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23301  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Day the Dollar died on: November 25, 2010, 01:02:30 PM
23302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 25, 2010, 12:49:43 PM
"People are free to choose to fly or not."

As Glenn Beck would say "Oh, really?"

I have a seminar in Vancouver the end of January and a seminar in Chicago the following week.  What are my options other than flying?
23303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor develops its analysis further on: November 25, 2010, 12:26:44 AM
Building on the previous post, , ,

Deciphering North Korea's Provocations

North Korean artillery began shelling the island of Yeonpyeongdo in disputed waters Tuesday afternoon (local time). The island is occupied by South Korea and located in the West (Yellow) Sea south of the Northern Limit Line that South Korea claims as its territory, but north of the Military Demarcation Line that North Korea claims as its territory. Homes were destroyed and at least two South Korean soldiers were killed. South Korean artillery responded in kind, and South Korean F-16 fighter jets were scrambled.

Looking back, in 1968, North Korean commandoes staged an attack on the Blue House, the South Korean president’s office and residence, in an assassination attempt against South Korean President Park Chung Hee. In 1983, North Korean special agents killed four members of the South Korean Cabinet on a visit to Myanmar, and in 1987 they caused an explosion on a South Korean airplane that killed 115 people. There were running gunbattles in the hills of South Korea in 1996 as Koreans pursued commandoes that had infiltrated the South via submarine. Even today, small arms fire and even artillery fire are routinely exchanged between the North and the South — particularly in the disputed waters west of the Demilitarized Zone. Naval skirmishes occurred there in 1999, 2002 and 2009, and it was in these same waters that the South Korean corvette ChonAn (772) sank in March.

The ChonAn sinking combined with the wider context really brings this recent incident into relief. Despite what Seoul and its allies consider to be irrefutable proof of Pyongyang’s culpability in the sinking of the ChonAn, there was no meaningful reprisal against the North beyond posturing and rhetoric. Needless to say, international sanctions have not succeeded in chastening North Korea in recent years.

“The question is, what exactly is Pyongyang pushing for?”
History is rife with examples of sunken warships that either served as a pretext for war or were ignored in the name of larger geopolitical interests. But while the ChonAn sinking was not incomparable to other fatal incidents in North-South relations on the Korean Peninsula, it has certainly been a new low-water mark for the last decade. And historical precedent or not, it is generally worth taking note when one country does not respond to the aggression of another that has committed an overt act of war by sinking a ship and taking dozens of sailors’ lives. Perhaps the most overt result of the ChonAn sinking other than some very serious internal retrospection regarding South Korea’s military and its defense posture was the tension between the United States and South Korea over Washington’s hesitancy to deploy an American aircraft carrier at Seoul’s request as a demonstration of the strength and resolve of the alliance (due to Washington’s sensitivity to Beijing’s opposition).

Indeed, the subsequent compromise between Seoul and Washington was supposed to center on an enhanced schedule of military exercises over time — including both new exercises and the expansion of existing ones. Among these was supposed to be the Hoguk 2010 exercise that began Monday and included some 70,000 South Korean troops conducting maneuvers — including on the very island shelled by North Korea, Yeonpyeongdo — an annual exercise in which the United States has often participated. Yet American participation was withdrawn earlier in the month at effectively the last minute over a “scheduling conflict” — in reality once again likely due to American concerns about the broader regional dynamic, including China’s and Japan’s reaction (the drills would have involved U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa partaking in an amphibious invasion of a small island, which would have been somewhat provocative in the current tense atmosphere over island sovereignty in Northeast Asia). What’s more, the United States has little interest in seeing conflict flare up between the North and the South, so its calculus may in fact be not only wider regional concerns but also specifically the tension on the Korean Peninsula. In other words, part of the American motivation to withdraw its participation in Hoguk 2010 may very well have been to avoid provoking North Korea, even at the expense of further disappointing its South Korean ally.

Even before the Hoguk 2010 withdrawal, the U.S. hesitancy had enormous impact on Seoul, which, in the South Korean mind, was refused immediate and unhesitating reinforcement by its most important ally at the worst possible moment because of other American interests in the region. The state of the alliance is still strong, and exercises at more convenient times can be expected. But the course of events in 2010 in terms of the American commitment to the alliance may well define South Korean strategic thinking for a decade.

For North Korea, on the other hand, it is hard to imagine a more successful course of events. It struck at its southern rival with impunity and, as a bonus, provoked potentially lasting tensions in the military alliance arrayed against it. The North also wants to avoid all-out war, so Pyongyang is not without its disincentives in terms of provoking Seoul. Note that North Korea’s actions have been limited to disputed areas and of a nature that would be difficult to interpret as a prelude to a larger, broader military assault (one to which the South Korean military would be forced to respond). Instead Pyongyang appears to be calling attention to the disputed maritime border, at least in part a bid to emphasize the need for a peace treaty or some similar settlement that would resolve the disadvantageous status quo in the sea and give Pyongyang the assurances of non-aggression from the United States that it desires.

Yet Pyongyang enjoys a significant trump card — its “nuclear” option. By this, STRATFOR does not mean North Korea’s fledgling nuclear program, which may or may not include workable atomic devices. We mean the legions of hardened conventional artillery positions within range of downtown Seoul and able to rain down sustained fire upon the South Korean capital, home to about 46 percent of the country’s population and source of about 24 percent of its gross domestic product. Though North Korea’s notoriously irrational behavior is actually deliberate, carefully cultivated and purposeful, Seoul is still an enormous thing to gamble with, and South Korea — and the United States, for that matter — can hardly be faulted for not wanting to gamble it on military reprisals in response to what amount to (admittedly lethal) shenanigans in outlying disputed areas.

The problem that has emerged for the United States and its allies is that “red lines” exist only if they are enforced, and both Iran and North Korea have become expert at pushing and stretching them as they see fit. Though (despite rhetoric and appearances) Pyongyang absolutely wants to avoid war, especially during the transition of power, it has now established considerable room to maneuver and push aggressively against its southern rival.

So, what exactly is Pyongyang pushing for? What does it seek to achieve through the exertion of this pressure? Is it still within the realm of its behavior throughout most of the past decade, in which provocations were intended to give it the upper hand in international negotiations, or is it now asking for something more? The North Korean regime has been extraordinarily deliberate and calculating, and one would think it remains so. But is this ability to calculate weakening as a result of the internal strains of the power transition, or other unseen factors? Finally, what is Pyongyang ultimately aiming at as it takes advantage of South Korea’s inability to respond?

23304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Had BO been at Plymouth Rock , , , on: November 24, 2010, 05:45:46 PM
Had today's political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow's holiday would have been called "Starvation Day" instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn't be alive to celebrate it.

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That's why they nearly all starved.

When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.

"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

"This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many."

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."

If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.

What private property does -- as the Pilgrims discovered -- is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there's a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Here's the biggest irony of all: The U.S. government has yet to apply the lesson to its first conquest: Native Americans. The U.S. government has held most Indian land in trust since the 19th century. This discourages initiative and risk-taking because, among other reasons, it can't be used as collateral for loans. On Indian reservations, "private land is 40 to 90 percent more productive than land owned through the Bureau of Indian Affairs," says economist Terry Anderson, executive director of PERC. "If you drive through western reservations, you will see on one side cultivated fields, irrigation, and on the other side, overgrazed pasture, run-down pastures and homes. One is a simple commons; the other side is private property. You have Indians on both sides. The important thing is someone owns one side."

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That's the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.
23305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis on: November 24, 2010, 05:31:21 PM
Although he sees things far more positively than most of us here, IMHO Scott Grannis is an outstanding economist and it is always a good idea to stay in touch with his blog.
23306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Watch the other hand: Unionizing the TSA on: November 24, 2010, 05:23:06 PM

Amongst the many points GB has made in the last couple of days is all this brouhaha over the new TSA scanners and genital grabs may serve the interests of those busily trying to unionize the TSA; a list which apparently includes the President an d the head of the TSA (We're shocked! Absolutely shocked!)
23307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Laying down the line on: November 24, 2010, 04:13:06 PM
The shelling across the Northern Limit Line between North Korea and South Korea recently has raised a lot of questions as to just what the North Koreans are doing — why they carried out this act at this particular time. One of the elements to that is really to better understand what is the Northern Limit Line, why is it there and how do the North Koreans view this.

At the end of the Korean War, as the armistice was being discussed, there was a general agreement on where the DMZ — the demilitarized zone - would go between the two Koreas. However, there was no agreement on where the maritime border would go on the west coast. The United Nations unilaterally drew the Northern Limit Line — putting it within three nautical miles of the North Korean coast, which was standard territory at the time. It also placed five islands just south of the NLL under South Korean or under U.N. control at the time. And in many ways, that boxed in the North Koreans, and it protected the southern port at Incheon.

The North Koreans never recognized the NLL, and by the late 1950s they were already complaining about it. They were suggesting the creation of what they called the MDL — the military demarcation line. This would have been a line that matches more along the 12 nautical miles and runs fairly diagonally between North Korea and South Korea in the West Sea. For the North Koreans, this would give them access to Haeju, their southern deepwater port. It would also give them access to critical crab-fishing grounds in the area.

For the South Koreans however the shape of the MDL, from their perspective, would put Incheon at risk, and South Korea and the United Nations refused to change the line.

As the Cold War was drawing to a close, the North Koreans were looking at ways to modify and change their economic structure. They knew they couldn’t be fully reliant upon the Chinese, upon the Soviets or the Russians after that point. And they started looking into the idea of special economic zones, of trying to increase trade. Ports became very important for them, and they started looking again at Haeju and they started looking again at the Northern Limit Line.

By the end of the 1990s and the firm establishment of Kim Jong Il as the new leader of North Korea, the Northern Limit Line became a very hot area once again. There were two incidents at the end of 1999 and the beginning of the 2000s of shelling between the two Koreas — a maritime fight which had ships sunk on both sides. Tensions began to rise along that line. The North Koreans started calling for a renegotiation of the line and demanding that the South Koreans back away from their positions along that line.

When we look at North Korea’s broad strategic behavior in trying to force negotiations over critical issues, we see them posturing, we see them raising crises so they can step back from them in return for talks and for negotiations. But as we’ve seen in the issues of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, they’ve reached a point where it’s very hard now to create a crisis because they’ve already tested nuclear weapons; they’ve already launched long-range missiles. In general, any red line — real or imagined — has already been crossed.

We’re seeing now on the NLL that the North Koreans are having a step up even to a higher state of activity to be able to draw attention to the NLL. So shelling into the water doesn’t do it, missile tests doesn’t do it, shooting between boats doesn’t necessarily do it, even the incident with the Chon An didn’t seem to bring this NLL issue back up onto the table. They’re now shelling South Korean islands.

The question is how far do the North Koreans have to go before the crisis either draws attention in the way they want or forces a response from the South Koreans and, ultimately, from the United States.

23308  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: November 24, 2010, 03:16:50 PM
About once a year I go through a squat cycle.

My routine is very simple.  The first week I start at  3 sets of 10x135, then the each weak I add 20 or 10 pounds for the top set and do it for 5 reps.  As long as I can do the 5 reps, the next week I add weight.  In the 7-8 days between squat day, I make sure to have one explosive day for legs, typically sprints (100 yards for time) and basic football/lacrosse agility type drills on the neighborhood high school's football field.

Today I spent the $15 to go to a special gym (The Yard in Hermosa Beach) frequently the site of various pro athletes.  One of my favorite gizmos there is the "powerplate", a device which vibrates in a special way and releases muscles, blah blah; it is excellent for performance preparation.  Then I I did my squats  and accomplished today's mission (5x195) rather easily.  Yes, the numbers are humble, but for me it works best to plug along steadily adding 10 pounds a week (20 for the first few weeks) until the rate of return diminishes-- typically somewhere around 5x255.  Then I am done with the cycle and on to something else. 

Also, for some strange reason I did incline bench today.  I have no idea why I prefer incline to flat bench, but I do.
23309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia & China blow off dollar on: November 24, 2010, 03:09:09 PM
This is what comes of following deranged policies:

China, Russia quit dollar


St. Petersburg, Russia - China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.

Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.

"About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies," Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.

The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities.

The yuan has now started trading against the Russian rouble in the Chinese interbank market, while the renminbi will soon be allowed to trade against the rouble in Russia, Putin said.

"That has forged an important step in bilateral trade and it is a result of the consolidated financial systems of world countries," he said.

Putin made his remarks after a meeting with Wen. They also officiated at a signing ceremony for 12 documents, including energy cooperation.

The documents covered cooperation on aviation, railroad construction, customs, protecting intellectual property, culture and a joint communiqu. Details of the documents have yet to be released.

Putin said one of the pacts between the two countries is about the purchase of two nuclear reactors from Russia by China's Tianwan nuclear power plant, the most advanced nuclear power complex in China.

Putin has called for boosting sales of natural resources - Russia's main export - to China, but price has proven to be a sticking point.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who holds sway over Russia's energy sector, said following a meeting with Chinese representatives that Moscow and Beijing are unlikely to agree on the price of Russian gas supplies to China before the middle of next year.

Russia is looking for China to pay prices similar to those Russian gas giant Gazprom charges its European customers, but Beijing wants a discount. The two sides were about $100 per 1,000 cubic meters apart, according to Chinese officials last week.

Wen's trip follows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's three-day visit to China in September, during which he and President Hu Jintao launched a cross-border pipeline linking the world's biggest energy producer with the largest energy consumer.

Wen said at the press conference that the partnership between Beijing and Moscow has "reached an unprecedented level" and pledged the two countries will "never become each other's enemy".

Over the past year, "our strategic cooperative partnership endured strenuous tests and reached an unprecedented level," Wen said, adding the two nations are now more confident and determined to defend their mutual interests.

"China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and support the renaissance of Russia as a great power," he said.

"The modernization of China will not affect other countries' interests, while a solid and strong Sino-Russian relationship is in line with the fundamental interests of both countries."

Wen said Beijing is willing to boost cooperation with Moscow in Northeast Asia, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in major international organizations and on mechanisms in pursuit of a "fair and reasonable new order" in international politics and the economy.

Sun Zhuangzhi, a senior researcher in Central Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the new mode of trade settlement between China and Russia follows a global trend after the financial crisis exposed the faults of a dollar-dominated world financial system.

Pang Zhongying, who specializes in international politics at Renmin University of China, said the proposal is not challenging the dollar, but aimed at avoiding the risks the dollar represents.

Wen arrived in the northern Russian city on Monday evening for a regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government.

He left St. Petersburg for Moscow late on Tuesday and is set to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.
23310  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB: PETN on: November 24, 2010, 03:08:10 PM
LA Times:
Reporting from Washington — New airport security procedures that have stirred the emotions of air travelers — full-body scans and aggressive pat-downs — were largely designed to detect an explosive powder called PETN, which has been a staple of Al Qaeda bomb makers for nearly a decade.

It was PETN that was molded into the sole of Richard Reid's black high-top sneaker when he walked onto American Airlines Flight 63 bound for Miami in December 2001.

It was PETN that was sewn into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, authorities say, when he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

And it was PETN that suspected Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen packed inside computer printer cartridges that were shipped Oct. 28, intending to blow up planes en route to Chicago.

None of the plots succeeded in taking down an aircraft, but top U.S. officials are concerned about fresh indications that Al Qaeda remains determined to get PETN on airplanes by trying to exploit vulnerabilities in passenger and cargo screening.

Not only has the terrorist network acknowledged its role in bomb plots, it is also sharing what it knows about building bombs on the Web and elsewhere.

PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, presents some vexing problems for security experts. A powder about the consistency of fine popcorn salt, it will not trigger an alarm on a metal detector. Because of its more stable molecules, PETN gives off less vapor, making it more difficult to detect by bomb-sniffing dogs and the trace swabs used by the Transportation Security Administration.

PETN's stability makes it easy to hide and easily transformed. When mixed with rubber cement or putty, it becomes a rudimentary plastic explosive — a baseball-sized amount can blow a hole in an airplane fuselage.

"PETN is hard to detect and lends itself to being concealed," said an intelligence official who was not authorized to speak on the record. "It packs a punch."

One way to detect PETN is through its detonator, which typically uses materials that are easier to trace. Reid's shoe bomb combined PETN with a volatile explosive accelerant called TATP that can be made from dime-store nail polish and hydrogen peroxide. The Yemen printer cartridge bombs placed the PETN around small homemade blasting caps containing the chemical lead azide.

The fact that PETN has been the common denominator in all of the bombs is a major reason why the TSA is unlikely to yield substantially in its search for practical ways to prevent the deadly powder from making it aboard a plane.

The new aggressive pat-downs and the increased use of full-body scanners — there are more than 400 machines in 69 U.S. airports — were a direct response to last year's alleged bombing attempt on Christmas Day, when Abdulmutallab passed through screening with 80 grams of PETN, authorities say.

Some passengers have objected to the enhanced screening as an invasion of privacy, though several polls show air travelers consider safety far more important.

"I know people want to bomb us," TSA chief John Pistole told reporters Monday. Pistole isn't just worried about terrorists in Yemen. He said he is particularly concerned that home-grown terrorists might "get ahold of a PETN device."

PETN can be made in a rudimentary lab or salvaged from old munitions. It can scraped from old bombs or stripped out of detonator cord, a fast-burning fuse about the diameter of a clothesline that is commonly used in road construction and mining. The amount of PETN in 5 feet of detonator cord has enough explosive power to buckle the roof of a car.

Smuggling explosives onto airplanes is a vulnerability that the TSA has known about since 2005, when covert testing teams run by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general were able to penetrate TSA airport security with explosive-like test devices, Pistole said.

The best technological weapons that the TSA has now are body scans of passengers and X-rays of cargo and baggage. But the scanners can't see anything hidden inside body cavities, and their effectiveness relies on operators identifying something unusual.

The scanners are "just anomaly detectors. Someone has to notice, has to have some expertise," said former Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin, who managed covert testing teams in 2003 and 2004 that were able to get guns, knives and explosives through TSA screening.

There are new techniques available for cargo, baggage and passenger screening that can detect individual explosive molecules using mass spectrometry, a technology that would be better at identifying PETN than the swab machines in use by the TSA.

"There is no question that the technology now deployed can't do it," Ervin said.

Even technology can only detect so much. The printer cartridge bombs from Yemen were sealed in plastic and cleaned with solvents to remove PETN molecules. The packages were discovered because of a tip from Saudi intelligence services.

Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said security screening needed to be less predictable, "so Al Qaeda and our [other] adversaries can't simply game the system."

The TSA also should invest in better human intelligence and institute a method of questioning passengers that Israel uses at airport checkpoints, said Edward Luttwak, an expert on security strategy and a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In recent discussions with members of the security services in Israel, Luttwak found "general puzzlement about TSA's enthusiasm for these machines."

The TSA's plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars deploying more than 1,000 full-body scanners by the end of 2011 "is a syndrome of having no budget limits and maybe aggressive salesmanship," Luttwak said.

Israeli screeners, he added, are not looking for people who fit a physical profile, but a behavioral profile of avoidance and inconsistency. In Luttwak's view, it is easier for terrorists to design a bomb that can get past a screening regime than it is to find someone who is both a good actor and willing to be a suicide bomber.

A TSA program to identify suspicious behavior in search lines has deployed about 3,000 agents in more than 160 U.S. airports. Officers are trained to identify suspicious facial expressions and body language by walking up and down the line, initiating conversations and pulling passengers for additional screening.

In a glossy, color magazine released this week by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni-based group vowed to continue using PETN. The magazine, written in English, included photos and a detailed description of how the printer cartridge bombs were made and packaged to avoid detection by bomb-sniffing dogs.

The authors encouraged copycat attacks: "Do you think that our research will only be used by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and won't be shared with other mujahidin?"

The headline on the magazine was simply "$4,200" — the amount the group says it spent to build and ship the bombs.
23311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / another Stratfor: Helmand Vallye on: November 24, 2010, 11:32:19 AM
second post of the morning:

Tactical Successes
One theme of this weekly update, particularly in recent months, has been a rather critical view of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan. This perspective has its roots in the strategic and grand strategic altitude from which STRATFOR views the world and the context into which STRATFOR attempts to place world events. In particular, STRATFOR has raised questions regarding the opportunity costs of the forces committed to the counterinsurgency-focused strategy in Afghanistan and the size and duration of the commitment necessary to attempt to achieve meaningful and lasting results. But this update has also long endeavored to provide an accurate portrayal of operational and tactical developments — both challenges and successes. STRATFOR noted at the beginning of the year that the “new” American strategy, though it has its flaws, is more coherent and entails a more tough-minded recognition and awareness of U.S. challenges and weaknesses in Afghanistan.

The central Helmand River Valley is an example of recent tactical success. Here the U.S. Marine Regimental Combat Team-1 (RCT-1) is responsible for key areas south of Lashkar Gah, the Helmand provincial capital, including the farming community of Marjah to the west and Nawa and Gamshir further south down the Helmand River. Some two years ago, this area was the responsibility of a single Marine infantry battalion (some 1,000 Marines), that was spread quite thin simply attempting to provide some semblance of security in district centers. Today, four battalions provide security across the Regimental Area of Operations from more than 100 positions — many held by a squad of only about nine Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman and partnered with an Afghan National Army (ANA) squad. Other positions are held by the Afghan Uniform Police, the Afghan National Civil Order Police (a gendarmerie formation) or the ANA independently. A local community police initiative awkwardly known as the Interim Security Critical Infrastructure provides a block-by-block arrangement where locals provide for their own security.

(click here to enlarge image)
After two years of security operations in Nawa, Marine commanders will now visit the central market without helmets or body armor. It is the success story of the recent U.S.-led effort here, and one which commanders consider replicable in Marjah and Gamshir — where the fight is still more kinetic — given time. And there have been signs that locals are more forthcoming with intelligence and share it with both U.S. forces and Afghan forces, a potentially important sign for the durability of the civilian relationship with the government.

Gains across the central Helmand River Valley remain fragile and reversible, and it will take time to consolidate and entrench these successes, particularly since the area was once broadly and firmly controlled by the Taliban. It will also take time for the Afghan security forces and government — through trial and error, experience, training, and further support — to become strong enough to resist any return of Taliban fighters to the area or, perhaps more important, to deny the Taliban any meaningful ideological or material local support. It has often been said that the United States won all the battles in Vietnam but lost the war. Tactical success does not necessarily indicate broader operational or strategic gains, but it is nevertheless a trend that will warrant close scrutiny.

2014 and Beyond
The (not entirely unexpected) announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama on Nov. 20 at the NATO Summit in Lisbon that responsibility for security in Afghanistan would be completely transferred to Afghan forces by 2014 was particularly important in this regard, because it now makes explicit that there is more room for consolidating and cementing near-term gains against the Taliban. Notably, the 2014 timetable entails combat forces; in Iraq, some 50,000 U.S. troops remain in the country following the termination of combat operations at the end of August, playing an “advisory and assistance” role — meaning that the overall commitment of U.S. forces to Afghanistan could well last many years beyond 2014.

But the recent gains in Afghanistan have required the massing of forces. Four reinforced and heavily supported U.S. Marine infantry battalions in the central Helmand River Valley represent a far denser concentration of combat power than most areas of Afghanistan ever have or likely will ever experience. The Helmand River Valley is not a representative case study because the laser-sharp focus of forces cannot be replicated everywhere in the country. But it has been an area deliberately identified and targeted in the U.S. strategy in order to focus on key population centers and deny the Taliban both that population and the income from the poppy crop that the militants rely upon significantly.

This application of force has seen results — if not as rapidly as was originally hoped when Marines seized key bazaars in Marjah back in February. Relationships and a degree of trust are forming between locals and both U.S. and Afghan forces. But an insurgency is a moving target, and already the most intense combat operations have shifted northward to the district of Sangin. So while Marine efforts in Marjah in the last six months have indeed succeeded, the effects of the transition to Afghan forces as U.S. forces begin to pull back and focus their efforts elsewhere will warrant close and ongoing scrutiny.

The United States announced Nov. 19 that it will expand its Northern Distribution Network (NDN) supply chain to the Afghan theater by utilizing the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. U.S. Transportation Command said the initial shipment will involve approximately 100 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers and will arrive in December. Klaipeda will join the Latvian port of Riga, the Estonian port of Tallinn, Georgia’s port of Poti and the Turkish port of Mersin in receiving non-lethal materiel such as building supplies, fuel and food bound for northern Afghanistan (the variety of materiel shipped has also expanded). The NDN began operation in early 2009 in response to threats to the supply chain in Pakistan and already sees the transit of some 1,000 TEU containers per week. The port of Klaipeda has the highest container-handling rate of all the other Baltic ports, though the capacities of the Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek and Tajik railways are a key limiting factor.

The United States is also looking at expanding its ability to use transportation networks in Russia and Central Asia. Russia agreed to allow the shipment of armored vehicles through its territory along the NDN and is currently negotiating with NATO to allow reverse transit, which would let NATO send materiel upstream, back to the Baltic, Turkish and Georgian ports for repair or redeployment. But Central Asia also poses several challenges for the United States and NATO. Aside from being extremely long, the NDN is not completely free of security risks. Militants in Tajikistan have threatened to attack shipments traversing Uzbekistan and Tajikistan into Afghanistan. While there is no evidence that this is happening enough to be significant — Pakistani militants have set a high standard for interfering with logistics — militants along the Tajik-Afghan border do have ties to the Afghan Taliban and could mount a more aggressive campaign, much like the Pakistani militants’ continuing challenges to NATO supply lines there. Nevertheless, further diversification of the logistical network, while it cannot replace reliance on Pakistan and entails risks of its own, can be considered significant progress for the U.S.-led war effort.

Main Battle Tanks
Logistics remain a key aspect of the fight inside Afghanistan as well. The notoriously poor road infrastructure — there is not currently a single paved road in the entire RCT-1 area of operations — is further degraded in wet conditions. This makes a Marine request for the deployment of a company of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) particularly noteworthy. The tanks will offer heavy direct fire support that further taxes that infrastructure — at nearly 70 tons, the M1 does not tread lightly on local roads, and it is a fuel-hungry beast, with its gas turbine engine capable of burning through a gallon of gasoline in a quarter mile — but will also, by virtue of the off-road mobility that tracks provide, give greater freedom of movement. This will mark the first deployment of U.S. MBTs to the country, though Canadian and Danish Leopard tanks have been used to considerable effect in Kandahar province since 2007.

M-1 Abrams main battle tanksThe Marine Assault Breacher Vehicle, which is built on an M1A1 chassis, has been operating in Helmand province for a year now, giving the Marines a sense of what it takes to operate a vehicle of that size and weight. Both institutionally and doctrinally, the Marine tanker community is a small one that has always worked closely with infantry. Much has been said of what this request signifies at the current time, but the request was submitted earlier in the year and in fact echoed a request made last year that was denied. A small contingent of tanks — a single company has been requested which, including support vehicles, will amount to only around 15 vehicles to be deployed by the entire 1st Marine Division (Forward) — is simply part and parcel of how the Marines do business. The tanks will not win the war, and the request is not a sudden, panicked call for reinforcements.

The precision-engagement that the Abrams’ 120 mm main gun offers will be a significant direct-fire support asset, especially as vegetation is now thinning out, allowing for it to engage targets at longer range (beyond 2 miles). Indeed, in the lightly armored and largely foot-mobile Afghan campaign, even the Abrams’ M2 .50-caliber machine gun — often found along with the Mk 19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher mounted on M-ATV trucks — will often be found valuable, since the tanks’ tracks will allow them to move and position themselves in places that even the M-ATVs cannot go.

Meanwhile, the lack of a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the Taliban’s composition remains an issue. Nowhere was this made clearer than when a purported senior Taliban leader taking part in backchannel negotiations with the Afghan government was announced to have been an impostor. While this is an emerging development that requires further clarification and investigation, the mere statement — and the viability of such a claim, even if this one turns out to be different — underscores a longstanding STRATFOR point that no one has a good master list of the Taliban hierarchy. And without this sort of sound analytic construct and sophisticated and nuanced understanding of one’s adversary, raw intelligence can only go so far.

Read more: A Week in the War: Afghanistan, Nov. 17-23, 2010 | STRATFOR
23312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Intel issues in Afg on: November 24, 2010, 11:30:53 AM

The spectrum of intelligence-gathering capabilities deployed by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan has expanded significantly in recent years, but perhaps the most important type of intelligence in counterinsurgency — human intelligence — remains elusive. Not all signs are negative, however, and the evolution of human intelligence will be a key factor in the success or failure of allied efforts in the months and years ahead.

The Afghanistan Campaign, Part 1: The U.S. Strategy
Military Doctrine, Guerrilla Warfare and Counterinsurgency
STRATFOR has long held that Afghanistan is at its heart an intelligence war. While we are hardly alone in this view, intelligence remains central to our perspective and coverage of the war. Intelligence for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has seen a broad spectrum of improvements in recent years, but the most important developments may be in the sphere of human intelligence.

The Broad Spectrum of Intelligence

The technical platforms for battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) have improved dramatically in recent years, with most honed in Iraq at the height of American military efforts there. Over time, these ISR assets have been freed up (to a certain degree) from Iraq and transitioned to Afghanistan, more platforms have been built and deployed and the technologies themselves — as well as the ways in which ISR is communicated and disseminated — have been further refined.

SPC THEODORE SCHMIDT, U.S. Department of Defense
A Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment blimp being launched over a forward operating base in AfghanistanThere is now such a broad spectrum of ISR platforms deployed in Afghanistan that it is difficult to cover concisely even what is known and discussed in the open source (and this does not even include “national technical means,” i.e., spaced-based sensors). The list of deployed ISR platforms includes:

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): The RQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are only the most recognized. Equipped with electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) turrets, significant additional numbers of UAVs have been surged into the country in recent years, dramatically expanding the number of sustained UAV orbits and their availability — though they remain in high demand.
Manned aircraft: The MC-12W Liberty, a recent addition to the operational arsenal, provides both EO/IR coverage and signals intelligence. A squadron is now operating from Kandahar Airfield. These and other fixed-wing platforms dedicated to ISR and signals collection (including the British R1 Sentinel) are complemented by the EO/IR capabilities of attack helicopters and combat aircraft overhead to provide close air support — all of which are increasingly well integrated.
Aerostats: Persistent Threat Detection System and Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) lighter-than-air aerostats (e.g., blimps) deployed at major airfields and forward operating bases provide ISR coverage from fixed ground stations.
Elevated systems: Tower- and mast-mounted system variants of the RAID system have been around for years but are now being complemented by the Ground-Based Operational Surveillance System (GBOSS), a system that is being mated with Man-portable Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radars (MSTAR) that provide all-weather day and night capabilities that are low-power and can be deployed on light trailers or even vehicles.

Limits of ISR

Airborne capabilities are beholden to weather both in order to fly (rotary wing and lighter fixed-wing aircraft can be more restricted) and to see (some thermal and particularly radar-based sensors are less sensitive to overcast weather), which is particularly problematic in the winter months. However, the variety and number of platforms has dramatically increased, leading to improved situational awareness. The scale, affordability and power requirements of the smaller GBOSS variants especially are translating into the deployment of dedicated EO/IR and MSTAR capabilities to lower and lower echelons — some of which are less sensitive to unpredictable weather.

U.S. Air Force
An MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planeBut this sort of surveillance is limited in that one must know where to look, what to look for, and what can be discerned. The technology can be applied to main supply routes and route clearance efforts — keeping the lines of supply open in the country by watching specific stretches of road, for example. Similarly, with more bandwidth, even squad-level engagements can quickly have eyes overhead.

But short of being spotted actively digging in the ground on a main supply route or openly toting an assault rifle or rocket-propelled grenade while retreating from a firefight, the Taliban exist as a guerrilla force among the people. Even with the remarkable resolution of modern EO/IR sensors, visual means of intelligence gathering will only achieve so much in a counterinsurgency effort. More important, their tactical and battlefield utility may not translate into larger operational or strategic success. In many cases, it is only with biometrics such as eye scans that individuals can readily be visually identified as Taliban if they are not overtly engaged in some sort of incriminating activity (and then only if they have committed some nefarious deed that caused security forces to scan their eye).

Further emphasizing this lack of clarity in terms of individual identity and relationship to the diffuse and amorphous Taliban phenomenon, a purported senior Taliban leader taking part in back-channel negotiations with the Afghan government is now being reported as an impostor. STRATFOR has long held that no one has a good master list of the Taliban hierarchy; without this sort of sound analytic construct and sophisticated and nuanced understanding of one’s adversary, raw intelligence can only get you so far.

Similarly, signals intelligence — also a very broad, active and significant effort — has its value. If claims of success against the Taliban through special operations forces raids to capture and kill senior leadership and operational commanders are accurate, signals intelligence is likely playing an active and pivotal role.

Human Intelligence

But the one type of intelligence upon which the war might truly turn is human intelligence. This is not to denigrate or disregard the pivotal importance of ISR, signals and other means of collection. Each type of intelligence is different in extremely important and defining ways, and each has its role. Continued collection efforts and continually improving technical means are obviously important.

LCPL JOHN MCCALL, U.S. Department of Defense
A Ground Based Operational Surveillance System tower being secured in southwestern AfghanistanBut an indigenous guerrilla force naturally enjoys advantages in intelligence by virtue of its demographic identity, its cultural awareness and its human relationships. Merely managing this disadvantage can be a daunting task for a foreign power. Moreover, indigenous security forces trained and supported by that foreign power are very often inherently compromised to the benefit of the guerrilla.

Intelligence that cannot be gotten directly can be secured from allies with that knowledge, though it is not at all clear that the capabilities of Afghanistan’s fledgling intelligence services (particularly in key areas like the Taliban’s heartland in southwestern Afghanistan) or its willingness to share what actionable intelligence it does have can be decisive. It certainly has not been yet. Similarly, the United States has struggled to get sufficiently timely and accurate intelligence from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.

The assistance of locals at the tactical level presents another avenue — both for intelligence to flow to U.S. units and for actionable intelligence to flow directly to Afghan security forces (which are only in some cases manned with local troops). Even in places like Marjah, which were until recently controlled — uncontested by ISAF forces — by the Taliban, there have been instances of locals not only helping identify improvised explosive devices or individuals that other forms of intelligence have not, but doing so openly, without attempting to conceal their own identity or collaboration.

In Iraq, active intelligence sharing from Iraq’s Sunnis on the al Qaeda and foreign jihadist operations that they had previously supported proved decisive in turning the tide in the war (even if the situation remains fragile and uncertain). This was done at a high level within the Sunni community — a level and example that is simply not replicable in the Afghan case. But it is nevertheless a reminder of how decisive indigenous intelligence can be in counterinsurgency.

Without a single demographic to turn to, and with such complex demography to begin with, there is no comparable single solution in Afghanistan. And a local here and there pointing out an explosive device that may well be near where his children play or travel or selling out a particularly unpleasant hard-line Taliban operative does not necessarily indicate much tactical progress in the intelligence sphere. The motivation of the source is of pivotal importance in human intelligence — he may be doing it for personal gain (by accurately or inaccurately fingering a competitor) or seeking financial or political gain. This is why it is difficult to draw conclusions, but the intelligence relationship between ISAF forces, Afghan security forces and locals in areas like Marjah will warrant close scrutiny moving forward. There are more and more instances of this sort of local assistance, and now that the United States and NATO have overtly committed to four more years of combat operations, that assistance may prove at least sustainable. The extent and actual intelligence value of that assistance is unclear, but the prospect for an increasingly broad (if not systematic) network of local human sources could yet hold strategic significance for the U.S.-led war effort.

Read more: Afghanistan: The Intelligence War | STRATFOR
23313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on US response on: November 24, 2010, 10:06:19 AM
This is a genuine question GM, what would your propose?

WASHINGTON — President Obama and South Korea’s president agreed Tuesday night to hold joint military exercises as a first response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean military installation, as both countries struggled for the second time this year to keep a North Korean provocation from escalating into war.

The exercise will include sending the aircraft carrier George Washington and a number of accompanying ships into the region, both to deter further attacks by the North and to signal to China that unless it reins in its unruly ally it will see an even larger American presence in the vicinity.
The decision came after Mr. Obama attended the end of an emergency session in the White House Situation Room and then emerged to call President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea to express American solidarity and talk about a coordinated response.

But as a former national security official who dealt frequently with North Korea in the Bush administration, Victor Cha, said just a few hours before the attack began, North Korea is “the land of lousy options.”

Mr. Obama is once again forced to choose among unpalatable choices: responding with verbal condemnations and a modest tightening of sanctions, which has done little to halt new attacks; starting military exercises that are largely symbolic; or reacting strongly, which could risk a broad war in which South Korea’s capital, Seoul, would be the first target.

The decision to send the aircraft carrier came as the South Korean military went into what it termed “crisis status.” President Lee said he would order strikes on a North Korean base if there were indications of new attacks.

North Korea’s artillery shells fell on Yeonpyeong Island, a fishing village whose residents fled by ferry to the mainland city of Inchon — where Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops landed 60 years ago this fall, three months after the outbreak of the Korean War.

Today, Inchon is the site of South Korea’s main international airport, symbolizing the vulnerability of one of the world’s most vibrant economies to the artillery of one of the world’s poorest and most isolated nations.

A senior American official said that an early American assessment indicated that a total of about 175 artillery shells were fired by the North and by the South in response on Tuesday.

But an American official who had looked at satellite images said there was no visible evidence of preparations for a general war. Historically, the North’s attacks have been lightning raids, after which the North Koreans have backed off to watch the world’s reaction. This one came just hours after the South Koreans had completed a long-planned set of military exercises, suggesting that the North Korean attack was “premeditated,” a senior American official said.

Television reports showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island, as dozens of houses caught fire. The shelling killed two marines and wounded 18 people. The South put its fighter planes on alert — but, tellingly, did not put them in the air or strike at the North’s artillery bases. Mr. Obama was awakened at 3:55 a.m. by his new national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, who told him of the attack.

Just 11 days before, North Korea had invited a Stanford nuclear scientist to Yongbyon, its primary nuclear site, and showed him what was described as a just-completed centrifuge plant that, if it becomes fully operational, should enable North Korea to enrich uranium into nuclear fuel and add to its arsenal of 8 to 12 nuclear weapons.

Taken together, the nuclear demonstration and the attack were widely interpreted as an effort to bolster the credentials of Kim Jong-un, the heir apparent as the country’s leader, and the son and grandson of the only two men who have run the country. When his father, Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s ailing leader, was establishing his credentials, the North conducted a similar series of attacks.

“They have a 60-year history of military provocations — it’s in their DNA,” said a senior administration official. “What we are trying to do is break the cycle,” a cycle, he said, that has North Korea’s bad behavior rewarded with “talks, inducements and rewards.” He said that the shelling would delay any effort to resume the six-nation talks about the North’s nuclear program.

While Mr. Obama was elected on a promise of diplomatic engagement, his strategy toward the North for the past two years, called “strategic patience,” has been to demonstrate that Washington would not engage until the North ceased provocations and demonstrated that it was living up to past commitments to dismantle, and ultimately give up, its nuclear capacity.

The provocations have now increased markedly, and it is not clear what new options are available. Beijing’s first reaction on Tuesday was to call for a resumption of the six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States. The last meeting was two years ago, at the end of the Bush administration.

Mr. Obama’s aides made it clear in interviews that the United States had no intention of returning to those talks soon. But its leverage is limited.

When North Korea set off a nuclear test last year just months after Mr. Obama took office, the United States won passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed far harsher sanctions. The sanctions gave countries the right, and responsibility, to board North Korean ships and planes that landed at ports around the world and to inspect them for weapons. The effort seemed partly successful — but the equipment in the centrifuge plant is so new that it is clear that the trade restrictions did not stop the North from building what Siegfried S. Hecker, the visiting scientist, called an “ultramodern” nuclear complex.


Page 2 of 2)

By far the biggest recent disruption of relations came in March, when a sudden explosion sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. South Korean and international investigators said the blast was caused by a North Korean torpedo. The North has vehemently denied it. If the North was responsible for the sinking, it would be the most lethal military attack since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

President Lee of South Korea decided not to respond militarily to the sinking and was praised by Washington for his restraint. To make North Korea pay a price, he imposed new food restrictions on the North and ended trade worth several hundred million dollars that had been intended to induce the desperately poor North Koreans to choose income over military strikes. But some analysts believe that the cutoff in food aid was an excuse, if not a motivation, for Tuesday’s attack.
Choi Jin-wook, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a research institute in Seoul, said, “It’s a sign of North Korea’s increasing frustration.”

“Washington has turned a deaf ear to Pyongyang, and North Korea is saying: ‘Look here. We’re still alive. We can cause trouble. You can’t ignore us.’ ”

Yet for Mr. Obama, much stronger responses, including a naval quarantine of the North, carry huge risks. A face-off on the Korean Peninsula would require tens of thousands of troops, air power and the possibility of a resumption of the Korean War, a battle that American officials believe would not last long, but might end in the destruction of Seoul if the North unleashed artillery batteries near the border.

Pressing against a precipitous reaction is that the North’s attacks have a choreographed character, even a back-to-the-future feel. The last time North Korea engaged in acts this destructive was in the 1980s, when it blew up a South Korean airliner and also detonated a bomb in Myanmar in a botched attempt to assassinate the visiting South Korean president. Both attacks were said to be ordered by Kim Jong-il, who was then the heir to Kim Il-sung, his father and North Korea’s founder.

Now Mr. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is in that position. He was promoted on Sept. 28 to the rank of four-star general, a prerequisite for his ascendancy to power. Many see these attacks as the effort of a man the Chinese now say is 25 years old to establish his military credentials.
23314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 24, 2010, 09:58:28 AM
As there is between Nazis and the TSA.  My doggy nose detects of whiff of GM feeling a tad offended on that.

Moving along  smiley  GM, in one of my posts of yesterday I quoted a Rapiscan VP saying that the naked pictures will shortly not be necessary.  Wouldn't this eliminate the source of all this discontent?  The TSA gets a scan it says addresses the issue, and we don't have to get photo'd nude and trust the government to not keep the fotos or have to have some TSA person grabbing our junk (and asking us to cough? cheesy )
23315  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 24, 2010, 12:45:16 AM
"I missed a piece in my explanation.  It is traditional in Jewish thought because of the Hebrew (The Holy Tongue) to refer to the soul as feminine or use no pronouns at all.  It would be kind of disrespectful to call the soul an it."

Thank you.
23316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A different take on the Israeli approach on: November 23, 2010, 08:41:38 PM
Sent to me by a friend with a very interesting military background:
23317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Saudi water table salinating on: November 23, 2010, 08:24:17 PM
23318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor overview on: November 23, 2010, 05:21:07 PM
A bit unfair methinks to evaluate pre 911 behavior by post 911 standards.

Anyway, here's this overview by Stratfor, which does a rather nice job I think of synthesizing many of the points made by the various participants in our conversation here:

By Scott Stewart

Over the past few weeks, aviation security — specifically, enhanced passenger-screening procedures — has become a big issue in the media. The discussion of the topic has become even more fervent as we enter Thanksgiving weekend, which is historically one of the busiest travel periods of the year. As this discussion has progressed, we have been asked repeatedly by readers and members of the press for our opinion on the matter.

We have answered such requests from readers, and we have done a number of media interviews, but we’ve resisted writing a fresh analysis on aviation security because, as an organization, our objective is to lead the media rather than follow the media regarding a particular topic. We want our readers to be aware of things before they become pressing public issues, and when it comes to aviation-security threats and the issues involved with passenger screening, we believe we have accomplished this. Many of the things now being discussed in the media are things we’ve written about for years.

When we were discussing this topic internally and debating whether to write about it, we decided that since we have added so many new readers over the past few years, it might be of interest to our expanding readership to put together an analysis that reviews the material we’ve published and that helps to place the current discussion into the proper context. We hope our longtime readers will excuse the repetition.

We believe that this review will help establish that there is a legitimate threat to aviation, that there are significant challenges in trying to secure aircraft from every conceivable threat, and that the response of aviation security authorities to threats has often been slow and reactive rather than thoughtful and proactive.


Commercial aviation has been threatened by terrorism for decades now. From the first hijackings and bombings in the late 1960s to last month’s attempt against the UPS and FedEx cargo aircraft, the threat has remained constant. As we have discussed for many years, jihadists have long had a fixation with attacking aircraft. When security measures were put in place to protect against Bojinka-style attacks in the 1990s — attacks that involved modular explosive devices smuggled onto planes and left aboard — the jihadists adapted and conducted 9/11-style attacks. When security measures were put in place to counter 9/11-style attacks, the jihadists quickly responded by going to onboard suicide attacks with explosive devices concealed in shoes. When that tactic was discovered and shoes began to be screened, they switched to devices containing camouflaged liquid explosives. When that plot failed and security measures were altered to restrict the quantity of liquids that people could take aboard aircraft, we saw the jihadists alter the paradigm once more and attempt the underwear-bomb attack last Christmas.

In a special edition of Inspire magazine released last weekend, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) noted that, due to the increased passenger screening implemented after the Christmas Day 2009 attempt, the group’s operational planners decided to employ explosive devices sent via air cargo (we have written specifically about the vulnerability of air cargo to terrorist attacks).

Finally, it is also important to understand that the threat does not emanate just from jihadists like al Qaeda and its regional franchises. Over the past several decades, aircraft have been attacked by a number of different actors, including North Korean intelligence officers, Sikh, Palestinian and Hezbollah militants and mentally disturbed individuals like the Unabomber, among others.


While understanding that the threat is very real, it is also critical to recognize that there is no such thing as absolute, foolproof security. This applies to ground-based facilities as well as aircraft. If security procedures and checks have not been able to keep contraband out of high-security prisons, it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to keep unauthorized items off aircraft, where (thankfully) security checks of crew and passengers are far less invasive than they are for prisoners. As long as people, luggage and cargo are allowed aboard aircraft, and as long as people on the ground crew and the flight crew have access to aircraft, aircraft will remain vulnerable to a number of internal and external threats.

This reality is accented by the sheer number of passengers that must be screened and number of aircraft that must be secured. According to figures supplied by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2006, the last year for which numbers are available, the agency screened 708,400,522 passengers on domestic flights and international flights coming into the United States. This averages out to over 1.9 million passengers per day.

Another reality is that, as mentioned above, jihadists and other people who seek to attack aircraft have proven to be quite resourceful and adaptive. They carefully study security measures, identify vulnerabilities and then seek to exploit them. Indeed, last September, when we analyzed the innovative designs of the explosive devices employed by AQAP, we called attention to the threat they posed to aviation more than three months before the Christmas 2009 bombing attempt. As we look at the issue again, it is not hard to see, as we pointed out then, how their innovative efforts to camouflage explosives in everyday items and hide them inside suicide operatives’ bodies will continue and how these efforts will be intended to exploit vulnerabilities in current screening systems.

As we wrote in September 2009, getting a completed explosive device or its components by security and onto an aircraft is a significant challenge, but it is possible for a resourceful bombmaker to devise ways to overcome that challenge. The latest issue of Inspire magazine demonstrated how AQAP has done some very detailed research to identify screening vulnerabilities. As the group noted in the magazine: “The British government said that if a toner weighs more than 500 grams it won’t be allowed on board a plane. Who is the genius who came up with this suggestion? Do you think that we have nothing to send but printers?”

AQAP also noted in the magazine that it is working to identify innocuous substances like toner ink that, when X-rayed, will appear similar to explosive compounds like PETN, since such innocuous substances will be ignored by screeners. With many countries now banning cargo from Yemen, it will be harder to send those other items in cargo from Sanaa, but the group has shown itself to be flexible, with the underwear-bomb operative beginning his trip to Detroit out of Nigeria rather than Yemen. In the special edition of Inspire, AQAP also specifically threatened to work with allies to launch future attacks from other locations.

Drug couriers have been transporting narcotics hidden inside their bodies aboard aircraft for decades, and prisoners frequently hide drugs, weapons and even cell phones inside body cavities. It is therefore only a matter of time before this same tactic is used to smuggle plastic explosives or even an entire non-metallic explosive device onto an aircraft — something that would allow an attacker to bypass metal detectors and backscatter X-ray inspection and pass through external pat-downs.

Look for the Bomber, Not Just the Bomb

This ability to camouflage explosives in a variety of different ways, or hide them inside the bodies of suicide operatives, means that the most significant weakness of any suicide-attack plan is the operative assigned to conduct the attack. Even in a plot to attack 10 or 12 aircraft, a group would need to manufacture only about 12 pounds of high explosives — about what is required for a single, small suicide device and far less than is required for a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Because of this, the operatives are more of a limiting factor than the explosives themselves; it is far more difficult to find and train 10 or 12 suicide bombers than it is to produce 10 or 12 devices.

A successful attack requires operatives who are not only dedicated enough to initiate a suicide device without getting cold feet; they must also possess the nerve to calmly proceed through airport security checkpoints without alerting officers that they are up to something sinister. This set of tradecraft skills is referred to as demeanor, and while remaining calm under pressure and behaving normally may sound simple in theory, practicing good demeanor under the extreme pressure of a suicide operation is very difficult. Demeanor has proved to be the Achilles’ heel of several terror plots, and it is not something that militant groups have spent a great deal of time teaching their operatives. Because of this, it is frequently easier to spot demeanor mistakes than it is to find well-hidden explosives. Such demeanor mistakes can also be accentuated, or even induced, by contact with security personnel in the form of interviews, or even by unexpected changes in security protocols that alter the security environment a potential attacker is anticipating and has planned for.

There has been much discussion of profiling, but the difficulty of creating a reliable and accurate physical profile of a jihadist, and the adaptability and ingenuity of the jihadist planners, means that any attempt at profiling based only on race, ethnicity or religion is doomed to fail. In fact, profiling can prove counterproductive to good security by blinding people to real threats. They will dismiss potential malefactors who do not fit the specific profile they have been provided.

In an environment where the potential threat is hard to identify, it is doubly important to profile individuals based on their behavior rather than their ethnicity or nationality — what we refer to as focusing on the “how” instead of the “who.” Instead of relying on physical profiles, which allow attack planners to select operatives who do not match the profiles being selected for more intensive screening, security personnel should be encouraged to exercise their intelligence, intuition and common sense. A Caucasian U.S. citizen who shows up at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi or Dhaka claiming to have lost his passport may be far more dangerous than some random Pakistani or Yemeni citizen, even though the American does not appear to fit the profile for requiring extra security checks.

However, when we begin to consider traits such as intelligence, intuition and common sense, one of the other realities that must be faced with aviation security is that, quite simply, it is not an area where the airlines or governments have allocated the funding required to hire the best personnel. Airport screeners make far less than FBI special agents or CIA case officers and receive just a fraction of the training. Before 9/11, most airports in the United States relied on contract security guards to conduct screening duties. After 9/11, many of these same officers went from working for companies like Wackenhut to being TSA employees. There was no real effort made to increase the quality of screening personnel by offering much higher salaries to recruit a higher caliber of candidate.

There is frequent mention of the need to make U.S. airport security more like that employed in Israel. Aside from the constitutional and cultural factors that would prevent American airport screeners from ever treating Muslim travelers the way they are treated by El Al, another huge difference is simply the amount of money spent on salaries and training for screeners and other security personnel. El Al is also aided by the fact that it has a very small fleet of aircraft that fly only a small number of passengers to a handful of destinations.

Additionally, airport screening duty is simply not glamorous work. Officers are required to work long shifts conducting monotonous checks and are in near constant contact with a traveling public that can at times become quite surly when screeners follow policies established by bureaucrats at much higher pay grades. Granted, there are TSA officers who abuse their authority and do not exhibit good interpersonal skills, but anyone who travels regularly has also witnessed fellow travelers acting like idiots.

While it is impossible to keep all contraband off aircraft, efforts to improve technical methods and procedures to locate weapons and IED components must continue. However, these efforts must not only be reacting to past attacks and attempts but should also be looking forward to thwart future attacks that involve a shift in the terrorist paradigm. At the same time, the often-overlooked human elements of airport security, including situational awareness, observation and intuition, need to be emphasized now more than ever. It is those soft skills that hold the real key to looking for the bomber and not just the bomb.

23319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 04:35:05 PM
As is often the case you raise pertinent points and probing questions.  Off the top of my head:

a) An interview with Peter Kant, VP of Rapiscan in today's LA Times makes the following points:
   1) He asserts that the US Marshal's case invovled a different company's scanner and re-asserted the claim that Rapiscan's do not store images;
   2) He states that Rapiscan will be "releasing in the next few months a threat recognition upgrade where the system never even uses an image.  It just automatically detects any anomaly on the body and directs the TSA officer" to where on the body the anomaly is located.  This would seem to solve quite a bit of the objections here.

b) I don't see that it is necessary to use the palm of the hand; wouldn't the back of the hand suffice?

c) I gather that dogs can be extremely useful, yet I have yet to see one in use

d) Although I wasn't impressed with the synopsis of Ron Paul's proposal posted here the other day, I did hear an interview with him wherein he sounded rather persuasive about what can be accomplished by allowing the private sector (e.g. the airlines) to take over; which the Homeland Security law which created the TSA allows.

23320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Stratfor on: November 23, 2010, 01:24:27 PM
second post

North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near their disputed border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on Nov. 23. The incident raises several questions, not the least of which is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the real “red line” for conventional weapons engagements, just as it has managed to move the limit of “acceptable” behavior regarding its nuclear program.

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Conflict on the Korean Peninsula
North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), their disputed western border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on Nov. 23. The incident damaged as many as 100 homes and thus far has killed two South Korean soldiers with several others, including some civilians, wounded. The South Korean government convened an emergency Cabinet meeting soon after the incident and called for the prevention of escalation. It later warned of “stern retaliation” if North Korea launches additional attacks. Pyongyang responded by threatening to launch additional strikes, and accused South Korea and the United States of planning to invade North Korea, in reference to the joint Hoguk military exercises currently under way in different locations across South Korea.

The incident is the latest in a series of provocations by Pyongyang near the NLL this year following the sinking of the South Korean warship ChonAn in March. Over the past several years, the NLL has been a major hotspot. While most border incidents have been low-level skirmishes, such as the November 2009 naval episode, a steady escalation of hostilities culminated in the sinking of the ChonAn. The Nov. 23 attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeongdo represents another escalation; similar shellings in the past were for show and often merely involved shooting into the sea, but this attack targeted a military base. It also comes amid an atmosphere of higher tensions surrounding the revelation of active North Korean uranium enrichment facilities, South Korea’s disavowal of its Sunshine Policy of warming ties with the North and an ongoing power succession in Pyongyang.

Over the years, North Korea has slowly moved the “red line” regarding its missile program and nuclear development. It was always said that North Korea would never test a nuclear weapon because it would cross a line that the United States had set. Yet North Korea did test a nuclear weapon in October 2006, and then another in May 2009, without facing any dire consequences. This indicates that the red line for the nuclear program was either moved, or was rhetorical. The main question after the Nov. 23 attack is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the red line for conventional attacks. If North Korea is attempting to raise the threshold for a response to such action, it could be playing a very dangerous game.

However, the threat North Korea’s nuclear program poses is more theoretical than the threat posed by conventional weapons engagements. Just as it seems that a North Korean nuclear test would not result in military action, the ChonAn sinking and the Nov. 23 attack seem to show that an “unprovoked” North Korean attack also will not lead to military retaliation. If this pattern holds, it means North Korea could decide to move from sea-based to land-based clashes, shell border positions across the Demilitarized Zone or take any number of other actions that certainly are not theoretical.

The questions STRATFOR is focusing on after the Nov. 23 attack are as follows:

Is North Korea attempting to test or push back against limits on conventional attacks? If so, are these attacks meant to test South Korea and its allies ahead of an all-out military action, or is the North seeking a political response as it has with its nuclear program? If the former, we must reassess North Korea’s behavior and ascertain whether the North Koreans are preparing to try a military action against South Korea — perhaps trying to seize one or more of the five South Korean islands along the NLL. If the latter, then at what point will they actually cross a red line that will trigger a response?
Is South Korea content to constantly redefine “acceptable” North Korean actions? Does South Korea see something in the North that we do not? The South Koreans have good awareness of what is going on in North Korea, and vice versa. The two sides are having a conversation about something and using limited conventional force to get a point across. We should focus on what the underlying issue is.
What is it that South Korea is afraid of in the North? North Korea gives an American a guided tour of a uranium enrichment facility, then fires across the NLL a couple of days after the news breaks. The South does not respond. It seems that South Korea is afraid of either real power or real weakness in the North, but we do not know which.
23321  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 12:48:50 PM
Ahem , , ,
23322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential on: November 23, 2010, 12:43:25 PM
With the 2010 elections over, its time to give the 2012 Presidential its own thread.  We kick it off with some reflections from Peggy Noonan:

All eyes have been on Capitol Hill, but let's take a look at the early stages of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

This week the papers have been full of sightings—Newt and Huckabee are in Iowa, Pawlenty's in New Hampshire. But maybe the more interesting story is that a lot of potential candidates will decide if they are definitely going to run between now and New Year's—and some of them will be deciding over Thanksgiving weekend. It's all happening now, they're deciding in long walks, at the dinner table, and while watching the football game on the couch. They'll be talking it through, sometimes for the first time and sometimes the tenth. "Can we do this?" "Are we in this together?" "How do you feel?"

In some cases those will be hard conversations. A largely unremarked fact of modern presidential politics is the increased and wholly understandable reluctance of candidates' families to agree to a run. Looking at it through a purely personal prism, and that's where most people start, they see it not as a sacrifice, which it is, but a burden, a life-distorter, and it is those things too. But they have to agree to enter Big History, or a candidate can't go. And a lot of them don't want the job, if victory follows candidacy, of "the president's family." The stakes are too high, the era too dramatic, the life too intense. They don't want the intrusion, the end of all privacy, the fact that you're always on, always representing.

A president's spouse gets mass adulation one week and mass derision the next. But if you're a normal person you probably never wanted mass adulation or mass derision.

So what's happening now in the homes of some political figures is big and in some cases will be decisive. Potential candidates already have been approached by and met with campaign consultants, gurus looking for a gig telling them "Don't worry about all the travel, you can have a Facebook campaign, we'll make you the first I-pad candidate! You can keep your day job. You can even work your day job!" And then there are the potential contributors, the hedge fund libertarian in Greenwich, and the conservative millionaire in a Dallas suburb, who are raring to go. Candidates have to decide by at least New Year's in order to be able to tell them to stay close and keep their powder dry, and in order to plan an announcement in the spring, in time for the first big GOP debate, at the Reagan Library.

Some candidates and their families are not wrestling with the idea of running, of course. Mitt Romney, for instance, surely knows he's running. But not every potential candidate is serious about it. Some look like they're letting the possibility they'll run dangle out there because it keeps them relevant, keeps the cameras nearby, keeps their speech fees and book advances up. The one thing political journalists know and have learned the past few decades is that anyone can become president. So if you say you may run you are immediately going to get richer and more well known and treated with more respect by journalists. Another reason unlikely candidates act like they're running is that who knows, they may. It's hard to decide not to. It excites them to think they might. It helps them get up that morning and go to the 7 a.m. breakfast. "I'm not doing this for nothing, I may actually run. The people at the breakfast may hug me at my inauguration; I may modestly whisper, 'Remember that breakfast in Iowa when nobody showed? But you did. You're the reason I'm here.'" They're not horrible, they're just human. But history is serious right now, and it seems abusive to fake it. If you know in your heart you're not going to run you probably shouldn't jerk people around. This is history, after all.

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.All this decision making takes place within the context of a new mood in the party. We are at the beginning of what looks like a conservative renaissance, free of the past and back to basics. It is a revived conservatism restored to a sense of mission.

The broader context is this: Every four years we say, 'This is a crucial election,' and every four years it's more or less true. But 2012 will seem truer than most. I suspect it will be, like 1980, a year that feels like a question: Will America turn itself around or not? Will it go in a dramatically new direction, or not.

And if there are new directions to be taken, it's probably true that only a president, in the end, can definitively lead in that new direction. On spending, for instance, which is just one issue, it's probably true that the new Congress will wrestle with cuts and limits and new approaches, and plenty of progress is possible, and big issues faced. But at the end of the day it will likely take a president to summon and gather the faith and trust of the people, and harness the national will. It's probably true that only a president can ask everyone to act together, to trust each other, even, and to accept limits together in pursuit of a larger good.

Right now, at this moment, it looks like the next Republican nominee for president will probably be elected president. Everyone knows a rising tide when they see one. But everything changes, and nothing is sure. President Obama's poll numbers seem to be inching up, and there's reason to guess or argue that he hit bottom the week after the election and has nowhere to go but up.

Most of my life we've lived in a pretty much fifty-fifty nation, with each cycle decided by where the center goes. Mr. Obama won only two years ago by 9.5 million votes. That's a lot of votes. His supporters may be disheartened and depressed, but they haven't disappeared. They'll show up for a presidential race, especially if the Republicans do not learn one of the great lessons of 2010: The center has to embrace the conservative; if it doesn't, the conservative loses. Add to that the fact that the White House is actually full of talented people, and though they haven't proved good at governing they did prove good not long ago at campaigning. It's their gift. It's ignored at the GOP's peril.

All of this means that for Republicans, the choice of presidential nominee will demand an unusual level of sobriety and due diligence from everyone in the party, from primary voters in Iowa to county chairmen in South Carolina, and from party hacks in Washington to tea party powers in the Rust Belt. They are going to have to approach 2012 with more than the usual seriousness. They'll have to think big, and not indulge resentments or anger or petty grievances. They'll have to be cool eyed. They'll have to watch and observe the dozen candidates expected to emerge, and ask big questions.

Who can lead? Who can persuade the center? Who can summon the best from people? Who will seem credible (as a person who leads must)? Whose philosophy is both sound and discernible? Who has the intellectual heft? Who has the experience? Who seems capable of wisdom? These are serious questions, but 2012 is going to be a serious race.

Good luck to those families having their meetings and deliberations on Thanksgiving weekend.

23323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey on board for BMD network on: November 23, 2010, 10:50:15 AM
4th post of the morning

Despite reservations on NATO’s proposed ballistic missile defense (BMD) network, Turkey agreed Nov. 20 at the alliance’s summit in Lisbon to participate in the plan. Ankara will experience some fallout from this decision in managing its delicate relationships with Russia and Iran. Nonetheless, the decision to join the NATO BMD network allows Ankara to keep ties with Washington on a more solid footing — a critical factor in enabling Turkey to consolidate its geopolitical gains in its near abroad.

Turkey agreed Nov. 20 to integrate itself into NATO’s planned ballistic missile defense (BMD) network during the alliance’s summit in Lisbon.

Though a potential Iranian missile threat is often cited as the motivation for the U.S.-led BMD project, a deeper, strategic purpose lies in its ability to provide the United States with a platform to underwrite a Eurasian alliance aimed at containing Russia’s growing influence in its former Soviet territory. Turkey is also concerned about Russia’s growing influence, but until this point has been reluctant to sign on to a BMD proposal. However, sensing a geopolitical opportunity in its near abroad, Ankara believes that its relationship with the United States — which has frayed over the past year — must be strengthened in order to take full advantage of its blossoming role. Washington welcomes Turkey playing that role, particularly in the Middle East, as long as Ankara remains a strong partner with the West, something it is attempting to affirm with its consent to the deal.

The United States had already secured bilateral commitments from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania to participate in the project. Turkey, given its prime geographic positioning in the region, remained a key component to the project. A forward-deployed sensor, like the portable X-band radar currently positioned in Israel, would provide additional sensors closer to the Middle East to more rapidly acquire, track and plot an intercept of ballistic targets.

Turkey’s Opportunity

Turkey has reached a point where it has the wherewithal to assert its regional autonomy, which has manifested in it taking very public positions against the United States regarding Israel and Iran. Naturally, Turkey does not want to be seen as part of a military project that singles out Iran at a time when Ankara has invested a great deal of diplomatic capital in trying to earn Tehran’s trust to mediate the long list of disputes Iran has with its adversaries. In addition, Turkey currently depends on Russia for the bulk of its energy supplies, and has little interest in provoking a confrontation with its historic rival, especially as Turkey is trying to expand its foothold in the Caucasus and Central Asia, where Moscow carries substantial influence.

But other strategic considerations eventually outweighed Turkey’s reasons to resist the project. Turkey, under the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, has seen its relations deteriorate considerably with the United States over the past year, only exacerbated by Turkey’s crisis in relations with Israel over the flotilla incident. A movement, which is making some progress, has more recently developed in both Washington and Ankara to put U.S.-Turkish relations back on a strategic track in light of more pressing geopolitical demands.

The United States needs to militarily extricate itself from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, in particular, Turkey faces an historic opportunity to fill a vacuum created by the U.S. exit and reclaim its influence in the broader Middle East. The United States sees Turkey as a strong regional ally whose interests are most in line with those of Washington, especially when it comes to the need to contain Iran, manage thorny internal Iraqi affairs, elicit more cooperation from Syria and balance against Russia in the Caucasus. If Turkey is to reap the geopolitical gains in its surrounding region, it cannot afford a rupture in relations with the United States triggered by Ankara turning its back on BMD.

Negotiating the Deal

Turkey thus bargained hard over its BMD participation, taking care to assert its autonomy in these negotiations and avoid grouping itself with countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, which are looking for a highly visible U.S. commitment against Russia. The Turkish demands were for its BMD participation to take place under the aegis of NATO, as opposed to a bilateral treaty with the United States. The project also had to ensure that all of Turkish territory be protected by the BMD systems placed within the country, and command-and-control over the system. Finally, Turkey demanded that no countries (like Russia, Iran or Syria) be cited as the source of the missile threat.

In signing on to the deal at Lisbon, Turkish President Abdullah Gul claimed that Turkey’s NATO allies met all of Ankara’s demands. Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defiantly asserted that Turkey was not forced into this project against its will, and that Turkey’s demands over command-and-control of the system were “misinterpreted.” In fact, the United States rejected this demand (the design of the system would not allow for Turkey to operate the system autonomously) and it appears that Turkish officials were finding a way to back down from this stipulation. Turkey did, however, achieve its aim of removing mention of specific targets and made clear it was only signing on to the NATO BMD plan, as opposed to a bilateral BMD commitment to the United States.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials made clear that it would be unwise for Turkey to risk a rupture in relations with Washington at this time, and that its commitment to the project was critical to securing U.S. cooperation on other issues important to Turkey. The United States also argued that Turkey’s desire to avoid a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear ambitions was best met with Turkish participation in a missile shield that would (theoretically) increase the region’s defenses and thus reduce the need for military action. The NATO alliance aims to complete discussions over the details of what the system will entail and how control of the system will be distributed by June 2011.

Fallout with Iran and Russia?

Having taken the BMD leap, Turkey will now have to downplay the strategic significance of this deal to Russia and Iran to prevent a fissure in relations with both countries.

With Iran, Ankara will have to convince Tehran that Turkey’s maintaining a close relationship with the United States — and thus preserving the leverage it holds with Washington in the region — is the Iranians’ best buffer against an attack. There are likely serious limitations to this argument, but Iran is also not about to sacrifice a crucial diplomatic ally as tensions continue to escalate with the United States.

Turkey will likely face a much more difficult time ahead in dealing with Russia. Turkey is watching nervously as the U.S.-Russian “reset” of relations is weakening with snags over the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, continued U.S. support for allies in the former Soviet periphery and, of course, the more obvious U.S. push for BMD. Turkey has been among those supporting Russian inclusion in the NATO BMD plan. This is a move that would at least symbolically dilute the very premise of the project, but does not preclude the significance of the United States working directly with critical NATO allies in installing and operating missile defense installations in the region. The details of what Russian inclusion would actually entail have yet to be sorted out, and it remains unlikely that Russia would be integrated into the system in terms of operational control or veto over the system’s use. So far, Moscow has agreed to discuss its inclusion in the project, but this idea remains very much in limbo.

For Turkey, this means Ankara must keep a close watch on the trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations to decide its next moves. As Turkey continues its difficult balancing act, it will rely primarily on its trade and energy deals with Russia in an attempt to mitigate the rising pressure it is already facing from Moscow. No amount of diplomatic statements can ignore the fact that Ankara is giving its symbolic commitment to a defense shield that has Russia squarely in its sights.

23324  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: new concept for helmet design on: November 23, 2010, 10:35:57 AM
The much-maligned combat helmet worn by U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan sustained another blow Monday as engineers from MIT reported that the headgear, as currently designed, did little to protect troops from blast-related brain injury.

But the research team identified a design change that could substantially improve the helmet's ability to reduce the risk of concussion: a face shield capable of deflecting the rippling force of an explosion away from the soft tissues of the face.

With a shield in place, "you actually do mitigate the effects of the blast quite significantly," said Raul Radovitzky, lead author of a study published Monday in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The report is not the first to identify the shortcomings of the military's so-called advanced combat helmet. A study published in August used computer simulations to determine that when blast waves roll over the helmet, the internal pads that are designed to cushion the wearer's head actually stiffen and transfer concussive energy to the skull and brain, increasing the likelihood of injury.

The new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study contradicted those findings, reporting instead that the helmet doesn't contribute to brain injury when it is hit by the concussive blast waves of an improvised explosive device.

Radovitzky and colleagues from the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies in Cambridge, Mass., and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., also relied on computer simulations to gauge the effect of a blast directly in front of a soldier on the "intracranial contents" of a helmet-encased head.

Radovitzky said that in fashioning a computer model of the brain, his team used assumptions about the brain's structure, density and position within the skull that were more refined and realistic than those used by the authors of the August study.

One of the authors of that report, physicist Eric G. Blackman of the University of Rochester, called the new finding "important."

"I think it will turn out to be a consideration in the future redesign of helmets," Blackman said.

Traumatic brain injury, often called TBI or concussion, has become one of the most distinctive and intractable wounds sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The armed services have diagnosed more than 188,000 cases among troops who have served in the Middle East.

Many experts think the true toll is far higher, because the effects of brain injury can be easy to miss. The Rand Corp. has estimated that as many as 320,000 service members may have suffered brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brain injuries from explosions during combat appear similar to those that occur in car accidents, falls and sporting events. In most cases, a soldier close to an explosion is thrown against a wall or to the floor, causing "brain whiplash," said neurosurgeon Jam Ghajar, president of the Brain Trauma Foundation.

But for many troops, brain trauma appears to occur without a direct blow to the head. That mystery has left most experts guessing how, exactly, the damage occurs.

Some speculate that concussive waves of energy pass through the skull and knock the brain around within its cavity. Others suggest an explosion hits the chest with a powerful jolt, setting off sudden changes of blood flow and pressure that harm the brain. An explosion's light, heat, chemical byproducts or even a sudden surge of electromagnetic energy could possibly disturb and damage the brain.

Running experiments on humans is impractical — hence the need for sophisticated computer simulations. Until medical experts understand how bombs hurt brains, though, the value of those simulations is limited.

"While the work of Radovitzky and others is compelling, these computational models are just that — models," said Dr. Kenneth C. Curley, director of neurotrauma research for the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Materiel Command at Ft. Detrick, Md. "Models are only as precise as the data available to drive them."
23325  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 23, 2010, 10:30:56 AM
Although I am "right wing" in my insistence on sound science and good economics, my spiritual practice leads me to believe that this planet IS our Garden of Eden, and that our dominion over it requires that we be good gardeners of it.  Having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, our danger is that our knowledge will kill the Garden.  The parable of Genesis is powerful and IMHO well-connected to the deeper truths.
23326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-3 on: November 23, 2010, 10:11:22 AM
Turkey and the World
The question of the hidden agenda of the AKP touches its foreign policy, too. In the United States, nerves are raw over Afghanistan and terror threats. In Europe, Muslim immigration, much of it from Turkey, and more terror threats make for more raw nerves. The existence of an Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has created the sense that Turkey has “gone over,” that it has joined the radical-Islamist camp.

This is why the flotilla incident with Israel turned out as it did. The Turks had permitted a fleet to sail for Gaza, which was blockaded by Israel. Israeli commandos boarded the ships and on one of them got into a fight in which nine people were killed. The Turks became enraged and expected the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe, to join them in condemning Israel’s actions. I think the Turkish government was surprised when the general response was not directed against Israel but at Turkey. The Turks failed to understand the American and European perception that Turkey had gone over to the radical Islamists. This perception caused the Americans and Europeans to read the flotilla incident in a completely unexpected way, from the Turkish government’s point of view, one that saw the decision to allow the flotilla to sail as part of a radical-Islamist agenda. Rather than seeing the Turks as victims, they saw the Turks as deliberately creating the incident for ideological reasons.

At the moment, it all turns on the perceptions of the AKP, both in Turkey and the world. And these perceptions lead to very different interpretations of what Turkey is doing.

In this sense, the ballistic missile defense (BMD) issue was extremely important. Had the Turks refused to allow BMD to be placed in Turkey, it would have been, I think, a breakpoint in relations with the United States in particular. BMD is a defense against Iranian missiles. Turkey does not want a U.S. strike on Iran. It should therefore have been enthusiastic about BMD, since Turkey could argue that with BMD, no strike is needed. Opposing a strike and opposing BMD would have been interpreted as Turkey simply wanting to obstruct anything that would upset Iran, no matter how benign. The argument of those who view Turkey as pro-Iranian would be confirmed. The decision by the Turkish government to go forward with BMD was critical. Rejecting BMD would have cemented the view of Turkey as being radical Islamist. But the point is that the Turks postured on the issue and then went along. It was the AKP trying to maintain its balance.

The reality is that Turkey is now a regional power trying to find its balance. It is in a region where Muslim governments are mixed with secular states, predominantly Christian nations and a Jewish state. When you take the 360-degree view that the AKP likes to talk about, it is an extraordinary and contradictory mixture of states. Turkey is a country that maintains relations with Iran, Israel and Egypt, a dizzying portfolio.

It is not a surprise that the Turks are not doing well at this. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey is new to being a regional power, and everyone in the region is trying to draw Turkey into something for their own benefit. Syria wants Turkish mediation with Israel and in Lebanon. Azerbaijan wants Turkish support against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Israel and Saudi Arabia want Turkish support against Iran. Iran wants Turkey’s support against the United States. Kosovo wants its support against Serbia. It is a rogue’s gallery of supplicants, all wanting something from Turkey and all condemning Turkey when they don’t get it. Not least of these is the United States, which wants Turkey to play the role it used to play, as a subordinate American ally.

Turkey’s strategy is to be friends with everyone, its “zero conflict with neighbors” policy, as the Turks call it. It is an explicit policy not to have enemies. The problem is that it is impossible to be friends with all of these countries. Their interests are incompatible, and in the end, the only likely outcome is that all will find Turkey hostile and it will face distrust throughout the region. Turkey was genuinely surprised when the United States, busy finally getting sanctions into place against Iran, did not welcome Turkey’s and Brazil’s initiative with Iran. But unlike Brazil, Turkey lives in a tough neighborhood and being friendly with everyone is not an option.

This policy derives, I think, from a fear of appearing, like the Ottoman Empire, so distrusted by secularists. The Ottoman Empire was both warlike and cunning. It was the heir to the Byzantine tradition and it was worthy of it. Ataturk simplified Turkish foreign policy radically, drawing it inward. Turkey’s new power makes that impossible, but it is important, at least at this point in history, for Turkey not to appear too ambitious or too clever internationally. The term neo-Ottoman keeps coming up, but is not greeted happily by many people. Trying to be friendly with everyone is not going to work, but for the Turks, it is a better strategy now than being prematurely Byzantine. Contrary to others, I see Turkish foreign policy as simple and straightforward: What they say and what they intend to do are the same. The problem with that foreign policy is that it won’t work in the long run. I suspect the Turkish government knows that, but it is buying time for political reasons.

It is buying time for administrative reasons as well. The United States entered World War II without an intelligence service, with a diplomatic corps vastly insufficient for its postwar needs and without a competent strategic-planning system. Turkey is ahead of the United States of 1940, but it does not have the administrative structure or the trained and experienced personnel to handle the complexities it is encountering. The Turkish foreign minister wakes up in the morning to Washington’s latest demand, German pronouncements on Turkish EU membership, Israeli deals with the Greeks, Iranian probes, Russian views on energy and so on. It is a large set of issues for a nation that until recently had a relatively small foreign-policy footprint.

Turkey and Russia
Please recall my reasons for this journey and what brought me to Turkey. I am trying to understand the consequences of the re-emergence of Russia, the extent to which this will pose a geopolitical challenge and how the international system will respond. I have already discussed the Intermarium, the countries from the Baltic to the Black seas that have a common interest in limiting Russian power and the geopolitical position to do so if they act as a group.

One of the questions is what the southern anchor of this line will be. The most powerful anchor would be Turkey. Turkey is not normally considered part of the Intermarium, although during the Cold War it was the southeastern anchor of NATO’s line of containment. The purpose of this trip is to get some sense of how the Turks think about Russia and where Russia fits into their strategic thinking. It is also about how the Turks now think of themselves as they undergo a profound shift that will affect the region.

Turkey, like many countries, is dependent on Russian energy. Turkey also has a long history with Russia and needs to keep Russia happy. But it also wants to be friends with everyone and it needs to find new sources of energy. This means that Turkey has to look south, into Iraq and farther, and east, toward Azerbaijan. When it looks south, it will find itself at odds with Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia. When it looks east, it will find itself at odds with Armenia and Russia.

There are no moves that Turkey can make that will not alienate some great power, and it cannot decline to make these moves. It cannot simply depend on Russia for its energy any more than Poland can. Because of energy policy, it finds itself in the same position as the Intermarium, save for the fact that Turkey is and will be much more powerful than any of these countries, and because the region it lives in is extraordinarily more complex and difficult.

Nevertheless, while the Russians aren’t an immediate threat, they are an existential threat to Turkey. With a rapidly growing economy, Turkey needs energy badly and it cannot be hostage to the Russians or anyone else. As it diversifies its energy sources it will alienate a number of countries, including Russia. It will not want to do this, but it is the way the world works. Therefore, is this the southern anchor of the Intermarium? I think so. Not yet and not forever, but I suspect that in 10 years or so, the sheer pressure that Russian energy policy will place on Turkey will create enough tensions to force Turkey into the anchor position.

If Moldova is the proof of the limits of geopolitical analysis, Turkey is its confirmation. There is endless talk in Turkey of intentions, hidden meanings and conspiracies, some woven decades ago. It is not these things that matter. Islam has replaced modernism as the dynamic force of the region, and Turkey will have to accommodate itself to that. But modernism and secularism are woven into Turkish society. Those two strands cannot be ignored. Turkey is the regional power, and it will have to make decisions about friends and enemies. Those decisions will be made based on issues like energy availability, economic opportunities and defensive positions. Intentions are not trivial, but in the case of Turkey neither are they decisive. It is too old a country to change and too new a power to escape the forces around it. For all its complexity, I think Turkey is predictable. It will go through massive internal instability and foreign tests it is not ready for, but in the end, it will emerge as it once was: a great regional power.

As a subjective matter, I like Turkey and Turks. I suspect I will like them less as they become a great power. They are at the charming point where the United States was after World War I. Over time, global and great powers lose their charm under the pressure of a demanding and dissatisfied world. They become hard and curt. The Turks are neither today. But they are facing the kind of difficulties that only come with success, and those can be the hardest to deal with.

Internally, the AKP is trying to thread the needle between two Turkish realities. No one can choose one or the other and govern Turkey. That day has passed. How to reconcile the two is the question. For the moment, the most difficult question is how to get the secularists to accept that, in today’s Turkey, they are a large minority. I suspect the desire to regain power will motivate them to try to reach out to the religious, but for now, they have left the field to the AKP.

In terms of foreign policy, they are clearly repositioning Turkey to be part of the Islamic world, but the Islamic world is deeply divided by many crosscurrents and many types of regimes. The distance between Morocco and Pakistan is not simply space. Repositioning with the Islamic world is more a question of who will be your enemy than who will be your friend. The same goes for the rest of the world.

In leaving Turkey, I am struck by how many balls it has to keep in the air. The tensions between the secularists and the religious must not be minimized. The tensions within the religious camp are daunting. The tensions between urban and rural are significant. The tensions between Turkey and its allies and neighbors are substantial, even if the AKP is not eager to emphasize this. It would seem impossible to imagine Turkey moving past these problems to great power status. But here geopolitics tells me that it has to be this way. All nations have deep divisions. But Turkey is a clear nation and a strong state. It has geography and it has an economy. And it is in a region where these characteristics are in short supply. That gives Turkey relative power as well as absolute strength.

The next 10 years will not be comfortable for Turkey. It will have problems to solve and battles to fight, figuratively and literally. But I think the answer to the question I came for is this: Turkey does not want to confront Russia. Nor does it want to be dependent on Russia. These two desires can’t be reconciled without tension with Russia. And if there is tension, there will be shared interests with the Intermarium, quite against the intentions of the Turks. In history, intentions, particularly good ones, are rarely decisive.
23327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-2 on: November 23, 2010, 10:10:48 AM
For Ataturk, Turkish national survival depended on modernization, which he equated with the creation of a secular society as the foundation of a modern nation-state in which Islam would become a matter of private practice, not the center of the state or, most important, something whose symbols could have a decisive presence in the public sphere. This would include banning articles of clothing associated with Islamic piety from public display. Ataturk did not try to suppress Muslim life in the private sphere, but Islam is a political religion that seeks to regulate both private and public life.

Ataturk sought to guarantee the survival of the secular state through the military. For Ataturk, the military represented the most modern element of Turkish society and could serve two functions. It could drive Turkish modernization and protect the regime against those who would try to resurrect the Ottoman state and its Islamic character. Ataturk wanted to do something else — to move away from the multinational nature of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk compressed Turkey to its core and shed authority and responsibility beyond its borders. Following Ataturk’s death, for example, Turkey managed to avoid involvement in World War II.

Ataturk came to power in a region being swept by European culture, which was what was considered modern. This Europeanist ideology moved through the Islamic world, creating governments that were, like Turkey’s, secular in outlook but ruling over Muslim populations that had varying degrees of piety. In the 1970s, a counter-revolution started in the region that argued for reintegrating Islam into the governance of Muslim countries. The most extreme part of this wave culminated in al Qaeda. But the secularist/Europeanist vision created by Ataturk has been in deep collision with the Islamist regimes that can be found in places like Iran.

It was inevitable that this process would affect Turkey. In 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. This was a defining moment because the AKP was not simply a secular Europeanist party. Its exact views are hotly debated, with many inside and outside of Turkey claiming that its formal moderation hides a hidden radical-Islamist agenda.

We took a walk in a neighborhood in Istanbul called Carsamba. I was told that this was the most religious community in Istanbul. One secularist referred to it as “Saudi Arabia.” It is a poor but vibrant community, filled with schools and shops. Children play on the streets, and men cluster in twos and threes, talking and arguing. Women wear burqas and headscarves. There is a large school in the neighborhood where young men go to study the Koran and other religious subjects.

The neighborhood actually reminded me of Williamsburg, in the Brooklyn of my youth. Williamsburg was filled with Chasidic Jews, Yeshivas, children on the streets and men talking outside their shops. The sensibility of community and awareness that I was an outsider revived vivid memories. At this point, I am supposed to write that it shows how much these communities have in common. But the fact is that the commonalities of life in poor, urban, religious neighborhoods don’t begin to overcome the profound differences — and importance — of the religions they adhere to.

That said, Carsamba drove home to me the problem the AKP, or any party that planned to govern Turkey, would have to deal with. There are large parts of Istanbul that are European in sensibility and values, and these are significant areas. But there is also Carsamba and the villages of Anatolia, and they have a self-confidence and assertiveness that can’t be ignored today.

There is deep concern among some secularists that the AKP intends to impose Shariah. This is particularly intense among the professional classes. I had dinner with a physician with deep roots in Turkey who told me that he was going to immigrate to Europe if the AKP kept going the way it was going. Whether he would do it when the time came I can’t tell, but he was passionate about it after a couple of glasses of wine. This view is extreme even among secularists, many of whom understand the AKP to have no such intentions. Sometimes it appeared to me that the fear was deliberately overdone, in hopes of influencing a foreigner, me, concerning the Turkish government.

But my thoughts go back to Carsamba. The secularists could ignore these people for a long time, but that time has passed. There is no way to rule Turkey without integrating these scholars and shopkeepers into Turkish society. Given the forces sweeping the Muslim world, it is impossible. They represent an increasingly important trend in the Islamic world and the option is not suppressing them (that’s gone) but accommodating them or facing protracted conflict, a kind of conflict that in the rest of the Islamic world is not confined to rhetoric. Carsamba is an extreme case in Istanbul, but it poses the issue most starkly.

This is something the main opposition secularist party, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), can’t do. It has not devised a platform that can reach out to Carsamba and the other religious neighborhoods within the framework of secularism. This is the AKP’s strength. It can reach out to them while retaining the core of its Europeanism and modernism. The Turkish economy is surging. It had an annualized growth rate of 12 percent in the first quarter of 2010. That helps keep everyone happy. But the AKP also emphasizes that it wants to join the European Union. Now, given how healthy the Turkish economy is, wanting to join the European Union is odd. And the fact is that the European Union is not going to let Turkey in anyway. But the AKP’s continued insistence that it wants to join the European Union is a signal to the secularists: The AKP is not abandoning the Europeanist/modernist project.

The AKP sends many such signals, but it is profoundly distrusted by the secularists, who fear that the AKP’s apparent moderation is simply a cover for its long-term intentions — to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey. I don’t know the intentions of the AKP leadership, but I do know some realities about Turkey, the first being that, while Carsamba can’t be ignored, the secularists hold tremendous political power in their own right and have the general support of the military. Whatever the intentions imputed to the AKP, it does not have the power to impose a radical-Islamist agenda on Turkey unless the secularists weaken dramatically, which they are not going to do.

The CHP cannot re-impose the rigorous secularism that existed prior to 2002. The AKP cannot impose a radical-Islamist regime, assuming it would want to. The result of either attempt would be a paralyzing political crisis that would tear the country apart, without giving either side political victory. The best guard against hidden agendas is the inability to impose them.

Moreover, on the fringes of the Islamist community are radical Islamists like al Qaeda. It is a strategic necessity to separate the traditionally religious from the radical Islamists. The more excluded the traditionalists are, the more they will be attracted to the radicals. Prior to the 1970s this was not a problem. In those days, radical Islamists were not the problem; radical socialists were. The strategies that were used prior to 2002 would play directly into the hands of the radicals. There are, of course, those who would say that all Islamists are radical. I don’t think that’s true empirically. Of the billion or so Muslims, radicals are few. But you can radicalize the rest with aggressive social policies. And that would create a catastrophe for Turkey and the region.

The problem for Turkey is how to bridge the gap between the secularists and the religious. That is the most effective way to shut out the radicals. The CHP seems to me to have not devised any program to reach out to the religious. There are some indications of attempted change that came with the change in leadership a few months ago, but overall the CHP maintains a hostile suspicion toward sharing power with the religious.

The AKP, on the other hand, has some sort of reconciliation as its core agenda. The problem is that the AKP is serving up a weak brew, insufficient to satisfy the truly religious, insufficient to satisfy the truly secular. But it does hold a majority. In Turkey, as I have said, it is all about the AKP’s alleged hidden intentions. My best guess is that, whatever its private thoughts and political realities are, the AKP is composed of Turks who derive their traditions from 600 years of Ottoman rule. That makes Turkish internal politics, well, Byzantine. Never forget that at crucial points the Ottomans, as Muslim as they were, allied with the Catholics against the Orthodox Christians in order to dominate the Balkans. They made many other alliances of convenience and maintained a multinational and multireligious empire built on a pyramid of compromises. The AKP is not the party of the Wahhabi, and if it tried to become that, it would fall. The AKP, like most political parties, prefers to hold office.

Turkey and the World
23328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor-1 on: November 23, 2010, 10:09:10 AM
Part 5: Turkey

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God’s command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac who God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey’s search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

Turkey’s Test
Turkey will emerge as one of the great regional powers of the next generation, or so I think. It is clear that this process is already under way when you look at Turkey’s rapid economic growth even in the face of the global financial crisis, and when you look at its growing regional influence. As you’d expect, this process is exacerbating internal political tensions as well as straining old alliances and opening the door to new ones. It is creating anxiety inside and outside of Turkey about what Turkey is becoming and whether it is a good thing or not. Whether it is a good thing can be debated, I suppose, but the debate doesn’t much matter. The transformation from an underdeveloped country emerging from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire to a major power is happening before our eyes.

At the heart of the domestic debate and foreign discussion of Turkey’s evolution is Islam. Turkey’s domestic evolution has resulted in the creation of a government that differs from most previous Turkish governments by seeing itself as speaking for Islamic traditions as well as the contemporary Turkish state. The foreign discussion is about the degree to which Turkey has shifted away from its traditional alliances with the United States, Europe and Israel. These two discussions are linked.

At a time when the United States is at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and in confrontation with Iran, any shift in the position of a Muslim country rings alarm bells. But this goes beyond the United States. Since World War II, many Turks have immigrated to Europe, where they have failed to assimilate partly by choice and partly because the European systems have not facilitated assimilation. This failure of assimilation has created massive unease about Turkish and other Muslims in Europe, particularly in the post-9/11 world of periodic terror warnings. Whether reasonable or not, this is shaping Western perceptions of Turkey and Turkish views of the West. It is one of the dynamics in the Turkish-Western relationship.

Turkey’s emergence as a significant power obviously involves redefining its internal and regional relations to Islam. This alarms domestic secularists as well as inhabitants of countries who feel threatened by Turks — or Muslims — living among them and who are frightened by the specter of terrorism. Whenever a new power emerges, it destabilizes the international system to some extent and causes anxiety. Turkey’s emergence in the current context makes that anxiety all the more intense. A newly powerful and self-confident Turkey perceived to be increasingly Islamic will create tensions, and it has.

The Secular and the Religious
Turkey’s evolution is framed by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the creation of modern Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk’s task was to retain the core of the Ottoman Empire as an independent state. That core was Asia Minor and the European side of the Bosporus. For Ataturk, the first step was contraction, abandoning any attempt to hold the Ottoman regions that surrounded Turkey. The second step was to break the hold of Ottoman culture on Turkey itself. The last decades of the Ottoman Empire were painful to Turks, who saw themselves decline because of the unwillingness of the Ottoman regime to modernize at a pace that kept up with the rest of Europe. The slaughter of World War I did more than destroy the Ottoman Empire. It shook its confidence in itself and its traditions.

23329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: November 23, 2010, 09:48:26 AM
Looks good, but I don't have the 55 minutes it would take to watch it.  Would you be so kind as to give a summary?
23330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 23, 2010, 09:46:30 AM
"So how many planes would have to kaboom before you figured that the statistical outliers had been exhausted?"

   Being, like you, of triple digit IQ, I get that. smiley   

   That said, we must also look at the other side of the coin too.   What happens if they bomb a train e.g. the AMTRAK one that then Senator Joe Biden used to take every day/weekend?  Do we then institute the same level of security on trains?  What if they bomb the DC or the NYC subway?  Do we then institute the same level of security?  What about buses?  AQ now talks of a strategy of hemorraging us with tactics of a plethora of smaller and smaller attacks and bleeding us with the costs of our current responses. 

   The variety of ways in which an open society such as ours can be attacked is infinite?  We cannot do "whatever it takes" to achieve perfect security.

    Maybe we need a more aggro response-- more like El Al and more based on playing the probabilities.
23331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norks artillery hits Sorks on: November 23, 2010, 09:27:49 AM
Before moving to this disconcerting developement I would like to take a moment to note that on Fox's Brett Baier Special Report yesterday, there was a good discussion (especially Krauthammer-- no surprise there) on the role of China in enabling the Norks and that the real issue was to  , , , demotivate the Chinese in this direction.  Apparently a trial balloon has been floated quite recently about the US lending the Sorks some tactical nukes, something the Chinese really don't want.  The conversation went on to suggest that encouraging Japan to nuclearize would really freak the Chinese too.  Bottom line, the idea is to make clear to the Chinese that if they don't want the Sorks and the Japanese going nuke, they had best choke the supply lines to the Norks-- without which the Norks cannot survive.

North Korea and South Korea have reportedly traded artillery fire Nov. 23 across the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea to the west of the peninsula. Though details are still sketchy, South Korean news reports indicate that around 2:30 p.m. local time, North Korean artillery shells began landing in the waters around Yeonpyeongdo, one of the South Korean-controlled islands just south of the NLL. North Korea has reportedly fired as many as 200 rounds, some of which struck the island, injuring at least 10 South Korean soldiers, damaging buildings and setting fire to a mountainside. South Korea responded by firing some 80 shells of its own toward North Korea, dispatching F-16 fighter jets to the area and raising the military alert to its highest level.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has convened an emergency Cabinet meeting, and Seoul is determining whether to evacuate South Koreans working at inter-Korean facilities in North Korea. The barrage from North Korea was continuing at 4 p.m. Military activity appears to be ongoing at this point, and the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff are meeting on the issue. No doubt North Korea’s leadership is also convening.

The North Korean attack comes as South Korea’s annual Hoguk military exercises are under way. The exercises — set to last nine days and including as many as 70,000 personnel from all branches of the South Korean military — span from sites in the Yellow Sea including Yeonpyeongdo to Seoul and other areas on the peninsula itself. The drills have focused in particular on cross-service coordination and cooperation in recent years.

Low-level border skirmishes across the demilitarized zone and particularly the NLL are not uncommon even at the scale of artillery fire. In March, the South Korean naval corvette ChonAn was sunk in the area by what is broadly suspected to have been a North Korean torpedo, taking tensions to a peak in recent years. Nov. 22 also saw South Korean rhetoric about accepting the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula, though the United States said it has no plans at present to support such a redeployment.

While the South Korean reprisals — both artillery fire in response by self-propelled K-9 artillery and the scrambling of aircraft — thus far appear perfectly consistent with South Korean standard operating procedures, the sustained shelling of a populated island by North Korea would mark a deliberate and noteworthy escalation.

The incident comes amid renewed talk of North Korea’s nuclear program, including revelations of an active uranium-enrichment program, and amid rumors of North Korean preparations for another nuclear test. But North Korea also on Nov. 22 sent a list of delegates to Seoul for Red Cross talks with South Korea, a move reciprocated by the South, ahead of planned talks in South Korea set for Thursday. The timing of the North’s firing at Yeonpyeongdo, then, seems to contradict the other actions currently under way in inter-Korean relations. With the ongoing leadership transition in North Korea, there have been rumors of discontent within the military, and the current actions may reflect miscommunications or worse within the North’s command-and-control structure, or disagreements within the North Korean leadership.

23332  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 10:22:36 PM
Well yes, there are , , , what's the term I looking for , , , "outliers" I think it is-- those data points that lay outside the bulk of the distribution pattern. 

23333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Attempted impeachment on: November 22, 2010, 07:36:01 PM
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced an impeachment move in parliament.
.Iran's parliament revealed it planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the Iranian regime.

Lawmakers also launched a new petition to bring a debate on the president's impeachment, conservative newspapers reported Monday.

The reports of impeachment efforts came as a retort to a powerful body of clerics that urged Mr. Khamenei to curb the parliament's authority and give greater clout to the president.

In a report released Sunday and discussed in parliament Monday, four prominent lawmakers laid out the most extensive public criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad to date.

They accused him and his government of 14 counts of violating the law, including illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund.

"The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament," the report stated. "A lack of transparency and the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."

The conservative lawmakers say the president is illegally operating beyond the checks and balances of the constitution by ignoring the legislature on economic and foreign policy.

Their ultraconservative foes—led by Mr. Khamenei, who has final say in all state matters—see the president as the main agent of the state. Mr. Ahmadinejad hails from this ultraconservative camp, favoring populist economic policies and taking a more defiant stance abroad, as opposed to mainstream conservatives' more pragmatic approach.

Conservative newspapers reported on Monday that lawmakers have started a motion to collect the 74 signatures needed to openly debate impeachment. Mousa Reza Servati, the head of the parliament's budgetary committee, was quoted as saying 40 lawmakers, including Mr. Servati, have signed the motion.

Grounds for Dismissal | Key charges against Iran President Ahmadinejad
Withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund.
Trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for gasoline imports in 2008.
Illegally importing gasoline, oil and natural gas at a value of about $9 billion since 2007.
Failing to provide transparency in budget spending and curbing parliamentary oversight.
Failing to provide transparency about the source of money for the president's domestic travels and about the allocation of money in Iran's provinces.
Failing to implement or notify ministries about 31 legislative items passed by the parliament in 2010.
Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly
.The move to remove the president from office marks the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that parliament has discussed impeachment of a president. Though the legislature is backed by the Iranian constitution, lawmakers can't drive Mr. Ahmadinejad from office without the supreme leader's agreement.

One issue on which both camps are broadly united is in supporting Iran's right to proceed with its nuclear program against the objections of the international community.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to continue positioning himself on the international stage as the defiant voice of Iran's leadership, as Tehran prepares for a new round of nuclear talks, scheduled tentatively for Dec. 5.

The conservative camp also closed ranks behind Mr. Ahmadinejad after the turbulent 2009 presidential election and its violent aftermath—setting aside differences to support the regime. But a considerable portion of highly influential members of the conservative bloc, such as speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, appear to have begun to view Mr. Ahmadinejad as a liability.

"The parliament is now openly questioning Ahmadinejad's credibility and his ability to run the country. If the tensions escalate, the conservatives will have no choice but to sack him in order to save the regime's reputation," said Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, a political analyst in Washington and a former parliament member in Iran.

The next few months present a big challenge for Iran's government as it plans to gradually eliminate subsidies for fuel, food and utilities from an economy that is already strained by a string of tough international sanctions over is controversial nuclear program.

Economists have warned the subsidy cuts will drive up inflation, and authorities have tightened security to prevent riots and uprisings in response to the cuts.

Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's alleged violations included withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund, trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for importing gasoline in 2008, and illegal imports of gasoline, oil and natural gas since 2007 at a value of about $9 billion.

On websites and blogs, the primary outlet for Iran's opposition, Iranians urged the parliament not to give in to Mr. Khamenei's orders and, as one blogger wrote, "act independently for the good of the public."

On Saturday, the Guardian Council, the appointed body of ultraconservative clerics that oversees legislation and acts as a mediator between the government and the parliament, said a "mediating committee" that included council members recommended that Mr. Khamenei curb the powers of the parliament in favor of giving the president a wider hand.

The remarks infuriated parliament members, who said they had made no such recommendation, leading to a heated open debate on the parliament floor on Monday.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has had an uneasy relationship with parliament since his election in 2006, but the differences escalated in his second term, when lawmakers refused to approve eight of his cabinet nominees.

Mr. Khamenei intervened, asking parliament members to compromise. In the end only three cabinet choices were refused.

The parliament also fought Mr. Ahmadinejad for a year over his economic plan and the cutting of subsidies. Mr. Ahmadinejad finally wrote a letter to Mr. Khamenei complaining of the parliament acting as an obstacle for his administration. The committee consists of four lawmakers, three representatives from the administration, three independent lawyers and three members of Guardian Council. The final report is to be sent to Khamenei for review.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

23334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysian hacks Fed and DOD contractor on: November 22, 2010, 07:23:57 PM

By Michael Isikoff National investigative correspondent
NBC News NBC News
updated 11/22/2010 5:52:27 AM ET 2010-11-22T10:52:27
WASHINGTON — How did a hacker in Malaysia manage to penetrate a computer network operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland?

And what was the same accused cybercriminal doing this summer when he allegedly tapped into the secure computers of a large Defense Department contractor that managed systems for military transport movements and other U.S. military operations?

Those are among the puzzling questions raised by allegations against Lin Mun Poo, a 32-year-old Malaysia native whose case illustrates the mounting national secrets threats posed by overseas cyberattacks, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell NBC News.

The U.S. government’s case against Poo, who was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty, has so far gotten little attention. But many of the allegations against him seem alarming on their face, according to cybercrime experts. "This is scary stuff," said one U.S. law enforcement official.
Poo was arrested by Secret Service agents last month shortly after flying into New York's John F. Kennedy airport with a "heavily encrypted" laptop computer containing a "massive quantity of stolen financial account data," including more than 400,000 credit card, debit card and bank account numbers, according to a letter filed by federal prosecutors last week laying out a "factual proffer" of their evidence against Poo. [ Click here to read the prosecutors' letter in PDF format.]

He later confessed to federal agents that he had gotten the credit and bank card data by tapping into the computer networks of "several major international banks" and companies, and that he expected to use the data for personal profit, either by selling it or trading it, according to the prosecutors' letter.

Poo's court-appointed lawyer did not respond to a request from NBC News for comment.

'Impressive level of criminal activity'
But far more disturbing, according to U.S. intelligence officials and computer crime experts, was his penetration of both a Federal Reserve network of 10 computers in Cleveland as well as the secure networks of a "major" Defense Department contractor. According to the prosecutors' letter, the Pentagon contractor, which has not been identified, provides system management for military transport and other "highly-sensitive military operations."

"To have the skills to break into highly sensitive systems like that is an impressive level of criminal activity," said Kurt Baumgartner, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky Lab, a computer security firm.

While there is much about Poo's alleged activities that remain unexplained — including his purpose in accessing the military contractor's computers — his case underscores the continued vulnerabilities of computer networks that are critical to the country’s national security, U.S. intelligence experts said.

"If a guy from Malaysia can get into networks like this, you can imagine what the Chinese and Russians, the people with real capabilities, are able to do," said one former senior U.S. intelligence official, who monitored cyberthreats and asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly.
In fact, the penetration of sensitive national security computers by overseas hackers — many of them believed to be state sponsored — is rapidly emerging as one of the country’s most alarming national security threats, officials said. And the threat is not just from foreign governments and for-profit hackers. Officials have also expressed worries that terrorist groups may be capable of the same sorts of sophisticated penetrations.

U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Bill Lynn recently disclosed in a Foreign Affairs article that the Pentagon suffered a significant compromise of its classified military computer networks in 2008, when officials discovered that a malicious computer code had been inserted into a U.S. military laptop at a base in the Middle East. ( Click here to read the Foreign Affairs article, registration required.)
The flash drive's code was placed there by a "foreign intelligence agency," Lynn wrote, and quickly spread to the classified network run by the U.S. Central Command. This in turn prompted a Pentagon operation to neutralize the penetration, which was code-named "Buckshot Yankee," according to Lynn’s article.

"There was massive concern about that," the former U.S. intelligence official said of the 2008 penetration. "People were freaked out."

The foreign intelligence agency was widely believed to be Russia's, the former official said. The country's agents were attempting to "exfiltrate" data from the classified Central Command computers, but Pentagon officials were never able to determine whether they had succeeded in doing so, the official added.

That same year, in an incident first reported by Newsweek in November and later amplified in Bob Woodward's recent book, "Obama's Wars," Chinese hackers penetrated the campaign computers of the Barack Obama and John McCain presidential campaigns, prompting the Bush White House to advise both camps to take countermeasures to protect their data.

Related article: China web hijacking shows Net at risk

As Lynn presented the problem in his article, the penetrations of U.S. military data are growing "exponentially," one of the key reasons the Pentagon recently set up the United States Cyber Command to beef up defenses.

"Every day, U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times and scanned millions of times," Lynn wrote. "Adversaries have acquired thousands of files from U.S. networks and from the networks of U.S. allies and industry partners, including weapons blueprints, operational plans and surveillance data."

So far, it is unclear whether Poo’s alleged hacking created any comparable compromise of sensitive U.S. government data. Federal prosecutors allege that he hacked into the Federal Reserve computers in Cleveland by transmitting "malicious" computer codes and commands and that the attack resulted in "thousands of dollars in damages" that affected "10 or more" Federal Reserve computers.
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But June Gates, a spokeswoman for the Federal Reserve in Cleveland, said the penetration was restricted to a network of "test" computers used for checking out new software and applications and did not contain sensitive Federal Reserve data about banks in the region. She declined, however, to respond to questions about whether Federal Reserve officials were aware of the hacking attack when it occurred in June — or only learned about it last month after Secret Service agents seized Poo’s computer.

Troop movements compromised?
Pentagon officials said Sunday they were unable to respond immediately to questions about whether Poo's hacking of the contractor's computers had compromised military troop movements. But spokesman Bryan Whitman said in an e-mailed statement to NBC News: "We are keenly aware that our networks are being probed everyday. That's precisely why we have a very robust and layered active defense to protect our networks and preserve our freedom of movement in this domain."

Another critical question is whether Poo was working with a larger hacking network and, if so, who may have been a part of it. The indictment against him alleges that he acted "together with others." But the indictment does not identify any co-conspirators. It also does not indicate what Poo expected to do with the data he may have accessed by hacking into the Pentagon contractor computers. [ Click here to read the indictment in PDF format.]

Baumgartner, the computer crime expert, said that so far the information about Poo hacking into military contractor and Federal Reserve computers does not seem to square with the seemingly run-of-the-mill purpose behind his acquisition of stolen credit card and ATM data. He was arrested hours after his arrival at JFK when undercover Secret Service agents observed him allegedly selling stolen credit numbers for $1,000 at a diner in Brooklyn.
"It doesn’t add up," Baumgartner said. "This doesn't fit with a profile of somebody from overseas that has infiltrated a defense contractor and the Federal Reserve."

So far, almost nothing is known about who Poo really is, what his motivations are, and who his accomplices might be. But Baumgartner said he believes "that there's a lot more to do this story that hasn't come out."
23335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Reagan on: November 22, 2010, 07:15:14 PM
"Two hundred years ago, the Congress of the United States issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation stating that it was 'the indispensable duty of all nations' to offer both praise and supplication to God. Above all other nations of the world, America has been especially blessed and should give special thanks. We have bountiful harvests, abundant freedoms, and a strong, compassionate people. I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom. Our pioneers asked that He would work His will in our daily lives so America would be a land of morality, fairness, and freedom. Today we have more to be thankful for than our pilgrim mothers and fathers who huddled on the edge of the New World that first Thanksgiving Day could ever dream. We should be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of our ancestors which enable us to enjoy the lives we do today. Let us reaffirm through prayers and actions our thankfulness for America's bounty and heritage." --Ronald Reagan

23336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 07:06:39 PM

I will be interested to read GM's response to that.


Thank you for your offerings in response to my request for citations of efficacy; that said they are less than I look for.  In them I see only assertions of efficacy by people whom I do not necessarily trust 100%.  It seems to me it would be very simple to have someone strap on something imitating an underwear bomb and making a cliip of what it looks like on the scanner.   30-60 seconds on youtube should be enough.  smiley
"The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice. Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. 'When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees,' Mica writes. 'TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy. I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law.' In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call 'security theater' -- that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. 'That's exactly what it is,' says Mica. 'It's a big Kabuki dance.' Now, the dance has gotten completely out of hand." --columnist Byron York
"After Muslim terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria tried to detonate explosive material in his underwear over Detroit last Christmas, the government began requiring nude body scans at airports. The machines, which cannot detect chemicals or plastic, would not have caught the diaper bomber. So, again, no hijackers were stopped, but being able to see passengers in the nude boosted the morale of airport security personnel by 22 percent. After explosives were inserted in two ink cartridges and placed on a plane headed to the United States from the Muslim nation of Yemen, the government banned printer cartridges from all domestic flights, resulting in no improvement in airport security, while requiring ink cartridges who traveled to take Amtrak. So when the next Muslim terrorist, probably named Abdul Ahmed al Shehri, places explosives in his anal cavity, what is the government going to require then? ... Only because the terrorists are Muslims do we pretend not to notice who keeps trying to blow up our planes. ... If the government did nothing more than have a five-minute conversation with the one passenger per flight born outside the U.S., you'd need 90 percent fewer Transportation Security Administration agents and airlines would be far safer than they are now. Instead, Napolitano just keeps ordering more invasive searches of all passengers, without exception -- except members of Congress and government officials, who get VIP treatment, so they never know what she's doing to the rest of us." --columnist Ann Coulter

23337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Ireland on: November 22, 2010, 04:48:39 PM
Dispatch: The Irish Bailout and Germany's Opportunity
November 22, 2010 | 2220 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Marko Papic examines the EU-IMF bailout of Ireland and the opportunities it may present for Germany.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

The EU and the IMF have come to an agreement with Ireland to provide Dublin with between €80 and €90 billion worth of loans. The bailout will be conditioned on Ireland pushing through a budget deficit reduction plan that will seek to bring the budget deficit under 3% of GDP as mandated by the Eurozone fiscal rules.

The terms of the bailout deal are still being revealed but what seems to be clear at this point is that the Irish low corporate tax rate will remain the same. At 12.5% the Irish corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in Europe and has really been the point of contention between Ireland and its larger EU member states. Countries like France have for long time focused on the Irish corporate tax rate in the argued that it gives Dublin an unfair competitive advantage over continental economies and that Ireland has been able to attract investors into Ireland with it’s low corporate rate. However behind this criticism is also a perception in Paris but also in Berlin that the low corporate tax rate has allowed Ireland to also be independent and to be independent-minded, however Dublin is fully funded until mid-2011 and therefore it felt that it was able to protect its corporate tax rate in the negotiations for the bailout right now, it felt it had an upper hand so to say.

What has happened now is that Germany seems to have withdrawn the corporate tax rate as one of the conditions for the bailout and has therefore allowed Ireland to keep it for the time being. Germany and France will take a wait-and-see approach with Ireland on this thorny issue and will wait for Ireland to slip up on the terms of its bailout bringing up the corporate tax rate perhaps at some later point in the future.

For Germany the bailout is another opportunity. First it allows Berlin to illustrates to the markets the effectiveness of the European Financial Stability Fund the EFSF which has about €440 billion plus the IMF money that brings it up to €750 billion. Now the fund was specifically designed to bail out Ireland, Portugal and Spain if the need arose. Now Ireland is falling down which means that Portugal could very will be next but the Portuguese needs would not be anymore to those of Ireland and Greece. And therefore the FSF has more than enough to handle both Ireland and Portugal however if Madrid also taps the EFSF the euro zone and Berlin may soon find themselves without any more ammunition in their clip to deal with further crises.

Ultimately Germany does not feel that the current crisis is one of existential nature. On one hand the uncertainty about the Eurozone and its’ markets means that the Euro is trading lower which helps German exports immensely. Furthermore Germany is using the opportunity of the crisis to redesign the European Union and its institutions and especially Eurozone fiscal rules and enforcement mechanisms of those rules. The real test for Eurozone therefore is not the panic level in Madrid or Lisbon or Dublin rather to what extent are the policymakers in Berlin concened.

23338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 12:43:01 PM
a) that former DHS head Chertkoff (sp?) lobbied for the Rapiscan scanners? and/or

GM Having people leave either elected or appointed office to then lobby for private industry is nothing new.

Marc:   Neither is corruption, the possibility of which is the point of my question.

b) assertions that they do not spot items such as the Crispy Weiner bomber's bombs?

GM: To determine that, we'd need to experiment with the backscatter device as it's used by TSA. I don't know that the critics have done that.

Marc:  Nor am I aware of data showing that these things WOULD pick up Crispy Weiner bombs.   You frequently amaze me with your ability to come up with citations for your positions.    Please feel free to amaze me again.  smiley

23339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 22, 2010, 11:53:13 AM

What do you make of

a) that former DHS head Chertkoff (sp?) lobbied for the Rapiscan scanners? and/or
b) assertions that they do not spot items such as the Crispy Weiner bomber's bombs?
c) Also, what about the use of dogs instead of radiation and groping?
23340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LEDs on: November 22, 2010, 09:24:49 AM
I think LEDs (new kind of hi tech light) are going to be a VERY strong sector and have what are for me some very large postions.  The sector had a huge run up  grin and recently gave a goodly portion of it back.  cry    My belief in this hypothesis is such that I added more.  Biggest position is CREE.  Others are AIXG, RBCN, and PWER.  Some of these are not pure LED plays. 

IMHO (and I have been wrong plenty) it is still a very good time to get in on these.  RBCN has been the subject of intense shorting and the shorts may be about to get stuffed worse than by a TSA groping  cheesy  DO YOUR OWN DILIGENCE, ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.

The very savvy David Gordon writes:

"Oh, sure, I get that the bears conceded a great Q3 but wait, they say, for a terrible Q4. Except, Q4 is half-complete, and my tracking indicia show yet another phenomenal quarter. (Caveat: for a company of Rubicon’s size, teeny, one order postponement could put a serious damper on a quarter’s revenues.) So what we have is a stock in an intermediate term correction, which you and I hope and prefer to be an intermediate term base.

"While to my eye RBCN’s chart did not presage an upside “sling-shot” I would have preferred it had not reversed and declined as it has. I know one thing: granted sufficient time, RBCN will be much higher than today’s close and much higher than its all time high.

btw, a bottom is not the low trade but a process that unfolds over time.

■  says:
November 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm
What do these short traders know or are they soon to be creamed?

Stocks With Huge Short Interests (RBCN, BPI, GAP, CONN)

"Rubicon Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: RBCN) has approximately 60% of its float sold short, as of November 9.
Rubicon is a semiconductor company, trading at just over 10 times next years earnings, so it’s not expensive at all. The company has traded in a wide range in the past year, from $13.68 to $35.90, so shares are fairly volatile.

Read more:

■ dmg says:
November 17, 2010 at 4:40 am
File the question, Patrick, under “What’s wrong with this picture?” 

"The shorts remain convinced that RBCN cannot, will not, sustain its revenues and earnings. Oops, but the company has to date. So the shorts argue now that its margins are unsustainable, and emphasize that everyone will see this truth in the next earnings (Q4) report. Except my channel checks show that this argument (declining margins to occur NOW) also incorrect. The initial glimmers of intermediate term bases for the group begin to proliferate — first AIXG and VECO, now CREE — grants succor to the investor. Only RBCN continues to suck swamp water. But for how much longer…?

"Imagine or pretend you are not already long the shares. Piece together the puzzle and ask yourself, “Does the decline, and possible i/t base, offer itself as opportunity to invest?” I know my answer. And I believe the market offers its clues. I gain confidence by the action of the group AND RBCN’s patterns in its larger periodicities (weekly and monthly bars).

23341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / But , , , we didn't think they really meant it , , , on: November 22, 2010, 08:18:08 AM

Pupils at Islamic schools across the country are being taught to chop off a criminal's hand and that Jews are conspiring to take over the world, a BBC investigation claimed on Monday.

Up to 5,000 pupils aged between six and 18 are being taught Sharia law punishments using "weekend-school" text-books which claim those who do not believe in Islam will be subjected to "hellfire" in death, the Panorama programme said.

A text book for 15-year-olds advises: "For thieves their hands will be cut off for a first offence, and their foot for a subsequent offence."

"The specified punishment of the thief is cutting off his right hand at the wrist. Then it is cauterised to prevent him from bleeding to death," it added.

Young pupils are warned that the punishment for engaging in homosexual acts is death by stoning, burning with fire or throwing off a cliff and that the "main goal" of the Jews is to "have control over the world and its resources."

The schools are part of the "Saudi Students Clubs and Schools in the UK and Ireland" organisation. The BBC investigation claimed that one school in London is owned by the Saudi government.

Education Minister Michael Gove told the BBC programme: "I have no desire or wish to intervene in the decisions that the Saudi government makes in its own education system.

"But I?m clear that we cannot have anti-Semitic material of any kind being used in English schools. Ofsted (Britain's education watchdog) will be reporting to me shortly."
23342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, that's a big satellite , , , on: November 22, 2010, 08:06:24 AM

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) released a press note saying that the Air Force has launched its spy satellite from Cape Canaveral station on Sunday at 5:58 p.m.

The satellite is being dubbed as the largest satellite in the world. More details were not given as it is a classified mission.

The unmanned 23-story rocket carried the classified spy satellite.

Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, commander 45th Space Wing of the Air Force, said that this mission will help them in strengthening the national defense.

“Experts believe that the secret payload is a satellite capable of listening to a variety of transmissions from around the world. Such a satellite would have giant antennas stretching up to the size of a football field.
”Rocket launch faced many delays
The satellite, called NROL-32, had to face a series of delays due to technical problems.

The latest was a fault in the pair of temperature sensors, which delayed the Nov. 19 launch.

The 235 feet Delta 4 rocket is actually made up of three boosters, providing 2 million pounds of thrust and making it the most powerful rocket in service.

The rocket is made by United Launch Alliance, which is a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed. It made its first flight in 2004.

The rocket is capable of carrying payloads up to 24 tons in to low Earth orbit and 11 tons in geosynchronous orbits, which is used by communication satellites.

Experts believe that the secret payload is a satellite capable of listening to a variety of transmissions from around the world. Such a satellite would have giant antennas stretching up to the size of a football field.

Cloudy skies denied the spectacular show to the observers that could have been made more splendid by the rising moon.

But Florida residents doesn't need to be disappointed as they may be able to see space shuttle Discovery blast off on its final flight on Dec. 3, this year.

Satellite termed crucial for national defense
NRO Director Bruce Carlson said in press release that this is the most aggressive launch NRO had in the last 20 years.

He added that the new satellites are necessary for the new missions of NRO and will replace the existing ones before they fail.

“Now when I buy something people complain about how expensive it is, but nobody ever complains when it’s time to die and keep right on ticking,” Carlson a former general of the Air Force added. “We bought most of our satellites for three, five or eight years and we keep them in orbit for ten, twelve and up to twenty years.”

23343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Look at the bright side on: November 21, 2010, 10:19:18 PM
23344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 21, 2010, 10:15:05 PM
OK, , , but this is English, not Hebrew.  I can tell because I know I can't read or speak Hebrew, but I can read this. cheesy
23345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 21, 2010, 07:03:26 PM
"The soul is liberated from the body and returns closer to her source than ever before. , , , If the soul has become entrenched in material pleasures, she experiences the pain of ripping herself away from them so that she can experience the infinitely higher pleasure of basking in G-dly light. If she is soiled and injured by acts that sundered her from her true self while below, then she must be cleansed and healed. On the other hand, the good deeds and wisdom she has gained on her mission below serve as a protection for her journey upwards."

Why the use of the feminine pronouns here?
23346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Charleston, SC 1860 on: November 21, 2010, 01:19:41 PM
As he stepped gingerly from a launch onto the wharf, few of those watching could have imagined that this man would, within a matter of weeks, become the most famous military officer in America. None, surely, could have guessed that women would soon beg for locks of that meticulously combed gray hair, or that woodcuts of that bland, impassive face would appear on the front pages of magazines around the nation and across the Atlantic.

Everything about him seemed middling. He was in his fifties, of intermediate rank, medium height and moderate demeanor; circumspect in his political opinions; pleasant-mannered but lacking in charm; handsome without the slightest degree of magnetism. He was known in the service mainly – to the extent that he was known at all – for having translated certain French artillery textbooks into English. Even his name was nondescript, easily forgettable: Maj. Robert Anderson.

Library of Congress
Robert AndersonAnd yet here was the person to whom the United States government had just entrusted one of the most delicate military and political assignments in American history: command of the federal garrison in Charleston Harbor, the very epicenter of the exploding secession crisis. Perhaps more than any man except Abraham Lincoln himself, Anderson would set the course of events in the months ahead, and would make decisions that fixed the country on a path toward war or peace.

Within a fortnight after Lincoln’s election, everyone in America was aware that South Carolina would soon attempt to leave the Union; its legislature had already set a date for a “secession convention” in less than a month’s time. As soon as the formalities were complete, all federal property within the state’s borders would be, at least to the seceders’ eyes, subject to immediate confiscation. In particular, the three forts guarding Charleston Harbor – of which Anderson was about to take command on behalf of the United States – would immediately become foreign military bases within the sovereign Republic of South Carolina. Would they surrender peacefully – or, by resisting, bring war?

Luckily for the founding fathers of the nascent republic, those three citadels – Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter – “guarded” Charleston in only the most figurative sense. Waiting on Moultrie’s parade ground to welcome Anderson was a tiny detachment of soldiers that could scarcely even be termed a garrison: just two companies of barely 30 men each, not counting a small brass band.

And these were anything spit-and-polish troops. Their outgoing commander, Lt. Col. John Gardner, 67 years old, had been shunted off to Fort Moultrie as a none-too-demanding spot where he could wind down an army career that had begun in the hazy days before the War of 1812. Not surprisingly, Gardner was far from a martinet, and his men spent more time attending local cotillions and barbecues than they did taking artillery practice. Drifts of sand half-covered Fort Moultrie’s outer walls; grazing cows sometimes wandered blithely across the battlements.

Civil War Timeline

An unfolding history of the Civil War with photos and articles from the Times archive and ongoing commentary from Disunion contributors.

Visit the Timeline »
.The two other two forts posed even less of a threat to the forces of secession. Fort Sumter, built on an artificial island in the harbor’s mouth, sat unfinished after decades of start-and-stop construction, and it housed just a few military engineers supervising some civilian workmen. Castle Pinckney, though its guns overlooked the town itself, was under the protection of but a single ordnance sergeant.

The cautious, temporizing administration of James Buchanan, the lame-duck president, may have appointed Anderson because he seemed as unthreatening as the forts themselves. Born in the border state of Kentucky, he detested secessionists and abolitionists in equal measure. The major personally owned no slaves, but his Georgia-born wife had inherited quite a number, whom she later sold off; Anderson once quipped dryly that “the increase of her darkies” had made him rich. He knew both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line well: his long career had seen him posted to Maine and Florida, New Jersey and Virginia. When the War Department plucked him out of the middle ranks of the officer corps for the Charleston appointment, he was serving on a commission to revise the curriculum at West Point, where he had once been an instructor.

Anderson had fought the Seminoles, led troops in the war with Mexico, and been brevetted for gallantry at Molino del Rey – but, as a devout Christian, he loved peace. Indeed, he loathed violence with the certitude of a man who had seen far too much of it already. The Buchanan administration believed it had found a soldier incapable of any rash act, one who would put no American lives at risk either to disrupt the Union or to defend it.

But the officers and men who welcomed Major Anderson to Charleston inspected their quiet new commander with searching eyes. They knew that in a certain sense, he – and they – would hold more power in the months ahead than President Buchanan himself. “The truth is we are the government at present,” one of them would soon write. “It rests upon the points of our swords. Shall we use our position to deluge the country in blood?”

23347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Von Mises on: November 21, 2010, 01:45:53 AM
This piece could go on the Economics thread on the SCH forum, but I put it here because of the reference to Glenn Beck-- who BTW IMHO had a fine week this week.

Nov 18th 2010

Taking von Mises to pieces

Why is the Austrian explanation for the crisis so little discussed?


JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES is back. The British economist has modern intellectual champions in Paul Krugman and Robert Skidelsky. For all today’s talk of austerity, a policy of Keynesian fiscal stimulus was adopted by most governments in the immediate aftermath of the credit crisis.


In contrast policymakers seem to show a lot less interest in the economic ideas of the “Austrian school” led by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who once battled Keynes for intellectual supremacy. Yet the more you think about recent events, the odder that neglect seems.


A one-paragraph explanation of the Austrian theory of business cycles would run as follows. Interest rates are held at too low a level, creating a credit boom. Low financing costs persuade entrepreneurs to fund too many projects. Capital is misallocated into wasteful areas. When the bust comes the economy is stuck with the burden of excess capacity, which then takes years to clear up.


Take that analysis piece by piece. Were interest rates held too low? The case seems self-evident for Ireland and Spain, where the European Central Bank was setting a one-size-fits-all monetary policy. Many people would also argue that the Federal Reserve kept rates too low. Some lay the housing boom of 2003-06 at the Fed’s door, others criticise the central bank’s tendency to slash rates whenever the financial markets wobbled.


Was capital misallocated? Again most people would accept that too many houses and apartments were built in Ireland and Spain, as well as individual American states like Florida and Nevada. In some places these dwellings may sit idle for a while, keeping downward pressure on property prices.


Economists who would not describe themselves as Austrian have reached conclusions that chime with Hayek. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, in their book “This Time is Different”, argued that past financial crises have been followed by long periods of sluggish growth. Hyman Minsky, an American economist who died in 1996, said that the financial cycle led to economic volatility. Long booms tended to result in excessive risk-taking and “Ponzi finance”, where investors buy assets with borrowed money in the hope of quick capital gains. Minsky’s reputation has soared since the start of the credit crunch.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a very popular financial author thanks to his books “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan”. One of his principal ideas is the difficulty of forecasting given the role of chance and extreme events. That echoes the views of Hayek, who wrote that “the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”


The Austrians may have said smart things about the boom, but what about the bust? One criticism is that the Austrians offered a “counsel of despair”, suggesting that the authorities do nothing while a crisis blows itself out. At least the monetarists propose cutting rates and expanding the money supply and the Keynesians promote deficit spending.


But Lawrence White, an economist at George Mason University in Washington, DC, argues that this is an unfair characterisation. “Hayek was not a liquidationist,” he says, referring to the philosophy of Andrew Mellon, President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era treasury secretary, who wanted to “purge the rottenness out of the system”. Hayek believed the central bank should aim to stabilise nominal incomes. On that basis Mr White thinks the Fed was right to pursue the first round of quantitative easing, since nominal GDP was falling, but wrong to pursue a second round with activity recovering.


Mr White is one of the few current economists to promote the Austrian approach. This may be because economists divided into Keynesians and monetarists in the 1970s. You might think that the Austrians would find common cause with the monetarists. But Milton Friedman rejected their analysis, stating in 1998 that: “The Austrian business-cycle theory has done the world a great deal of harm.” Efficient-market theorists disliked the Austrians because they appeared to assume that businessmen could act irrationally.


The libertarian streak of the Austrians still has its fans. Glenn Beck, a lachrymose Fox News pundit, turned Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” into an unlikely bestseller earlier this year. Being associated with Mr Beck will not persuade many academics to take Austrian economic ideas seriously. Given the repeated credit booms and busts of the past 40 years, that may be a pity.
23348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Nork nuke plant on: November 21, 2010, 01:29:14 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sat, November 20, 2010 -- 9:00 PM ET

North Koreans Unveil New Plant for Nuclear Use

North Korea showed a visiting American nuclear scientist last
week a vast new facility it secretly and rapidly built to
enrich uranium, confronting the Obama administration with the
prospect that the country is preparing to expand its nuclear
arsenal or build a far more powerful type of atomic bomb.

Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by
North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its
weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership
change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama.

The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who
previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said
in an interview that he had been "stunned" by the
sophistication of the new plant.

Read More:
23349  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Vancouver January 29-20 on: November 20, 2010, 04:23:41 PM
PS:  Loki/Tricky Dog - Maelstrom Martial Arts - 604.908.5833

23350  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Vancouver January 29-30 on: November 20, 2010, 04:22:24 PM
Woof All:

I am delighted to announce my return to Vancouver, once again to be hosted by my good friend Tricky Dog.  The seminar will be held at  

More info to follow soon.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
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