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23301  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: January 24, 2009, 06:23:07 PM
Very much looking forward to tonight's fights.  A shout out for Vlady Matyushenko in particular--  Vlady was always very helpful to me when I was at RAW.  I certainly presented zero questions for him, but he was always a complete gentleman when we rolled.  Very, very, technical and frighteningly strong.  I remember one time trying a two-handed wrist lock on him and he didn't even notice that I was trying  shocked shocked cheesy  Watching Vlady and Rico Chiaparelli roll was always quite special too.    His decisive loss to Arlovski several years ago knocked him off stride for a while, but I hear he has been fighting very well recently.  I wish him a great night.

A small Arlovski story:  Several years ago when AA was first rampaging through the UFC he was my son's favorite fighter.  I'm guessing Conrad was about 6 at the time.   AA was in the cage warming up before a fight and Conrad was shadow boxing along with him.  He turned to me and said "You know Dad, I think Arlovski could beat even you."

"You might be right son , , ,"  cheesy cheesy cheesy
23302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / a friend from law school comments on: January 24, 2009, 11:51:01 AM
I ran the preceding posts by a friend from law school who is now a partner in a patent law firm.  His comments:


Hey Marc,

        Interesting read, but the author is full of it.  I notice he
doesn't address the most compelling case for patent protection -
pharmaceuticals.  Today, it costs $100 million or more to get FDA
approval of a new pharmaceutical (not to mention the research costs to
find the pharmaceuticals in the first place).  After the innovator has
spent $100 million or more to adequately prove safetey and efficacy to
the FDA, a copyist can set up a rival manufacturing operation for a few
hundred thousand dollars and then piggyback for free on all the
work/money the innovator has put in to proving safety and efficacy.  No
one in their right mind would invest in a new pharmaceutical unless
there was solid patent protection.  Further, his example of the Wright
Brothers is a poor one.  Men had been trying to invent flying machines
for hundreds of years before the Wright Brothers with a complete lack of
success.  The Wright Brothers needed to make a number of subtle, but
crucial, advances in wing shape and steering controls before they got
their plane off the ground.  These Wright Brothers inventions are still
found in nearly all airplanes today.  Are we really going to begrudge
the Wright Brothers 17 years of profits for making the entire aviation
industry possible ?  Further, his point about the greatest advances
occurring in the absence of patents is contradicted by his own examples.
The Middle Ages is when we had an absence of patents and also an absence
of technology advancements.  Today, we have an abundance of patents and
an abundance of technology advances.  Finally, the opening example of
removing the Picasso from the wall says more about the uninformed, anal
lawyer providing that advice than the copyright laws.  In my view,
leaving the Picasso on the wall is plainly a "fair use" - I know of no
court who would say that the Picasso must come down. 

        With that said, I don't dispute that there are lots of problems
with intellectual property today, including far too much of a "get rich
quick" mentality on questionable advances.  In fact, I blame the "get
rich quick" types, particularly in real estate and banking, for a large
portion our country's serious ills.

 
Woof, woof
23303  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Law Enforcement issues in Nigeria on: January 24, 2009, 11:34:13 AM
Nigerian police detain goat over armed robbery
      Buzz Up Send
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Digg Facebook Newsvine del.icio.us Reddit StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Bookmarks Print Fri Jan 23, 10:55 am ETLAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

"The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat," Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

"We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat," he said.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

(Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Katie Nguyen)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090123/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_nigeria_robbery_goat;_ylt=Aspdod2Pkrg1xUA3qgiL5nXtiBIF

23304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From a friend in Iraq on: January 24, 2009, 11:27:26 AM
So it's been about 3 weeks plus now since the Iraqis have been given back their country.  And things seem to feel different.  Sometimes visibly so.
 
I was out at CCCI the other day (Central Criminal Court of Iraq).  And for about 1/2 hour an Iraqi helicopter was buzzing the place.  Unnecessarily.  As if to  show their ass.  But who was affected?   The Iraqi court system.  That's who.
 
One sees way more Iraqi military and police vehicles and personnel than before.  Most seem okay.  I personally say a sallam alaikum and put my hand on my heart to every Iraqi I meet.  I have even seen that turn what appeared to be the occasional cold glare into a luke warm smile.  I also take a photo of every security officer who I am in a position to, but I must (and have) give them a copy of the photo. They seem to appreciate the hell out of that.  Most I have meet seem basically okay. Like guys everywhere would be.
 
I do sense that there is some embarrassment to the reality that in direct force on force warfare we have kicked their ass twice.  Technology has its benefits.
 
But the reality is they, for a while, were absolutely wreaking havoc on us with their 4th generational warfare vision.  To tell you the truth I think waht happened here in that regard is a harbinger of how "the defeated" can lay waste to an occupying force.
 
The relative security in Iraq these days came about for four main reasons:
 

the Surge (liberals hate to hear that) but it was the security foundation that allowed for so much more
General Petraeus:  the man simply realized that it required a total approach by all military and civilian assets
the reality that Iraq had a history of civilization long before we came here.  I don't know that this is the case in Afghanistan
T-walls.
 
The Iraqis want to take down the t-walls.  I wish them luck.  The enemy is not gone.   Just constrained.  But without the t-wall syystem, man iit's like duck season again....
23305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Laws of War on: January 24, 2009, 10:34:18 AM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
This week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the terrorist detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay within the year. It was a symbolic repudiation of the Bush administration's policies, but Gitmo is not the crucial issue. The real question is whether Mr. Obama will uphold the legal architecture necessary to continue the war against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies.

What Mr. Obama's national security team will quickly discover is that the civilian criminal-justice system is an inadequate tool to deal with terrorists. President Bush's policies -- particularly treating captured terrorists as unlawful enemy combatants and employing a military court system to try them -- were dictated by the very real need to defend American citizens, not by disdain for the rule of law.


The Bush administration chose the law-of-war paradigm because the international law of armed conflict gives the U.S. maximum flexibility to meet the jihadist threat, including the right to attack and destroy al Qaeda bases and fighters in foreign countries. The alternative legal framework, the civilian criminal-justice system, is unsuitable for several key reasons. Civilian criminal suspects quite obviously cannot be targeted for military attack. They can be subjected only to the minimum force necessary to effect an arrest. They cannot -- consistent with international law -- be pursued across national boundaries. And finally, they are entitled to a speedy trial in a public courtroom. These rules cannot be ignored or altered without constitutional amendment.

In addition, the type and quality of evidence necessary for convictions in civilian courts is simply unavailable for most captured terrorists. One federal district judge recently concluded that although the government's information on one detainee was sufficient for intelligence purposes -- that is, he presumably could have been targeted for deadly attack -- it was insufficient to hold him without trial.

Trying senior al Qaeda leaders for relatively minor offenses ancillary to their major war crimes (like Al Capone for tax evasion) also is not the answer. Even if convictions and punishments could be obtained in this way, the cause of justice and historic closure requires the perpetrators to be charged with their worst offenses. This view informed the Nuremberg prosecutions.

Many have advocated for the creation of a U.S.-based national security court. Such a court would certainly be subject to constitutional challenge, and likely could not handle the sheer number of detained enemy combatants. A few hundred detainees at Guantanamo is one thing, but U.S. forces have captured and processed thousands of prisoners in the war on terror, and still hold upward of a thousand al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many more to come in the years ahead.

Some changes to the Bush policies are obviously inevitable. But what Mr. Obama must keep in mind is that the laws of war form a relatively seamless web. Different elements -- military detention and prosecution, and robust rules of engagement driven by combat necessities -- reinforce each other. So while he may grant detainees additional due process rights (the courts have already established a right to habeas corpus proceedings for those at Guantanamo), he must continue a system of military detention for most of the captured fighters.

That's because the law of war requires that enemies be "granted quarter" -- meaning prisoners must be taken if they surrender. But if these prisoners cannot be held until hostilities are concluded and must be released only to fight again, the military would be consigned to a deadly game of catch and release. Without a viable detention regime, the U.S. cannot fairly ask its soldiers to risk their lives in combat any more than we can send in troops with defective equipment.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 
Since routinely prosecuting captured terrorists in the civilian courts is unrealistic, some sort of military court system for the detainees must be retained, regardless of whether they are called military commissions or special courts martial. This reinvigorated military court system must be directed to begin prosecuting those captured enemy fighters that have committed war crimes against American troops or civilians. The fact that none of the individuals now held in U.S. custody in Iraq or Afghanistan has been brought to justice, even in situations where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them, is historically unprecedented and a slap in the face of the U.S. troops fighting this war. Giving de facto immunity to war criminals is also inconsistent with international legal norms. Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who have criticized some Bush policies, must make their voices heard here.

This system of detention and military trials must also apply here at home. We cannot limit the military legal paradigm to overseas operations. Al Qaeda has already successfully targeted American territory, and may do so again. Foreign fighters entering the U.S. to carry out attacks should not have rights superior to those on distant, more conventional battlefields. Not only does this double standard create exactly the wrong incentives for our enemies, but it is legally unsustainable. The Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to extend constitutional protections to detainees held where the United States exercises a sufficient level of control, and this ruling can easily be extended beyond Gitmo.

Finally, the new administration cannot behave as if the military justice system for detainees is shameful, like some crazy uncle in the attic. These are legitimate laws of war and should be treated as such.

Mr. Bush's opponents have denigrated this system for nearly eight years. Many of them have now assumed power, and with power comes responsibility -- especially when it comes to protecting Americans from their enemies.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
23306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Geithner on: January 24, 2009, 10:31:05 AM
Timothy Geithner's tax oversights drew most of the media attention at his confirmation hearing, but the biggest news is the Treasury Secretary-designate's testimony Thursday that he'll ratchet up one of the Bush Administration's worst habits: China currency bashing.

 
APIn a written submission to the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Geithner said the Obama Administration "believes that China is manipulating its currency." He says he wants Treasury to make "the fact-based case that market exchange rates are a central ingredient to healthy and sustained growth." The dollar promptly fell and gold jumped $40 on the news.

We're not sure what Mr. Geithner means by "market exchange rates," given that the supply of any modern currency is set by a monopoly known as the central bank. When Mr. Geithner says China is "manipulating" its currency, what investors around the world hear is that he really wants Beijing to restrain the number of yuan in circulation and increase its value vis-a-vis the dollar. That's a call for a dollar devaluation to help U.S. exporters.

This would seem to be an especially crazy time to undermine the dollar, given that the Treasury will have to issue some $2 trillion to $3 trillion in new dollar debt in the next couple of years. A stronger yuan would also contribute to Chinese deflation and slower growth, which would only mean a deeper world recession. Even the Bush Treasury never formally declared China to be a currency "manipulator" in its periodic reports to Congress. If the Obama Treasury is now going to take that step, hold on to those gold bars. We're in for an even scarier ride than the Fun Slide of the last few months.
23307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gillespie; The Bush Disaster on: January 24, 2009, 10:21:05 AM
By NICK GILLESPIE
Now that George W. Bush has finally left office, here's a challenge to a nation famous for its proud tradition of invention: Can somebody invent a machine capable of fully measuring the disaster that was the Bush presidency?

 
APYes, yes, I know that attitudes towards presidencies are volatile. Harry Truman was hated when he left office and look at him now; he's so highly regarded that President Bush thought of him as a role model. There are, I'm sure, still a few William Henry Harrison dead-enders around, convinced that the 31 days the broken-down old general spent as president will someday receive the full glory they deserve.

In a way that was inconceivable when he took office, Mr. Bush -- the advance man for the "ownership society," smaller and more trustworthy government, and a humble foreign policy -- increased the size and scope of the federal government to unprecedented levels. At the same time, he constantly flashed signs of secrecy, duplicity, ineffectiveness and outright incompetence.

Think for a moment about the thousands of Transportation Security Administration screeners -- newly minted government employees all -- who continue to confiscate contact-lens solution and nail clippers while, according to nearly every field test, somehow failing to notice simulated bombs in passenger luggage.

Or schoolchildren struggling under No Child Left Behind, which federalized K-12 education to an unprecedented degree with nothing to show for it other than greater spending tabs. Or the bizarrely structured Medicare prescription-drug benefit, the largest entitlement program created since LBJ. Or the simple reality that taxpayers now guarantee some $8 trillion in inscrutable loans to a financial sector that collapsed from inscrutable loans.

Such programs were not in any way foisted on Mr. Bush, the way that welfare reform had been on Bill Clinton; they were signature projects, designed to create a legacy every bit as monumental and inspiring as Laura Bush's global literacy campaign.

The most basic Bush numbers are damning. If increases in government spending matter, then Mr. Bush is worse than any president in recent history. During his first four years in office -- a period during which his party controlled Congress -- he added a whopping $345 billion (in constant dollars) to the federal budget. The only other presidential term that comes close? Mr. Bush's second term. As of November 2008, he had added at least an additional $287 billion on top of that (and the months since then will add significantly to the bill). To put that in perspective, consider that the spendthrift LBJ added a mere $223 billion in total additional outlays in his one full term.

If spending under Mr. Bush was a disaster, regulation was even worse. The number of pages in the Federal Registry is a rough proxy for the swollen expanse of the regulatory state. In 2001, some 64,438 pages of regulations were added to it. In 2007, more than 78,000 new pages were added. Worse still, argues the Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, Mr. Bush is the unparalleled master of "economically significant regulations" that cost the economy more than $100 million a year. Since 2001, he jacked that number by more than 70%. Since June 2008 alone, he introduced more than 100 economically significant regulations.

At this late date, it may be pointless to argue about the grounds for the invasion of Iraq, which even Mr. Bush has (finally) acknowledged were built on sand rather than bedrock. The Iraq war has lasted longer than any American conflict except for Vietnam and has cost more than any shooting match except for World War II. Leave aside for a moment the more than 4,200 U.S. deaths and 30,000 casualties, and ask a very basic question: Did President Bush's prosecution of the war -- he declared an end to major hostilities in May 2003 -- and his direction of the ongoing occupation make you feel better about the government's ability to execute core functions?

Or, like the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina (later made good by shoveling billions of pork-laden tax dollars to the Gulf area) and the rushed, secretive, and ever-changing bailout of the financial sector, did it make you want to simply despair?


Mr. Bush's legacy is thus a bizarro version of Ronald Reagan's. Reagan entered office declaring that government was not the solution to our problems, it was the problem. Ironically, he demonstrated that government could do some important things right -- he helped tame inflation and masterfully drew the Cold War to a nonviolent triumph for the Free World. By contrast, Mr. Bush has massively expanded the government along with the sense that government is incompetent.

That is no small accomplishment -- and its pernicious effects will last long after Mr. Bush has moved back to Texas, and President Obama has announced that his stimulus package, originally tagged at $750 billion and already up to $825 billion, will cost $1 trillion or more. Mr. Bush has cleared the way for President Obama to intervene more and more in the economy and every other aspect of American life.

Last July, the political scientists Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc and Andrei Shleifer wrote a paper titled "Regulation and Distrust." Using data from the World Values Survey, the authors convincingly argue that "distrust influences not just regulation itself, but the demand for regulation." They found that "distrust fuels support for government control over the economy. What is perhaps most interesting about this finding . . . is that distrust generates demand for regulation even when people realize that the government is corrupt and ineffective."

George W. Bush has certainly taught us that government really can't be trusted to be very effective, or open, or smart. He has also taught us that government can always get bigger on every level and every way. It's a sad lesson that we'll be learning for many years to come.

Mr. Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com.
23308  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Netanyahu on: January 24, 2009, 10:10:52 AM
By BRET STEPHENS
Jerusalem

It's Sunday morning, and I've been trying for days to get an interview with former -- and, if his poll numbers hold up through the Feb. 10 election, soon-to-be -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it's a political season, and there's a war on, and my calls aren't being returned. With nothing better to do, I go downstairs to the hotel gym for a jog.

 
Terry ShoffnerSo who should be on the treadmill next to mine? Benjamin Netanyahu. We chat for a few minutes, mostly about the cease-fire that the government of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has just declared, and I ask if he'd be willing to sit for an interview later in the day. His answer is something between a "maybe" and a "yes." As a nod to the customs of the country, I take that as a definite yes, so much the better to press his aides to arrange the meeting.

When the interview finally happens, in the grand reception hall of the old King David Hotel, it's close to one o'clock in the morning on Monday. Mr. Netanyahu has come from a long dinner with visiting European leaders -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among them -- and he is plainly exhausted, joking that he can't be held responsible for anything he might say.

The crack is unnecessary. Rare for a leading Israeli political figure, the 59-year-old Mr. Netanyahu is a phenomenally articulate man -- Obama-esque, one might even say -- not just in his native Hebrew, but also in the unaccented English he acquired at a Philadelphia high school and later as an architecture and management student at MIT. True to form, near-lapidary sentences all but trip from his tongue. Such as:

"I don't think Israel can accept an Iranian terror base next to its major cities any more than the United States could accept an al Qaeda base next to New York City."

Or:

"If we accept the notion that terrorists will have immunity because as they fire on civilians they hide behind civilians, then this tactic will be legitimized and the terrorists will have their greatest victory."

Or:

"We grieve for every child, for every innocent civilian that's killed either on our side or on the Palestinian side. The terrorists celebrate such suffering, on our side because they openly say they want to kill us, all of us, and on the Palestinian side because it helps them foster this false symmetry, which is contrary to common decency and international law."


And so on. The immediate question, of course, is the Israeli government's unilateral cease-fire, followed hours later by Hamas's declaration of a conditional, one-week cease-fire. Was the war a win? A draw? Or did it accomplish nothing at all -- thereby handing Hamas the "victory" it loudly claims for itself?

When Mr. Olmert announced Israel's cease-fire late Saturday night, he could hardly keep a grin off his face. In his estimate, along with that of his senior military brass, Israel had scored a clear win: It had humiliated Hamas militarily; it had caused a political rift within the group; it had taken relatively few casualties of its own; it had focused international attention on the problem of the arms smuggling beneath Gaza's border with Egypt. Most important, in the eyes of the Olmert government, it had avoided the trap of reoccupying Gaza -- the only means, it believed, of finally getting rid of Hamas.

Ordinary Israelis, however, seem less confident in the result, and Mr. Netanyahu gives voice to their caution. He is quick to applaud the "brilliant" performance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the "perseverance and strength" of Israeli civilians under Hamas's years-long rocket barrages.

But, he adds, "we have to make sure that the radicals do not perceive this as a victory," and it remains far from clear that they would be wrong to see it as one. "Notwithstanding the blows to the Hamas, it's still in Gaza, it's still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi corridor [which runs along Gaza's border with Egypt] is still porous, and . . . Hamas can smuggle new rockets unless it's closed, to fire at Israel in the future."

So is Mr. Netanyahu's preference regime change in Gaza? "Well, that would have been the optimal outcome," he says, adding that "the minimal outcome would have been to seal Gaza" from the missiles and munitions being smuggled into it. So far it's unclear that Israel has achieved even that: A "Memorandum of Understanding" agreed to last week by Israel, the U.S. and Egypt could be effective in stopping the flow of arms, but that's assuming Cairo lives up to its responsibilities.

"One would hope they would actually do it," says Mr. Netanyahu, sounding less than optimistic. Within days, his doubts are confirmed when the Associated Press produces video footage of masked Palestinian smugglers moving through once-again operational tunnels.

Rather than looking for solutions from Egypt, however, Mr. Netanyahu's gaze is intently fixed on Iran, a subject that consumes at least half of the interview. Iran is the "mother regime" both of Hamas, against which Israel has just fought a war, as well as of Hezbollah, against which it fought its last war in 2006. Together, he says, they are more than simply fingers of Tehran's influence on the shores of the Mediterranean.

"The arming of Iran with nuclear weapons may portend an irreversible process, because these regimes assume a kind of immortality," he says, arguing that the threat of a nuclear Iran poses a much graver danger to the world than the current economic crisis. "[This] will pose an existential threat to Israel directly, but also could give a nuclear umbrella to these terrorist bases."

How to stop that from happening? Mr. Netanyahu mentions that he has met with Barack Obama both in Israel and Washington, and that the question of Iran "loomed large in both conversations." I ask: Did Mr. Obama seem to him appropriately sober-minded about the subject? "Very much so, very much so," Mr. Netanyahu stresses. "He [Mr. Obama] spoke of his plans to engage Iran in order to impress upon them that they have to stop the nuclear program. What I said to him was, what counts is not the method but the goal."

It's easy to believe that Mr. Netanyahu, of all people, must be wishing President Obama well: If diplomacy with Iran fails and the U.S. does not resort to military force, it would almost certainly fall to Mr. Netanyahu to decide whether Israel will go it alone in a strike. (In a separate interview earlier that day, a senior military official assured me that a successful strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is well within Israel's capabilities.)

On the other hand, a Prime Minister Netanyahu could easily tangle with the Obama administration, particularly if it makes a big push -- as it looks like it might with the appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the new special envoy to the region -- for the resumption of comprehensive, "final status" peace negotiations. There's already a history here: During his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, Mr. Netanyahu frequently clashed with the administration of the man whose wife is now the secretary of state.

Mr. Netanyahu's own prescriptions for a settlement with the Palestinians -- what he calls a "workable peace" -- differ markedly from the approaches of the 1990s. He talks about "the development of capable law enforcement and security capabilities" for the Palestinians, adding that the new National Security Adviser Jim Jones had worked on the problem for the Bush administration. He stresses the need for rapid economic development in the West Bank, promising to remove "all sorts of impediments to economic growth" faced by Palestinians.

As for the political front, Mr. Netanyahu promises a gradual, "bottom-up process that will facilitate political solutions, not replace them."

"Most of the approaches to peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he says, "have been directed at trying to resolve the most complex problems, like refugees and Jerusalem, which is akin to building the pyramid from the top down. It's much better to build it layer by layer, in a deliberate, purposeful pattern that changes the reality for both Palestinians and Israelis."

Whether this approach will work remains to be seen: Palestinian economic development was also a priority in the 1990s, until it became clear that billions in foreign aid were being siphoned off by corrupt Palestinian officials, and after various joint economic projects with Israel were violently sabotaged.

But however Mr. Netanyahu's economic and security plans play out, he makes it equally clear that he is prepared to go only so far to reach an accommodation that will meet some of the current demands being made of Israel -- not only by Palestinians, but by the Syrians, the Saudis, and much of the rest of the "international community" as well. "We're not going to redivide Jerusalem, or get off the Golan Heights, or go back to the 1967 boundaries," he says. "We won't repeat the mistake our [political opponents] made of unilateral retreats to merely vacate territory that is then taken up by Hamas or Iran."

This brings Mr. Netanyahu to the political pitch he's making -- so far successfully -- to Israelis ahead of next month's election. When elections were held three years ago, bringing Mr. Olmert to power, "we [his Likud Party] were mocked" for warning that Gaza would become Hamastan, and that Hamastan would become a staging ground for missiles fired at major Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod.

"I think we've shown the ability to see the problems in advance," he says. "Peace is purchased from strength. It's not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats. It just doesn't happen that way. That perhaps is the greatest lesson that has been impressed on the mind of the Israeli public in the last few years."

The polls seem to agree. As of Wednesday, an Israeli poll gives Likud a 30-seat plurality in the next Knesset, ahead by eight of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party. Well behind both of them is the left-leaning Labor Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak (at about 15 seats), which in turn is running roughly even with Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu.

The dovish parties of yore, particularly Meretz, barely exist as political entities anymore. Whether they'll ever be back will be a testament, one way or another, to the kind of prime minister Mr. Netanyahu will be this time around.
23309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: My wife kicks movie theater's butt! on: January 24, 2009, 12:02:11 AM
On Dog Hotel my wife's comment was a somewhat bored "Cute".

Tonight we used the comp tix to see "Mall Cop".  I was not surprised to see Adam Sandler's name in the credits, this was a mostly a dud with occasional moments of moderate humor.
23310  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Capt. Obvious on: January 23, 2009, 11:59:26 PM
Captain Obvious says , , ,

http://www.bluelinecomics.com/Captain%20Obvious.html
23311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China looking grim? on: January 23, 2009, 11:36:34 PM
Geopolitical Diary: For China, Grim Data and a Grimmer Economy

January 23, 2009

China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday released preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) figures for 2008. According to the report, the country’s economy expanded by 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to the same quarter a year earlier. This marks a further drop from the 10.6 percent growth year-on-year in the first quarter, 10.1 percent in the second quarter and 9.0 percent in the third quarter. For the whole of 2008, China’s GDP grew just 9 percent — marking the first time annual growth has fallen into the single digits since 2003, and the lowest annual GDP figure since 2001. Moreover, China’s 2007 GDP growth rate was recently revised to 13 percent, the highest in more than a decade.

China needs high growth rates much more than other countries do. The legitimacy of the government is derived primarily from its ability to stimulate and maintain economic growth, which in China is synonymous with employment. Should that fail, the Chinese people tend to take issue with their leaders, as evidenced by the repetition of social revolutions in Chinese history.

Many Chinese policymakers use 8 percent GDP growth as a rule-of-thumb measure for basic stability — the level needed to absorb the roughly 2 million new workers who enter the labor pool every year. Chinese leaders believe this is the level of growth needed to keep social pressures from exploding. So long as everyone has a job, Beijing does not worry overmuch about details like financial efficiency, profitability or transparency.

The same goes for accuracy, and Stratfor tends not to trust Chinese statistics. The regional data that local officials generate is not particularly reliable; stories abound about instances of padding data to make local statistics more impressive. This flawed data is then fed into the national statistics.

Chinese leaders in the late 1990s — particularly then-Premier Zhu Rongji — recognized that China’s economic statistics collection methods were fundamentally flawed. Leaders did not have a true picture of the Chinese economy, leaving them unable to manage growth and economic stability effectively. An effort began in 2000 to use statistical methods recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — but even with a good-faith effort, getting everything straightened out in less than a decade would be (and has proven) nearly impossible.

The Chinese economy is rapidly evolving from an overpopulated, agrarian subsistence economy to a hybridized industrial economy complete with large populations of roving migrants. The type of data that needs to be collected amid such a transformation changes more rapidly than new collection systems can be developed. In such an environment, collecting the right types of information accurately is, at best, a Herculean task, and each change in the process results in massive adjustments to previous estimates.

The severe downturn in the Chinese growth rates — admitted by a country known for massaging numbers — suggests things may be far worse than the headline 6.8 percent figure. Indeed, Stratfor sources peppered throughout China’s electronics, textiles, retail, energy, aviation and manufacturing sectors are painting a sobering picture. Exports to established markets are failing, foreign investors are desperate to find non-Chinese alternatives, protests by unemployed and underemployed workers are being reported by the state-controlled media. In general, the country is under severe stress from top to bottom.

The last time major contractions in China’s growth came in 2001 and 2003, and in those cases, Beijing simply reverted to its tried-and-true methods of subsidization of exports and a focus on gross revenues over profits. In recent years, the Chinese leadership has sought to reshape at least parts of the economic structure — using high growth rates as a way to compensate for the social and financial impact of industrial consolidation, increased labor costs and an attempt to push its exports up the value chain — while also seeking to boost domestic consumption as a component of economic activity.

But with the global economic downturn, China is losing export markets. It is holding onto significantly devalued stockpiles of primary commodities and primary products (such as steel) that were bought and manufactured during a commodity boom. It is slowing imports from regional partners — whose resulting drop in revenues will in return dry up much of China’s incoming foreign investment, another key component of economic growth and job formation.

China’s leadership is facing compounding problems and scrambling — desperately — for solutions. Compared to previous crises, they are off the map.

23312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 23, 2009, 08:46:55 PM
Concerning GM's post on the snub to Medal of Honor recipients, it may be worth noting that the most recent war whose veterans he praised in his Inaugural was Vietnam.

What of our troops in Iraq?!?   Afghanistan?!?
23313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oh great , , , on: January 23, 2009, 05:10:36 PM
U.N. exec picked for No. 2 at Homeland Security
Posted 2h 41m ago | Comments 9  | Recommend    E-mail | Save | Print |   
 
 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top United Nations official who once served on the White House National Security Council has been picked for deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, a move that would place two women at the top of the department for the first time.

President Barack Obama's nomination of Jane Holl Lute, a retired Army major who worked on the NSC under President Bill Clinton, was announced Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Three secretaries and five deputy secretaries — all men — have served at the agency since it launched in 2003.

At the U.N., Lute coordinates peace efforts among countries in conflict.

"Jane's experience leading large operations with broad and challenging missions lends itself to the undertaking we have before us at Homeland Security," Napolitano said in a statement.

In addition to her NSC work, Lute has served as vice president and chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. She served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Lute is married to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Obama's deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Homeland Security, the deputy secretary's role has traditionally been that of a chief operating officer who oversees the day-to-day management of the 200,000-person department.

Homeland Security expert James Carafano thinks Lute is an odd pick. "She doesn't have the right skill set," said Carafano, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "And she knows nothing about the issues."

Carafano said the Homeland Security deputy secretary needs to be someone who knows how to manage massive bureaucracies like the department. "She's going to have a really incredibly steep learning curve," he said.

The department includes divisions that protect the country's borders, develop new radiation detection equipment, study and test infectious diseases, enforce immigration and maritime laws. Homeland Security also is responsible for protecting the president and other dignitaries, coordinating disaster response, keeping terrorists off airplanes and other transportation, and monitoring and preventing cyber-intrusions.

Napolitano also announced her chiefs of staff Friday — both of whom worked for her when she was governor of Arizona: Noah Kroloff, chief of staff for policy, and Jan Lesher, chief of staff for operations.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-01-23-homeland-security_N.htm
23314  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 23, 2009, 02:54:04 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow.
23315  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OMG! Good news?!? on: January 23, 2009, 12:19:14 PM
http://www.nypost.com/seven/01232009...o_151502.ht m

ALBANY - Gov. Paterson, defying the liberal wing of his Democratic Party, has chosen little-known, NRA-backed, upstate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as New York's junior senator, it was learned last night.

The surprising - and, for many Democrats shocking - decision to pick the conservative Gillibrand, 42, from Hudson in Columbia County, was disclosed by the governor in calls to party officials and some members of the state's congressional delegation, many of whom said they were unhappy with the selection, sources said.
__________________
23316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 23, 2009, 11:44:50 AM
Most politicians would rather do anything than make a difficult choice, and it seems President Obama hasn't abandoned this Senatorial habit. To wit, yesterday's executive order on interrogation: It imposes broad limits on how aggressively U.S. intelligence officers can question terrorists, but it also keeps open the prospect of legal loopholes that would allow them to press harder in tough cases.

 
APWhile that kind of double standard may resolve a domestic political problem, it's no way to fight a war. The human-rights lobby and many Democrats are still experiencing hypochondria about the Bush Administration's supposed torture program, and their cheering about this "clean break" means they may be appeased. But the larger risk is that Mr. Obama's restrictions end up disabling an essential tool in the U.S. antiterror arsenal.

Effective immediately, the interrogation of anyone "in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government" will be conducted within the limits of the Army Field Manual. That includes special-ops and the Central Intelligence Agency, which will now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual's confines don't even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts.

The Army Field Manual is already the operating guide for military interrogations. The crux of the "torture" debate has been that the Bush Administration permitted more coercive techniques in rare cases -- fewer than 100 detainees, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden. Yesterday Mr. Obama revoked the 2007 Presidential carve-out that protected this CIA flexibility.


The techniques that had been permissible until yesterday remain classified but were widely believed to include such things as stress positions, exposure to cold and sleep deprivation. Senior officials have said they stopped waterboarding in 2003 -- which in any case was only used against three senior al Qaeda operatives and succeeded in breaking these men to divulge information that foiled terror plots.

The unfine print of Mr. Obama's order is that he's allowed room for what might be called a Jack Bauer exception. It creates a committee to study whether the Field Manual techniques are too limiting "when employed by departments or agencies outside the military." The Attorney General, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence-designate Dennis Blair will report back and offer "additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies."

In other words, Mr. Obama's Inaugural line that "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" was itself misrepresenting the choices his predecessor was forced to make. At least President Bush was candid about the practical realities of preventing mass casualties in the U.S.

The "special task force" may well grant the CIA more legal freedom to squeeze information out of terrorists when it could keep the country safe. An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir "Against All Enemies" is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke's proposal for "extraordinary rendition," where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.

While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. "Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides," Mr. Clarke writes. "Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"

The wider danger Mr. Obama is inviting by claiming to draw a line while drawing no line at all is the message it sends to Langley. CIA interrogators are already buying legal insurance in the expectation that a Senator like Carl Levin or some prosecutor-on-the-make rings them up for war crimes. The executive order is bound to produce a more risk-averse CIA culture and over time less intelligence-gathering. No one may be willing to be Jack Bauer when Mr. Obama really needs him. This will have consequences for U.S. safety, and for the Obama Administration if there is another 9/11.
23317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US, Iran, and potential for cooperation in Afg on: January 23, 2009, 11:27:43 AM
Iran, U.S.: Obama and the Potential for Cooperation in Afghanistan
Stratfor Today » January 23, 2009 | 1210 GMT

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack ObamaSummary
Several of the Obama administration’s top foreign policy agenda items significantly raise the potential for the United States and Iran to work together in Afghanistan. These priorities include reducing the U.S. military presence in Iraq, diplomatic engagement with Iran, and the search for alternatives to the increasingly insecure NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that traverse Pakistan.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
U.S.-Iran Negotiations

Engaging Iran diplomatically is high on new U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy agenda. Tehran also hopes for change with Obama administration after some seven years of limited dealings with the Bush presidency. And Afghanistan could become a place where U.S.-Iranian cooperation flourishes.

One key issue that could facilitate improved bilateral relations is the two countries’ common interests in Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus noted this during a Jan. 8 talk in Washington, saying that Iran “doesn’t want to see … extremists running Afghanistan again any more than other folks do.” Critically for the United States, Iran could help solve the supply chain problem the United States and its NATO allies have been facing amid the growing insecurity in Pakistan.

In his previous position as top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus played a key role in U.S.-Iranian dealings, which led to the greatly improved security situation in Iraq. The potential for fruitful U.S.-Iranian dealings and the security gains made thus far in Iraq have reached the point where there are indications from within the U.S. military that a substantial drawdown in Iraq could occur more rapidly than expected. This will not be possible without continued improvement in U.S.-Iranian negotiations, however.

Though Iraq remains the focal point of Iranian foreign policy efforts, it is hardly Tehran’s only interest abroad. Any settlement between the United States and Iran will involve an understanding regarding Iranian interests in the Levant and elsewhere in the mostly Arab Middle East, regarding Tehran’s controversial nuclear program and regarding Afghanistan. Tehran essentially wants the United States to recognize the Islamic republic as the major player in the region.

Iran views its sphere of influence as including not only the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and the eastern rim of North Africa, but also Central Asia, the Caucasus and South Asia. Iran’s ability to project power in Central Asia and the Caucasus is quite limited, however, relative to regional rivals Turkey and — more significantly — Russia. South Asia, by contrast, is more fertile terrain for Iranian interests.

Although ethnicity and sect serve as roadblocks to Iranian regional ambitions in the Middle East (Iran is Persian and Shiite while most Muslim countries in the Middle East are largely Arab and Sunni), ethnicity and sect work in Tehran’s favor in Afghanistan, with which Iran shares a 582-mile border. Some 30 percent of Afghans are Tajiks, another branch of the Persian ethnicity. And even though ethnically Afghanistan is majority Pashtun, the lingua franca of Afghanistan is Dari (a variant of the Persian language). Finally, 16 percent of Afghans are Shia.

These factors allow Iran almost to rival Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. In fact, when Afghanistan was ruled by the pro-Pakistani Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, the Iranians (in concert with Russians and the Indians) supported the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance opposition. In 1999, Iran almost went to war with the Taliban after the killings of several Iranian diplomats in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Taliban and their transnational jihadist allies still constitute a threat to Iran, and remain an obstacle to Tehran’s ability to consolidate its influence in Afghanistan. This explains Tehran’s willingness to cooperate in the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban from power after 9/11. Just as Iran’s allies in Iraq would later work with the United States to forge a post-Baathist Iraq, Iranian proxies in Afghanistan worked with Washington to shape a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Though the exact shape of its cooperation remains unclear, Iran also provided direct logistical support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

To halt the Taliban’s effort to stage a comeback, Washington will soon embark on a military surge in Afghanistan while simultaneously mounting a political offensive much like the one it used to undercut the Iraqi insurgency. This will create an opening for another round of U.S.-Iranian cooperation, one that could prove much more substantial than the previous rounds.

As in 2001, the United States will once again need Iranian assistance in pulling together a coalition that can serve to block Taliban ambitions in Afghanistan. And the Iranians have something of critical importance to the United States that they can offer in the short term: the shortest overland route for shipping supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan.


With the principal Western supply routes to Afghanistan, which pass through Pakistan, becoming increasingly insecure because of a raging jihadist insurgency in Pakistan, Washington has intensified its efforts to lock down alternative and/or supplementary routes through Central Asia. The situation is so critical that Washington even appears willing to make concessions to a resurgent Russia to secure a supply chain to Afghanistan for Western forces passing through either Russian territory or the Russian sphere of influence. (Compared to the Iranian and Pakistani routes, these are long, complex and expensive supply lines.)

A much simpler alternative to traversing the former Soviet Union would be to ship material for U.S. and NATO forces to the Iranian port of Chahbahar. Supplies could be offloaded there and transferred to trucks running on a northbound highway connected to the southwestern Afghan town of Zaranj. Zaranj is connected by road to the Afghan town of Delaram by the Indian army’s engineering corps in a major highway project that was only recently completed. Like Zaranj, Delaram is in Nimroz province, and is connected to the ring road that links the major Afghan cities. If an arrangement can be worked out between the United States and Iran, Western forces could thus reduce their dependence on the main routes through Pakistan and perhaps avoid the logistical and geopolitical costs of having to go transport supplies through Central Asia.

The United States clearly could greatly benefit from Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan. The extent to which the two sides can work together, however, is contingent on the level of improvement in U.S.-Iranian bilateral relations — and on Washington’s ability to balance the interests of the multiple regional players who have a stake in Afghanistan.
23318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: January 23, 2009, 09:46:21 AM
"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened."

--Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations
23319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two: Can Pakistan survive? on: January 22, 2009, 09:50:59 PM

With all its institutions of legitimate governance trampled beyond recognition, Pakistan today is a country with a murky past and uncertain future. There are many in India who still believe that Pakistan has changed and that there is a genuine desire for peace and that India should now sit down and solve all problems with Pakistan. The truth is that the change in Pakistan has been towards more and not less, Islamisation. Pakistan is not a moderate Islamic state. It is ruled by the mullah-military alliance neither of who understand secularism or democracy. From early days Islam was a higher ideal than nationalism. Created in the name of Islam, Pakistani leaders took recourse to Islam in danger almost from the very beginning. Even the Bengali language riots of 1952 were countered with Islamic slogans and stress on their Islamic identity. From then it was an incremental move which after 1971 became a common goal for the Army and the mullahs. The former wanted to balkanise in India as revenge and the latter wanted to establish caliphates in Hindu India.

However, Pakistan today is facing a bigger crisis than it did in 1971. At that time, Pakistan could blame its predicament on enemy India and this acted as a unifying factor. There was a fall back in West Pakistan and Z. A. Bhutto was able to consolidate the fragmented country. In 1971, the Pak Army had not been Islamised; it was only Punjabised. Today's Pakistan Army is Islamised and its motto Iman (faith), taqwa (piety), Jehad fis'billah (Jehad in the Name of Allah) is intact. Today, Pakistan cannot blame India for its multiple sclerosis and it has no fall back. And that is the danger.

The blow back then, is in Pakistan. The concentration on jehad and military rule has cost that country enormously in economic terms. The pursuit of jihad has damaged its already weak civil society, irreparably hurt generations of bright young men and women who have had to go without a reasonable education or hope for a respectable employment opportunity in a country where science and humanities have been subverted to Islamic teachings. The country now lives perpetually on the dole and handouts from the IMF; there is no industry worth the name.

In today's Pakistan there are other fault lines too. The Baloch struggle continues. It is not about preserving the Sardari system of the Bugtis, Marris and the Mengals. The struggle is about basic rights — economic and political — because the revolt is all over Balochistan and not restricted to these three tribal areas. The second reality is that FATA , which was the launching pad for many of the campaigns in the jehad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, is today prime Taliban country — and continuing to grow in depth and area. This would be of considerable concern to persons like Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani, the Pak NSA who is credited to have remarked "I hope the Taliban and Pushtun nationalism don't merge. If that happens, we've had it and we're on the verge of it." Third, Pakistan is now 'jehadised'.

There was a time when the jehadis and the fundamentalists were the fringe elements and the civil society of Lahore and Karachi was the mainstream. The fear is that this may not be so any more. It is the civil society that has increasingly become the fringe and jehadi mindset now the mainstream. Gen Zia is considered the father of Pakistani Islamisation but it must be remembered that Islamisation was possible because there was receptivity to the idea. Every setback that the Pakistan Army had at the hands of the Indians was interpreted to mean that Islamic tenets were not being properly followed. Every defeat for the Army also meant that it was strengthened further. Thus both Islam and the Army grew stronger together. Jihad became a favourite weapon of the Pak Army who did not have to fight the Indian enemy themselves and let the jihadis do this fighting at much lower rates. The only problem now is that, as Sushant Sareen says, "The bottom line is that instead of the Pakistan Army exercising control over its jihadist assets, the army itself has become an asset of the jihadis." The Pakistani Army can hardly say it is fighting for the defence of Islam against those every Islamists who are also defending Islam.

Pakistan is a country that has been run by a self-seeking warrior class that has always felt that it has been ordained as Protectors of the Realm and Defenders of the Faith. They have been helped by a pliable and self-serving elite consisting of the bureaucracy and judiciary, the feudals of the Punjab, and most of the politicians. The corporate interests of the Pakistan Army cover almost every activity of the country's economy. The Pak Army, for instance, runs the Fauji Foundation, established as a charity for retired military personnel. Over time it has become a mammoth organisation with multiple interests and worth about Rs (Pak) 9000 crores a few years ago and growing. In addition, the Army Welfare Trust deals dabbles and controls varied economic and financial interests including the Askari Commercial Bank, which has been run by a very understanding kind of management many of whom had earlier served in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The Trust's assets are estimated to be about Rs 18000 crores. Apart from this, the National Logistics Cell and the Frontier Works Organisation which monopolise government contracts in the transport and construction sectors. Accounting rules are flexible and transfer of funds from the defence budget quite routine. It is the collective corporate interest of the Armed Forces that is at stake in any arrangement that appears to diminish the role of the Army. A peace deal with India threatens to do precisely that.

There are many in India, Pakistan and the West who remain in a state of denial about the march of Islamic forces in Pakistan. The manner in which various issues involving the Islamists have been handled in Pakistan by Pakistanis -- with hesitation and extreme circumspection and under compulsion are some of the symptoms of the disease and of what is happening in Pakistan. Islamic radicalism is today backed by the gun of both the radicals and the Army. There are believed to be 18 million unlicensed weapons in the country and the estimates of possible extremists trained in extremist universities vary from 225,000 to 650,000. It is apparent that the Army cannot take action against the very fundamentalists and extremists and also rely on them for survival. Yet unless the Pakistan Army moves beyond looking for patchwork solutions to ensure its own primacy and decides to eradicate this menace, a spectre of total radicalism haunts Pakistan.

The Taliban takeover in the FATA is now being replicated in the rest of the NWFP. Large tracts the valley of Swat, Pakistan's idyllic tourist spot, are today under Taliban control. There are reports of other districts of NWFP like Dir coming increasingly under Taliban dominance. The Army's attempts to oust them have failed. It is obvious that in the eyes of many especially the Pushtuns, the Pakistan army has been fighting an unpopular war in FATA against the Taliban. It was far easier for the Pakistan establishment to switch the mood and generate an anti-India fever following the Mumbai massacres. The manner in which the hunted Baitullah Mehsud became a patriot was alarmingly easy. This only underscores the fact that it is easier in Pakistan to be anti-Indian than being anti-Taliban.

Tribal loyalties, which are quite often trans-border, the Pushtun code of conduct and religious sentiments have become intertwined in the province. Recruitment among the devoutly religious locals is easy for the Taliban. The morale of the government forces is low and they are unwilling to fight fellow Muslims. There have been desertions. The Pakistani army brought up on a single threat perception, is ill-equipped to play a counter-insurgency role. Besides, it would need local intelligence which will not be available to Punjabi troops operating in the absence of Pushtun troops. It will take years for the Pakistan army to cover this gap and, meanwhile, a Punjabi-Pushtun animus could set in.

The manner in which Pakistan was allowed to go nuclear, acquire warheads and trade in nuclear technologies by successive regimes is a tragic testimony to failure of policy or mindless pursuit of self-interest. And almost simultaneously, Pakistan was allowed or even encouraged to become jehadi. Pakistan's hopelessly misconstrued policies have only converted the unemployed young of Pakistan into terrorists who have now returned as unemployable jehadis to haunt their former masters.

This now leaves the world petrified about Islamist terrorists armed with nuclear weapons. Statements from Washington and Islamabad have tried to assuage this fear. This evades the larger issue that the Pakistani state has systematically proliferated for decades which constitutes by far the bigger danger. Pakistan has continued to harbour criminals like Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Akhtar, Omar Sheikh and has denied their presence is indicative of a criminal and irresponsible mindset.

There is more to follow with an impatient Washington unable to control Afghanistan now contemplates active intervention in Pakistan, something that will further inflame passion in the country. Yet the Taliban advance eastward into the NWFP and beyond must be rolled back but how does Islamabad organise retreat from a mindset that is far more pervasive than is imagined.

The entire episode of the Mumbai massacres and the manner in which the Pakistani leadership has behaved only indicates the extent to which that state can act without any responsibility. The extent of state involvement in this terror attack is obvious. This means that the state of Pakistan, despite being a basket economic case and dependent on doles, is either consciously willing to be the delinquent or is unable to control elements within its own apparatus. This leads to the conclusion that if this is so then the state, which in Pakistan is the Army, has lost control. Therefore, it follows that if the state has lost control over parts of its territory and has also begun to lose control of its instruments, then the state is spinning out of control. It is a failing state.

This is not going to happen in isolation. The US and China have huge real estate interests in Pakistan. The US has its energy security interests as well as strategic interests of keeping the Russians and Iran in check. Supplies to Afghanistan in the current war have been through Pakistan and should that need to change then the alternative routes lie through the Caspian Sea running overland via Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This would naturally bring in greater American presence into Central Asia and add to Russian discomfiture. China remains interested in Pakistan as a means of access to the Arabian Sea through Gwadar, to outflank India and ultimately to be able to take on the Americans in the region.

It increasingly appears that the Pakistan Army that is not going to be able to solve the problem and, paradoxically, the longer it lasts the more it hurts that country. The core issue in Pakistan today is not India or Kashmir. The core issue is the collective corporate interest of the Pakistani Army derived as a war dividend. The arrival of Zardari as a civilian president on the scene has not changed the basic reality.

Unfortunately, if neither the Army nor the Taliban retreat, we are staring at an abyss as Pakistan is consumed by its own creations – jehad and Taliban.
Source : Eternal India , January 2009 Issue
23320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can Pakistan survive? on: January 22, 2009, 09:50:03 PM
http://soodvikram.blogspot.com/

Can Pakistan Survive ?

This essay begins with quotations from essentially non-Indian sources to buttress the arguments that follow and assert that these arguments do not reflect a preconceived notion about Pakistan but depict a stark reality that many perceptive Pakistanis also see today. And they worry about the future of their country. We too should be concerned about the fate of a neighbour who has been consistently hostile to India, has been internationally delinquent and in the process has become economically weak, with a weak middle class a polity in disarray and now has a highly Islamised Army in control not only of the country but also the nuclear button. The mosaic of quotations from Pakistani, American and British authors will indicate the problems that confront Pakistan and its neighbours.

"If the British Commonwealth and the USA are to be in a position to defend their vital interests in the Middle East, then the best and most stable area from which to conduct this defence is from Pakistan territory. Pakistan is the keystone of the strategic arch of the wide and vulnerable waters of the Indian Ocean." Cited by Narendra Singh Sarila in his book 'The Untold Story of India's Partition' from an unsigned British memorandum dated May 19 1948 – 'The Strategic and Political Importance of Pakistan in the Event of a War with the USSR'. (These were from Mountbatten Papers, Hartley Library, Southampton).

Commenting on Pakistan's early days, Owen Bennett Jones in his book "Pakistan-Eye of the Storm " (2002) said "Even if the vast majority of Pakistan's first generation of politicians were firmly in the modernist camp it is significant that they tried to avoid a direct confrontation with the Islamic radicals. Faced with growing challenges from Baloch, Sindhi, Pukhtoon and Bengali nationalists, even the most secular leaders found it was expedient to appeal to Islam so as to foster a sense of Pakistani unity. In doing so, the politicians established a trend which has been a feature of Pakistani politics ever since." "The fate of Pakistan will affect the entire world. Will Pakistan's military continue to use the mullahs to achieve its short term political and military goals? Will the sectarian killers – created by the ISI – get involved in sectarian crimes in other countries, for example in Iraq, further destabilising the country? Will terrorists continue to see Pakistan as a hospitable place of refuge? If Pakistan is to be saved from a Taliban-like future, and the rest of the world saved from future Dr Khans, it will have to make accommodations with India on Kashmir and stop flirting with the mullahs. It will have to spend less of its national income on defence and more on educating its youth. It will require that a true democracy take hold. But none of this will happen, Abbas warns, without the assistance of the United States. After all, the U. S. government helped to design and fund the strategy of employing violent Islamist cadres to serve as "volunteer" fighters in a war that seemed critically important at that time, but left those cadres to their own devices once they were no longer important for achieving U. S. strategic goals. The idea of international jihad – which was promoted by the United States and Pakistan when it was expedient, took hold and spread, ultimately resulting in deadly terrorist crimes throughout Asia as well as the September 11 strikes.....Mr Abbas warns of a frightening future – one in which extremists gain more military support and more military might; and tensions between India and Pakistan continue to rise...." Jessica Stern, in her foreword to Hassan Abbas's book 'Pakistan Drift into Extremism – Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror' 2005.

Abbas himself sounds rather concerned when he says in the concluding chapter of this book, "The Pakistan Army dare not confront them, [Islamists] knowing their strength and suspecting that they have many sympathisers, if not supporters, within its own ranks. It was therefore considered more feasible for the Army to continue to direct its energies in the battle zone of Kashmir rather than to face the jihadis.......No one knows has a clear idea about the exact numbers, but their potential capability resides in the subconscious of those in authority, and this stays there because the reality of it is too hard to confront. Their funding will not dry up because thousands of Pakistanis and Arabs believe in them and contribute to them."

Former adviser to Benazir Bhutto and the present Pak Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani had made some very perceptive comments in his book 'Pakistan-Between the Mosque and Military' (2005). Haqqani observed "Pakistan's military historically has been willing to adjust its priorities to fit within the parameters of immediate U. S. global concerns. It has done this to ensure the flow of military and economic aid from the United States, which Pakistan considers necessary for its struggle for survival and its competition with India. Pakistan's relations with the United States have been part of the Pakistani military's policy tripod that emphasises Islam as a national unifier, rivalry with India as the principal objective of the state's foreign policy and an alliance with the United States as a means to defray the costs of Pakistan's massive military expenditures. These policy precepts have served to encourage extremist Islamism, which in the past few years have been a source of threat to both U.S. interests and global security."

Haqqani adds "America's alliance with Pakistan, or rather with the Pakistani military, has had three significant consequences for Pakistan. First, because the U.S. military sees Pakistan in the context of its Middle East strategy, Pakistan has become more oriented toward the Middle East even though it is geographically and historically a part of South Asia. Second, the intermittent flow of U.S. military and economic assistance has encouraged Pakistan's military leaders to overestimate their power potential. This in turn has contributed to their reluctance to accept normal relations with India even after learning through repeated misadventures that Pakistan can, at best hold India to a draw in military conflict and cannot defeat it. Third, the ability to secure military and economic aid by fitting into the current paradigm of American policy has made Pakistan into a rentier state, albeit one that lives off the rents for its strategic location."

Two other observations by Haqqani are important. He says, "Contrary to the U.S. assumption that aid translates into leverage, Pakistan's military has always managed to take the aid without ever fully giving the United States what it desires." Further, "Unless Islamabad's objectives are redefined to focus on economic prosperity and popular participation in governance – which the military as an institution remains reluctant to do – the state will continue to turn to Islam as a national unifier."

Amir Mir, in his book 'The True Face of the Jihadis', (2004) writes "The Pakistani Army became a politicised army in the very first decade of the creation of Pakistan.....The politicisation of the Pakistan Army has led to a further spread of Islamic fundamentalism --- a phenomenon that has found fertile ground in Pakistan primarily due to socio-economic reasons. Large masses of the urban and rural poor, with no avenues for economic advancement, are being drawn to fundamentalism. As the soldiery of the army is largely drawn from the rural and urban masses, it would be well nigh impossible for it not to be infected with the virus of Islamic fundamentalism being propagated thousands of deeni madrassas across Pakistan. During the Zia ul Haq regime, the composition of the Pakistan Army was changed at the expense of the urbanised, Westernised looking middle class and upper class elite and preference in officers' commissions was given to the rural educated generation with strong leanings towards conservative Islam. This large body of Islamist officers, commissioned during the Zia ul Haq regime, forms the backbone of the present day Pakistan Army, and its members have since moved up the ranks....The resentment within the Army is believed to be two levels: among junior officers who view with contempt General Musharraf's attempts at getting the army to combat rather than abet Islamic militancy, and among the upper echelons where Musharraf finds himself pitted against a few of his senior generals."

Later in the book, Mir says, "While the US may feel that it has achieved a great success in convincing Musharraf to make a U-turn on the Taliban, and on stopping the inexorable tide of hate-filled messages put out by the Deobandhi and Ahle Hadith seminaries, the real question is whether the Pakistan government will change its long term policy and stop supporting jihad. The Pakistan defence for its slow progress is that madrassa reform is difficult and dangerous, so it may take a while. The problem with that argument is that the longer the madrassas operate as they do, the fewer people there will be in Pakistan who would support such a change."

Shuja Nawaz, author of the book "Crossed Swords: Pakistan Army and the Wars Within" while on a visit to the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi in May 2008 said "The young officer cadre in Pakistan army today is conservative and ritualistic, not necessarily radical. But the influences of Zia's Islamisation continue to bedevil the armed forces."

In his book 'Gateway to Terrorism' (2003), Mohammed Amir Rana describes the jihadi culture "During the course of the last two decades, thirty thousand Pakistani youth have died in Afghanistan and Kashmir, two thousand sectarian clashes have taken place and twelve lakh youth have taken part in the activities of jihadi and religious organisations.....In consequence, Pakistan got neither Kabul nor Srinagar, but was itself saddled with terrorism." Rana adds, "During the first phase of her rule, when Benazir Bhutto had visited Muzaffarabad, ISI briefed her about the Hurriyat movement in Occupied Kashmir and recommended status quo in the Kashmir policy. Benazir Bhutto approved of the policy and the future plan. No one ever thought of changing the character and style of ISI before 11 September 2001. ISI and the governments working under its influence gave a fillip to the jihadi culture. The raw material(s) for jihad were collected from two sources: religious madrassas (and) students of government colleges and schools."

"Lashkar-e-Tayyaba will ultimately plant the flag of Islam on Delhi, Tell Aviv and Washington,' according to Lashkar leader Hafiz Saeed speaking in 1998. Ten years later in October 2008 the same Hafiz Saeed said "India understands only the language of jihad."

In a subsequent book 'The Seeds of Terrorism' published in 2005, Rana says "In an interview in Newsweek in March 2000, the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf, said: "I cannot pressurise the Taliban to arrest Osama bin Laden. The Taliban lead a free country." The jihadi weekly, Zarb-e-Momin (Karachi) published an extract from that interview. It quoted the president as saying "No jihadi organisation in Pakistan is involved in terrorism. They are now working against India in occupied Kashmir after completing their jihad against Russia in Afghanistan."

The Daily Times in its edition of March 6 2004 quotes former ISI Chief Javed Ashraf Qazi as saying "We must not be afraid of admitting that Jaish (-e-Mohammed) was involved in the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, bombing the Indian Parliament, Daniel Pearl's murder and attempts on President Musharraf's life." And the talkative General Musharraf's pronouncement that "If we find a solution on Kashmir with India, all jehadi organisations have to pack up" (The News August 10, 2004) was in effect an admission of Pakistani involvement in the violence in Kashmir.

The concluding sentences of Owen Bennett Jones book are even more telling "If General Musharraf is to transform his vision of Pakistani society into a reality he will need great reserves of political will and a more effective bureaucracy. He has neither. And while he still believes that the Pakistan army is the solution to the country's problems, he shows no signs of accepting that, in fact, it is part of the problem."

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa in her book "Military Inc-Inside Pakistan's Military Economy" (2007) describes the Pak Army's hold the best. "The fragility of Pakistan's political system, however, cannot be understood without probing into the military's political stakes. The fundamental question here is whether the Army will ever withdraw from power. Why would Pakistan's armed forces, or for that matter any military that has developed deep economic stakes, transfer real power to the political class? The country is representative of states where politically powerful militaries exercise control of the state and society through establishing their hegemony. This is done through penetrating the state, the society and the economy. The penetration into the society and economy establishes the defence establishment's hegemonic control of the state. Financial autonomy, economic penetration and political power ae interrelated and are part of a vicious cycle.

She goes on, "Today the Pakistan military's internal economy is extensive, and has turned the armed forces into one of the dominant economic players. The most noticeable and popular component of Milbus relates to the business of the four welfare foundations: the Fauji Foundation, the Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation, and Bahria Foundation. These foundations are subsidiaries of the defence establishment, employing both military and civilian personnel. The businesses are very diverse in nature, ranging from smaller scale ventures such as bakeries, farms, schools and private security firms to corporate enterprises such as commercial banks, insurance companies, radio and television channels, fertiliser, cement and cereal manufacturing plants and insurance businesses. Operations vary from toll collecting on highways to gas stations, shopping malls and to other similar ventures." Further, .... "there are a variety of benefits provided to retired personnel in the form of urban and rural land or employment and business openings. The grant of state land is a case of diverting the country's resources to individuals for profit."..... "Over the past 59 years of the state's history, the army has experienced direct power four times, and learnt to negotiate authority when not directly in control of the government.... As a result the political and civil society institutions remain weak."

Dr Siddiqa also says, "Stephen P Cohen also mentions an elite partnership in his latest 'The Idea of Pakistan.' He is of the view that the country is basically controlled by a small but 'culturally and socially intertwined elite', comprising about 500 people who form part of the establishment. Belonging to different subgroups, these people are known for their loyalty to the 'core principles' of a central state. These key principles include safeguarding the interests of the dominant classes."

This is the most telling commentary "Today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan. It has everything Osama bin Laden could ask for: political instability, a crusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state of the art electronic technology regular air service to the west and security services that don't always do what they are supposed to do." Newsweek, January 2008.

This is the mosaic as seen by Pakistani, British and US commentators. Now the narrative of what has happened and what might happen next.

Pakistan's problems began in the beginning. The country was created by a group of elitists on behalf of Muslims who eventually did not leave India for the new homeland and was formed for a people that did not really ask for a new homeland. From its early days, Pakistani rulers denied their new country's Indo-Gangetic past and promised its people a glorious Islamic future with its moorings away from 'Hindu' India. Fearful of being dominated or of being overpowered by a larger India seen as irreconciled to the partition, Pakistan's leaders relied on Islam and an image of non-India to try and establish an identity. Pakistan's population had to be cleansed of everything Indian and hatred and fear of the Hindu was the common idiom. Being non-Indian was being a Pakistani and soon being Islamic was being a good Pakistani.

Governance was first taken away from the educated migrants from UP and Bihar by the Punjabi feudals who came with a particular Islamic mindset from eastern Punjab and their feelings of insecurity. Eventually this was taken over by the Punjabi army with a special vehemence and tenacity. Over time, Pakistan's USP became its ability to be a nuisance in the neighbourhood while being a client-state of distant powers. It was this military and economic sustenance from friends that gave Pakistani rulers a false sense of power and invincibility backed by their religion.

While the Indian leadership of the day set about giving its people a written Constitution, in Pakistan the twin pillars of governance were the Army and Islam. Punjabi feudalism to the exclusion of almost everyone else did not help either. Over the years this problem has only accentuated with the mullah, intolerant of any deviation today, interprets the Islamic tenets in a narrow sectarian sense that excludes women – half the country's population -- from equal treatment. He also seeks to exclude other sects from similar benefits, earthly or otherworldly. The Army by training treats any adherence to alternative opinion as disobedience at best and treason most of the time. Equality and dissent are the essential ingredients of democracy but Pakistan's twin pillars discouraged both. Protection and military assistance was sought from the US by being rendering assistance for its strategic goals.
23321  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: January 22, 2009, 08:03:39 PM
With "Kali Tudo 2: The Running Dog Game" coming out soon, I am bringing this one back to the top.
23322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 100,000 Martyrs coming right up , , , on: January 22, 2009, 07:16:11 PM
Iran: Students Rally To Martyrdom
January 21, 2009 | 1519 GMT

Approximately 100,000 students have joined an organization, whose members are purportedly willing to carry out “martyrdom seeking operations,” the Indo-Asian News Service reported Jan. 21.
23323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Under my thumb , , , on: January 22, 2009, 07:14:23 PM
Europe: Obstacles to Escaping the Russian Energy Grip
Stratfor Today » January 20, 2009 | 1919 GMT

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Construction site of the Flamanville nuclear facility in France in October 2008Summary
After a three-week standoff, Russia and Ukraine have finally resolved their natural gas row, a conflict that has caused supply disruptions throughout much of Europe. Despite the agreement, European countries have begun laying out plans for new energy projects to lessen the impact of future disruptions. Many obstacles lie ahead for Europe’s plans, however, meaning Russia is likely to retain its powerful supplier role in the near future.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
Nearly three weeks into a major dispute over natural gas prices, Russia and Ukraine finally reached a substantive deal Jan. 19. No one is happier than Europe. This is especially true of Central and Southeastern Europe, which have had to cope with diminished natural gas supplies (or none at all) over the course of the extensive row, causing major heating and electric shortages and a costly drop in industrial production.

But while natural gas shipments from Russia through Ukraine and on to the European states will slowly resume over the next few days, the Europeans will remain uneasy about the future of their energy security — and will feverishly proceed with plans to escape Moscow’s energy grip as soon as possible.

Europe made similar declarations, and had the same intentions, in 2006, the last time its natural gas supply was jeopardized by an energy row between Russia and Ukraine. In the years since then, nine new energy projects actually have come online. These include two natural gas pipelines and six liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, which bring an annual 62 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, and one nuclear plant that produces and annual 650 megawatts of electricity (MWe).

To put this in context, Europe consumed more than 500 bcm of natural gas in 2007, receiving around 160 bcm (more than a quarter of supplies) from Russia. In addition, Europe’s annual demand for natural gas is projected to increase to more than 800 bcm over the next decade. While the recent projects account for a considerable amount of new energy supplies, nearly all of them are in Western Europe, thus providing little help to Central and Southeastern Europe.

Russia supplies the amount of natural gas it does to Europe for good reason. Europe shares a land border and a deep history of energy ties with Russia, unlike other suppliers such as the Middle East or North Africa. The pipelines from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula to Europe cover a large distance and were fairly expensive to build, but they were constructed in the Soviet era under a central-planning system that did not prioritize efficiency and returns on investment; it is doubtful such projects could or would be built today. The volume and nature of Russian natural gas dictates that it can be transported most efficiently via pipeline. And Russia has a vast and established pipeline network it uses to send energy throughout Europe. Finding a cost-effective alternative to this network will be doubly hard in the current period of financial instability.

Rather than focusing on rumors of new energy projects circulating in Europe, examining which efforts to shift to energy alternatives actually have made it past the planning phase will prove more helpful in understanding the future of European energy dependence on Russia.





Click to view map

Pipelines
One option for Europe is to build new natural gas pipelines or expand existing networks. Geography, however, limits where Europe can receive its natural gas via pipeline. Aside from the resources its gets from Russia, Europe can only look north to Norway, south to North Africa, and southeast to the Middle East and Central Asia. While no projects are under way in Norway, several pipeline projects are under way elsewhere.

One is the expansion project known as the Poseidon pipeline, which routes natural gas to Europe from Turkey (which in turn gets its supplies from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan). The first phase of the expansion linked Greek and Turkish infrastructure. The second phase, an underwater pipeline to the Italian mainland, is under construction and slated to come on line at the end of 2009. There are also two projects under way to build new pipelines from Algeria to Europe, indicating the potential of North Africa as an energy supplier. The Medgaz and Galsi natural gas pipelines will transit supplies from the Hassi R’mel field in Algeria and connect to Spain and Italy, respectively. As it stands, there are no Europe-bound energy projects in the Middle East — a huge energy-producing region — under construction.

LNG Facilities
Another option for Europe is to expand its energy consumption through the form of LNG. LNG is produced when natural gas is supercooled into liquid form, enabling it to be shipped by tanker — and therefore allowing Europe to get natural gas from all over the world. An LNG liquefaction plant that could boost European supplies is currently under renovation in Libya. Libya recently has opened to the West after shedding its pariah status, creating great potential for (though by no means ensuring) commerce with Europe in the area of energy and trade.

LNG is one of the most expensive and technologically difficult forms of energy to produce and import, but it eases the geographical barriers of the supplier-consumer relationship. (Conversely, it increases competition over supplies). A number of LNG import facilities are under construction in France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. One of these, the United Kingdom’s South Hook facility, will import natural gas from Qatar’s North Field when it comes on line later in 2009. A coastline is required to import LNG, putting much of Central and Southern Europe out of the loop unless additional massive pipeline infrastructure is built to accommodate the transfer of natural gas inland. These are the countries most dependent on Russian energy, and therefore most beholden to Russian energy maneuvers.

Nuclear

Aside from natural gas, nuclear energy provides another option for Europe that would relieve countries from reliance on hostile and distant energy providers. Though nuclear plants can ease the burdens associated with foreign dependence, nuclear energy has been a taboo in much of the European Union. The union actually required many of the Central and Southeastern European members to shut down their nuclear sites upon accession for health and safety concerns — particularly by environmentally conscious Austria, which shares a land border with Central European ex-Soviet states.

Serious consideration by some of these countries to reopen their nuclear plants or build new ones has raised Western European hackles. There will be many EU hurdles to reopening old and dangerous nuclear plants, and funding for this will be lacking due to the particularly severe effects of the financial crisis experienced in Central Europe. (This also will undermine efforts to build new reactors.) If these states become more desperate for alternative sources of energy, however, the likelihood of old plants reopening would increase.

Clearly, European plans for energy diversification away from Russia are fraught with obstacles and complications. Moscow will take note of these troubles, making sure to exploit divisions in order to keep Europe under its energy thumb as long as possible.
23324  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: January 22, 2009, 07:05:03 PM
Resumen

 La salida en compañía petrolera del estado de México Petroleos Mexicanos se cayó el 9 por ciento en 2008, su más rápida gota desde que la Segunda Guerra Mundial. La compañía es improbable invertir ese descenso en cualquier momento pronto, cualquiera.

Análisis

 Engrase salida en compañía petrolera del estado de México, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), dejó caer el 9 por ciento en 2008 acerca de 2,8 millones de barriles por día (bpd). Esto es hacia abajo de 3,08 millones de bpd en 2007, y del punto alto nunca igualado de Pemex de acerca de 3,8 millones de bpd en 2004.

La gota es en gran parte debido a producción declinante en campo masivo de Cantarell de México, que en acerca de 900.000 bpd es responsable de acerca de la tercera parte de salida total de Pemex. Y con la capacidad limitada a realizar perforación offshore profunda, un clima inestable de inversión y una industria de energía sujetos a restricciones legales pesadas, Pemex es improbable invertir su descenso de la producción a corto plazo.

El 2008 descenso en la producción en Pemex traduce a una pérdida de renta estimada por Bloomberg de $20 mil millones para la empresa de estado-poseyó. Y Pemex ha estacado efectivamente su capacidad de ganancia en el campo de Cantarell — Cuando tiene el gobierno mexicano: México D.F. financia alrededor del 40 por ciento de su presupuesto de rentas de Pemex.

La producción en Cantarell, el campo más tercer-grande de mundo, empezó en 1979. Su ubicación en aguas 100-130 pies hondo lejos costa del sudeste de México significó que Pemex no necesitaba para desarrollar capacidad de agua profunda significativa de perforación. Cuándo comenzó a encarar el asunto de la producción declinante en los años ochenta, Pemex emprendió medidas a corto plazo inyectando nitrógeno en los depósitos del campo a mantener presión. Pero Pemex nunca desarrolló una capacidad de agua profunda de perforación que habría permitido lo explotar nuevos campos adicionales offshore (donde mitad de reservas crudas de México es encontrada).

Compensando la producción declinante en Cantarell será casi imposible en el corto al término medio, aunque. Pemex simply lacks the money or indigenous technical capability Para utilizar campos offshore de agua profundas que permitirían lo invertir apreciablemente un descenso de la producción. Y encara una barra constitucional a formar las asociaciones con compañías petroleras extranjeras que permitirían las empresas extranjeras poseer parte de su salida de petróleo. Esto excluye acuerdos de empresa conjunta o producción-compartiendo, que son los métodos comunes de atraer inversión en el extranjero. Aunque attempts to enact constitutional changes to allow these agreements have failed, El gobierno mexicano pasó un paquete de reforma de energía en octubre 2008 que cambiará la organización Pemex para aumentar eficiencia y permitirlo emplear compañías petroleras internacionales para aumentar el acceso del país a la pericia tecnológica.

Sin embargo, hay desafíos que encaran este proceso de reforma. En primer lugar, la implementación de estas reformas va lentamente, y algunas reformas dependerán de un consenso entre tres partidos de México, que es casi siempre un proceso difícil. Además, el clima internacional de inversión es muy inestable tras crisis financiera de EEUU y la baja económica, global y progresiva. Esto significa que podría ser difícil para Pemex asegure el financiamiento que lo necesita para emplear pericia exterior, y lucha interna política emparejada con niveles altos de corrupción persistente no hará a inversionistas más cómodos. Dados estos desafíos, nueva producción bajo el plan de reforma de energía será lenta en la venida.

La producción en Cantarell es esperada disminuir por un adicional 500.000 bpd en los próximos varios años. Para compensar el descenso de Cantarell, Pemex quiere tratar de apretar salida adicional de campos existentes (tiene aparejos de producción en campos cerca y en profundidades de agua semejantes a Cantarell, así como aparejos en más pequeño, tierra adentro campos).

Pero para aumentar apreciablemente salida, en el nivel de 500.000 bpd o más, objetivos de Pemex para abrir nuevo tierra adentro y campos offshore. Tierra adentro desarrollo ocurre en Veracruz de México y estados de Puebla. La producción allí, mientras proyectado en 500.000 bpd, no es esperado venir en línea antes de 2021, sin embargo. La exploración offshore más promete en función de utilizar las reservas crudas (estimó en 24 mil millones de barriles), pero Pemex falta una capacidad a gran escala para levantar crudo de niveles de agua profundas. Aunque Pemex ha taladrado a profundidades de 3.000 pies, su dos existir plataformas de agua profundas — más tres en la orden esperada llegar en 2010 — No son esperados traer la producción de campos de agua profundas en línea antes de 2015. Aún entonces, la producción es esperada rendir menos de 100.000 bpd.

Estos descensos en la producción cruda llevarán a rentas reducidas no sólo para la compañía, pero más críticamente, para el gobierno mexicano, y para el desafío no podría venir en un tiempo más peligroso. México es enredado en un war against drug cartels. La situación de la seguridad del país empeoró enormemente sobre el curso de 2008, y no muestra signos de dejar para levantar. Al mismo tiempo, la baja económica global ha creado el desempleo creciente en México, una vista pesimista del crecimiento y llamadas de mexicanos para el gobierno para encontrar soluciones, y encontrarlos rápidamente. Debe el descenso en la producción no es counterbalanced por la producción aumentada en campos existentes, ni debe el descenso acelera, México se encontrará en una posición fiscal cada vez más inestable como desafíos montan y los recursos menguan.

23325  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oil production declines sharply on: January 22, 2009, 07:03:13 PM
Summary
Output at Mexico’s state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos fell 9 percent in 2008, its fastest drop since World War II. The company is unlikely to reverse that decline anytime soon, either.

Analysis
Oil output at Mexico’s state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), dropped 9 percent in 2008 to about 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd). This is down from 3.08 million bpd in 2007, and from Pemex’s all-time high of about 3.8 million bpd in 2004.

The drop is largely due to declining production at Mexico’s massive Cantarell field, which at about 900,000 bpd is responsible for about a third of total Pemex output. And with limited capability to conduct deep offshore drilling, an unstable investment climate and an energy industry subject to heavy legal restrictions, Pemex is unlikely to reverse its production decline in the short term.

The 2008 decline in production at Pemex translates into a revenue loss estimated by Bloomberg of $20 billion for the state-owned firm. And Pemex effectively has staked its profitability on the Cantarell field — as has the Mexican government: Mexico City finances around 40 percent of its budget from Pemex revenues.

Production at Cantarell, the world’s third-largest field, began in 1979. Its location in waters 100-130 feet deep off Mexico’s southeastern coast meant that Pemex did not need to develop any significant deep-water drilling capability. When it began to face the issue of declining production in the 1980s, Pemex undertook short-term measures by injecting nitrogen into the field’s reservoirs to maintain pressure. But Pemex never developed a deep-water drilling capability that would have allowed it to exploit new fields further offshore (where half of Mexico’s crude reserves are found).

Making up for declining production at Cantarell will be nearly impossible in the short to medium term, though. Pemex simply lacks the money or indigenous technical capability to tap deep-water offshore fields that would enable it to significantly reverse a production decline. And it faces a constitutional bar on forming partnerships with foreign oil companies that would allow foreign enterprises to own part of their oil output. This rules out joint-venture or production-sharing agreements, which are common methods of attracting foreign investment. Although attempts to enact constitutional changes to allow these agreements have failed, the Mexican government passed an energy reform package in October 2008 that will restructure Pemex to increase efficiency and allow it to hire international oil companies to increase the country’s access to technological expertise.

However, there are challenges that face this reform process. In the first place, the implementation of these reforms is going slowly, and some reforms will depend on a consensus among Mexico’s three political parties, which is nearly always a difficult process. Furthermore, the international investment climate is extremely shaky in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis and the ongoing global economic downturn. This means it could be difficult for Pemex to secure the financing it needs to hire outside expertise, and political infighting coupled with high levels of persistent corruption will not make investors more comfortable. Given these challenges, new production under the energy reform plan will be slow in coming.

Production at Cantarell is expected to decline by a further 500,000 bpd over the next several years. To compensate for Cantarell’s decline, Pemex wants to try to squeeze additional output from existing fields (it has production rigs in fields nearby and in water depths similar to Cantarell, as well as rigs at smaller, onshore fields).

But to significantly boost output, on the level of 500,000 bpd or more, Pemex aims to open up new onshore and offshore fields. Onshore development is occurring in Mexico’s Veracruz and Puebla states. Production there, while projected at 500,000 bpd, is not expected to come online before 2021, however. Offshore exploration is more promising in terms of tapping crude reserves (estimated at 24 billion barrels), but Pemex lacks a large-scale capability to lift crude from deep-water levels. Though Pemex has drilled to depths of 3,000 feet, its two existing deep-water platforms — plus three on order expected to arrive in 2010 — are not expected to bring production from deep-water fields online before 2015. Even then, production is expected to yield less than 100,000 bpd.

These declines in crude production will lead to reduced revenues not only for the company, but more critically, for the Mexican government, and the challenge could not come at a more dangerous time. Mexico is embroiled in a war against drug cartels. The country’s security situation deteriorated enormously over the course of 2008, and shows no signs of letting up. At the same time, the global economic downturn has created rising unemployment in Mexico, a pessimistic growth outlook and calls from Mexicans for the government to find solutions, and find them quickly. Should the decline in production not be counterbalanced by increased production at existing fields, or should the decline accelerate, Mexico will find itself in an increasingly unstable fiscal position as challenges mount and resources dwindle.

23326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 22, 2009, 03:58:45 PM
Another report from my friend:

So yesterday morning one of the women I work with, an American expat/ex-Peace Corp type,  waddles into our office and says "why is there a machine gun in the guard tower.  It frightens me."
 
"Umm, let's see.  Because this is a war zone.  Umm,  because there are  people out there right now who would kill us if they could."
 
"Why would anybody want to hurt us?"
 
I have decided to never speak another word to her.  She is a typical hypocrite.  She won't go anywhere unless it is safe, yet asks "why would anybody want to hurt us?"
 
I remember in Virginia, during defensive tactics training, she commented that a person with a knife should be disarmed.  Not hurt.  Like there's some magical skill set out  there that guarantees a disarm everytime.
 
Some people just should not be here.  There's already a scarcity of clean air.
23327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm shocked! Absolutely schocked! on: January 22, 2009, 03:32:23 PM


Israel seizes on claims Gaza death toll has been exaggerated

Israel has seized on claims the number of people killed during its Gaza offensive was less than half the official Palestinian figure.

By Damien McElroy in Jerusalem
Last Updated: 7:24PM GMT 22 Jan 2009

Israel has seized on claims the number of people killed in Gaza has been exaggerated

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Gazans claiming that less than 600 people had died in the 22-day attack, far fewer than the 1,300 reported by Palestinian health officials.

"It's possible that the death toll in Gaza was 500 or 600 at the most, mainly youths aged 17 to 23 who were enlisted by Hamas – who sent them to their deaths," the newspaper quoted a doctor at the main Shifa hospital as stating.

Other residents told the newspaper Hamas gunmen had used medical facilities to organise and co-ordinate attacks.

Israeli officials emailed the report around the world and a military officer condemned Hamas as "monstrous" in its use of civilians to cover its armed activities. "Entire families in Gaza lived on top of a barrel of explosives for months without knowing," said Brigadier Eyal Eisenberg.

Israel has not, however, formally disputed the widely published total but it points to the vast over-reporting of deaths during an incursion in the West Bank town of Jenin in 2002, when an estimate of more than 1,500 dead was revised to lower than 100.

International agencies do not dispute the Palestinian death toll, though no outside assessment has been completed. "The figures are good enough for us to quote at the moment but we clearly state where they come from," said Anne-Sophie Bonefield of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "We will for sure have to carry out independent verification."

The controversy arose as Israel debates the outcome of the 22-day Operation Cast Lead. At the resumption of campaigning for the country's general election next month, parties squabbled over credit for the Gaza campaign yesterday.

Polls show the chief beneficiary of the war was opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a hawkish ex-prime minister who promises to take a tough line against Hamas.

Political dividends from Operation Cast Lead for parties within the ruling coalition were mixed. The smaller Labour party of Ehud Barak, the defence minister, has recorded a bounce that has not offset a slump in the standing of Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister.

The latest opinion poll released gave Mr Netanyahu's Likud 35 seats, up two and Miss Livni's Kadima 25, down two and Mr Barak's Labour 15, unchanged. It was the first double-digit lead for Mr Netanyahu over Kadima in the race for seats in the 120-member Knesset for weeks.

Pundits generally applaud Mr Barak's performance as defence minister in overseeing an operation that avoided the mistakes of Israel's disastrous offensive against Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006.

But outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who stepped down from the Kadima leadership after corruption charges were pressed, yesterday issued a harsh critique of Mr Barak, who is also a former Israeli leader.

"He had a resounding failure as a prime minister, more than anyone else who has ever served in that capacity in the State of Israel's history," he told Maariv newspaper. "Because of lack of skill, lack of stability and lack of understanding in the management of state affairs, and I don't see that he has changed."

Stalwarts of Israel's peace camp have shifted into a vortex of despair at the hardening of the public mood. Veteran columnist Gideon Levy said Hamas was not weaker but had been boosted as the culture of resistance was strengthened in Gaza.

"So what was achieved after all," he wrote in Haaretz. "Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu is getting stronger in the polls. And why? Because we could not get enough of the war."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...aggerated.html
23328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 22, 2009, 02:27:39 PM
 cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy
23329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hope for conservatives on: January 22, 2009, 01:24:19 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-oped1022goldbergjan22,0,7487191.story

 

Why Obama also gives hope to conservatives
Jonah Goldberg

January 22, 2009

I am proud of and excited by the fact that we have inaugurated the first black president of the United States. He wasn't my first choice, but he is nonetheless my president. And if ever there were a wonderful consolation prize in politics, shattering the race barrier in the White House is surely it.

Conservatives who try too hard to belittle the importance of this milestone are mistaken on several fronts. First, this is simply a wonderful—and wonderfully American—story. Any political movement that is joyless about what this represents risks succumbing to bitter political crankery.

For instance, you will not soon see a German chancellor of Turkish descent. Nor will a child of North African immigrants soon take the reins of power in France. It will be a long time before a Pakistani or Indian last name appears on the mailbox at 10 Downing St. And yet these countries bubble over with haughty finger-waggers eager to lecture backward and provincial America about race and tolerance. Why not enjoy rubbing Barack Obama in their faces?

Of course, there's a partisan angle to Obama's presidency—he is head of the Democratic Party, after all—but his success comes on the heels of a bipartisan racial success story. For instance, President Bush appointed the first African-American secretaries of state.

As Obama loves to observe, America is more indivisible and united than many would have us think. "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America," he proclaimed in his careermaking keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.

It only follows that George Bush's America is also Barack Obama's America, and vice versa. That's an important lesson not only for foreign observers but for domestic partisans.

More important, opponents of racial quotas and other champions of colorblindness on the right should be popping champagne nearly as much as racial liberals are. Yes, yes, Obama's a passionate defender of affirmative action and the like, but the symbolism of his presidency cannot be contained within narrow liberal agendas.

"There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African-American," he told the Washington Post last week. "I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves. It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that."

Neither would I. The media understandably, if tediously, focus on how Obama's presidency is a deathblow to the legacy of official discrimination and racism. True enough. But the fact that a black man can become president of the United States may also be transgressive to all sorts of more relevant racial orthodoxies on the left and in the black community.

Obama's personal example is only part of the equation. He has voiced an admirable disdain for the notion that academic excellence is nothing more than "acting white." His famous Father's Day speech in 2008 showed that Obama was willing to lend his voice to the effort to fight black illegitimacy and absentee fatherhood.

This puts Obama behind the two most important ingredients for black success, at least according to most conservatives: a rededication to the importance of education at an individual level, and the restoration of the black nuclear family.

At a more political level, a black president surely undermines the argument that American racism is so endemic that a system of racial quotas must remain a permanent fixture of the political and legal landscape.

Obama is most frequently compared to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But he also has compared himself to Ronald Reagan, saying he'd like to be a similarly transformative leader, albeit from a different ideological perspective. Only time will tell how successful he will be on that front.

But the analogy may be apt in ways that he and his supporters may not fully appreciate. By hastening the end of the Cold War, Reagan took away the defining cause of the conservative movement. The right had other issues, to be sure. But anti-communism was the coalitional glue. And while principled conservatives were happy to trade a live campaign issue for a dead Soviet Union, the damage to conservative cohesion was real.

If Obama lives up to the dreams of his supporters in writing a new, post-racial chapter for America, he will have at once done more for America than any Democratic president in generations. But he also will have cut the knot holding much of the left together. As an American and as a conservative, I certainly hope that's the case. He's already made a good start of it just by getting elected.
23330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 22, 2009, 01:18:38 PM
Summary
Turkey’s international profile has risen as a result of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticism of Israel in the wake of the conflict in Gaza. Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party are making use of the Gaza crisis to further their goals of reasserting Turkey’s leadership of the Arab Middle East, and of the wider Muslim world. While there are not many external obstacles to this goal, there is significant domestic resistance that could not only hobble Turkey’s ascent, but also plunge the country back into domestic instability.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Turkey’s Re-Emergence
Turkey considers itself a key player in efforts to secure a bilateral cease-fire ending Israel’s military operations in Gaza, because Ankara has been able to convince Hamas to stop fighting, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Jan. 19.

Turkey is not the only regional player that has influence over Hamas — Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt do as well — but unlike its Arab neighbors, Turkey has openly criticized its ally Israel over the Gaza operation. Erdogan on Jan. 4 said Israel was “perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction,” warning that “Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.” Erdogan’s comments are not entirely unprecedented, as he also has criticized previous Israeli operations in the Palestinian territories — but his past comments have been nowhere near as severe.

There has been considerable concern, both within Turkey and internationally, that these comments could indicate that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is reverting to its Islamist roots. That is unlikely to happen, however. A significant chunk of the party is composed of non-Islamists, and the party itself was founded by individuals who broke with the Islamist core of Fazeelat, the AK Party’s predecessor, which was outlawed in 2001. In addition, the Turkish republic’s firm grounding in secularism makes it difficult or impossible for the ruling party to trend too far toward Islamism without being disbanded by the establishment.

The reason for Ankara’s harshly critical position toward Israel’s Operation Cast Lead can be found, rather, in the politics of the Arab world. At a time when the Arab masses perceive their leaders as either actively supporting Israel or at least doing nothing to stop it, Erdogan is gaining tremendous respect and appreciation in the Arab street for his condemnation of the Israeli offensive and his rhetorical defense of the Palestinians.

Opportunity in the Middle East
Turkey was not the only one taking a firm stance against Israel, however; Iran was actually helping Hamas, not just rhetorically, but militarily. Tehran’s support for both Hezbollah and Hamas has earned it and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a considerable degree of popularity in Arab societies, along with fear and loathing among the Arab palaces. But Iran, an ethnically Persian and religiously Shiite state, can go only so far in positioning itself as a leader of the Muslim world, which is predominantly Sunni and Arab. Iran’s weak economic situation also limits its possibilities as a regional hegemon.

Turkey, which boasts the world’s 17th-largest economy, has no such problems. While it is true that Turks are ethnically different from Arabs, both are Sunni. Much more importantly, the Arabs lived for some four centuries under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, whose Turkish rulers were seen as caliphs — leaders of Sunni Muslims — by many Muslims around the world.

This political arrangement, rooted in Islam, came to an end with World War I as Turkish and Arab nationalism accelerated the disintegration of the Ottoman sultanate. Some 90 years later, however, Arab nationalism is all but dead. Islamism has been instrumental in undermining, to varying degrees, the legitimacy of the largely secular Arab states, while the AK Party has brought religion back into the Turkish public arena. Furthermore, the Arab masses generally view their own leaders as corrupt and inept.

Meanwhile, Turkey has somewhat settled itself after 70 years of internal religious-secular struggle. The issue is not completely resolved by any means, but there is general agreement within Turkey that it is time for the country to expand its international influence again. Taken together, these factors have created conditions under which Turkey could emerge as the region’s powerhouse and the leader of the Islamic world.

Related Links
Hamas and the Arab States
Turkey: The Caucasian Challenge
Geopolitical Diary: Envisioning Turkey under the AK Presidency
Iran: Hezbollah and Tehran’s Sunni Gambit
The Geopolitics of Turkey
Geopolitical Diary: Israel’s Strategy in Gaza

Because Turkey’s attempt to gain entry into the European Union has for all intents and purposes been blocked, Turkey has been turning its attention to the other regions it borders — The Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. Where the first two of these represent opportunities because of historical and ethnic links, they also pose significant challenges, because attempting to expand there would place Turkey into conflict with Russia — a battle Ankara is not eager to join at this time. So while the Turks will certainly lay some groundwork in Central Asia and the Caucasus, any movement there will be tentative and with only long-term results in mind. By comparison, the Middle East is wide open — and there is great precedent for Turkish involvement there.

The view among the Arab masses is that Turkey’s leaders are far more politically competent than their Arab counterparts; Erdogan is seen by the Arab street not only as genuine in his support for the Palestinians, but also as bearing qualities that Arab leaders lack. It is this opportunity that is motivating Ankara’s decision to break with the past and criticize Israel harshly. Growing Muslim solidarity in the region, especially in Turkey, helps explain massive demonstrations organized by Turks protesting the war in Gaza. These demonstrations and Erdogan’s statements have had a deep impact on the Arab psyche at a time when the masses in the Arab world are in search of leadership. (For that matter, even the Arab regimes would welcome Turkey on a certain level as a counterweight to Iran, and to radical Islamist actors in the region.)

Relations with Israel and the West

Meanwhile, Turkey’s pursuit of leadership of the Middle East and the Muslim world does not automatically damage Ankara’s relations with Israel and the West. Turkish ties to both are built on solid footing. Turkey was among the first states to recognize Israel after the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, and since then the two countries have had close diplomatic and military relations.

Even the AK Party’s attempts to create more balance between its relations with Israel and with the Arab states have not altered the historical relationship between Turkey and Israel. In fact, under the Erdogan administration, Ankara has been mediating indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. Despite the AK Party’s Islamist roots, the current Turkish leadership is much more pragmatic in its strategic outlook than Iran and other radical Islamist actors in the region.

The AK Party government is well aware that close relations with Israel, the United States and the West will allow it to enhance its influence in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. Conversely, Ankara is trying to position itself as a go-between for the Arab/Muslim world and the West — but to do that, it needs to enhance its influence among Arabs and Muslims. Hence the harsh criticism against Israel.

In many ways, Israel and the West would actually prefer Turkish leadership in the Middle East and the Islamic world to that of Iran or the Arab states. Turkey is a secular, Westernized Muslim state and a NATO ally, and it is well-positioned between the Islamic and Western spheres. From the Israeli and Western point of view, Turkish leadership could serve as a counter to radical Islamist tendencies from Iran and from Sunni nonstate actors.

Roadblocks At Home

The Islamist roots of Erdogan and his AK Party could help provide an opening for Turkish leadership in the Islamic world, but these same roots pose a threat to Turkey’s domestic stability. Though the AK Party government has achieved a considerable degree of accommodation with the country’s secular establishment (led by the armed forces), tensions remain. The government’s move toward Islamic solidarity on the foreign policy front raises fears among the secularists that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Turkish nationalism, and the subsequent establishment of the modern republic in the aftermath of World War I, grew out of the view that Turkey should shed its Islamic past and, especially, disassociate itself from the Arab world. Attempts to reverse course now could therefore lead to greater tensions between the government and the country’s praetorian military, which is very wary of the possibility that a drive by the AK Party government toward greater alignment with the Arab/Muslim world could undermine the secular foundations of the republic.

This does not mean that the Turkish military is not interested in expanding Ankara’s influence. It fully supports such plans, but not at the cost of weakening the secular fabric of the republic (and the army’s own position in the state). Historically, the military has wanted to steer the country away from the Muslim world and toward the West. Entry into the European Union, however, requires that the armed forces come fully under the control of the civilian leadership — a prospect the military establishment abhors, especially with the AK Party at the helm. The military does not want to give up its ability to stage coups to throw out governments it dislikes — especially those it perceives as undoing the legacy of the founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

This is why the Turkish general staff is willing to live with the European Union’s refusal to accept Turkey as a member. But the military does view Turkey’s return to its old stomping grounds in the Arab world with great trepidation. Thus, while external conditions might be ripe for a resurgence of Turkish influence in the Arab/Muslim world (and by extension internationally), there are strong countervailing forces that could hold back the country — or even reverse course toward domestic political instability.
23331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We need bad banks on: January 22, 2009, 01:07:49 PM
This piece makes some interesting points.  Comments?
========================================
As bank shares plunge to new lows around the world, it seems we have entered the next stage of the financial crisis -- most likely the last chapter in this horror story. The final word will probably be nationalization of the major financial institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom and in many other countries.

How has it come to this? The global credit crisis and the ensuing economic slump we are now entering have both ultimate and proximate causes. The ultimate cause was the ingrained social behavior of the U.S., the U.K. and many other economies over the past two decades that put instant gratification of consumption over the ability to pay for it. Thrift gave way to borrowing and excessive spending. That in turn led to huge global imbalances and distortions. The proximate cause of the crisis was how these excesses were financed through liquidity creation in innovative ways and in huge proportions.

Understanding these causes can explain why it has become so difficult to solve the crisis. Desperate to preserve the value of asset prices inflated by this huge liquidity bubble, policy makers have avoided the painful solution. The liquidity injections, the bailout programs, and the fiscal-stimulus packages try to sustain asset prices, when these prices need to fall to market levels so they can be cleared. The policy makers have just prolonged the crisis.

I am reminded of the clear conclusions of the World Bank's thorough analysis in a 2002 paper "Managing the Real and Fiscal Costs of Banking Crises," which examined banking crises over the past 50 years: "Accommodating measures such as open-ended liquidity support, blanket deposit guarantees, regulatory forbearance, repeated recapitalizations and debtor bailouts appear to increase significantly the costs of banking crises. Did these accommodating policies achieve faster economic recovery? We failed to uncover evidence that they did. Indeed, they seem to have prolonged crises because recovery took longer."

As we saw in Japan in the 1990s, if the market is not allowed to clear, the financial crisis will be prolonged. Although debt deflation may be avoided, the economic recession will be longer and the recovery weaker.

There is nothing mysterious about the policy steps that need to be taken to get us out of this mess as quickly as possible. It is not rocket science. In fact, it was successfully carried out by the Scandinavian authorities back in 1991. The banks must be forced to disclose their "toxic" assets (the German banks have about 300 billion euros, the U.K. banks probably 200 billion pounds, and the U.S. banks maybe $800 billion). Then these must be written down to market prices with the hit being taken by shareholders and bondholders -- but not depositors. If that means most banks become insolvent, then so be it.

In effect, this function can be executed by the setting up of a "bad bank," as the Swedes did in the early 1990s. The bad bank clears the toxic assets off the books of banking systems by buying them at market prices and forcing write downs by the banks. A good bad bank forces banks to write down their bad assets and cleanse their balance sheets with those made insolvent being recapitalized, nationalized or liquidated by the state. But it is equally possible to use a bad bank to buy the banks' toxic waste at inflated prices so that the bank can start lending again. That's when it becomes a bad bad bank.

Unfortunately, so far, all the policy makers in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe have rejected the good bad-bank approach and we are now entering the third year of credit crunch with most banks already on their knees. Both the new U.S. administration and the current U.K. leadership are still in denial.

Last October, when the U.K. came up with a better blueprint for dealing with the credit crisis through recapitalization than the Bush administration's poorly conceived Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), I gave the Brown government credit for doing so, but faulted it for omitting the good bad-bank function. And now the latest U.K. bailout program, introduced because the October bailout is not working, has also eschewed the good bad-bank option and opted instead for an insurance guarantee scheme.

This new bailout package proposes to insure banks against losses on their remaining toxic assets. Banks will pay a 10% insurance fee, payable with either cash or equity. The taxpayers will take on the risk of losses on 90% of the toxic assets insured. The toxic assets remain on the banks' books, but the banks no longer have any risk in their exposure to them.

The government shied away from the good bad-bank solution because if toxic assets had been written down, most of the U.K. banking system would have been bust and forced into nationalization. In the U.S., the Obama administration is also apparently considering both the bad bank and the insurance solution. I fear they will opt for the latter.

It's natural for policy makers to say, "We know where the problem at the heart of the credit crisis is: it is a lack of lending and we must get credit flowing." If only it were that simple. What policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic desire is to sustain household leverage and consumption at any price, when the only exit from the credit crisis involves a return to thrift by the overleveraged. That cannot be achieved painlessly.

Indeed, household debt in the U.S. and much of Europe reached such extremes that today it is lack of demand -- rather than the impaired supply of credit -- that is driving the deleveraging process and deepening the economic recession. So it is unlikely that even politically decreed credit expansion would be effective in turning the economy around.

By not adopting the good bad-bank solution, the system remains as corrupted as before. The bad assets will continue to suck resources out of the economic system in the form of zombie borrowers, misallocation and mispricing of capital, public sector debt, and budget deficits. And as the reaction to the U.K. scheme is showing, avoiding the core problem fails to inspire confidence, so it is unlikely to result in any increase in aggregate credit or even forestall the inevitable nationalization of insolvent banks for long.

In today's money, the U.S. government alone has spent (counting fiscal spending, not Fed liquidity injections) a sufficient amount of money on the credit crisis to fund two Vietnam Wars. Around 90% of this spending has been to sustain lending and consumption, rather than to tackle the root causes of the credit crisis: overleveraged assets financed by excessive credit creation.

I suppose it is possible that the sheer weight of all this largesse will eventually overcome the structural failures of the financial system and produce economic recovery. (I doubt it, but I can't be sure because we've never been here before.) But if such profligate policies do produce economic recovery, they will do so by creating more bubbles, with the same ultimate consequences of collapse, though on an even grander scale.

Such a recovery would be welcomed by the markets and send traders back to the champagne bars of Wall Street and London. Eventually, however, the second crash would make today's look like kids' stuff.

Mr. Roche is president of Independent Strategy (www.instrategy.com), a London-based consultancy, and co-author of "New Monetarism" (Lulu Enterprises, 2007).

23332  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reality bites on: January 22, 2009, 12:24:54 PM
Campaign promises are so much easier to adhere to when they're strictly hypothetical, as Barack Obama is discovering. The then-President-elect said 10 days ago on ABC that while he still plans to close Guantanamo, "it is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize" and that "many" of the enemy combatants are "very dangerous."

 
APMerely for gesturing at this reality, Mr. Obama suffered the blunt-force trauma of his left-wing allies, and the panicked transition leaked new details on the Administration's intentions last week. On Tuesday the Pentagon halted military commissions at Guantanamo for 120 days, and reports as we went to press yesterday said Mr. Obama would sign an executive order today that the base be closed within a year. This was after he told the Washington Post that closure might take even longer. Isn't responsibility fun?

The first practical question is where to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 245 or so other remaining Gitmo prisoners. Dangerous enemy combatants can't simply be released into the streets. The Obama camp says that after reviewing the classified files, it will try to repatriate as many as safely possible. But 60 already cleared for release remain because they may be persecuted by their home countries. And even Mr. Obama's vaunted diplomacy is unlikely to convince rights-protecting countries to resettle people he believes are too dangerous to release in the U.S. -- and the more willing Mr. Obama is to release prisoners, the more difficult this problem will become.

One suggestion is moving the remaining prisoners to Kansas's Fort Leavenworth, but state politicians are already sounding a red alert. The military base is integrated into the community and, lacking Guantanamo's isolation and defense capacities, would instantly become a potential terror target. Expect similar protests from other states that are involuntarily entered in this sweepstakes.

In any event, this option merely relocates Guantanamo to American soil under another name. The core challenge is not a matter of geography but ensuring a stable legal framework for detaining and punishing fighters engaged in unconventional warfare against the U.S.

In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the Bush Administration and Congress painstakingly set thresholds for who can be detained and under what rules. Mr. Obama argues that work was flawed and that the trials should not continue in their present form. But he also said in his ABC sitdown that he wants to create "a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo-American legal system, but doing it in a way that doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up."

Sounds great. But this "balance" is difficult to strike because many of the Guantanamo prisoners haven't committed crimes per se but are dedicated American enemies and too dangerous to let go. Other cases involve evidence that is insufficient for trial but still sufficient to determine that release is an unacceptable security risk.

The stock anti-antiterror position is that detainees should be charged with crimes, either through military courts-martial or (preferably) the ordinary criminal justice system. Anyone who can't be indicted should be set free. But such trials are unworkable even for the 70 or 80 detainees that prosecutors had planned to try with military commissions, let alone prisoners who are too dangerous to release but for which there isn't sufficient evidence for a tribunal, much less civilian courts. Critics like to point to aggressive interrogations as somehow tainting these cases, but the real problems are far more prosaic. For instance, any evidence probably can't be admitted in civilian courts because terrorists aren't read their Miranda rights when picked up in combat zones.

An alternative to military commissions that is gaining political traction is the idea of a national security court, composed of Article III judges to supervise detentions and administer trials. There are real risks here. Politically, it will cost time and capital that Mr. Obama probably prefers to spend elsewhere. Practically, any new system is likely to face the same legal challenges from the white-shoe lawyers at Shearman and Sterling and anti-antiterror activists that for years tied down military commissions.

But legal experts across the political spectrum including Harvard's Jack Goldsmith, the Brookings Institution's Ben Wittes and Georgetown's Neal Katyal advance this option as a way to restore "credibility" to the detainee process. The national security court would operate under rules of evidence and classification that would allow the military to avoid compromising intelligence sources and methods, as well as admit intelligence gathered under battlefield conditions.

Then again, such rules would be almost identical to those now used in . . . George Bush's military commissions. On wiretaps, interrogations and now Gitmo, the new Administration is discovering that the left-wing attack lines against Bush policies are mostly simplistic illusions. Now those critics are Mr. Obama's problem
23333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 22, 2009, 12:20:57 PM
I've seen two of the documentaries this courageous man has made.  Many things worth your time on this site:

http://www.pierrerehov.com/sk_trailer.htm
23334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Declaration of Independence on: January 22, 2009, 12:08:51 PM
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

--Declaration of Independence
23335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: January 22, 2009, 11:10:05 AM
I fully appreciate GM's point and as usual am in awe of his ability to drop pertinent articles making his point at the drop of a hat.

I also think BBG's point is quite correct.  The effective resistance on 911 was "We the unorganized militia".
23336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 22, 2009, 11:01:56 AM
Good start.  Still, the question remains:  WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?

I submit that it is to have a situation where they no longer use Afg-Pak as launch pads for attacks on America.  I submit that we need to make this clear-- I bet the people there don't know any better why we are there than apparently we do.  Something along the lines of "We helped you drive out the Russians, and then leave you alone.  You repay us by hosting attacks on our homeland.  You FCUKERS!!!  Knock it off or we will get primeval with your butts!"

I note that no one has yet addressed my questions about our incoherence with regard to the opium trade.  My thought is that the War on Drugs is fundamentally an error and that we to to end it.  This will take profits out of opium trade that supports the Taliban/AQ , , , AND address the gathering crisis/disaster in Mexico.

Here's this from a friend in India:
==================================
Some interesting video...see part 3, These videos show that the Pak army is afraid to take on the Taliban (video 3 with retreating tanks!, no motivation to fight the Taliban). When they kill or capture "Taliban", its usually civilians, e.g. the last video shows that they arrested civilians (based on the conversation shown). Any money offered to Pak to take on the Taliban/AQ is going to go down the drain....Yash
 
Pakistan's War: On the Front Line

Part 1 http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=kQB-IgktV ... re=channel
Part 2 http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=u43ngbDH6 ... re=channel
Part 3 http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=2WmQTxwXr ... re=channel
Part 4 http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=6k3XGlO7rWI
23337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: January 21, 2009, 11:27:01 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan
January 21, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday. It was an historic day — not because of Obama’s race or policies, but because this was the 44th time that a peaceful transition of power took place in American history. If you will except the Civil War, when the transition was peaceful but nothing else was, that is an extraordinary record; and every time the United States ends one presidency and begins another one, it is an extraordinary event.

The question is whether Obama’s presidency will be historic, mediocre or disastrous. Every administration begins with tremendous support and great hopes. Most lose support and disappoint many hopes. It is impossible to know at the beginning what the end will bring. More than most presidents, Obama begins with a huge pool of support. Part of this derives from his personality. Part of it derives from the fact that he has a unique skill in allowing people to believe readily that he supports their views, when in reality, he has kept his commitment to a minimum. Part of it derives from the fact that between the economic crisis and the wars in the Islamic world, there is a deep pessimism in the United States that creates tremendous enthusiasm for anyone who holds open the promise of solutions.

Obama has become president at one of those moments when what went before makes what comes after appear delightful for many people. Many people have compared Obama to Franklin Roosevelt. To us, Obama is more similar to Ronald Reagan. Reagan took over from Jimmy Carter at a time when the economy was in terrible shape and when the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had driven the country into what Carter called a deep “malaise.”

While Reagan had many bitter opponents, his chief virtue was that he was not drowning in pessimism and seemed to know what he would do. His followers saw him as endorsing a wide array of ideological issues, but his presidency turned out to be far more complex and nuanced than that. Many of his supporters, particularly on the Christian right, were quite disappointed in him in the end because he never drove the issues they thought he would drive.

Reagan’s theme was not “change,” but “morning in America” — equally vague, but it spoke to the moment. Reagan was called “the great communicator” for his ability to hold his coalition together in spite of the inevitable setbacks and scandals that every administration has. Ultimately that was his skill, and it was not a trivial one to have. Reagan’s presidency is viewed, even by those who were critics at the time, as successful because he had a singular virtue: He could hold his coalition together as he followed a singularly pragmatic path.

What is interesting about Obama is that he won with a much smaller percentage of the vote than Reagan did, but at this moment, his popularity is higher than it was on Election Day — dramatically so. Reagan’s rose too, but not like this. It will be interesting to see if that gives Obama greater strength or more room to fall.

It is also interesting to remember that Carter was not popular internationally. The Europeans had serious problems with him, and the German chancellor treated him with public contempt. The Islamic world treated him with particular contempt — the Iranians for obvious reasons and the Arabs for not stopping Ayatollah Khomeini. Reagan was actually greeted by many in the world as a vast relief after Carter’s moralizing and bumbling. Very quickly, America’s allies were disabused of their post-Carter fantasies. We strongly suspect that this will be case with Obama as well. Their problem is with America and not a particular president. Reagan was quickly as despised as Carter. It is hard to be as despised internationally as George W. Bush was, but then few thought that Reagan could fall in international esteem to Carter’s levels.

It is useful to recall that Carter cared a great deal about what the international community cared, and he lost respect. Reagan didn’t care a bit about the international community and lost respect. Caring didn’t really matter. But Obama does start out with quite a cushion.
23338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India's Afg option on: January 21, 2009, 11:17:19 PM
Geopolitical Diary: India's Afghanistan Option
January 22, 2009 | 0142 GMT

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a conference in New Delhi on Wednesday that Pakistan is still sponsoring international terrorism and must be disciplined. India has reiterated this message on a near daily basis ever since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, yet the only disciplinary action it has taken has been limited to mere rhetoric.

There is no question that the Mumbai attacks outraged India's decision-makers, the vast majority of whom maintain that there are clear and identifiable links between the perpetrators of the attack and the Pakistani military establishment. As far as New Delhi is concerned, the Islamist militant proxies that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has long supported are still well within the military's reach, and could be reined in if Islamabad actually had the will to do so.

With the blame cast on Pakistan, in the wake of the attacks, India prepared for military action, ranging from surgical strikes and hot-pursuit operations in Pakistani-administered Kashmir to a full-scale war. Pakistan soon grew nervous and started redeploying its troops from the Afghan border in the west to the eastern border with India. At that point, Pakistan's best hope was to pressure the United States into holding India back, which it did by reminding Washington of the risk it would incur to its supply lines in Pakistan – which are critical to fighting the war in Afghanistan — if the Pakistanis were faced with the need to confront a military threat from India.

But it wasn't just U.S. pressure that could restrain India. The Indians knew themselves that they lacked any good options for responding forcefully against Pakistan. Limited strikes in Pakistani-administered Kashmir would be mainly of symbolic value, given that many of the militant assets there had already had time to relocate. And any such strike likely would end up working in Pakistan's favor; the local population, united by an Indian threat, would have good reason to rally behind the Pakistani military and government.

Any plans India might have had to go beyond a limited war in Kashmir did not have the full support of the military — particularly the army, which lacked confidence in its capabilities and felt that stalemate was a far more likely outcome than victory. Indian policymakers also had to deal with the uncomfortable possibility that the militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks likely had the intent of pulling India into a military confrontation with Pakistan. The more Pakistan destabilized, the more room jihadists in the region would have to maneuver. Any large-scale military action by India could be seen as playing into the militants' hands –- and could intensify the jihadist focus on India for further attacks.

In short, India's hands were tied post-Mumbai, and as New Delhi spent time debating among bad options and more bad options, the window of opportunity to strike in the wake of the attacks (when international outrage against Pakistan was highest) had soon passed.

But this is not to say that India is left without any options. On the contrary, India is keeping open the option of hot-pursuit strikes in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and is moving forward with plans for covert operations inside Pakistan to target militant networks. The Indians also are cognizant of the fact that a follow-on attack would require them to take some level of military action. But there is another pressure tactic the Indians are throwing around, one that involves India stretching beyond Pakistan into the war-torn territory of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is essentially the extension of Pakistan's western buffer against foreign threats. Without a foothold in Kabul, Pakistan runs the risk of being sandwiched between a hostile power to its west and its main rival, India, to the east — a position it remembers well from the Cold War days when the Soviet Union, then allied with India, invaded Afghanistan. As a result, Pakistan has to rely heavily on its Pashtun ties to Afghanistan to secure its western frontier.

India knows what makes the Pakistanis jumpy, and has spent recent years steadily upping its involvement in reconstruction work in Afghanistan to make good with Kabul, which currently has a very shaky relationship with the Pakistanis over the insurgency plaguing the country. So far, India has not ventured beyond its $86 million reconstruction commitment to Afghanistan, but has been throwing around the rather contentious idea of sending troops to the country to help with fighting the insurgency.

This would be a gigantic step for India to take, and one that would make the Pakistanis jump through the roof. India is extremely wary of deploying forces beyond its border. (It learned the pains of counterinsurgency the hard way when it got pulled into a bloody war of attrition with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the late 1980s.) New Delhi prefers to keep to itself in most foreign policy matters, particularly when it comes to fighting other nations' wars. But sources in Indian defense circles say there are serious discussions going on among the political and military leadership over the Afghan option. Even Indian army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor publicly raised the possibility Jan. 14 when he said in a conference, "Changing our strategic policy towards Kabul in terms of raising military stakes is one of the factors that is to be determined politically."

Kapoor was being careful in wording his statement, essentially saying it is up to the politicians to give the military orders to deploy. But he was also deliberate in his message to Pakistan: If Islamabad continues to push India through its array of Islamist militant proxies, India could end up making a strategic decision to break through a few foreign policy barriers and shoulder some of the security burden on Pakistan's western frontier. At a time when U.S. tolerance for Pakistan is wearing dangerously thin, and when the United States and India are exploring deeper, long-term and more strategic ties, this type of adversarial encirclement is a threat that potentially could shake Pakistan to its core.

That is, if India actually follows through. As mentioned earlier, this would require a major leap in Indian foreign policy — not to mention arrangements to coordinate and integrate Indian military efforts in Afghanistan with U.S. and NATO operations. And there is currently no indication that the discussions are anywhere near an implementation stage.

Also, the United States would probably prefer that India keep things as they are for now. An Indian military presence in Afghanistan would make a juicy target for jihadists in the region, and it would give Pakistan all the more incentive to redirect and intensify the insurgency in Afghanistan, putting both the United States and India in an even stickier situation.

However, the threat of sending Indian troops to Afghanistan does a decent job in keeping Pakistan off balance. And, at least for the moment, that is what New Delhi and Washington want to intimidate Pakistan into giving up its militant proxy activities. Time will only tell if the Indians actually put the Afghan option into practice, but the Pakistanis are certainly keeping watch.
23339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 21, 2009, 10:18:48 PM
I'm hearing that the CBO is saying by BO's own numbers, the stimulus package will cost $6,700 per family and assuming they create every job they say they will  rolleyes each job will cost $217,000 to create.  rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes Oh, and most of the stimulus won't begin for two to ten years.  rolleyes

We are so fornicated , , ,
23340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 21, 2009, 09:04:29 PM
Former French President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle
By Ian Sparks

Former French president Jacques Chirac was rushed to hospital after being mauled by his own 'clinically depressed' pet dog.
The 76-year-old statesman was savaged by his white Maltese dog - which suffers from frenzied fits and is being treated with anti-depressants.

The animal, named Sumo, had become increasingly violent over the past years and was prone to making 'vicious, unprovoked attacks', Chirac's wife Bernadette said.   Former French President Jacques Chirac pictured in his car with his pet, Sumo, the white Maltese Poodle (file photo). The president has been bitten by his dog.  The former president, who ruled France for 12 years until 2007, was taken to hospital in Paris where he was treated as an outpatient and sent home, VSD magazine reported.

Mrs Chirac said: 'The dog went for him for no apparent reason.  We were already aware the animal was unpredictable and is actually being treated with pills for depression.  My husband was bitten quite badly, but he is certain to make a full recovery over the coming weeks.'

The former French First Lady did not reveal where on his body Chirac was bitten.

The pet, named after the Japanese form of wrestling, was a gift to the Chiracs from their grandson Martin.
Recent polls have shown that since leaving office Chirac is now regarded as one of the most popular politicians in France, liked by 70 per cent of people.  In the last days of his presidency, he was much less popular, liked by just 50 per cent of the population.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1126136/Former-French-President-Chirac-hospitalised-mauling-clinically-depressed-poodle.html?ITO=1490
23341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Police chief loses his head on: January 21, 2009, 06:42:47 PM
New police chief's head left at station
Published: Jan. 20, 2009 at 8:53 PMOrder reprints  |  Feedback

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The head of a new local police commander was left in an ice bucket at his police station in the Ciudad Juarez area, Mexican authorities said Tuesday.

The city, which lies just across the border from El Paso, Texas, in the state of Chihuahua, has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico. El Universal reported that Martin Castro Martinez was one of 15 people killed execution-style in 24 hours.

Castro Martinez was abducted Saturday, four days after he became police chief in the suburb of Praxedis G. Guerrero. Five other officers and a civilian man were also snatched.

The police chief's head was left at the police station Sunday afternoon. A message threatened the Sinaloa Cartel with violence from La Linea, the drug cartel dominant in Chihuahua.

The bodies of six young men who appeared to be between the ages of 17 and 20 were found in Santa Isabel. They appeared to have been tortured.

Eight other bodies have been found in the area, El Universal said.

23342  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AELE Monthly Law Journal on: January 21, 2009, 06:29:55 PM
In 2008, 37 articles appeared in the AELE Monthly Law Journal; these were the most popular:
 
Jan. 2008: Civil Liability for Use of Deadly Force: Supervisory Liability
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-1MLJ101.html
 
Apr. 2008: Investigative Detention of Employees: Criminal Interviews
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-4MLJ201.html
 
May 2008: Long v. Honolulu Police Sharpshooter Decision
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-5MLJ501.html
 
Aug. 2008: Administrative Investigations of Police Shootings:
Officer Statements and Use of Force Reports (Viewed 9,752 times!)
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-8MLJ201.html
 
Nov. 2008: Staff Use of Force Against Prisoners: Chemical Weapons
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-11MLJ301.html
 
Nov. 2008: Civil Liability: Use of Force Against Handcuffed Persons
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-11MLJ101.html
 
Dec. 2008: Restraint Ties and Asphyxia 
http://www.aele.org/law/2008ALL12/2008-12MLJ101.pdf
 
The list of all articles published in 2007 and 2008 is here:
http://www.aele.org/law/MLJTopics.html
23343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sweet Caroline-- bwahahaha on: January 21, 2009, 06:21:16 PM
Kennedy Is Said to Withdraw Senate Bid

Caroline Kennedy has decided to withdraw from consideration
for Hillary Rodham Clinton's vacant Senate seat in New York,
according to a person told of her decision.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/?emc=na
23344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oy vey-- reparations on: January 21, 2009, 06:14:35 PM
And So It Starts

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.congress.org/congressorg/...z?c111:H.R.40:

Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (Introduced in House)
HR 40 IH
111th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 40
To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 6, 2009

Mr. CONYERS (for himself and Mr. SCOTT of Virginia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
A BILL
To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

(a) Findings- The Congress finds that--

(1) approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865;

(2) the institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865;

(3) the slavery that flourished in the United States constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of Africans' life, liberty, African citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of their own labor; and

(4) sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in the United States.
(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to establish a commission to--

(1) examine the institution of slavery which existed from 1619 through 1865 within the United States and the colonies that became the United States, including the extent to which the Federal and State Governments constitutionally and statutorily supported the institution of slavery;

(2) examine de jure and de facto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination;

(3) examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the discrimination described in paragraph (2) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States;

(4) recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission's findings;

(5) recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission's findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1) and (2); and

(6) submit to the Congress the results of such examination, together with such recommendations.
SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT AND DUTIES.

(a) Establishment- There is established the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the `Commission').
(b) Duties- The Commission shall perform the following duties:

(1) Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the United States and the colonies that became the United States from 1619 through 1865. The Commission's examination shall include an examination of--


(A) the capture and procurement of Africans;


(B) the transport of Africans to the United States and the colonies that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement, including their treatment during transport;


(C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in interstate and instrastate commerce; and


(D) the treatment of African slaves in the colonies and the United States, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploitation of their labor, and destruction of their culture, language, religion, and families.

(2) Examine the extent to which the Federal and State governments of the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed African slaves to repatriate to their homeland.

(3) Examine Federal and State laws that discriminated against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.

(4) Examine other forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.

(5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States.

(6) Recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission's findings.

(7) Recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission's findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4). In making such recommendations, the Commission shall address among other issues, the following questions:


(A) Whether the Government of the United States should offer a formal apology on behalf of the people of the United States for the perpetration of gross human rights violations on African slaves and their descendants.


(B) Whether African-Americans still suffer from the lingering effects of the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4).


(C) Whether, in consideration of the Commission's findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted.


(D) If the Commission finds that such compensation is warranted, what should be the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation.
(c) Report to Congress- The Commission shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Congress not later than the date which is one year after the date of the first meeting of the Commission held pursuant to section 4(c).

, , , ,
23345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dutch MP on trial on: January 21, 2009, 04:48:59 PM
Dutch MP in freedom of speech trial for comparing Koran to Mein Kampf

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 6:11 PM on 21st January 2009


A Dutch politician who produced an anti-Islamic film and compared the Koran to Mein Kampf is to be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred, a court ruled today.

Geert Wilders, who leads the right-wing Freedom party, will be tried after judges reversed an earlier decision that insisted the MP had a right to voice his opinion.

Mr Wilders, who sparked outrage in March last year with his film Fitna, said the ruling was a ‘black day for myself and for freedom of speech’.

But the Amsterdam appeals court said: ‘In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to draw a clear line.’

Its ruling now sets the stage for a high-profile trial likely to expose changing attitudes towards Islam in the Netherlands.

Attitudes in the traditionally tolerant society towards Islam hardened after the 2004 murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Dutch Muslim.

Mr Wilders, whose party has nine MPs, has largely built his popularity on the fear and resentment among many voters towards immigrants.

His film interspersed images of the September 11 attacks with quotations from the Koran.

A year earlier Mr Wilders described the Muslim holy book a ‘fascist book’.

And he called for the Koran to be banned in ‘the same way we ban Mein Kampf’, in a letter published in the De Volkskrant newspaper.

In 2007, Wilders called for the Muslim holy book to banned and likened it Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Today, the appeals court called Wilders’ film, newspaper articles and media interviews ‘one-sided generalisations which can amount to inciting hatred’.

It reversed a decision last year by the public prosecutor’s office, which said Wilders’ film and interviews were painful for Muslims but not criminal.

The court’s three judges said they had weighed Wilders’ anti-Islamic rhetoric against his right to free speech, and ruled he had gone beyond the normal leeway given to politicians.

While judges in the Netherlands are generally liberal, the court said it was making an exception in the case of Wilders’ comments about Islam.

‘The court considers appropriate criminal prosecution for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism made by Wilders,’ a summary of the court’s decision said.

It said the Wilders statements were ‘so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute’.

Gerard Spong, a prominent lawyer who joined Muslim groups in pushing for Wilders’ prosecution, welcomed the decision.

‘This is a happy day for all followers of Islam who do not want to be tossed on the garbage dump of Nazism,’ Spong told reporters in Amsterdam.

Wilder has not yet been charged, and it is not clear what maximum penalty he could face if convicted.

‘I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,’ he wrote in national newspaper De Volkskrant.

‘I’ve had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: forbid that fascist book.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worl...in-Kampf.html#
23346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: January 21, 2009, 10:45:40 AM
Tax Cuts and Fiscal Discipline
By Sarah Palin

Especially evident in these trying economic times is America's need for affordable, abundant and secure energy. This means American energy resources developed through American ingenuity and produced by American workers. I applaud President Obama's focus on alternative and renewable energy, and here in Alaska we've joined the effort: I have asked Alaskans to focus on obtaining 50% of our electric generation from renewables by 2025. In the meantime, we must not abandon oil and gas exploration and development. In fact, Americans should demand the cooperation of the major oil producers so that Alaska's vast supply of clean natural gas can be brought to market. Alaska stands ready to positively contribute to the nation's markets and energy needs.

Another step on the path to economic recovery is to let Americans keep more of their income. Mr. Obama and Congress could make this happen with permanent tax cuts and by adhering to a path of fiscal discipline. When congressional appropriation trains run too hastily, they accumulate excess baggage, spending more taxpayer money. Leaving more money in American pockets through tax cuts and fiscal discipline stimulates the business-investment and job-creation climate -- the climate for economic recovery.

Finally, we are extremely proud of our men and women in uniform. Mr. Obama and Congress must continue to guarantee a strong national defense by modernizing and equipping our armed forces; by treating active-duty military and veterans fairly; and by supporting the families of our service members. America will face difficult challenges in the years ahead. As Mr. Obama takes the helm, our prayers are with him as he seeks direction for our great nation.

Mrs. Palin is governor of Alaska.
23347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Calling all armchair generals on: January 21, 2009, 10:32:46 AM
I have been harping for some time now on our apparent lack of a coherent strategy in Afg-Pak.  As the previous post of Stratfor informs, we face ugly choices.

So, my fellow armchair generals, what should President Obama, what should America do?
23348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 21, 2009, 10:30:19 AM
Now that he is President, I've deleted the word "Coming" from the title of this thread.

The Lord helps those who help themselves.  Time to man up and do what we can to protect America from the Keynesian clusterfcuk that I fear cometh and so much more.



23349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine on: January 21, 2009, 10:14:25 AM
I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death." --Thomas Paine
23350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 21, 2009, 12:07:21 AM
The House made its first down payment on President Obama's health-care plans last week, passing 289-139 a major expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The Senate is scheduled to take it up soon and pass it easily as well. These days tens of billions in new spending is a mere pittance, but Schip is also the Democratic model for a quantum jump in government health care down the line.

The bill became a liberal Pequot after President Bush repeatedly vetoed it in 2007 (while supporting a modest expansion). The GOP has no hope of stopping it now, so Schip will more than double in size with $73.3 billion in new spending over the next decade -- not counting a budget gimmick that hides the true cost. The program is supposed to help children from working-poor families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but since it was created in 1997 Democrats have used it as a ratchet to grow the federal taxpayer share of health-care coverage.

With the new bill, Schip will be open to everyone up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $63,081 for a family of four. In other words, a program supposedly targeted at low-income families has an eligibility ceiling higher than the U.S. median household income, which according to the Census Bureau is $50,233. Even the 300% figure isn't really a ceiling, given that states can get a government waiver to go even higher. Tom Daschle's folks at Health and Human Services will barely read the state paperwork before rubberstamping these expansions.

The political purpose behind Schip has always been to capture the middle class. Every time the program grows, it displaces private insurance. Even before Democrats struck down rules limiting crowd out, research indicated that for every 100 children signed up -- now more than 7.1 million -- there is a reduction in private coverage for 25 to 50 kids. Exactly the same thing will happen if Messrs. Obama and Daschle end up introducing a "public option," a government insurance program modeled after Medicare but open to anyone of any income. As with Schip, any net increase in insurance coverage will come by having taxpayers gradually supplant the private system.

Schip money is delivered as a block grant, which states are supposed to match, though national taxpayers end up paying 65% to 83% of the total cost. When states make health-care promises they can't afford -- such as New York, which expanded the program to 400% of poverty -- the feds always step in with, yes, a bailout. The House bill creates a "contingency fund" precisely for that purpose, and also allots bonus payments to states that boost Schip enrollment, so Governors will be further rewarded for overspending. All this is propped up by a permanent increase in the tobacco tax, which will rise to $1 a pack from the current 39 cents -- thus financing a permanent and growing entitlement with a declining corps of smokers.

Lately Mr. Obama has been making noises about the necessity of entitlement reform. This is no way to start.
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