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23201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CCW in National Parks on: December 12, 2008, 01:20:45 PM
CULTURE & POLICY
Around the nation: Concealed carry in national parks
Last week, the Department of Interior adopted a new regulation that allows concealed weapons permit holders to carry their weapons into national parks if the state in which the park is located allows concealed carry. This is a significant change from the previous regulations, which prohibited the possession of loaded firearms in national parks. Indeed, the new recognition that there is a Second Amendment even in national parks is a step in the right direction. There is also a Tenth Amendment issue here -- that the laws of states prevail, even on federal land.

Although the NRA and sensible gun owners across the country welcomed this change, gun-control advocates reacted with their usual hysteria. Using the same apocalyptic exaggerations they trotted out (unsuccessfully) to oppose state concealed carry laws, the gun grabbers issued warnings of bedlam. Of course, their predictions of carnage never came true in states that have enacted concealed carry laws. To the contrary, crime dropped in these states. For the same reasons, national parks will not become the free-fire zones that the gun grabbers predict. Instead, law-abiding citizens now can defend themselves and their families against hostile predators -- human and animal -- that might threaten their lives.

Although the regulation takes effect before Obama takes office, his record shows his support of radical gun-control laws, and we expect an executive order undoing the regulation. During his tenure in the Illinois Senate and again in the U.S. Senate, Obama rarely saw a gun-control measure that he didn't support. He supported a ban on handguns; he voted in favor of a ban on virtually all semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns; he favors registration and licensing; he opposes concealed carry. Yet he promises, "I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the Second Amendment. Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven't indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word." But a simple check of his "Change" Web site (under Crime and Law Enforcement) puts the lie to this promise.

23202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3rd SF group gets Silver Star on: December 12, 2008, 01:12:48 PM
Profiles of Valor: 3rd Special Forces Group
On 6 April 2008, in the mountains of Afghanistan's Nuristan province, a battle erupted between a team of 12 Special Forces troops from Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, a few dozen Afghan allies and hundreds of jihadis. The soldiers had jumped from helicopters at daybreak onto a mountain covered in ice, attempting to gain the high ground on a terrorist stronghold in the Shok Valley. Their mission: To capture or kill members of the militant group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG). But insurgents quickly took positions against the U.S. troops -- and the insurgents had the high ground. Staff Sgt. Luis Morales saw an insurgent and opened fire, killing him, but enemy fighters then began firing on U.S. and Afghan troops from practically every direction. Because there was only one way up the valley, the jihadis "were able to wait until we were in the most vulnerable position to initiate the ambush," said Staff Sgt. Seth Howard. Several soldiers were hit in the opening barrage, but they all fought back. "We were pretty much in the open, there were no trees to hide behind," said Morales, who helped pull Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, shot in the hip, back to a safer position. Morales himself had been shot in the thigh and ankle.

For the next seven hours, the small contingent of U.S. and Afghan troops fought hard while pinned to the side of the mountain, and managed to get down the mountain without being overwhelmed only when Air Force jets bombarded the insurgent positions with 2,000-pound bombs. The soldiers who could walk carried those who couldn't, including Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, who was hit by a bullet that according to Master Sgt. Scott Ford, the team sergeant, "basically amputated his right leg right there on the battlefield."

A helicopter attempted to land and evacuate the soldiers, but took several rounds in the rotor and hovered just long enough for the medic to jump off. A second helicopter then landed in an icy stream nearby and collected the troops. Among the Americans and Afghans, there were 15 wounded and two killed, both Afghans, while 150 to 200 jihadis were killed. The Green Berets were nearly out of ammunition, too -- each one had two magazines left. Today, 10 of those soldiers from Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group will receive the Silver Star for their heroism. It will be the highest such number given to elite troops for a single battle since the Vietnam War. (For more details of the battle, see The Washington Post's account.)
23203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 12, 2008, 12:49:07 PM
The New Blacklist

Hollywood has spent more than half a century railing against the anti-Communist blacklists of the 1950s that prevented some people from working in the movie industry. Woody Allen, George Clooney and countless other celebrities have produced liberal-minded films purporting to show how evil the blacklist was and upbraiding those who were silent while it was imposed.

Well, a real live blacklist is going on in California now and only a few liberals are daring to question it. Last month, after California voters approved Proposition 8 prohibiting gay marriage, many activists were bound and determined to hound anyone who supported the measure. Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, the state's largest nonprofit performing arts company, donated $1,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. Protests from the producer of the Broadway musical "Hairspray" and many other show business people soon forced him to resign.

Similarly, Los Angeles Film Festival Director Richard Raddon was forced to step down after it was revealed he had donated $1,500 to "Yes on 8." The festival's organizer put out a statement blandly saying, "Our organization does not police the personal, religious or political choices of any employee, member or filmmaker." Behind the scenes, however, many of the festival's board members pressured Mr. Raddon to resign. "From now on, no one in entertainment is going to feel safe making a donation as measly as $100 to a conservative defense-of-marriage campaign," says Brent Bozell, head of the conservative Media Research Center.

Nor is the modern-day blacklist confined to entertainment. This week, Marjorie Christoffersen, manager of the famous Los Angeles restaurant El Coyote, resigned after her restaurant was subjected to a month of boycotts and demonstrations because she had contributed $100 to the campaign against gay marriage. Ms. Christoffersen, who had been with El Coyote for 26 years, insisted her stance had nothing to do with prejudice against gays, but rather with her Mormon faith. That didn't impress the blacklisters. Fellow employees at El Coyote vouched for her kindness to gay employees, including personally paying for the mother of an employee who died of AIDS to attend his funeral. That didn't matter either. And neither did the fact that the managers of El Coyote sent $10,000 to gay groups to "make up" for Ms. Christofferson's contribution. The boycott continued.

The slowdown in business forced Ms. Christoffersen to leave, prompting Charles Karal Bouley, a former columnist for the gay publication The Advocate, to ask in the Huffington Post if the reaction against some Prop 8 supporters hasn't been "overkill." "Marjorie Christoffersen had the right to donate $100 to yes on 8," he wrote. "Americans have the right to be wrong. . . . Even Barack Obama said marriage was between a man and a woman at a time when we needed his voice on our side on equality. He let us down, too, remember, and many of you still gave him a job."

At least the Hollywood blacklist targeted those who either professed Communist sympathies or refused to sign loyalty oaths. As columnist Maggie Gallagher points out, "Targeting an entire business because one person associated with it made (in their personal capacity) a donation to a cause is brand new." Some gay activists are one step away from claiming that if someone disagrees with them, they shouldn't be allowed to work anywhere. The original Hollywood blacklist never went that far, but you won't see any movies made about the current intolerance mounted against supporters of traditional marriage.

-- John Fund

The Spector of Specter

Last night’s auto bailout collapse was not the last word on taxpayer dollars for Detroit, but the showdown was certainly a down payment on an even bigger Senate fight next year over labor unions.


In a conference call with bloggers yesterday, Republican Senator Jim DeMint said the biggest battle in next year’s Congress would be over card check legislation -- and pointed to Republican Senator Arlen Specter as the weak point in Republican defenses.


You might think Detroit’s troubles would be a warning against enlarging union power to dictate wages and terms to American business. Card check would allow union organizers to take over workplaces without a secret ballot vote. But Mr. Specter faced a tough primary fight in 2004 from conservative GOP Rep. Pat Toomey, and won largely because the state AFL-CIO strongly urged its Republican members to support him. Mr. Specter paid the union back by voting for card check in 2007, albeit at a time when Republicans had enough votes to stop it from becoming law.


Next year, Democrats will likely be only two votes short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate. And if Al Franken prevails in the Minnesota recount, Mr. Specter could end up being the deciding vote. Already, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Chief Bill George is telling reporters that the card check vote would be “critical” in determining whether the union throws its weight behind Mr. Specter again. Meanwhile, conservative activist Grover Norquist and Mr. Toomey, who now runs the Club for Growth, are laying down markers for Mr. Specter on the right. Mr. Toomey tells The Hill newspaper he might consider running against Mr. Specter again in the 2010 primary if Mr. Specter supports labor's agenda.


This morning, the UAW’s Ron Gettelfinger blamed failure of the auto bailout talks on GOP desire to get a “win” in advance of the card check fight. The talks collapsed over Democratic refusal to force the UAW to accept a reduction in wages and benefits to match the transplant factories of the foreign manufacturers.


Mr. Gettelfinger didn’t quite say so, but card check is also part of Big Labor’s increasingly hopeless strategy to preserve its Big Three pay levels. The idea is to drive up wage and benefit costs at Toyota, Nissan and other transplants. Card check is key. The UAW has racked up a goose egg in 20 years of trying to organize the foreign-owned plants, and Detroit's recent troubles are not exactly a big advertisement to workers in Tennessee or Alabama to welcome the UAW. Whether even card check would help is doubtful in any case. But certainly a process that continues to rely on a secret ballot free from intimidation is unlikely to advance the UAW’s cause.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Quote of the Day

"Like his memoir, Fugitive Days , 'The Real Bill Ayers' is a sentimentalized, self-justifying whitewash of his role in the weirdo violent fringe of the 1960s-70s antiwar left. 'I never killed or injured anyone,' Ayers writes. 'In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village.' Right. Those people belonged to Weatherman, as did Ayers himself and Bernardine Dohrn, now his wife. Weatherman, Weather Underground, completely different! And never mind either that that 'accidental explosion' was caused by the making of a nail bomb intended for a dance at Fort Dix. . . . I wish Ayers would make a real apology for the harm he did to the antiwar movement and the left. . . . I'd like him to say he's sorry for his part in the destruction of Students for a Democratic Society. He's sorry he helped Nixon make the antiwar movement look like the enemy of ordinary people. He's sorry for his more-radical-than-thou posturing, and the climate of apocalyptic nuttiness he helped fuel . . ." -- columnist Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation magazine, in response to a New York Times op-ed by Obama friend and former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers.

In Search of . . . Margaret Thatcher

Britain's Conservative Party was depressed to learn this week that it's not making up a great deal of ground against Prime Minister Gordon Brown despite a U.K. economy even harder hit by the credit crisis than the U.S.

On the third anniversary of David Cameron's rise to become leader of the Tories, a new Times of London poll shows his party garnering the support of just 39% of Britons. These are lousy numbers for a party long out of power and with the opportunity to blame a serious recession on Mr. Brown's Labour Party. The only good news for Conservatives is that Labour's approval rating is even lower at 35%, not much higher than George W. Bush's numbers.

Maybe that's why down is beginning to look a little like up to Conservatives, who've been on the wrong side of British pollsters for more than a decade. Mr. Cameron, who figures to square off against Mr. Brown in an election in 2009 or 2010, finally has begun differentiating himself from Mr. Brown's tax-and-spend policies. He has been warning voters of Labour's "unsustainably high" spending and of the inevitable tax hikes ahead. Some see this as evidence Tories are finally recapturing their Thatcherite mojo. In the last three years, Mr. Cameron has made many mistakes, from messily fussing over the Conservative "brand" to lacking an early and articulate rebuttal to Mr. Brown's statist maneuvers. Many voters on the right still wonder just how conservative this Conservative Party leader really is. He remains a vocal supporter of public services such as the National Health Service, one of the biggest reasons for uncontrolled spending growth.

Mr. Cameron's challenge is not dissimilar to the challenge faced by Republicans in Washington. After an orgy of "Big Government" conservatism, the latter are now trying to regain their status as a voice for fiscal restraint amid a crisis-spawned explosion of interventionism. Of course, it doesn't help that a president of their own party has been a big contributor to the spree. Mr. Cameron at least has the advantage of being able to sound a more credible trumpet -- if he's willing to use it. It took a decade of economic crisis on both sides of the Atlantic before voters gave the Thatcher-Reagan solution a chance. Let's hope it doesn't take so long this time.

23204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China's Democratic Charter on: December 12, 2008, 11:58:57 AM
China's democracy movement has moved in fits and starts since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. But a manifesto issued this week marks a brave new chapter in the fight for political freedom.

More than 400 Chinese citizens living inside China published "Charter 08" on the Internet. The document calls for a new constitution to establish multiparty democracy and includes a scathing account of Communist rule. It describes its ambition for a political system in which the military, courts, schools and churches are accountable to the constitution rather than to a political party.

In a year that has seen a crackdown on political dissent, especially during the Olympics and March Tibet protests, this is a bold step, and the authors don't mince words: "Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises." It continues: "[A]s the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society . . . becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional."

An introduction to the charter by American Sinologist Perry Link -- who translated it into English -- likens it to Charter 77, the document signed by Vaclav Havel and other Czechoslovakian dissidents in 1977. Like those dissidents, two signers of Charter 08 were detained by police this week and about a dozen have been questioned, according to Amnesty International.

The Czech dissidents waited 13 years to realize their democratic dream. In China, the reality of self-government also seems far off and Charter 08 won't produce immediate change. But the boldness and bravery of its statement suggest that the democrats' day will come.
23205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Lies on: December 12, 2008, 11:53:37 AM
"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 19 August 1785
23206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Other than that, the story was accurate on: December 12, 2008, 11:50:33 AM
Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate

Yesterday's item on Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged attempt to sell Barack Obama's erstwhile Senate seat cited a pair of reports from KHQA-TV in Quincy, Ill., contradicting Obama aide David Axelrod's claim that Obama never discussed the Senate appointment with Blagojevich, a claim that contradicted Axelrod's own earlier claim that he knew the governor and the president-elect had discussed the matter.

The first KHQA report, on Nov. 5, said that Obama was "meeting with Governor Rod Blagojevich this afternoon in Chicago to discuss" the nomination. The second, three days later, said that the meeting had taken place. Never mind, KHQA now says:

KHQA TV wishes to offer clarification regarding a story that appeared last month on our website ConnectTristates.com. The story, which discussed the appointment of a replacement for President Elect Obama in the U.S. Senate, became the subject of much discussion on talk radio and on blog sites Wednesday.
The story housed in our website archive was on the morning of November 5, 2008. It suggested that a meeting was scheduled later that day between President Elect Obama and Illinois Governor Blagojevich. KHQA has no knowledge that any meeting ever took place. Governor Blagojevich did appear at a news conference in Chicago on that date.
To call this a "clarification" is rather an understatement, like saying that KHQA's performance in this matter is not the proudest moment in the history of American journalism. In any case, the "clarified" KHQA report was, as far as we know, the only evidence, aside from Axelrod's now-recanted statement, that Obama and Blagojevich had discussed the matter. Even assuming no conversation took place between the two principals, we still are left with the question of when the Obama team became aware of Blagojevich's alleged scheme and what if anything they did about it.

Jim Lindgren has a detailed and suggestive timeline. He points to a CNN report from Nov. 9, the Sunday after Election Day, in which "a prominent Democratic source close to" Obama confirms an earlier report by Chicago's WSL-TV "that Valerie Jarrett is Obama's choice to replace him in the Senate."

"On Monday, Nov. 10," Lindgren recounts, quoting the criminal complaint, "Blagojevich holds an incredible 2-hour conference call with multiple consultants: 'ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife, JOHN HARRIS, Governor General Counsel, and various Washington-D.C. based advisors, including Advisor B,' discussing his corrupt schemes. He follows this with two calls with Advisor A."

The same day, the CNN story linked above was updated:

Two Democratic sources told CNN Monday that Obama wants Jarrett to serve in the White House, not the Senate.
Here is Lindgren's analysis:

So what happened? The likeliest scenario is that one of the many participants in Blagojevich's Monday phone calls either floated his plans to the Obama transition team to assess their response or tipped off the Obama camp about the reckless ideas that Blagojevich had planned.
In any event, within hours of Blagojevich substantially expanding his circle of confidants, the Obama camp withdrew Jarrett's name from consideration and attributed that withdrawal to the President's wanting Jarrett in the White House. And the Obama staffers went out of their way to depict this as Obama's choice, rather than Jarrett's, which would have been more common. The report claims Obama's involvement in the decision and suggests a direct effort to undercut the idea that Obama was pressuring Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett.
Lindgren speculates that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Blagojevich's successor in the House and Obama's designated chief of staff, was the Obama camp's point of contact with the Blagojevich camp. As National Review's Byron York points out, the L.A. Times asked Obama specifically about this, and he ducked the question (ellipses in transcript):

Q: Have you ever spoken to Gov. Blagojevich about the Senate seat?
Obama: I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time. My strong belief is that it needed to be filled by somebody who is going to represent the people of Illinois and fight for them. And beyond that, I was focused on the transition.
Q: And that was before and after the election?
Obama: Yes.
Q: Are you aware of any conversations between Blagojevich or [chief of staff] John Harris and any of your top aides, including Rahm [Emanuel]?
Obama: Let me stop you there because . . . it's an ongoing . . . investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that's the fact that I didn't discuss this issue with the governor at all.
What would be the significance if Emanuel turned out to have known about the alleged bribery attempt? Legally, not much, according to Lindgren:

It is not a crime to fail to report a bribery attempt. The federal misprision of felony statute would seem to make it a federal crime to fail to report a federal felony. . . .
But case law has conclusively determined that mere non-reporting is not enough. Active concealment or the acceptance of a benefit for concealing is required.
Since all indications are that the Obama camp rejected any corrupt deal, they would seem to be legally in the clear. In their refusal to make a deal, it would appear their instinct for self-preservation served them well. It would be more impressive, though, if it turns out they did the public-spirited thing and reported Blagojevich's conduct to the authorities.

Obama's "ongoing investigation" dodge has drawn criticism from both right and left (the latter has likened it to President Bush's refusal to comment during the investigation of the Valerie Plame kerfuffle). Yet prosecutors generally do not like prospective witnesses to talk about a case publicly, and surely we want Obama and his aides to cooperate with prosecutors. It does put Obama in a politically awkward position, though, especially if the facts he is constrained from discussing publicly reflect well on him and his advisers.

Who Was Dick Simpson?
He is a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago whom Reuters quoted yesterday (as we noted) as saying, "Obama is not related to the corruption pattern in Chicago," and, "He has not been pressing for any person to replace him in his Senate seat."

Simpson is also a former Chicago alderman--a fact that seems relevant, but that Reuters omitted.

23207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Organized & Disorganized Religion and anti-religion on: December 12, 2008, 11:16:09 AM
Woof All:

I have always thought there was a correlation between celibacy/the lack of marriage (heterosexual sex) for priests and the Church's massive problems with pedophilia.  The following article in today's WSJ challenges that assumption:

Marc
==================

By ERICA SCHACTER SCHWARTZ
It began on the radio this summer. New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind ran a segment on his Saturday night talk show titled "We Are Only as Sick as Our Secrets: Sexual Abuse, Healing the Shame," featuring graphic accounts of sexual abuse of children in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

There had been a few high-profile cases before, but this "was when the floodgates opened," explained Mr. Hikind, an Orthodox Jew himself. Following the show, additional victims and their family members came forward to share with Mr. Hikind their own stories. "Cases of sexual abuse are not worse among the Orthodox," clarifies Mr. Hikind. "But when there's a problem and you don't deal with it, it gets worse." Over the past few months he has collected hundreds of testimonies spanning several decades, naming at least 50 alleged pedophiles across the tri-state Orthodox Jewish community, including well-respected rabbis and teachers.

But now these testimonies have become a source of contention. They have been subpoenaed for a civil suit by a lawyer representing six former students of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a longtime teacher at one of Borough Park's leading all-male yeshivas, who has been charged repeatedly since the 1980s with sexually molesting his students. (Last year Rabbi Kolko pleaded guilty to child endangerment.) The problem is that Mr. Hikind had sworn to keep the testimonies confidential.

Mr. Hikind claims he will "do the right thing" about the subpoena without betraying the names of any of the victims. While he will not hand over his complete list of alleged perpetrators, he says that "we are starting to share names" with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.

Many people give Mr. Hikind credit for bringing much needed attention to an issue in the Orthodox community that has frequently been swept under the rug. (One exception to the silent treatment was the Orthodox Union's creation of a special commission in 2000 to investigate the sexual abuse charges against Rabbi Baruch Lanner, leader of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, who was later convicted.) He also deserves credit for getting victims to talk at all. Mr. Hikind says that he encourages each victim who comes to him to go directly to the police, but no one is willing to. They are too afraid of the repercussions for themselves and their families in terms of reputation and marriageability.

The trouble is that subpoena or no subpoena, he has valuable information that is not being effectively utilized to investigate the alleged offenders and get them off the streets. "Dov Hikind has decided that secrecy is a more worthwhile value than child protection," explains Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law and an expert in clergy law. By witholding the names of the perpetrators, "he is sharing in the responsibility of every child who is harmed by them."

What Mr. Hikind wants to do instead is tackle the issue from within the community. He has assembled a task force of rabbis, therapists, principals and pediatricians to help the community respond to cases of sexually abused children -- raising awareness, forming a registry of teachers (so that a teacher who is removed from one school does not simply go to another) and devising a system of investigating allegations. Investigation is extremely important, he adds, because "you have to make sure an innocent person is not being thrown to the wolves."

While Mr. Hikind's effort is well-intentioned, Prof. Hamilton calls it "a doomed project." Resolving cases of sexual abuse without the legal establishment in this country "has never worked in any other religious community," she points out, citing the Catholic Church as an example. And the truth is, many rabbis agree with her. According to Rabbi Mark Dratch, the chief executive officer of JSAFE (The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment), "Rabbinic authorities do not have the expertise or ability to handle these things. Making reports [to the legal authorities] is the only way to go."

Mr. Hikind insists that his plan does not look to circumvent law enforcement, but to collaborate with it. The question, though, is if the ultra-Orthodox constituency that Mr. Hikind is working with will be a real partner in this endeavor. In the past, they have unfortunately been resistant, worrying more about the consequences of disparaging renowned Torah scholars than about protecting a child's life. Some rabbis in the community have even impeded the efforts of other rabbis who are willing to speak out and take action. Orthodox rabbi and psychologist Benzion Twerski resigned from Mr. Hikind's task force for fear of tarnishing his reputation and his family's reputation within the community. In Williamsburg, Rabbi Nuchum Rosenberg received threats for speaking out against abuse in his community.

So is Mr. Hikind's plan "doomed"? It depends. If the community is willing to take more cases to the police rather than watching alleged perpetrators float from one community to another, where they will no doubt prey again, then great. But if they are not, if they succumb to the same social pressures that have paralyzed them for decades, then every day that goes by another community of children is at risk.

No matter what happens, though, Mr. Hikind promises not to reveal any victims' names. "I will not, God forbid, destroy a person's life all over again," he says. That's good. But let's hope another child's life is not destroyed either.

Ms. Schwartz writes a monthly column for the Jewish Week.
23208  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 12, 2008, 11:09:54 AM
Ayer mi esposa se fue a visitar a su madre.  Cuando su avion estaba aterrizando (landing) habia otro avion en el camino (runway) y fue necessario abortar el "landing" en condicion de emergencia (emergency abort of the the landing).  Habian unos segundos de alta emocion.

Agradezco tener mi esposa, madre de mis hijos, en mi vida.
23209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: December 12, 2008, 10:55:09 AM
For those wondering what he is talking about, he is making a reference to a joke I tell at the beginning of "Combining Stick & Footwork".
23210  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Democratas en LA necesitan apoyan EUA on: December 12, 2008, 10:50:08 AM
Publicado en ingles en el WSJ, traducido por software al espanol.
========================
Por JOSÉ MARIA AZNAR, VICENTE FOX, ANDRÉS PASTRANA, JULIO MARIA SANGUINETTI y FRANCISO FLORES
Somos amigos de Estados Unidos. Admiramos el compromiso largo y firme de las personas norteamericanas a los valores de libertad, la democracia y dignidad individual. Cuándo nosotros servimos nuestros países, nosotros hicimos cuanto pudimos para reforzar lazos hemisféricos y transatlánticos con EEUU

Hace unos pocos semanas, las personas norteamericanas tuvieron su elección presidencial 56. La libertad de las personas norteamericanas expresar su hace por el proceso democrático ha mostrado el mundo una vez más que los logros de una gran nación dependen del respeto fuerte para los principios del pluralismo, liberten opinión pública, y la regla de la ley.
Nosotros siempre hemos creído que cerramos relaciones entre naciones democráticas son no sólo bueno bilateralmente pero globalmente también. La amistad, el respeto, la cooperación y el comercio entre democracias promueven prosperidad, favorecen la estabilidad, y refuerzan libertad.

El presidente electo Barack Obama y su nueva administración y Congreso encararán desafíos y amenazas difíciles. Sus decisiones y las acciones jugarán un papel decisivo en la promoción de la democracia y la prosperidad a través del mundo.
En este momento, nosotros experimentamos una crisis financiera de dimensiones inauditas. En este mundo globalizado, la cooperación, el liderazgo, honradez intelectual y valor político son requeridos más que nunca. Juzgando de nuestra experiencia que gobierna, podemos ver que algunas nuevas respuestas serán requeridas a dirigir esta crisis. Necesitamos soluciones creadoras, y ellos deben ser basados en los principios sano de responsabilidad y transparencia. Sin embargo, nosotros no debemos descuidar los otros problemas que encaramos.

La elección del Sr. Obama para el ministro -- Hillary Clinton -- ayudará a construir puentes de la comprensión y la cooperación con Iberoamérica. Iberoamérica es una parte esencial de la comunidad de las naciones que comparten los valores de la democracia y la economía de mercado liberales. Su PIB combinado es más grande que PIB de China.
La historia muestra que siempre que Iberoamérica haya sido descuidada que la causa de libertad y prosperidad ha sido socavada. Por lo tanto, es esencial que las naciones que abracen los principios de libertad y democracia se juntan para encarar amenazas actuales de seguridad.

Vivimos en un mundo peligroso. El fallecimiento del comunismo fue un paso hacia adelante en la causa de la libertad. Pero la historia ha vuelto. Los enemigos viejos de sociedades libres y abiertas colocan nuevos desafíos al mundo. El terrorismo, cualquier su naturaleza, continúa colocar una amenaza a la civilización y la paz. Islamismo es un modelo y una yunta para millones. Utopianism regresivo esparce en muchos países latinoamericanos por una onda del populismo. El nacionalismo y el fanatismo religioso continúan alimentar conflicto e inestabilidad.

Los enemigos de libertad que comparte vistas anti-occidentales ahora forman nuevas alianzas. Las libertades y libertades son disminuidas progresivamente dentro de algunos países latinoamericanos mientras políticas exteriores de duro-poder son aplicadas como un medios para aumentar influencia y debilitar al enemigo común: el Oeste. Latinoamericanos debe continuar trabajar con sus socios y amigos norteamericanos para asegurar la protección de la democracia y otras instituciones civiles. Debemos promover una transición a la democracia en Cuba y dirigir nuestros esfuerzos de evitar el resurgimiento de regímenes autoritarios.

La pobreza es una realidad dolorosa en muchos países. Millones de personas no tienen acceso a la asistencia médica ni la educación. Esto es inaceptable. Creemos totalmente que los beneficios de globalización deben estar disponibles a todos. Hemos encontrado en nuestros propios países que instituciones democráticas fortificantes, proporcionando gobierno bueno, y abriendo nuestras fronteras para comerciar es la mejor manera de mejorar condiciones sociales y bienestar económico.

Iberoamérica tiene mucho en ganar del libre cambio. Los acuerdos de libre cambio exitosamente negociando ayudarán a traer el progreso y la prosperidad a países latinoamericanos, así como alrededor del globo.

Hoy, hay sobre 40 millones de personas con lazos fuertes a Iberoamérica que vive en EEUU y, por su dinamismo, contribuye a su grandeza. La tradición de libertad abrazada por EEUU está en el acuerdo con tradiciones hispanas y cultiva. La coexistencia pacífica del norteamericano y tradiciones hispanas refuerza la idea de Iberoamérica que forma parte del mundo Occidental.

Iberoamérica necesita apoyo contra las amenazas que encara actualmente. Es esencial que Iberoamérica pueda contar con el apoyo de EEUU si es de tener éxito en promover y consolidando valores y principios comunes.

Demócratas latinoamericanos comparten el sueño de libertad y progreso con las personas norteamericanas. El presidente electo Obama personifica una esperanza que debe ser cumplida.

El Sr. Aznar es un presidente anterior de España. El Sr. Zorro es un presidente anterior de México. El Sr. Pastrana es un presidente anterior de Colombia. El Sr. Sanguinetti es un presidente anterior de Uruguay. El Sr. Flores es un presidente anterior de El Salvador.
23211  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Question from a friend in Iraq on: December 11, 2008, 11:02:02 PM
Here's what my friend is thinking off:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=315bca1c04
23212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Predictions confirmed on: December 11, 2008, 03:07:43 PM
Evolutionary theory predictions confirmed

http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/evo_science.html
23213  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New to forum on: December 11, 2008, 02:50:09 PM
Woof Rick:

Welcome aboard.  I just surfed through some of your clips-- excellent movement and creativity!

Crafty Dog
23214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 11, 2008, 02:06:27 PM
 
My Fellow Patriots,

Of the American fight for liberty, George Washington wrote, "Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!" Indeed, it was, and it remains our noble cause. And we know, by virtue of your patronage, that you are standing with us on many frontlines in honor and defense of our nation's proud heritage and legacy of liberty.

Of those unwilling to enlist in this righteous cause, Samuel Adams said, "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

However, of those who did enlist, and have in generations since, Adams wrote, "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

Though a minority we may be, we have never wavered in our endeavor to set brushfires of liberty.

From our humble beginnings in 1996, The Patriot Post is now the most widely read conservative political journal on the Internet. We reach millions of readers, and by extension, their families, friends and associates, and we do so at a cost of less than 25 cents per reader per year. Thousands of our readers repost our content on blogs, social networking sites and personal Web sites. High school teachers, and college and university professors use our content to teach their students, and many political and cultural organizations reprint our content in their publications.

On the other hand, the major print media outlets, which have commanded a stranglehold on public opinion for generations, are now suffering unprecedented reader attrition. Liberal standard-bearers like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and other print dailies are losing ground to the "new media" -- that's us.

The Patriot's Annual Fund is donor supported so we can offer our publication free of charge to thousands of American military personnel, students and those in ministry or other professions with limited financial means.

We hear from these Patriot readers every day, and I would like to share a few of their recent comments:


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I thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you as editor and publisher of The Patriot. On behalf of your Patriot Staff and National Advisory Committee, thank you, and God bless you and your family this Christmas season.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander,
Publisher, for the editors and staff

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23215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10 Worst Predictions for 2008 on: December 11, 2008, 01:52:08 PM
The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008

 

Posted December 2008
 
Prognostication is by far the riskiest form of punditry. The 10 commentators and leaders on this list learned that the hard way when their confident predictions about politics, war, the economy, and even the end of humanity itself completely missed the mark.





1
Scott Gries/Getty Images"If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she's going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I'll predict that right now." —William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist William Kristol was hardly alone in thinking that the Democratic primary was Clinton's to lose, but it takes a special kind of self-confidence to make a declaration this sweeping more than a year before the first Iowa caucus was held. After Iowa, Kristol lurched to the other extreme, declaring that Clinton would lose New Hampshire and that "There will be no Clinton Restoration." It's also worth pointing out that this second wildly premature prediction was made in a Times column titled, "President Mike Huckabee?" The Times is currently rumored to be looking for his replacement.
2
CNBC"Peter writes: 'Should I be worried about Bear Stearns in terms of liquidity and get my money out of there?' No! No! No! Bear Stearns is fine! Do not take your money out. … Bear Stearns is not in trouble. I mean, if anything they're more likely to be taken over. Don't move your money from Bear! That's just being silly! Don't be silly!" —Jim Cramer, responding to a viewer's e-mail on CNBC's Mad Money, March 11, 2008

Hopefully, Peter got a second opinion. Six days after the volatile CNBC host made his emphatic pronouncement, Bear Stearns faced the modern equivalent of an old-fashioned bank run. Amid widespread speculation on Wall Street about the bank's massive exposure to subprime mortgages, Bear's shares lost 90 percent of their value and the investment bank was sold for a pittance to JPMorgan Chase, with a last-minute assist from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
3
ERIC CABANIS/Getty Images"[In] reality the risks to maritime flows of oil are far smaller than is commonly assumed. First, tankers are much less vulnerable than conventional wisdom holds. Second, limited regional conflicts would be unlikely to seriously upset traffic, and terrorist attacks against shipping would have even less of an economic effect. Third, only a naval power of the United States' strength could seriously disrupt oil shipments." —Dennis Blair and Kenneth Lieberthal, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007

On Nov. 15, 2008 a group of Somali pirates in inflatable rafts hijacked a Saudi oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels of crude in the Indian Ocean. The daring raid was part of a rash of attacks by Somali pirates, which have primarily occurred in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates operating in the waterway have hijacked more than 50 ships this year, up from only 13 in all of last year, according to the Piracy Reporting Center. The Gulf of Aden, where nearly 4 percent of the world's oil demand passes every day, was not on the list of strategic "chokepoints" where oil shipments could potentially be disrupted that Blair and Lieberthal included in their essay, "Smooth Sailing: The World's Shipping Lanes Are Safe." Hopefully, Blair will show a bit more foresight if, as some expect, he is selected as Barack Obama's director of national intelligence.
4
Spencer Platt/Getty Images"[A]nyone who says we're in a recession, or heading into one—especially the worst one since the Great Depression—is making up his own private definition of 'recession.'" —Donald Luskin, The Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2008

The day after Luskin's op-ed, "Quit Doling Out That Bad-Economy Line," appeared in the Post, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and the rest is history. Liberal bloggers had long ago dubbed the Trend Macrolytics chief investment officer and informal McCain advisor "the Stupidest Man Alive." This time, they had some particularly damning evidence.
5
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images"For all its flaws, an example to others." —The Economist on Kenya's presidential election, Dec. 19, 2007

The week before Kenya's presidential election, the erudite British newsweekly ran an ill-conceived editorial praising the quality of the country's democracy and predicting it might "set an example" for the rest of the continent. If only. The ensuing election was rife with examples of voter fraud and ballot-stuffing. What followed was a month of rioting and ethnic bloodshed that left more than 800 dead and 200,000 displaced. The carnage ended in a messy power-sharing agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and his challenger Raila Odinga, leaving the country deeply divided and its government delegitimized.
6
Brad Barket/Getty Images"New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the Presidential race in February, after it becomes clear which nominees will get the nod from the major parties. His multiple billions and organization will impress voters—and stun rivals. He'll look like the most viable third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. But Bloomberg will come up short, as he comes in for withering attacks from both Democrats and Republicans. He and Clinton will split more than 50% of the votes, but Arizona's maverick senator, John McCain, will end up the country's next President." –BusinessWeek, Jan. 2, 2008

No part of this prediction from BusinessWeek's "Ten Likely Events in 2008" turned out to be even remotely true. After weeks of hints and press leaks, Bloomberg declared he would stay out of the race, saying that Barack Obama and John McCain showed signs of displaying the "independent leadership" needed to govern effectively. After overturning New York's term-limits law, Bloomberg seems likely to run for a third term as mayor instead.
7
Sean Gallup/Getty Images"There is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet." —Walter Wagner, LHCDefense.org

Scientist Walter Wagner, the driving force behind Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is making his bid to be the 21st century's version of Chicken Little for his opposition to the world's largest particle accelerator. Warning that the experiment might end humanity as we know it, he filed a lawsuit in Hawaii's U.S. District Court against the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which built the LHC, demanding that researchers not turn the machine on until it was proved safe. The LHC was turned on in September, and it appears that we are still here.
8
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images"The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six-24 months." —Arjun Murti, Goldman Sachs oil analyst, in a May 5, 2008, report

The vaunted predictive powers of Murti, dubbed the "oracle of oil" in a glowing New York Times profile, failed him this time. Oil prices peaked in July at about $147 a barrel before beginning a long decline. Thanks to a decrease in demand because of the global recession, prices are now nearing the $40 mark, and some experts even see $25 as a possibility next year.
9
VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images"It starts with the taking over of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which has already happened. It goes on to the destruction of the Georgian armed forces, which is now happening. The third [development] will probably be the replacement of the elected government, which is pro-Western, with a puppet government, which will probably follow in a week or two." —Charles Krauthammer, Fox News, Aug. 11, 2008

Krauthammer immediately followed this inaccurate forecast (Russia eventually agreed to a cease-fire and pulled out its troops several weeks later, leaving Mikheil Saakashvili's government in place) by predicting that Ukraine would be next on Russia's hit list and suggesting that the United States station troops there. As for Saakashvili, his approval rating was at 76 percent in September.
10
Mario Tama/Getty Images"I believe the banking system has been stabilized. No one is asking themselves anymore, is there some major institution that might fail and that we would not be able to do anything about it." —Henry Paulson on National Public Radio, Nov. 13, 2008

The U.S. Treasury secretary entered November with guns blazing. After much hemming and hawing before Congress a month earlier, he came out with what he called his "bazooka" —a $700 billion mandate to scoop up bad assets from troubled banks. By mid-November, he had already discharged $300 billion in munitions, albeit mostly via the kind of direct equity stakes he had rejected earlier. Unfortunately for Paulson, shortly after his vote of confidence, Citigroup's stock price plunged 75 percent in one week, closing below $5 for the first time in 14 years.

23216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Waxman buries FM truth on: December 11, 2008, 12:47:03 PM


Henry Waxman's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met Tuesday to examine "The Role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the Financial Crisis." Alas, Mr. Waxman didn't come to bury Fan and Fred, but to bury the truth.


The two government-sponsored mortgage giants have long maintained they were merely unwitting victims of a financial act of God. That is, while the rest of the market went crazy over subprime and "liar" loans, Fan and Fred claimed to be the grownups of the mortgage market. There they were, the fable goes, quietly underwriting their 80% fixed-rate 30-year mortgages when -- Ka-Pow! -- they were blindsided by the greedy excesses of the subprime lenders who lacked their scruples.

But previously undisclosed internal documents that are now in Mr. Waxman's possession and that we've seen tell a different story. Memos and emails at the highest levels of Fannie and Freddie management in 2004 and 2005 paint a picture of two companies that saw their market share eroded by such products as option-ARMs and interest-only mortgages. The two companies were prepared to walk ever further out on the risk curve to maintain their market position.

The companies understood the risks they were running. But squeezed between the need to meet affordable-housing goals set by HUD and the desire to sustain their growth and profits, they took the leap anyway. As a result, by the middle of this year, the two companies were responsible for some $1.6 trillion worth of subprime credit of one form or another. The answer to Mr. Waxman's question about their role in the crisis, in other words, is that they were central players, if not the central players, in the creation of the housing boom and the credit bust. Mr. Waxman released some of these documents Tuesday but kept others under wraps.

In early 2004, Freddie's executive team was engaged in a heated debate over whether to start acquiring "stated income, stated assets" mortgages. And in April of that year, David Andrukonis, the head of risk management, wrote to his colleagues, "This is not an affordable product, as I understand it, but a product necessary to recapture [market] share. . . . In 1990 we called this product 'dangerous' and eliminated it from the marketplace." Freddie went ahead anyway.

At Tuesday's hearing, both Mr. Waxman and former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines argued that Fan and Fred were following the market, not leading it, as if this was exculpatory. The documents plainly show that people at both Fan and Fred clearly understood that these mortgages were risky, thought many homeowners didn't understand them and that they were putting their business at risk by buying up Alt-A and subprime mortgage-backed securities.

One Fannie Mae document from March 2005 notes dryly, "Although we invest almost exclusively in AAA-rated securities, there is a concern that the rating agencies may not be properly assessing the risk in these securities." But they bought them anyway, both to maintain their market share and to show people like Democrat Barney Frank that they were promoting affordable housing.

By April 2008, according to a document prepared for then-Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd and marked "Confidential -- Highly Restricted," Fannie's $312 billion in Alt-A mortgages represented "12% of single-family credit exposure." This book of business, the document notes, "was originated to maintain relevance in market with customers -- main originators were Countrywide, Lehman, Indymac, Washington Mutual, Amtrust." The first four need no introduction; regulators ordered Ohio-based Amtrust to stop lending two weeks ago.

Remember that one of Fannie's roles was supposed to be to buy up mortgage-backed securities in the secondary market and keep that market "liquid." This was, they always argued, the rationale for their $1 trillion-plus MBS portfolios. By becoming buyers of private-label subprime and Alt-A-backed MBS, they did just that -- they liquified and helped legitimize products that they now claim others irresponsibly sold.

In today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Whitewashing Fannie MaePolitical Favors at the FCC

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Wonder Land: U.S. Says It Will Bail Out Christmas
– Daniel Henninger

COMMENTARY

We Need a Bailout Exit Strategy
– Christopher CoxObama Was Mute on Illinois Corruption
– John FundHow the GOP Should Prepare for a Comeback
– Karl RoveBankruptcy Doesn't Equal Death
– Don boudreauxMr. Raines even suggested that Fan and Fred's regulator was to blame for allowing them to get into trouble. "It is remarkable," he told the committee, "that during the period that Fannie Mae substantially increased its exposure to credit risk its regulator made no visible effort to enforce any limits."

What Mr. Raines failed to mention was that, all along, Fannie and Freddie were spending millions on lobbying to ensure that regulators did not get in their way. As the AP reported Sunday night, Freddie spent $11.7 million in lobbying in 2006 alone, with Newt Gingrich, for example, getting $300,000 that year for talking up the benefits of Freddie's business model. (Apologies welcome, Newt.)

Other Republicans on Freddie's payroll included former Senator Al D'Amato and Congressman Vin Weber, and then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, Susan Hirschmann. As we know by now, Fan and Fred tried to buy everybody in town from both political parties, and the companies did it well enough to make themselves immune from regulatory scrutiny.

Mr. Waxman calls it a "myth" that Fannie and Freddie were the originators of the crisis. That's a red herring. Mr. Waxman's documents prove beyond doubt that Fan and Fred turbocharged the housing mania with a taxpayer-backed, Congressionally protected business model that has cost America dearly.

 
23217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 11, 2008, 12:40:08 PM
John Fund is a serious political reporter for the WSJ:
======================================

By JOHN FUND
This week Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on charges that he conspired to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, among other misdeeds. At first the president-elect tried to distance himself from the issue: "It is a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment." But it quickly became clear that Mr. Obama would have to say more, and yesterday he called for Mr. Blagojevich to resign and for a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat.

 
APWhat remains to be seen is whether this episode will put an end to what Chicago Tribune political columnist John Kass calls the national media's "almost willful" fantasy that Mr. Obama and Chicago's political culture have little to do with each other. Mr. Kass notes that the media devoted a lot more time and energy to investigating the inner workings of Sarah Palin's Wasilla, Alaska, than it has looking at Mr. Obama's Chicago connections.

To date, Mr. Obama's approach to Illinois corruption has been to congratulate himself for dodging association with it. "I think I have done a good job in rising politically in this environment without being entangled in some of the traditional problems of Chicago politics," he told the Chicago Tribune last spring. At the time, Mr. Obama was being grilled over news that he bought his house through a land deal involving Tony Rezko, a political fixer who was later convicted on 16 corruption counts. Rezko is mentioned dozens of times in the 76-page criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama has an ambiguous reputation among those trying to clean up Illinois politics. "We have a sick political culture, and that's the environment Barack Obama came from," Jay Stewart, executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, told ABC News months ago. Though Mr. Obama did support ethics reforms as a state senator, Mr. Stewart noted that he's "been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state including, at this point, mostly Democratic politicians."

One reason for Mr. Obama's reticence may be his close relationship with the powerful Illinois senate president Emil Jones. Mr. Jones was a force in Mr. Obama's rise. In 2003, the two men talked about the state's soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat. As Mr. Jones has recounted the conversation, Mr. Obama told him "You can make the next U.S. senator." Mr. Jones replied, "Got anybody in mind?" "Yes," Mr. Obama said. "Me."

Starting in 2003, Mr. Jones worked to burnish Mr. Obama's credentials by making him lead sponsor of bills including a watered-down ban on gifts to lawmakers. Most of Mr. Obama's legislative accomplishments came as result of his association with Mr. Jones.

In 2002, Mr. Obama turned up to help Mr. Blagojevich, a staunch ally of Mr. Jones, win the governor's mansion. Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, told The New Yorker earlier this year that six years ago he and Mr. Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two [other participants]."

Mr. Blagojevich won, but before long, problems surfaced. In 2004, Zalwaynaka Scott, the governor's inspector general, said his administration's efforts to evade merit-selection laws exposed "not merely an ignorance of the law, but complete and utter contempt for the law." Nonetheless, Mr. Obama endorsed Mr. Blagojevich's re-election in 2006.

This spring, many Democrats were so disgusted with Mr. Blagojevich that state House Speaker Michael Madigan drafted a memo on why Democrats should impeach Mr. Blagojevich. Mr. Madigan's "talking points" compared the corruption going on in the state to a tumor that must be removed.

But Mr. Madigan's move drew a rebuke from Mr. Jones. The Chicago Sun-Times story at the time quoted Mr. Jones saying he thought it was wrong for the speaker to "promote the impeachment of a Democratic Governor. . . Impeachment is unwarranted in my opinion, and should not be used as a political tool."

Many people were curious who Mr. Obama would side with in the dispute. Would it be with those Democrats who wanted to move aggressively against an apparently corrupt governor or with his old Chicago ally, Mr. Jones, who preferred to wait? Mr. Obama did neither. He kept silent. (I emailed the Obama campaign about Mr. Blagojevich's problems in June, but my question was ignored.)

In today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Whitewashing Fannie MaePolitical Favors at the FCC

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Wonder Land: U.S. Says It Will Bail Out Christmas
– Daniel Henninger

COMMENTARY

We Need a Bailout Exit Strategy
– Christopher CoxObama Was Mute on Illinois Corruption
– John FundHow the GOP Should Prepare for a Comeback
– Karl RoveBankruptcy Doesn't Equal Death
– Don boudreauxTo his credit, Mr. Obama did call Mr. Jones in September to urge passage of an ethics bill banning some office holders from accepting money from a business that has a $50,000 or larger contract with the state. The bill passed and takes effect on Jan. 1.

Mr. Obama has spoken out forcefully against corruption outside Illinois. Kathy Tate-Bradish, a Chicago teacher active in education in Africa, gushed on Mr. Obama's campaign blog during his visit to Kenya last year about his "amazing" speech against corruption during his visit there.

"Corruption is the single biggest thing keeping not only Kenyans, but all Africans, down," she wrote. "Corruption is just killing them but nobody has been able to speak out against it because they fear for their own security. Barack spoke out against it, publicly, in Kenya. I honestly think the speech he gave will be one of the major factors that turns the tide against corruption."

Mr. Obama says he plans to return often to Chicago as president. "Our friends are here. Our family is here. And so we are going to try to come back here as often as possible," he told the Los Angeles Times this month. Perhaps during one of those trips he could find time to forthrightly address the corruption issues that the state will be sorting through in the weeks and months ahead. A president has a powerful bully pulpit. A few words from Mr. Obama could force real and lasting change in Illinois.
23218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 11, 2008, 12:10:32 PM
The Son Almost Rises

One key political casualty in the fallout from the Blagojevich scandal is likely to be Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who yesterday stepped forward to acknowledge he was "Senate Candidate 5" in the federal criminal complaint against Illinois' governor.

According to federal prosecutors, Mr. Blagojevich told allies that a representative of Candidate 5 had approached him on a "pay to play" basis and offered over $1 million in contributions in exchange for appointing Rep. Jackson as the U.S. Senator replacing Barack Obama.

Mr. Jackson said he had nothing to do with any such offer, although his attorney indicated that it was possible someone in Mr. Jackson's orbit had approached the governor without his consent.

Regardless of what ultimately happens legally, Mr. Jackson has now been captured on tape reading carefully from a prepared statement denying his guilt and then refusing to take questions from reporters on the advice of his attorneys -- hardly a launching platform to political greatness.

Mr. Jackson has been angling for a bigger political stage to play on for years, having frequently clashed with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to the point that he almost challenged him for the office in 2007. Lately, though, the fiery congressman from Chicago's South Side had made peace with the Daley machine and was on track to secure its blessing for a bid for statewide office. At a breakfast held at last fall's Democratic National Convention in Denver, Mr. Jackson effusively hugged Mayor Daley and had to use a tissue to wipe away some tears as he explained the meaning of the reconciliation. "I've been trying to get to know Mayor Daley for 14 years," he told the assembled crowd.

Political reporters interpreted the performance as an obvious attempt to secure Mr. Daley's blessing as the next U.S. Senator from Illinois. It was a good strategy, but it crashed and burned this week as Mr. Jackson was caught up in L'Affaire Blagojevich.

Now, instead of moving to the U.S. Senate, Mr. Jackson faces months of uncertainty as federal prosecutors probe his relationship to the disgraced Illinois governor and the possible indictment of his associates or even himself.

-- John Fund

Kissing the Olympic Rings Goodbye?

Chicago's Olympic committee is holding its breath, hoping that the high-profile drama surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest on federal corruption charges won't adversely impact the city's bid to win the 2016 Games. Earlier this year, Chicago was announced as one of the four finalists by the IOC along with Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro.

Though generally considered an underdog, most observers believe the election of Barack Obama as president significantly boosted Chicago's chances of becoming only the fourth American city to host the Games (St. Louis hosted in 1904, Los Angeles in 1984, and Atlanta in 1996). Indeed, Mr. Obama wasted no time in putting his new global clout to work on behalf of the Windy City: One of his first acts as President-elect was to tape a video message to IOC members that was submitted along with city's final bid on November 21.

"The United States would be honored to have the opportunity to host the games and serve the Olympic movement," Mr. Obama said in the video. "As president-elect, I see the Olympics and Paralympic Games as an opportunity for our nation to reach out, welcome the world to our shores and strengthen our friendships across the globe."

Olympic officials say Governor Blagojevich hasn't played much of a role in the bidding process thus far, but the Governor did pledge to contribute $150 million in guaranteed state funds as part of Chicago's overall $1.5 billion bid package to the IOC. These financial guarantees are critical to Chicago's chances, since Chicago is the only city among the final four whose financial commitments are not being fully backed by the host country's national government.

Initial reactions suggest that while the Blagojevich scandal is unseemly and not necessarily helpful in the short term, it won't have much impact, if any, on the final outcome. Then again, the IOC won't make the final decision until next October, and in the world of Chicago politics, who knows what could happen by then.

-- Tom Bevan, executive editor of RealClearPolitics.com

Those Tragic Al Franken Voters

Al Franken, the Democratic Senate candidate locked in an acrimonious recount battle with GOP Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, has turned to YouTube.com to make the case that Minnesota officials aren't counting ballots that should be counted.

The Franken campaign released its latest video just before the State Canvassing Board's scheduled meeting on Friday, in an effort to convince the board to count several hundred absentee ballots that Team Franken claims were rejected for specious reasons. The video, which features seven voters who claim their votes should have been counted, is an effective piece of propaganda. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: "In one scene, quadriplegic Mike Brickley of Bloomington is shown lying in bed -- with his head resting on a Minnesota Vikings pillow -- as he pleads with officials to count his vote."

Mr. Brickley tells the camera: "I may be a quadriplegic, but we are still someone, and we deserve to have our votes counted."

The Coleman campaign claims Mr. Brickley had his ballot rejected because officials found he was not registered to vote and that his signature on the absentee ballot didn't match the one used on the application for an absentee ballot. Mr. Brickley maintains he was registered and that his wife had to sign his ballot on his behalf because of his disability.

If Mr. Brickley is indeed registered to vote, I have no doubt a way will be found to have his ballot counted. But his hard-luck case doesn't address the many thousands of absentee ballots rejected for legitimate reasons. With Mr. Coleman holding a lead of between 190 and 300 votes as the recount ends, Mr. Franken has little chance of winning unless he can convince state officials to count a large number of absentee ballots that were originally rejected for not meeting legal requirements. There is precious little evidence that enough such ballots exist to turn the tide.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"When it comes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Dead Meat), many national TV talking heads can't resist playing amateur psychiatrist. 'He's crazy,' said one talking head of our governor. 'A sociopath!' said another. 'He should have been put in a straitjacket, not handcuffs,' said a third, all of them diagnosing Blagojevich as cuckoo. . . .
  • ne thing is clear: The pundits who make such diagnoses have never talked to a Chicago machine politician in their lives. How do they think Chicago politicians talk in private when they're muscling some other guy for cash? Like Helen Mirren playing the queen?" -- Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass.

Quote of the Day II

"Idiocy and greed aren't just for Republicans. For every Larry Craig, there's an Eliot Spitzer; for every Ted Stevens, there's a Rod Blagojevich. In our heads, we Democrats know that. It's just that in our hearts, we don't want to believe it. Because we're the good guys, right? But it's precisely when a party achieves power that its members need to start worrying the most about idiocy and greed. . . Gaining political power also corrupts in far more subtle ways. Members of political majorities succumb easily to smugness and complacency, to the conviction that explaining and justifying ideas is no longer necessary, to the temptation to dismiss critics as so many irrelevant cranks. 'Groupthink' is mainly a disease of the powerful and complacent, not the fractious opposition" -- Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks.

The Next Senator from New Yawk?

When Hillary Clinton vacates her Senate seat, there won't be any need for another carpetbagger to fill the spot. Among those applying for the job is Fran Drescher, star of "The Nanny" and a childhood resident of the outer boroughs of New York City. The actress best known for her role as a nasally New Yorker feels she could play that role just as convincingly in the U.S. Senate.

Ms. Drescher's publicist notes that she has been an advocate for women's health, notably the "Cancer Schmancer" movement, encouraging early testing. For that matter, she's also been a public diplomacy envoy for the State Department, a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill to lobby for cancer funding, and a fixture at Democratic conventions and fundraisers. For a celebrity, in other words, she's been far more of a political workhorse than, say, fellow small-screener and loud mouth Al Franken.

The rap on Ms. Drescher, of course, has always been that she's too annoying to listen to. Then again, being known for whining isn't necessarily a liability in politics. As she told People Magazine, her audiences on the lecture circuit have been goading her to get into politics for ages. "It was one of the single most-asked questions: When are you going to run? Only second to: Is that your real voice?"

Why should New York Gov. David Paterson pick her to fill the Hillary seat? "I would hope he would take into consideration that I'm a beloved New Yorker who gets the New York constituents probably as good, if not better, than any of the other people being considered," she told People magazine.

One other potential qualification is that Ms. Drescher was an energetic Hillary supporter in the Democratic primaries. If Mrs. Clinton has a say, the Nanny might be a shoo-in compared to current pollster favorite Caroline Kennedy, who famously stiffed her home-state senator and instead came out for Barack Obama.

-- Collin Levy



23219  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 11, 2008, 12:00:38 PM
Guau a todos:

Como se ve en el foro "Martial Arts", hay un hilo llamado "Daily Expression of Gratitude".  Con este hilo se comienza aqui lo mismo en espanol.

El concepto basico es muy simple y, en mi opinion, sumamente potente:  Expresar abiertamente cada dia algo por lo cual este's agradecido.  Puede ser algo profundo, o algo muy pequeno.  Por supuesto, habra'n dias en los cuales se nos hace dificil encontrar el espiritu de gratitud, pero precisamente en estos momentos que es el mas importante que conectemos con agradecimiento. 

Es posible sentir "tonto" haciendo eso, pero ofrezco que en mi opinion este ejercicio, este meditacion, es muy potente.

Comienzo:

"Hoy agradezco haber encontrado un software que traduce English-Epanol y Espanol-English.  Eso me permitira' contribuir mas a este foro."

?Ven?  No esa cosa complicada-- y pido que Uds participen cada dia.

La Aventura continua,
Marc
23220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 11, 2008, 11:49:22 AM
FWIW what I see so far is a lot of sound and fury signifying , , , I'm not sure what. 

I think my hardcore rightwing bonafides to be in reasonably good order  wink  but so far I have not seen anything that puts BO in a bad light.   Indeed, what seems to be known so far does not contradict the possibility that BO has acted with integrity.
23221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: December 11, 2008, 11:45:25 AM
Two interesting posts there Rachel.

Turning to the Dating Darwin one, I commend the author for what seems to be a honest search for Truth.

She writes:

"As girls overturn traditional gender roles, boys are forced to do the same, leaving both sexes in scary, unscripted territory. This has, indeed, come as a result of feminist advancements -- but  feminist advancements within a culture that is not yet egalitarian. I think many young women are still in search of an empowered and authentic sexual identity -- a way to be active participants in our sexual culture. Given that they are doing this within a culture than defines sexual power in male terms, , ,"

The word "egalitarian" is a slippery one.  Properly understood, it simply means "equal in value" but in point of fact it is often used to mean "identical in all ways"-- which IMHO is foolishness.

As I see it, the underlying Darwinian question is presented by the interregnum between the onset of puberty and actual childbearing in the modern era.  In many cases, this lasts for decades!!!  The consequences of this separation of sex and reproduction, greatly enabled by technology (the various forms of birth control) and fetus-cide) are as profound as they are outside of Darwinian logic.
IMHO THIS is what drives the dynamic the author seeks to address.

What I sense feminists (even a lucid one such as this author) imply when they use the phrase "traditional gender roles" is that these traditions are simply some sort of arbitrary social construct with oppressive overtones-- one that can be replaced by the "identical in all ways" construct.  Men and women are equal in value, but they most certainly are not the same, and the liberal PC feminazi ideology that says they are ultimately will fail.

A very simple and direct Darwinian example of this is the dramatic decline in birth rates below replacement rates.  I submit the proposition that the more "egalitarian" the culture, the lower the birth rates.  Look at Europe for example.  In many major countries such as Germany, France, and Spain the birth rates are as low as 1.1- 1.4!!!  In contrast, the Muslim birth rates (both Turkish and Arabic) are way above the replacement rate of 2.1.   The net result is the pre-emptive dhimmitude chronicled in various nearby threads.

A large subject, but right now my day takes me elsewhere.

TAC!
Marc

23222  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Seminario con Guro Marc Denny en Argentina on: December 11, 2008, 10:54:02 AM
Nico:

Disculpe la tardanza en mi respuesta.

Te felicito la tarea de DBMA comenzada tan bien y espero con ganas ver donde el futuro nos lleve.

!La Aventura continua!
Guro Marc
23223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: December 11, 2008, 10:41:05 AM
"No compact among men ... can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."

--George Washington, draft of first Inaugural Address, April 1789
23224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Vote Fraud (ACORN et al) on: December 10, 2008, 08:06:25 PM
Ann Coulter IMHO has become highly erratic in the quality of her work.  That said, this one seems rather lucid.  Here's her take on the shenanigans in Minnesota:
=============
Minnesota Ballots: Land of 10,000 Fakes
by  Ann Coulter

 
What is the point of having a hand recount of ballots in the Minnesota Senate race if the Democratic secretary of state is going to use the election night totals in precincts where it will benefit Democrat Al Franken?
   
Either the hand recount produces a better, more accurate count, or there was no point to the state spending roughly $100,000 to conduct the hand recount in the first place.
   
But that is exactly what the George Soros-supported secretary of state has agreed to do in the case of a Dinkytown precinct near the University of Minnesota. The hand recount of the liberal precinct produced 133 fewer ballots than the original count on election night and, more important, 46 fewer votes for Franken.
   
So he's proposing to defer to the election night total over the recount tally.
   
There are no "missing" ballots in Dinkytown. Ballots were run through the voting machines twice on election night. Last week, Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert explained they already knew for a fact that 129 ballots had been run through machines twice on election night, which pretty closely matched the 133 allegedly "missing" ballots.
   
As Reichert said, "There are human errors that are made on Election Day." According to an article in the Dec. 2, 2008, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Reichert was "confident that that's what happened" and that "we have all the ballot envelopes here."   
   
But after relentless badgering by the Franken campaign, now Reichert isn't so sure anymore. So the new plan is for Minneapolis to submit both the election night total from Dinkytown -- which gives Franken an extra 46 votes -- and the meticulous hand recount total, which does not, and allow the canvassing board to decide which to use.
   
The 129 ballots that Reichert said were run through the machines twice on election night could end up being counted twice. 
   
In all other precincts, the initial tallies from election night are treated as highly unreliable rough approximations of the actual vote, while the results from the hand recount are regarded as the absolute truth.
   
Only in the Dinkytown precinct, where the election night total gave Franken an additional 46 votes, does the state treat the hand recount as an error-prone joke compared to the highly accurate election night vote.
   
The Soros-supported Secretary of State Mark Ritchie explains that there is "precedent" for counting election night totals rather than the recount totals. If so, how about using the election night tally from some of the precincts that gave Coleman more votes on election night?
   
Highly implausible, post-election "corrections" in just three Democratic precincts -- Two Harbors, Mountain Iron and Partridge Township -- cost Coleman 446 votes. But I note that Ritchie doesn't propose deferring to the election night totals there.
   
The Minneapolis Star Tribune attributed the 436-vote "correction" in Franken's favor to "exhausted county officials." Were they more exhausted in those three precincts than in Dinkytown?
   
Either the post-election tally is better than the election night tally or it isn't. Cherry-picking only those election night results Ritchie likes isn't an attempt to get an accurate vote-count; it's an attempt to get a Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
   
If Minnesota is going to accept the election night tally from Dinkytown, why not from any of these precincts where Coleman lost votes under far more suspicious circumstances?  And why are guys named "Al" always caught trying to steal elections?
   
Wholly apart from the outrageous inconsistency of deciding that some election night tallies trump the hand recount and some don't, Franken's miraculous acquisition of more than 500 votes from heavily Democratic precincts in post-election "corrections" wasn't believable on its face -- and that's even accounting for the fact that Franken voters tend to be stupider than average and therefore more likely to fill out their ballots incorrectly.
   
Corrections in all other 2008 races combined led to only 482 changes in the entire state of Minnesota. The idea that typo "corrections" in one single contest from only three precincts, out of more than 4,000 precincts, could lead to 436 "corrections" benefiting Franken is manifestly absurd.
   
Ritchie's proposal to accept the election night count from one precinct is a stunning admission that even he doesn't believe a hand recount is any more accurate than the original election night tally. 
   
To be sure, endlessly recounting ballots doesn't yield more accurate results, it just creates different results. There is no reason to think a tabulation is more accurate because it occurred later in time.
   
But then why have a recount at all?  If the state of Minnesota is going to spend $100,000 and endless man-hours to conduct a meticulous hand recount on the grounds that it is more accurate, the state ought to at least pretend to believe in its own recount.
   
Election recounts are never intended to get more accurate results. They are simply opportunities for Democrats to manufacture new votes and steal elections.
   
And once again, Republicans are asleep at the wheel while another close election is being openly stolen by the man whose contributions to western civilization include the "Planet of The Enormous Hooters" sketch on "SNL."

23225  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Question from a friend in Iraq on: December 10, 2008, 08:03:58 PM
From behind a full nelson to keep the hands from the bomb trigger?

From in front , , , double underhooks?

23226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Golfer heroes on: December 10, 2008, 06:58:30 PM
Notice the age of the defenders of justice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Life of Reilly

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Rick Reilly
ESPN The Magazine

We golfers are sick of all you Americans who call us useless Crisco butts wearing clothing salvaged from a Sherwin-Williams paint factory explosion. To you, we offer The Fab Foursome.


These four golfers not only fought off an armed robber, they chased him down in a golf cart and held him for police. And all without resorting to a single Big Bertha!

OK, true, the assailant was wearing underpants on his head. And, yes, the weapon was only a kitchen knife. And yes, he did move at the speed of Willard Scott on stilts, but what did you expect? We did say the guy got caught by golfers.

It all happened on Monday, Nov. 24, at around 4 p.m. at the Central Valley Golf Course in Salt Lake City. A, ahem, brief summary:

Scott Flick, 34, an assistant golf pro, was alone in the shop when, according to the charges, Barry Kramer, 48, entered wearing a pair of brown men's tighties on his head and carrying a 10-inch kitchen knife in his fist. Seeing nobody behind the cash register, he surprised Flick in his office and said, "Money!"

Then Flick said something very clever, which was: "Are you kidding me?!" Question No. 1: Why was the man wearing underpants on his head? A: Perhaps he planned to take the money and launder it.

Question No. 2: Was the color of the underpants originally brown or were they … A: "No," answers Flick. "They were not stained from the day before."

The point is, this man, who Flick thought outweighed him by 70 pounds, aimed to give Flick a slice that no lesson could cure. He thrust the knife at Flick's bellybutton, menacingly. "People ask me why I didn't just do what he wanted," recalls Flick, "but I was trapped in that office. I really felt threatened."

Surveillance cameras caught Flick grabbing the man's arms and shoving them above his head. The knife caught Flick's ear. Now it was Van Gogh time, pal. Flick wrestled the assailant out of the office, into a supply closet—carving up his own hand along the way—and hip-checked him into a shelf, breaking the knife off at the handle.

Finding himself at a golf course without a shank, the assailant fled, with Flick following him as he called 911. "I didn't even know my ear was cut until I looked at my phone and saw all the blood."

At that instant, three golfers were coming in from their round. Flick saw them and hollered, "Get this guy! He tried to rob me! I'm cut!"

Library custodian Bob Brewer, 58, spun the cart around in hot pursuit, with his friend, real-estate agent Reed Madsen, 57, sprinting behind. Next on the Golf Channel: America's Most Unforgettable Cart Chases!

In the parking lot, the third buddy—groundskeeper Gary Itow, 58—gave chase, too, a golf shoe on his right foot, a running shoe on his left, neither of them tied. "The guy still had the underwear on his head," Itow remembers. "He looked like maybe he was having trouble seeing."

Robbery 101: Leghole faces out.

As the assailant ran across the driving range, Brewer ran the nose of the cart into the back of his calves, felling him on the spot. He then jumped out and, along with his two buddies, stomped him flat while Itow kicked the knife handle out of his hand. A passing golfer came over offering aspirin. He thought the robber was having a heart attack. When they told him the man was actually a knife-waving maniac, the Good Samaritan moved away quickly. Exactly, son. Leave this to the experts.

Question No. 3: Did guys try to hit Bob's cart with seven-iron shots as he drove across the practice range? A: Surprisingly, no.

Police charged Kramer with aggravated robbery. And it turns out this may have been No. 2 for the Underpants Robber. A week before, a knife-wielding man walked into a suburban Salt Lake City pro shop with men's undergarments on his head and tried to rob it. Detectives for both cases say it's "possible" the cases are linked. (OK, so they're not exactly Scotland Yard.)

Rightly, the Fab Foursome is being hailed as heroes. Flick got 10 stitches in his right hand and a bonus which was way more than the nearly $200 in the register. For their courage, Flick gave the three buddies a free round of golf.

As for those three, they get out of their cart now with a certain bounce, according to Itow. "We say stuff to each other like, 'Go ahead, punk. Make my putt."

And get this: Hollywood executives have approached them about starring in a new TV series—CSI: Pro Shop. Question No. 4: Did you make that one up? A: Yes.
23227  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Question from a friend in Iraq on: December 10, 2008, 06:50:47 PM
My sentiments exactly. grin

 I suspect what my friend has in mine though is a situation wherein the GG has to jump on the BG HTH.
23228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Men: Stay out of the doghouse! on: December 10, 2008, 05:11:48 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SecVCh9dg4I
23229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Joe the plumber appalled on: December 10, 2008, 09:26:25 AM
'Joe the Plumber' told conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Tuesday that he felt "dirty" after hitting the campaign trail with Republican presidential nominee John McCain and "seeing some of the things that take place," Politico reported.

Joe Wurzelbacher said he was specifically put off by McCain when it came to talk of the $700 billion bailout.

"When I was on the bus with him, I asked him a lot of questions about the bailout because most Americans did not want that to happen,"

Wurzelbacher told Beck. "I asked him some pretty direct questions. Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact, I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him."
Wurzelbacher said he stayed on the trail with McCain "honestly, because the thought of Barack Obama as president scares me even more."

Wurzelbacher, however, offered kind words to McCain running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

"Sarah Palin is absolutely the real deal," he said.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elec...cain-appalled/
23230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 10, 2008, 09:10:07 AM
My initial impression is that I am not seeing anything terrible by BO here.  Politics is not beanbag.
====================
http://www.newsmax.com:80/headlines/Blagojevich_Indictment/2008/12/09/160064.html?s=al&promo_code=7403-1

Blagojevich Scandal: What Did Obama Know, and When Did He Know It?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008 7:04 PM
By: David A. Patten  Article Font Size   


Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted “something big” from the Obama administration in return for naming its preferred candidate to fill Obama’s Senate seat — and he delivered an expletive-filled tirade when Obama’s representatives apparently refused to go along.

Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested Tuesday on charges that they tried to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat that Obama recently vacated. Under Illinois law, naming a replacement falls to Blagojevich.

The FBI says it taped Blagojevich complaining that Obama advisers were telling him that he had to “suck it up . . . and give this mother----er [the President-elect]] his senator. F--- him. For nothing? F--- him.”

Obama briefly addressed the arrests Tuesday afternoon, telling the media, “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening. It’s a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment.”

The criminal complaint was announced Tuesday by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who came to national prominence during the investigation that led to the conviction of Scooter Libby on charges related to the Valerie Plame case.  Fitzgerald stated Tuesday that “there is no allegation in the complaint that the president-elect was aware of it and that is all I can say,” according to ABCNews.com. The 76-page criminal complaint refers to the president-elect and his representatives at least 40 times, however.

Item No. 99 in the document states that Blagojevich and Harris spoke on Nov. 7 with “Adviser B,” a Washington, D.C.-based consultant presumably working on behalf of the Obama transition team. During the call, Blagojevich indicated that he would appoint a person the complaint identifies only as “Senate Candidate 1” -- presumably a candidate preferred by the Obama administration -- in return for Blagojevich being appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services by Obama.

Candidate 1 is generally believed to be Obama insider Valerie Jarrett, who has been mentioned as among the favorites to replace Obama in the Senate.

Harris stated “we wanted our [request] to be reasonable and rather than . . . make it look like some sort of selfish grab for a quid pro quo."

During the call, Blagojevich stated he was hurting “financially.” And Harris said the “financial security” of the Blagojevich family was an issue. At one point, Blagojevich stated outright, “I want to make money,” according to the indictment. Also discussed during that conference call was a “three-way deal” between the SEIU union, Blagojevich, and Obama. The deal was that Blagojevich would appoint Obama’s preferred candidate, and in return Obama would help Blagojevich win the SEIU appointment to head an organization called “Change to Win.”

ChangetoWin.org describes itself as an organization created by “seven unions and six million workers” to “restore the American Dream of the 21st Century.”

Harris said the three-way deal would give Obama a “buffer so there is no obvious quid pro quo for [the appointment of Senate Candidate 1]. The criminal complaint states, “Adviser B said that he liked the idea of the three-way deal.”

Three days later, the indictment said, Blagojevich told Harris it was unlikely that Obama would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services, or appoint him to be an ambassador, due to the investigation looming over him. The complaint states that Adviser B and another consultant are believed to have participated in a call during which Blagojevich said they were telling him to “suck it up” for two years, and give this “motherf---er [the President-elect] his senator. F--- him. For nothing? F--- him.”

Next, states the complaint, Blagojevich says he would appoint another candidate, Senate Candidate 4, “before I just give f---ing [Senate Candidate 1] a f---ing Senate seat and I don’t get anything.”

Senate Candidate 4, the complaint states, is a deputy governor of the State of Illinois. Dean Martinez, Bob Greenlee, and Louanner Peters currently serve as deputy governors.

During the conversations with Obama’s representatives, Blagojevich repeatedly made it clear he would not agree to name “Senate Candidate 1” to fill the position without a quid pro quo from the White House, if only indirectly, according to the complaint. Blagojevich stated he wanted to make $250,000 to $300,000 annually.

The criminal complaint indicates Blagojevich and his staff were confident they could exact something from at least one candidate for the seat, Senate Candidate 5. Senate Candidate 5 is not identified.

Based on the complaint, it remains unclear whether any close Obama associate knew that Blagojevich was seeking monetary gain in return for the Senate appointment. It is possible that having such knowledge without reporting it to authorities in a timely way could raise serious legal issues.  If nothing else, the complaints represent an embarrassment to Obama given his support for Blagojevich’s gubernatorial reelection bid.

The RNC responded to the indictments in part by circulating an Associated Press report from August 2006 in which Obama stated, “We’ve got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois.”

Also, RNC Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan released a statement calling Obama’s reaction to the arrests “insufficient at best.”

He added, “Given the President-elect’s history of supporting and advising Gov. Blagojevich, he has a responsibility to speak out and fully address the issue.”

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
 
 
23231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 10, 2008, 08:59:23 AM
"No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable."

--George Washington, Message to the House of Representatives, 3 December 1793
23232  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New to forum on: December 10, 2008, 01:21:14 AM
That's the spirit!

I remember being very surprised when that happened.

Welcome aboard!

23233  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Healing Aspect of DBMA on: December 10, 2008, 01:19:45 AM
If you use the Advanced Search function to look for "Dit Da Jow" you may find something , , ,
23234  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Question from a friend in Iraq on: December 10, 2008, 12:36:16 AM
Woof All:

A friend who is in Iraq training the Baghdad police in modern police skills emails me the following question:

"Are there/is there a pressure point that when pressed would prevent/significantly limit a person from effectively pressing a button (like on a suicide vest switch)?"

Comments/suggestions?

TAC!
CD
23235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor:The quasi surge on: December 09, 2008, 11:47:08 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The Afghanistan Surge and Pakistan's Role
December 9, 2008

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remained defiant as ever Monday, declaring in a message posted on an Islamist radical Web site that a planned surge of foreign troops to Afghanistan would result only in more targets for Taliban fighters. He also refused to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul so long as foreign soldiers remain in Afghanistan.

Though such a statement is not exactly surprising, coming from a hardliner like Mullah Omar, even his more moderate colleagues are not feeling compelled to entertain negotiations with the government at the moment. Despite U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s statements about a “soft surge” strategy analogous to a model used in Iraq — a surge that could total 20,000 U.S. troops, on top of more than 60,000 U.S. and NATO forces already present — the Taliban movement is not quaking in its boots.

No one is suggesting a cut-and-paste application of the Iraq strategy, but the underpinning is the same: A significant influx of combat forces to turn the tide of the conflict and change regional perceptions.

In the Iraq experience, it is not that the 30,000 extra troops altered the balance of power — far from it. It was the arrival of those troops in context that was significant. U.S. President George W. Bush committed the forces immediately after his party lost the 2006 congressional elections and thus control over both houses of Congress. The obvious decision would have been to throw in the towel and begin a withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, Bush surged forces. The general feeling in the region — and particularly in Iran — was shocked confusion. For if the Americans were willing to double down after a bad election result, what would it take for them to back off? The result was a shift in calculus in Tehran and among Iraq’s sectarian groups that led to negotiations, a significant reduction in violence and ultimately the Status of Forces Agreement, which defines terms of the U.S. military presence in Iraq for the next three years.

The U.S. hope now is that the architect and implementer of the Iraq surge strategy, Gen. David Petraeus, can translate the Iraq success to the Afghan theater, largely using forces that are being freed up from Iraq. Just as the surge into Iraq caused the Iranians to wonder if the Americans had lost their minds, the logic goes, a surge into Afghanistan might cause the Pakistanis to shift their position. Specifically, the Americans want the Pakistanis to take a much firmer line against militant Islamists in the region bordering Afghanistan.

However, a direct Iraq-to-Afghanistan comparison is impossible because the war theaters are quite different — perhaps too different to make the surge strategy applicable.

First and most critically, there is no single government in Pakistan. In fact, many of the factions in Pakistan fully side with the radical Islamists that the United States wants to target in the border region. And as the last couple of weeks have illustrated, there are sound reasons to doubt that Pakistan’s government would be able to effect a difference in the security situation, even if it does possess the will to crack down on the Islamist rogues that are causing trouble.

Second, there is a belief within the Pakistani government — among those who are making at least some efforts to help out the war effort — that the Americans surely will not take any steps that would threaten the coherence of the Pakistani state itself. To do so would, in their eyes, destroy Pakistan and release what pressure that has been brought to bear on the militants in the first place. The key bluff (assuming it is a bluff) of an Afghan surge would be for the Americans to convince this faction that, no, Washington is less concerned with the fragility of the Pakistani state than with eradicating Islamist militants, so Islamabad had better step up.

Third, even if the bluff works, there is always the concern that India will be compelled to take military action against Pakistan itself — with or without U.S. consent — in retribution for the Mumbai attacks, and in hopes of keeping such an attack from occurring again. In other words, if the Pakistanis become all the more concerned about rival India to the east, they will have even less incentive to worry about problems on their western border with Afghanistan. In fact, Pakistan could grow even more reliant on Islamist militant irregulars to use against India as tensions escalate.

It is an imperfect comparison, and applying the surge strategy to Afghanistan is probably a long shot at best. But right now it is the only page in the game book that appears to have some relevance.
23236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 09, 2008, 09:59:23 PM
second post of the day:

WHY ARE MEXICAN PASSPORTS SHOWING UP IN MUMBAI, INDIA?

By Todd Bensman
The San Antonio Express-News

Three Afghani Muslim men caught posing as Mexican nationals last month while
en route to Europe were part of a human smuggling operation and carried what
are now believed to be altered but genuine Mexican passports for which they
paid $10,000 each, Indian investigators told The San Antonio Express-News.


An ongoing transcontinental investigation, which now involves Mexican and
Indian authorities, began Feb. 11 when a suspicious airport customs official
in Kuwait noticed the three Afghanis, traveling under Mexican pseudonyms,
could not speak Spanish during a layover on their air trip from New Delhi,
India to France.

The three Afghani travelers were detained and deported to India, where they
remain in custody while Mexican and Indian authorities try to learn about
their backgrounds, where they were going and who sold the apparently real
government-issue passports. A U.S. source confirmed the FBI and Immigration
and Customs Enforcement investigators also are looking into the matter.

At issue to some U.S. national security experts is whether another of
Mexico's embassies and consulates abroad might be implicated in selling
travel documents to people from countries like Afghanistan where terrorist
organizations are active, a circumstance that potentially could bring
terrorists to American borders. It wouldn't be the first time a Mexican
embassy was implicated in such an affair.

In 2003, a Mexican investigation into a Lebanon-Mexico human smuggling
operation produced firings and indictments of Mexican embassy personnel in
Beirut for allegedly selling travel documents to Lebanese citizens. One man
who bought a Mexican visa for $3,000 turned out to be a ranking Hezbollah
operative smuggled over the California border in the trunk of a car. Mahmoud
Kourani was convicted in 2004 of supporting the terrorist group from
Detroit.

Interdicting U.S.-bound travelers from the Middle East "was our number one
concern," said recently retired FBI Assistant Legal Attaché James Conway,
who for four years after 9-11 oversaw the bureau's counterterrorism programs
in Mexico City. "That's the national security concern from our southern
flank."

Travelers from Islamic countries carrying passports that are valid but
altered with fake names and photographs are among the most difficult to
detect, he said. In the black markets of human smuggling, real national
passports with embedded security bar codes rank among the most valuable
travel documents because they enable their bearers to more easily slip
through airport inspections.
==============
"If you've got a Mexican passport you've already crossed the bridge," Conway
said. "And you can become part of the flood of people who cross into the
U.S. If terrorists wanted to exploit the infrastructure in place, they can.
It's there."

TERRORISTS OR REFUGEES?

V.G. Babu, superintendent of immigration police at Cochin International
Airport, told the Express-News in a telephone interview the passports were
genuine government-manufactured passports and that the three men admitted to
buying them for $10,000 each in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, which
hosts a Mexican consulate office.

Babu said the three men initially tried to convince Indian authorities that
they were Mexicans. But the story quickly fell apart when two of the three
couldn't prove they spoke Spanish, he said.

"We broke them," because of the language issue, he said, and handed the men
over to federal Indian police for further investigation.

Investigators learned that a third Afghan who did speak some Spanish had
more than casual dealings with the Mexican embassy personnel in New Delhi
and was known to speak several languages, according to one Indian news
report.

Babu said he could offer no further details. Mexican foreign service
officials would only confirm that a multi-ministry investigation was
underway.

The Mexican Embassy in New Delhi declined to comment on the case. However, a
Feb. 16 Newindypress.com report cited New Delhi-based Ambassador Rogerlio
Granguillhome as confirming to Indian authorities that the passports were
likely real and asking that the documents be handed over so they can be
traced to their origins at an embassy or consulate office.

Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for Mexico's embassy in Washington D.C., also
would not answer questions specific to the investigation. But he did say his
government "has applied strong measures and invested considerable resources
to continuously improve the security of its travel documents."

"Mexico is a committed partner with the U.S. in ensuring . our borders are
not used to threaten or undermine our common security," Alday said in an
email.

Whether the Afghanis are connected to terrorist organizations battling with
American troops in Afghanistan and how they obtained the passports remain
unknown as the obscure investigation unfolds.

But Afghanistan is one of 43 predominantly Islamic nations listed by the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security as "countries of special interest"
because Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups operate in them.

Many Afghans caught crossing the U.S. southern border in recent years have
been determined to be economic immigrants, not terrorists, but many others
are presumed to have crossed and not been caught. Between 2002 and 2006, the
U.S. border patrol caught about 63 Afghanis crossing the borders, according
to agency capture data.

Conway, the former FBI legal attaché to Mexico, said that during his tour
the FBI got many "hits" running the names of captured immigrants from those
countries through terror watch list databases. He declined to elaborate,
citing national security rules against disclosure, and it remains unknown
what was learned of those individuals. But terrorists have illegally crossed
into the U.S. from Mexico and Canada since the mid 1990s.


THE WEAK LINK

The India case highlights concern felt among homeland security officials
since 9-11 about a continuing stream of immigrants from countries of
interest who illegally cross U.S. borders every year using Latin American
travel documents, often provided by paid human smugglers.

The chief concern, according to current and former FBI and ICE agents
familiar with the issue, is how well Latin American countries police the
supplies of travel documents emanating from their embassies and consulates
in Islamic countries.

According to federal court records from prosecutions of Middle Eastern
smugglers, thousands of Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese and citizens of many other
Islamic countries have been able to travel illegally to Latin American
countries, then over U.S. borders. They were often able to do so by using
real travel documents originating from embassy offices of Mexico, Guatemala,
Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru.

Conway said the ability to obtain real passports from any of those countries
represents a high danger.
================
"If you've got diplomatic establishments, like in Beirut, handing out
passports, there's little you can do," he said. "They come to Mexico, dress
like Mexican businessmen and you think they're going to pop up on our radar
screen? Absolutely not. They're going to walk on through."

In recent years, U.S. authorities have sought to make Central- and South
American countries more aware of the security threat presented by their
consulate offices and embassies. But some of those countries, such as
Venezuela and Guatemala, have proven less than responsive when asked to
tighten controls on foreign service personnel stationed abroad.

Among countries south of the U.S., Mexico has proven to be among the most
cooperative, Conway and other federal agents who have worked
counterterrorism programs there have said. Mexico has collaborated
extensively with American agencies to interdict travelers from countries of
interest, going so far as to allow American agents to interrogate captured
detainees inside Mexican facilities.

As part of those efforts, the Mexican government has taken some steps to
fortify confidence in its embassy personnel. For instance, after an
investigation in 2003 Mexico purged its Beirut embassy of personnel thought
to have been supplying travel documents to a Lebanese human smuggling
operation run by Salim Boughader, a Lebanese-Mexican.

Then, after U.S. courts were through convicting Boughader of smuggling
hundreds of Lebanese into Mexico for journeys over the U.S. border, Mexico
prosecuted and convicted him.

Mexico also has intensified a program of vetting its consuls and actively
monitoring the activities of staff elsewhere. Last year, the Express-News
reported that Iraqis and other citizens of the region had offered hundreds
of thousands of dollars in bribes to Mexico's honorary consul to Jordan, for
travel visas that would get them to Mexico and then the U.S. (SEE BREACHING
AMERICA SERIES)


Raouf N. El-Far, a Jordanian businessman who was appointed Mexico's honorary
consul to Jordan in 2004, said he refused all offers. He also said he
underwent an intensive intelligence background check before his appointment,
part of a new program at the time.

Still, word that three Afghans caught using passports to pose as traveling
Mexican nationals struck counter-terrorism expert Steven Emerson as lucky -
and alarming.

"If these three Afghanis figured out how to infiltrate under false Mexican
identifies, you can be sure that Islamic terrorists have done the same,"
said Emerson, who runs the Washington D.C.-based Investigative Project on
Terrorism.

"This needs to be investigated by Congress and the FBI."

Express-News reporter Sean Mattson in Mexico contributed to this report
=================
23237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mexico circling the drain? on: December 09, 2008, 09:56:57 PM
Stratfor
Part 1: A Critical Confluence of Events
December 9, 2008 | 1213 GMT
Summary

Mexico is facing the perfect storm as the global financial crisis begins to
impact the country's economy and as the government's campaign against the
drug cartels seems to be making the country even less secure. Mexico also
faces legislative elections in the coming year, which will involve much
jockeying for the 2012 presidential race. The political implications of the
financial crisis will be reflected in a decline in employment and overall
standard of living. In a country where political expression takes the form
of paralyzing protest, the economic downturn could spell near-disaster for
the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Analysis
Editor's Note: This is the first part of a series on Mexico.



Mexico appears to be a country coming undone. Powerful drug cartels use
Mexico for the overland transshipment of illicit drugs - mainly cocaine,
marijuana and methamphetamine - from producers in South America to consumers
in the United States. Violence between competing cartels has grown over the
past two years as they have fought over territory and as the Mexican army
has tried to secure the embattled areas, mainly on the country's periphery.
It is a tough fight, made even tougher by endemic geographic, institutional
and technical problems in Mexico that make a government victory hard to
achieve. The military is stretched thin, the cartels are becoming even more
aggressive and the people of Mexico are growing tired of the violence.


At the same time, the country is facing a global economic downturn that will
slow Mexico's growth and pose additional challenges to national stability.
Although the country appears to be in a comfortable fiscal position for the
short term, the outlook for the country's energy industry is bleak, and a
decline in employment could prompt social unrest. Complications also loom in
the political sphere as Mexican parties campaign ahead of 2009 legislative
elections and jockey for position in preparation for the 2012 presidential
election.

Economic Turmoil

As the international financial crisis roils economies around the world,
Mexico has been hit hard. Tightly bound to its northern neighbor, Mexico's
economy is set to shrink alongside that of the United States, and it will be
an enormous challenge for the Mexican government to face in the midst of a
devastating war with the drug cartels.


The key to understanding the Mexican economy is an appreciation of Mexico's
enormous integration with the United States. As a party to the North
American Free Trade Agreement and one of the largest U.S. trading partners,
Mexico is highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the U.S. economy. The United
States is the largest single source of foreign direct investment in Mexico.
Even more important, the United States is the destination of more than 80
percent of Mexico's exports. A slowdown in economic activity and consumer
demand in the United States thus translates directly into a slowdown in
Mexico.

In addition to the sale of most Mexican goods in the U.S. markets, the
United States is a major source of revenue for Mexico though remittances,
and together these sources of income provide around a quarter of Mexico's
gross domestic product (GDP). When Mexican immigrants send money home from
the United States, it makes up a substantial portion of Mexico's external
revenue streams. Remittances to Mexico totaled US$23.9 billion in 2007,
according to the Mexican Central Bank. The slowdown in the U.S. housing
sector has brought remittances down during the course of 2008 from highs in
the middle of 2007. As of the end of September 2008, remittances for the
year were down by US$672.6 million from the same period in 2007.

The decline in remittances is being matched by a slowdown in Mexico's
economy across the board. The Mexican government estimates that Mexico's GDP
will slow from 3.2 percent growth in 2007 to 1.8 percent in 2008. Given that
the U.S. economy is sliding into recession at the same time, this is likely
only the beginning of the Mexican slowdown, and growth is expected to bottom
out at 0.9 percent in 2009.

With growing pressure on the rest of the economy, the prospect of rising
unemployment is perhaps the most daunting challenge. So far, unemployment
and underemployment in Mexico has risen from 9.77 percent in December 2007
to 10.82 percent in October 2008, (some 27 percent of the workforce is
employed in the informal sector). But slowed growth and declining demand in
the United States is sure to cause further declines in employment in Mexico.
As happened in the wake of Mexico's 1982 debt crisis, Mexicans may seek to
return to a certain degree of subsistence farming in order to make it
through the tough times, but that is nowhere near an ideal solution. The
government has proposed a US$3.4 billion infrastructure buildup plan to be
implemented in 2009 that will seek to boost jobs (and demand for industrial
goods) throughout Mexico, although it is not clear how quickly this can take
effect or how many jobs it might create.

Further compounding the employment issue is the possibility of Mexican
immigrants returning from the United States as jobs disappear to the north.
Stratfor sources have already reported a slightly higher-than-normal level
of immigrants returning to Mexico, and although it is too early to plot the
trajectory of this trend, there is little doubt that job opportunities are
evaporating in the United States. As migrants return to Mexico, however,
there are very few jobs waiting for them there, either. This presents the
very real possibility that the available jobs will be in the black markets,
and specifically with the drug cartels. Demand for drugs persists despite
economic downturns, and the business of the cartels continues unabated.
Indeed, for the cartels, the economic downturn could be an excellent
recruitment opportunity.

The turmoil in U.S. financial markets has directly damaged the value of the
Mexican peso and has caused a loss of wealth among Mexican companies.
Mexican businesses have lost billions of dollars (exact figures are not
available at this time) to bad currency bets. Mexican companies in search of
extra financing have had trouble floating corporate paper, which has forced
the government to offer billions of dollars worth of guarantees. The upside
to this is that a weaker currency will increase the attractiveness of
Mexican exports to the United States vis-à-vis China (for a change), which
will boost the export sector to a certain degree.

The fluctuating peso has also forced the Mexican central bank to inject
about US$14.8 billion into currency markets to stabilize the peso.
Nevertheless, the peso has devalued by approximately 22.6 percent since the
beginning of 2008. Partially as a result of the currency devaluation,
inflation appears to be rising slightly. The government has reported a
12-month inflation rate of 6.2 percent, through mid-November. This is
actually fairly low for a developing nation, but it is the highest inflation
has been in Mexico since 2001.

Mexico's financial sector is highly exposed to the international credit
market, with about 80 percent of Mexico's banks owned by foreign companies,
and the banking sector has been unstable in recent months. Foreign capital
has, to a certain degree, fled Mexican investments and banks as capital
worldwide veered away from developing to developed markets, in response to
the global financial crisis. The result is a decline in investments across
the board, and there was a sharp decline in the purchase of Mexican
government bonds. After a four-week fall in bond purchases, the Mexican
government announced a US$1.1 billion bond repurchase package Dec. 2 in an
attempt to increase liquidity in the capital markets and lower interest
rates. Although investors were not responsive, it is an indication that the
government is taking its countercyclical duties seriously.

As the government seeks to counter falling employment and other economic
challenges, it will need to lean heavily on its available resources. The
central bank holds US$83.4 billion in foreign reserves, as of Nov. 28, and
can continue to use the money to implement monetary stabilization. Mexico
also maintains oil stabilization funds that total more than US$7.4 billion,
which provides a small fiscal cushion. The 2009 Mexican federal budget calls
for the first budget deficit in years - amounting to 1.8 percent of GDP -
and has increased spending by 13 percent from the previous year's budget, to
US$231 billion.

Some 40 percent of this budget is reliant on oil revenues generated by
Mexican state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Despite the
fall in oil prices, Mexico has managed to secure its energy income through a
series of hedged oil sales contracts. These contracts will sustain the
budget through the duration of 2009 with prices set from US$70 to US$100 per
barrel. Mexico is a major exporter of oil - ranked the sixth largest
producer and the 10th largest exporter. The energy industry is critical for
the economy, just as it is for the government.

In the long term, however, Mexico's energy industry is crippled. Due to a
history of restrictive energy regulations, oil production is falling
precipitously (primarily at Mexico's gigantic offshore Cantarell oil field),
with government reports indicating that production averaged 2.8 million
barrels per day (bpd) between January and September, which is far from
Mexico's target production of 3 million bpd. Thus, even if Mexico has
secured the price of its oil through 2009, it cannot guarantee its
production levels in the short term, and perhaps not in the long term.

To try to boost the industry's prospects, the Mexican government has passed
an energy reform plan that will allow Pemex to issue contract agreements to
foreign companies for joint exploration and production projects. The
government has also decided to assume some of Pemex's debt in order to ease
the company's access to international credit in light of the tight
international credit market.

These changes could help Mexico pull its oil production rate out of the
doldrums. However, most of Mexico's untapped reserves are located either in
deep complex formations or offshore - environments in which Pemex is at best
a technical laggard - making extraction projects expensive and technically
difficult. With the international investment climate constrained by capital
shortages, foreigners barred from sharing ownership of the oil they produce
and the price of oil falling, it is not yet clear how interested foreign oil
companies will be in such partnerships.

The decline in the energy sector has the potential to produce a sustained
fiscal crisis in the two- to three-year timeframe, even assuming that other
aspects of the economic environment (nearly all of which are beyond Mexico's
control) rectify themselves. The slack in government revenue will have to be
taken up through increased taxes on other industries or on individuals, but
it is not yet clear how such a replacement source of revenue might be
created.

The overall political implications of the financial crisis will be reflected
in a decline in employment and the standard of living of average Mexicans.
In a country where political expression takes the form of paralyzing
protest, the economic downturn could spell near-disaster for the
administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The Shifting Political Landscape
In power since 2000, the ruling National Action Party (PAN) has enjoyed a
fairly significant level of support for Calderon both within the
legislature - where it lacks a ruling majority - and in the population at
large, particularly given the razor-thin margin with which Calderon won his
office in 2006. The Calderon administration has launched a number of reform
efforts targeting labor, energy and, of course, security.

Although the PAN has maintained an alliance with the Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) for much of Calderon's administration, this is a
unity that that is unlikely to persist, given that both parties have begun
to lay out their campaigns for the 2012 presidential election.

For the ruling party, there are a number of looming challenges on the
political scene. Mexico has seen a massive spike in crime and drug-related
violence coincide with the first eight years of rule by Calderon's PAN after
71 straight years of rule by the PRI. To make things worse, the global
financial crisis has begun to impact Mexico - through no fault of its own -
and the impact on employment could be devastating. Given the confluence of
events, it is almost guaranteed that Calderon and the PAN will suffer
political losses going forward, weakening the party's ability to move
forward with decisive action.

So far, Calderon has been receiving credit for his all-out attack on the
drug cartels, and his approval ratings are near 60 percent. As the economy
weakens and the death toll mounts, however, this positive outlook could
easily falter.

The challenge will not likely come from the PAN's 2006 rival, the
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). The PRD gained tremendous media
attention when party leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lost the
presidential election to Calderon and proceeded to stage massive
demonstrations protesting his loss. Since then, the PRD has adopted a
less-radical stance, and the far-left elements of the party have begun to
part ways with the less radical elements. This split within the PRD could
weaken the party as it moves forward.

The weakening of the PRD is auspicious for Mexico's third party, the PRI,
which has been playing a very careful game. The PRI has engaged in
partnerships with the PAN in opposition (for the most part) to the leftist
PRD. In doing so, the PRI has taken a strong role in the formation of
legislation. However, the PRI's prospects for the 2012 presidential election
have begun to improve, with the party's popularity on the rise. As of late
October, the PRI was polling extremely well - at the expense of both the PAN
and the PRD - with a 32.4 percent approval rating, compared to the PAN's
24.5 percent and the PRD's 10.8 percent.

In the short term, the June 2009 legislative elections will be a litmus test
for the political gyrations of Mexico, a warm-up for the 2012 elections and
the next stage of political challenges for Calderon. As the PRI positions
itself in opposition to the PAN - and particularly if the party gains more
seats in the Mexican legislature - it will become increasingly difficult for
the government to reach compromise solutions to looming challenges. Calderon
is somewhat protected by his high approval ratings, which will make overt
moves against him politically questionable for the PRI or the PRD.

Although a great deal could change (and quickly), these dynamics highlight
the potential changes in political orientation for Mexico over the next
three years. In the short term, the political situation remains relatively
secure for Calderon, which is critical for a president who is balancing the
need for substantial economic resuscitation with an ongoing war on domestic
organized crime.

Mexico's most critical challenge is the convergence of events it now faces.
The downturn in the economy, the political dynamics or the deteriorating
security situation, each on its own, might not pose an insurmountable
problem for Mexico. What could prove insurmountable is the confluence of all
three, which appears to be in the making.
23238  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: December 09, 2008, 09:51:03 PM
He aqui la traduccion del Stratfor del post anterior.  !Por favor alguien haz la separacion de parafos!

La parte 1: Una Confluencia Crítica de Acontecimientos el 9 de diciembre de 2008 | 1213 Resumen de GMT México está frente a la tormenta perfecta como la crisis financiera global comienza a impresionar la economía del país y como la campaña del gobierno contra los cárteles de droga parece estar haciendo el país asegura todavía menos. México también encara elecciones legislativas en el año venidero, que implicará mucho manejar para la 2012 carrera presidencial. Las implicaciones políticas de la crisis financiera serán reflejadas en un descenso en el empleo y nivel de vida general. En un país donde expresión política toma la forma de protesta paralizadora, la baja económica podría deletrear cercano-desastre para la administración de Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon. La Nota de la redacción del análisis: Esto es la primera parte de una serie en México. El Tema Especial relacionado Llama Países En la Crisis Economía Política y la Crisis financiera que Rastrean Cárteles de la Droga de México Relacionados Ligan Países en la Crisis: México México parece ser un país que la venida deshizo. Los cárteles poderosos de la droga utilizan México para el transbordo terrestre de drogas ilícitas — principalmente cocaína, la marihuana y la metanfetamina — De productores en Sudamérica a consumidores en Estados Unidos. La violencia entre competir cárteles han crecido durante los últimos dos años como ellos han luchado sobre el territorio y como el ejército mexicano ha tratado de asegurar las áreas luchadas, principalmente en la periferia del país. Es un combate duro, hecho aún más duro por problemas endémicos, geográficos, institucionales y técnicos en México que hace una victoria del gobierno dura para lograr. El ejército es estirado delgado, los cárteles llegan a ser aún más agresivos y las personas de México se cansan de la violencia. Al mismo tiempo, el país está frente a una baja económica global que ralentizará el crecimiento de México y colocará desafíos adicionales a la estabilidad nacional. Aunque el país parezca estar en una posición fiscal cómoda para el término corto, la vista para la industria de la energía del país es desolado, y un descenso en el empleo podría incitar inquietud social. Las complicaciones también asoman en la esfera política como partidos mexicanos hacen campaña adelante de 2009 elecciones legislativas y manejan para la posición en la preparación para la 2012 elección presidencial. La Confusión económica Como la crisis financiera internacional irrita economías alrededor del mundo, México ha sido golpeado duramente. Salte apretadamente a su el norte de vecino, la economía de México es puesta a encogerse al costado que de Estados Unidos, y ser un enorme desafío para el gobierno mexicano de encarar en el medio de una guerra devastadora con los cárteles de droga. La llave a la comprensión de la economía mexicana es una apreciación de enorme integración de México con Estados Unidos. Cuando un partido al Acuerdo de libre cambio norteamericano y a uno del EEUU más grande que comercia a socios, México es sumamente vulnerable a los caprichos de economía de EEUU. Estados Unidos es la sola fuente más grande de inversión directa extranjera en México. Aún más importante, Estados Unidos es el destino de más que el 80 por ciento de las exportaciones de México. Un retraso en la actividad y la demanda de consumo económicas en Estados Unidos así traduce directamente en un retraso en México. Además de la venta de la mayoría de los bienes mexicanos en mercados de EEUU, Estados Unidos es una fuente mayor de renta para México aunque remesas, y juntos estas fuentes de ingresos proporcionan alrededor de un cuarto del producto interno bruto de México (PIB). Cuándo inmigrantes de mexicano envían dinero en casa de Estados Unidos, hace una porción substancial de corrientes externas de renta de México. Las remesas a México totalizaron los mil millones US$23.9 en 2007, según el Banco Central mexicano. El retraso en el sector de envoltura de EEUU ha bajado remesas durante 2008 de alto en medio de 2007. Al el fin de septiembre 2008, las remesas para el año fueron hacia abajo por US$672.6 millón del mismo período en 2007. El descenso en remesas es emparejado por un retraso en la economía de México general. El gobierno mexicano estima que PIB de México ralentizará del crecimiento del 3,2 por ciento en 2007 1,8 por ciento en 2008. Dado que economía de EEUU desliza en la recesión al mismo tiempo, esto es probable sólo el principio del retraso mexicano, y el crecimiento son esperados profundizar fuera en 0,9 por ciento en 2009. Con presión creciente en el resto de la economía, la perspectiva del desempleo creciente es quizás el desafío más intimidando. Hasta ahora, el desempleo y el subempleo en México han subido del 9,77 por ciento en diciembre 2007 al 10,82 por ciento en octubre 2008, (el unos 27 por ciento de la fuerza de trabajo es empleado en el sector informal). Pero ralentizó el crecimiento y demanda declinante en Estados Unidos están seguro causar descensos adicionales en el empleo en México. Cuando sucedió tras 1982 crisis de deuda de México, mexicanos pueden procurar volver hasta cierto punto de agricultura de subsistencia para hacerlo por los tiempos duros, pero eso está muy lejos de una solución ideal. El gobierno ha propuesto un plan de aumento de infraestructura de mil millones US$3.4 para ser aplicado en 2009 que procurará aumentar trabajos (y la demanda para bienes de producción) a través de México, aunque no sea claro cuán rápidamente esto puede surtir efecto ni cuántos trabajos que lo quizás cree. Aún más componer el asunto de empleo es la posibilidad de inmigrantes mexicanos que vuelven de Estados Unidos como trabajos desaparecen al norte. Las fuentes de Stratfor ya han informado un ligeramente más alto que nivel normal de inmigrantes que vuelven a México, y aunque sea demasiado temprano tramar la trayectoria de esta tendencia, hay duda pequeña que oportunidades de trabajo evaporan en Estados Unidos. Cuando emigrantes vuelven a México, sin embargo, hay muy pocos trabajos que los esperan allí, cualquiera. Esto presenta la posibilidad muy verdadera que los trabajos disponibles estarán en los mercados negros, y específicamente con los cárteles de droga. La demanda para drogas persiste a pesar de bajas económicas, y el negocio de los cárteles continúa constante. Verdaderamente, para los cárteles, la baja económica podría ser una excelente oportunidad de contratación. La confusión en mercados financieros de EEUU ha dañado directamente el valor del peso mexicano y ha causado una pérdida de riqueza entre compañías mexicanas. Los negocios mexicanos han perdido miles de millones de dólares (exige figuras no están disponible en este momento) a apuestas malas de moneda. Las compañías mexicanas en busca del financiamiento de exceso han tenido problema papel corporativo flotante, que ha forzado el gobierno para ofrecer miles de millones de valor de dólares de garantías. La parte superior a esto es que una moneda más débil aumentará la atracción de exportaciones mexicanas a Estados Unidos en relación con China (para un cambio), que aumentará el sector de la exportación hasta cierto punto. El peso que fluctúa también ha forzado el banco central mexicano a inyectar acerca de mil millones US$14.8 en mercados monetarios para estabilizar el peso. No obstante, el peso ha desvalorizado por aproximadamente 22,6 por ciento desde que el principio de 2008. Parcialmente a consecuencia de la devaluación de moneda, la inflación parece estar subiendo ligeramente. El gobierno ha informado una tasa de inflación de 12 meses del 6,2 por ciento, por a mediados de noviembre. Esto es realmente bastante bajo para un país en vías de desarrollo, pero es la inflación más alta ha estado en México desde que 2001. El sector financiero de México es expuesto sumamente al mercado internacional del crédito, con acerca del 80 por ciento de los bancos de México poseídos por compañías extranjeras, y el sector bancario ha sido inestable en los últimos meses. La capital extranjera tiene, hasta cierto punto, inversiones mexicanas huida y deposita como principal en todo el mundo virado lejos de desarrollar a mercados desarrollados, en respuesta a la crisis financiera global. El resultado es un descenso en inversiones generales, y había un descenso agudo en la compra de bonos del estado mexicanos. Después de que una caída de cuatro-semana en compras de bono, el gobierno mexicano anunciara que un mil millones US$1.1 vinculan vuelven a comprar paquete diciembre. 2 en una tentativa para aumentar liquidez en los mercados principales y bajar los tipos de interés. Aunque inversionistas no fueran sensibles, es una indicación que el gobierno toma sus deberes contracíclicos gravemente. Cuando el gobierno procura contradecir empleo que se cae y otros desafíos económicos, necesitarán para inclinarse mucho en sus recursos disponibles. El banco central tiene los mil millones US$83.4 en reservas extranjeras, al noviembre. 28, y puede continuar utilizar el dinero para aplicar estabilización monetaria. México también mantiene fondos de estabilización de petróleo que total más que los mil millones US$7.4, que proporciona un pequeño cojín fiscal. Las 2009 llamadas económicas, federales y mexicanas para el primer déficit presupuestario en años — sumando el 1,8 por ciento de PIB — Y ha aumentado el gasto por el 13 por ciento del presupuesto del año anterior, a EEUU$231 mil millones. El unos 40 por ciento de este presupuesto depende de rentas de petróleo engendradas por compañía petrolera mexicana de estado-poseyó Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). A pesar de la caída en precios del crudo, México ha logrado asegurar sus ingresos de energía por una serie de contratos cubiertos de ventas de petróleo. Estos contratos sostendrán el presupuesto por la duración de 2009 con precios puso de EEUU$70 a EEUU$100 por barril. México es un exportador mayor de petróleo — Situado el sexto productor más grande y el exportador más grande décimo. La industria de la energía es crítica para la economía, así como es para el gobierno. A largo plazo, sin embargo, la industria de la energía de México es paralizada. Debido a una historia de regulaciones restrictivas de energía, la producción de petróleo se cae precipitadamente (principalmente en campo petrolífero offshore gigantesco de Cantarell de México), con informes de gobierno que indican esa producción promedió 2,8 millones de barriles por día (bpd) entre enero y septiembre, que es distantes de la producción del objetivo de México de 3 millones de bpd. Así, incluso si México haya asegurado el precio de su petróleo por 2009, no puede garantizar sus niveles de la producción a corto plazo, y quizás no a largo plazo. Para tratar de aumentar las perspectivas de la industria, el gobierno mexicano ha pasado un plan de reforma de energía que permitirá Pemex para publicar contrato acuerdos a compañías extranjeras para proyectos conjuntos de exploración y producción. El gobierno también ha decidido asumir que algunos de la deuda de Pemex para aliviar el acceso de la compañía crédito internacional a la luz del mercado internacional apretado de crédito. Estos cambios podrían ayudar México saca su tasa de la producción de petróleo del estancamiento. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de reservas sin explotar de México son situadas o en formaciones complejas profundas u offshore — los ambientes en los que Pemex es a lo más un vago técnico — La extracción que hace proyecta caro y técnicamente difícil. Con el clima internacional de inversión forzado por escaseces principales, los extranjeros impidieron de compartir propiedad del petróleo que ellos producen y el precio de caer de petróleo, es todavía no vacía compañías petroleras extranjeras cuán interesadas estarán en tales asociaciones. El descenso en el sector de energía tiene el potencial para producir una crisis fiscal sostenida en el dos- a agenda de tres-año, asumiendo aún que otros aspectos del ambiente económico (casi todos los cuales están más allá del control de México) rectifica a sí mismo. El flojo en la renta del gobierno tendrá que ser tomado por impuestos aumentado en otras industrias o en individuos, pero es todavía no vacía cómo tal fuente de reemplazo de renta quizás sea creada. Las implicaciones políticas generales de la crisis financiera serán reflejadas en un descenso en el empleo y el nivel de vida de mexicanos medios. En un país donde expresión política toma la forma de protesta paralizadora, la baja económica podría deletrear cercano-desastre para la administración de Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon. El Panorama político que Cambia En el poder desde que 2000, la resolución el Partido Nacional de Acción (CACEROLA) ha disfrutado de un nivel bastante significativo de apoyo para Calderon ambos dentro de la legislatura — dónde falta una mayoría gobernante — Y en la población en grande, especialmente dado el margen delgadísimo con que Calderon ganó su oficina en 2006. La administración de Calderon ha lanzado varios esfuerzos de reforma que concentran en trabajo, la energía y, por supuesto, la seguridad. Aunque la CACEROLA haya mantenido una alianza con el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) para mucha de la administración de Calderon, esto es una unidad que que es improbable persistir, dado que ambos partidos han comenzado a ordenar sus campañas para la 2012 elección presidencial. Para el partido gobernante, hay varios desafíos inminentes en el panorama político. México ha visto un punta masivo en la violencia de crimen y droga-relacionó coincide con los primeros ocho años de regla por la CACEROLA de Calderon después de 71 años rectos de regla por el PRI. Para hacer cosas peores, la crisis financiera global ha comenzado a impresionar México — por ningún defecto de su propio — Y el impacto en el empleo podría estar devastando. Dada la confluencia de acontecimientos, casi es garantizada que Calderon y la CACEROLA sufrirán pérdidas políticas que avanzan, debilitando la capacidad del partido para adelantarse con acción decisiva. Hasta ahora, Calderon ha estado recibiendo crédito para su ataque supremo en los cárteles de droga, y sus calificaciones de aprobación son el 60 por ciento cercano. Cuando la economía debilita y los montes de número de víctimas, sin embargo, esta vista positiva podría vacilar fácilmente. El desafío hace no probable viene de la CACEROLA 2006 rival, el Partido demócrata Revolucionario (PRD). El PRD ganó atención tremenda de medios cuando líder de partido Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador perdió la elección presidencial a Calderon y continuó para preparar demostraciones masivas que protestan su pérdida. Desde entonces, el PRD ha adoptado una postura menos-radical, y los elementos de la extrema izquierda del partido han empezado a maneras de parte con los elementos menos radicales. Esta separación dentro del PRD podría debilitar el partido como se adelanta. La debilitación del PRD es propicia para los terceros de México, el PRI, que ha estado jugando un juego muy cuidadoso. El PRI ha entrado en asociaciones con la CACEROLA en la oposición (en la mayor parte) al PRD izquierdista. A hacer así, el PRI ha tomado un papel fuerte en la formación de legislación. Sin embargo, las perspectivas del PRI para la 2012 elección presidencial han comenzado a mejorar, con la popularidad del partido en la subida. Al tarde octubre, el PRI sondeaba muy bien — a costa de la CACEROLA y el PRD — Con una calificación de aprobación de 32,4 por ciento, comparado al 24,5 por ciento de la CACEROLA y el 10,8 por ciento del PRD. A corto plazo, el junio 2009 elecciones legislativas serán una prueba de tornasol para las rotaciones políticas de México, un calentamiento para las 2012 elecciones y la próxima etapa de desafíos políticos para Calderon. Cuando el PRI se posiciona en la oposición a la CACEROLA — y especialmente si el partido gana más asientos en la legislatura mexicana — Llegará a ser cada vez más difícil para el gobierno alcance soluciones de compromiso a desafíos inminentes. Calderon es protegido algo por sus calificaciones altas de aprobación, que hará movimientos abiertos contra él políticamente dudoso para el PRI o el PRD. Aunque mucho pueda cambiar (y rápidamente), estas dinámica destaca los cambios potenciales en la orientación política para México en los próximos tres años. A corto plazo, la situación política se queda asegura relativamente para Calderon, que es crítico para un presidente que equilibra la necesidad para la resucitación económica substancial con una guerra progresiva en el crimen organizado doméstico. México la mayoría de los desafíos críticos son la convergencia de acontecimientos ahora encara. La baja en la economía, la dinámica política o la situación de la seguridad que empeoran, cada por sí mismo, no quizás coloque un problema insuperable para México. Qué podría demostrar insuperable es la confluencia de todo tres, que parece ser en construcción.
23239  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Buenas noticias on: December 09, 2008, 09:38:23 PM
!Guau!

Me da mucho gusto anunciar que he encontrado buen software que traduce english-espanol y vice versa-- por lo cual podre' contribuir mucho mas aqui en espanol.   

Cabe mencionar que las traducciones no estan perfectos, digamos que este'n 95%.  Si alguien se las hace un "cut and paste" y luego corregirlas, se lo agradeceria muchisimo.

La Aventura continua!
Crafty Dog
23240  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 09, 2008, 09:30:34 PM
I am grateful to have found a program that does a rather good job of translating english-spanish and vice versa for a reasonable price.
23241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recruitment of Somalis in North America on: December 09, 2008, 01:14:56 PM
No idea yet about this website's reliability:
==============================

Recruitment from...Canada for Islamic terror training continues

Young Muslim men are being recruited from mosques and Islamic Centers in the U.S., Canada for terrorist training. They are beginning to return, some in plastic bags.

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

5 December 2008 The Northeast Intelligence Network confirmed Thursday that there is a nationwide investigation being conducted by the FBI of young men from Somalia being trained as suicide bombers and “low-tech attackers” for use inside the U.S. The investigation began last summer when authorities noticed a trend of Somali immigrants “disappearing” from the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. According to initial reports, about four dozen men ranging between the ages of 17 and 35 have “gone missing” within the last several months in the Minneapolis area alone. One federal law enforcement official, speaking on the strict condition of anonymity to the Northeast Intelligence Network, confirmed that this trend is neither exclusive to Minneapolis nor Somalia immigrants, but it was first noticed there. The investigation was further punctuated by the death of suicide bomber and Minnesota resident Shirwa AHMED. AHMED, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was one of five Muslim terrorists who killed 29 people in northern Somalia on October 29.

 

AHMED, pictured at left, was buried this week in Burnsville, a suburban community south of the Minneapolis- St. Paul area. AHMED’s remains were transported back to the U.S. with the help of the FBI after DNA tests established his identity. According to news reports, the FBI is investigating the “disappearance” of young men from Somalia by “ reaching out to the Somali-American community” in search of additional information. The FBI admits that they are looking into the disappearance of 20-40 young Somalia men from Minnesota, but unofficial reports by a federal source close to the Northeast Intelligence Network places that number much higher.

“There is active recruitment from mosques, Islamic centers and over the Internet calling young men from the U.S. and Canada to ‘train for Jihad as their religious duty,’” stated this official. The plan is to have these young men trained in the handling of weapons and explosives, and sending them back to the U.S. and Canada to engage in low-tech attacks against “soft targets,” such as malls, shopping centers, and other crowded locations.

The Northeast Intelligence Network has been warning readers about homicide bombers coming to the U.S. and Canada for years, with expedited recruitment within the past 36 months. We are now beginning to see the evolution of this recruitment and training as it manifests into results, such as the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai. It will not be long before we see it in North America.

http://3w.homelandsecurityus.com/20081205b

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

In a closely related vein, here's this from the local FOX station:

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/myfox/MyFox/pages/sidebar_video.jsp?contentId=8029360&version=1&locale=EN-US
23242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 09, 2008, 01:06:59 PM
What a shocking idea-- I'm shocked, absolutely shocked!
=========
For the RNC, What Kind of 'Conservative'?

The race for the GOP party chairmanship has now jelled. Some 168 members of the Republican National Committee will make their selection from a half-dozen candidates at their meeting in Washington D.C. on January 29.

All of the candidates claim to be conservative, all insist that the party has to compete in states outside its Southern and Western bases, and all agree that the party needs to rediscover its basic principles.

But there are variations in approach.

Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman, is running a low-key campaign touting his technocratic skills and taking some credit for the party's successes in Georgia and Louisiana runoff elections this month. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland who is a frequent guest on Fox News, is a little more moderate on social issues than some of the other candidates, saying that Republican Congressional leaders misjudged the mood of the country when they pressed for a federal solution in the case of Terri Schiavo, a comatose woman who was allowed to die in accord with her husband's wishes. Mr. Steele has a good headstart in building support among Republicans who like his direct style and smooth television presence.

Other candidates include: Former Tennessee Republican Chairman Chip Saltsman, who made many contacts this year while managing Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign and is seen as someone in accord with the former Arkansas governor's populist pitch; Saul Anuzis, the chair of the Michigan GOP, who appeals to many Northeastern Republicans who say that the party needs to get away from its over-reliance on support in Southern states; and Katon Dawson, the current chair of the South Carolina party, who says the party can't afford geographic snobbery and is sending out a slick DVD touting his achievements in building a state party.

Last week, a new entrant joined the field. Ken Blackwell, a former state treasurer and secretary of state in Ohio who was his party's gubernatorial candidate in 2006, sent a letter to all RNC members. He calls for returning the party to its Reaganite roots and touts internal reform at the RNC, including "spending smarter, replacing staff and consultants and modernizing our fundraising infrastructure." Mr. Blackwell is the favorite of many movement conservatives, having served on the boards of the National Rifle Association, the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth.

But this will be no conventional election. RNC members are concerned not just with the big picture but also with two very parochial issues: Members want somebody who will keep them personally in the loop on what's happening inside the party, and they also recognize the need for a good manager to keep on top of the sprawling Republican National Committee army of staff members and consultants.

"It's fair to say that the Republican Party has a habit of retaining old consultants and old Beltway players for far too long," one RNC member told me. "We saw the benefit the Obama campaign got by getting some fresh blood for their campaign versus the sluggish response of the retreads around Hillary Clinton. I think the candidate who is most likely to win is the one who will solve the party's 'staff infection.'"

-- John Fund

That Immigration Dog Don't Hunt

National and Louisiana Democrats pulled out all the stops in trying to elect longtime Shreveport District Attorney Paul Carmouche to Congress last Saturday. They touted Mr. Carmouche's anti-crime record and ran ads attacking Republican John Fleming, a physician, for advocating a private alternative to Social Security. Barack Obama taped a radio ad calling on voters to send Mr. Carmouche to Washington so he could back the Obama agenda.

But Democrats also made a blatant attempt to poach conservative votes from Mr. Fleming by attacking him on the immigration issue. Earlier this year, Dr. Fleming spoke in favor of allowing easier entry for foreigners with valid work permits and expressed general support for legal immigration: "We will welcome the positive contributions that they can make to our society. We will encourage them to [pursue] the American dream. And when they become citizens, we will gladly call them our fellow Americans."

Mr. Carmouche claimed Mr. Fleming's position was tantamount to wanting to bring more illegal immigrants into the U.S. "We certainly don't need to bus illegal aliens into the country, to take jobs that belong to Americans," he said in a recent debate. He told voters that on immigration, he was "completely in opposition to my opponent, John Fleming."

Mr. Fleming evenly responded that he supported strict enforcement of border controls, but bravely added that a policy that focused only on enforcement could only go so far. "Just simply deporting [people] is not going to solve the problem," he told voters.

In the end, voters had a clear choice. The final outcome was very close, but in a very anti-Republican year and running a handpicked centrist candidate, Democrats still lost. The lesson appears to be one that more than a few Republican candidates have learned in recent years: While a hard line on immigration may poll well, its concrete political benefits at the ballot box remain elusive.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"We've never seen anything like [Barack Obama's campaign organization] in this country. They have 4 million contributors, but they have several million more people who are on their e-mail lists. That's just a very, very powerful base for grassroots lobbying . . . We probably put too much weight on [having 60 Democratic votes for a filibuster-proof Senate majority] and not enough weight on the fact that a lot of Republicans, I think, either genuinely want to cooperate or are going to be fearful of the political consequences of not cooperating with President Obama in a period like this. So I think you'll see Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and even some more conservative Republicans -- John McCain, for example, on issues like torture and Guantanamo could end up being a real ally of the new president" -- Democratic strategist and former John Kerry campaign manager Bob Shrum, in a Q&A with National Journal's XM Radio show.

Quote of the Day II

"On November 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect and which is described in more detail below, Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could 'monetize' the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office . . . . Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being 'stuck' as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office"-- from a Justice Department press release today announcing the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris on federal corruption charges.

Kozying Up with the Dalai Lama

President Nicolas Sarkozy has been regaining lost ground in the French polls, despite the global financial crisis and France's rising unemployment and personal controveries. Over the weekend, he further bolstered his popularity with a risky but crowd-pleasing move: meeting the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Sarkozy's sit-down on Saturday in Gdansk, Poland was his first meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, who was in Poland to attend a gathering of Nobel Laureates. China's reaction was the usual fit of pique, which French Minister for Human Rights Rama Yade described as a "psychodrama." Not only did Beijing cancel a trade summit that was supposed to take place in Lyons on December 1. An editorial in the People's Daily denounced Mr. Sarkozy as "stubborn" and called his move "provocative and dangerous." The paper added: "He must pay for it."

"I am free to decide on my agenda as president of the French Republic," Mr. Sarkozy told reporters in response. "I represent values, convictions."

In this case, he also represented Europe's love affair with the Dalai Lama. In April, pro-Tibet protesters attacked the Olympic torch as it relayed through Paris. And last week, in honor of the Dalai Lama's visit, some 30 members of the European Parliament fasted for a day to greet his arrival.

But trade is important too. And more worrisome than the fulminating of the Chinese-language People's Daily may have been Beijing's English-language paper, China Daily, which warned darkly that the spat might hurt the image of such French brands as the Carrefour supermarket chain and Louis Vuitton luxury goods, both of which do good business on the mainland.

Having earned his bouquets for meeting the Dalai Lama, Mr. Sarkozy on Monday quickly tried to limit the damage by dispelling any notion that he was stirring up Tibetan separatism, saying there is "only one China."

-- Leslie Hook



23243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 09, 2008, 01:05:41 PM
For the RNC, What Kind of 'Conservative'?

The race for the GOP party chairmanship has now jelled. Some 168 members of the Republican National Committee will make their selection from a half-dozen candidates at their meeting in Washington D.C. on January 29.

All of the candidates claim to be conservative, all insist that the party has to compete in states outside its Southern and Western bases, and all agree that the party needs to rediscover its basic principles.

But there are variations in approach.

Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman, is running a low-key campaign touting his technocratic skills and taking some credit for the party's successes in Georgia and Louisiana runoff elections this month. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland who is a frequent guest on Fox News, is a little more moderate on social issues than some of the other candidates, saying that Republican Congressional leaders misjudged the mood of the country when they pressed for a federal solution in the case of Terri Schiavo, a comatose woman who was allowed to die in accord with her husband's wishes. Mr. Steele has a good headstart in building support among Republicans who like his direct style and smooth television presence.

Other candidates include: Former Tennessee Republican Chairman Chip Saltsman, who made many contacts this year while managing Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign and is seen as someone in accord with the former Arkansas governor's populist pitch; Saul Anuzis, the chair of the Michigan GOP, who appeals to many Northeastern Republicans who say that the party needs to get away from its over-reliance on support in Southern states; and Katon Dawson, the current chair of the South Carolina party, who says the party can't afford geographic snobbery and is sending out a slick DVD touting his achievements in building a state party.

Last week, a new entrant joined the field. Ken Blackwell, a former state treasurer and secretary of state in Ohio who was his party's gubernatorial candidate in 2006, sent a letter to all RNC members. He calls for returning the party to its Reaganite roots and touts internal reform at the RNC, including "spending smarter, replacing staff and consultants and modernizing our fundraising infrastructure." Mr. Blackwell is the favorite of many movement conservatives, having served on the boards of the National Rifle Association, the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth.

But this will be no conventional election. RNC members are concerned not just with the big picture but also with two very parochial issues: Members want somebody who will keep them personally in the loop on what's happening inside the party, and they also recognize the need for a good manager to keep on top of the sprawling Republican National Committee army of staff members and consultants.

"It's fair to say that the Republican Party has a habit of retaining old consultants and old Beltway players for far too long," one RNC member told me. "We saw the benefit the Obama campaign got by getting some fresh blood for their campaign versus the sluggish response of the retreads around Hillary Clinton. I think the candidate who is most likely to win is the one who will solve the party's 'staff infection.'"

-- John Fund

That Immigration Dog Don't Hunt

National and Louisiana Democrats pulled out all the stops in trying to elect longtime Shreveport District Attorney Paul Carmouche to Congress last Saturday. They touted Mr. Carmouche's anti-crime record and ran ads attacking Republican John Fleming, a physician, for advocating a private alternative to Social Security. Barack Obama taped a radio ad calling on voters to send Mr. Carmouche to Washington so he could back the Obama agenda.

But Democrats also made a blatant attempt to poach conservative votes from Mr. Fleming by attacking him on the immigration issue. Earlier this year, Dr. Fleming spoke in favor of allowing easier entry for foreigners with valid work permits and expressed general support for legal immigration: "We will welcome the positive contributions that they can make to our society. We will encourage them to [pursue] the American dream. And when they become citizens, we will gladly call them our fellow Americans."

Mr. Carmouche claimed Mr. Fleming's position was tantamount to wanting to bring more illegal immigrants into the U.S. "We certainly don't need to bus illegal aliens into the country, to take jobs that belong to Americans," he said in a recent debate. He told voters that on immigration, he was "completely in opposition to my opponent, John Fleming."

Mr. Fleming evenly responded that he supported strict enforcement of border controls, but bravely added that a policy that focused only on enforcement could only go so far. "Just simply deporting [people] is not going to solve the problem," he told voters.

In the end, voters had a clear choice. The final outcome was very close, but in a very anti-Republican year and running a handpicked centrist candidate, Democrats still lost. The lesson appears to be one that more than a few Republican candidates have learned in recent years: While a hard line on immigration may poll well, its concrete political benefits at the ballot box remain elusive.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"We've never seen anything like [Barack Obama's campaign organization] in this country. They have 4 million contributors, but they have several million more people who are on their e-mail lists. That's just a very, very powerful base for grassroots lobbying . . . We probably put too much weight on [having 60 Democratic votes for a filibuster-proof Senate majority] and not enough weight on the fact that a lot of Republicans, I think, either genuinely want to cooperate or are going to be fearful of the political consequences of not cooperating with President Obama in a period like this. So I think you'll see Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and even some more conservative Republicans -- John McCain, for example, on issues like torture and Guantanamo could end up being a real ally of the new president" -- Democratic strategist and former John Kerry campaign manager Bob Shrum, in a Q&A with National Journal's XM Radio show.

Quote of the Day II

"On November 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect and which is described in more detail below, Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could 'monetize' the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office . . . . Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being 'stuck' as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office"-- from a Justice Department press release today announcing the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris on federal corruption charges.

Kozying Up with the Dalai Lama

President Nicolas Sarkozy has been regaining lost ground in the French polls, despite the global financial crisis and France's rising unemployment and personal controveries. Over the weekend, he further bolstered his popularity with a risky but crowd-pleasing move: meeting the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Sarkozy's sit-down on Saturday in Gdansk, Poland was his first meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, who was in Poland to attend a gathering of Nobel Laureates. China's reaction was the usual fit of pique, which French Minister for Human Rights Rama Yade described as a "psychodrama." Not only did Beijing cancel a trade summit that was supposed to take place in Lyons on December 1. An editorial in the People's Daily denounced Mr. Sarkozy as "stubborn" and called his move "provocative and dangerous." The paper added: "He must pay for it."

"I am free to decide on my agenda as president of the French Republic," Mr. Sarkozy told reporters in response. "I represent values, convictions."

In this case, he also represented Europe's love affair with the Dalai Lama. In April, pro-Tibet protesters attacked the Olympic torch as it relayed through Paris. And last week, in honor of the Dalai Lama's visit, some 30 members of the European Parliament fasted for a day to greet his arrival.

But trade is important too. And more worrisome than the fulminating of the Chinese-language People's Daily may have been Beijing's English-language paper, China Daily, which warned darkly that the spat might hurt the image of such French brands as the Carrefour supermarket chain and Louis Vuitton luxury goods, both of which do good business on the mainland.

Having earned his bouquets for meeting the Dalai Lama, Mr. Sarkozy on Monday quickly tried to limit the damage by dispelling any notion that he was stirring up Tibetan separatism, saying there is "only one China."

-- Leslie Hook



23244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sowell on: December 09, 2008, 08:53:41 AM
The Meaning of Mumbai
By Thomas Sowell

Will the horrors unleashed by Islamic terrorists in Mumbai cause any second thoughts by those who are so anxious to start weakening the American security systems currently in place, including government interceptions of international phone calls and the holding of terrorists at Guantanamo?

Maybe. But never underestimate partisan blindness in Washington or in the mainstream media where, if the Bush administration did it, then it must be wrong.

 Contrary to some of the more mawkish notions of what a government is supposed to be, its top job is the protection of the people. Nobody on 9/11 would have thought that we would see nothing comparable again in this country for seven long years.

Many people seem to have forgotten how, in the wake of 9/11, every great national event-- the World Series, Christmas, New Year's, the Super Bowl-- was under the shadow of a fear that this was when the terrorists would strike again.

They didn't strike again here, even though they have struck in Spain, Indonesia, England and India, among other places. Does anyone imagine that this was because they didn't want to hit America again?

Could this have had anything to do with all the security precautions that liberals have been complaining about so bitterly, from the interception of international phone calls to forcing information out of captured terrorists?

Too many people refuse to acknowledge that benefits have costs, even if that cost means only having no more secrecy when making international phone calls than you have when sending e-mails, in a world where computer hackers abound. There are people who refuse to give up anything, even to save their own lives.

A very shrewd observer of the deterioration of Western societies, British writer Theodore Dalrymple, said: "This mental flabbiness is decadence, and at the same time a manifestation of the arrogant assumption that nothing can destroy us."

There are growing numbers of things that can destroy us. The Roman Empire lasted a lot longer than the United States has lasted, and yet it too was destroyed.

Millions of lives were blighted for centuries thereafter, because the barbarians who destroyed Rome were incapable of replacing it with anything at all comparable. Neither are those who threaten to destroy the United States today.

The destruction of the United States will not require enough nuclear bombs to annihilate cities and towns across America. After all, the nuclear destruction of just two cities was enough to force Japan to surrender-- and the Japanese had far more willingness to fight and die than most Americans have today.

How many Americans are willing to see New York, Chicago and Los Angeles all disappear in nuclear mushroom clouds, rather than surrender to whatever outrageous demands the terrorists make?

Neither Barack Obama nor those with whom he will be surrounded in Washington show any signs of being serious about forestalling such a terrible choice by taking any action with any realistic chance of preventing a nuclear Iran.

Once suicidal fanatics have nuclear bombs, that is the point of no return. We, our children and our grandchildren will live at the mercy of the merciless, who have a track record of sadism.

There are no concessions we can make that will buy off hate-filled terrorists. What they want-- what they must have for their own self-respect, in a world where they suffer the humiliation of being visibly centuries behind the West in so many ways-- is our being brought down in humiliation, including self-humiliation.

Even killing us will not be enough, just as killing Jews was not enough for the Nazis, who first had to subject them to soul-scarring humiliations and dehumanization in their death camps.

This kind of hatred may not be familiar to most Americans but what happened on 9/11 should give us a clue-- and a warning.

The people who flew those planes into the World Trade Center buildings could not have been bought off by any concessions, not even the hundreds of billions of dollars we are spending in bailout money today.

They want our soul-- and if they are willing to die and we are not, they will get it.

(I'd rather we kill them than we die,  smiley but Sowell has the gist of the right idea )
23245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Odd tidbit on: December 09, 2008, 08:35:01 AM
Second post of the AM:

Michael Yon with an odd little tidbit:

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/sniffer.htm


Here is a rare and curious thing: an antique British WB-17 bomber flying over Afghan skies. These planes flew in the 1950s and 60s, performing top of the atmosphere reconnaissance. The U.S. Air Force retired the WB-17 decades ago.  But NASA owns two, which it uses for an odd group of missions, including collecting cosmic dust from extremely high altitudes.  It seems doubtful that NASA came all the way to Afghanistan to collect cosmic dust, but this would be an interesting region in which to search for traces of nuclear debris, drifting upwards from Iran, Pakistan, various Central Asian states, China, or India.
23246  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: December 09, 2008, 07:16:22 AM
Comentarios?  En espanol por supuesto  smiley

Part 1: A Critical Confluence of Events
December 9, 2008 | 1213 GMT
Summary
Mexico is facing the perfect storm as the global financial crisis begins to impact the country’s economy and as the government’s campaign against the drug cartels seems to be making the country even less secure. Mexico also faces legislative elections in the coming year, which will involve much jockeying for the 2012 presidential race. The political implications of the financial crisis will be reflected in a decline in employment and overall standard of living. In a country where political expression takes the form of paralyzing protest, the economic downturn could spell near-disaster for the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Analysis
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series on Mexico.

Related Special Topic Pages
Countries In Crisis
Political Economy and the Financial Crisis
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Related Links
Countries in Crisis: Mexico
Mexico appears to be a country coming undone. Powerful drug cartels use Mexico for the overland transshipment of illicit drugs — mainly cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — from producers in South America to consumers in the United States. Violence between competing cartels has grown over the past two years as they have fought over territory and as the Mexican army has tried to secure the embattled areas, mainly on the country’s periphery. It is a tough fight, made even tougher by endemic geographic, institutional and technical problems in Mexico that make a government victory hard to achieve. The military is stretched thin, the cartels are becoming even more aggressive and the people of Mexico are growing tired of the violence.

At the same time, the country is facing a global economic downturn that will slow Mexico’s growth and pose additional challenges to national stability. Although the country appears to be in a comfortable fiscal position for the short term, the outlook for the country’s energy industry is bleak, and a decline in employment could prompt social unrest. Complications also loom in the political sphere as Mexican parties campaign ahead of 2009 legislative elections and jockey for position in preparation for the 2012 presidential election.

Economic Turmoil
As the international financial crisis roils economies around the world, Mexico has been hit hard. Tightly bound to its northern neighbor, Mexico’s economy is set to shrink alongside that of the United States, and it will be an enormous challenge for the Mexican government to face in the midst of a devastating war with the drug cartels.

The key to understanding the Mexican economy is an appreciation of Mexico’s enormous integration with the United States. As a party to the North American Free Trade Agreement and one of the largest U.S. trading partners, Mexico is highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the U.S. economy. The United States is the largest single source of foreign direct investment in Mexico. Even more important, the United States is the destination of more than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports. A slowdown in economic activity and consumer demand in the United States thus translates directly into a slowdown in Mexico.

In addition to the sale of most Mexican goods in the U.S. markets, the United States is a major source of revenue for Mexico though remittances, and together these sources of income provide around a quarter of Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP). When Mexican immigrants send money home from the United States, it makes up a substantial portion of Mexico’s external revenue streams. Remittances to Mexico totaled US$23.9 billion in 2007, according to the Mexican Central Bank. The slowdown in the U.S. housing sector has brought remittances down during the course of 2008 from highs in the middle of 2007. As of the end of September 2008, remittances for the year were down by US$672.6 million from the same period in 2007.

The decline in remittances is being matched by a slowdown in Mexico’s economy across the board. The Mexican government estimates that Mexico’s GDP will slow from 3.2 percent growth in 2007 to 1.8 percent in 2008. Given that the U.S. economy is sliding into recession at the same time, this is likely only the beginning of the Mexican slowdown, and growth is expected to bottom out at 0.9 percent in 2009.

With growing pressure on the rest of the economy, the prospect of rising unemployment is perhaps the most daunting challenge. So far, unemployment and underemployment in Mexico has risen from 9.77 percent in December 2007 to 10.82 percent in October 2008, (some 27 percent of the workforce is employed in the informal sector). But slowed growth and declining demand in the United States is sure to cause further declines in employment in Mexico. As happened in the wake of Mexico’s 1982 debt crisis, Mexicans may seek to return to a certain degree of subsistence farming in order to make it through the tough times, but that is nowhere near an ideal solution. The government has proposed a US$3.4 billion infrastructure buildup plan to be implemented in 2009 that will seek to boost jobs (and demand for industrial goods) throughout Mexico, although it is not clear how quickly this can take effect or how many jobs it might create.

Further compounding the employment issue is the possibility of Mexican immigrants returning from the United States as jobs disappear to the north. Stratfor sources have already reported a slightly higher-than-normal level of immigrants returning to Mexico, and although it is too early to plot the trajectory of this trend, there is little doubt that job opportunities are evaporating in the United States. As migrants return to Mexico, however, there are very few jobs waiting for them there, either. This presents the very real possibility that the available jobs will be in the black markets, and specifically with the drug cartels. Demand for drugs persists despite economic downturns, and the business of the cartels continues unabated. Indeed, for the cartels, the economic downturn could be an excellent recruitment opportunity.

The turmoil in U.S. financial markets has directly damaged the value of the Mexican peso and has caused a loss of wealth among Mexican companies. Mexican businesses have lost billions of dollars (exact figures are not available at this time) to bad currency bets. Mexican companies in search of extra financing have had trouble floating corporate paper, which has forced the government to offer billions of dollars worth of guarantees. The upside to this is that a weaker currency will increase the attractiveness of Mexican exports to the United States vis-à-vis China (for a change), which will boost the export sector to a certain degree.

The fluctuating peso has also forced the Mexican central bank to inject about US$14.8 billion into currency markets to stabilize the peso. Nevertheless, the peso has devalued by approximately 22.6 percent since the beginning of 2008. Partially as a result of the currency devaluation, inflation appears to be rising slightly. The government has reported a 12-month inflation rate of 6.2 percent, through mid-November. This is actually fairly low for a developing nation, but it is the highest inflation has been in Mexico since 2001.

Mexico’s financial sector is highly exposed to the international credit market, with about 80 percent of Mexico’s banks owned by foreign companies, and the banking sector has been unstable in recent months. Foreign capital has, to a certain degree, fled Mexican investments and banks as capital worldwide veered away from developing to developed markets, in response to the global financial crisis. The result is a decline in investments across the board, and there was a sharp decline in the purchase of Mexican government bonds. After a four-week fall in bond purchases, the Mexican government announced a US$1.1 billion bond repurchase package Dec. 2 in an attempt to increase liquidity in the capital markets and lower interest rates. Although investors were not responsive, it is an indication that the government is taking its countercyclical duties seriously.

As the government seeks to counter falling employment and other economic challenges, it will need to lean heavily on its available resources. The central bank holds US$83.4 billion in foreign reserves, as of Nov. 28, and can continue to use the money to implement monetary stabilization. Mexico also maintains oil stabilization funds that total more than US$7.4 billion, which provides a small fiscal cushion. The 2009 Mexican federal budget calls for the first budget deficit in years — amounting to 1.8 percent of GDP — and has increased spending by 13 percent from the previous year’s budget, to US$231 billion.

Some 40 percent of this budget is reliant on oil revenues generated by Mexican state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Despite the fall in oil prices, Mexico has managed to secure its energy income through a series of hedged oil sales contracts. These contracts will sustain the budget through the duration of 2009 with prices set from US$70 to US$100 per barrel. Mexico is a major exporter of oil — ranked the sixth largest producer and the 10th largest exporter. The energy industry is critical for the economy, just as it is for the government.

In the long term, however, Mexico’s energy industry is crippled. Due to a history of restrictive energy regulations, oil production is falling precipitously (primarily at Mexico’s gigantic offshore Cantarell oil field), with government reports indicating that production averaged 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) between January and September, which is far from Mexico’s target production of 3 million bpd. Thus, even if Mexico has secured the price of its oil through 2009, it cannot guarantee its production levels in the short term, and perhaps not in the long term.

To try to boost the industry’s prospects, the Mexican government has passed an energy reform plan that will allow Pemex to issue contract agreements to foreign companies for joint exploration and production projects. The government has also decided to assume some of Pemex’s debt in order to ease the company’s access to international credit in light of the tight international credit market.

These changes could help Mexico pull its oil production rate out of the doldrums. However, most of Mexico’s untapped reserves are located either in deep complex formations or offshore — environments in which Pemex is at best a technical laggard — making extraction projects expensive and technically difficult. With the international investment climate constrained by capital shortages, foreigners barred from sharing ownership of the oil they produce and the price of oil falling, it is not yet clear how interested foreign oil companies will be in such partnerships.

The decline in the energy sector has the potential to produce a sustained fiscal crisis in the two- to three-year timeframe, even assuming that other aspects of the economic environment (nearly all of which are beyond Mexico’s control) rectify themselves. The slack in government revenue will have to be taken up through increased taxes on other industries or on individuals, but it is not yet clear how such a replacement source of revenue might be created.

The overall political implications of the financial crisis will be reflected in a decline in employment and the standard of living of average Mexicans. In a country where political expression takes the form of paralyzing protest, the economic downturn could spell near-disaster for the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The Shifting Political Landscape
In power since 2000, the ruling National Action Party (PAN) has enjoyed a fairly significant level of support for Calderon both within the legislature — where it lacks a ruling majority — and in the population at large, particularly given the razor-thin margin with which Calderon won his office in 2006. The Calderon administration has launched a number of reform efforts targeting labor, energy and, of course, security.

Although the PAN has maintained an alliance with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for much of Calderon’s administration, this is a unity that that is unlikely to persist, given that both parties have begun to lay out their campaigns for the 2012 presidential election.

For the ruling party, there are a number of looming challenges on the political scene. Mexico has seen a massive spike in crime and drug-related violence coincide with the first eight years of rule by Calderon’s PAN after 71 straight years of rule by the PRI. To make things worse, the global financial crisis has begun to impact Mexico — through no fault of its own — and the impact on employment could be devastating. Given the confluence of events, it is almost guaranteed that Calderon and the PAN will suffer political losses going forward, weakening the party’s ability to move forward with decisive action.

So far, Calderon has been receiving credit for his all-out attack on the drug cartels, and his approval ratings are near 60 percent. As the economy weakens and the death toll mounts, however, this positive outlook could easily falter.

The challenge will not likely come from the PAN’s 2006 rival, the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). The PRD gained tremendous media attention when party leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lost the presidential election to Calderon and proceeded to stage massive demonstrations protesting his loss. Since then, the PRD has adopted a less-radical stance, and the far-left elements of the party have begun to part ways with the less radical elements. This split within the PRD could weaken the party as it moves forward.

The weakening of the PRD is auspicious for Mexico’s third party, the PRI, which has been playing a very careful game. The PRI has engaged in partnerships with the PAN in opposition (for the most part) to the leftist PRD. In doing so, the PRI has taken a strong role in the formation of legislation. However, the PRI’s prospects for the 2012 presidential election have begun to improve, with the party’s popularity on the rise. As of late October, the PRI was polling extremely well — at the expense of both the PAN and the PRD — with a 32.4 percent approval rating, compared to the PAN’s 24.5 percent and the PRD’s 10.8 percent.

In the short term, the June 2009 legislative elections will be a litmus test for the political gyrations of Mexico, a warm-up for the 2012 elections and the next stage of political challenges for Calderon. As the PRI positions itself in opposition to the PAN — and particularly if the party gains more seats in the Mexican legislature — it will become increasingly difficult for the government to reach compromise solutions to looming challenges. Calderon is somewhat protected by his high approval ratings, which will make overt moves against him politically questionable for the PRI or the PRD.

Although a great deal could change (and quickly), these dynamics highlight the potential changes in political orientation for Mexico over the next three years. In the short term, the political situation remains relatively secure for Calderon, which is critical for a president who is balancing the need for substantial economic resuscitation with an ongoing war on domestic organized crime.

Mexico’s most critical challenge is the convergence of events it now faces. The downturn in the economy, the political dynamics or the deteriorating security situation, each on its own, might not pose an insurmountable problem for Mexico. What could prove insurmountable is the confluence of all three, which appears to be in the making.
23247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: December 09, 2008, 06:22:23 AM
"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Shelton Gilliam, 19 June 1808
23248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Next Steps on: December 09, 2008, 04:52:13 AM
Next Steps in the Indo-Pakistani Crisis
December 8, 2008
By George Friedman

Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences

In an interview published this Sunday in The New York Times, we laid out a potential scenario for the current Indo-Pakistani crisis. We began with an Indian strike on Pakistan, precipitating a withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the Afghan border, resulting in intensified Taliban activity along the border and a deterioration in the U.S. position in Afghanistan, all culminating in an emboldened Iran. The scenario is not unlikely, assuming India chooses to strike.

Our argument that India is likely to strike focused, among other points, on the weakness of the current Indian government and how it is likely to fall under pressure from the opposition and the public if it does not act decisively. An unnamed Turkish diplomat involved in trying to mediate the dispute has argued that saving a government is not a good reason to go to war. That is a good argument, except that in this case, not saving the government is unlikely to prevent a war, either.

If India’s Congress party government were to fall, its replacement would be even more likely to strike at Pakistan. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress’ Hindu nationalist rival, has long charged that Congress is insufficiently aggressive in combating terrorism. The BJP will argue that the Mumbai attack in part resulted from this failing. Therefore, if the Congress government does not strike, and is subsequently forced out or loses India’s upcoming elections, the new government is even more likely to strike.

It is therefore difficult to see a path that avoids Indian retaliation, and thus the emergence of at least a variation on the scenario we laid out. But the problem is not simply political: India must also do something to prevent more Mumbais. This is an issue of Indian national security, and the pressure on India’s government to do something comes from several directions.

Three Indian Views of Pakistan
The question is what an Indian strike against Pakistan, beyond placating domestic public opinion, would achieve. There are three views on this in India.

The first view holds that Pakistani officials aid and abet terrorism — in particular the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), which serves as Pakistan’s main intelligence service. In this view, the terrorist attacks are the work of Pakistani government officials — perhaps not all of the government, but enough officials of sufficient power that the rest of the government cannot block them, and therefore the entire Pakistani government can be held accountable.

The second view holds that terrorist attacks are being carried out by Kashmiri groups that have long been fostered by the ISI but have grown increasingly autonomous since 2002 — and that the Pakistani government has deliberately failed to suppress anti-Indian operations by these groups. In this view, the ISI and related groups are either aware of these activities or willfully ignorant of them, even if ISI is not in direct control. Under this thinking, the ISI and the Pakistanis are responsible by omission, if not by commission.

The third view holds that the Pakistani government is so fragmented and weak that it has essentially lost control of Pakistan to the extent that it cannot suppress these anti-Indian groups. This view says that the army has lost control of the situation to the point where many from within the military-intelligence establishment are running rogue operations, and groups in various parts of the country simply do what they want. If this argument is pushed to its logical conclusion, Pakistan should be regarded as a state on the verge of failure, and an attack by India might precipitate further weakening, freeing radical Islamist groups from what little control there is.

The first two analyses are essentially the same. They posit that Pakistan could stop attacks on India, but chooses not to. The third is the tricky one. It rests on the premise that the Pakistani government (and in this we include the Pakistani army) is placing some restraint on the attackers. Thus, the government’s collapse would make enough difference that India should restrain itself, especially as any Indian attack would so destabilize Pakistan that it would unleash our scenario and worse. In this view, Pakistan’s civilian government has only as much power in these matters as the army is willing to allow.

The argument against attacking Pakistan therefore rests on a very thin layer of analysis. It requires the belief that Pakistan is not responsible for the attacks, that it is nonetheless restraining radical Islamists to some degree, and that an Indian attack would cause even these modest restraints to disappear. Further, it assumes that these restraints, while modest, are substantial enough to make a difference.

There is a debate in India, and in Washington, as to whether this is the case. This is why New Delhi has demanded that Pakistan turn over 20 individuals wanted by India in connection with attacks. The list doesn’t merely include Islamists, but also Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI who has long been suspected of close ties with Islamists. (The United States apparently added Gul to the list.) Turning those individuals over would be enormously difficult politically for Pakistan. It would create a direct confrontation between Pakistan’s government and the Pakistani Islamist movement, likely sparking violence in Pakistan. Indeed, turning any Pakistani over to India, regardless of ideology, would create a massive crisis in Pakistan.

The Indian government chose to make this demand precisely because complying with it is enormously difficult for Pakistan. New Delhi is not so much demanding the 20 individuals, but rather that Pakistan take steps that will create conflict in Pakistan. If the Pakistani government is in control of the country, it should be able to weather the storm. If it can’t weather the storm, then the government is not in control of Pakistan. And if it could weather the storm but chooses not to incur the costs, then India can reasonably claim that Pakistan is prepared to export terrorism rather than endure it at home. In either event, the demand reveals things about the Pakistani reality.

The View from Islamabad
Pakistan’s evaluation, of course, is different. Islamabad does not regard itself as failed because it cannot control all radical Islamists or the Taliban. The official explanation is that the Pakistanis are doing the best they can. From the Pakistani point of view, while the Islamists ultimately might represent a threat, the threat to Pakistan and its government that would arise from a direct assault on the Islamists is a great danger not only to Pakistan, but also to the region. It is thus better for all to let the matter rest. The Islamist issue aside, Pakistan sees itself as continuing to govern the country effectively, albeit with substantial social and economic problems (as one might expect). The costs of confronting the Islamists, relative to the benefits, are therefore high.

The Pakistanis see themselves as having several effective counters against an Indian attack. The most important of these is the United States. The very first thing Islamabad said after the Mumbai attack was that a buildup of Indian forces along the Pakistani border would force Pakistan to withdraw 100,000 troops from its Afghan border. Events over the weekend, such as the attack on a NATO convoy, showed the vulnerability of NATO’s supply line across Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The Americans are fighting a difficult holding action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United States needs the militant base camps in Pakistan and the militants’ lines of supply cut off, but the Americans lack the force to do this themselves. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces from the Afghan border would pose a direct threat to American forces. Therefore, the Pakistanis expect Washington to intervene on their behalf to prevent an Indian attack. They do not believe a major Indian troop buildup will take place, and if it does, the Pakistanis do not think it will lead to substantial conflict.

There has been some talk of an Indian naval blockade against Pakistan, blocking the approaches to Pakistan’s main port of Karachi. This is an attractive strategy for India, as it plays to New Delhi’s relative naval strength. Again, the Pakistanis do not believe the Indians will do this, given that it would cut off the flow of supplies to American troops in Afghanistan. (Karachi is the main port serving U.S. forces in Afghanistan.) The line of supply in Afghanistan runs through Pakistan, and the Americans, the Pakistanis calculate, do not want anything to threaten that.

From the Pakistani point of view, the only potential military action India could take that would not meet U.S. opposition would be airstrikes. There has been talk that the Indians might launch airstrikes against Islamist training camps and bases in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In Pakistan’s view, this is not a serious problem. Mounting airstrikes against training camps is harder than it might seem. The only way to achieve anything in such a facility is with area destruction weapons — for instance, using B-52s to drop ordnance over very large areas. The targets are not amenable to strike aircraft, because the payload of such aircraft is too small. It would be tough for the Indians, who don’t have strategic bombers, to hit very much. Numerous camps exist, and the Islamists can afford to lose some. As an attack, it would be more symbolic than effective.

Moreover, if the Indians did kill large numbers of radical Islamists, this would hardly pose a problem to the Pakistani government. It might even solve some of Islamabad’s problems, depending on which analysis you accept. Airstrikes would generate massive support among Pakistanis for their government so long as Islamabad remained defiant of India. Pakistan thus might even welcome Indian airstrikes against Islamist training camps.

Islamabad also views the crisis with India with an eye to the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Any attack by India that might destabilize the Pakistani government opens at least the possibility of a Pakistani nuclear strike or, in the event of state disintegration, of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of factional elements. If India presses too hard, New Delhi faces the unknown of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — unless, of course, the Indians are preparing a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Pakistan, something the Pakistanis find unlikely.

All of this, of course, depends upon two unknowns. First, what is the current status of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? Is it sufficiently reliable for Pakistan to count on? Second, to what extent do the Americans monitor Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities? Ever since the crisis of 2002, when American fears that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into al Qaeda’s hands were high, we have assumed that American calm about Pakistan’s nuclear facilities was based on Washington’s having achieved a level of transparency on their status. This might limit Pakistan’s freedom of action with regard to — and hence ability to rely on — its nuclear arsenal.

Notably, much of Pakistan’s analysis of the situation rests on a core assumption — namely, that the United States will choose to limit Indian options, and just as important, that the Indians would listen to Washington. India does not have the same relationship or dependence on the United States as, for example, Israel does. India historically was allied with the Soviet Union; New Delhi moved into a strategic relationship with the United States only in recent years. There is a commonality of interest between India and the United States, but not a dependency. India would not necessarily be blocked from action simply because the Americans didn’t want it to act.

As for the Americans, Pakistan’s assumption that the United States would want to limit India is unclear. Islamabad’s threat to shift 100,000 troops from the Afghan border will not easily be carried out. Pakistan’s logistical capabilities are limited. Moreover, the American objection to Pakistan’s position is that the vast majority of these troops are not engaged in controlling the border anyway, but are actually carefully staying out of the battle. Given that the Americans feel that the Pakistanis are ineffective in controlling the Afghan-Pakistani border, the shift from virtually to utterly ineffective might not constitute a serious deterioration from the United States’ point of view. Indeed, it might open the door for more aggressive operations on — and over — the Afghan-Pakistani border by American forces, perhaps by troops rapidly transferred from Iraq.

The situation of the port of Karachi is more serious, both in the ground and naval scenarios. The United States needs Karachi; it is not in a position to seize the port and the road system out of Karachi. That is a new war the United States can’t fight. At the same time, the United States has been shifting some of its logistical dependency from Pakistan to Central Asia. But this requires a degree of Russian support, which would cost Washington dearly and take time to activate. In short, India’s closing the port of Karachi by blockade, or Pakistan’s doing so as retaliation for Indian action, would hurt the United States badly.

Supply lines aside, Islamabad should not assume that the United States is eager to ensure that the Pakistani state survives. Pakistan also should not assume that the United States is impressed by the absence or presence of Pakistani troops on the Afghan border. Washington has developed severe doubts about Pakistan’s commitment and effectiveness in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, and therefore about Pakistan’s value as an ally.

Pakistan’s strongest card with the United States is the threat to block the port of Karachi. But here, too, there is a counter to Pakistan: If Pakistan closes Karachi to American shipping, either the Indian or American navy also could close it to Pakistani shipping. Karachi is Pakistan’s main export facility, and Pakistan is heavily dependent on it. If Karachi were blocked, particularly while Pakistan is undergoing a massive financial crisis, Pakistan would face disaster. Karachi is thus a double-edged sword. As long as Pakistan keeps it open to the Americans, India probably won’t block it. But should Pakistan ever close the port in response to U.S. action in the Afghan-Pakistani borderland, then Pakistan should not assume that the port will be available for its own use.

India’s Military Challenge
India faces difficulties in all of its military options. Attacks on training camps sound more effective than they are. Concentrating troops on the border is impressive only if India is prepared for a massive land war, and a naval blockade has multiple complications.

India needs a military option that demonstrates will and capability and decisively hurts the Pakistani government, all without drawing India into a nuclear exchange or costly ground war. And its response must rise above the symbolic.

We have no idea what India is thinking, but one obvious option is airstrikes directed not against training camps, but against key government installations in Islamabad. The Indian air force increasingly has been regarded as professional and capable by American pilots at Red Flag exercises in Nevada. India has modern Russian fighter jets and probably has the capability, with some losses, to penetrate deep into Pakistani territory.

India also has acquired radar and electronic warfare equipment from Israel and might have obtained some early precision-guided munitions from Russia and/or Israel. While this capability is nascent, untested and very limited, it is nonetheless likely to exist in some form.

The Indians might opt for a drawn-out diplomatic process under the theory that all military action is either ineffective or excessively risky. If it chooses the military route, New Delhi could opt for a buildup of ground troops and some limited artillery exchanges and tactical ground attacks. It also could choose airstrikes against training facilities. Each of these military options would achieve the goal of some substantial action, but none would threaten fundamental Pakistani interests. The naval blockade has complexities that could not be managed. That leaves, as a possible scenario, a significant escalation by India against targets in Pakistan’s capital.

The Indians have made it clear that the ISI is their enemy. The ISI has a building, and buildings can be destroyed, along with files and personnel. Such an aerial attack also would serve to shock the Pakistanis by representing a serious escalation. And Pakistan might find retaliation difficult, given the relative strength of its air force. India has few good choices for retaliation, and while this option is not a likely one, it is undoubtedly one that has to be considered.

It seems to us that India can avoid attacks on Pakistan only if Islamabad makes political concessions that it would find difficult to make. The cost to Pakistan of these concessions might well be greater than the benefit of avoiding conflict with India. All of India’s options are either ineffective or dangerous, but inactivity is politically and strategically the least satisfactory route for New Delhi. This circumstance is the most dangerous aspect of the current situation. In our opinion, the relative quiet at present should not be confused with the final outcome, unless Pakistan makes surprising concessions
23249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Hidden Travels of the A-Bomb on: December 09, 2008, 04:27:23 AM

By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: December 8, 2008
In 1945, after the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, J. Robert Oppenheimer expressed foreboding about the spread of nuclear arms.

 
“They are not too hard to make,” he told his colleagues on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M. “They will be universal if people wish to make them universal.”

That sensibility, born where the atomic bomb itself was born, grew into a theory of technological inevitability. Because the laws of physics are universal, the theory went, it was just a matter of time before other bright minds and determined states joined the club. A corollary was that trying to stop proliferation was quite difficult if not futile.

But nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth. In the six decades since Oppenheimer’s warning, the nuclear club has grown to only nine members. What accounts for the slow spread? Can anything be done to reduce it further? Is there a chance for an atomic future that is brighter than the one Oppenheimer foresaw?

Two new books by three atomic insiders hold out hope. The authors shatter myths, throw light on the hidden dynamics of nuclear proliferation and suggest new ways to reduce the threat.

Neither book endorses Oppenheimer’s view that bombs are relatively easy to make. Both document national paths to acquiring nuclear weapons that have been rocky and dependent on the willingness of spies and politicians to divulge state secrets.

Thomas C. Reed, a veteran of the Livermore weapons laboratory in California and a former secretary of the Air Force, and Danny B. Stillman, former director of intelligence at Los Alamos, have teamed up in “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation” to show the importance of moles, scientists with divided loyalties and — most important — the subtle and not so subtle interests of nuclear states.

“Since the birth of the nuclear age,” they write, “no nation has developed a nuclear weapon on its own, although many claim otherwise.”

Among other things, the book details how secretive aid from France and China helped spawn five more nuclear states.

It also names many conflicted scientists, including luminaries like Isidor I. Rabi. The Nobel laureate worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II and later sat on the board of governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science, a birthplace of Israel’s nuclear arms.

Secret cooperation extended to the secluded sites where nations tested their handiwork in thundering blasts. The book says, for instance, that China opened its sprawling desert test site to Pakistan, letting its client test a first bomb there on May 26, 1990.

That alone rewrites atomic history. It casts new light on the reign of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister of Pakistan and helps explain how the country was able to respond so quickly in May 1998 when India conducted five nuclear tests.

“It took only two weeks and three days for the Pakistanis to field and fire a nuclear device of their own,” the book notes.

In another disclosure, the book says China “secretly extended the hospitality of the Lop Nur nuclear test site to the French.”

The authors build their narrative on deep knowledge of the arms and intelligence worlds, including those abroad. Mr. Stillman has toured heavily guarded nuclear sites in China and Russia, and both men have developed close ties with foreign peers.

In their acknowledgments, they thank American cold warriors like Edward Teller as well as two former C.I.A. directors, saying the intelligence experts “guided our searches.”

Robert S. Norris, an atomic historian and author of “Racing for the Bomb,” an account of the Manhattan Project, praised the book for “remarkable disclosures of how nuclear knowledge was shared overtly and covertly with friends and foes.”

The book is technical in places, as when detailing the exotica of nuclear arms. But it reads like a labor of love built on two lifetimes of scientific adventure. It is due out in January from Zenith Press.

Its wide perspective reveals how states quietly shared complex machinery and secrets with one another.

All paths stem from the United States, directly or indirectly. One began with Russian spies that deeply penetrated the Manhattan Project. Stalin was so enamored of the intelligence haul, Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman note, that his first atom bomb was an exact replica of the weapon the United States had dropped on Nagasaki.

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Moscow freely shared its atomic thefts with Mao Zedong, China’s leader. The book says that Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project who was eventually caught and, in 1959, released from jail, did likewise. Upon gaining his freedom, the authors say, Fuchs gave the mastermind of Mao’s weapons program a detailed tutorial on the Nagasaki bomb. A half-decade later, China surprised the world with its first blast.

The book, in a main disclosure, discusses how China in 1982 made a policy decision to flood the developing world with atomic know-how. Its identified clients include Algeria, Pakistan and North Korea.

Alarmingly, the authors say one of China’s bombs was created as an “export design” that nearly “anybody could build.” The blueprint for the simple plan has traveled from Pakistan to Libya and, the authors say, Iran. That path is widely assumed among intelligence officials, but Tehran has repeatedly denied the charge.

The book sees a quiet repercussion of China’s proliferation policy in the Algerian desert. Built in secrecy, the reactor there now makes enough plutonium each year to fuel one atom bomb and is ringed by antiaircraft missiles, the book says.

China’s deck also held a wild card: its aid to Pakistan helped A.Q. Khan, a rogue Pakistani metallurgist who sold nuclear gear on the global black market. The authors compare Dr. Khan to “a used-car dealer” happy to sell his complex machinery to suckers who had no idea how hard it was to make fuel for a bomb.

Why did Beijing spread its atomic knowledge so freely? The authors speculate that it either wanted to strengthen the enemies of China’s enemies (for instance, Pakistan as a counterweight to India) or, more chillingly, to encourage nuclear wars or terror in foreign lands from which Beijing would emerge as the “last man standing.”

A lesser pathway involves France. The book says it drew on Manhattan Project veterans and shared intimate details of its bomb program with Israel, with whom it had substantial commercial ties. By 1959, the book says, dozens of Israeli scientists “were observing and participating in” the French program of weapons design.

The book adds that in early 1960, when France detonated its first bomb, doing so in the Algerian desert, “two nations went nuclear.” And it describes how the United States turned a blind eye to Israel’s own atomic developments. It adds that, in the autumn of 1966, Israel conducted a special, non-nuclear test “2,600 feet under the Negev desert.” The next year it built its first bomb.

Israel, in turn, shared its atomic secrets with South Africa. The book discloses that the two states exchanged some key ingredients for the making of atom bombs: tritium to South Africa, uranium to Israel. And the authors agree with military experts who hold that Israel and South Africa in 1979 jointly detonated a nuclear device in the South Atlantic near Prince Edward Island, more than one thousand miles south of Cape Town. Israel needed the test, it says, to develop a neutron bomb.

The authors charge that South Africa at one point targeted Luanda, the capital of neighboring Angola, “for a nuclear strike if peace talks failed.”

South Africa dismantled six nuclear arms in 1990 but retains much expertise. Today, the authors write, “South African technical mercenaries may be more dangerous than the underemployed scientists of the former Soviet Union” because they have no real home in Africa.

“The Bomb: A New History,” due out in January from Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, plows similar ground less deeply, but looks more widely at proliferation curbs and diplomacy. It is by Stephen M. Younger, the former head of nuclear arms at Los Alamos and former director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at the Pentagon.

Dr. Younger disparages what he calls myths suggesting that “all the secrets of nuclear weapons design are available on the Internet.” He writes that France, despite secretive aid, struggled initially to make crude bombs — a point he saw with his own eyes during a tour of a secretive French atomic museum that is closed to the public. That trouble, he says, “suggests we should doubt assertions that the information required to make a nuclear weapon is freely available.”

The two books draw on atomic history to suggest a mix of old and new ways to defuse the proliferation threat. Both see past restraints as fraying and the task as increasingly urgent
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Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman see politics — not spies or military ambitions — as the primary force in the development and spread of nuclear arms. States repeatedly stole and leaked secrets because they saw such action as in their geopolitical interest.

Beijing continues to be a major threat, they argue. While urging global responses like better intelligence, better inspections and better safeguarding of nuclear materials, they also see generational change in China as a great hope in plugging the atomic leaks.

“We must continue to support human rights within Chinese society, not just as an American export, but because it is the dream of the Tiananmen Square generation,” they write. “In time those youngsters could well prevail, and the world will be a less contentious place.”

Dr. Younger notes how political restraints and global treaties worked for decades to curb atomic proliferation, as did American assurances to its allies. “It is a tribute to American diplomacy,” he writes, “that so many countries that might otherwise have gone nuclear were convinced to remain under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.”

And he, too, emphasizes the importance of political sticks and carrots to halting and perhaps reversing the spread of nuclear arms. Iran, he says, is not fated to go nuclear.

“Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina and Brazil all flirted with nuclear programs, and all decided to abandon them,” he notes. “Nuclear proliferation is not unidirectional — given the right conditions and incentives, it is possible for a nation to give up its nuclear aspirations.”

The take-home message of both books is quite the reverse of Oppenheimer’s grim forecast. But both caution that the situation has reached a delicate stage — with a second age of nuclear proliferation close at hand — and that missteps now could hurt terribly in the future.

Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman take their title, “The Nuclear Express,” from a 1940 radio dispatch by Edward R. Murrow , who spoke from London as the clouds of war gathered over Europe. He told of people feeling like the express train of civilization was going out of control.

The authors warn of a similar danger today and suggest that only close attention to the atomic past, as well as determined global action, can avoid “the greatest train wreck” in history.

23250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Too little too late for Pakistan? on: December 09, 2008, 12:12:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Too Little, Too Late for Pakistan?
December 8, 2008
Amid growing pressure from both India and the United States, Pakistani security forces began raiding camps and offices belonging to Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in and around Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, on Sunday. The Pakistanis allegedly detained members of LeT and its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawah. Islamabad desperately needs a break from the pressure that has been building since the United States — the only potential restraint on Indian retaliation over the Mumbai attacks — issued sharp warnings about the need for the government to clamp down on Islamist radicals operating within its borders.

Pakistan is trying to demonstrate its commitment to cooperation with India. Yet its attempts to control what happens on Pakistani soil appear increasingly feeble.

India, for one, is unlikely to be satisfied by Sunday’s arrests. There is no reason at the moment to believe that the targeted sites hosted a significant number of militants, or that any of those who were apprehended are of any value in ensuring India’s security. It is even possible that the militants who once operated in these locations got out before the raids, rendering the strikes a purely symbolic action.

India anticipated, and to an extent designed, this outcome. New Delhi’s demands following the Mumbai attacks were that Pakistan hand over some 20 individuals whom Indian intelligence agencies had pinpointed as threats to national security. The Indians knew that the Pakistanis — unwilling to suffer the embarrassment and political cost of handing over such high-value targets under pressure — were unlikely to comply. Pakistan’s refusal to turn over the people on India’s most-wanted list gives India better justification in taking matters into its own hands.

In India, the pressure is building — within the government, the opposition and the public — to take decisive military action, commensurate with the threat non-state actors pose to national security. Potential military strategies available to New Delhi range from air strikes to a naval blockade of Pakistan’s most significant port, Karachi. Notably, Indian military officials have canceled events on their calendars — including a high-profile annual military parade to be held on Republic Day in late January, fueling speculation that the armed forces expect to be preoccupied somehow during that time.

Meanwhile, New Delhi is preparing to embark on a campaign of diplomacy that will last through the coming week, hoping to convince the world that the Mumbai attacks can be traced back to Pakistani nationals who received support from rogue elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The Indians will attempt to establish a firm legal basis for retaliatory strikes against Pakistan, while presenting evidence to the U.N. Security Council and the broader international community.

Nevertheless, India would find it extremely difficult to eradicate the Islamists through military action. The more important question is whether New Delhi can force Pakistan to take care of its own militant problem. If Islamabad can be pushed into mowing down militant groups that thrive on Pakistan’s soil and rooting out the rogue elements of the ISI, then India will be safer and total war will have been averted. But this strategy hinges on whether Pakistan has sufficient control of its interior to stop the militant groups.

The United States depends on the stability of the Pakistani state for similar reasons. Pakistan’s chief playing card is its ability to rein in militants on its side of the border and, crucially, to act as a transport route for equipment and materials needed by U.S. and NATO troops for the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. If these lines are cut off or disrupted, counterinsurgency operations are affected.

This brings to mind another news item from South Asia. A Taliban force numbering in the hundreds attacked a NATO facility near Peshawar, Pakistan, on Sunday and destroyed nearly 100 trucks, including Humvees, used to transport equipment for the war effort in Afghanistan. This kind of attack has happened before, and security precautions were said to have been taken, but this particular attack was conducted on a larger scale, and more brazenly, than anything seen so far. It was another telling example of how the situation in Pakistan’s northwest regions has spiraled out of Islamabad’s control, jeopardizing its commitments to Washington.

The security strategies of both India and the United States hinge on Islamabad’s ability to snuff out militant groups. The assumption behind recent U.S. and Indian moves is that, if they apply enough pressure, they can coerce Islamabad into braving the domestic political consequences it will face in cracking down on these groups. But this assumption breaks down if the Pakistani government is not capable of controlling its interior. In that case, New Delhi and Washington each have an entirely new set of complications to deal with.
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