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23351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / !Que verguenza! on: May 17, 2009, 08:17:17 PM
From New York Times:

May 17, 2009

Men Dressed as Police Free Mexican Inmates

By MARC LACEY

MEXICO CITY — Armed men dressed as Mexican federal police officers entered a heavily guarded prison in the northern state of Zacatecas early Saturday morning and freed more than 50 inmates, many of whom were believed to be drug traffickers allied with the powerful Gulf Cartel, the authorities said.

The huge jailbreak, which took place about 5 a.m., was an embarrassment to the government of President Felipe Calderón, who has touted the arrests of thousands of drug traffickers over the last two years as evidence that organized crime groups were on the defensive.

The team of criminals who gained entry to the prison in Cieneguillas showed how vulnerable Mexican institutions remain.

The men arrived in a caravan of 15 vehicles with police markings as well as in a helicopter, according to news reports. To gain entry, the gunmen claimed that they were carrying out an authorized prisoner transfer.

After subduing the guards, they left with 53 of the prison’s 1,500 inmates, in an operation that lasted only minutes, officials said.

After they got away, police officers and soldiers swarmed the state, closing many roads as they searched for the fugitives, El Sol de Zacatecas, a local newspaper, reported.

Gov. Amalia García Medina of Zacatecas told reporters that there were indications that prison guards and their supervisors, who were being held for investigation, might have been complicit in the jailbreak.

It would not have been the first time. One of Mexico’s top drug lords, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001 in a getaway that investigations found was possible only with the aid of dozens of prison guards. Mr. Guzmán, who was named this year to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, hid in a laundry cart.
Mexican authorities are well aware of the vulnerability of their prisons. Mr. Calderón has dramatically increased the number of top drug traffickers extradited to the United States in recent years, to reduce the likelihood that they will continue to run their operations from behind bars or, worse still, find a way out.
23352  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LAST MINUTE CHANGE on: May 17, 2009, 02:47:49 PM
TOMORROW (MONDAY) will be held at 12:30!!!
23353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq recommends this article on: May 17, 2009, 02:44:37 PM


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/16/AR2009051602137.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR
23354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 02:41:31 PM
Or as I put it when I ran for Congress for the Libertarian Party:  "They had a vote.  You're paying."
23355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 11:23:27 AM
TANGENT:

GM:

Your basic point is sound, but I would also point out that many women's rights groups define rape in very Orwellian terms.  A few years back we had a thread here where it was reported that as they define it (working from memory here so the number could be off somewhat) some 80% of women who have been raped don't know they were raped.   huh huh huh

23356  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: May 17, 2009, 12:08:04 AM
From here forward the plan is for Monday's at 11:00.  We should have the place to ourselves then.
23357  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 17, 2009, 12:06:54 AM
After a week hiatus due to the silat camp, we were back in action today.

Was planning to go deep into military DLO with those who were there, but an out of towner showed up so instead we went deep into Kali Tudo.  Good times!

Then after class was over, Kevin stuck around and we went deep into military DLO Cool
23358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 16, 2009, 09:44:06 AM
By RONEN BERGMAN
Those who leaf through the secret files of any intelligence service know what grave mistakes bad intelligence can lead to. But they also know that sometimes even excellent intelligence doesn't change a thing.

The Israeli intelligence community is now learning this lesson the hard way. It has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet despite former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's willingness to authorize highly dangerous operations based on this intelligence, and despite the unquestionable success of the operations themselves, the overall security picture remains as grim as ever.

In 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed his friend and former subordinate, Gen. Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad. Gen. Dagan found the organization lacking in imagination and shying away from operational risks. Mr. Sharon, who knew Gen. Dagan from his days as head of a secret assassinations unit that acted against Fatah in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s, told the general that he wanted "a Mossad with a knife between its teeth."

Gen. Dagan transformed the Mossad from top to bottom and made the organization's sole focus Iran's nuclear project and its ties to jihadist organizations. He put tremendous pressure on his subordinates to execute as many operations as possible. Moreover, he built up ties with espionage services in Europe and the Middle East on top of Israel's long-standing relationship with the CIA.

In tandem with Gen. Dagan's Mossad revolution, other Israeli military intelligence has also made outstanding breakthroughs. The Shin-Bet (Israel's internal intelligence service), in cooperation with the military, has made huge strides in its understanding of Palestinian guerilla organizations.

The results have been tremendous. During the last four years, the uranium enrichment project in Iran was delayed by a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the project, and two labs that burst into flames. In addition, an Iranian opposition group in exile published highly credible information about the details of the project, which caused Iran much embarrassment and led to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

On July 12, 2006, thanks to precise intelligence, the Israeli Air Force destroyed almost the entire stock of Hezbollah's long-range rockets stored in underground warehouses. Hezbollah was shocked.

In July 2007, another mysterious accident occurred in a missile factory jointly operated by Iran and Syria at a Syrian site called Al-Safir. The production line -- which armed Scud missiles with warheads -- was shut down and many were killed.

In September 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor built by Syria and aided by North Korea in Dir A-Zur -- despite Syria's significant efforts to keep it a secret. With indirect authorization from a very high ranking Israeli official, the CIA published incriminating pictures obtained by Israel of the site before it was bombed. These photos convinced the world that the Syrians were indeed attempting to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

In February 2008, Hezbollah's military leader, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus. In August of that year, Gen. Mohammed Suliman, a liaison to Hamas and Hezbollah who participated in the Syrian nuclear project, was assassinated by a sniper.

In December 2008, Israel initiated operation Cast Lead, which dealt Hamas a massive blow. Most of its weapons were destroyed within days by Israeli air strikes. (Israel also knew where the Hamas leadership was hiding, but since it was in a hospital Mr. Olmert refused to authorize the strike.) In January 2009, Israeli Hermes 450 drones attacked three convoys in Sudan that were smuggling weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

These are all excellent achievements, but did they change reality? Mostly not.

The destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor seems to have put a temporary end to President Bashar Assad's ambitions of acquiring a nuclear weapon. However, the public humiliation caused by the site's bombing did not sway him from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and hosting terrorist organizations.

Even worse, the heads of Israeli intelligence are now losing sleep over recent information showing that attempts to delay the Iranian nuclear project have failed. Despite some technical difficulties, the Iranians are storming ahead and may possess a nuclear bomb as early as 2010. Hezbollah, although weakened by the 2006 war and Mughniyah's assassination, has become the leading political force in Lebanon.

On the southern front, despite the convoy bombings in Sudan, the trafficking of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip continues. Hamas's standing among Palestinians has strengthened. And if a cease-fire is negotiated between Hamas and Israel it would be perceived as a victory for Hamas.

The bottom line is that excellent intelligence is very important, but it can only take you so far. In the end, it's the tough diplomatic and military decisions made by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.

Mr. Bergman, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the "The Secret War With Iran" (Free Press, 2008).

 
23359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Armed Forces Day on: May 16, 2009, 09:35:10 AM
Today is Armed Forces Day.

Thank you for all you do.

23360  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 09:08:45 AM
I simply went from one form of aggression to another. 
23361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: May 16, 2009, 12:18:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Familiar U.S.-Israeli Course On Iran
May 15, 2009
A report published Thursday by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent an American envoy to tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to lose patience and surprise Washington with an attack against Iran. The report claimed that, rather than waiting for Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington on May 18, Obama decided to send a senior American official to Israel (who was not named) to meet with Netanyahu and senior Israeli leaders. The message reportedly revealed the Obama administration’s concern that Washington would be “caught off-guard and find themselves facing facts on the ground at the last minute” in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.

This report, like several preceding it in the Israeli press, appears to be a deliberate leak. On May 10, another report from Haaretz — this one citing “confidential reports sent to Jerusalem” — claimed that the United States had set October as the deadline for completing its first round of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. If the Iranians remained intransigent, the United States was expected to harden its stance against Tehran, according to the article.

Whether these leaks are coming from the Israelis or the Americans doesn’t matter much. What matters is the motive driving them — and in this realm, we see a familiar “good cop-bad cop” routine between the United States and Israel emerging.

The Israelis have made no secret about their lack of enthusiasm over Obama’s attempts to engage Iran diplomatically. They believe little will come out of these negotiations, and that Tehran feels little compulsion to make meaningful concessions over its nuclear program. All the same, Israel’s options toward Iran are limited. Talking about a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is one thing, but carrying out an operation on the scale necessary to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability would be extraordinarily difficult, even with U.S. participation, and nearly impossible without it. The Israelis understand the need to preserve their strategic relationship with the United States, but also harbor real fears about the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States, meanwhile, is juggling a dozen foreign policy issues at once. Given the growing military focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last thing Washington needs is an Israeli attack against Iran and the Middle East flare-up that would follow. Right now, the goal for Washington is to seal things up in Iraq, hand off a good deal of responsibility for the region to Turkey, an ascending power, and turn its attention to other issues.

The Haaretz reports send a very clear message: The United States wants talks with Iran, does not want an Israeli attack against Iran, but is assuring Israel that firm deadlines are being established for negotiations. The Israelis are not pleased about the prospect of talks, and the U.S.-Israeli relationship is under strain. Therefore, Israel just might be rash enough to attack Iran on its own and surprise the United States.

This is a useful message for both Israel and the United States to be disseminating. Netanyahu can reaffirm perceptions at home that he is being tough on the Iranian nuclear issue and drawing a line with the Americans. Obama, meanwhile, can apply more pressure on the Iranians by giving the impression that Washington can only do so much to hold the Israelis back from attacking Iran. The likely next step in the cycle is for Iran to start reaching out to Russia and exaggerating perceptions of Moscow’s support for Iran. This can be accomplished through rhetoric over things like potential sales of Russian strategic air defense systems to Iran and Moscow finally giving Iran what it needs to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility.

So far, this is all very much expected. Israel’s options are limited; the United States’ options are limited; even Iran’s options are limited. The most practical move just now would seem to be a return to the rhetoric with which all three are so familiar.
23362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 12:16:31 AM
Perhaps your retired judge exemplifies that we have a legal system and not a justice system  smiley

Neither of my French speaking sources have responded to my requests to summarize the contents.

BTW, I am reminded of the time some union goons took me to the top floor (12th floor) of a building under construction when I was in the carpenter's union in Philadelphia oh so many years ago.   Word was that they had held the son of the president of the general contractor out over the edge by his feet.   Word was that they had dropped a can of spackling (the stuff for sealing seams of drywall-- weight about 50 pounds?) onto the hood of the Cadillac of the president of the electrical contractor (from 12 floors, it made one helluva dent , , ,).  So by the time they chatted with me, there was nary a threat as they persuaded me of the merits of their position , , ,
23363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 16, 2009, 12:10:36 AM
Ok, I'll beg-- please tell us why  cheesy
23364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 16, 2009, 12:08:17 AM
Can't you guys just skim past posts by posters you don't like?
23365  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 15, 2009, 08:38:53 PM
SG:

Would you please be so kind as to send me these various clips in as high a resolution as feasible please?  It would be greatly appreciated.

Craftydog@dogbrothers.com
23366  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: Una matanza por cuchillo en el metro on: May 15, 2009, 08:33:35 PM
Mucho para analizar y pensar aqui.  !Adelante caballeros!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDSXnnjZAWA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVNekTyg65E&feature=related
23367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 14, 2009, 07:18:21 AM
"Problem here is that this isn't supposed to be a debate IMO, just each person who wants to make their own observations about a situation.  I am here to look for a wider and deeper understanding, not here to dish out punishment."

Well said!
23368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: May 14, 2009, 07:15:35 AM
The impression of Commander in Chiefs competence, character, and integrity left by this episode are dispiriting indeed.
23369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / School girls poisoned on: May 13, 2009, 05:37:38 PM
84 Hospitalized in Apparent Poisoning at Afghan Girls School
Tuesday , May 12, 2009
MUHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan —

At least 84 Afghan schoolgirls were admitted to a hospital Tuesday for headaches and vomiting in the third apparent poison attack on a girls school in as many weeks, officials and doctors said.

The students were lining up outside their school in northeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning when a strange odor filled the school yard, and one girl collapsed, said the school's principal, who was herself in a hospital bed gasping for breath as she described the event.

"We took her inside and splashed water on her face," said Mossena, who like many Afghans goes by one name. Then other girls started passing out in the yard and they sent all the students home.

It was unclear if the incident was a deliberate attack on the school, though the Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan, who oppose girls education, have been known to target schoolgirls.

Mossena said she did not know what happened next because she collapsed and woke up in the main hospital in Muhmud Raqi, the capital of Kapisa province, which lies just northeast of Kabul.

At least 98 patients were admitted from Aftab Bachi school, including the principal, 11 teachers and two cleaners, said Khalid Enayat, the hospital's deputy director. He said about another 30 students were being monitored to see if they developed symptoms, although they were not admitted to the hospital. An official earlier said 89 schoolgirls had been hospitalized.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday's apparent attack is the third alleged poisoning at a girls' school in less than three weeks. It comes one day after 61 schoolgirls and one teacher from a school in neighboring Parwan province were admitted to a hospital after complaining of sudden illness. They were irritable, confused and weeping, and several of the girls passed out.

The patients in Kapisa complained of similar symptoms to those in the Parwan incidents -- headaches, vomiting and shivering, said Aziz Agha, a doctor treating the girls.

"I got dizzy and my head hurt. Some other students took me home, then I passed out and they brought me to the hospital," said a startled looking 11-year-old, Tahira, from her hospital bed.

The fifth grader said she planned to go back to school when she felt better, but that now it would fill her with fear.

"I'm going to be scared when I go back to school. What if we die?" she said.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Zemeri Bashary said officials suspect some sort of gas poisoning, and that police were still investigating.

Under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, girls were not allowed to attend school. Though it was unclear if the recent incidents were the result of attacks, militants in the south have previously assaulted schoolgirls by spraying acid in their faces and burning down schools to protest the government.

Scores of Afghan schools have been forced to close because of violence. Still, the three recent apparent poisonings have taken place in northeast Afghanistan, which is not as opposed to education for girls as Afghanistan's conservative southern regions.

The first apparent poison attack took place late last month in Parwan, when dozens of girls were hospitalized after being sickened by what Afghan officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.
23370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CEO BO on the advertising budget on: May 13, 2009, 02:22:44 PM
I see CEO BO is halving the advertising budget for Chrysler.

Oy fcuking vey!!! 

The march to liberal fascism continues, and our Pravda press cheers and the sheople bleat  tongue tongue tongue cry cry cry
23371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: May 13, 2009, 01:37:17 PM
From Borneo

13 May 2009

The command shakeup in Afghanistan has many people talking.  I've been with the British Army.  British officers have many questions about the change.  I have no special knowledge of the situation other than a couple of hunches based on recent experiences. I can say that of my concerns about AfPak, U.S. military leadership is at the very bottom of the list.  Our leadership is strong and experienced.  In broad strokes, I'm simply not concerned.  I am greatly concerned about AfPak, though.  The situation continues to rot.

Please see read: Gates, Petraeus, McKiernan, McChrystal and Rodriguez
23372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine; and noting a landmark on: May 13, 2009, 10:31:10 AM
"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

--Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

Also, with quiet satisfaction I note today that this thread now has over 25,000 reads and one short of 400 posts-- which works out to over 62 reads per post.  In that when the thread began it averaged much less (15) for the longest time, that means that current reads per post are much higher.

Together, inspired and informed by what we read here, we shall sally forth and defend the American Creed.


23373  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: May 13, 2009, 03:26:24 AM
Agradezco los retos que la Vida me esta' brindando.
23374  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: May 13, 2009, 03:23:27 AM
Maturity of the Soul


By Tzvi Freeman
The ultimate elevation of the soul is to find it has purpose. To discover that it is not here simply to be, but to accomplish, to heal, to make better. In that moment of discovery, the soul graduates from being G‑d's little child to become His representative.
23375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 13, 2009, 03:03:26 AM
JDN:

I salute your determination to stay in good spirits here, but , , , dude!!! On the logic front my vote is that you are getting your butt kicked!   cheesy
23376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 13, 2009, 02:04:25 AM
Thank you.
23377  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 12, 2009, 09:24:47 PM
Ron Balicki shared that with me back around '96-97.  It wouldn't surprise me if he got it from Erik Paulsen.
23378  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality Toys on: May 12, 2009, 09:06:30 PM
a) The key ring of the key fob is removable

b) What are the philosophical issues pertaining to a stylus?
23379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 12, 2009, 10:45:09 AM
HAven't looked into this for myself yet, but these are said to have GPS jammers:

DIY version. Some experience required.
http://www.navigadget.com/index.php/...ade-gps-jammer

Store-bought versions. Some do cell phones or GLONASS as well.
http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/GPS_Jammer.html
23380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare will stifle your doctor on: May 12, 2009, 12:02:49 AM
By SCOTT GOTTLIEB
At the heart of President Barack Obama's health-care plan is an insurance program funded by taxpayers, administered by Washington, and open to everyone. Modeled on Medicare, this "public option" will soon become the single dominant health plan, which is its political purpose. It will restructure the practice of medicine in the process.

 
Chad Crowe
 Republicans and Democrats agree that the government's Medicare scheme for compensating doctors is deeply flawed. Yet Mr. Obama's plan for a centrally managed government insurance program exacerbates Medicare's problems by redistributing even more income away from lower-paid primary care providers and misaligning doctors' financial incentives.

Like Medicare, the "public option" will control spending by using its purchasing clout and political leverage to dictate low prices to doctors. (Medicare pays doctors 20% to 30% less than private plans, on average.) While the public option is meant for the uninsured, employers will realize it's easier -- and cheaper -- to move employees into the government plan than continue workplace coverage.

The Lewin Group, a health-care policy research and consulting firm, estimates that enrollment in the public option will reach 131 million people if it's open to everyone and pays Medicare rates, as many expect. Fully two-thirds of the privately insured will move out of or lose coverage. As patients shift to a lower-paying government plan, doctors' incomes will decline by as much as 15% to 20% depending on their specialty.

Physician income declines will be accompanied by regulations that will make practicing medicine more costly, creating a double whammy of lower revenue and higher practice costs, especially for primary-care doctors who generally operate busy practices and work on thinner margins. For example, doctors will face expenses to deploy pricey electronic prescribing tools and computerized health records that are mandated under the Obama plan. For most doctors these capital costs won't be fully covered by the subsidies provided by the plan.

Government insurance programs also shift compliance costs directly onto doctors by encumbering them with rules requiring expensive staffing and documentation. It's a way for government health programs like Medicare to control charges. The rules are backed up with threats of arbitrary probes targeting documentation infractions. There will also be disproportionate fines, giving doctors and hospitals reason to overspend on their back offices to avoid reprisals.

The 60% of doctors who are self-employed will be hardest hit. That includes specialists, such as dermatologists and surgeons, who see a lot of private patients. But it also includes tens of thousands of primary-care doctors, the very physicians the Obama administration says need the most help.

Doctors will consolidate into larger practices to spread overhead costs, and they'll cram more patients into tight schedules to make up in volume what's lost in margin. Visits will be shortened and new appointments harder to secure. It already takes on average 18 days to get an initial appointment with an internist, according to the American Medical Association, and as many as 30 days for specialists like obstetricians and neurologists.

Right or wrong, more doctors will close their practices to new patients, especially patients carrying lower paying insurance such as Medicaid. Some doctors will opt out of the system entirely, going "cash only." If too many doctors take this route the government could step in -- as in Canada, for example -- to effectively outlaw private-only medical practice.

These changes are superimposed on a payment system where compensation often bears no connection to clinical outcomes. Medicare provides all the wrong incentives. Its charge-based system pays doctors more for delivering more care, meaning incomes rise as medical problems persist and decline when illness resolves.

So how should we reform our broken health-care system? Rather than redistribute physician income as a way to subsidize an expansion of government control, Mr. Obama should fix the payment system to align incentives with improved care. After years of working on this problem, Medicare has only a few token demonstration programs to show for its efforts. Medicare's failure underscores why an inherently local undertaking like a medical practice is badly managed by a remote and political bureaucracy.

But while Medicare has stumbled with these efforts, private health plans have made notable progress on similar payment reforms. Private plans are more likely to lead payment reform efforts because they have more motivation than Medicare to use pay as a way to achieve better outcomes.

Private plans already pay doctors more than Medicare because they compete to attract higher quality providers into their networks. This gives them every incentive, as well as added leverage, to reward good clinicians while penalizing or excluding bad ones. A recent report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers that examined 10 of the nation's largest commercial health plans found that eight had implemented performance-based pay measures for doctors. All 10 plans are expanding efforts to monitor quality improvement at the provider level.

Among the promising examples of private innovation in health-care delivery: In Pennsylvania, the Geisinger Clinic's "warranty" program, where providers take financial responsibility for the entire episode of care; or the experience of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia, where doctors are paid more for delivering better outcomes.

There are plenty of alternatives to Mr. Obama's plan that expand coverage to the uninsured, give them the chance to buy private coverage like Congress enjoys, and limit government management over what are inherently personal transactions between doctors and patients.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D., N.Y.) has introduced a bipartisan measure, the Small Business Cooperative for Healthcare Options to Improve Coverage for Employees (Choice) Act of 2009, that would make it cheaper and easier for small employers to offer health insurance. Mr. Obama would also get bipartisan compromise on premium support for people priced out of insurance to give them a wider range of choices. This could be modeled after the Medicare drug benefit, which relies on competition between private plans to increase choices and hold down costs. It could be funded, in part, through tax credits targeted to lower-income Americans.

There are also measures available that could fix structural flaws in our delivery system and make coverage more affordable without top-down controls set in Washington. The surest way to intensify flaws in the delivery of health care is to extend a Medicare-like "public option" into more corners of the private market. More government control of doctors and their reimbursement schemes will only create more problems.

Dr. Gottlieb, a former official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a practicing internist. He's partner to a firm that invests in health-care companies
23381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Big Picture on: May 11, 2009, 07:03:41 PM
   
The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan
May 11, 2009




By George Friedman

After U.S. airstrikes killed scores of civilians in western Afghanistan this past week, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the United States would continue with the airstrikes and would not tie the hands of U.S. generals fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has cautioned against using tactics that undermine strategic U.S. goals in Afghanistan — raising the question of what exactly are the U.S. strategic goals in Afghanistan. A debate inside the U.S. camp has emerged over this very question, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the region.

On one side are President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a substantial amount of the U.S. Army leadership. On the other side are Petraeus — the architect of U.S. strategy in Iraq after 2006 — and his staff and supporters. An Army general — even one with four stars — is unlikely to overcome a president and a defense secretary; even the five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur couldn’t pull that off. But the Afghan debate is important, and it provides us with a sense of future U.S. strategy in the region.

Petraeus and U.S. Strategy in Iraq
Petraeus took over effective command of coalition forces in Iraq in 2006. Two things framed his strategy. One was the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm congressional elections, which many saw as a referendum on the Iraq war. The second was the report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of elder statesmen (including Gates) that recommended some fundamental changes in how the war was fought.

The expectation in November 2006 was that as U.S. President George W. Bush’s strategy had been repudiated, his only option was to begin withdrawing troops. Even if Bush didn’t begin this process, it was expected that his successor in two years certainly would have to do so. The situation was out of control, and U.S. forces did not seem able to assert control. The goals of the 2003 invasion, which were to create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, redefine the political order of Iraq and use Iraq as a base of operations against hostile regimes in the region, were unattainable. It did not seem possible to create any coherent regime in Baghdad at all, given that a complex civil war was under way that the United States did not seem able to contain.

Most important, groups in Iraq believed that the United States would be leaving. Therefore, political alliance with the United States made no sense, as U.S. guarantees would be made moot by withdrawal. The expectation of an American withdrawal sapped U.S. political influence, while the breadth of the civil war and its complexity exhausted the U.S. Army. Defeat had been psychologically locked in.

Bush’s decision to launch a surge of forces in Iraq was less a military event than a psychological one. Militarily, the quantity of forces to be inserted — some 30,000 on top of a force of 120,000 — did not change the basic metrics of war in a country of about 29 million. Moreover, the insertion of additional troops was far from a surge; they trickled in over many months. Psychologically, however, it was stunning. Rather than commence withdrawals as so many expected, the United States was actually increasing its forces. The issue was not whether the United States could defeat all of the insurgents and militias; that was not possible. The issue was that because the United States was not leaving, the United States was not irrelevant. If the United States was not irrelevant, then at least some American guarantees could have meaning. And that made the United States a political actor in Iraq.

Petraeus combined the redeployment of some troops with an active political program. At the heart of this program was reaching out to the Sunni insurgents, who had been among the most violent opponents of the United States during 2003-2006. The Sunni insurgents represented the traditional leadership of the mainstream Sunni tribes, clans and villages. The U.S. policy of stripping the Sunnis of all power in 2003 and apparently leaving a vacuum to be filled by the Shia had left the Sunnis in a desperate situation, and they had moved to resistance as guerrillas.

The Sunnis actually were trapped by three forces. First, there were the Americans, always pressing on the Sunnis even if they could not crush them. Second, there were the militias of the Shia, a group that the Sunni Saddam Hussein had repressed and that now was suspicious of all Sunnis. Third, there were the jihadists, a foreign legion of Sunni fighters drawn to Iraq under the banner of al Qaeda. In many ways, the jihadists posed the greatest threat to the mainstream Sunnis, since they wanted to seize leadership of the Sunni communities and radicalize them.

U.S. policy under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been unbending hostility to the Sunni insurgency. The policy under Gates and Petraeus after 2006 — and it must be understood that they developed this strategy jointly — was to offer the Sunnis a way out of their three-pronged trap. Because the United States would be staying in Iraq, it could offer the Sunnis protection against both the jihadists and the Shia. And because the surge convinced the Sunnis that the United States was not going to withdraw, they took the deal. Petraeus’ great achievement was presiding over the U.S.-Sunni negotiations and eventual understanding, and then using that to pressure the Shiite militias with the implicit threat of a U.S.-Sunni entente. The Shia subsequently and painfully shifted their position to accepting a coalition government, the mainstream Sunnis helped break the back of the jihadists and the civil war subsided, allowing the United States to stage a withdrawal under much more favorable circumstances.

This was a much better outcome than most would have thought possible in 2006. It was, however, an outcome that fell far short of American strategic goals of 2003. The current government in Baghdad is far from pro-American and is unlikely to be an ally of the United States; keeping it from becoming an Iranian tool would be the best outcome for the United States at this point. The United States certainly is not about to reshape Iraqi society, and Iraq is not likely to be a long-term base for U.S. offensive operations in the region.

Gates and Petraeus produced what was likely the best possible outcome under the circumstances. They created the framework for a U.S. withdrawal in a context other than a chaotic civil war, they created a coalition government, and they appear to have blocked Iranian influence in Iraq. But these achievements remain uncertain. The civil war could resume. The coalition government might collapse. The Iranians might become the dominant force in Baghdad. But these unknowns are enormously better than the outcomes expected in 2006. At the same time, snatching uncertainty from the jaws of defeat is not the same as victory.

Afghanistan and Lessons from Iraq
Petraeus is arguing that the strategy pursued in Iraq should be used as a blueprint in Afghanistan, and it appears that Obama and Gates have raised a number of important questions in response. Is the Iraqi solution really so desirable? If it is desirable, can it be replicated in Afghanistan? What level of U.S. commitment would be required in Afghanistan, and what would this cost in terms of vulnerabilities elsewhere in the world? And finally, what exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan?

In Iraq, Gates and Petraeus sought to create a coalition government that, regardless of its nature, would facilitate a U.S. withdrawal. Obama and Gates have stated that the goal in Afghanistan is the defeat of al Qaeda and the denial of bases for the group in Afghanistan. This is a very different strategic goal than in Iraq, because this goal does not require a coalition government or a reconciliation of political elements. Rather, it requires an agreement with one entity: the Taliban. If the Taliban agree to block al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, the United States will have achieved its goal. Therefore, the challenge in Afghanistan is using U.S. power to give the Taliban what they want — a return to power — in exchange for a settlement on the al Qaeda question.

In Iraq, the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all held genuine political and military power. In Afghanistan, the Americans and the Taliban have this power, though many other players have derivative power from the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; where al-Maliki had his own substantial political base, Karzai is someone the Americans invented to become a focus for power in the future. But the future has not come. The complexities of Iraq made a coalition government possible there, but in many ways, Afghanistan is both simpler and more complex. The country has a multiplicity of groups, but in the end only one insurgency that counts.

Petraeus argues that the U.S. strategic goal — blocking al Qaeda in Afghanistan — cannot be achieved simply through an agreement with the Taliban. In this view, the Taliban are not nearly as divided as some argue, and therefore their factions cannot be played against each other. Moreover, the Taliban cannot be trusted to keep their word even if they give it, which is not likely.

From Petraeus’ view, Gates and Obama are creating the situation that existed in pre-surge Iraq. Rather than stunning Afghanistan psychologically with the idea that the United States is staying, thereby causing all the parties to reconsider their positions, Obama and Gates have done the opposite. They have made it clear that Washington has placed severe limits on its willingness to invest in Afghanistan, and made it appear that the United States is overly eager to make a deal with the one group that does not need a deal: the Taliban.

Gates and Obama have pointed out that there is a factor in Afghanistan for which there was no parallel in Iraq — namely, Pakistan. While Iran was a factor in the Iraqi civil war, the Taliban are as much a Pakistani phenomenon as an Afghan one, and the Pakistanis are neither willing nor able to deny the Taliban sanctuary and lines of supply. So long as Pakistan is in the condition it is in — and Pakistan likely will stay that way for a long time — the Taliban have time on their side and no reason to split, and are likely to negotiate only on their terms.

There is also a military fear. Petraeus brought U.S. troops closer to the population in Iraq, and he is doing this in Afghanistan as well. U.S. forces in Afghanistan are deployed in firebases. These relatively isolated positions are vulnerable to massed Taliban forces. U.S. airpower can destroy these concentrations, so long as they are detected in time and attacked before they close in on the firebases. Ominously for the United States, the Taliban do not seem to have committed anywhere near the majority of their forces to the campaign.

This military concern is combined with real questions about the endgame. Gates and Obama are not convinced that the endgame in Iraq, perhaps the best outcome that was possible there, is actually all that desirable for Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this outcome would leave the Taliban in power in the end. No amount of U.S. troops could match the Taliban’s superior intelligence capability, their knowledge of the countryside and their willingness to take casualties in pursuing their ends, and every Afghan security force would be filled with Taliban agents.

And there is a deeper issue yet that Gates has referred to: the Russian experience in Afghanistan. The Petraeus camp is vehement that there is no parallel between the Russian and American experience; in this view, the Russians tried to crush the insurgents, while the Americans are trying to win them over and end the insurgency by convincing the Taliban’s supporters and reaching a political accommodation with their leaders. Obama and Gates are less sanguine about the distinction — such distinctions were made in Vietnam in response to the question of why the United States would fare better in Southeast Asia than the French did. From the Obama and Gates point of view, a political settlement would call for either a constellation of forces in Afghanistan favoring some accommodation with the Americans, or sufficient American power to compel accommodation. But it is not clear to Obama and Gates that either could exist in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, Petraeus is charging that Obama and Gates are missing the chance to repeat what was done in Iraq, while Obama and Gates are afraid Petraeus is confusing success in Iraq with a universal counterinsurgency model. To put it differently, they feel that while Petraeus benefited from fortuitous circumstances in Iraq, he quickly could find himself hopelessly bogged down in Afghanistan. The Pentagon on May 11 announced that U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan would be replaced, less than a year after he took over, with Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal. McKiernan’s removal could pave the way for a broader reshuffling of Afghan strategy by the Obama administration.

The most important issues concern the extent to which Obama wants to stake his presidency on Petraeus’ vision in Afghanistan, and how important Afghanistan is to U.S. grand strategy. Petraeus has conceded that al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Getting the group out of Pakistan requires surgical strikes. Occupation and regime change in Pakistan are way beyond American abilities. The question of what the United States expects to win in Afghanistan — assuming it can win anything there — remains.

In the end, there is never a debate between U.S. presidents and generals. Even MacArthur discovered that. It is becoming clear that Obama is not going to bet all in Afghanistan, and that he sees Afghanistan as not worth the fight. Petraeus is a soldier in a fight, and he wants to win. But in the end, as Clausewitz said, war is an extension of politics by other means. As such, generals tend to not get their way.

 
23382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother is tracking you on: May 11, 2009, 02:13:49 PM
Wisconsin court upholds GPS tracking by police
By RYAN J. FOLEY | Associated Press Writer
2:42 PM CDT, May 7, 2009
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody's movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was "more than a little troubled" by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights -- even if the drivers aren't suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.



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Picking a GPS That means "police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone's public movements with a GPS device," he wrote.

One privacy advocate said the decision opened the door for greater government surveillance of citizens. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials called the decision a victory for public safety because tracking devices are an increasingly important tool in investigating criminal behavior.

The ruling came in a 2003 case involving Michael Sveum, a Madison man who was under investigation for stalking. Police got a warrant to put a GPS on his car and secretly attached it while the vehicle was parked in Sveum's driveway. The device recorded his car's movements for five weeks before police retrieved it and downloaded the information.

The information suggested Sveum was stalking the woman, who had gone to police earlier with suspicions. Police got a second warrant to search his car and home, found more evidence and arrested him. He was convicted of stalking and sentenced to prison.

Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.

The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.

Even though the device followed Sveum's car to private places, an officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Attaching the device was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum's driveway is a public place.

"We discern no privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment that is invaded when police attach a device to the outside of a vehicle, as long as the information obtained is the same as could be gained by the use of other techniques that do not require a warrant," he wrote.

Although police obtained a warrant in this case, it wasn't needed, he added.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said using GPS to track someone's car goes beyond observing them in public and should require a warrant.

"The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else's property without any court supervision, that's wrong," he said. "Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want."

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's office, which argued in favor of the warrantless GPS tracking, praised the ruling but would not elaborate on its use in Wisconsin.

David Banaszynski, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said his department in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood does not use GPS. But other departments might use it to track drug dealers, burglars and stalkers, he said.

A state law already requires the Department of Corrections to track the state's most dangerous sex offenders using GPS. The author of that law, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the decision shows "GPS tracking is an effective means of protecting public safety."
23383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fighting in Panjwayi District on: May 11, 2009, 11:45:54 AM
Mideast Stars and Stripes
May 10, 2009

Taliban Command Of Afghan Terrain Makes Fighting Conditions Difficult

By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — Two companies of American soldiers accompanied Canadian forces on a recent four-day operation into Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, where some of the sharpest fighting has occurred against the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan.

The American mission was to help secure a narrow dirt track that led to the village of Mushan, about 10 kilometers to the west, where the Canadians would tear down a small outpost that had been occupied since late 2006 by eight Canadian advisers and 60 Afghan soldiers.

According to U.S. and Canadian officers, the small force had not been able to do much to counter the Taliban in the area. The fort had been under frequent attack. So the troops would be pulled out as part of a new NATO strategy to reposition forces around Kandahar and other major population centers in southern Afghanistan.

By early afternoon on the third day, the mission was almost complete. The engineers had finished their work, and the armored column of more than 400 Canadians, 200 Americans and 100 Afghans was beginning to move out.

Then a Taliban bomb struck a Canadian tank, wounding two soldiers and putting the tank out of action.

There was no way for the rest of the convoy to move around the wreckage. The high-walled compounds and deeply trenched opium and wheat fields along the road gave almost no room to maneuver. With most of the column bottled up behind the disabled tank, the convoy was stalled for most of another day as recovery specialists worked to extract the vehicle.

"It’s amazing that 10 dudes with shovels can stop a whole battalion," said Capt. Chris Brawley, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, commenting on how a single Taliban bomb had brought the convoy to a halt.

The column moved safely out of the area the next morning. Soldiers with Company A engaged in three firefights, but suffered no casualties. A soldier from Company D had been slightly injured in a blast, one of several bombs that had either exploded or been found along the route.

By any measure, the mission had been a success, but it bore out a fundamental challenge that U.S. and other NATO forces face in southern Afghanistan: While western troops have the technology, the Taliban own the terrain.

Although U.S. and NATO troops enjoy the edge over the Taliban in almost every respect — superior weapons, communications gear, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and air support by fighters, bombers, helicopters and unmanned drones — those tactical advantages are often offset by terrain that favors guerrilla tactics and a lightly armed, highly maneuverable enemy.

"The fighting conditions here are amazingly difficult," said Brawley, 28, of Ellington, Mo. "The enemy pretty much has free rein down here, and there’s just endless places to hide."

Another complicating factor in the Mushan operation was that "there’s only one way in, and there’s one way out," said Brawley, allowing the Taliban to detonate bombs along the route that were probably buried weeks and months ago.

Panjwayi district lies about 40 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital of Kandahar and has long been considered a Taliban stronghold. During Operation Medusa in 2006, Canadian and other NATO forces fought one of the bloodiest battles so far of the eight-year-old Afghan war in Panjwayi and nearby Zhari district.

The area is heavily cultivated with wheat, grapes, opium, marijuana and other crops. The fields are partitioned by thick mud walls, and irrigation ditches crisscross the landscape like a maze. A group of soldiers on patrol in a grape field can suddenly drop six to 10 feet into a series of trenches in which an enemy can move undetected.

Rows of open slats in the two-story structures the soldiers refer to as "grape huts" offer the Taliban ready-made firing ports that they use to fire on NATO forces from concealed positions. The thick mud walls of the buildings can withstand multiple hits from all but the heaviest ordnance.

"[The enemy] definitely has the advantage down here," said Company A 1st Sgt. Christopher Kowalewski, 36, of Chicago. "[Despite] all of the technology that we have — all of our helicopters — he still has the advantage down here."

Soldiers from Company A engaged in three gunbattles with Taliban fighters over a two-day period during the Mushan operation. An estimated 10 fighters ambushed about 30 soldiers on the first day, keeping them pinned down for about two hours. The firefight ended only after American troops called for mortar and artillery fire, support from Kiowa helicopter gunships and, finally, an airstrike.

At one point, the Taliban were firing on the Americans from three sides. First Lt. Ashton Ballesteros, of 3 Delta platoon, said Canadian troops familiar with Taliban tactics in the area had told him the fighters typically "cloverleaf" around NATO forces during a fight, probing for weak spots.

"That’s exactly what they were trying to do to us," said Ballesteros, 24, of Grayson, Ga.

U.S. mortar teams fired more than 30 rounds of 60 mm high explosives and nearly 30 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke, according to Staff Sgt. Jason Calman, 27, of Las Vegas. Fire batteries at a nearby Canadian camp fired nearly 30 rounds of high-explosive 155 mm artillery rounds and another 18 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke. A NATO jet dropped a 500-pound bomb.

The soldiers used the smoke to cover their retreat. They made their way back to their patrol base through fields of wheat, opium and grapes, the latter with trenches that were deeper than the soldiers were tall.

"You could sit out an artillery barrage in this stuff and probably survive everything but a direct hit," one soldier said during a short rest break.

A second gunbattle broke out a couple of kilometers to the south when 2nd Platoon of Company A was ambushed by another group of Taliban fighters. The platoon was hit for a second time the next day not more than 100 meters from its patrol base.

An Afghan man with a child was spotted several times at various points during the second day’s action. The soldiers believed the man was acting as spotter for the Taliban and using the child as a shield.

"They know we’re not going to shoot him when he’s with a kid," said 1st Lt. Jared Wagner, 25, of Hillsborough, N.J. "It’s frustrating."

With so much Taliban activity around Zangabad and Mushan, Brawley predicted that NATO forces would have to "retake this whole area" at some point.

With Canadian forces scaling back their presence in Panjwayi and with more American forces coming into the south, that job will very likely fall to U.S. troops.
23384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-4 on: May 11, 2009, 11:11:34 AM
His response:

Personally, and this is only what I think, the Iraqis will not be able to stand up on their own when crunch time comes.  The infiltration of militias and insurgents into both the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, as evidenced by the number of Sudden Jihad Syndrome attacks, tells me all I need to know.
 
Again, that's just me....
==========

My response was to ask whether his conclusion implied that we were leaving too soon.  His answer:

"Yes we are leaving too soon.  But I do not believe that even 5-years from now would work."
23385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / BO shreds the Constitution on: May 11, 2009, 11:06:24 AM
"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world." --U.S. Senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

 
Obama keeps shredding the Constitution

"Barack Obama's vision of America is one in which a President of the United States can fire the head of General Motors, tell banks how to bank, control the medical system and take charge of all sorts of other activities for which neither he nor other politicians have any expertise or experience. The Constitution of the United States gives no president, nor the entire federal government, the authority to do such things. But spending trillions of dollars to bail out all sorts of companies buys the power to tell them how to operate. Appointing judges to the federal courts -- including the Supreme Court -- who believe in expanding the powers of the federal government to make arbitrary decisions, choosing who will be winners and losers in the economy and in the society, is perfectly consistent with a vision of the world where self-confident and self-righteous elites rule according to their own notions, instead of merely governing under the restraints of the Constitution." --Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell

GOVERNMENT
"Given how congressional leaders have abdicated their responsibilities, perhaps it's not surprising that the secured creditors who challenged the Obama-imposed Chrysler merger deal were too polite to note that the president lacks statutory authority to intervene in the car industry. 'Even assuming that TARP provides the Treasury Department with authority to provide funding to the Debtors,' they said, it is neither fair nor legal to let unsecured creditors such as the United Auto Workers get more of their money back than creditors who by statute have a superior claim. But for a president who tramples on the Constitution in his rush to save companies from the consequences of their own bad decisions, the bankruptcy code is no obstacle." --columnist Jacob Sullum

23386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Webster on: May 11, 2009, 11:01:53 AM
"[T]he Constitution ought to be the standard of construction for the laws, and that wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution." --Alexander Hamilton


"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world." --U.S. Senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
23387  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-2 on: May 11, 2009, 10:58:47 AM
OMII forwards us this and comments:
================================
5 U.S. soldiers killed in Baghdad
May 11, 2009 - 02:35:03

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Five U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday in a shooting inside a U.S. base in Baghdad, the U.S. army said.

“Five Multi-National Forces were killed in a shooting inside al-Houriya base in Baghdad at 2:00 p.m. on Monday (May 11),” the U.S. army said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency.  “The incident under investigation,” it added, without giving further details.

====
I become ever more convinced that Michael Yon was on Kool-Aid when he passed through Iraq.  I say that matter of factly, not to be disrespectful.  This country will not survive our departure.  I pray I am wrong.

====

In response I have asked if maybe we are leaving too quickly, too soon, and are throwing away what we finally accomplished.  I await his answer.


23388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps and the Public Option on: May 11, 2009, 10:49:25 AM
So Democrats have declared their willingness to use a parliamentary tactic to force a far-reaching restructuring of U.S. health care through Congress on a partisan vote. Imagine if Tom DeLay had tried to do that on, say, Social Security. Would Democrats have rolled over?

On the one hand, President Obama and his party say they're hoping to strike a good-faith compromise on health care. On the other, they're threatening this "budget reconciliation" maneuver to coerce Republicans into rubber-stamping liberal policy. And if the GOP won't oblige, Democrats say they'll add a new multitrillion-dollar liability to the federal fisc anyway, using a process that was designed to cut spending and reduce the deficit.

The political game here is that Democrats want to use this threat to peel off a handful of GOP Senators before the bill comes to the floor in June. That would short-circuit this year's health-care debate before it begins. Their targets include the likes of Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, all of whom bowed to the Democrats in 2007 on expanding the state children's insurance program (Schip). But those were minor stakes compared to this year's battle, especially over the so-called public option for health insurance.

This new entitlement -- like Medicare but open to all ages and all incomes -- would quickly crowd out private insurance as people gravitated to heavily subsidized policies, eventually leading to a single-payer system. So Democrats are trying to seduce diffident Republicans with a Potemkin compromise. A "soft" public option would limit enrollment only to the uninsured or those employed by small businesses, or include promises that the plan will pay market rates. As recently proposed by Chuck Schumer, it would pay claims entirely with premiums and co-pays. But if the plan can't force down reimbursement rates through brute force, and doesn't get taxpayer dollars, why bother to "compete" with private plans?

The truth is Democrats know that any policy guardrails built this year can be dismantled once the basic public option architecture is in place. The White House strategy is to dilute it just enough to win over credulous Republicans. That is what has always happened with government health programs:

When Medicare was created in 1965, benefits were relatively limited and retirees paid a substantial percentage of the costs of their own care. But the clout of retirees has always led to expanding benefits for seniors while raising taxes on younger workers.

In 1965, Congressional actuaries expected Medicare to cost $3.1 billion by 1970. In 1969, that estimate was revised to $5 billion, and it actually came in at $6.8 billion. That same year, the Senate Finance Committee declared a Medicare cost emergency. In 1979, Jimmy Carter proposed limiting benefits, only to have the bill killed by fellow Democrats. Things have gotten worse since, and Medicare today costs $455 billion and rising.

Medicaid was intended as a last resort for the poor but now covers one-third of all long-term care expenses in the U.S. -- that is, it has become a middle-class subsidy for aging parents of the Baby Boomers. Its annual bill is $227 billion, and so far this fiscal year is rising by 17%.

Schip was pitched a decade ago as a safety net for poor kids, and some Republicans helped sell it as a free-market reform. But Schip is now open to families that earn up to 300% of the poverty level, or $63,081 for a family of four. In New York, you can qualify at 400% of poverty.

Any new federal health plan will inevitably follow the same trajectory, no matter how much Republican Senators might claim they've guaranteed otherwise. The Lewin Group consultants estimate that 119 million people who now have private insurance could potentially be captured by the government under the Obama public option. This is on top of the 90 million already in Medicare or Medicaid. This would guarantee a spending explosion that would over time lift federal outlays as a share of GDP into the upper 20% range or higher. Republicans would spend the rest of their days deciding whether to vote for tax increases to finance this, or stand accused of denying health care to the middle class.

This doesn't mean the die is cast. Democrats also know that durable reforms in America have typically passed with bipartisan majorities. They understand that a national health plan that passes on partisan lines could be pared back as unaffordable or unfair, the way the "catastrophic" health plan for seniors was repealed in 1989.

As New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg recently told us, Democrats also don't want their swing-state Senators to have to defend such a partisan process in the 2010 election. That's why they're eager for even the veneer of bipartisanship that three or four GOP Senators would provide. And that's why they're willing to threaten a procedural bludgeon to intimidate Republicans to provide that veneer.

This health-care debate isn't like the "stimulus" bill, which was largely about short-term spending and deficits. This one is about whether to turn 17% of the U.S. economy entirely and permanently into the arms of the government. For Republicans, this is about whether they still stand for anything at all.
23389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: May 11, 2009, 09:16:37 AM
 
"Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the spot of every wind. With such persons, gullability, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck."
 
Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822
23390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq on: May 11, 2009, 09:14:55 AM
Holy f&$#!  A rocket just flew over our hooch and landed not too far away.  Pretty decent boom too.
They are telling us the rocket landed one street over from our hooch.  In some guy's garden.  He had apparently just finished planting his garden and grass.  Now it's all a mess.  And he's pissed!
 
Interestingly the whoosh sound associated with this one, which landed quite close, was only about 1/4 second (if that).  The  one that flew over in December was quite longer (seemed like 2 seconds or so).  That one landed much farther away.
 
I  guess the lesson might be if you hear only a very, very short whoosh, don't dither in hitting the deck. They make the most unmistakable whoosh kind of sound.

The security situation is so good that a friend of mine, and her whole unit, is having to leave Fallujah for a safer place.

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

MARC writing now:

Is President Obama throwing away what we have achieved in Iraq?
23391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 09, 2009, 05:12:31 PM
The Pakistani army are readying for an urban battle unprecedented in the short history of its battle against the Taliban

Sana al Haq in Mingora and Declan Walsh in Islamabad
guardian.co.uk
Saturday 9 May 2009 17.01 BST


The skiing season at Malam Jabba, Pakistan's only ski resort, is over. Yesterday the pistes echoed with the sound of explosions as fighter jets screamed overhead, part of the Pakistan military's intensifying campaign to dislodge the Taliban from the Swat Valley.

An hour's drive away in Mingora, the war-racked valley's main town, the Taliban and army are readying for an urban battle unprecedented in the short history of Pakistan's battle against the Taliban.

Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, today said the army was fighting for "the survival of the country", speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting.

The country's leaders, encouraged by the US, launched the full-scale offensive in Swat last week in order to halt the spread of Taliban control which had spread to districts within 60 miles of the capital. The battle has now been taken to the heart of the north-west region of the country which the Taliban has seized as its powerbase, and in particular to the beleaguered, frightened town of Mingora.

This once-bustling riverside community, nestled between orchards and rolling mountains, has become a hub of the dispossessed and the desperate. Since fighting erupted last Tuesday, following the collapse of a fragile peace deal, tens of thousands of frantic residents have fled, scrambling on to buses, cars and even rickshaws. They left behind a ghost city controlled by the Taliban, under siege from army mortar fire and helicopter gunship assaults, and tensed in the expectation of an army ground offensive that could lead to urban warfare reminiscent of Russian bids to clear Grozny, Chechnya, in 1999 and 2000.

At Mingora hospital yesterday embattled medics struggled to tend to dozens of residents injured by army shelling and stray gunfire. Riaz Khan, a 36-year-old teacher, his wife and two daughters occupied four of the beds, suffering shrapnel wounds to the arms and legs. His two other daughters were killed by an army mortar last week, he told an Associated Press reporter.

If, as expected, the army launches a major ground offensive to dislodge the Taliban, casualties are expected to rise on all sides. Yesterday the army said it had killed 55 fighters in clashes over the previous 24 hours. The Taliban have laid mines under bridges and along roads across the city. In some cases, wires trail from the bombs into houses where fighters, some fresh-faced teenagers, lie in wait.

Others have seized the tallest buildings, mounting rocket launchers on rooftops and taking cover behind water tanks. At the Continental Hotel, a former haunt of the local and foreign journalists, the rooms are occupied by fighters, the walls are pocked with bullet holes and many windows have shattered.

Education has always been a hot issue for the Taliban – last January they ordered the closure of all girls' schools – so it is perversely appropriate that the war is being fought between schools.On Thursday the Observer visited the Pamir building, which until recently housed the Educators School and College. It was filled with Taliban, their weapons trained on a contingent of soldiers located in a deserted school a few streets away.

The target is the last military bastion in the otherwise Taliban-controlled city, and the soldiers hunkered down inside also face fire from a second position: the Mullababa high school, on the far side of a desiccated riverbed. The army says that 15,000 members of the security forces are located in Swat, many under siege in two camps across the river Swat in Kanju village. One is located on the city golf course, where heavy artillery booms from the rutted greens; the other is inside an unused air strip that has been the target of several Taliban assaults.

The Taliban are bringing in fresh fighters, drawing others back from the Buner valley nearby, where they have been engaged in fierce combat for two weeks. To reach Mingora they pass along a mountain road that crosses the White Palace, a luxury hotel where the Queen stayed during a visit to Swat in 1961.

The army has scored some successes. Yesterday the body of Taliban commander Akbar Ali laid unclaimed in no man's land, a day after he was killed. An earlier rocket assault targeted Taliban fighters in a nearby emerald mine a few kilometres from the city. The mine was reopened a few months ago by Sirajuddin, a local commander with a scraggly gray beard whose previous job was as Taliban spokesman. He laid down strict rules – miners would pray at the appointed times, suffer the loss of an arm and a leg if they attempted to steal gemstones, and give one third of their takings to the Beit ul Mal, or Taliban treasury.

The mine provided rich, illicit pickings. One commander told the Observer he had sold half a million rupees worth of emeralds (£4,200) to a trader, one of about two dozen who came to the mine from Peshawar for a weekly auction. But the Taliban gravy train ground to a halt last Thursday when helicopter gunships pounded the mine, killing 35 militants, the army said.

On the plains to the south of the valley, in Mardan and Swabi districts, a humanitarian nightmare is brewing. More than 200,000 people have fled, another 300,000 are on the move or about to leave, according to the UN, adding to another 550,000 people displaced by earlier fighting in the tribal belt and Frontier province.

As aid workers rush to erect camps, supplies are limited and tempers quickly fray. Yesterday afternoon a riot briefly erupted in Sheikh Shahzad camp, near Mardan, as angry villagers looted UN supplies. Gilani appealed for international help with the ballooning humanitarian crisis that affects up to one million people, according to the UN. He promised the army would strive to end the crisis quickly – an outcome that appeared highly unlikely.

Not everyone has escaped. An unknown number of besieged residents remain trapped, unwilling or unable to leave their homes. Hunkered behind thin walls they survive with no electricity, dwindling water supplies and in fear of stray bombs and gunfire.

Those left behind fear what lies ahead. Reached by phone Khaista Bibi, 55, a resident, said she had hardly eaten in two days. "The situation seems impossible."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...an-swat-valley
23392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Panama on: May 09, 2009, 05:11:05 PM
PANAMA GUN LAWS

Introduction – This article is written for the Ex-Pat who has legally become a resident of the Republic of Panama and wishes to acquire a firearm. We will walk you through the process. Tourists can not acquire firearms in Panama. You must have a residency or be a Pensionado. You do not need to retain a lawyer to purchase a gun. If you have permission to buy the firearm you can carry it concealed on your person, in your pocket or purse, in your vehicle etc. Certain buildings have a firearms prohibited sign on the entrance and of course you should obey these signs. Banks, airports, government offices have such signs. So there are no concealed carry permits in Panama, if you can buy the gun lawfully you can carry it concealed. Exposed carry of the firearm is not allowed and will cause police attention fast.

Types of Guns in Panama – You can buy handguns (semi-auto handguns, revolvers), rifles and shotguns. You can have hi-capacity magazines in any type gun, no restrictions. You can not have full-auto firearms. You can have semi-auto rifles and handguns. You can not have a silencer. Guns are costly in Panama, figure 50% higher than North America on name brand guns like Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith, Remington, etc. Gun dealers generally do not have a large inventory in Panama. Expect to see 10 or so rifles and shotguns in stock and perhaps as many handguns. Many of the guns will be cheapies from Argentina and Russia. The dealer can order you what you want but expect a wait of 2-3 months or more then add in the time for the permission to buy the gun to go through.

The Gun Buying Process in Panama – First you go to the gun store and prove to them you are eligible to buy a firearm by way of Residency, Pensionado, etc. Next you select a gun and pay for it. Then the gun store will have you go to the bathroom and pee in a cup which is a medical sample cup. Then you will be given a form to take to a government health office for a finger prick blood test – DNA sample. Plan on a wait to get your blood sample. Next the gun store sends the paperwork through the police system. It goes to three departments and can take 6-10 weeks to clear. When it is complete you get the gun. More than one gun can be bought at the same time. You also get a gun permit which is a folded piece of green cardboard paper which a photo on it. You can enter up to 10 guns on the permit. Panama does not limit amount of guns so if you earn more than 10 guns an additional listing page will be provided for the permit. The police will take ballistic sample of a fired round.

Sawed off Shotguns and Short Barreled Rifles – These are legal in Panama. They are not sold that way but can be modified by a gunsmith to suit. Pistol grip shotguns with no shoulder stock are generally available in the stores with an 18” barrel and a large magazine underneath. Double barrel shotguns are available and of course can easily be shortened by a gunsmith; you could even add a choke so the short barrel groups tight. Short barrel rifles can also be created by a gunsmith but the purpose of this is hard to determine other than slightly reducing the barrel length on an assault rifle but in any event it is lawful. I guess some want to do it because they could not do so in their home country?

Ammo- No armor piercing ammo allowed. Hollow points, high speed light weight defensive rounds etc. are fine.

Firearm Importation into Panama – This is possible. Generally this appeals to Americans since they seem to have lots of firearms. You go to a gun store and get their assistance. You apply for an importation permit which is something like the same process for a purchase if you do not already have a permit. It is easier if you have a permit. Then you get permission to import the weapon into Panama. There can be problems and restrictions shipping a firearm from other countries like the USA which require the services of a licensed gun dealer able to export. You would Fed Ex the unloaded gun with paperwork from USA and Panama to Panama. Then you would hope for the best and that things sort themselves out before the gun rusts out in some non-climate controlled government warehouse somewhere. You will be required to pay an import duty which can be steep. A customs broker would be best source for costs on this, we do not know but a guess would be 50% of the value – is it new or used, etc. We are a law firm not a customs broker. If you have a question about bringing in some rare special gun like a Browning Safari Grade Rifle or a Heckler and Koch squeeze cocker handgun we really have no idea what the taxes will be. First become eligible for buy a gun and then retain a customs broker. Suggestion: Skip the importation process, buy a gun in Panama.

Ranges – There are an ample amount of indoor handgun ranges and outdoor ranges. No worries.

Knives – You can carry concealed knives. Do not carry an exposed sheath knife in the city – asking for trouble from the police. There are no blade size restrictions. You can carry butterfly knives, automatic knifes, gravity or flick knives, out the front knives, double edge folders (carry Band-Aids) whatever kind of knife. Most of the available knives are the cheapos, sometime you see a medium grade product like a Smith and Wesson knife. Bring your good knives with you, not in carry on. Do not take knives into government buildings, airports, banks and other restricted places. It will come up on the metal detector.

Pepper Spray – Readily available small canisters. No permits needed. Decent quality, not gourmet pepper spray but effective enough.

Swords, Tonfas, Batons, Billy Clubs, Staffs, Nunchukas – All readily available and not restricted.
23393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: May 09, 2009, 04:50:16 PM
 cry cry cry
23394  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Libros de Cecilio Andrade on: May 09, 2009, 11:45:20 AM

http://www.todo-seguridad.com/?p=564
23395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: He was just an "aid" who was acting on his own accord on: May 09, 2009, 11:27:49 AM
Please move this to the "His Glibness" thread or the "Politics" thread.
23396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 09, 2009, 11:25:59 AM
"Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that if they were stealing all the food from the store, management would
have called the police and at minimum, objected.  And no where could I find testament that they stole anything." 

Do you speak French so as to be able to find that testament?

Why would boycotters BUY the food?

"As for "Long live Palestine" it can mean many things; not just the destruction of Israel."

In this context, I think it is pretty clear that it means precisely the destruction of Israel.  For example PLO school books, despite having signed to the contrary in Oslo, still show Palestine as being from "river to sea".

"But for arguments sake, let's say the T-Shirt said, "Eliminate Israel, let Palestine rule". As absurd (for many reasons)
as this statement is, isn't this the right of a protestor to express their opinion about a political issue?"

Sure, but that's not the point here.

"For example my South Korean friends might approve of a T-Shirt that said, "Eliminate North Korea, let Seoul rule".
Probably, many on this forum would also support such a T-Shirt."

Actually I would suport the people of NK truly deciding.

"But one should not pick and choose when it comes to free speech or one day we may not have it."

Again, read again and see that no one here has called for anything against free speech.  Not sure where you are getting this  huh

Subject to confirmation by a competent French speaker, what we are noting here is the apparent intimidation of the store by an organized group going in and taking its products off the shelf-- I'm guessing without payment.
23397  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: May 09, 2009, 10:58:05 AM
Our webmaster tells me the Tribal listing update is now complete.  If there are any errors, please let me know.
23398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 09, 2009, 10:10:48 AM
"Frankly, store management didn't care since the protestors were doing nothing wrong."

How many stores you know freely allow that sort of actiivty?  We are still waiting to here from someone who can say whether they were paying for the food they were taking.  What meaning do you put to their shirts' fronts "Long live Palestine"?   I think they are calling for the destruction of Israel.
23399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: May 09, 2009, 10:07:18 AM
Glenn Beck reported last night that spending on devices to detect radioactivity for our harbors has been cut  rolleyes angry cry

Obama unveiled a budget Thursday with a 2010 price tag of $3.5 trillion financed with $1.2 trillion of new debt. For domestic agencies, that's a 9.3% spending hike over last year.

 
AP
 Mr. Obama and his advisers know the public won't accept gigantic governmental expansions without at least some effort to pare the waste in Washington. So they scrubbed "line by line" through this historically huge budget and identified $16.7 billion of budget savings. This is less than a penny, about 0.47 cents, of savings out of every dollar Uncle Sam will spend this year. And these aren't real savings that will reduce debt, because Congress has already fixed the budget totals. Thus, each dollar saved from the African Development Foundation gets reallocated to some other foreign aid program.

To be fair, most of the 121 program "terminations, reductions and savings" that the President recommends make good sense, and we wish Congress godspeed in eliminating them. By all means have done with the Denali Job Training program (savings of $3 million) and USDA Public Broadcasting Grants ($5 million), and payments to high-income farmers ($58 million).

But Mr. Obama's war on government waste looks like a war on paper clips. Three-quarters of the cuts come from the national defense budget, not domestic agencies. Of the 10-year savings of $71 billion in entitlement programs -- now with a mind-numbing $62.9 trillion unfunded liability over the long-term -- one-third of the cutbacks aren't cuts at all. They are tax increases, mostly on the oil and gas industry.

One cut gives the word "savings" new meaning. The Obama budget will "save" taxpayers $290 million a year by increasing the IRS enforcement agency budget by $890 million. "Targeted enforcement resources more than pay for themselves," says the budget, in the first case of dynamic scoring by the Democrats since the Kennedy Administration.

Mr. Obama has scoffed at critics who complain these savings are inconsequential. "I guess that's considered trivial," he explained. "Outside of Washington [$17 billion] is still considered a lot of money." Yes, Mr. Obama himself signed a budget bill with 9,000 earmarks costing more than $13 billion and then justified the expenditure by declaring these levels of waste minor in the grand scheme of things.

We now live in a time when tens of billions of dollars has become a blip or rounding error in the federal budget. The Administration has said it's time to take action in reducing America's "$12 trillion American Express bill." We agree, but at this pace, with $16.7 billion of savings a year and even assuming no new debt, it will take centuries to pay off Uncle Sam's credit card.
23400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia, Warsaw, Washington on: May 09, 2009, 10:00:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Shifting Relations with Washington and Warsaw
May 8, 2009
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Thursday, discussing plans for Obama’s trip to Moscow in July. The relationship between Russia and the United States has been tense to say the least, although the Russians have introduced an interesting twist.

The last major meeting between American and Russian leaders came April 1 in London, when Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met at the G-20 conference. That meeting went poorly.

The issues on the table at that time included NATO’s expansion to former Soviet states, U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Poland, nuclear reduction treaties and proposed NATO military supply routes to Afghanistan. The Russians entered that meeting convinced they had the upper hand: They believed the NATO expansion issue was locked away and the Americans would have to implore their permission in getting supplies to Afghanistan. Russian leaders believed they could force the United States into more complex negotiations and a compromise over Poland that would nix U.S. plans for a BMD installation and military assistance in Poland.

However, this was not the case.

Washington did not make a serious push for Moscow’s help on supply lines for Afghanistan; it also re-opened the issue of NATO’s relationship with Georgia and Ukraine, two former Soviet states. The Americans made it clear that the Polish issue would not be discussed. The only item on which Russia and the United States seemed to agree was the need to renegotiate strategic nuclear reduction treaties. Consequently, there were bitter tastes in many mouths after the April 1 meeting, and bickering between Russia and NATO has escalated during the past month:

Russia has blocked almost every move by Western governments to increase their influence in Central Asia.
Russia has more than doubled its troop presence in breakaway regions of Georgia, from just over 3,000 to more than 7,600.
NATO has initiated military exercises in Georgia, despite Russian troops’ presence just 20 miles from the location of the drills.
In response, Russia has threatened to call off NATO-Russian relations.
NATO officials in Brussels expelled Russian diplomats over a spy scandal that involved the imprisonment of an Estonian official; Russia in turn has expelled Canadian NATO officials.

From the outside, it would appear that the core issues between Moscow and Washington have been pushed back into the former Soviet sphere and NATO-Russian relations. For instance, Poland has been a central theme for Russia and the United States, with Moscow’s concerns about U.S. military plans there very apparent. Warsaw and Moscow have had a terrible relationship: This has been evident in energy cut-offs, trade embargoes, spy scandals, Poland’s blocking of Russian-EU relations and more. There has been undisguised contempt on both sides for years. Russia has not attempted to deal with Warsaw directly, but instead has pressured the United States to abandon independent and anti-Russian Poland.

This approach hasn’t worked.

It was significant, then, that Russia’s foreign minister spoke in positive terms this week about “improving Russian-Polish relations.” The day before leaving for Washington, and following a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski, Sergei Lavrov went so far as to call Poland “pragmatic” — a marked departure from the “hysterical” and “irrational” labels that Russia has used in discussing Poland in the past. He even noted that Moscow was looking to re-establish the Polish-Russian Committee — an intergovernmental body that has not convened since 2004, when relations between Moscow and Warsaw began to sour.

This change in rhetoric gives us pause. We do not believe that Poland is about to change its stance against Russia or for the United States. But the shift in tone by Russia indicates that Moscow is, at least temporarily, abandoning its tried-and-failed approaches of indirect pressure and threats — by telling the Poles instead that they may have options in forming an understanding with Russia.

Moscow is giving Warsaw an opportunity to change the tenor of relations. The timing of this shift was deliberate, designed to give Washington something to think about as Lavrov met with Obama. The hope appears to be that Russia can change things on the ground with Poland by offering a little honey instead of vinegar.

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