 12 horas. Entonces en febrero. 17, un tiroteo mayor ocurrió justo a través de la frontera de Estados Unidos en Reynosa, Cuando las autoridades mexicanas procuraron prender varios hombres armados cabalgar visto en un vehículo. Los hombres huyeron a una cerca residencia y comprometieron a la policía que sigue con disparo de fusil, las granadas y granadas propulsadas por un cohete (RPGs). Después de que el incidente, en cuál cinco pistoleros de cártel fuera matado y varios pistoleros, las policías, los soldados y los civiles fueron heridos, las autoridades recuperaron un 60 mortero de Mm, cinco series de RPG y dos granadas de fragmentación.

No haga error, teniendo en cuenta las armas militares ahora ser utilizado en México y el número de muertes implicadas, el país está en medio de una guerra. De hecho, hay realmente tres guerras concurrentes ser emprendidas en México que implica el Mexican drug cartels. El primer es la batalla para ser emprendida entre los varios cárteles mexicanos de droga que buscan control sobre contrabando lucrativo pasillos, llamadas plazas. Uno tal campo de batalla es Ciudad Juarez, que proporciona acceso al Interestatal 10, Interestatal 20 e Interestatales 25 pasillos Estados Unidos interior. La segunda batalla es luchada entre los varios cárteles y las fuerzas mexicanas del gobierno que procuran interrumpir operaciones de contrabando, limitar violencia y traer a los miembros de cártel a la justicia.

Entonces hay una tercera guerra para ser emprendida en México, aunque a causa de su naturaleza es dominada un poco más. No consigue el mismo grado de atención internacional de medios engendrada por los tiroteos y la granada corrientes y ataques de RPG. Sin embargo, es no menos verdadero, y en muchos sentidos es más peligroso a civiles inocentes (así como turistas y viajeros de negocios extranjeros) que las batallas campales entre los cárteles y el gobierno mexicano. Esta tercera guerra es la guerra para ser emprendida en la población mexicana por criminales que pueden o no pueden ser implicado con los cárteles. A diferencia de las otras batallas, donde miembros de cártel o fuerzas de gobierno son los objetivos y los civiles primarios sólo son matados como daño colateral, en este frente de batalla, los civiles son directamente en los retículos.

La Frente Criminal

Hay muchas formas y los tamaño diferentes de pandillas criminales en México. Mientras muchos de ellos están en alguna manera relacionada a los cárteles de la droga, otros tienen varios tipos de aplicación de la ley de conexiones — Verdaderamente, algunos grupos criminales son compuestos de policías activas y jubiladas. Estos varios tipos de pandillas criminales concentran en civiles en varias maneras, incluyendo, el robo, el robo con fractura, asaltar en automóvil, la extorsión, el fraude y falsificando. Pero de todos los crímenes cometidos por estas pandillas, quizás el que crea el daño más esparcido, psicológico y emocional rapta, que también es uno de los más underreported crímenes. No hay figura exacta para el número de secuestros que ocurre en México cada año. Todos los datos con respecto al secuestro son basados en la estadística parcial de crimen y cuentas anecdóticas y, al fin, puede producir sólo estimaciones de mejor-adivinación. A pesar de esta falta de datos duros, sin embargo, hay duda pequeña — basado aún en el fin bajo de estas estimaciones — Que México ha llegado a ser la capital de secuestro del mundo.

Uno de las cosas difíciles acerca de estudiar el secuestro en México es que el crimen no sólo es esparcido, afectando casi cada rincón del país, pero también es ejecutado por una gran variedad de actores que poseen niveles que varían del profesionalismo — Y motivos muy diferentes. En un fin del espectro son el alto-fin que rapta las pandillas que secuestra a individuos de red de valor alta y demanda rescates en el millones de dólares. Tales grupos emplean los equipos de operativo que lleva a cabo tareas especializada como reunir la inteligencia, realizando vigilancia, arrebatando el objetivo, negociando con la familia de la víctima y estableciendo y para proteger los pisos francos.

En el otro fin del espectro son las pandillas que vagan las calles y raptan al azar objetivos de oportunidad. Estas pandillas son generalmente menos profesionales que las pandillas alto-finales y a menudo tendrá a una víctima para sólo un tiempo corto. En muchos casos, estos grupos tienen a la víctima justo utilizar lo suficiente tarjeta de ATM de la víctima para desaguar su cuenta corriente bancaria, o para recibir un pequeño rescate de quizás cientos de o de unos pocos mil dólares de la familia. Este tipo del secuestro oportunista a menudo es referido a como un “express kidnapping”. Exprese a veces raptando víctimas son contenidas el tronco de un coche durante su prueba dura, que puede durar a veces por días si la víctima tiene una cantidad grande en una cuenta corriente bancaria y un pequeño límite diario de retirada de ATM. Otros tiempos, si una pandilla de secuestro de expreso descubre que ha asido un objetivo de alto-valor por casualidad, la pandilla tendrá a la víctima más larga y demandará un rescate mucho más más alto. Ocasionalmente, éstos expresan raptando los grupos aún le “venderán” a una víctima de alto-valor a una más pandilla del secuestro del profesional.

Entre estos extremos hay una gran variedad de los grupos que se caen en algún lugar en el centro. Estos son los grupos que quizás concentren en un vicepresidente o el director de sucursal bancarios antes que el director general del banco, o eso quizás rapten al propietario de un restaurante u otro pequeña empresa antes que un industrial rico. La presencia de un espectro tan ancho del secuestro los grupos aseguran que casi ningún segmento de la población sea inmune de la amenaza de secuestro. En los últimos años, la magnitud completa de la amenaza en México y el temor que lo engendra ha llevado a un crimen llamado virtual kidnapping. En un secuestro virtual, la víctima no es raptada realmente. En vez de eso, los criminales procuran convencer la familia de un objetivo que un secuestro ha ocurrido, y entonces amenazas de uso y presión psicológica forzar la familia a pagar un rescate rápido. Aunque el secuestro virtual haya sido alrededor durante varios años, las familias involuntarias continúan caerse para la estafa, que es una fuente de dinero abundante a bajo tipo de interés. Algunos secuestros virtuales han sido realizados aún por criminales que utilizan teléfonos las prisiones interiores.

Cuando notado arriba, los motivos para raptar varía. Muchos de los secuestros que ocurren en México no son realizados para el rescate. A menudo los cárteles de droga raptarán a miembros de pandillas rivales o government officials Para atormentar y ejecutarlos. Este tormento es realizado para extraer información, intimide a rivales y, aparentemente a veces, para tener justo una diversión pequeña. Los cuerpos de tales víctimas son encontrados con frecuencia beheaded O de otro modo mutilado. Otros tiempos, pistoleros de cártel raptarán a narcotraficantes que son atrasados en pagos o que se niega a pagar el “impuesto” requirió a operar en el área del cártel de control.

Por supuesto, pistoleros de cártel no raptan sólo sus rivales ni policías. Cuando las guerras de cártel han calentado, y cuando rentas de droga han dejado caer debido a interferencia de cárteles rivales o el gobierno, muchos cárteles han recurrido al secuestro para el rescate a suplementar su flujo de caja. Quizás el grupo más extensamente conocido que entra en esto es el Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), También conocido como el Cártel de Tijuana. El AFO ha sido reducido a una sombra de su ser anterior, sus operaciones de contrabando dramáticamente impactado por los esfuerzos de EEUU y gobiernos mexicanos, así como por ataques de otros cárteles y de una lucha por el poder interna. A causa de una disminución escarpada en contrabando rentas, el grupo ha girado al secuestro y la extorsión para levantar los fondos necesarios para mantenerse vivo y para volver a la prominencia como una organización de contrabando.

En la Línea de tiro

Hay muy poco oportunidad que el gobierno mexicano podrá establecer integridad en sus agencias de aplicación de la ley, o traer orden público a porciones grandes del país, el tiempo pronto. La corrupción y la incapacidad oficiales son endémicas en México, que significa que ciudadanos mexicanos y extranjeros visitantes tendrán que encarar la amenaza del secuestro para el futuro previsible. Creemos que para civiles y extranjeros visitantes, la amenaza del secuestro excede la amenaza de ser golpeado por una bala perdida de un tiroteo de cártel. Verdaderamente, las cosas empeoran tan mal eso aún professional kidnapping negotiators, Una vez que visto como la llave a un pago garantizado, ahora son raptadas a sí mismo. En una torsión aún más increíble de ironía, el anti secuestro las autoridades son secuestradas y son ejecutadas.

Este ambiente — y el lo concierne ha chispeado — Ha proporcionado oportunidades financieras inmensas para la industria privada de la seguridad en México. Las ventas blindadas del coche han atravesado el techo, como tiene el número de guardias uniformados y personal ejecutivo de protección. De hecho, la demanda para el personal es tan aguda que esas compañías de la seguridad trepan para encontrar a candidatos. Tal camino difícil presenta a un anfitrión de problemas obvios, recorriendo de la falta de requisitos al vetting insuficiente. Los servicios además pasados de moda de la seguridad, nuevas compañías de la seguridad-tecnología también sacan partido del ambiente de temor, pero de rastrear aún de alta tecnología dispositivos pueden tener significant drawbacks and shortcomings.

Para muchas personas, armored cars y guardaespaldas armados pueden proporcionar un sentido falso de la seguridad, y la tecnología puede llegar a ser un mortal crutch that promotes complacency Y aumenta realmente la vulnerabilidad. Las medidas de seguridad físicas no son suficiente. La presencia de guardaespaldas armados — o guardias armados combinaron con vehículos blindados — No proporcione la seguridad absoluta. Esto es especialmente verdad en México, donde equipos grandes de pistoleros realizan regularmente crímenes que utilizan artillería militar. Francamente, hay muy pocos detalles ejecutivos de protección en el mundo que tiene la instrucción y el armamento para resistir a un asalto por docenas de atacadores armados con rifles de asalto y RPGs. Los guardas de seguridad privados son agobiados con frecuencia por criminales mexicanos y o matados o forzado a huir para su propia seguridad. Cuando notamos en el 2008 de mayo después del asesinato de Edgar Millan Gomez, actuando cabeza de la Policía Federal mexicana y la alto-clasificación policía federal en México, medidas de seguridad físicas deben ser suplementadas por situational awareness, Countersurveillance e inteligencia protectora.

Los criminales buscan y explotan las vulnerabilidades. Sus oportunidades para el aumento de éxito mucho si ellos son permitidos realizar vigilancia en hace y es dados la oportunidad de valorar completamente el programa protector de la seguridad. Hemos visto varios casos en México en El que los criminales escogieron aún atacar a pesar de medidas de seguridad. En tales casos, los criminales atacan con recursos adecuados para vencer la seguridad existente. Por ejemplo, si hay agentes protectores, los atacadores planearán neutralizarlos primero. Si hay un vehículo blindado, ellos encontrarán que maneras de derrotar el blindaje o asir el objetivo cuando él o ella están fuera del vehículo. A causa de esto, los criminales no deben ser permitidos realizar vigilancia en hace.

Como muchos crímenes, secuestro es un proceso. Hay ciertos pasos que debe ser tomado para realizar un secuestro y ciertos tiempos durante el proceso cuando esos ejecutarlo es vulnerable al descubrimiento. Mientras estos pasos pueden ser condensados y pueden ser logrados bastante rápidamente en un anuncio éste expresa raptando, ellos sin embargo son seguidos. De hecho, a causa de los pasos particulares implicados en realizar un secuestro, el proceso no está a diferencia de que siguió para ejecutar un terrorist attack. Los pasos comunes son selecciones de objetivo, la planificación, el despliegue, el ataque, el escape y la explotación.

Como los perpetradores de un ataque terrorista, esos realizar que un secuestro es la mayoría del vulnerable to detection cuándo ellos realizan vigilancia — Antes ellos están listos para desplegar y realizar su ataque. Cuando hemos notado varias veces en por delante de analiza, uno del secrets of countersurveillance Es que la mayoría de los criminales no son muy buenas en realizar vigilancia. La razón primaria que ellos tienen éxito es que nadie los busca.

Por supuesto, los secuestradores son también muy obvios una vez ellos lanzan su ataque, tiran sus armas y quizás comienzan aún a disparar. Por esta vez, sin embargo, quizás sea muy bien escapar demasiado tarde su ataque. Ellos habrán seleccionado su sitio de ataque y empleado las fuerzas que ellos creen que ellos necesitan para completar la operación. Mientras los secuestradores podrían fastidiar su operación y el objetivo podría escapar ileso, simplemente no es práctico sujetar uno espera en esa posibilidad. Es claramente mejor marcar a los secuestradores tempranos y evitar su trampa antes es saltada y los fusiles salen.

Hemos visto muchos casos de people in Mexico with armed security being kidnapped, Y creemos que hacemos probable ve más casos de esto en los meses venideros. Esta tendencia es debida no sólo a la presencia de criminales sumamente armados y agresivos y la calidad baja de algún personal de la seguridad, pero también a personas que colocan su confianza únicamente en seguridad física reactiva. Ignorando el valor muy verdadero de medidas críticas y proactivas como conocimiento situacional, countersurveillance e inteligencia protectora pueden ser un error fatal
23158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bill Moyers and the FBI on: February 21, 2009, 08:06:00 AM
One of the darker periods of modern American history was J. Edgar Hoover's long reign over the FBI, as we have learned since he died in 1972. So it is more than a historical footnote to discover new records showing that prominent public television broadcaster Bill Moyers participated in Hoover's exploits.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Washington Post has obtained a few of the former FBI director's secret files. According to a Thursday front-page story, Hoover was "consumed" with exposing a (nonexistent) relationship between a gay photographer and Jack Valenti, the late film industry lobbyist who was then an aide to Lyndon Johnson. Hoover's M.O. was to amass incriminating personal information as political blackmail.

But as the Post reports in passing, the dossier also reveals that Mr. Moyers -- then a special assistant to LBJ -- requested in 1964 that Hoover's G-men "investigate two other administration figures who were 'suspected as having homosexual tendencies.'"

Hoover's Institution 07/20/05
– Laurence H. Silberman
This isn't the first time Mr. Moyers's name has come up in connection with Hoover's abuse of office. When Laurence Silberman, now a federal appeals judge, was acting Attorney General in 1975, he was obliged to read Hoover's secret files in their entirety in preparation for testimony before Congress -- and as far as we know remains one of the only living officials to have done so. "It was the single worst experience of my long governmental service," he wrote in these pages in 2005.

Amid "bits of dirt on figures such as Martin Luther King," Judge Silberman found a 1964 memo from Mr. Moyers directing Hoover's agents to investigate Barry Goldwater's campaign staff for evidence of homosexual activity. A few weeks before, an LBJ aide named Walter Jenkins had been arrested in a men's bathroom, and Mr. Silberman wrote that Mr. Moyers and his boss evidently wanted leverage in the event Goldwater tried to use the liaison against them. (He didn't, as it happened.)

When that episode became public after Mr. Silberman testified, an irate Mr. Moyers called him and, with typical delicacy, accused him of falling for forged CIA memos. Mr. Silberman offered to study the matter and, should Mr. Moyers's allegations pan out, he would publicly exonerate him. "There was a pause on the line and then he said, 'I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?' And then he rang off."

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Memories are short in Washington, and Mr. Moyers has gone on to promote himself as a political moralist, routinely sermonizing about what he claims are abuses of power by his ideological enemies. Since 9/11, he has been particularly intense in criticizing President Bush for his antiterror policies, such as warrantless wiretapping against al Qaeda.

Yet the historical record suggests that when Mr. Moyers was in a position of actual power, he was complicit in FBI dirt-digging against U.S. citizens solely for political purposes. As Judge Silberman put it in 2005, "I have always thought that the most heinous act in which a democratic government can engage is to use its law enforcement machinery for political ends."

Mr. Moyers told us through a spokeswoman that he "never heard of the Valenti matter until this story and had nothing to add to it." He also pointed to a 1975 Newsweek article in which he wrote that he learned of the LBJ-Hoover relationship in "the quickly fading days of my innocence." In the Nixon days, this was called a nondenial denial.
23159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Richard Henry Lee: An armed people on: February 21, 2009, 07:43:04 AM
"[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it."

--Richard Henry Lee, Letters from the Federal Farmer, 1788
23160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Canada and the tar sands on: February 21, 2009, 07:33:56 AM
U.S., Canada: Drawing the Outlines of an Oil Sands Deal
Stratfor Today » February 19, 2009 | 2238 GMT

A woman holding small Canadian and U.S. flags outside the Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, OntarioSummary
U.S. President Barack Obama visited Canada on Feb. 19, where he discussed energy and environmental issues with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A potential deal regarding Canadian oil sands could affect greenhouse gas emissions protocols, and has implications for regional oil-producing state Venezuela.

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Canada on Feb. 19, marking his first foreign trip since his inauguration. Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for talks that focused on interrelated energy and environmental issues.

It is pretty clear what the two states want from each other. The United States wants energy security and a renewed military commitment from Ottawa in Afghanistan, while Canada wants investment of money and technology in its energy sector and cooperation on dealing with related environmental issues. The Feb. 19 discussions presage more comprehensive negotiations that ultimately could reshape the global framework for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions — and could deal a blow to the energy industry in Venezuela.

Energy security is a key strategic concern of the United States, and Canada is the largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the U.S. market (followed by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq, in that order). In addition to its proximity, Canada is an attractive energy trading partner for the United States because it does not face the same challenges that limit Washington’s ability to rapidly increase supplies from other significant producers — such as a hostile government in Venezuela’s case, legislation restricting foreign participation in Mexico’s case, or militancy in the case of Nigeria.

Securing robust oil supplies from Canada will necessarily mean expanding exploitation of oil sands, which comprise most of the country’s crude production. (Canada produces only a small amount of conventional crude.) This is an expensive proposition, however. Oil sands are not like conventional crude, which can simply be pumped and shipped via pipeline. Instead, they have to be strip-mined and then melted to extract the crude — a machinery- and energy-intensive process. The resulting cost barriers have resulted in a freezing of new work on oil sands since the ongoing global recession has driven oil prices downward. Profitable oil-sands production requires a sustained crude price of $50 to $60 per barrel, but oil prices have been well below that level since the end of 2008.

The U.S. interest in energy security and the Canadian interest in boosting investment appear to be in sync on the oil sands issue, and Harper has been pushing for a deal. But Ottawa has two conditions.

The first is that the United States provide the bulk of the investment. Canada wants to smooth out the boom-bust cycle of energy production in general, and that of oil sands specifically. Because oil prices have not reliably stayed above the break-even point for oil sands production (despite a spike in mid-2008), oil companies are not likely to invest in the process on their own initiative.

Second, there is a greenhouse gas issue. The mining and processing of oil sands requires a considerable energy input in its own right, roughly 50 percent more than that of normal crude. Oil sands production by itself is thwarting Canada’s ongoing efforts to comply with its obligations under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and Canada hardly uses any of the crude it produces. Ottawa simply cannot meet these requirements as long as it is producing oil sands at all, much less expanding production.

Thus, Canada wants the United States to join it in taking a common position on greenhouse gas talks globally — or really, for the two to become a single entity for purposes of meeting treaty guidelines. In other words, the United States would become primarily responsible for picking up the carbon tab from the production of Canadian oil sands. The United States would take on a slight — but not crippling — increase in costs associated with emissions-reduction efforts, in return for the benefits of a strategic oil supply deal with Canada.

As a result, Washington would also share with Ottawa technological advances in the capture and sequestration of carbon from the oil-sands production process. This technology is now being tested on coal power plants in the United States, and as the technology matures, Canada will try to apply it to the oil sands. Once the carbon is captured and sunk underground, the emissions-related costs associated with the oil sands will become much less.

In return for these strategic concessions, Washington likely also will want a commitment from the Harper government to extend its military commitment in Afghanistan. Canada has about 2,700 troops deployed in the country, though its military commitment there is scheduled to end in 2011. With Afghanistan occupying one of the top slots in Obama’s foreign policy agenda, and with Washington embarking on a new military strategy of a U.S. and allied troop surge to fight the Taliban insurgency, continued military cooperation might be the price Ottawa will have to pay to secure its stake in a strategic energy and emissions deal with Washington. Attempting to deploy additional troops would trigger a backlash from Harper’s political opponents, but extending Canada’s commitment beyond 2011 at the current level might be more politically palatable.

Should such a comprehensive deal go through, with all its conditions and counterconditions, it will have two major implications internationally: one regarding greenhouse gases and one regarding Venezuela.

First, a joint U.S.-Canadian position on greenhouse gases will more or less determine the boundaries of any future global legal regime for dealing with the issue. The United States is set to emerge as the global leader in negotiating the next major climate treaty, a protocol to the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Obama Administration has signaled that it is willing to accept the general global consensus that the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent before 2050 — and with that, the United States is emerging as the leader in the next round of talks. (And if Washington and Ottawa effectively act as a single entity in these negotiations, Canada will share the driver’s seat.) How that will shape global carbon policy will be up to Canada and the United States to debate, but any new protocol will also require a more informal mechanism that directly engages China and India, two of the countries with the largest carbon footprints. A failure to get Beijing and New Delhi on board would effectively doom any new protocol — and the United States would be unlikely to ratify any such convention in any case, believing it will be penalized while China and India gain.

The second major effect of a U.S.-Canadian understanding on oil sands would be to wreck the future hopes of the other major producer of nonconventional crude oil in the Western Hemisphere: Venezuela. The Venezuelan Orinoco belt contains roughly the same amount of oil as do the Canadian oil sands. Venezuela’s crude, like the output of the oil sands, is considered “unconventional” output, because it is very heavy and sour. It requires specialized refining processes, as does oil-sands crude, and a significant percentage of it — about two-thirds of Venezuelan exports — is refined in the United States. If Canada should absorb all the limited investment capital available for unconventional crude, and if it should take over the heavy crude refining capacity in the United States along with the available specialized technical knowledge and personnel, Venezuela will largely get shut out of the global market as its own industry degrades. The result would be to put further limits on the ability of the Chavez government in Caracas to use oil revenues to support the populist policies that keep it in power.
23161  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: February 21, 2009, 07:11:01 AM

"The foam roller has been a large part of my longevity program. I use it atleast 5 times a week to work out adhesions, scar tissue and subluxations."

Yes!  Very good!  Chris Gizzi showed me using the medicine ball in the manner.  Stupidly I regularly forget to do this regularly. tongue
"4. inlocate dislocates with a broom stick or band for the shoulders"

What's this?
23162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: February 20, 2009, 11:09:46 PM
February 20, 2009
NATO defense ministers met Thursday in Krakow, Poland, to discuss critical topics ranging from Afghanistan to Russia to Iran. The meeting ended in disappointment for the United States — which had been looking for a consolidated position and increased support from its allies — while the other NATO members are still waiting to hear from Washington what exactly is the game plan for each of the issues.

The meeting comes just two days after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that 17,000 more U.S. soldiers and Marines would deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Krakow to ask NATO for more alliance troops as well. The hope in Washington was that Gates would be able to capitalize on the new president’s commitment to Afghanistan and receive a similar pledge from the European allies.

But no such guarantee materialized. True, there were some small pledges of troops from the Europeans, but these numbered in the hundreds, not thousands. Even the large NATO states with the biggest troop contingents are sending relative handfuls — 600 from Germany and 500 from Italy. The other heavyweights of Europe — France, Poland and the United Kingdom — have made it clear that they have no plans to send more troops at all.

The lack of enthusiasm for the Afghanistan surge was matched by growing questions among the Europeans over the military plan itself — both the overarching strategy and the lines of supply. Moreover, the Europeans are anxious to know how and to what extent the U.S. plan involves the Russians.

With Russia at its back door, Europe has been divided on its ability to work within a U.S.-dominated NATO. The lines were drawn during the Cold War — though, since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded and pushed right up against Russia’s borders. This has complicated the issue and caused a rift among the European members of the alliance on how to handle Moscow. The larger European NATO members have teetered between wanting a united stance against Russia on one hand, and wanting to prevent any confrontation on the other.

But the United States has further complicated things by sending mixed signals about its position on Russia.

Washington has been negotiating with Moscow about using Russian and (formerly Soviet) Central Asian territory for an alternative route to supply troops in Afghanistan. The United States made some headway on this front when it hinted that it is open to negotiating a new arms-control treaty and that it might be willing to reconsider its position on ballistic missile defense (BMD) efforts in Central Europe. As NATO ministers were meeting Thursday, the first train of American non-military supplies left a port in Latvia to travel across Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to support forces in Afghanistan.

In some ways, however, the old antagonism remains. Russia is still looking for concrete evidence that Washington is stepping back from installing BMD sites in Poland and the Czech Republic — and that it is erecting firm barriers to NATO expansion, especially where Ukraine and Georgia are concerned.

There is a very real split among the Europeans on this new and confusing relationship between Washington and Moscow. Some of the European heavyweights, notably France and Germany, see the U.S.-Russian negotiations as something to be nurtured into a real rapprochement. At the Munich Security Conference earlier in February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy each emphasized the importance of cutting a deal with Russia on security and international issues. Merkel said that Russia should be included in any European security structure, and Sarkozy emphasized that NATO needs Russia in any serious international negotiation, such as talks aimed at securing an alternate supply route to Afghanistan through Iran.

Meanwhile, other European states are horrified that the United States and Russia could be forming a new relationship. Poland refuses to give up on the prospect of getting an American BMD deployment on its turf to solidify U.S. military protection against Russia. Also, the British defense secretary proposed Thursday that NATO create a 3,000-strong rapid-deployment force to defend Europe. The proposal is aimed at Russia, which recently announced a similar plan to create an agile, multinational military formation within its own security alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Both the British and Russian proposals are mainly rhetoric for the time being, but London and Moscow are clearly eyeing each other.

The confusion and anxiety over the U.S.-Russia relationship has nearly frozen the Europeans on all matters. The Europeans want a clear answer on the nature of the evolving relationship between Washington and Moscow before they can formulate a firm policy on any matter involving NATO — such as Afghanistan, BMD or Iran.

The resulting uncertainty has spilled over into every other calculation being made by the Europeans, whether that involves EU structures or energy deals. Neither Europe nor its constituent states can formulate a policy on any major security issue until the United States has made a clear decision about where and how to cooperate with Russia, and where and how to oppose it.


By the way, in the discussion on this I would like to suggest that we remember that Bush, IMHO left us seriously out of position with Russia , , , and that interfaces with our being seriously out of position in Afpakia.  Sure BO said that Afpakia is "the right war" instead of Iraq, which he now seeks to throw away, but we need to discern what it is we need to do and not just complain about him.
23163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 20, 2009, 09:09:12 PM
When Iran successfully orbited its Omid satellite earlier this month, many in the U.S. responded with indifference. David Albright, a noted analyst of nuclear proliferation, downplayed the Iranian space launcher as "not that sophisticated" and the satellite itself as "Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes 'beep beep beep.'" Unnamed U.S. officials concurred, stating that "There are no alarm bells ringing because of this launch," calling the event "largely symbolic."

But such equanimity is entirely unwarranted.

Let's first look at the Omid satellite. The Iranians concede its limited capabilities. Its main payload is a simple transmitter/receiver, and it has a short lifetime limited by the capacity of its small internal batteries. At 60 pounds it is minute compared to modern military and civilian satellites. Yet as a first satellite for a novice space-faring nation, it compares well with the rudimentary Sputnik and even more so with the tiny Explorer 1, America's first venture into space. Those modest machines ushered in today's giant military and commercial satellites girdling the earth. When the first Iranian spy satellite starts transmitting high resolution photographs of U.S. installations in the Middle East and elsewhere to Tehran, the true significance of the Omid will become evident.

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But it is the Safir space launch vehicle that calls for even closer scrutiny. The strong synergy between ballistic missiles and space launchers has existed since the early days of the space age when the Soviet Union's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the R7, was used to orbit Sputnik 1. The U.S.'s first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Redstone, was used to orbit the Explorer 1. Iran has followed the same route, as is evident from the Safir first stage, which is almost indistinguishable from the Shahab 3 ballistic missile. True, its propulsion technology hails back to the Scud missiles of the 1950s. But in the missile business old is not necessarily obsolete. Witness for example the Soviet R7 rocket that lofted Sputnik 1 half a century ago and is still going strong today as the first stage of the very reliable Soyuz launcher. Similarly, the Safir's rocket technology will continue to be used for ballistic missiles in the foreseeable future.

The real sophistication of the Safir lies in its second stage, with its elegant configuration and lightweight design. Its propulsion is based on the more modern technology of storable liquid propellants that can be kept almost indefinitely inside the missile, making it launch-ready at any moment -- a significant advantage for military missiles. The U.S. used this technology in the past and so do some of Russia's contemporary ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

A cleverly designed clamshell nose fairing (a protective cover), evidently made of composite materials, shields the Omid satellite during the Safir's liftoff. Such fairings are key elements not only in space launchers but also in multiple-warhead ballistic missiles.

The Safir ground support system is also remarkable. The missile is transported by and fired from a Shahab ballistic missile mobile launcher, while a hinged service tower provides access for the ground crews.

Contrary to statements such as David Albright's, the Safir demonstrates a fair amount of sophistication for an initial launcher. The question remains whether this sophistication is indigenous and what features, if any, have been imported from abroad. Some of the Safir's features bear the telltale signs of previous space launching experience, implying outside help. Such help could come from any country that possesses Soviet-era missile and space technology. Yet the Safir is far more advanced than North Korea's space launcher. This fact -- and the magnitude of the entire Iranian space enterprise -- indicates that much of the success is homegrown.

The magnitude of the Safir launch becomes more apparent when we consider it alongside the much less advertised launch of the Sajeel two-stage solid-propellant ballistic missile that preceded it in November 2008. Within the space of four short months the Iranians demonstrated a mastery of three different rocket propulsion technologies (liquid, storable liquid, and large diameter solid), three different thrust vectoring technologies (graphite jet vanes, tungsten jet vanes, gimbaled rocket motors), two systems of stage separation, and an embryonic multiple-warhead nose fairing. All the above are proscribed technologies whose international transfers are controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime and by the national legislations of its subscribing countries. By rights, none of those technologies should have been available to Iran. This is a significant setback to international nonproliferation efforts and an encouragement to future proliferators.

To argue that the Safir is too puny to be used as an ICBM is to miss the big picture. It is the technology and talent behind the Safir that is cause for trepidation. Taken in context, the Safir demonstrates scientific and engineering proficiency coupled with global-range missile technology in the hands of a radical regime and a nuclear wannabe. Iran's disclosed road map to space includes more capable, heavier and higher orbiting satellites. This will require heftier space launchers, the construction of which would enrich Iran's rocket-team experience and whose building blocks could easily be used for ICBMs in due time.

Trivializing Iran's first space launch as "largely symbolic" demonstrates a lack of appreciation of what it really symbolizes: That Iran is now poised to project power globally. If alarm bells aren't yet ringing for the Obama administration, they should be.

Mr. Rubin, head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization from 1991 to 1999, won the Israel Defense Prize in 1996 and 2003.


23164  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 20, 2009, 09:05:17 PM
Woof All:

We have just found some footage of me being trained in Panantukan by Manong Kalimba (sp?), friend of GT Gaje, in Bacolod circa 1997.  Snippets of it will appear on RD Game  cool

Guro Crafty
23165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Who is the coward? on: February 20, 2009, 08:59:38 PM
Attorney General Eric Holder ruffled some few feathers Wednesday, when he gave a Black History Month speech in which he described America as "a nation of cowards" when it comes to "things racial":

Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation's history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.

We are inclined to disagree with Holder's suggestion that everyday life is impoverished by an insufficiency of "frank conversations" about racial subjects. Often it is just plain sensible to put aside "matters that continue to divide us" and focus on common purposes or interests. What Holder desires sounds nightmarish to us: a cross between "No Exit" and "All in the Family," with none of the latter's wit.

Still, there is a grain of truth to Holder's infelicitous description of America as "a nation of cowards." The subject of race does make people uneasy, and for reasons that go beyond common sense and courtesy. An incident on the same day as Holder's speech illustrates the problem.

On Wednesday the New York Post published a cartoon by Sean Delonas depicting a pair of policemen and a the bullet-riddled body of a chimpanzee. As one of the cops holds a smoking gun, the other says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Reuters describes what happened next:

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied to boycott the New York Post on Thursday, branding the newspaper as racist for publishing a cartoon that appeared to compare President to a chimpanzee.  Demonstrators led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton chanted "End racism now!" outside the parent company's skyscraper in midtown Manhattan and called for the jailing of Rupert Murdoch, whose international media conglomerate News Corp owns the Post. . .
Because Obama promoted the $787 billion economic stimulus that he signed into law on Tuesday, critics of the cartoon interpreted the dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black U.S. president on January 20. . . . "You would have to be in a time warp or in a whole other world not to know what that means," said demonstrator Charles Ashley, 25, a model who did not believe the cartoon was an innocent political joke.

Others said it made light of assassinating Obama, a possibility they said that worries many African-Americans.
Here we should note that News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal and this Web site. The Post is standing its ground, declaring in an editorial today:

To those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past--and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

The claim that the cartoon was a racist caricature of President Obama is awfully far-fetched. It played off a news item involving an actual chimp (a story with which we are thoroughly bored, so click here if you want to learn more about it). The president did not write the stimulus bill; indeed, he has been widely criticized for giving congressional Democrats too free a hand in crafting it. And anyone who is familiar with Delonas's surrealistic oeuvre knows that he is an equal-opportunity offender. His work is in the spirit of "South Park," not Stepin Fetchit.

All that notwithstanding, some will say that Delonas should have known better. We see their point, and we remember thinking a couple of years ago, upon seeing the umpteenth simian caricature of George W. Bush, that nobody had better do that if Sen. Obama becomes president. We were aware that that would constitute an invidious stereotype, in a way that it did not when the president was a person of pallor.

But what if someone is unaware of this? Suppose that a columnist or cartoonist is so innocent of racial prejudice that he has never even thought to make a connection between black people and lower primates? Such a person would be a racial kerfuffle waiting to happen. The moment he inadvertently employed an idea or image that carried offensive connotations, he would be pilloried as "insensitive."

Consider the paradox: Racial "sensitivity" requires not eradicating racial stereotypes but keeping them alive--and not only keeping them alive but remaining acutely conscious of them at all times. Delonas and his editors are under attack for seeing "chimp" and failing to think "black guy." Perhaps this is an editorial failing, but it is certainly not a moral one.

Which brings us back to Eric Holder. If Americans are shy about discussing race, a big reason is the culture of intimidation promoted by people like Al Sharpton in the name of racial sensitivity. "Frank discussion" requires a willingness to trust that one's interlocutor is acting in good faith. If Attorney General Holder is serious about promoting racial candor, let him use this incident to make the point. That would show a bit of courage on his part.
23166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: February 20, 2009, 05:32:53 PM
Subject: Gun Law Update by Alan Korwin, Democrats have already leaked a gun-ban list. Forward or send to every gun owner you know....
Gun Law Update by Alan Korwin, Author Gun Laws of America Jan. 5, 2008 &g t; > Gun-ban list proposed.
Slipping below the radar (or under the short-term memory cap), the Democrats have already leaked a gun-ban list, even under the Bush
administration when they knew full well it had no chance of passage (HR 1022, 110th Congress) It serves as a framework for the new list the Brady's plan to introduce shortly.

I have an outline of the Brady's current plans and targets of opportunity, It's horrific. They're going after the courts, regulatory agencies,
 firearms dealers and statutes in an all out effort to restrict we the people. They've made little mention of criminals.

Now more than ever, attention to the entire Bill of Rights is critical. Gun bans will impact our freedoms under search and seizure, due process,
confiscated property, states' rights, free speech, right to assemble and more, in addition to the Second Amendment.

The Democrats current gun-ban-list proposal (final list will be worse):

Rifles (or copies or duplicates):

M1 Carbine, Sturm Ruger Mini-14, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, AR-10, Thompson 1927, Thompson M1; AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR; Olympic Arms PCR; AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle or Dragunov SVU, Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR,or FNC, Hi-Point20Carbine, HK-91, HK-93, HK-94, HK-PSG-1, Thompson 1927 Commando, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle; Saiga, SAR-8, SAR-4800,  SKS with detachable magazine, SLG 95, SLR 95 or 96, Steyr AU, Tavor, Uzi, Galil and Uzi Sporter, Galil Sporter, or Galil Sniper Rifle ( Galatz ).

Pistols (or copies or duplicates):

Calico M-110, MAC-10, MAC-11, or MPA3, Olympic Arms OA,  TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22 Scorpion, or AB-10, Uzi.

Shotguns (or copies or duplicates):

Armscor 30 BG, SPAS 12 or LAW 12, Striker 12, Streetsweeper.

Catch-all category (for anything missed or new designs):

A semiautomatic rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has:

(i) a folding or telescoping stock,
(ii) a threaded barrel,
(iii) a pistol grip (which includes ANYTHING that can serve as a
grip, see below),
(iv) a forward grip; or a barrel shroud.

Any semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds (except tubular magazine .22 rimfire

A semiautomatic pistol that has the ability to accept a detachable
magazine, and has:

(i) a second pistol grip,
(ii) a threaded barrel,
(iii) a barrel shroud or
(iv) can accept a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip, and
(v) a semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that can accept more
than 10 rounds.

A semiautomatic shotgun with:
(i) a folding or telescoping stock,
(ii) a pistol grip (see definition below),
(iii) the ability to accept a detachable magazine or a fixed magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, and (iv) a shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

Frames or receivers for the above are included, along with conversion kits

Attorney General gets carte blanche to ban guns at will:

Under the proposal, the U.S. Attorney General can add any semiautomaticrifle or>&g t; shotgun originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a  firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General."

Note that Obama's pick for this office (Eric Holder, confirmation hearing set for Jan. 15) wrote a brief in the Heller case supporting the position that you have no right to have a working firearm in your own home.

In making this determination, the bill says, "thereshall be a rebuttable presumption that a firearm procured for use by the United States military or any
federal law enforcement agency is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, and a firearm shall not be determined to be
particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event."

In plain English this means that ANY firearm ever obtained by federalofficers or the military is not suitable for the public.

The last part is particularly clever, stating that a firearm doesn't have a sportin g purpose just because
it can be used for sporting purpose -- is that devious or what? And of course, "sporting purpose" is a
rights infringement with no constitutional or historical support whatsoever, invented by domestic enemies of the right to keep and
bear arms to further their cause of disarming the innocent.

Respectfully submitted,
Alan Korwin,
Author Gun Laws of America

23167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 20, 2009, 05:25:34 PM
That's really scary , , ,

BTW did any one catch that CA's budget crisis could have been solved if only they allowed off-shore drilling? 
23168  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / POSTPONED!!! Guro Crafty in Hemet on Sunday March 1 on: February 20, 2009, 05:19:55 PM
I will be doing a seminar at Surf Dog's school in Hemet on Sunday March 1.

Contact info to follow shortly.
23169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Parenting Issues on: February 20, 2009, 12:40:26 PM
Nadya Suleman, aka Octomom, is now the mother of 14 children -- eight newborns and their six older brothers and sisters. She has also managed to give birth to debate on issues as far-ranging as welfare, reproductive technology, health care and celebrity worship (Ms. Suleman is said to have an Angelina Jolie fixation). She has even generated heated discussion about the tort system, because the young mother could have paid for her miracle babies through the $168,000 awarded for a back injury she suffered in 1999 at a psychiatric hospital where she worked -- an injury, it should be noted, that did not prevent her from delivering, on Jan. 26, more living babies than once thought humanly possible.

But in all of this punditry one question goes missing: Where is Octodad? Surely Ms. Suleman's babies have a father. Yet his role in the baby-palooza is barely mentioned. Not that this should surprise anyone. The reaction to Ms. Suleman and her brood typifies our cultural ambivalence about fathers, an ambivalence fed in no small measure by the fertility industry.

View Full Image

M.E. CohenOn first thought, Americans seem really keen on fathers. We fret about the emotional impact of father absence and insist "that responsibility does not end at conception," as then-candidate Barack Obama put it in a memorable speech last Father's Day. We excoriate "deadbeat dads" who fail to pay their share of their children's upbringing; in fact, the stimulus bill adds $1 billion to child-support enforcement. Married fathers who don't step up and share the burdens of diapers and pediatrician appointments are condemned, in the words of one much-discussed book of essays, as "bastards on the couch." After all, the argument goes, a father is just as much a parent as a mother.

Except when we decide he's not, as did Ms. Suleman and her medical enablers. According to media reports, the male friend who provided the sperm for all of Suleman's 14 children had begged her to stop after the first six -- to no avail. Having consented to the use of his sperm, he would have been expected to give up control over the future children created with them. More commonly, sperm banks offer young men who will remain anonymous $200 for a little R&R that they would happily engage in without remuneration; as the Fairfax Cryobank in Virginia has advertised: "Why not do it for money?" Donors -- or, more precisely, sellers -- sign contracts that assure them, contrary to Father's Day rhetoric, that responsibility really does end at conception.

Sperm banks and fertility doctors hardly bear sole responsibility for defining fathers down to chromosome factories. Clearly, donors themselves happily agree to their downgraded status. Their nonchalance is in line with the widespread assumption that we should expand the rubric of "a woman's right to choose" to include not just abortion -- where a woman's decision understandably carries more moral weight than a man's -- to the care of and responsibility for actual children, where it's not at all clear why that should be the case.

True, studies of "choice mothers," as single, financially independent mothers call themselves, suggest that most of them had wanted to find a husband to be father to their kids before they decided to go it alone. But once they make that decision, they often choose anonymous donors precisely because they don't have to worry about the fathers interfering with their -- or is it her? -- children. Shortly before Ms. Suleman made headlines, the New York Times Magazine published an article, notably titled "2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family." It describes a clan of college-educated single mothers, all of whom admitted how they wanted to "make decisions about their kids, from when they are excused from the table to where they go to school, and how hard it would be to share that authority."

But our equivocation about paternity is finally untenable. Out-of-wedlock birth rates in the U.S. are now 38%; among African-Americans the figure is 70%. Fathers of children living with single mothers are far less involved with their children than are married fathers; about a third of all children in single-mother families have not seen their father in the previous year. Yet decades of social science have made it clear: Children who grow up without their fathers experience more poverty, have more problems at school, more trouble with the law -- and more single motherhood in the next generation.

In recent years, medical science has also raised doubts about our frequent desire to wish fathers away. Every week, it seems, science confirms just how much genes matter. Everything from eye color, to propensity to high cholesterol, to a rotten disposition, to talent at math or tennis is encoded, to some degree, in the genetic material passed on from our two biological parents.

In Canada, donor children have brought a class-action suit demanding the same right to know their parentage that adoptive children there already have. For the same reason, Norway, the Netherlands and New Zealand have all banned donor anonymity, and Britain now requires donors to agree to be contacted when their children reach 18; unsurprisingly the country's sperm banks are now as depressed as its financial institutions. In the U.S., some sperm banks have begun to ask donors to volunteer to be identified to their children when they reach adulthood. Some agree; most do not.

And why would they agree? They know that even if fathers make good politics, they make dispensable parents.

Ms. Hymowitz is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a City Journal contributing editor.
23170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Limbaugh on FD on: February 20, 2009, 12:22:22 PM
Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

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As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.

When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that "This doctrine . . . requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee."

Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not "funding" or "big money," as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.

Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.

I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.

The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.

We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?

Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.
23171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; Reagan on: February 20, 2009, 12:15:05 PM
"A people ... who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything." --George Washington

"The fact is, we'll never build a lasting economic recovery by going deeper into debt at a faster rate than we ever have before." --Ronald Reagan
23172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen Feinstein flaps gums and fouls things up on: February 20, 2009, 12:09:42 PM
This is a few days old,1099409.story
Predator drones flown from base in Pakistan, U.S. lawmaker says
Sen. Feinstein's surprise disclosure likely to complicate joint campaign against Taliban militants
Greg Miller | Washington Bureau
7:06 PM CST, February 12, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan's northwest border.

"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said of the planes.

The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counterterrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.

The CIA declined to comment, but former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, confirmed that Feinstein's account was accurate.

Phil LaVelle, a spokesman for Feinstein, said her comment was based solely on previous news reports that Predators were operated from bases near Islamabad.

"We strongly object to Sen. Feinstein's remarks being characterized as anything other than a reference" to a article that appeared last March in the Washington Post, LaVelle said. Feinstein did not refer to newspaper accounts during the hearing.

Many in counterterrorism experts have assumed that the aircraft were operated from U.S. military installations in Afghanistan, and remotely piloted from locations in the United States. Experts said the disclosure could create political problems for the fledgling government in Islamabad.

"If accurate, what this says is that Pakistani involvement, or at least acquiescence, has been much more extensive than has previously been known," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "It puts the Pakistani government in a far more difficult position [in terms of] its credibility with its own people. Unfortunately it also has the potential to threaten Pakistani-American relations."

Feinstein's disclosure came during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair on the nation's security threats. Blair did not respond directly to Feinstein's remark, except to say that Pakistan is "sorting out" its cooperation with the United States.

Pakistani officials have long denied that they ever granted the United States permission to fly the Predator planes over Pakistani territory, let alone to operate the aircraft from within the country.

The new civilian leadership has gone to significant lengths to distance itself from the Predator strikes, which are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, in part because they are widely reported to kill civilians as well as militants.

The Pakistani government regularly lodges diplomatic protests against the strikes as a violation of its sovereignty, and officials said the subject was raised with Richard C. Holbrooke, a newly appointed U.S. envoy to the region, who completed his first visit to the country on Thursday.

Nevertheless, most Pakistanis believe the civilian leadership has continued former President Pervez Musharraf's policy giving the United States tacit permission to carry out the strikes.

The CIA has been working to step up its presence in Pakistan in recent years. The CIA has deployed as many as 200 people to Pakistan, one of its largest overseas operations outside of Iraq, current and former agency officials have estimated. That contingent works alongside other U.S. operatives who specialize in electronic communications and spy satellites.

The use of Predator planes armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles has emerged as perhaps the important U.S. tool in its ongoing efforts to attack Al Qaeda in its sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal belt. Last month, a New Year's Day strike killed two senior Al Qaeda operatives who were suspected of involvement in the bombing of Islamabad's Marriott They were among at least eight senior Al Qaeda figures reportedly killed in Predator strikes over the past seven months as part of a stepped-up missile campaign that U.S. intelligence officials have characterized as major success against Al Qaeda.

In his prepared testimony Thursday, Blair said that Al Qaeda has "lost significant parts of its command structure since 2008 in a succession of blows as damaging to the group as any since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001." 
23173  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Gabe Suarez on: February 20, 2009, 01:31:44 AM
It is tempting to only think in terms of what you need...or are likely to need.  The liberal uses that argument to in hopes of eliminating certain weapons from the hands of civilians.  "No one needs an AR-15" for example, is a chant not only of the liberal infesting this nation, but also of sporting oriented gun groups who cling to their polished blue bunny blasters while sneering at your parkerized black man-killer.
So, do you really need a rifle?  Let's see if you think so when I am done.
America is a free nation (still that way in spite of so much effort devoted to changing that).  A free nation is not based on the needs of its subjects, but rather on the wants of its citizens.  An outside party, like a government let's say, establishing what you need is simply oppression by another name.  They have no idea what you need...only of what they want to allow you to have.  To recognize that free men can determine their own "wants" and then seek ways to fulfill those wants is to understand what a free capitalist nation is all about.
Freedom is not about owning guns, it is about being free to make money as your creativity and intelliugence allows.  Economic freedom is protected and enhanced, however, by owning and carrying, and often using, guns.
When this nation was founded, that fact was well known to the founders.  They had come from generations of people telling them what they "needed".  So they set up a government to insure that all industrious men could pursue their wants....the "pursuit of happiness" as it were.  And they set up a statement of rights to that effect.  And knowing that whoever had the most physical power always makes the rules, they made certain that every man had a share in that power vis-à-vis the second point in that statement of rights, the Second Amendment. 
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."   
In National Treasure, Nicholas Cage correctly points out that "people don't talk like that anymore".  Quite correct so -
"A skilled and well trained citizenry is necessary to keep a country free from oppression, so the right of the citizen to own and carry guns shall not be messed with"

Now what on earth would possibly affect the "Security of a Free State"?  These guys had just defeated the greatest army on God's green earth at the time.  Were they worried about the British coming back?  Sure, to a degree, but what they were most worried about, and why they took such pains to write everything down, was of the new government becoming the oppressor in lieu of the British king.  They wanted to make sure that the militia, which was every living human that could carry and fire a gun, was armed and ready to intervene should things get weird.
The second amendment is definitely not about John Kerry or Mit Romney dressing up in Cabela's finest red flannel duck hunter outfit and posing as "sportsmen" for the cameras.  Every time I see such a spectacle it makes me want to vomit.  The second amendment is about equipping an indigenous insurgency in the event of an oppressive political force.  Its not about shooting ducks is it?
Now that is hardly anything the current "pro-gun" political associations, or sportsmen's groups will align themselves with, but it is a historical fact, and in such situations, we most certainly NEED as well as want all of the things we are told we do not need.  One of these is the rifle.
Now, don't think like the typical legal CCW guy defending himself from some pimple-faced tee-aged meth-hed in search of your wallet.  Rifles are not for this.  Think of what these men might have needed, way back 200 years ago, to make sure their economic freedom - the only true security of a free people and a free state, was not messed with in any way shape or form. 
Would they have needed pistols to keep "brigands" at bay?  No.
Would they have needed shotguns to defend their cabins from native american home invaders? No. What they would have needed was the rifles of their day so they could use them to enforce their will through fire and smoke and lead balls.
The rifle is not about home defense or street protection.  The rifle is about the projection of force.  Its about forcing your adversaries, vis-a-vis violence and threath of death, to do what you want.  The colonists didn't reason with the British, they forced them. Any group of organized men with rifles that has triumphed in a conflict, has done so by forcing the other side to comply by threat of force. 
And understand this dear reader, from a historical context, freedom exists only because of the threat of violence backing it up.  If no threat of violence exists, freedom is but an illusion.
Are you truly a free man?  Only if you have two things.  One is a rifle.  Every American man worthy of the name needs a rifle. Preferably a rifle intended for fighting and not sports hunting, but in the end, any kind will do.  Two is the skills to use it in a fight. 
So I repeat the question to you. Are you a free man?  If the answer is no, then go buy a rifle and then give us a call so we can fix the rest of the problem.

Gabe Suarez
23174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: February 20, 2009, 01:21:55 AM
Blair Holt, Other Gun-control Efforts, on Horizon

Written by Alan Scholl
Monday, 19 January 2009 18:02

No sane person wants innocent people victimized, maimed, or murdered, nor to see the perpetrators escape justice. This is true, whether the perpetrators use their hands or objects — like baseball bats, rocks, knives, vehicles, or a host of other readily available inanimate objects of endless variety — or a firearm. It is the intent and the will of the criminals, and not the inanimate objects they use, that are responsible for the criminal acts and the harm done to victims.

From the dawn of man, violent acts have been a sad aspect of life in nearly every civilization and culture. The violence in prisons shows how ineffective even close confinement, total control, and total surveillance can be in preventing this.

Many heavily restrictive governments have failed to prevent violence. In fact, history has shown that powerful, unrestrained governments commit murder and other acts of violence against their own citizens. According to careful statistical analysis by Professor R. J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii, in his detailed work Death By Government, "The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects." On the other hand, "The more constrained the power of governments, the more power is diffused, checked, and balanced, the less it will aggress on others."

Regardless of who commits the crimes, brutality and murder are moral issues, and the means or equipment used is really immaterial to the root problem, which is the condition of the human heart and mind. In our system of government, an important check against immoral acts of violence — whether committed by individuals acting alone, gangs, or unrestrained government — is the Second Amendment, which guarantees "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."

Yet today in America, the proponents of civilian disarmament often insist that inflicting a grievous wrong on all citizens — removing their most effective means of defense against the violence, in contradiction of the Second Amendment — will somehow correct the underlying moral problem.

Many Americans fear that despite the evidence, we are about to witness a broad array of gun-control efforts to limit or completely disenfranchise Americans' right to keep and bear arms.

After last November's elections changed the political climate at the national level and in a number of states, a huge surge in gun sales has been reported among retailers and dealers. FOX News' Catherine Herridge reported that the month Barack Obama was elected, the number of background checks was 42 percent greater than in November 2007. "It's not a hard tea leaf to read," said Jim Shepherd, publisher of the news service Outdoor Wire, which claims Obama's election has "frightened consumers into action."

Obama has repeatedly stated that he supports Second Amendment rights and will not crack down on gun owners, and in June he said he agreed with the Supreme Court when it overturned the District of Columbia handgun ban. But gun owners are not convinced. Obama's legislative record in support of gun control, and his offhand remark during the primaries that small-town Americans are "bitter" and "cling to their guns," suggest a very different approach to firearms regulation during his presidency. A December poll from Southwick Associates found that 80 percent of hunters and shooters expect the new administration and a Democratic Congress will make purchasing firearms more difficult.

An electronic news service that covers outdoor news has even named Obama its "Gun Salesman of the Year." "It's clear that gun owners and prospective gun owners are concerned about the incoming Obama administration and Congress," said Ted Novin, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

As a sentaor, incoming Vice President Joe Biden was a strong supporter of the assault-weapons ban, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. As a state legislator in Illinois, Barack Obama backed a ban on semiautomatic weapons.

Obama will likely use the heavily liberal legislative bodies in Washington and in statehouses across the nation to help them accomplish this disenfranchisement of Americans piecemeal over the next few years. Unwittingly, or intentionally, many of our elected leaders are working hard to remove the ability of Americans to effectively defend themselves corporately — as our forefathers did — or individually against crime.

Touted as measures to prevent crime or capture criminals, they completely ignore the concept of individual rights on several levels. Nearly all will insert state or federal government very powerfully and dangerously deep into the personal and property rights and daily activities of law-abiding American people.

Nearly every one of these efforts will instead either disarm or make criminals of a wide spectrum of law-abiding citizens by means of a dizzying array of new regulations, laws, taxes, and rules.

The Obama administration will almost certainly lead the charge. A federal bill, H.R. 45, also known as "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009," is a good example of an Obama-endorsed bill that threatens all of the ill effects mentioned above.

This bill was named after teenaged Blair Holt, a Julian High School student killed on a city bus in Chicago.

The bill requires a "Blair Holt" license, involving a detailed application including photo, thumb print, written test, release of mental health records, and new fees. Firearms owners would also be required to report all gun transfers (even those to other family members) to the attorney general's database. It would also be illegal for a licensed gun owner to fail to record a gun loss or theft within 72 hours or fail to report a change of address within 60 days. H.R. 45 is a relaunch of H.R. 2666 in 2007, co-sponsored by 15 other representatives including Barack Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel.

The Northeast, a major battleground in this fight over the right to keep and bear arms, is home to monuments dedicated to men who two centuries ago fought and died to keep British soldiers from removing cannon, powder, and shot from storehouses in Lexington and Concord. They knew tyranny would follow disarmament.

As a nation our elected leaders and many in law enforcement have lost sight of the significance of that series of events and their purpose and the importance of arms to preserving liberty. In efforts supposedly intended to stem the moral problems that spawn the violence, they have turned to restricting liberty and denying law-abiding Americans a means of self-defense.

OrigamiAK Offline
Freshman   Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 10 
 H.R. 45, sample letter, and fax numbers


Hi all,

H.R. 45 has been introduced to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. H.R. 45 is really bad. See the whole thing here:

Here is the letter I wrote to all the US House Judiciary Committee members. Getting this bill stopped while in committee is vastly better than it going to the House floor for debate and a vote. We need to get this stopped early.

Begin Letter:

January 27, 2009

Re: Vote NO on HR45

Dear House Judiciary Member,

I urge you to vote NO on HR45, the "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009."

Constitutionally protected rights are not subject to licensing, taxes, applications, fees, requirements, or any other subversion at the hands of federal, state, or local government. HR45 is just as immoral and unconstitutional as any poll tax or literacy test requirement for voting.

In addition, HR45 will not be effective for its stated purpose, and will put an undue burden on those of our citizens who have fewer financial resources. Instead, I ask you to focus on the enforcement of existing laws against violent crime, which will be vastly more effective than curbing the Civil Rights of all private citizens in the United States.

This is not a gun issue; this is a Civil Rights issue.

If you vote for HR45, you will not receive my vote or financial support at any time in the future.


End Letter

Anyone who wishes to sign their own name to my letter and send it is welcome to do so.

In sending this to the various House Judiciary Committee members yesterday, I discovered that many of them do not accept emails from outside their district. I found it much more convenient to fax all of them. Below are the fax numbers to the Washington D.C. offices of most of the House Judiciary Committee members (not all of them.) I didn't attach the Representatives' names to the fax numbers.

Here they are:

Happy faxing!!!
23175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 20, 2009, 01:15:22 AM
"Mostly this appears to be boilerplate drug eradication procedure."

Exactly what my doggy nose was telling me; hence my request for a summary  cheesy
23176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: February 20, 2009, 01:12:43 AM
The Rep Party office in Manhattan Beach (the office nearest to me) is like a deranged SNL parody of stereotypes of the Reps being white haired old farts.
23177  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: February 20, 2009, 01:10:35 AM
Ann Barber.  Guro Inosanto introduced us and trains with her himself.  My work with her was a mixture of Pilates and Gyrotonics (a weird, hard to describe contraption.    Given that Guro I trains with her, I was not at all surprised to find her having deep insight.  I worked under her guidance for about 18 months and as a result my years of tremendous instability in my right pelvis improved to where I now have to go to the chiro only once of twice a year.
23178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: February 19, 2009, 05:52:18 PM
I think in similar ways on this point SB Mig.  Recently I wrote a little something.  If I find it I will bring over over.
23179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / RAT on: February 19, 2009, 11:32:42 AM

Smelling a RAT
posted at 10:11 am on February 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey   

Byron York smells a RAT.  Charles Grassley smelled a RAT right before the Senate vote on Porkulus, but couldn’t get his statement to the floor on time.  You’ll smell a rat, too, when you’re done reading this post, and it won’t just be the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, either:

You’ve heard a lot about the astonishing spending in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. But you probably haven’t heard about a provision in the bill that threatens to politicize the way allegations of fraud and corruption are investigated — or not investigated — throughout the federal government.

The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the RAT Board, as it’s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.

In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.” If the inspector general doesn’t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, he’ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.

First, let’s ask ourselves how this stimulates the economy.  Why include this in an emergency stimulus bill when it has nothing to do with stimulus or economics?  This rule change should have come in separate debate in Congress — like so many other portions of Porkulus.

It does, however, have everything to do with Hope and Change.  What the RAT Board can do, as York points out, is direct or quash investigations by Inspectors General throughout the federal bureaucracy.  Until now, IGs have had independence of action in order to avoid charges of politicization (remember that word?) and to conduct probes without interference from the Department of Justice, the White House, or Congress.  Now they will answer to Congress not on general performance, but on the specifics of their probes.

How did it get into Porkulus?  Grassley says it wasn’t in the original bill passed in the Senate, and it suddenly appeared in the conference version.  No one has claimed ownership of the RAT Board yet, but clearly the Democratic majority wants full control over oversight in the bureaucracy — which more or less means an end to effective oversight over the majority, which is the entire point of the IG position.  After all, if we could rely on politicians and bureaucrats to police themselves, we wouldn’t need Constitutional checks and balances at all.

The name of the RAT Board is Orwellian, as is its appearance in the administration that claimed it would have the most transparency in American history.  Putting IGs under Nancy Pelosi’s thumb eliminates transparency and accountability, and calling it an Accountability and Transparency Board is a grim joke.  It’s simply a mechanism to shut down potentially embarrassing (or worse) IG investigations while commanding others against political foes.

Put simply, it brings the worst aspects of the Chicago Machine to Washington DC — a result which we repeatedly warned would happen with Obama’s election.
23180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters on: February 19, 2009, 09:11:08 AM
Second post of the AM:

I've yet to hear what seems to be a coherent suggestion to Afpakia, though I am willing to consider outside the box variables which result in the collapse of Pakistan as such, but I gotta say this RP piece has its appeal.




February 17, 2009 --

THE 36,000 US troops in Afghanistan are prisoners of war. They're still armed and fighting. But their fate lies in Pakistan's hands, not ours.

It's time to rethink our nonstrategy in Kabul. We got our initial actions right in the autumn of 2001, slaughtering terrorists, toppling the Taliban and empowering would-be allies. But we've been getting it wrong every year since.

We're now on the verge of doubling our troop commitment to a mismanaged war that lacks sane goals and teeters toward inanity. And we're putting our troops at the mercy of one of the world's most-corrupt states - Pakistan - which has cut a deal with extremists to enforce Sharia law a short drive from the capital.

After taking apart al Qaeda's base network and punishing the Taliban, we should have left the smoking ruins. This should have been a classic punitive expedition: We're not obliged to rehabilitate foreign murderers.

As for those who exclaim that "We would have had to go back!" - well, so what? Had we needed to hammer Afghanistan again in 2007 or 2008, that still would've been cheaper in blood (ours and the Afghans') and treasure than trying to build a "rule of law" state where no real state ever existed.

Staying left us with criminally vulnerable logistics - ever the bane of campaigns in the region. The Brits and the Soviets both learned the hard way that superior fighting skills don't suffice in Afghanistan: You need dependable, redundant supply lines.

But we rely on a long, imperiled land route through Pakistan for up to 80 percent of our supplies - a route that Pakistan can close at any time.

And the Pakistanis have closed it, just to make a point.

I'm convinced that the recent flurry of successful attacks on supply yards in Peshawar and along the Khyber Pass route were tacitly - if not actively - approved by the Pakistani intelligence service (the ISI) and the military.

Previous attacks were rare and unsuccessful. Suddenly, in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, our trucks were burning. The Pakistanis were making the point that we're at their mercy: They wanted us to rein in a (rightly) outraged India.

They also want the new US administration to multiply foreign-aid bribes. (There isn't enough cash left in the country for Pakistan's elite to steal.)

Our response? We're paying up. Plus, dumber than dirt, we're turning to the Russians for an alternate supply line - after they bullied the Kyrgyz government into ending our access to a vital airbase north of the Afghan border.

But the central problem is the blind-alley mission. We kidded ourselves that we could conjure up a functioning rule-of-law state in the obstinately lawless territory known as Afghanistan, whose various ethnic groups hate each other unto death.

Instead of setting a realistic goal - mortally punishing our enemies - we decided to create a model democracy in a territory that hasn't reached the sophistication of medieval Europe.

And our own politics only complicate the mess. Since Iraq was "Bush's war," the American left rejected it out of hand. For Democrats seeking to prove they're tough on terror, Afghanistan became the "good war" by default.

Yet partial success in Iraq could spark positive change across the Middle East. Success in Afghanistan - whatever that is - changes nothing. Iraq is the old, evocative heart of Arab civilization. Afghanistan is history's black hole.

But President Obama has made Afghanistan his baby to show that he's strong on security.

What's the end-state, Mr. President? How do we get there? How do you solve the greater Pakistan problem?

By sending another 30,000 US hostages in uniform? De- fine the mission - what, specifically, are they sup- posed to accomplish?

God knows, every decent American should want this ragamuffin surge to succeed - but it's the military equivalent of the financial bailout package: Just throw more resources at a problem and hope something works.

Personally, I'm sick of seeing our troops used as a substitute for intelligent policies - while every wonk in Washington drones on about there being no military solution to war, for God's sake.

No military solution? Great. Bring the troops home and deploy more diplomats, contractors and accountants. See how long they survive.

It's grimly entertaining to observe how American leftists, who shrieked that we should "support the troops, bring them home" while Iraq was all the rage, won't say "Boo!" about Obama's war of choice. (They're still not enlisting, either.)

Our botched deployment to Afghanistan as warriors who morphed into squatters defies military logic, history and common sense. The Brits learned - finally - that you deal with Afghan problems by occasionally hammering Afghans, then leaving them to sort out their own mess. You kill the guilty and leave.

Not us. We're going to build Disneyworld on the Kabul River.

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of "Looking for Trouble."
23181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: February 19, 2009, 08:59:05 AM
Seems like a good site full of examples of our troops in action:


Specialist Joe Gibson
Silver Star

During a helicopter infiltration, Spec. Gibson’s squad came under intense enemy small arms and machine gun fire.

“The guy that got hit, he actually was a really good friend of mine and I heard him call out and it makes my heart cringe to hear that,” Gibson said.

He got his wounded buddy to safety in a hail of bullets and then he actually stepped on a suicide bomber hiding in the tall grass.

“I stopped him because I thought maybe he was grabbing a knife or something to attack me with,” he said. “I stopped him and that’s when he told me he had a bomb on. He said ‘bomb’ in English. He knew how to say that.

“That pretty much at that moment I thought I was probably going to die, but I didn’t care so whatever, there was nothing I could do about it so I just kept on doing what I was doing staying in control.”

It was hand-to-hand combat. Gibson wrestled with the bomber and killed him before he had a chance to detonate the pack.

For those actions, he’s receiving the Silver Star with his Army wife Samantha looking on.
23182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 19, 2009, 08:55:28 AM
Pakistan: Negotiating Away the Writ of the State
Stratfor Today » February 17, 2009 | 1515 GMT

A delegation from an Islamist militant movement leaves after talks with
Pakistani officials in Peshawar
Provincial authorities in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province announced
Feb. 16 that they will implement a new Shariah-based regulation as part of a
deal with Pashtun jihadist forces in the Swat region to end the insurgency
there. This move likely will not achieve the authorities' desired results,
due to disagreements among Pakistan's various stakeholders regarding this
initiative and the Taliban's drive to expand their sphere of operations in
Pakistan. Not only will the process further erode the writ of the Pakistani
state it will also undermine U.S. interests in neighboring Afghanistan.

The provincial government of the left-leaning secular Pashtun nationalist
Awami National Party in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)
announced Feb. 16 that it reached an agreement with Maulana Sufi Muhammad,
the founder of the Islamist militant group
Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement
of Shariah, to end the jihadist insurgency in the area. In exchange for
peace, the government has agreed to implement Shariah-based regulations in a
wide area of the province formerly known as the Malakand Division and is
centered around the restive Swat region. Militants in the Swat region called
a 10-day cease-fire the night before talks with the government, and in
another gesture of goodwill released a Chinese engineer on Feb. 14,
kidnapped five months earlier. Maulana Sufi is now expected to convene a
meeting of the TNSM's leadership council to get the movement to agree to end
the fighting.

The TNSM is one of the two largest Pashtun jihadist groups in Pakistan that
fall under the Taliban umbrella and have ties to al Qaeda. The Feb. 16 deal
is the latest in a string of peace initiatives attempted over the past
several months to contain the insurgency, given Pakistan's inability to use
force to settle the issue.

Getting the militants to end the fighting is not the only complication in
carrying out this preliminary peace deal (which has no set time frame).
There are disagreements within the government at various levels about the
idea of bending to the Taliban's demands. While NWFP Chief Minister Amir
Haider Khan Hoti has called for support for his government's move to
implement the Shariah-based laws - the Nizam-i-Adl (Justice System)
Regulations-2009 - and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has
expressed for the negotiated settlement, Pakistani President Asif Ali
Zardari said he would not endorse the new deal unless it was clear that the
insurgency had been brought to an end.

Furthermore, there are growing rifts between the prime minister and
president (both from the ruling Pakistan People's Party), with the army
reportedly backing Gilani to contain Zardari. But even before the central
government makes a decision on the peace deal, the provincial government
must craft the new legislation. This presents another world of problems,
since there are already several existing Shariah laws on the books as a
result of several decades' worth of attempts to deal with the problem of a
non-functioning legal and judicial system. The TNSM's rise was due largely
in part to its ability to exploit the chaotic situation with law and order
in the area and the ultraconservative religious local culture.

(click image to enlarge)

Assuming that the negotiated area does get a new set of religious laws -
which is not likely - the move will not lead to the containment of the
jihadist insurgency. If anything, the government's weak negotiating position
will only consolidate the Taliban's influence in the region - not only in
Swat, but in the area covered by the deal, including at least the districts
of Malakand, Dir, Swat, Shangla and Buner. This is not the Federally
Administered Tribal Area (FATA) - the historically autonomous small region
straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border - but Pakistan proper, and these
districts form a major sub-set of the northern part of the NWFP. This
indicates just how far things have deteriorated.

With the NWFP's southern districts along the tribal badlands also
experiencing a creeping Talibanization, a Pakistani Taliban stronghold in
the north could very well translate into the province falling to the Taliban
in the not too distant future. Put differently, the FATA, NWFP and even the
northwestern part of Balochistan (the southwestern province's Pashtun
corridor) could exhibit Afghanistan-like conditions where Pakistani security
forces would have to struggle harder to impose the waning writ of the state.

Clearly, this potential scenario has massive implications for the new U.S.
strategy for Afghanistan. Washington, already alarmed at Pakistan's
inability and/or unwillingness to contain the jihadist threat, has
intensified its unilateral air strikes inside Pakistan's tribal belt. The
largest such attacks took place Feb. 14, and one occurred Feb. 16 in Kurram
agency - an area where U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle attacks have not
happened before. Should the situation continue to deteriorate as a result of
this peacemaking, U.S. forces could be forced to strike deeper into Pakistan
proper in the NWFP and Balochistan provinces where both al Qaeda and Taliban
high-value targets are likely located. Furthermore, the Feb. 16 deal raises
more doubts about the viability of the NATO supply route that runs from
Peshawar to the Khyber Pass.

More importantly, this peace deal offers the Obama administration a glimpse
of what to expect as it moves toward a political settlement with Taliban
forces in Afghanistan. Should the deal with the militants in Pakistan lead
to the establishment of a Taliban "emirate" of sorts centered in Swat, it
will only further embolden the Afghan Taliban as they push for a comeback.
And a return of the Taliban to the corridors of power in Afghanistan could
prove detrimental to the security of Pakistan.

This is ironic considering that the Pakistani state supports the return of a
Taliban-dominated regime in Kabul. In the past, such a regime served
Pakistani national security interests . But with the Talibanization of the
Pakistani northwest - especially in the last two years - the Pakistanis have
lost control of their own territory and are not in a position to regain
influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, if the United States allows Pakistan to
become involved in Washington's negotiations with the Taliban, Islamabad
will not be seizing an opportunity to project power beyond its borders;
rather, it will be looking to protect itself from a threat that is both
internal and external.

Between the Pakistanis playing defense and the United States struggling to
craft a strategy for Afghanistan, the outlook is very bleak for Southwest
23183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sundry on: February 19, 2009, 08:48:41 AM
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

--Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Commonplace Book, 1774-1776


"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing. And that you may be always doing good, my dear, is the ardent prayer of yours affectionately."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, 5 May 1787

"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 12 July 1816

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one...." --James Madison


"For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is, there are simple answers -- they just are not easy ones. The time has come for us to decide whether collectively we can afford everything and anything we think of simply because we think of it. The time has come to run a check to see if all the services government provides were in answer to demands or were just goodies dreamed up for our supposed betterment. The time has come to match outgo to income, instead of always doing it the other way around." --Ronald Reagan


"Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it." --John Adams


"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting.... The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues...."

--John Marshall, official eulogy of George Washington, delivered by Richard Henry Lee, 26 December 1799
"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man." --Thomas Jefferson about George Washington

In some circles, today is observed as "Presidents' Day," jointly recognizing Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but it is still officially recognized as the anniversary of "Washington's Birthday" -- and that is how we mark the date in our shop. (Washington's actual birthday is 22 February.)

As friend of The Patriot, Matthew Spaulding, a Heritage Foundation scholar, reminds: "Although it was celebrated as early as 1778, and by the early 19th Century was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday, Congress did not officially recognize Washington's Birthday as a national holiday until 1870. The Monday Holiday Law in 1968 -- applied to executive branch departments and agencies by Richard Nixon's Executive Order 11582 in 1971 -- moved the holiday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Section 6103 of Title 5, United States Code, currently designates that legal federal holiday as 'Washington's Birthday.' Contrary to popular opinion, no action by Congress or order by any President has changed 'Washington's Birthday' to 'Presidents' Day'."

In honor of and due respect for our first and (we believe) greatest president, arguably, our history's most outstanding Patriot, we include two quotes from George Washington which best embody his dedication to liberty and God. The first from his First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789, and the second from his Farewell Address, 19 September 1796.

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People."

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson


23184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 19, 2009, 12:04:25 AM
GM:  Any chance you could be persuaded to give a summary of all that, including your interpretation of the meaning of what was said there? smiley
23185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 18, 2009, 08:10:01 PM
I don't understand.   There no jungle canopy in Afg, the crops are in plain sight.  My understanding (you have PM) is that we are not fully trying because we fear the anger of all the people who make money from it.
The Taliban get their first wish
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Many Muslims believe that ancient Khorasan - which covers parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - is the promised land from where they will secure the first victory in the end-of-time battle in which the final round, according to their beliefs, will be fought in Bilad-i-Sham (Palestine-Lebanon-Syria).

The geographical borders of Bilad-i-Sham-Khorasan extend from Samarkand in Uzbekistan to the small Malakand division in the northern fringe of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) that includes the militant-dominated Swat Valley.

On Monday, at a time when United States Central Command chief General David Petraeus was trying to set up a supply route for troops in Afghanistan through Uzbekistan, in this extreme corner of the promised land of Khorasan - Malakand division - militants had every reason to celebrate.

Asif Ali Zardari, the strongly American-backed Pakistani president, and the provincial government of NWFP gave in to the demands of militants and announced a ceasefire, lifted a two-year-old curfew and announced the implementation of Islamic sharia law.

"All un-Islamic laws in the Malakand division of Swat, which is geographically one third of the whole [NWFP] province, have been abolished," the chief minister of NWFP, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, told the media after reaching an agreement with the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi, which is headed by Sufi Mohammad, the symbol of the sharia movement in Malakand division. The Islamic judicial system will be enforced by Islamic judges - qazi.

The accord is a significant victory for the Pakistan Taliban and could end two years of strife in the region which has seen militants pitted against Pakistani security forces.

The peace agreement will be complemented by a compensation package for the families of those killed and injured in the military operations. "[Families] of those who were killed will get 300,000 rupees [US$3,760] and those who were wounded will get 100,000 rupees," Hoti said. "The entire deal, Islamic laws and other packages related to the deal were completely approved by the president of Pakistan," he said.

"We have established a task force which will monitor the implementation of Islamic law, but enforcement will be bound by peace and the writ of the state," said Hoti. "The security forces now [after the signing of the agreement] will be in reactive rather than proactive mode. They will only retaliate if somebody tries to challenge the writ of the state," Hoti said.

The army's Inter-Services Public Relations confirmed that the curfew has been lifted, after two years, in Swat Valley. Militants have also announced a ceasefire for 10 days which is likely to extend for an indefinite period.

The developments in Malakand division coincide with the arrival in Afghanistan of close to 3,000 American soldiers as part of an extra 30,000 to boost the already 30,000 US troops in the country. The new contingent will be deployed in Logar province to secure violent provinces near the capital Kabul. Petraeus must now be thinking of how many more troops he will need to confront the additional Taliban fighters that will come from Malakand.

Taliban's victory: A curtain raiser to the spring battle

A key factor in the Taliban's revival after being driven from power by US-led forces in 2001 was that from 2004 they established a strong network in Pakistan that was coordinated by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A focal point of this was the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, which was stormed in July 2007 by Pakistani security forces to clear it of militants. The network extended into the Swat Valley, streamed into Bajaur Agency and Mohmand Agency from where militants fed the Afghan insurgency in Kunar and Nooristan provinces.

Other flows of militants into South Waziristan and North Waziristan, Kurram Agency and Khyber Agency respectively fed the Afghan insurgency in the provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost and Nangarhar provinces.

By this time, Western intelligence had realized that these developments in Pakistan were a major factor behind the "fireworks" in Afghanistan, and Islamabad was told as much. The Pakistanis were also warned that the militants could also launch a revolution in Pakistan. This was a major turning point in the "war on terror" in the South Asian theater.

For the first time, Islamabad felt a chill up its spine and viewed the situation from a different perspective - not as an American war in which its participation was drawn out of compulsion, but as a war necessary to maintain the status quo of its own system. This system was a blend of the country's deep relationship with the US and the perpetuation of the military oligarchy, combined with a particular brand of Islam that could co-exist with this setup.

The attack on the Lal Masjid was the first shot fired in this battle, and its reverberations soon spread to the Swat Valley, South Waziristan and then Bajaur Agency, in effect turning the whole of NWFP into a war theater. A series of military operations in the tribal areas drove the militants from stand-alone sanctuaries into population centers.

In Malakand, which includes the Swat area, the militants are a part of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban and the vanguard of the Taliban's cause in the region against Western occupation forces in Afghanistan and their ally - Pakistan. They have established their own writ with a parallel system that includes courts, police and even a electric power-distribution network and road construction, and all this is now official in the eyes of Islamabad.

All intelligence indicated that further concentration on military operations in Swat could lead to an expansion of the war theater into Pakistan's non-Pashtun cities, such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The security forces were already stretched and even faced rebellions.

These combined factors culminated in Monday's peace agreement, which is a major defeat for Washington as well as Pakistan, and it could also lead to a major setback for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Afghanistan come spring when hordes of better-trained fighters from Swat pour into Afghanistan.

The Taliban defeat American interests

To tame the militancy, Washington and London devised a plan in 2007, one aspect of which was for the military to take on the militants. At the same time, Pakistan was to move from a military dictatorship under president general Pervez Musharraf to a political government.

This happened in the beginning of last year with the formation of a democratically elected coalition government of secular and liberal parties involving among others the Pakistan People's Party, the Muttehida Quami Movement, the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam and the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid-i-Azam. It was envisaged that these parties would fully back the US's "war on terror".

Earlier, Washington had brokered a deal between former premier Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf, who was also chief of army staff, under which a National Reconciliation Ordinance was enacted to have all corruption cases against Bhutto and her spouse Asif Ali Zardari dropped. Under this arrangement, later, NWFP was handed over to the ANP, recognized as the most genuine secular political party.

The militants were onto the game. The first shot was the assassination of Bhutto by al-Qaeda in December 2007, which practically turned the whole American plan on its head and created a situation in which Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, an anti-Musharraf party, secured an unprecedented number of seats in parliament, leaving no option but for Musharraf, the most important American ally, to resign. But in time, the secular and liberal political parties in the capital became hostage to the militants.

Another setback for the pro-American forces was the brazen militant attack late last year on Asfandyar Wali, the leader of the ANP, at his home about 20 kilometers from the NWFP capital, Peshawar. He then fled first to Islamabad and later to Europe. Asfandyar had been groomed by the US through many visits to the US.

Asfandyar's departure resulted in half the leadership of the ANP, including the head of their foreign relations committee, Dr Himayun Khan, resigning. Their departure was hastened by dire threats from the Taliban. It was only a matter of time before the ANP's influence in NWFP was severely eroded. Ironically, the ANP, which sided with the Soviets against the Islamic Afghan resistance in the 1980s and put up fierce resistance to the enactment of Islamic laws in the country, has now become the main engine for the enforcement of sharia in NWFP where it technically rules.

On Tuesday, while Asfandyar has chosen to remain silent, his nephew and the chief minister of the province, Hoti, warned the federal government that any obstruction of the deal with the militants would be unacceptable.

Meanwhile, all schools in Swat, including girls' schools, were opened on Tuesday and thousands of people flocked to a cricket stadium to greet Sufi Mohammad, who will soon travel to Matta, a sub-district of Swat, to visit his son-in-law Mullah Fazlullah to try to persuade him to end the insurgency. For the first time in many months, all members of the provincial and federal parliament will visit the Swat Valley.

Pakistan's failure: How it tackled the militancy

During Musharraf's eight years in power, Pakistan was on board with both the US and Saudi Arabia over the "war on terror". This ensured that Pakistan received a steady supply of all sorts of resources, including deferment on oil payments from Saudi Arabia and special aid packages when Pakistan was badly hit by an earthquake in 2005. Washington mostly looked after Pakistan's military aid packages and reimbursement of expenses incurred in the "war on terror".

A few steps taken by Zardari, however, crumbled the setup like a house of cards. Immediately after taking over as president last September, in a very high-handed manner, Pakistan withdrew the hunting privileges of two Saudi princes located in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab. To add salt to the wound, the facility was given to a rival sheikh from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The action was taken at a time when Pakistan badly needed Saudi oil on deferred terms due to soaring prices, and the UAE was in no position to fill the gap. Islamabad now enjoys very good relations with the UAE - which is unable to help Pakistan - due to the family friendship between the Bhutto family and the UAE's rulers. But Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and its two major allies - Qatar and Bahrain - are at an all-time low because of the insult to the Saudi royal family. (The issue of Zardari's Shi'ite background is a secondary factor.)

Asia Times Online has learned that the newly installed US envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, was impressed in recent talks with the government to learn that chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani works fully in coordination with the political government and does not intervene in its affairs. The Swat operation is an example: the military immediately stopped action when the government announced the peace deal with the militants. All the same, the Pentagon will be waiting to receive Kiani in Washington soon to discuss why the Pakistan army failed in Swat.

However, Holbrooke was apparently concerned when he interacted with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and members of the cabinet. Gillani expressed his fears that the poor economic situation in Pakistan could hamper its efforts in the "war on terror". Holbrooke is said to have asked the premier how much money he would need to revive the economy. "As much as we can get," the premier replied, without giving specifics.

The dynamics of the region have changed once again. Nizam-i-Adal Regulation 2009, which proclaims the enforcement of sharia law in Malakand division, is indeed a written document of Pakistan's defeat in the American-inspired war in NWFP.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 
23186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This piece gets it right on: February 18, 2009, 09:06:15 AM

The world has gone from the greatest synchronized global economic boom in history to the first synchronized global bust since the Great Depression. How we got here is not a cautionary tale of free markets gone wild. Rather, it's the story of what can happen when governments ignore market signals and central bankers believe in endless booms.

Following the March 2000 Nasdaq bust, the Federal Reserve began to slash the fed-funds rate from 6.5% in January 2001 to 1.75% by year-end and then to 1% in 2003. (This despite the fact that officially the U.S. economy had begun to recover in November 2001). Almost three years into the economic expansion, the Fed began to increase the fed-funds rate in baby steps beginning June 2004 from 1% to 5.25% in August 2006.

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But because interest rates during this time continuously lagged behind nominal GDP growth as well as cost of living increases, the Fed never truly implemented tight monetary policies. Indeed, total credit increased in the U.S. from an annual growth rate of 7% in the June 2004 quarter to over 16% in early 2007. It grew five-times faster than nominal GDP between 2001 and 2007.

The complete mispricing of money, combined with a cornucopia of financial innovations, led to the housing boom and allowed buyers to purchase homes with no down payments and homeowners to refinance their existing mortgages. A consumption boom followed, which was not accompanied by equal industrial production and capital spending increases. Consequently the U.S. trade and current-account deficit expanded -- the latter from 2% of GDP in 1998 to 7% in 2006, thus feeding the world with approximately $800 billion in excess liquidity that year.

When American consumption began to boom on the back of the housing bubble, the explosion of imports into the U.S. were largely provided by China and other Asian countries. Rising exports from China led to that country's strong domestic industrial production, income and consumption gains, as well as very high capital spending as capacities needed to be expanded in order to meet the export demand. An economic boom in China drove the demand for oil and other commodities up. Rapidly accumulating wealth allowed the resource producers in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere to go on a shopping binge for luxury goods and capital goods from Europe and Japan.

As a consequence of this expansionary cycle, the world experienced between 2001 and 2007 the greatest synchronized economic boom in the history of capitalism. Past booms -- of the 19th century under colonial economies, or after World War II when 40% of the world's population remained under communism, socialism, or was otherwise isolated -- were not nearly as global as this one.

Another unique feature of this synchronized boom was that nearly all asset prices skyrocketed around the world -- real estate, equities, commodities, art, even bonds. Meanwhile, the Fed continued to claim that it was impossible to identify any asset bubbles.

The cracks first appeared in the U.S. in 2006, when home prices became unaffordable and began to decline. The overleveraged housing sector brought about the first failures in the subprime market.

Sadly, the entire U.S. financial system, for which the Fed is largely responsible, turned out to be terribly overleveraged and badly in need of capital infusions. Investors grew apprehensive and risk averse, while financial institutions tightened lending standards. In other words, while the Fed cut the fed-funds rate to zero after September 2007, it had no impact -- except temporarily on oil, which soared between September 2007 and July 2008 from $75 per barrel to $150 (another Fed induced bubble) -- because the private sector tightened monetary conditions.

In 2008, a collapse in all asset prices led to lower U.S. consumption, which caused plunging exports, lower industrial production, and less capital spending in China. This led to a collapse in commodity prices and in the demand for luxury goods and capital goods from Europe and Japan. The virtuous up-cycle turned into a vicious down-cycle with an intensity not witnessed since before World War II.

Sadly, government policy responses -- not only in the U.S. -- are plainly wrong. It is not that the free market failed. The mistake was constant interventions in the free market by the Fed and the U.S. Treasury that addressed symptoms and postponed problems instead of solving them.

The bad policy started with the bailout of Mexico following the Tequila crisis in 1994. This prolonged the Asian bubble of the 1990s, because investors became convinced there was no risk in growing current-account deficits and continued to finance Asia's emerging economies until the bubble burst with the start of the Asian crisis in 1997-98.

Then came the ill-advised bailout of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, which encouraged the financial sector to leverage up even more. This was followed by the ultra-expansionary monetary polices following the Nasdaq bubble in 2000, which led to rapid and unsustainable credit growth.

So what now? Unfortunately, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were, as Fed officials, among the chief architects of easy money and are therefore largely responsible for the credit bubble that got us here. Worse, their commitment to meddling in markets has only intensified with the adoption of near-zero interest rates and massive bank bailouts.

The best policy response would be to do nothing and let the free market correct the excesses brought about by unforgivable policy errors. Further interventions through ill-conceived bailouts and bulging fiscal deficits are bound to prolong the agony and lead to another slump -- possibly an inflationary depression with dire social consequences.

Mr. Faber is managing director of Marc Faber Ltd. and editor of "The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report."
23187  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: February 18, 2009, 08:36:30 AM
You may be sorry you asked , , ,  cheesy

After the failure of the second surgery (which was emotionally very discouraging to me because the docs could not understand why it had not worked) at my request the doctors put a cast on my leg from foot to hip to ensure success in the third surgery.   The transplanted tendon did "take", but the attendant atrophy on my already substantially diminished leg made created HUGE alignment and body mechanic issues.

 I strongly draw your attention to the imporatance of walking and moving evenly.  It can be very easy to carry the "gimpiness" provoked by the injury far, far longer than you realize and the bad movement then creates additional problems.

In my case while the cast was on my leg, unbeknownst to all, my hamstring partially adhered to my femur and this subtly and continuously caused my right pelvis to dislocate at the sacrum for several (6?) years.  Typically I was at the chiropractor 8-10 times a month.  Often pain would wake me up in the wee hours of the morning and I would have to stretch for an hour or two and self-medicate to get to where I could go back to sleep.  This was a very discouraging time, but in a sense it was my good fortunate that both Top Dog and Salty Dog were on sabbatical from fighting for various reasons (e.g. Salty's wife's brother had been murdered and there was a trial of the killer) and I felt that it was up to me as the remaining "name" fighter for the DBs to show up and represent for the Tribe , , , I did not think that the second wave was quite ready to stand on its own yet.

Having a cause, a mission to accomplish greatly helped me focus on doing what was necessary to get ready to fight.   For all I know without this I would have figured that bummer, I was done for.

It was only after Guro Inosanto introduced me to Barrance Baytoss, an extraordinary body worker (Kobe Bryant takes him on the road with him to keep him functioning high level, he works on world class sprinters, etc) that Barrance discovered the partially adhered hamstring and lifted it off the femur.   Then about 18 months of work in Pilates Gyrotonics with Ann Barber (another introduction by Guro Inosanto) got my hips to level out and stabilize.

Now I do have to do a lot of work to compensate for the continued susceptibility of the right hip to dislocate, rarely do I have to go to the chiropractor.

My caution to you is to think not in terms of the knee, but to think in terms of alignment.  As Sarah Pettit, yoga instructor to Guro Inosanto says (and here I am proud to say I introduced her to him) "Knees are escape valves for hips."  If your hips are tight or distorted in their alignment, then unfriendly pressures and forces will be sent to the knee.  Also make sure that your foot/ankle is lined up correctly with Mother Earth, lest once again, unfriendly pressures and forces flow through the knee.

23188  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kimo busted on: February 18, 2009, 08:13:17 AM
23189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Friedman: Good news from India on: February 18, 2009, 07:48:02 AM
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There are nine bodies — all of them young men — that have been lying in a Mumbai hospital morgue since Nov. 29. They may be stranded there for a while because no local Muslim charity is willing to bury them in its cemetery. This is good news.

The nine are the Pakistani Muslim terrorists who went on an utterly senseless killing rampage in Mumbai on 26/11 — India’s 9/11 — gunning down more than 170 people, including 33 Muslims, scores of Hindus, as well as Christians and Jews. It was killing for killing’s sake. They didn’t even bother to leave a note.

All nine are still in the morgue because the leadership of India’s Muslim community has called them by their real name — “murderers” not “martyrs” — and is refusing to allow them to be buried in the main Muslim cemetery of Mumbai, the 7.5-acre Bada Kabrastan graveyard, run by the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust.

“People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim,” Hanif Nalkhande, a spokesman for the trust, told The Times of London. Eventually, one assumes, they will have to be buried, but the Mumbai Muslims remain defiant.

“Indian Muslims are proud of being both Indian and Muslim, and the Mumbai terrorism was a war against both India and Islam,” explained M.J. Akbar, the Indian-Muslim editor of Covert, an Indian investigative journal. “Terrorism has no place in Islamic doctrine. The Koranic term for the killing of innocents is ‘fasad.’ Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis. In a beautiful verse, the Koran says that the killing of an innocent is akin to slaying the whole community. Since the ... terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery.”

To be sure, Mumbai’s Muslims are a vulnerable minority in a predominantly Hindu country. Nevertheless, their in-your-face defiance of the Islamist terrorists stands out. It stands out against a dismal landscape of predominantly Sunni Muslim suicide murderers who have attacked civilians in mosques and markets — from Iraq to Pakistan to Afghanistan — but who have been treated by mainstream Arab media, like Al Jazeera, or by extremist Islamist spiritual leaders and Web sites, as “martyrs” whose actions deserve praise.

Extolling or excusing suicide militants as “martyrs” has only led to this awful phenomenon — where young Muslim men and women are recruited to kill themselves and others — spreading wider and wider. What began in a targeted way in Lebanon and Israel has now proliferated to become an almost weekly occurrence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is a threat to any open society because when people turn themselves into bombs, they can’t be deterred, and the measures needed to interdict them require suspecting and searching everyone at any public event. And they are a particular threat to Muslim communities. You can’t build a healthy society on the back of suicide-bombers, whose sole objective is to wreak havoc by exclusively and indiscriminately killing as many civilians as possible.

If suicide-murder is deemed legitimate by a community when attacking its “enemies” abroad, it will eventually be used as a tactic against “enemies” at home, and that is exactly what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The only effective way to stop this trend is for “the village” — the Muslim community itself — to say “no more.” When a culture and a faith community delegitimizes this kind of behavior, openly, loudly and consistently, it is more important than metal detectors or extra police. Religion and culture are the most important sources of restraint in a society.

That’s why India’s Muslims, who are the second-largest Muslim community in the world after Indonesia’s, and the one with the deepest democratic tradition, do a great service to Islam by delegitimizing suicide-murderers by refusing to bury their bodies. It won’t stop this trend overnight, but it can help over time.

“The Muslims of Bombay deserve to be congratulated in taking this important decision,” Raashid Alvi, a Muslim member of India’s Parliament from the Congress Party, said to me. “Islam says that if you commit suicide, then even after death you will be punished.”

The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society. They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst.

It is why so few, if any, Indian Muslims are known to have joined Al Qaeda. And it is why, as outrageously expensive and as uncertain the outcome, trying to build decent, pluralistic societies in places like Iraq is not as crazy as it seems. It takes a village, and without Arab-Muslim societies where the villagers feel ownership over their lives and empowered to take on their own extremists — militarily and ideologically — this trend will not go away.
23190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 18, 2009, 07:36:14 AM
Fair enough  smiley

Returning to the discussion of the opium drug trade:

Like you, I have often wondered why we simply don't burn the fields.   As best as I can tell it is because we fear a massive response of anger on the part of all those who benefit from it.  Yet the opium trade finances the war against us, even as apparently it finances major corrupt chunks of the central government.

The cognitive dissonance of all this is perhaps the single hardest thing for me to get my mind around.


With the spring thaw fast approaching in Afghanistan, the White House and the Pentagon are trying to finalize a new strategy for the Afghan war. Meanwhile, logistical links to the isolated country are becoming more vulnerable, and Taliban attacks are on the rise in critical areas such as Kabul, the capital. As Washington continues to grapple with the complex challenges and objectives of its mission in Afghanistan, the clock is ticking for making much of an operational impact in 2009.

Reports emerged Feb. 17 that U.S. President Barack Obama will soon make an announcement authorizing the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. There are roughly 60,000 U.S. and NATO troops there now (split about evenly). Nearly 3,000 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division — the first additional unit to arrive as part of the surge strategy — landed in January. An additional 17,000 troops (first 8,000 Marines, followed by 9,000 soldiers) would bring the total to about 50,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Taking into account NATO forces, this would still be almost 30,000 shy of the peak Soviet military presence that failed to subdue U.S.-backed Islamist rebels in the country in the 1980s.

The 3rd BCT is already engaged in combat outside Kabul, and this fighting will only escalate as the weather improves. Beginning in March, the spring thaw in Afghanistan traditionally marks the beginning of campaign season as insurgents become more mobile. Attacks in Kabul and on supply routes in Pakistan already have increased, and Washington is trying to lock down alternative supply routes (part of broader negotiations with Russia) as U.S. and NATO forces face an entrenched insurgency that has extensive tribal contacts, support and refuge on the Pakistani side of the border.

(click image to enlarge)
Any surge in U.S./NATO troops and any increase in operational tempo will require a significant expansion of supporting infrastructure and supplies. As a proportion of forces already in country, the most aggressive proposed surge into Afghanistan would be much larger than the surge into Iraq. This means that existing infrastructure and supply lines will be even more heavily taxed than the ones in Iraq, even as these supply lines grow increasingly vulnerable and negotiations on alternatives continue to drag on. (Indeed, last week Bishkek threatened to close the heavily utilized air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan.) The surge into Afghanistan has been anticipated, preparations are under way and the Pakistani supply lines remain open — if increasingly tenuous. But March is fast approaching.

The Iraq surge provides an increasingly stark contrast to the proposed surge in Afghanistan (which, granted, will not simply be a cut-and-paste repeat of the Iraq strategy). Although the surge in Iraq was controversial, then-President George W. Bush was able to work from an already-defined strategy to move in decisive reinforcements over the course of five months. By this time in 2007, the second of five BCTs had already arrived in country. Commanders had a clear sense of the mission, the additional forces they would receive and the timetable on which they would arrive. Supply lines were short and secure.

Related Links
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Battlespace of the Border
Pakistan: The Khyber Pass and Western Logistics in Afghanistan
Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda
Countries in Crisis: Pakistan
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
Part 3: Making It on Its Own
But in Afghanistan, seasonal changes are far more extreme than those in Iraq, and they are compounded by high altitudes and rugged terrain. Hence, operational timing in Afghanistan is much more critical. Ideally, had there not been a U.S. presidential transition over the last few months, and had the Army deployment rotation schedule not been still reeling from the Iraq surge, a surge to Afghanistan would already be in place, with fresh forces taking advantage of the winter lull to establish security around the capital and, as spring took hold, to begin securing surrounding territory. Positioning forces before campaign season would maximize the time available to succeed before the next Afghan winter rolled around.

The reality is that the strategy and force structure of a surge in Afghanistan have continued to be formulated even after the surge began, and deployment of the additional 17,000 troops reportedly would not be complete until late summer (in time for Afghan elections in August).

In Iraq, history may well decide that the stars finally aligned for an effective surge of U.S. military force, which could be credited with breaking the cycle of violence long enough to allow for political accommodation. It is not at all clear how the stars will align in the Afghan theater, which is beset by cross-border issues with Pakistan, and where governments in Kabul and Islamabad are wracked with infighting and myriad other internal problems. Indeed, the deteriorating conditions in both countries are inextricably linked, and any security gains and tactical victories made thanks to more U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan might make little difference.

23191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Knock me down with a feather! on: February 18, 2009, 07:27:37 AM
WASHINGTON — Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared — prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.

In an interview, the White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, asserted that the administration was not embracing Mr. Bush’s approach to the world. But Mr. Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any “shoot from the hip” and “bumper sticker slogans” approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.

“We are charting a new way forward, taking into account both the security of the American people and the need to obey the rule of law,” Mr. Craig said. “That is a message we would give to the civil liberties people as well as to the Bush people.”

Within days of his inauguration, Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials.

But in more recent weeks, things have become murkier.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were “not sufficient” to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for “additional authority.”

To be sure, Mr. Panetta emphasized that the president could not bypass antitorture statutes, as Bush lawyers claimed. And he said that waterboarding — a technique that induces the sensation of drowning, and that the Bush administration said was lawful — is torture.

But Mr. Panetta also said the C.I.A. might continue its “extraordinary rendition” program, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings, in a more sweeping form than anticipated.

Before the Bush administration, the program primarily involved taking indicted suspects to their native countries for legal proceedings. While some detainees in the 1990s were allegedly abused after transfer, under Mr. Bush the program expanded and included transfers to third countries — some of which allegedly used torture — for interrogation, not trials.

Mr. Panetta said the agency is likely to continue to transfer detainees to third countries and would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment — the same safeguard the Bush administration used, and that critics say is ineffective.

Mr. Craig noted that while Mr. Obama decided “not to change the status quo immediately,” he created a task force to study “rendition policy and what makes sense consistent with our obligation to protect the country.”

He urged patience as the administration reviewed the programs it inherited from Mr. Bush. That process began after the election, Mr. Craig said, when military and C.I.A. leaders flew to Chicago for a lengthy briefing of Mr. Obama and his national security advisers. Mr. Obama then sent his advisers to C.I.A. headquarters to “find out the best case for continuing the practices that had been employed during the Bush administration.”

Civil liberties groups praise Mr. Obama’s early executive orders on national security, but say other signs are discouraging.

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For example, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department last week told an appeals court that the Bush administration was right to invoke “state secrets” to shut down a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees who say a Boeing subsidiary helped fly them to places where they were tortured.

Margaret Satterthwaite, a faculty director at the human rights center at the New York University law school, said, “It was literally just Bush redux — exactly the same legal arguments that we saw the Bush administration present to the court.”

Mr. Craig said Mr. Holder and others reviewed the case and “came to the conclusion that it was justified and necessary for national security” to maintain their predecessor’s stance. Mr. Holder has also begun a review of every open Bush-era case involving state secrets, Mr. Craig said, so people should not read too much into one case.

“Every president in my lifetime has invoked the state-secrets privilege,” Mr. Craig said. “The notion that invoking it in that case somehow means we are signing onto the Bush approach to the world is just an erroneous assumption.”

Still, the decision caught the attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Two days after the appeals court hearing, they filed legislation to bar using the state-secrets doctrine to shut down an entire case — as opposed to withholding particular evidence.

The administration has also put off taking a stand in several cases that present opportunities to embrace or renounce Bush-era policies, including the imprisonment without trial of an “enemy combatant” on domestic soil, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking legal opinions about interrogation and surveillance, and an executive-privilege dispute over Congressional subpoenas of former White House aides to Mr. Bush over the firing of United States attorneys.

Addressing the executive-privilege dispute, Mr. Craig said: “The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened. But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle.”

The administration’s recent policy moves have attracted praise from outspoken defenders of the Bush administration. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page argued that “it seems that the Bush administration’s antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy” as Mr. Obama’s team embraces aspects of Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism approach.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the sequence of “disappointing” recent events had heightened concerns that Mr. Obama might end up carrying forward “some of the most problematic policies of the Bush presidency.”

Mr. Obama has clashed with civil libertarians before. Last July, he voted to authorize eavesdropping on some phone calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. While the A.C.L.U. says the program is still unconstitutional, the legislation reduced legal concerns about one of the most controversial aspects of Mr. Bush’s antiterror strategy.

“We have been some of the most articulate and vociferous critics of the way the Bush administration handled things,” Mr. Craig said. “There has been a dramatic change of direction.”

23192  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self Defense with Pistols on: February 18, 2009, 12:56:44 AM
Welcome to the conversation.  Quality post for popping your cherry.  smiley
23193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia sacrifices Iran? on: February 17, 2009, 11:15:47 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran the Sacrificial Lamb?
February 17, 2009
The Russian government confirmed Monday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time in Geneva on March 6. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also commented on recent “signals sent by the U.S. administration” and stated clearly that removing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program could lead to “more profound talks on cooperation on missile defense.” Ryabkov added that Russia has shown no signs that it will toughen its position on Iran just now, but that diplomatic efforts should be stepped up in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.

The signals that Ryabkov was referring to were statements by Clinton and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns that linked negotiations on U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Central Europe to the Iranian nuclear issue. In short, the Obama administration has been signaling that if Russia does its part to cooperate in containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Washington will be open to addressing Moscow’s concerns over its plans to install BMD facilities in Europe.

In what appears to be the first public Russian response to the BMD-Iran proposal, Russia is hinting that it might throw Iran under the bus, but is waiting to see what kind of a deal Clinton offers when she meets with Lavrov in Geneva. Moscow has a long list of demands for Washington that includes everything from BMD to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe to the renegotiation of nuclear arms treaties. The United States, meanwhile, needs Russia’s cooperation in its efforts to establish non-Pakistan supply routes for troops in Afghanistan and curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. This is where the BMD connection comes in: The BMD installations being planned for Europe are designed primarily to thwart a possible intercontinental ballistic missile attack from Iran. If the Iranian nuclear threat could be eliminated with Moscow’s help, the entire justification for BMD in Europe dissolves — giving Russia the breathing space it has been seeking.

While the Poles, the Czechs and the Baltic states — all of whom have been counting on the BMD plan to shield them from Russia — are feeling some trepidation as these statements emanate from Washington and Moscow, the Iranians should be feeling especially fearful just now. There is no love lost between Russia and Iran. The brief Soviet occupation of northern Iran during World War II is still remembered, and the Iranians know that Russia’s current interest in Tehran is born out of Moscow’s tactical desire to capture U.S. attention on strategic issues such as BMD. So, whenever Russia feels the need to catch Washington’s ear, it issues vague threats about supplying Iran with the S-300 air defense system or completing the Bushehr nuclear facility.

Though Tehran knows that nine times out of 10 its support from its Russian allies is more rhetorical than material, it relies on Moscow’s backing as a means of leverage against the West, particularly on issues concerning its nuclear program and Iraq. At the same time, Russia is well aware of all the talk about the United States and Iran patching up their differences and publicly engaging each other. From Moscow’s point of view, it could be only a matter of time before Iran starts shifting toward the West, so the Kremlin might as well derive as much tactical utility from its relationship with Tehran as possible, while it still can.

A visit by Iran’s defense minister to Moscow on Monday gave Russia and Iran another chance to highlight their relationship and concern Washington with ambiguous talk of greater missile cooperation — but Iran might not be able to count on the Russians for much longer. Ultimately, Moscow’s core concerns revolve around protecting Russian influence in the former Soviet region, so that it can survive in the long term as a regional power. That means doing whatever it takes to ensure that EU enlargement and BMD plans for Europe are scrapped, so the Russians don’t have to worry about having American troops within a few miles of their borders. If Russia must sacrifice its relatively superficial relationship with Iran to make that happen, Iran could soon be left without a great power backer.

The Iranians are facing presidential elections in June and have yet to decide exactly which direction they will steer in negotiations with the United States, but Tehran could use the support of an ally like Russia if and when it chooses to engage with Washington over the future of Iraq. There are a number of issues still to discuss with the United States: Tehran wants guarantees of influence in Iraq and the wider region and security assurances that Iraq’s U.S.-backed military force will not become a problem for Iran down the road. At the same time, the Iranians are hoping they can get through these negotiations without having to concede a great deal on their nuclear program. A withdrawal of Russian support — no matter how symbolic that support might be — would deflate Tehran’s negotiating position. It would either lead to a lonely Iran dealing with the United States or give Iran more reason to stall until it can find some way to reboot, perhaps through the use of its militant proxies in various parts of the world.

In any case, this appears to be a gamble that Washington is willing to take while it forges ahead in dealing with the Russians.
23194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Negotiating Away the Writ of the State on: February 17, 2009, 07:55:17 PM
Thank you.  I hope to have time to continue our conversation in a few hours.  Right now I simply do a drive-by paste of a post on matters only distantly related to what we were discussing, but nonetheless I hope you find it of interest.

Pakistan: Negotiating Away the Writ of the State
Stratfor Today » February 17, 2009 | 1515 GMT

A delegation from an Islamist militant movement leaves after talks with Pakistani officials in PeshawarSummary
Provincial authorities in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province announced Feb. 16 that they will implement a new Shariah-based regulation as part of a deal with Pashtun jihadist forces in the Swat region to end the insurgency there. This move likely will not achieve the authorities’ desired results, due to disagreements among Pakistan’s various stakeholders regarding this initiative and the Taliban’s drive to expand their sphere of operations in Pakistan. Not only will the process further erode the writ of the Pakistani state it will also undermine U.S. interests in neighboring Afghanistan.

The provincial government of the left-leaning secular Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) announced Feb. 16 that it reached an agreement with Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the founder of the Islamist militant group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of Shariah, to end the jihadist insurgency in the area. In exchange for peace, the government has agreed to implement Shariah-based regulations in a wide area of the province formerly known as the Malakand Division and is centered around the restive Swat region. Militants in the Swat region called a 10-day cease-fire the night before talks with the government, and in another gesture of goodwill released a Chinese engineer on Feb. 14, kidnapped five months earlier. Maulana Sufi is now expected to convene a meeting of the TNSM’s leadership council to get the movement to agree to end the fighting.

The TNSM is one of the two largest Pashtun jihadist groups in Pakistan that fall under the Taliban umbrella and have ties to al Qaeda. The Feb. 16 deal is the latest in a string of peace initiatives attempted over the past several months to contain the insurgency, given Pakistan’s inability to use force to settle the issue.

Getting the militants to end the fighting is not the only complication in carrying out this preliminary peace deal (which has no set time frame). There are disagreements within the government at various levels about the idea of bending to the Taliban’s demands. While NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti has called for support for his government’s move to implement the Shariah-based laws — the Nizam-i-Adl (Justice System) Regulations-2009 — and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has expressed for the negotiated settlement, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he would not endorse the new deal unless it was clear that the insurgency had been brought to an end.

Furthermore, there are growing rifts between the prime minister and president (both from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party), with the army reportedly backing Gilani to contain Zardari. But even before the central government makes a decision on the peace deal, the provincial government must craft the new legislation. This presents another world of problems, since there are already several existing Shariah laws on the books as a result of several decades’ worth of attempts to deal with the problem of a non-functioning legal and judicial system. The TNSM’s rise was due largely in part to its ability to exploit the chaotic situation with law and order in the area and the ultraconservative religious local culture.

Assuming that the negotiated area does get a new set of religious laws — which is not likely — the move will not lead to the containment of the jihadist insurgency. If anything, the government’s weak negotiating position will only consolidate the Taliban’s influence in the region — not only in Swat, but in the area covered by the deal, including at least the districts of Malakand, Dir, Swat, Shangla and Buner. This is not the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) — the historically autonomous small region straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — but Pakistan proper, and these districts form a major sub-set of the northern part of the NWFP. This indicates just how far things have deteriorated.

With the NWFP’s southern districts along the tribal badlands also experiencing a creeping Talibanization, a Pakistani Taliban stronghold in the north could very well translate into the province falling to the Taliban in the not too distant future. Put differently, the FATA, NWFP and even the northwestern part of Balochistan (the southwestern province’s Pashtun corridor) could exhibit Afghanistan-like conditions where Pakistani security forces would have to struggle harder to impose the waning writ of the state.

Clearly, this potential scenario has massive implications for the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan. Washington, already alarmed at Pakistan’s inability and/or unwillingness to contain the jihadist threat, has intensified its unilateral air strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal belt. The largest such attacks took place Feb. 14, and one occurred Feb. 16 in Kurram agency — an area where U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle attacks have not happened before. Should the situation continue to deteriorate as a result of this peacemaking, U.S. forces could be forced to strike deeper into Pakistan proper in the NWFP and Balochistan provinces where both al Qaeda and Taliban high-value targets are likely located. Furthermore, the Feb. 16 deal raises more doubts about the viability of the NATO supply route that runs from Peshawar to the Khyber Pass.

More importantly, this peace deal offers the Obama administration a glimpse of what to expect as it moves toward a political settlement with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Should the deal with the militants in Pakistan lead to the establishment of a Taliban “emirate” of sorts centered in Swat, it will only further embolden the Afghan Taliban as they push for a comeback. And a return of the Taliban to the corridors of power in Afghanistan could prove detrimental to the security of Pakistan.

This is ironic considering that the Pakistani state supports the return of a Taliban-dominated regime in Kabul. In the past, such a regime served Pakistani national security interests . But with the Talibanization of the Pakistani northwest — especially in the last two years — the Pakistanis have lost control of their own territory and are not in a position to regain influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, if the United States allows Pakistan to become involved in Washington’s negotiations with the Taliban, Islamabad will not be seizing an opportunity to project power beyond its borders; rather, it will be looking to protect itself from a threat that is both internal and external.

Between the Pakistanis playing defense and the United States struggling to craft a strategy for Afghanistan, the outlook is very bleak for Southwest Asia.

23195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2009, 11:23:02 AM
Woof JKrenz:

We are very glad to have you here with us.  Thank you.

Question:  The article mentions the money paid to shoot an RPG at a HumVee of ours.   From where does this money come?  Is is not the opium trade?  And do we not fear to take on the opium trade because some huge % of all economic activity there is based upon the opium trade?  How can success be built from this dynamic?

Thank you,
23196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Vitamin pills a false hope? on: February 17, 2009, 09:23:19 AM
Vitamin Pills: A False Hope?
Published: February 16, 2009

Ever since the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Linus Pauling first promoted “megadoses” of essential nutrients 40 years ago, Americans have been devoted to their vitamins. Today about half of all adults use some form of dietary supplement, at a cost of $23 billion a year.

But are vitamins worth it? In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.

The latest news came last week after researchers in the Women’s Health Initiative study tracked eight years of multivitamin use among more than 161,000 older women. Despite earlier findings suggesting that multivitamins might lower the risk for heart disease and certain cancers, the study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, found no such benefit.

Last year, a study that tracked almost 15,000 male physicians for a decade reported no differences in cancer or heart disease rates among those using vitamins E and C compared with those taking a placebo. And in October, a study of 35,000 men dashed hopes that high doses of vitamin E and selenium could lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Of course, consumers are regularly subjected to conflicting reports and claims about the benefits of vitamins, and they seem undeterred by the news — to the dismay of some experts.

“I’m puzzled why the public in general ignores the results of well-done trials,” said Dr. Eric Klein, national study coordinator for the prostate cancer trial and chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. “The public’s belief in the benefits of vitamins and nutrients is not supported by the available scientific data.”

Everyone needs vitamins, which are essential nutrients that the body can’t produce on its own. Inadequate vitamin C leads to scurvy, for instance, and a lack of vitamin D can cause rickets.

But a balanced diet typically provides an adequate level of these nutrients, and today many popular foods are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. As a result, diseases caused by nutrient deficiency are rare in the United States.

In any event, most major vitamin studies in recent years have focused not on deficiencies but on whether high doses of vitamins can prevent or treat a host of chronic illnesses. While people who eat lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables have long been known to have lower rates of heart disease and cancer, it hasn’t been clear whether ingesting high doses of those same nutrients in pill form results in a similar benefit.

In January, an editorial in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that most trials had shown no cancer benefits from vitamins — with a few exceptions, like a finding that calcium appeared to lower the recurrence of precancerous colon polyps by 15 percent.

But some vitamin studies have also shown unexpected harm, like higher lung cancer rates in two studies of beta carotene use. Another study suggested a higher risk of precancerous polyps among users of folic acid compared with those in a placebo group.

In 2007, The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed mortality rates in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements. In 47 trials of 181,000 participants, the rate was 5 percent higher among the antioxidant users. The main culprits were vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin E; vitamin C and selenium seemed to have no meaningful effect.

“We call them essential nutrients because they are,” said Marian L. Neuhouser, an associate member in cancer prevention at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “But there has been a leap into thinking that vitamins and minerals can prevent anything from fatigue to cancer to Alzheimer’s. That’s where the science didn’t pan out.”

Everyone is struggling to make sense of the conflicting data, said Andrew Shao, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a vitamin industry trade group. Consumers and researchers need to “redefine our expectations for these nutrients,” he said. “They aren’t magic bullets.”

Part of the problem, he said, may stem from an inherent flaw in the way vitamins are studied. With drugs, the gold standard for research is a randomized clinical trial in which some patients take a drug and others a placebo. But vitamins are essential nutrients that people ingest in their daily diets; there is no way to withhold them altogether from research subjects.

Vitamins given in high doses may also have effects that science is only beginning to understand. In a test tube, cancer cells gobble up vitamin C, and studies have shown far higher levels of vitamin C in tumor cells than are found in normal tissue.

The selling point of antioxidant vitamins is that they mop up free radicals, the damaging molecular fragments linked to aging and disease. But some free radicals are essential to proper immune function, and wiping them out may inadvertently cause harm.

In a study at the University of North Carolina, mice with brain cancer were given both normal and vitamin-depleted diets. The ones who were deprived of antioxidants had smaller tumors, and 20 percent of the tumor cells were undergoing a type of cell death called apoptosis, which is fueled by free radicals. In the fully nourished mice, only 3 percent of tumor cells were dying.

“Most antioxidants are also pro-oxidants,” said Dr. Peter H. Gann, professor and director of research in the department of pathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “In the right context and the right dose, they may be able to cause problems rather than prevent them.”

Scientists suspect that the benefits of a healthful diet come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual vitamins found in it. “There may not be a single component of broccoli or green leafy vegetables that is responsible for the health benefits,” Dr. Gann said. “Why are we taking a reductionist approach and plucking out one or two chemicals given in isolation?”

Even so, some individual vitamin research is continuing. Scientists are beginning to study whether high doses of whole-food extracts can replicate the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet. And Harvard researchers are planning to study whether higher doses of vitamin D in 20,000 men and women can lower risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

“Vitamin D looks really promising,” said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an investigator on several Harvard vitamin studies. “But we need to learn the lessons from the past. We should wait for large-scale clinical trials before jumping on the vitamin bandwagon and taking high doses.”

23197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: February 17, 2009, 09:07:10 AM
Here is the key question:  Change the message to , , , what?

Something like this? 


WASHINGTON — President Obama must wish governors could vote in Congress: While just three of the 219 Republican lawmakers backed the $787 billion economic recovery plan that he is signing into law on Tuesday, that trifling total would have been several times greater if support among the 22 Republican state executives counted.

The contrast reflects the two faces of the Republican Party these days.

Leaderless after losing the White House, the party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.

In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic — their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled — conservatism.

Governors, unlike members of Congress, have to balance their budgets each year. And that requires compromise with state legislators, including Democrats, as well as more openness to the occasional state tax increase and to deficit-spending from Washington.

Across the country, from California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger to Florida’s Charlie Crist and New England’s Jim Douglas in Vermont and M. Jodi Rell in Connecticut, Republican governors showed in the stimulus debate that they could be allies with Mr. Obama even as Congressional Republicans spurned him.

“It really is a matter of perspective,” Mr. Crist said in an interview. “As a governor, the pragmatism that you have to exercise because of the constitutional obligation to balance your budget is a very compelling pull” generally.

With Florida facing a projected $5 billion shortfall in a $66 billion budget, and social costs rising, the stimulus package “helps plug that hole,” Mr. Crist said, “but it also helps us meet the needs of the people in a very difficult economic time.”

Mr. Obama’s two-year stimulus package includes more than $135 billion for states, to help them pay for education, Medicaid and infrastructure projects. Yet even that sum would cover less than half of the total budget deficits the states will face through 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research and advocacy organization.

The states’ reliance on the federal government in times of distress will be showcased this weekend, when the governors come to Washington for their annual winter meeting. Their focus will be on infrastructure needs and home foreclosures.

The disconnect between Republican members of Congress and governors recalls the mid-1990s, when Republicans took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. After an initial public show of being partners in a “Republican revolution,” the partnership all but dissolved when governors strongly objected as the more dogmatic conservatives in Congress tried to cut domestic programs and then shut down the federal government in an unsuccessful showdown with President Bill Clinton.

Recently, Governors Schwarzenegger, Crist, Douglas and Rell joined 14 Democratic governors in signing a letter to Mr. Obama lauding his economic plan. Other Republicans would have signed on, said a person familiar with the letter’s drafting, but for party pressure in their states.

The National Governors Association sent a bipartisan letter of support to Congressional leaders of both parties, signed by its Democratic chairman, Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Douglas, its Republican vice chairman. “The combination of funds for Medicaid, education and other essential services is critical for governors as they work to manage the downturn in their states and improve government for the long term,” it said.

Mr. Crist even campaigned last week with Mr. Obama in Florida for the recovery package.

“Whether it’s teachers or people on road crews helping our infrastructure, those in the health care arena as it might relate to Medicaid, all of these areas are important, all of them can produce jobs,” Mr. Crist said, adding, “Regardless of what your party is, Republican or Democrat, it really doesn’t matter. We have a duty and an obligation to the people who elected us, no matter what our position happens to be, to work together to get through this thing.”

Yet all 16 of Florida’s Republicans in Congress voted against the package. Representative Cliff Stearns condemned it during the final debate as an “unprecedented big-government grab for citizen reliance on the federal government.” Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, called the bill “a steaming pile of garbage” on his cable television talk show.

The House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, angrily dumped the 1,073-page bill to the floor during debate. In the Senate, John McCain of Arizona called it “nothing less than generational theft.” And Republicans in both chambers derided what they described, often misleadingly, as pork spending for the likes of marsh mouse preservation.

Many projects, however, reflected the job-creation wish lists that governors had sent in.

Utah’s Republican governor, Jon Huntsman Jr. sought up to $14.4 billion for roads, rail and sewer projects and for construction of a prison, courthouses and veterans’ nursing homes. Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, another Republican, came to Washington to discuss transportation projects with his state’s Congressional delegation. “He’s going to make sure Alabama doesn’t miss out on the money we’re entitled to,” a spokesman said.

Mr. Obama began courting the governors before taking office. He invited them to Independence Hall in Philadelphia in December to discuss the economic challenges. Nearly all accepted.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Obama had “a special word” for the Republicans: “I offer you the same hand of friendship and cooperation that I offer our Democratic governors.” He deferred to Mr. Douglas, the Vermont Republican, to steer the discussion.

Privately, Republicans favorably contrasted Mr. Obama with the outgoing Republican president, George W. Bush, according to two participants.

Though Mr. Bush had been a governor — in good economic times — his relations with state executives were distant at best. Amid a downturn early in the decade, he unsuccessfully opposed $20 billion for the states. Last fall, he resisted some Republicans’ pleas for aid.

Mr. Douglas in January sought a meeting with the new administration at the White House office that is a liaison to governors. Instead, he got an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Obama.

When reporters briefly came in — the two men flanked the fireplace just as presidents and foreign heads of state typically do — Mr. Douglas praised Mr. Obama for his leadership. The stimulus bill “might be a little different” if he had written it, the Republican said. “But the essence of a recovery package is essential to get our nation’s economy moving.”

23198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / two from the NYT on: February 17, 2009, 09:03:35 AM
second post of the morning:

Last June, Bakht Bilind Khan, who was living in the Bronx and working at a fast-food restaurant, returned to his village in the volatile Swat Valley of northern Pakistan to visit his wife and seven children for the first time in three years.

Until recently, the Swat Valley was popular as a vacation site.
But at a dinner celebration with his family, his homecoming suddenly turned dark: several heavily armed Taliban fighters wearing masks appeared at the door of their house, accused Mr. Khan of being an American spy and kidnapped him.

During two weeks of captivity in a nearby mountain range, Mr. Khan says, he was interrogated repeatedly about his wealth, property and “mission” in the United States. He was released in exchange for an $8,000 ransom. His family, threatened with death if they did not leave the region, is now hiding elsewhere in Pakistan.

“Our Swat, our paradise, is burning now,” said Mr. Khan, 55, who returned to the United States and is working at a fast-food restaurant in Albany, trying to reimburse the friends and relatives who paid his ransom.

Pakistani immigrants from the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been battling Pakistani security forces since 2007, say some of their families are being singled out for threats, kidnapping and even murder by Taliban forces, who view them as potential American collaborators and lucrative sources of ransom. Some immigrants also say they, too, have been threatened in the United States by the Taliban or its sympathizers, and some immigrants say they have been attacked or kidnapped when they have returned home.

The threats have brought an added dimension of suffering for the immigrants, who say fresh reports of hardship arrive here every day, sometimes several times a day, and spread quickly among the several thousand Swati immigrants in the New York region: families driven from their villages, houses being destroyed, relatives disappearing. The fate of the valley dominates conversation among the exiles.

“It’s 24/7,” said Zakrya Khan, 30, the owner of two gyro restaurants in New York whose staff of 15 is almost entirely Swati. “This is their only concern now.”

Though every community of exiles from a conflict-ridden country suffers when relatives who remain behind are caught in the fight, the immigrants from Swat also bear the burden of believing that their presence in America is endangering their relatives back home, where the Taliban have imposed their authority over vast swaths of the region, about 100 miles northwest of Islamabad.

More than that, Swati immigrants say they have been left with the sense that the more they try to help their families back home, the more harm they may do, an excruciating dilemma that has filled many with a combination of helplessness, fear, sadness and guilt.

If they speak out, they fear, it could lead to retribution for them or their relatives in Pakistan. Some exiles who have participated in anti-Taliban political demonstrations here or agitated in support of Swat residents say that they and their families have come under pressure as a result of these activities.

And few dare leave the United States for fear of losing the single largest income stream their families have.

“To go to their rescue would actually make the situation worse,” said Mr. Khan, the restaurant owner. “We are the only source of income for these people. If we leave the United States, they’ll have no one supporting them.”

The Pakistan government announced Monday that it had struck a tentative deal with the Taliban amid a 10-day ceasefire to establish Islamic law in the region and suspend military operations there. But some Swati immigrants said they were skeptical the deal would hold — two other accords in the last six months failed — and they were bracing for a resumption of violence.

Iqbal Ali Khan, 50, the general secretary of the American chapter of the Awami National Party, a dominant secular political party in Swat, said he had received three threatening phone calls in the past two months. The callers, who did not identify themselves, told Mr. Khan he was “too active” and ordered him to bring $1 million with him on his next trip to Pakistan.

“Or you know what will happen,” one caller said, according to Mr. Khan, who is also the owner of a limousine company based in Queens. “We know your family.”

The most recent call came last Tuesday. “You’re still active,” Mr. Khan quoted the caller as saying. “This is the last warning.”

On Wednesday, he received a dire call from his brother, who at that very moment was hiding in a forest on the outskirts of the valley’s largest city, Mingora, with their 97-year-old father.

Page 2 of 2)

The elder Mr. Khan had received a letter from the Taliban earlier in the day warning him that he would be kidnapped unless he handed over $200,000. The note specifically instructed the father to get the money from his son in the United States.

Iqbal Ali Khan, the general secretary of the American chapter of the Awami National Party, a dominant secular political party in Swat, says he has been receiving threatening telephone calls.

“My 97-year-old father is on the run,” exclaimed the younger Mr. Khan, his voice choking up in sadness. “Tragedy! Tragedy!”

Before the start of the Taliban’s incursion into the region in 2007, Swat was treasured as a vacation spot, particularly among Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the region. Known as “the Switzerland of Pakistan,” it has snowy peaks, fruit orchards, lakes and flower-covered meadows.

But the tourism industry has evaporated amid the Taliban’s uprising, and by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of residents have abandoned their homes, fleeing for Mingora or other regions of Pakistan. Immigrants have been coming from the Swat Valley for years, well before it became a front in the war between the Taliban and Pakistani government troops. There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people from the Swat Valley in the United States, about half of whom live in the New York metropolitan region, said Taj Akbar Khan, president of the Khyber Society USA, a Pakistani charitable and cultural organization. In New York, Swatis generally live within the larger Pakistani population, which is concentrated in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens, among other neighborhoods.

Many Swatis here suspect that the Taliban have spies among them; that insecurity mirrors the rampant mistrust in the valley, where many residents fear the Pakistani security forces almost as much as the Taliban and do not know whom to trust.

Perhaps with the help of stateside sympathizers, the Taliban have been adept at tracking the flow of money from the United states, and have turned increasingly to kidnapping recipients of the money with the goal of securing hefty ransoms, the exiles say.

Ajab, the owner of a fried chicken shop in Paterson, N.J., said the Taliban kidnapped a brother-in-law last year near the family’s village in the Swat Valley.

During 75 days of captivity, the Taliban fighters told the brother-in-law that one of the reasons they had kidnapped him was that he had relatives in the United States, including Ajab. The fighters released him after the family paid a $20,000 ransom.

“We are sad that because of us, our relatives are getting into trouble,” said Ajab, 51, who spoke only on the condition that his last name not be published, to protect his family’s identity.

Not all of the violence visited upon the families of exiles has been due to the exiles’ presence here. But the difficulty of watching it at such a remove has been no less agonizing.

Leaving behind his family in Swat, Jihanzada came to the United States in 2001 to earn money to build his dream house back home and to pay for the future weddings of his five children. He worked numerous menial jobs in Boston and New York.

“Everything I earned I sent back home,” he said in an interview last week at a fast-food restaurant in Brooklyn where he works.

He, too, spoke on the condition that he not be fully identified for fear of alerting the Taliban to his presence in the United States. “If they knew I was here, they would definitely harm my family,” he said. “If they got information that I talked to you, they can come and target me.”

The house was completed early last year; Jihanzada still has not seen it: he has not returned to Pakistan since he left eight years ago.

But during fighting last summer between the Taliban and the Pakistani security forces, a bomb dropped by Pakistani military aircraft demolished the house. Jihanzada’s family had evacuated before the fighting began and are now living in Mingora. His eldest daughter’s wedding, scheduled for next month, was postponed.

Jihanzada, who said he could not return to Pakistan because he had an asylum petition pending, received photographs of the destruction soon after the attack. Asked how he felt when he first saw the photographs, he dropped his head, concealing his face behind the brim of his brown restaurant cap and trying to stem a surge of sadness. He stayed like that for a full minute, saying nothing.

Finally, he continued: “This is every Pashtun’s dream: You earn, you build a home, your children grow up in it and when you get old you go and sit at home and enjoy life. I’m sad because my struggles start again.”



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The government announced Monday that it would accept a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and agreed to a truce, effectively conceding the area as a Taliban sanctuary and suspending a faltering effort by the army to crush the insurgents.

Pakistanis in Miran Shah, near the Afghan border, on Sunday at funerals of people described as victims of a United States missile attack on a Taliban compound.

The concessions to the militants, who now control about 70 percent of the region just 100 miles from the capital, were criticized by Pakistani analysts as a capitulation by a government desperate to stop Taliban abuses and a military embarrassed at losing ground after more than a year of intermittent fighting. About 3,000 Taliban militants have kept 12,000 government troops at bay and terrorized the local population with floggings and the burning of schools.

The accord came less than a week before the first official visit to Washington of the Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to meet Obama administration officials and discuss how Pakistan could improve its tactics against what the American military is now calling an industrial-strength insurgency there of Al Qaeda and the Taliban militants.

The militants have also made deep gains in neighboring Afghanistan, where the United States is sending more troops.

Pakistani government officials insisted the truce with the Taliban and the switch to the Shariah, the Islamic legal code, were consistent with the Constitution and presented no threat to the integrity of the nation.

But the truce offered by the Taliban, and accepted by the authorities, rebuffed American demands for the Pakistani civilian and military authorities to stick with the fight against the militants, not make deals with them.

Under the terms of the accord, the chief minister of the province, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, said that Pakistani troops would now go on “reactive mode” and fight only in retaliation for an attack.

Announced by the government of the North-West Frontier Province after consultation with President Asif Ali Zardari, the pact echoed previous government accords with the militants across Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas in North and South Waziristan.

Those regions have since become a mini-state for Qaeda and Taliban militants, who are now the focus of missile strikes by remotely piloted American aircraft. On Monday, what was thought to be a drone strike in Kurram, a separate area close to the Afghan border, killed 31 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Analysts are now suggesting that the drone strikes may be pushing the Taliban, and even some Qaeda elements, out of the tribal belt and into Swat, making the valley more important to the Taliban.

Speaking in India on the last leg of his trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, did not address the truce directly but said the turmoil in Swat served as a reminder that the United States, Pakistan and India faced an “enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals, and our people.”

Pakistani legal experts and other analysts warned that the decision by the authorities would embolden militants in other parts of the country.

“This means you have surrendered to a handful of extremists,” said Athar Minallah, a leader of a lawyers’ movement that has campaigned for an independent judiciary. “The state is under attack; instead of dealing with them as aggressors, the government has abdicated.”

Shuja Nawaz, the author of “Crossed Swords,” a book on the Pakistani military, said that with the accord, “the government is ceding a great deal of space” to the militants.

But some Pakistani officials have recently argued that a truce was necessary in Swat because the army was unable to fight a guerrilla insurgency and civilians were suffering in the conflict.

A former interior minister, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, told the parliamentary committee on national security this month that Shariah ordinances should be introduced to “calm the situation.”

Sherry Rehman, the government information minister, said the deal should not be seen as a concession. “It is in no way a sign of the state’s weakness,” she said. “The public will of the population of the Swat region is at the center of all efforts, and it should be taken into account while debating the merits of this agreement.”

In legislative elections a year ago, the people of Swat, a region that is about the size of Delaware and has 1.3 million residents, voted overwhelmingly for the secular Awami National Party. Since then, the Taliban have singled out elected politicians with suicide bomb attacks and chased virtually all of them from the valley. Several hundred thousand residents have also fled the fighting.

Many of the poor who have stayed in Swat, which until the late 1960s was ruled by a prince, were calling for the Shariah courts as a way of achieving quick justice and dispensing with the long delays and corruption of the civil courts. The authorities in the North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, argued that the Shariah courts were not the same as strict Islamic law. The new laws, for instance, would not ban education of females or impose other strict tenets espoused by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The new accord, they said, would simply activate laws already agreed to by Benazir Bhutto in the early 1990s when she was prime minister. Similarly, the principle of Shariah courts in Swat was also agreed to by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. In both cases, the courts, though approved, were never put in place.


Pakistan Makes a Taliban Truce, Creating a Haven

Page 2 of 2)

A Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official did not have permission to speak publicly, said that the government’s acceptance of the courts was an attempt to blunt efforts of the Taliban to woo Swat residents frustrated by the ineffective judiciary.

“The Taliban was trying to take advantage of the local movement and desire for a judicial system,” the official said. The official insisted that the Obama administration, informed of the accord, “showed understanding of our strategy.”

On Monday, a White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said only, “We have seen the press reports and are in touch with the government of Pakistan about the ongoing situation in Swat.”

Provincial officials said the accord in Swat was struck with Maulana Sufi Muhammad. He is the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, who is the head of the umbrella group for the Taliban in Pakistan.

Mr. Muhammad is often described as more benign than his son-in-law, but the ranks of their followers and their lines of authority are fluid and overlapping.

In 2001, he took thousands of young men across the border into Afghanistan to fight jihad against the Americans. After his return he was imprisoned by Pakistani authorities.

He was released last April after agreeing to denounce violence and work to bring peace to the area.

Despite the insistence that the new legal system in Swat was consistent with existing civil law, some feared that the accord was an ominous sign of the power of the militants to spread into the heartland of Pakistan, including the most populous and wealthiest province, the Punjab.

“The hardest task for the government will be to protect the Punjab against inroads by militants,” wrote I. A. Rehman, a member of the Human Rights Commission, in the daily newspaper, Dawn.

“Already, religious extremists have strong bases across the province and sympathizers in all arenas: political parties, services, the judiciary, the middle class, and even the media,” he wrote. “For its part, the government is handicapped because of its failure to offer good governance, guarantee livelihoods, and restore people’s faith in the frayed judicial system
23199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: February 17, 2009, 08:45:48 AM
"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821
23200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq reports on: February 17, 2009, 08:44:46 AM
Spent the day at the main courthouse in Basrah.
The main theme that came out time and again today was how much safer the city is since the Iraqi Army operation of several years ago where they basically, and apparently, came in and kicked ass on the militias.  They refer to the pre-Iraqi Army operation down here as "the violence."
I also heard one person say how the Brits did not do enoough when it came to dealing with the militias.   They were never forceful enough.
The Iraqi Army apparently acquitted itself quite well down here.  And they are apparently maintaining these gains on their own.
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