DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand
on: July 04, 2010, 10:43:26 AM
Your "Die Less Often" material saved 2 lives--mine and the "bad guy" in
March. He is in jail for pulling a gun, and I have been Mirandized, but not
charged with assault. He wound up being a felon with a firearm, and the
sheriff told me "good job", but still Mirandized me for my statement...<g>
Anyway--I used the DLO technique on him. I was not armed at the time--gun in
the car but not on the body, and I can't really go into detail until I know
how the court case is coming out. I made mistakes, that's for sure.
Suffice it to say? The sh*t works. I ain't no black belt, but his gun never
completely cleared leather, and nobody got shot. , , ,
Thank you, gentlemen.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survivalist issues: Hunkering down at home
on: July 04, 2010, 10:09:56 AM
We have a substantial gasoline powered generator with enough power and enough outlets to keep our refrigerator and other things going , , , and the substantial length of construction grade extensions cords necessary to make the connections possible.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Split Your Sea
on: July 04, 2010, 10:04:07 AM
Split Your Seahttp://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/488371/jewish/Split-Your-Sea.htm
By Yosef Y. Jacobson
"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea,"
states the Talmud.1
What is the meaning behind these words? True, the process of finding and
maintaining a life partner may be challenging and difficult, nothing short
of a miracle. But why, of all miracles described in the Bible, does the
Talmud choose specifically the miracle of the splitting of the sea to
capture the process of marriage?
A Map of the Subconscious
What is the difference between the land and the sea? Both are vibrant and
action-filled enviroments populated by a myriad of creatures and a great
variety of minerals and vegetation. Yet the universe of dry land is exposed
and out in the open for all to see and appreciate, while the world of the
sea is hidden beneath a blanket of water.
In Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah and Chassidic spirituality), these two
physical planes reflect the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the
human psyche.2 Both parts of the self are extremely vibrant and dynamic. The
difference between them is that while our conscious self is displayed and
exhibited for ourselves and others to feel and experience, our subconscious
self remains hidden, not only from other people but even from ourselves.
Most of us know very little of what is going on in the sub-cellars of our
If you were given a glimpse into your own "sea" and discovered the universe
of personality hidden beneath your conscious brain, what do you think you
would find? Shame, fear, guilt, pain, insecurity, an urge to destroy, to
survive, to dominate, a cry for love? Would you discover Freud's Libido,
Jung's collective unconscious, Adler's search for power and control,
Frankl's quest for meaning?
Where Freud diagnosed the libido as a craving for a parent, and Jung saw it
as a longing etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah understood
it as a quest for union with G-d In Kabbalah, at the core of the human
condition is a yearning for oneness. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
(1745-1812), founder of the Chabad school of Kabbalah, was one of the
greatest soul-experts in the history of Judaism, has written on the subject
more then any other Jewish sage. In 1796, a hundred years before Freud, he
published a book, the Tanya, in which he presented his "map of the
subconscious," based on the Talmudic and Kabbalistic tradition. Rabbi
Schnuer Zalman offers a facinating parable for the inner life of the soul:
quoteing the biblical verse, "The soul of man is a divine flame" (Proverbs
20:27), he explains that just as the flame is always swaying, dancing,
licking the air, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward, so
too the soul in man is always aspiring to leave its shell and experience
oneness with the divine.
The Secret of Intimacy
This quest for a relationship with the divine is manifested in our search
for relationships with our twin flame here below. Where Freud diagnosed the
libido as a craving for union with a parent, and Jung saw it as a longing
for the opposite gender etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah
understood it as a quest for union with G-d. Our desire for intimacy is one
of the profoundest expressions of our existential craving for Truth, for
Oneness, for G-d.
As the Book of Genesis states, "G-d created Man in His image, in the image
of G-d He created him; male and female He created them." Clearly, it was in
the union and oneness of the genders that the first Adam, the first human
being, reflected the image of G-d.
This view of relationships and intimacy is expressed in the very Hebrew
names for man and woman given by Adam in Genesis. The Hebrew words for man
and woman -- Ish and Isah -- both contain the Hebrew word for fire, Eish.
They also each contain one more letter--a yud and a hei respectively--which
when combined makes up G-d's name. The significance of this is profound. Man
without woman, and woman without man, lack the fullness of G-d's name. When
they unite, the two-half images of the divine within them also unite. The
fire and passion drawing them to each other is their yearning to recreate
the full name of G-d between them.
At a Jewish wedding ceremony, this blessing is recited: Blessed are You,
G-d, King of the Universe, Who created the human being in His image... Why
is this blessing said at a wedding ceremony? Wouldn't it be more appropriate
to say such a blessing when a child is born? The answer is that it is
through the uniting of man and woman that the image of G-d is most closely
Our desire for intimacy is one of the profoundest expressions of our
existential craving for TruthThe ramifications of this idea are important.
It means that marriage is not a suspension of one's natural individual self
for the sake of uniting with a stranger. Rather, through marriage man and
woman return to their true natural state, a single being reflecting G-d,
each in his and her own unique way. Marriage allows wife and husband to
discover their full and complete self, a self made up of masculine and
We may travel through life unaware of this dimension of self, seeking
oneness with the divine. Throughout our years on this planet we may behave
as though this element of self does not exist. Though its symptoms
reverberate through our consciousness -- most often in the feelings of
emptiness and lack of contentment when our spiritual self is un-satiated --
we are prone to dismiss it or deny it. After all, at least in the short
term, it is far easier to accept that we are nothing more than intelligent
beasts craving self-gratification than spiritual souls craving for G-d.
When we view the surface self, selfishness is easier than selflessness;
isolation more natural than relationship; solitariness more innate than love
and commitment. Only when we "split our sea," when we discover the depth of
our souls, the subtle vibrations of our subconscious, do we discover that
oneness satisfies our deepest core; that love is the most natural expression
of our most profound selves.
"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea," the
Talmud states. The challenge in creating and maintaining a meaningful and
powerful relationship is the need to split our own seas each day, to learn
how in the depth of our spirits we yearn to love and share our lives with
another human being and with our creator.3
1. Talmud, Sotah 2a. The Talmud is discussing second marriages, however,
in many Jewish works, this quote is applied to all marriage (see for example
Akeidas Yitzchak Parshas Vayeishev).
2. This notion of viewing the macrocosm as a metaphor for the microcosm is
central to all Jewish writings. "Man is a miniature universe," our sages
have declared (Midrash Tanchumah Pekudei 3), a microcosm of the entire
created existence. The human being thus includes the elements of the land as
well as the elements of the sea -- man has both a terrestrial and an aquatic
aspect to his life. In Kabbalah terminology, the sea is defined as alma
d'eiskasya, the "hidden world," while land is described as alma d'eitgalya,
the "revealed world" (Torah Or Parshas Beshalach).
3. This essay is based on a discourse by the second Chabad-Lubavitch
Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer (1773-1827), known as the Miteler Rebbe. (Published in
Maamarei Admur Haemtzaei, Kuntrasim, Derushei Chasunah.)
By Yosef Y. Jacobson More articles... |
Rabbi Yosef Y Jacobson is editor of Algemeiner.com, a website of Jewish news
and commentary in English and Yiddish. Rabbi Jacobson is also a popular and
widely-sought speaker on Chassidic teaching and the author of the tape
series "A Tale of Two Souls."
Originally posted on Algemeiner.com
Image: Detail from a painting by Sarah Kranz. Ms. Kranz has been
illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children's books)
since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her
clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Perfect Storm of Ignorance
on: July 04, 2010, 09:53:53 AM
A Perfect Storm of Ignorance
by Jeffrey Friedman
Jeffrey Friedman is the editor of Critical Review and of Causes of the
Financial Crisis, forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
You are familiar by now with the role of the Federal Reserve in stimulating
the housing boom; the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in encouraging
low-equity mortgages; and the role of the Community Reinvestment Act in
mandating loans to "subprime" borrowers, meaning those who were poor credit
risks. So you may think that the government caused the financial crisis. But
you don't know the half of it. And neither does the government.
A full understanding of the crisis has to explain not just the housing and
subprime bubbles, but why, when they popped, it should have had such
disastrous worldwide effects on the financial system. The problem was that
commercial banks had made a huge overinvestment in mortgage-backed bonds
sold by investment banks such as Lehman Brothers.
Commercial banks are familiar to everyone with a checking or savings
account. They accept our deposits, against which they issue commercial loans
and mortgages. In 1933, the United States created the FDIC to insure
commercial banks' depositors. The aim was to discourage bank runs by
depositors who worried that if their bank had made too many risky loans,
their accounts, too, might be at risk.
The question of whether deposit insurance was necessary is worth asking, and
I will ask it later on. But for now, the key fact is that once deposit
insurance took effect, the FDIC feared that it had created what economists
call a "moral hazard": bankers, now insulated from bank runs, might be
encouraged to make riskier loans than before. The moral-hazard theory took
hold not only in the United States but in all of the countries in which
deposit insurance was instituted. And both here and abroad, the regulators'
solution to this (real or imagined) problem was to institute bank-capital
regulations. According to an array of scholars from around the world — Viral
Acharya, Juliusz Jablecki, Wladimir Kraus, Mateusz Machaj, and Matthew
Richardson — these regulations helped turn an American housing crisis into
the world's worst recession in 70 years.
WHAT REALLY WENT WRONG
The moral-hazard theory held that since the FDIC would now pick up the
pieces if anything went wrong, bankers left to their own devices would make
clearly risky loans and investments. The regulators' solution, across the
entire developed world, was to require banks to hold a minimum capital
cushion against a commercial bank's assets (loans and investments), but the
precise level of the capital reserve, and other details, varied from country
In 1988, financial regulators from the G-10 agreed on the Basel (I) Accords.
Basel I was an attempt to standardize the world's bank-capital regulations,
and it succeeded, spreading far beyond the G-10 countries. It differentiated
among the risks presented by different types of assets. For instance, a
commercial bank did not have to devote any capital to its holdings of
government bonds, cash, or gold — the safest assets, in the regulators'
judgment. But it had to allot 4 percent capital to each mortgage that it
issued, and 8 percent to commercial loans and corporate bonds.
Each country implemented Basel I on its own schedule and with its own
quirks. The United States implemented it in 1991, with several different
capital cushions; a 10 percent cushion was required for "well-capitalized"
commercial banks, a designation that carries privileges that most banks
want. Ten years later, however, came what proved in retrospect to be the
pivotal event. The FDIC, the Fed, the Comptroller of the Currency, and the
Office of Thrift Supervision issued an amendment to Basel I, the Recourse
Rule, that extended the accord's risk differentiations to asset-backed
securities (ABS): bonds backed by credit card debt, or car loans — or
mortgages — required a mere 2 percent capital cushion, as long as these
bonds were rated AA or AAA or were issued by a government-sponsored
enterprise (GSE), such as Fannie or Freddie. Thus, where a well-capitalized
commercial bank needed to devote $10 of capital to $100 worth of commercial
loans or corporate bonds, or $5 to $100 worth of mortgages, it needed to
spend only $2 of capital on a mortgage-backed security (MBS) worth $100. A
bank interested in reducing its capital cushion — also known as "leveraging
up" — would gain a 60 percent benefit from trading its mortgages for MBSs
and an 80 percent benefit for trading its commercial loans and corporate
securities for MBSs.
Astute readers will smell a connection between the Recourse Rule and the
financial crisis. By 2008 approximately 81 percent of all the rated MBSs
held by American commercial banks were rated AAA, and 93 percent of all the
MBSs that the banks held were either triple-A rated or were issued by a GSE,
thus complying with the Recourse Rule. (Figures for the proportion of
double-A bonds are not yet available.) According to the scholars I mentioned
earlier, the lesson is clear: the commercial banks loaded up on MBSs because
of the extremely favorable treatment that they received under the Recourse
Rule, as long as they were issued by a GSE or were rated AA or AAA.
When subprime mortgages began to default in the summer of 2007, however,
those high ratings were cast into doubt. A year later, the doubts turned
into a panic. Federally mandated mark-to-market accounting — the requirement
that assets be valued at the price for which they could be sold right now —
translated temporary market sentiment into actual numbers on a bank's
balance sheet, so when the market for MBSs dried up, Lehman Brothers went
bankrupt — on paper. Mark-to-market accounting applied to commercial banks
too. And it was the commercial banks' worry about their own and their
counterparties' solvency, due to their MBS holdings, that caused the lending
freeze and, thus, the Great Recession.
What about the rest of the world? The Recourse Rule did not apply to
countries other than the United States, but Basel I included provisions for
even more profitable forms of "capital arbitrage" through off-balance-sheet
entities such as structured investment vehicles, which were heavily used in
Europe. Then, in 2006, Basel II began to be implemented outside the United
States. It took the Recourse Rule's approach, encouraging foreign banks to
stock up on GSE-issued or highly rated MBSs.
THE PERFECT STORM?
Given the large number of contributory factors — the Fed's low interest
rates, the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie and Freddie's actions, Basel
I, the Recourse Rule, and Basel II — it has been said that the financial
crisis was a perfect storm of regulatory error. But the factors I have just
named do not even begin to complete the list. First, Peter Wallison has
noted the prevalence of "no-recourse" laws in many states, which relieved
mortgagors of financial liability if they simply walked away from a house on
which they defaulted. This reassured people in financial straits that they
could take on a possibly unaffordable mortgage with virtually no risk.
Second, Richard Rahn has pointed out that the tax code discourages
partnerships in banking (and other industries). Partnerships encourage
prudence because each partner has a lot at stake if the firm goes under.
Rahn's point has wider implications, for scholars such as Amar Bhidé and
Jonathan Macey have underscored aspects of tax and securities law that
encourage publicly held corporations such as commercial banks — as opposed
to partnerships or other privately held companies — to encourage their
employees to generate the short-term profits adored by equities investors.
One way to generate short-term profits is to buy into an asset bubble.
Third, the Basel Accords treat monies set aside against unexpected loan
losses as part of banks' "Tier 2" capital, which is capped in relation to
"Tier 1" capital — equity capital raised by selling shares of stock. But
Bert Ely has shown in the Cato Journal that the tax code makes equity
capital unnecessarily expensive. Thus banks are doubly discouraged from
maintaining the capital cushion that the Basel Accords are trying to make
them maintain. This litany is not exhaustive. It is meant
only to convey the welter of regulations that have grown up across different
parts of the economy in such immense profusion that nobody can possibly
predict how they will interact with each other. We are, all of us, ignorant
of the vast bulk of what the government is doing for us, and what those
actions might be doing to us. That is the best explanation for how this
perfect regulatory storm happened, and for why it might well happen again.
By steering banks' leverage into mortgage-backed securities, Basel I, the
Recourse Rule, and Basel II encouraged banks to overinvest in housing at a
time when an unprecedented nationwide housing bubble was getting underway,
due in part to the Recourse Rule itself — which took effect on January 1,
2002: not coincidentally, just at the start of the housing boom. The Rule
created a huge artificial demand for mortgage-backed bonds, each of which
required thousands of mortgages as collateral. Commercial banks duly met
this demand by lowering their lending standards. When many of the same banks
traded their mortgages for mortgage-backed bonds to gain "capital relief,"
they thought they were offloading the riskiest mortgages by buying only
triple-A-rated slices of the resulting mortgage pools. The bankers appear to
have been ignorant of yet another obscure regulation: a 1975 amendment to
the SEC's Net Capital Rule, which turned the three existing rating
companies — S&P, Moody's, and Fitch — into a legally protected oligopoly.
The bankers' ignorance is suggested by e-mails unearthed during the recent
trial of Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, who ran the two Bear Stearns hedge
funds that invested heavily in highly rated subprime mortgage-backed bonds.
The e-mails show that Tannin was a true believer in the soundness of those
ratings; he and his partner were exonerated by the jury on the grounds that
the two men were as surprised by the catastrophe as everyone else was. Like
everyone else, they trusted S&P, Moody's, and Fitch. But as we would expect
of corporations shielded from market competition, these three "rating
agencies" had gotten sloppy. Moody's did not update its model of the
residential mortgage market after 2002, when the boom was barely underway.
And Moody's model, like those of its "competitors," determined how large
they could make the AA and AAA slices of mortgage-backed securities.
THE REGULATORS' IGNORANCE OF THE REGULATIONS
The regulators seem to have been as ignorant of the implications of the
relevant regulations as the bankers were. The SEC trusted the three rating
agencies to continue their reliable performance even after its own 1975
ruling protected them from the market competition that had made their
ratings reliable. Nearly everyone, from Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke on
down, seemed to be ignorant of the various regulations that were pumping up
house prices and pushing down lending standards. And the FDIC, the Fed, the
Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision, in
promulgating one of those regulations, trusted the three rating companies
when they decided that these companies' AA and AAA ratings would be the
basis of the immense capital relief that the Recourse Rule conferred on
investment-bank-issued mortgage-backed securities. Did the four regulatory
bodies that issued the Recourse Rule know that the rating agencies on which
they were placing such heavy reliance were an SEC-created oligopoly, with
all that this implies? If you read the Recourse Rule, you will find that the
answer is no. Like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which later
studied whether to extend this American innovation to the rest of the world
in the form of Basel II (which it did, in 2006), the Recourse Rule wrongly
says that the rating agencies are subject to "market discipline."
Those who play the blame game can find plenty of targets here: the bankers
and the regulators were equally clueless. But should anyone be blamed for
not recognizing the implications of regulations that they don't even know
Omniscience cannot be expected of human beings. One really would have had to
be a god to master the millions of pages in the Federal Register — not to
mention the pages of the Register's state, local, and now international
counterparts — so one could pick out the specific group of regulations,
issued in different fields over the course of decades, that would end up
conspiring to create the greatest banking crisis since the Great Depression.
This storm may have been perfect, therefore, but it may not prove to be
rare. New regulations are bound to interact unexpectedly with old ones if
the regulators, being human, are ignorant of the old ones and of their
This is already happening. The SEC's response to the crisis has not been to
repeal its 1975 regulation, but to promise closer regulation of the rating
agencies. And instead of repealing Basel I or Basel II, the BIS is busily
working on Basel III, which will even more finely tune capital requirements
and, of course, increase capital cushions. Yet despite the barriers to
equity capital and loan-loss reserves created by the conjunction of the IRS
and the Basel Accords, the aggregate capital cushion of all American banks
at the start of 2008 stood at 13 percent — one-third higher than the
American minimum, which in turn was one-fifth higher than the Basel minimum.
Contrary to the regulators' assumption that bankers need regulators to
protect them from their own recklessness, the financial crisis was not
caused by too much bank leverage but by the form it took: mortgage-backed
securities. And that was the direct result of the fine tuning done by the
Recourse Rule and Basel II.
HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS MESS?
The financial crisis was a convulsion in the corpulent body of social
democracy. "Social democracy" is the modern mandate that government solve
social problems as they arise. Its body is the mass of laws that grow up
over time — seemingly in inverse proportion to the ability of its brain to
comprehend the causes of the underlying problems.
When voters demand "action," and when legislators and regulators provide it,
they are all naturally proceeding according to some theory of the cause of
the problem they are trying to solve. If their theories are mistaken, the
regulations may produce unintended consequences that, later on, in
principle, could be recognized as mistakes and rectified. In practice,
however, regulations are rarely repealed. Whatever made a mistaken
regulation seem sensible to begin with will probably blind people to its
unintended effects later on. Thus future regulators will tend to assume that
the problem with which they are grappling is a new "excess of capitalism,"
not an unintended consequence of an old mistake in the regulation of
Take bank-capital regulations. The theory was (and remains) that without
them, bankers protected by deposit insurance would make wild, speculative
investments. So deposit insurance begat bank-capital regulations. Initially
these were blunderbuss rules that required banks to spend the same levels of
capital on all their investments and loans, regardless of risk. In 1988 the
Basel Accords took a more discriminating approach, distinguishing among
different categories of asset according to their riskiness — riskiness as
perceived by the regulators. The American regulators decided in 2001 that
mortgage-backed bonds were among the least risky assets, so they required
much lower levels of capital for these securities than for every alternative
investment but Treasury's. And in 2006, Basel II applied that erroneous
judgment to the capital regulations governing most of the rest of the
world's banks. The whole sequence leading to the financial crisis began, in
1933, with deposit insurance. But was deposit insurance really necessary?
The theory behind deposit insurance was (and remains) that banking is
inherently prone to bank runs, which had been common in 19th-century America
and had swept the country at the start of the Depression.
But that theory is wrong, according to such economic historians as Kevin
Dowd, George Selgin, and Kurt Schuler, who argue that bank panics were
almost uniquely American events (there were none in Canada during the
Depression — and Canada didn't have deposit insurance until 1967). According
to these scholars, bank runs were caused by 19th-century regulations that
impeded branch banking and bank "clearinghouses." Thus, deposit insurance,
hence capital minima, hence the Basel rules, might all have been a mistake
founded on the New Deal legislators' and regulators' ignorance of the fact
that panics like the ones that had just gripped America were the unintended
effects of previous regulations.
What I am calling social democracy is, in its form, very different from
socialism. Under social democracy, laws and regulations are issued
piecemeal, as flexible responses to the side effects of progress — social
and economic problems — as they arise, one by one. (Thus the official name:
progressivism.) The case-by-case approach is supposed to be the height of
pragmatism. But in substance, there is a striking similarity between social
democracy and the most utopian socialism. Whether through piecemeal
regulation or central planning, both systems share the conceit that modern
societies are so legible that the causes of their problems yield easily to
inspection. Social democracy rests on the premise that when something goes
wrong, somebody — whether the voter, the legislator, or the specialist
regulator — will know what to do about it. This is less ambitious than the
premise that central planners will know what to do about everything all at
once, but it is no different in principle.
This premise would be questionable enough even if we started with a blank
legal slate. But we don't. And there is no conceivable way that we, the
people — or our agents in government — can know how to solve the problems of
modern societies when our efforts have, in fact, been preceded by
generations of previous efforts that have littered the ground with a tangle
of rules so thick that we can't possibly know what they all say, let alone
how they might interact to create another perfect storm.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2010 edition of
Cato Policy Report.http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v32n1/cpr32n1-1.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process
on: July 03, 2010, 09:13:37 PM
Not disagreeing at all with the essence of this piece-- govt regs here are absurd and are destroying jobs. That said, the LED market is going to be really big-- not only because of economic regs, but more because of the "creative destruction" of the free market.
CREE will be the leader in this market. AIXG, recently with a cup and a handle pattern that broke wrong, still bears watching. Disclaimer: Most of my CREE was bought at 22 but I am buying more at 60 and more yet at 57 should it go there.
End of tangent.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system
on: July 03, 2010, 02:03:04 PM
BTW, until your comment I had never put the 2 and 2 together to realize that the 1936 date for the criminalization of pot roughly coincided with the end of Prohibition. Anyone have the exact date for the end of Prohibition?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Jefferson'
on: July 02, 2010, 09:48:33 AM
The tenderest words in American political history were cut from the document they were to have graced.
It was July 1, 2 ,3 and 4, 1776, in the State House in Philadelphia. America was being born. The Continental Congress was reviewing and editing the language of the proposed Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, was suffering the death of a thousand cuts.
The tensions over slavery had been wrenching, terrible, and were resolved by brute calculation: to damn or outlaw it now would break fragile consensus, halt all momentum, and stop the creation of the United States. References to the slave trade were omitted, but the founders were not stupid men, and surely they knew their young nation would have its date with destiny; surely they heard in their silence the guns of Fort Sumter.
Still, in the end, the Congress would not produce only an act of the most enormous human and political significance, the creation of America, it would provide history with one of the few instances in which a work of true literary genius was produced, in essence, by committee. (The writing of the King James Bible is another.)
The beginning of the Declaration had a calm stateliness that signaled, subtly, that something huge is happening:
"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separate."
This gave a tone of moral modesty to an act, revolution, that is not a modest one. And it was an interesting modesty, expressing respect for the opinion of the world while assuming the whole world was watching. In time it would be. But that phrase, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" is still a marker, a reminder: We began with respect. America always gets in trouble when we forget that.
The second paragraph will, literally, live forever in the history of man. It still catches the throat:
"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.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
What followed was a list of grievances that made the case for separation from the mother country, and this part was fiery. Jefferson was a cold man who wrote with great feeling. He trained his eyes on the depredations of King George III: "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns. . . . He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compete the work of death, desolation and tyranny . . ."
Members of the Congress read and reread, and the cutting commenced. Sometimes they cooled Jefferson down. He wrote that the king "suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states." They made it simpler: "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice."
"For Thomas Jefferson it became a painful ordeal, as change after change was called for and approximately a quarter of what he had written was cut entirely." I quote from the historian David McCullough's "John Adams," as I did last year at this time, because everything's there.
Jefferson looked on in silence. Mr. McCullough notes that there is no record that he uttered a word in protest or in defense of what he'd written. Benjamin Franklin, sitting nearby, comforted him: Edits often reduce things to their essence, don't fret. It was similar to the wisdom Scott Fitzgerald shared with the promising young novelist Thomas Wolfe 150 years later: Writers bleed over every cut, but at the end they don't miss what was removed, don't worry.
"Of more than eighty changes in Jefferson's draft during the time Congress deliberated, most were minor and served to improve it," writes Mr. McCullough. But one cut near the end was substantial, and its removal wounded Jefferson, who was right to be wounded, for some of those words should have stayed.
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.Jefferson had, in his bill of particulars against the king, taken a moment to incriminate the English people themselves—"our British brethren"—for allowing their king and Parliament to send over to America not only "soldiers of our own blood" but "foreign Mercenaries to invade and destroy us." This, he said, was at the heart of the tragedy of separation. "These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us renounce forever" our old friends and brothers. "We must endeavor to forget our former love for them."
Well. Talk of love was a little much for the delegates. Love was not on their mind. The entire section was removed.
And so were the words that came next. But they should not have been, for they are the tenderest words.
Poignantly, with a plaintive sound, Jefferson addresses and gives voice to the human pain of parting: "We might have been a free and great people together."
What loss there is in those words, what humanity, and what realism, too.
"To write is to think, and to write well is to think well," David McCullough once said in conversation. Jefferson was thinking of the abrupt end of old ties, of self-defining ties, and, I suspect, that the pain of this had to be acknowledged. It is one thing to declare the case for freedom, and to make a fiery denunciation of abusive, autocratic and high-handed governance. But it is another thing, and an equally important one, to acknowledge the human implications of the break. These were our friends, our old relations; we were leaving them, ending the particular facts of our long relationship forever. We would feel it. Seventeen seventy-six was the beginning of a dream. But it was the end of one too. "We might have been a free and great people together."
It hurt Thomas Jefferson to see these words removed from his great document. And we know something about how he viewed his life, his own essence and meaning, from the words he directed that would, a half-century after 1776, be cut onto his tombstone. The first word after his name is "Author."
America and Britain did become great and free peoples together, and apart, bound by a special relationship our political leaders don't often speak of and should never let fade. You can't have enough old friends. There was the strange war of 1812, declared by America and waged here by England, which reinvaded, and burned our White House and Capitol. That was rude of them. But they got their heads handed to them in New Orleans and left, never to return as an army.
Even 1812 gave us something beautiful and tender. There was a bombardment at Fort McHenry. A young lawyer and writer was watching, Francis Scott Key. He knew his country was imperiled. He watched the long night in hopes the fort had not fallen. And he saw it—the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
And so to all writers (would-be, occasional and professional) and all editors too, down through our history: Happy 234th Independence Day. And to our British cousins: Nice growing old with you.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's tax trap
on: July 02, 2010, 09:44:41 AM
"'Next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits step up. Because I'm calling their bluff."
That was President Barack Obama, the heretofore unknown deficit hawk, all but announcing the other day the tax trap that he's been laying for Republicans. From what we hear about intra-GOP debates, more than a few will be happy to walk right into it.
You don't need a Mensa IQ to figure this one out. Mr. Obama's plan has been to increase spending to new, and what he hopes will be permanent, heights. Then as the public and financial markets begin to fret about deficits and debt, he'll claim that the debt is "unsustainable" and that the only "responsible" policy is to raise taxes.
White House officials even talk privately about the galvanizing political benefit of a bond market crisis, which would force panicked Members of Congress to accept a big new value-added tax. The President's two looming tax reports—one from his deficit commission and the other from Paul Volcker's economic advisory group—are intended to propose a VAT and other tax options. Whatever their initial reception, the proposals will be there to be pulled from the shelf when the political moment is right.
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.Voila, Mr. Obama will have established a new spend-and-tax policy architecture that has the feds taking from 25% to 30% of GDP, up from the roughly 21% modern average.
This strategy explains why Mr. Obama is now starting to fret in public about deficits and debt. This week he even said reducing the debt will be "our project." Funny how debt seemed a lower priority when he was urging Congress to pass $862 billion in stimulus and $1 trillion in new health-care subsidies.
The Congressional Budget Office is contributing to this political drama by declaring this week that the "federal budget is on an unsustainable path." Of course, but why? The biggest reason is that Medicare and Medicaid keep rising at two to three times the rate of everything else in the economy and, as CBO explains, will eventually take up every dollar of tax revenues raised, leaving no money for anything else, including national defense.
"Slowing the growth rate of outlays for Medicare and Medicaid," advises CBO, "is the central long term challenge for federal fiscal policy." This is the same CBO that blessed ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion to 16 million more recipients.
What CBO's latest apocalyptic report doesn't stress is what we'd call the more important deficit in its forecast: the growth deficit. CBO predicts an annual rate of GDP growth of 2.2%. Yet since 1959 the U.S. economy has grown at an average rate of 3%, and during the 1980s and 1990s it was closer to 3.5%. The compounding effect of restoring this faster pace of growth would mean far more net national wealth and would certainly make debt repayment easier.
Even Mr. Obama's current spending level of 25% of GDP would be more manageable if the slow economic recovery weren't keeping tax revenue at unusual lows. In 2007, the economy threw off revenue of 18.5% of GDP. That fell to 14.8% in 2009 and may not be too much higher this year. The point is that there is no hope of balancing the federal budget without a return to higher levels of economic growth.
This is where Republicans need to maneuver around Mr. Obama's tax trap. He and his White House economists believe that taxes have little effect on growth so they can get revenues to 20% or 25% of GDP simply by raising tax rates or imposing a VAT. But if they're wrong about the impact of those taxes on a still-fragile economy recovery, they could keep the economy on a subpar growth path for years to come. We think the last thing the U.S. economy needs at the moment—and the worst policy for the deficit—is the big tax increase that will hit on January 1 with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
Yet we hear that even many Republicans are privately insisting that any extension of those Bush tax cuts must be "paid for" with other tax increases. Under Congress's perverse budget rules, extending those tax cuts will "cost" the Treasury revenue, even though extending those tax rates would only prevent a tax increase.
And because Congress still uses static revenue scoring—meaning no change in economic behavior from tax changes—the Joint Tax Committee thinks it will raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years from the higher tax rates on incomes, dividends and capital gains. That's highly improbable. After those tax rates were cut in 2003, total federal tax revenue increased by 44%, or $743 billion, from 2003-2007.
In other words, Democrats have rigged the rules so that merely stopping a tax increase will be scored to increase the deficit. These are the same Democrats who haven't "paid for" trillions of spending in the last four years, but watch them soon denounce Republicans as fiscally irresponsible merely for trying to stop a tax increase. Orwell would love modern Washington.
If Republicans go along with this perverse pay-as-you-go logic, they will play into Mr. Obama's hands. He'll gladly offer to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to "pay for" extending the lower Bush rates on the middle class. Never mind that the tax increases on capital gains, dividends and income tax rates will do the most economic harm.
Republicans need to break out of their rhetorical preoccupation with debt and deficits, focusing their political aim instead on spending and above all on reviving economic growth. They should hold the line against all tax increases and begin to consider a menu of tax cuts to make the U.S. more competitive, especially if the economy continues to underperform.
Mr. Obama's strategy of spending our way to prosperity clearly hasn't worked, as the voters are coming to understand. But if the GOP policy response is merely to bemoan deficits, they will soon find themselves back at their historic stand as tax collectors for the welfare state. To avoid Mr. Obama's tax trap, Republicans also need a growth agenda.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Deep Cuban Drilling
on: July 02, 2010, 08:56:22 AM
Second post of the morning:
Florida has long fought to prevent oil drilling anywhere near its white sandy beaches. But as the state continues to deal with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill washing up on its shores, it faces a new threat: deepwater drilling in nearby Cuban waters.
Maria Ritter, a spokeswoman for Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA, said it plans to drill off Cuba, about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., early next year. If successful, this would likely kick off a spate of exploration. Only one deepwater well has been drilled in Cuban waters, by Repsol in 2004. The effort found oil but not enough to justify commercial development.
Since then, the U.S. Geological Survey has said there could be a substantial amount of untapped oil off the Cuban coast, whetting the appetite of several global oil companies that have signed exploration leases.
U.S. companies won't participate because of a longstanding trade embargo against Cuba. Repsol plans to use a floating drilling rig being refurbished in a Chinese shipyard, similar to the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP PLC that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Almost all parts and components in the rig to be used by Repsol are from non-U.S. companies.
The Obama administration has sought a six-month ban on deepwater drilling in U.S. waters to reassess risks and establish new safety procedures if necessary. But any new rules wouldn't reach Repsol's project in Cuban waters.
A spill there, even one significantly smaller than the continuing BP spill, could turn into an economic and environmental nightmare for Florida. Some oceanographers say the oil would likely be carried up Florida's Atlantic Coast, the heart of its tourism industry.
"We have one of the world's largest coral reefs and a protected marine sanctuary there," said Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) "We should not be drilling there."
Cuba's state oil firm, Union Cuba Petroleo, could not be reached for comment. Ms. Ritter, the Repsol spokeswoman, declined to comment on the project beyond confirming plans for the rig. Repsol has operations in many parts of the world, including the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico.
Drilling off Florida in U.S. waters has been banned by federal moratorium for decades. To protect the state's tourism-based economy, Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, is floating a proposal for an amendment to the Florida constitution to ban offshore drilling there permanently.
It's not clear what U.S. or Florida officials could do to stop oil exploration in Cuba. The U.S. controls coastal waters up to 200 miles from its shores, but under a 1977 treaty it agreed to divide the Straits of Florida equally with Cuba. That means Repsol can drill a deepwater well about the same distance from Key West, Fla., as the Deepwater Horizon was from the Louisiana coast.
The rig headed for Cuban waters has five rams in its blowout preventer, each designed to help shut off an out-of-control well. The Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer had only four.
In the event of a spill in Cuban waters, many ships, equipment and personnel from the U.S. Gulf Coast could be prevented from helping because of the embargo. But that may be changing. A Treasury Department spokeswoman said some U.S. firms involved in oil cleanup have been issued licenses to travel to Cuba in case oil from the continuing spill hits beaches there.
Cuba's efforts to promote offshore oil exploration appear close to paying off. Cuba imports about 110,000 barrels of oil daily and produces an additional 52,000 barrels, mostly from onshore and shallow-water fields, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Ms. Ritter said Madrid-based Repsol plans to drill a new well near the 2004 well as soon as the rig—called the Scarabeo 9—is ready. Construction of Scarabeo 9 is expected to be complete at the end of 2010 or early 2011, said a spokesman for Enis SpA, an Italian company that controls the rig. Repsol's partners on the well include Norway's Statoil ASA and the overseas arm of India's state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Eight other foreign oil companies hold offshore leases in Cuban waters.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: WTF?
on: July 02, 2010, 08:53:31 AM
By PAUL H. RUBIN
As the oil spill continues and the cleanup lags, we must begin to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. There does not seem to be much that anyone can do to stop the spill except dig a relief well, not due until August. But the cleanup is a different story. The press and Internet are full of straightforward suggestions for easy ways of improving the cleanup, but the federal government is resisting these remedies.
First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.
Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.
Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.
The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total—roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.
In addition, the federal government can free American-based skimmers. Of the 2,000 skimmers in the U.S. (not subject to the Jones Act or other restrictions), only 400 have been sent to the Gulf. Federal barriers have kept the others on stations elsewhere in case of other oil spills, despite the magnitude of the current crisis. The Coast Guard and the EPA issued a joint temporary rule suspending the regulation on June 29—more than 70 days after the spill.
The Obama administration can also permit more state and local initiatives. The media endlessly report stories of county and state officials applying federal permits to perform various actions, such as building sand berms around the Louisiana coast. In some cases, they were forbidden from acting. In others there have been extensive delays in obtaining permission.
As the government fails to implement such simple and straightforward remedies, one must ask why.
As Storm Stalls Cleanup, House Passes Victims' Bill
Florida Sees New Threat to Its Beaches
.One possibility is sheer incompetence. Many critics of the president are fond of pointing out that he had no administrative or executive experience before taking office. But the government is full of competent people, and the military and Coast Guard can accomplish an assigned mission. In any case, several remedies require nothing more than getting out of the way.
Another possibility is that the administration places a higher priority on interests other than the fate of the Gulf, such as placating organized labor, which vigorously defends the Jones Act.
Finally there is the most pessimistic explanation—that the oil spill may be viewed as an opportunity, the way White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said back in February 2009, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Many administration supporters are opposed to offshore oil drilling and are already employing the spill as a tool for achieving other goals. The websites of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, for example, all feature the oil spill as an argument for forbidding any further offshore drilling or for any use of fossil fuels at all. None mention the Jones Act.
To these organizations and perhaps to some in the administration, the oil spill may be a strategic justification in a larger battle. President Obama has already tried to severely limit drilling in the Gulf, using his Oval Office address on June 16 to demand that we "embrace a clean energy future." In the meantime, how about a cleaner Gulf?
Mr. Rubin, a professor of economics at Emory University, held several senior positions in the federal government in the 1980s. Since 1991 he has spent his summers on the Gulf.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Foes adopt new methods
on: July 02, 2010, 08:48:19 AM
By CHARLES LEVINSON
JERUSALEM—Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts—tactics they once dismissed.
For decades, Palestinian statehood aspirations seemed to lurch between negotiations and armed resistance against Israel. But a small cadre of Palestinian activists has long argued that nonviolence, in the tradition of the American civil rights movement, would be far more effective.
Officials from Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, point to the recent Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists, as evidence there is more to gain by getting Israel to draw international condemnation through its own use of force, rather than by attacking the country.
"When we use violence, we help Israel win international support," said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. "The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."
Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamist movement in Lebanon that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, haven't renounced violence and both groups continue to amass arms. Hamas still abides by a charter that calls for Israel's destruction; Palestinian youths still hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers across the West Bank separation barrier. And the flotilla incident didn't fall into conventional standards of peaceful protest: While most activists passively resisted Israeli soldiers, some on the boat where protesters were killed attacked commandos as they boarded, according to video footage released by Israel and soldiers' accounts.
The incident triggered international condemnation and plunged Israel into one of its worst diplomatic crises in years. In response, Israel said it would take some steps to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip.
After the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on supporters to participate in the next flotilla bound for Gaza. Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.
"We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight," he said. Organizers in Lebanon say they have two ships ready to sail, but no departure date has been set.
A senior Israeli foreign ministry official said Israel recognizes "changes in the tactical thinking of Hamas and other resistance movements." The official said the groups are no less committed to Israel's destruction, but have simply concluded they are more likely to defeat Israel by encouraging its international isolation instead of through military force.
"People who are provoking violence are using peaceful protest as a cover," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.
The Palestinian protest movement picked up steam in the past year, spearheaded by activists in the West Bank and a coalition of pro-Palestinian international human-rights groups.
The absence of peace talks for much of the past two years has pushed the Palestinian Authority leadership to embrace the movement as well. Dominated by members of Hamas's more moderate rival Fatah, they long advocated a negotiated settlement with Israel and dismissed popular protest campaigns.
But in January, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad launched a campaign to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements and to plant trees in areas declared off limits by Israel. In April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlawed settlement products in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.
Hamas's turnaround has been more striking, said Mustapha Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance. "When we used to call for protests, and marches, and boycotts and anything called nonviolence, Hamas used these sexist insults against us. They described it as women's struggle," Mr. Barghouti said. That changed in 2008, he said, after the first aid ship successfully ran the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
"Hamas has started to appreciate just how effective this can be," Mr. Barghouti said.
Hamas has started organizing its own peaceful marches into the Israeli-controlled buffer zone along the Gaza border and supported lawsuits against Israeli officials in European courts. Hamas says it has ramped up support for a committee dedicated to sponsoring similar protests in Gaza.
Mr. Dweik, the Hamas lawmaker, recently began turning up at weekly protests against Israel's West Bank barrier.
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza City, says Hamas has come to appreciate the importance of international support for its legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people and its fight against Israeli occupation, and has adapted its tactics. Hamas hasn't claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years and now denounces the tactic as counterproductive. Since an Israeli military incursion into the territory in December 2008-January 2009, it has also halted rocket attacks into Israel.
"Hamas used to believe [international support] was just empty words," said Mr. Bardawil. "Today it is very interested in international delegations … and in bringing Israeli officials to justice through legal proceedings."
Write to Charles Levinson at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Other Story
on: July 02, 2010, 07:39:08 AM
The other story about same-sex parenting
Research showing the risks of lesbian and gay parenting is ignored in the race to make a political case. http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_other_story_about_same-sex_parenting/
There is an inherent risk that anyone who has anything to say about gay male or lesbian parenting, no matter how cautious, will be misunderstood at best and vilified at worst. Nevertheless, the mission of a university professor includes seeking new ways to look at old issues, to resist all forms of intimidation, and to ensure that multiple sides of controversial issues are considered. Since there are more voices promoting the virtues of parenting by people defining themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT), I will present here an alternative, possibly minority, view that focuses on some of the possible risks associated with gay and lesbian parenting.
This is a challenging area. As one hint about the difficulties, consider this: when a group of authors published three articles (two even in the same journal) on data from the same set of lesbian parents about 1980, the two articles reporting favorable outcomes were cited 65 times compared to only two citations for the one article reporting unfavorable outcomes. In other cases, the worse the methodological quality of the research, the more likely it is to have been cited in major reviews of the literature.
The methodological quality of much of the literature is poor. Many studies have not controlled for parental educational and family per-capita income differences between lesbian and heterosexual families. Regardless, between February and June of 2010 no less than three articles have concluded that two lesbian mothers may, on average, tend to be better parents than heterosexual parents (Biblarz & Stacey, 2010; Gartrell & Bos, 2010; Biblarz & Savci, 2010) -- quite a controversial position. However, serious concerns remain.
Research is increasingly clear that many lesbigay partners enter into their versions of a committed relationship with expectations that cheating is acceptable. Some research suggests that gay men have more stable relationships only if cheating is permitted. Michael Bettinger (2006) reported: “An important difference between gay men and heterosexuals is that the majority of gay men in committed relationships are not monogamous”.
Dr. Esther Rothblum has reported that whereas women (lesbian or heterosexual) seldom permit sexual affairs, “40 percent of gay men in civil unions have an agreement that non-monogamy is permitted and over half have had sex outside their current relationship”. If gay marriage means accepting sexual non-monogamy within marriage, we must accept an inherent change in the intrinsic meaning of marriage and ultimately the meaning of responsible parenting.
Relationship Stability and Children
Another issue concerns the relationship between having children and staying together for the sake of the children. Though gay and lesbian couples in some studies appear to have higher quality, more satisfying relationships, they also appear less likely to remain stable when children are involved. Recent studies by Patterson and by Nanette Gartrell in the United States, as well as Scandinavian research, confirm this outcome, even when the GLBT subjects sampled had much higher levels of education than the heterosexual subjects.
Recently, Gartrell and Bos reported that over 56 per cent of lesbian parents had separated by the time their child was 17 years old. Based on the mothers’ reports of the children’s psychological adjustment, the adverse impact of that instability was not quite statistically significant. Comparable studies of heterosexual parents have found rates of separation ranging from 3 per cent to less than 30 percent over similar timeframes.
As yet, we have no published data on the stability of legally married LGBT parents. However, recent evidence indicates that very few GLBT individuals come together with the intention of having children and few, in fact, ever have children; if they do have a child, few spend the entire year with that child.
Effects on Children
Richard Redding, writing in a 2008 issue of the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, concluded that gay parents were more likely to have gay children. My meta-analyses of 26 studies and ten books on GLBT parenting concur with his findings (Schumm, in press). Furthermore, my research indicates that many literature reviews have systematically excluded information about negative child outcomes associated with gay parenting -- that is, greater levels of insecure attachment and drug abuse among daughters of gay fathers. The most recent review of literature on GLBT families did not mention Sirota’s (2009) research, even though I reported a summary of it two years ago.
Space does not permit an adequate treatment here, but some research suggests differential effects on sex role orientations of children and their views of non-monogamous sexuality. My hunch is that delayed gratification orientation may be an important intervening variable for understanding the influence of parental sexual orientation on child outcomes, but I am not aware of any studies on that variable.
Again, there appear to be differences in reporting of child outcomes, depending on the source of the data – whether parents, children, or teachers, for example. My sense is that maternal reports tend to be influenced by what the writers understand to be socially desirable outcomes, especially if the mothers sense the political purposes of the study.
Ends do not justify the means
One could probably write a book on the misuse of research regarding LGBT individuals and families. Even if the political goals of the researchers were laudable, the misuse of science would not be. In my view, the ends do not justify the means. Numerous legal and social science scholars have virtually sworn that the idea that GLBT parents might tend to have GLBT children was nothing but a myth; however, close examination of multiple sources of data suggests otherwise, as my forthcoming article will show.
Today, some would say, so what? That might be a plausible position, but it was not the position taken by most scholars between 1990 and 2005. Then, and now, I presume, most of the public would deem relationship instability to be unfavorable for the welfare of children, and would want to consider the evidence that lesbian parents have much less stable relationships than do married heterosexual parents.
As I noted at the beginning, it is risky to express such views about same-sex parenting, no matter how objectively based they are. But the public has a right to consider all the evidence in such an important matter, affecting as it does the welfare of children.
Dr Walter Schumm is a Professor of Family Studies in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. He has published over 250 scholarly articles and book chapters and is co-editor of the Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach (Plenum, 1993; Springer, 2009). He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a former brigade and battalion commander. His views may not reflect the positions of Kansas State University or the US Department of Defense.
For further information, including a list of references for the above article, contact Dr Schumm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The 30 Year War
on: July 02, 2010, 07:33:41 AM
I have high regard for Stratfor in general and for its head, George Friedman. That said, this article, which makes many excellent points, IMHO also makes some glib ones and fails to ask certain important questions-- what was to be done in the wake of 2001? Was the third phase sustainable, or was it, as Michael Yon asserts, imploding? Why is the Durand Line taken seriously/why do we/should we do nothing about the enemy's presence in Pakistan? etc.
The 30-Year War in Afghanistan
Is it worthwhile getting American troops to fight in Afghanistan instead of arming the Taliban's allies?
This article was first published on the Stratfor website. The author, George Friedman, is chairman and CEO of Stratfor, the world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence.
The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase.
The Afghan War’s First Three Phases
The first phase of the Afghan War began with the Soviet invasion in December 1979, when the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, organized and sustained Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This resistance was built around mujahideen, fighters motivated by Islam. Washington’s purpose had little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with U.S.-Soviet competition. The United States wanted to block the Soviets from using Afghanistan as a base for further expansion and wanted to bog the Soviets down in a debilitating guerrilla war. The United States did not so much fight the war as facilitate it. The strategy worked. The Soviets were blocked and bogged down. This phase lasted until 1989, when Soviet troops were withdrawn.
The second phase lasted from 1989 until 2001. The forces the United States and its allies had trained and armed now fought each other in complex coalitions for control of Afghanistan. Though the United States did not take part in this war directly, it did not lose all interest in Afghanistan. Rather, it was prepared to exert its influence through allies, particularly Pakistan. Most important, it was prepared to accept that the Islamic fighters it had organized against the Soviets would govern Afghanistan. There were many factions, but with Pakistani support, a coalition called the Taliban took power in 1996. The Taliban in turn provided sanctuary for a group of international jihadists called al Qaeda, and this led to increased tensions with the Taliban following jihadist attacks on U.S. facilities abroad by al Qaeda.
The third phase began on Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda launched attacks on the mainland United States. Given al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, the United States launched operations designed to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda and dislodge the Taliban. The United States commenced operations barely 30 days after Sept. 11, which was not enough time to mount an invasion using U.S. troops as the primary instrument. Rather, the United States made arrangements with factions that were opposed to the Taliban (and defeated in the Afghan civil war). This included organizations such as the Northern Alliance, which had remained close to the Russians; Shiite groups in the west that were close to the Iranians and India; and other groups or subgroups in other regions. These groups supported the United States out of hostility to the Taliban and/or due to substantial bribes paid by the United States.
The overwhelming majority of ground forces opposing the Taliban in 2001 were Afghan. The United States did, however, insert special operations forces teams to work with these groups and to identify targets for U.S. airpower, the primary American contribution to the war. The use of U.S. B-52s against Taliban forces massed around cities in the north caused the Taliban to abandon any thought of resisting the Northern Alliance and others, even though the Taliban had defeated them in the civil war.
Unable to hold fixed positions against airstrikes, the Taliban withdrew from the cities and dispersed. The Taliban were not defeated, however; they merely declined to fight on U.S. terms. Instead, they redefined the war, preserving their forces and regrouping. The Taliban understood that the cities were not the key to Afghanistan. Instead, the countryside would ultimately provide control of the cities. From the Taliban point of view, the battle would be waged in the countryside, while the cities increasingly would be isolated.
The United States simply did not have sufficient force to identify, engage and destroy the Taliban as a whole. The United States did succeed in damaging and dislodging al Qaeda, with the jihadist group’s command cell becoming isolated in northwestern Pakistan. But as with the Taliban, the United States did not defeat al Qaeda because the United States lacked significant forces on the ground. Even so, al Qaeda prime, the original command cell, was no longer in a position to mount 9/11-style attacks.
During the Bush administration, U.S. goals for Afghanistan were modest. First, the Americans intended to keep al Qaeda bottled up and to impose as much damage as possible on the group. Second, they intended to establish an Afghan government, regardless of how ineffective it might be, to serve as a symbolic core. Third, they planned very limited operations against the Taliban, which had regrouped and increasingly controlled the countryside. The Bush administration was basically in a holding operation in Afghanistan. It accepted that U.S. forces were neither going to be able to impose a political solution on Afghanistan nor create a coalition large enough control the country. U.S. strategy was extremely modest under Bush: to harass al Qaeda from bases in Afghanistan, maintain control of cities and logistics routes, and accept the limits of U.S. interests and power.
The three phases of American involvement in Afghanistan had a common point: All three were heavily dependent on non-U.S. forces to do the heavy lifting. In the first phase, the mujahideen performed this task. In the second phase, the United States relied on Pakistan to manage Afghanistan’s civil war. In the third phase, especially in the beginning, the United States depended on Afghan forces to fight the Taliban. Later, when greater numbers of American and allied forces arrived, the United States had limited objectives beyond preserving the Afghan government and engaging al Qaeda wherever it might be found (and in any event, by 2003, Iraq had taken priority over Afghanistan). In no case did the Americans use their main force to achieve their goals.
The Fourth Phase of the Afghan War
The fourth phase of the war began in 2009, when U.S. President Barack Obama decided to pursue a more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan. Though the Bush administration had toyed with this idea, it was Obama who implemented it fully. During the 2008 election campaign, Obama asserted that he would pay greater attention to Afghanistan. The Obama administration began with the premise that while the Iraq War was a mistake, the Afghan War had to be prosecuted. It reasoned that unlike Iraq, which had a tenuous connection to al Qaeda at best, Afghanistan was the group’s original base. He argued that Afghanistan therefore should be the focus of U.S. military operations. In doing so, he shifted a strategy that had been in place for 30 years by making U.S. forces the main combatants in the war.
Though Obama’s goals were not altogether clear, they might be stated as follows:
1.Deny al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan.
2.Create an exit strategy from Afghanistan similar to the one in Iraq by creating the conditions for negotiating with the Taliban; make denying al Qaeda a base a condition for the resulting ruling coalition.
3.Begin withdrawal by 2011.
To do this, there would be three steps:
1.Increase the number and aggressiveness of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
2.Create Afghan security forces under the current government to take over from the Americans.
3.Increase pressure on the Taliban by driving a wedge between them and the population and creating intra-insurgent rifts via effective counterinsurgency tactics.
In analyzing this strategy, there is an obvious issue: While al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan in 2001, Afghanistan is no longer its primary base of operations. The group has shifted to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. As al Qaeda is thus not dependent on any one country for its operational base, denying it bases in Afghanistan does not address the reality of its dispersion. Securing Afghanistan, in other words, is no longer the solution to al Qaeda.
Obviously, Obama’s planners fully understood this. Therefore, sanctuary denial for al Qaeda had to be, at best, a secondary strategic goal. The primary strategic goal was to create an exit strategy for the United States based on a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and a resulting coalition government. The al Qaeda issue depended on this settlement, but could never be guaranteed. In fact, neither the long-term survival of a coalition government nor the Taliban policing al Qaeda could be guaranteed.
The exit of U.S. forces represents a bid to reinstate the American strategy of the past 30 years, namely, having Afghan forces reassume the primary burden of fighting. The creation of an Afghan military is not the key to this strategy. Afghans fight for their clans and ethnic groups. The United States is trying to invent a national army where no nation exists, a task that assumes the primary loyalty of Afghans will shift from their clans to a national government, an unlikely proposition.
The Real U.S. Strategy
Rather than trying to strengthen the Karzai government, the real strategy is to return to the historical principles of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan: alliance with indigenous forces. These indigenous forces would pursue strategies in the American interest for their own reasons, or because they are paid, and would be strong enough to stand up to the Taliban in a coalition. As CIA Director Leon Panetta put it this weekend, however, this is proving harder to do than expected.
The American strategy is, therefore, to maintain a sufficient force to shape the political evolution on the ground, and to use that force to motivate and intimidate while also using economic incentives to draw together a coalition in the countryside. Operations like those in Helmand province — where even Washington acknowledges that progress has been elusive and slower than anticipated — clearly are designed to try to draw regional forces into regional coalitions that eventually can enter a coalition with the Taliban without immediately being overwhelmed. If this strategy proceeds, the Taliban in theory will be spurred to negotiate out of concern that this process eventually could leave it marginalized.
There is an anomaly in this strategy, however. Where the United States previously had devolved operational responsibility to allied groups, or simply hunkered down, this strategy tries to return to devolved responsibilities by first surging U.S. operations. The fourth phase actually increases U.S. operational responsibility in order to reduce it.
From the grand strategic point of view, the United States needs to withdraw from Afghanistan, a landlocked country where U.S. forces are dependent on tortuous supply lines. Whatever Afghanistan’s vast mineral riches, mining them in the midst of war is not going to happen. More important, the United States is overcommitted in the region and lacks a strategic reserve of ground forces. Afghanistan ultimately is not strategically essential, and this is why the United States has not historically used its own forces there.
Obama’s attempt to return to that track after first increasing U.S. forces to set the stage for the political settlement that will allow a U.S. withdrawal is hampered by the need to begin terminating the operation by 2011 (although there is no fixed termination date). It will be difficult to draw coalition partners into local structures when the foundation — U.S. protection — is withdrawing. Strengthening local forces by 2011 will be difficult. Moreover, the Taliban’s motivation to enter into talks is limited by the early withdrawal. At the same time, with no ground combat strategic reserve, the United States is vulnerable elsewhere in the world, and the longer the Afghan drawdown takes, the more vulnerable it becomes (hence the 2011 deadline in Obama’s war plan).
In sum, this is the quandary inherent in the strategy: It is necessary to withdraw as early as possible, but early withdrawal undermines both coalition building and negotiations. The recruitment and use of indigenous Afghan forces must move extremely rapidly to hit the deadline (though officially on track quantitatively, there are serious questions about qualitative measures) — hence, the aggressive operations that have been mounted over recent months. But the correlation of forces is such that the United States probably will not be able to impose an acceptable political reality in the time frame available. Thus, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to be opening channels directly to the Taliban, while the Pakistanis are increasing their presence. Where a vacuum is created, regardless of how much activity there is, someone will fill it.
Therefore, the problem is to define how important Afghanistan is to American global strategy, bearing in mind that the forces absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the United States vulnerable elsewhere in the world. The current strategy defines the Islamic world as the focus of all U.S. military attention. But the world has rarely been so considerate as to wait until the United States is finished with one war before starting another. Though unknowns remain unknowable, a principle of warfare is to never commit all of your reserves in a battle — one should always maintain a reserve for the unexpected. Strategically, it is imperative that the United States begin to free up forces and re-establish its ground reserves.
Given the time frame the Obama administration’s grand strategy imposes, and given the capabilities of the Taliban, it is difficult to see how it will all work out. But the ultimate question is about the American obsession with Afghanistan. For 30 years, the United States has been involved in a country that is virtually inaccessible for the United States. Washington has allied itself with radical Islamists, fought against radical Islamists or tried to negotiate with radical Islamists. What the United States has never tried to do is impose a political solution through the direct application of American force. This is a new and radically different phase of America’s Afghan obsession. The questions are whether it will work and whether it is even worth it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't let Obama hear about this or he'll be trying to do it here
on: July 01, 2010, 10:22:21 PM
Babar Formula’ on the cards to protect fake degree-holders
* Govt engaged in negotiations with allies, PML-Q to introduce bill in NA over issue
* PML-N, MQM not going to back the proposed bill
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: The government’s legal pundits led by Federal Law Minister Babar Awan have come up with a new national reconciliation bill to bail out fake degree-holders, informed sources told Daily Times on Thursday.
The government is currently engaged in taking into confidence its allied parties, as well as the PML-Q over the proposed bill. As pressure mounts on fake degree-holders with each passing day, the Federal Law Ministry has devised a formula — known amongst political circles as the Babar Formula — to save the parliamentarians from any further embarrassment.
“The political ground work is almost complete and the bill has also been drafted”, the sources said, adding that, “It would be presented in the upcoming session of the National Assembly”. Though no more valid now, possessing a bachelors’ degree was one of the prerequisites for contesting national and provincial assembly elections back in 2008.
According to estimates, more than 150 members of the assemblies contested elections on fake degrees and they might have to resign in a move that could have huge political implications for the current government. The bill, if approved by the National Assembly and the Senate, would have a retrospective effect.
The government has so far been successful in convincing at least three of its four allied parties to support the legislation. However, the MQM has still not committed itself to supporting the bill, saying it would be tantamount to favoring “culprits of the nation”.
But officials from both sides said that the MQM was considering abstaining form voting on the bill to give the government a chance of getting it approved from both the houses without any difficulty. According to insiders, President Asif Ali Zardari has assigned Labour Minister Khursheed Ali Shah and Interior Minister Rehman Malik the task of convincing the MQM and contacts have already been established.
The ANP, the JUI-F and group of parliamentarians from the tribal regions led by Munir Orakzai have assured the government that they would vote in favor of the bill. The government has managed to get the support of the PML-Q, in what appears to be an indication of the new political alignment in the country.
A PML-Q MNA from Bahawalpur division Riaz Pirzada said the bill had already been drafted and might be introduced to the National Assembly later this month. According to Pirzada, the government is negotiating with various parties and there are indications that a consensus can emerge over the issue ahead of the next meeting of the lower house.
Pirzada, however, added the legislation would be brought to the National Assembly as a private bill by himself and several other parliamentarians from various parties.
PML-Q Information Secretary Kamal Ali Agha, however, said the party is still to decide its “official reaction” to the issue and had not decided whether or not to support the bill. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab did not deny that the government was seeking support from other parties for protecting fake degree-holders.
A top leader of the JUI-F said that the party would support “anything in favor of the democracy”.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar
on: July 01, 2010, 07:19:12 PM
""Central banks were the ultimate authors of the credit crisis since it is they who set the price of credit too low""
"No. For another opinion: the congress is the author of the credit crisis because they put the volume of credit too high. When the cost of credit goes from 3% to 20%, what will that do to the federal budget and our ability to afford the public goods we require? It was not the Fed was determined that the federal government would be the writer and guarantor of all mortgages or that required that mortgages be made based on criteria other than creditworthiness. Those decisions came from the elected officials and the dysfunctional committees that they formed. Once again I would pose the question: is there really a correct set of policies for a Fed in the situation where we are spending 50% more than we take in, have virtually outlawed manufacturing and energy production and choose instead to send dollars out to the places in the world that supply us?"
You posit the Fed as enabler of Congressional lunacies by artificially driving down interest rates. This I reject completely. THERE IS A PROPER POLICY/MISSION FOR THE FED: A STABLE CURRENCY. PERIOD.
This clusterfcuk in which we find ourselves is a creation of BOTH the Congress and the Fed. The Fed forced interest rates to way below market rates since the Year 2000 scare at least; then came the pump due to 911, then came the pump due to , , , whatever. As stupid and capricious as was the Congress, so too the Fed. Together, the both of them created this.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Door Work, Bouncing, Bodyguarding
on: July 01, 2010, 12:23:45 PM
Ah, quite right.
Anyway, moving along with the subject of the verbalizations, one of the points that Peyton made was that most problems start with an "interview" wherein the true question was "Are you a victim?" Thus a good verbalization needs to answer this clearly in the negative AND put us in a good light with witnesses.
If we fail to verbalize, those in the vicinity may notice what is going on only AFTER the beginning of physicality. Should you win they may well testify that you were the aggressor. OTOH, good verbalizations draw their attention before things get going (which in and of itself tends to discourage many BGs from acting further) and establishes that you are the GG and that you sought to avoid the problem.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia, Germany, and Bushehr
on: July 01, 2010, 12:10:25 PM
Russia, Germany and the Bushehr Nuclear Facility Deadline
Reports circulated Tuesday that Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin issued complaints late Monday to members of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) over Germany’s seizure of Russian cargo intended for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. There are few details about the cargo and its confiscation, and it is unclear when the seizure actually happened. Germany claims the shipment violated sanctions rules against transporting sensitive items to Iran.
The confiscation could be referring to an occurrence in January when Russian cargo, including computer and nuclear monitoring equipment, transiting Germany before heading to Iran was seized. This was followed by another related event in May when a handful of German businessmen connected to an unnamed Russian company working on the Bushehr nuclear facility were arrested in Germany by German authorities. On both occasions, German authorities claimed the offending actions violated sanctions rules against Iran.
Germany — the country that started the Bushehr project in 1975 — openly opposes further work and construction on the nuclear plant. Its opposition is in line with UNSC recommendations and the European Union’s directive against nuclear cooperation with Iran. As the political climate between the West and Iran worsened, Russia took up the Bushehr project in 1995 and has since used it as one of its main bargaining chips with the West on other critical issues.
“That Russia has not spun up the seizure beyond issuing informal complaints signals the fact that there could be something else afoot.”
Moscow and Berlin could have split over the issue of Iran after the German businessmen working for the Bushehr-related Russian company were arrested in May. Germany and Russia had been growing closer over the past few years in terms of politics, economics and security, so it was rare for Germany to oppose any Russian projects, especially one as prominent as the Bushehr plant. But there has been little fallout between the budding friends over either incident. The seizure and Churkin’s complaints to the Security Council on Monday have barely registered in either Russian or German media.
That Russia has not spun up the seizure beyond issuing informal complaints — there are many higher profile officials other than Churkin who could have condemned the act — signals the fact that there could be something else afoot. Moscow could possibly have arranged the whole event.
Such a scenario would be connected to a recent shift in Russia’s stance on Iran. Russia is currently in the process of implementing a comprehensive plan to modernize its economy and Moscow feels that foreign investment and technology — particularly from the West and the United States — are critical to the process. In return, Russia has pledged to be more cooperative with the West on key political issues, proving its intent by signing on to the latest batch of UNSC sanctions against Iran, after years of opposing them. After a recent trip to Washington, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev even suggested that Moscow could be on board for even more moves against Iran should the Islamic republic prove to be noncompliant.
In a bid to placate a worrying Iran, Moscow has continued to maintain that it has not completely abandoned support for Tehran. But a significant test for Russia’s commitment to either the West or Iran is on the horizon; Moscow currently faces an August deadline to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility. Russia is already nearly two years behind the initial deadline for completion. As it faces pressure from the West to disregard the August deadline, Russia’s reputation as a solid economic and political partner to Iran is on the line.
But Moscow may think that with a bit of maneuvering it could do both. By claiming the West confiscated the material and personnel needed to complete Bushehr by the deadline, Russia would be cleared of its responsibility to meet that deadline. At the same time, taking the confiscation issue to the UNSC shows that Russia is not completely abandoning Iran (though this low gesture is not likely to placate Tehran much). If Moscow’s plan involves maneuvering to once again extend the Bushehr deadline, it would mean a coordinated effort against Iran by Russia, Germany and possibly the United States.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Door Work, Bouncing, Bodyguarding
on: July 01, 2010, 11:45:24 AM
So, what do we do if he keeps coming forward?
This brings up the issue of verbalizations. Peyton Quinn influenced me here with his articulation of the concept "Prepare your witnesses". Peyton can be a very funny guy to have some beers with-- full of good stories, some of which made it into his book "A Bouncer's Guide to Barroom Brawling".
Personally (and whatever one says IS personal, and should feel good and natural TO YOU) I am not a big fan of "I do not want any problems." While it certainly meets the criterion of establishing with witnesses that one was seeking to avoid the fight, IMHO it sounds a bit weak-- which tends to invite problems. I like:
*Keep your distance!
*Leave me alone!
and variants thereof.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Gabe Suarez piece
on: July 01, 2010, 11:38:57 AM
Should You Act? - Get Involved Or Get Away?
Every so often we get a thread at Warrior Talk asking about what a CCW person should do if he sees a crime, or some apparent victimization. The implied question of course is the quest for justification of the desire to jump in with both feet to save the day. That inherent desire, while noble, may also be quite foolish and self-destructive.
I am not saying to default to doing nothing, merely that you should think it through before taking action that could adversely affect you for the rest of your life. Your decision will be based on three factors – location, companions, and information. Let’s discuss it.
Location. I have traveled in places that I refer to as Non-Permissive Environments. Those are areas where the legality of being armed may be questionable, yet where it is so dangerous that going unarmed would be stupid. In such places getting involved in anyone else’s problem is a bad decision no matter the situation.
In some places saving the day will get you a medal of valor, while in others, even if you saved everyone, the political environment would still cause you to be arrested and likely prosecuted. If you are in an environment like the latter, I suggest not getting involved in anything that does not directly endanger you or yours.
Look at it this way, will you trade your freedom, and finances to save strangers? That is what it boils down to. It is easy to be indignant at my suggestion from the safety of the internet in your living room, it is also quite easy to disagree when you carry the “Badge of America” card as an LEO with the full umbrella of protection your agency provides, but it is another matter altogether when you are sitting in the defendant’s chair, a civilian paying your own way, looking at a prison sentence because you decided to “do the right thing”.
If you don't have a gun its a moot point. If its legal for you to carry its also a moot point.
In a free area where you are legal to carry your pistol, again the choice is clear. Good guys can intervene in times of danger and victimization secure that if they act properly, they will probably be fine afterward. That is the reality of why places where gun laws are lax are far safer than places where gun laws are strict…because good guys are not afraid to be good guys.
Companions will also have an effect on your decisions. I spoke to an LA County Deputy once whose daughter was shot and killed by two armed robbers when he elected to intervene at the store they were robbing. Listen people…if you have your family with you, everyone else is on their own. Unless the bad guys have targeted you and them specifically, go on your way. Whatever is happening is none of your business. Certainly, call 911, but leave and keep them safe. Sorry to sound “cowardly” but anyone who says they will risk their family to save someone else’s money is a fool.
Whether you act or not also depends on how much information you have about what is going on. The information present and available to you may over ride the presence in an NPE, but rarely. The less Intel I have, the less likely I am to do anything but leave. The more Intel I have the better decision I can make. What you see may not give the total picture.
Active shooter problems are easy. When you see a man with an assault rifle shooting into the Toys R Us, you can venture a guess that that is the bad guy and that he is the one that needs to be shot. But those are not the ones that cause us problem are they.
Two guys fighting? None of my business.
Two guys beating up a third guy? Do you act now? Honestly, for me it depends on what they look like. If they are two gang-type thugs beating up an old man, the choice is pretty clear. I would have to intervene. But if two gang-type thugs are beating up a third gang-type thug, its none of my business. I may make a 911 call, but I don’t plan to stick around. Is the fight you see two cops beating up a gang-thug? Cool, but still nothing to do with you. How about two homeys beating up a cop? Now we are back to helping out the good guys. All different stories, eliciting different responses aren't they. Here are a few more.
One guy slapping a girl? None of my business. “Hey wait a minute!”, I can hear the chivalrous crowd yelling from across the nation. Chivalry demands the presence of a lady. Is the apparent victim a lady? Are you willing to risk your life for her? Think with your brain and not your sword. Just on the face of the description I do not have enough to get involved, sorry. Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a typical soccer mom? Things just changed because of the Intel. Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a meth-mouth whore? Sorry…not my fight. My Glock will stay in the holster and my phone will be used for 911 instead.
Its 2010 and your CCW stands for Cary (of) Concealed Weapons, not for Captain America. The only time I will get involved in someone else's fight is when I have enough info on what I am seeing to determine who is who and what is happening, I am alone or with other combatants, and then only if not doing something would shock my personal conscience.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dismantling of Russian Operation
on: July 01, 2010, 08:24:33 AM
The Dismantling of a Suspected Russian Intelligence Operation
July 1, 2010
By Fred Burton and Ben West
The U.S. Department of Justice announced June 28 that an FBI counterintelligence investigation had resulted in the arrest on June 27 of 10 individuals suspected of acting as undeclared agents of a foreign country, in this case, Russia. Eight of the individuals were also accused of money laundering. On June 28, five of the defendants appeared before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Manhattan while three others went before a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., and two more went before a U.S. magistrate in Boston. An 11th person named in the criminal complaint was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, posted bail and is currently at large.
The number of arrested suspects in this case makes this counterintelligence investigation one of the biggest in U.S. history. According to the criminal complaint, the FBI had been investigating some of these people for as long as 10 years, recording conversations in their homes, intercepting radio and electronic messages and conducting surveillance on them in and out of the United States. The case suggests that the classic tactics of intelligence gathering and counterintelligence are still being used by Russia and the United States.
Cast of Characters
(click here to enlarge image)
The following are the 11 individuals detained in the investigation, along with summaries of their alleged activities listed in the criminal complaint:
Claimed to originally be from Canada.
Acted as an intermediary between the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York and suspects Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills.
Traveled to and from Canada.
Met with Richard Murphy at least four times between February 2001 and April 2005 at a restaurant in New York.
Was first surveilled in 2001 in meetings with other suspects.
Left the United States on June 17 and was detained in Cyprus on June 29, but appears to have skipped bail.
Richard and Cynthia Murphy
Claimed to be married and to be U.S. citizens.
First surveilled by the FBI in 2001 during meetings with Mestos.
Also met with the third secretary in the Russian mission to the United Nations.
Communicated electronically with Moscow.
Richard Murphy’s safe-deposit box was searched in 2006 and agents found a birth certificate claiming he was born in Philadelphia; city officials claim there is no such birth certificate on record.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Traveled to Moscow via Italy in February 2010.
Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley
Claimed to be married and to be natives of Canada who are naturalized U.S. citizens.
FBI searched a safe-deposit box listed under their names in January 2001.
FBI discovered that Donald Heathfield’s identity had been taken from a deceased child by the same name in Canada and found old photos of Foley taken with Soviet film.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Tracey Foley traveled to Moscow via Paris in March 2010.
Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills
Claimed to be married and to be a U.S. citizen (Zottoli) and a Canadian citizen (Mills).
First surveilled in June 2004 during a meeting with Richard Murphy.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez
Claimed to be married and to be a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Peru (Pelaez) and a Peruvian citizen born in Uruguay (Lazaro).
First surveilled at a meeting in a public park in an unidentified South American country in January 2000.
Evidence against Vicky Pelaez was the first gathered on the 11 suspected operatives.
Lazaro appeared to communicate with a diplomat at the Russian Embassy in an unidentified South American country.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
First surveillance mentioned was in Manhattan in January 2010.
Communicated with a declared diplomat in the Russian mission to the United Nations on Wednesdays.
Knowingly accepted a fraudulent passport from an undercover FBI agent whom she believed to be a Russian diplomatic officer June 26, but turned it in to the police the next day shortly before her arrest.
First surveillance mentioned in the criminal complaint was in June 2010 in Washington.
Revealed to an undercover officer that he had received training and instruction from “the center” (a common term for the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR).
Accepted a payment of $5,000 and followed orders given by an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian diplomatic officer to deliver the money to a drop site in Washington.
According to the FBI, some of the alleged “undeclared agents” moved to the United States in the 1990s, while others (such as Anna Chapman) did not arrive until 2009. The FBI says nine of the suspects were provided with fake identities and even fake childhood photos and cover stories (part of what would be called a “legend”) in order to establish themselves in the United State under “deep cover.” Chapman and Semenko used their own Russian identities (Chapman is divorced and may have taken her surname from her former husband). The true nationalities of the other suspects are unknown, but several passages in the criminal complaint indicate that most of them were originally from Russia. The Russian SVR allegedly provided the suspects with bank accounts, homes, cars and regular payments in order to facilitate “long-term service” inside the United States, where, according to the criminal complaint, the individuals were supposed to “search [for] and develop ties in policymaking circles” in the United States.
The FBI criminal complaint provides evidence that two of the deep-cover couples (Heathfield/Foley and Lazaro/Palaez) and the two short-term cover agents (Semenko and Chapman) were operating without knowledge of each other or in connection with the other two couples and Metsos, who did interact. This suggests that they would not have formed one network, as is being reported, but perhaps discrete networks. The criminal complaint provides evidence indicating that most of the operatives were being run out of the SVR residence at the U.N. mission.
It is unclear exactly how successful the 11 accused individuals were in finding and developing those ties in policymaking circles. The criminal complaint accuses the individuals of sending everything from information on the gold market from a financier in New York (a contact that Moscow apparently found helpful, since it reportedly encouraged further contact with the source) to seeking out potential college graduates headed for jobs at the CIA. The criminal complaint outlines one recorded conversation in which Lazaro told Pelaez that his handlers were not pleased with his reports because he wasn’t attributing them properly. Pelaez then advised Lazaro to “put down any politician” (to whom the information could be attributed) in order to appease the handlers, indicating that the alleged operatives did not always practice scrupulous tradecraft in their work. Improperly identifying sources in the field ultimately diminishes the value of the information, since it cannot be adequately assessed without knowing where it came from. If these kinds of shortcuts were normally taken by Pelaez, Lazaro and others, then it would reduce their value to the SVR and the harm that they may have done to the United States. The suspects were allegedly instructed by their handlers in the United States and Russia to not pursue high-level government jobs, since their legends were not strong enough to withstand a significant background investigation. But they allegedly were encouraged to make contact with high-level government officials, in order to have a finger on the pulse of policymaking in Washington.
The criminal complaint alleges that the suspects used traditional tradecraft of the clandestine services to communicate with each other and send reports to their handlers. The suspects allegedly transmitted messages to Moscow containing their reports encrypted in “radiograms” (short-burst radio transmissions that appear as Morse code) or written in invisible ink, and met in third countries for payments and briefings. They are also said to have used “brush passes” (the quick and discreet exchange of materials between one person and another) and “flash meets” (seemingly innocuous, brief encounters) to transfer information, equipment and money. The criminal complaint also gives examples of operatives using coded phrases with each other and with their operators to confirm each other’s identities.
In addition to the traditional tradecraft described in the criminal complaint, there are also new operational twists. The suspects allegedly used e-mail to set up electronic dead drops to transmit encrypted intelligence reports to Moscow, and several operatives were said to have used steganography (embedding information in seemingly innocuous images) to encrypt messages. Chapman and Semenko allegedly employed private wireless networks hosted by a laptop programmed to communicate only with a specific laptop. The FBI claims to have identified networks (and may have intercepted the messages transmitted) that had been temporarily set up when a suspect was in proximity to a known Russian diplomat. These electronic meetings occurred frequently, according to the FBI, and allowed operatives and their operators to communicate covertly without actually being seen together.
Operations are said to have been run largely out of Russia’s U.N. mission in New York, meaning that when face-to-face meetings were required, declared diplomats from the U.N. mission could do the job. According to the criminal complaint, Russian diplomats handed off cash to Christopher Metsos on at least two occasions, and he allegedly distributed it to various other operatives (which provided the grounds for the charge of money laundering). The actual information gathered from the field appears to have gone directly to Russia, according to the complaint.
It is important to note that the accused individuals were not charged with espionage; the charge of acting as an undeclared agent of a foreign state is less serious. The criminal complaint never alleges that any of the 11 individuals received or transmitted classified information. This doesn’t mean that the suspects weren’t committing espionage. (Investigators will certainly learn more about their activities during interrogation and trial preparation.) According to the criminal complaint, their original guidance from Moscow was to establish deep cover. This means that they would have been tasked with positioning themselves over time in order gain access to valuable information (it is important to point out that “valuable” is not synonymous with “classified”) through their established occupations or social lives. This allows agents to gain access to what they want without running unnecessary security risks.
Any intelligence operation must balance operational security with the need to gather intelligence. Too much security and the operative is unable to do anything; but if intelligence gathering is too aggressive, the handlers risk losing an intelligence asset. If these people were operating in deep cover, the SVR probably invested quite a bit of time and money training and cultivating them, likely well before they arrived in the United States. According to information in the criminal complaint, the suspects were actively meeting with potential sources, sending reports back to Moscow and interacting with declared Russian diplomats in the United States, all the while running the risk of being caught. But they also took security measures, according to the complaint. There is no evidence that they attempted to reach out to people who would have fallen outside their natural professional and social circles, which could have raised suspicions. In many ways, these individuals appear to have acted more like recruiters, seeking out people with access to valuable information, rather than agents trying to gain access to that information themselves. However, all we know now is based on what was released in the criminal complaint. An investigation that lasted this long surely has an abundance of evidence (much of it likely classified) that wasn’t included in the complaint.
According to authorities, the suspected operatives were under heavy surveillance by U.S. counterintelligence agents for 10 years. Working out of Boston, New York and Washington, the FBI employed its Special Surveillance Group to track suspects in person; place video and audio recorders in their homes and at meeting places to record communications; search their homes and safe-deposit boxes; intercept e-mail and electronic communications; and deploy undercover agents to entrap the suspects.
Counterintelligence operations don’t just materialize out of thin air. There has to be a tip or a clue that puts investigators on the trail of a suspected undeclared foreign agent. As suggested by interviews with the suspects’ neighbors, none of them displayed unusual behavior that would have tipped the neighbors off. All apparently had deep (but not airtight) legends going back decades that allayed suspicion. The criminal complaint did not suggest how the U.S. government came to suspect these people of reporting back to the SVR in Russia, although we did notice that the beginning of the investigation coincides with the time that a high-level SVR agent stationed at Russia’s U.N. mission in New York began passing information to the FBI. Sergei Tretyakov (who told his story in the book by Pete Earley called “Comrade J,” an abbreviation of his SVR codename, “Comrade Jean”), passed information to the FBI from the U.N. mission from 1997 to 2000, just before he defected to the United States in October 2000. According to the criminal complaint, seven of the 11 suspects were connected to Russia’s U.N. mission, though evidence of those links did not begin to emerge until 2004 (and some as late as 2010). The timing of Tretyakov’s cooperation with the U.S. government and the timing of the beginning of this investigation resulting in the arrest of the 11 suspects this week suggests that Tretyakov may have been the original source who tipped off the U.S. government. So far, the evidence is circumstantial — the timing and the location match up — but Tretyakov, as the SVR operative at Russia’s U.N. mission, certainly would have been in a position to know about operations involving most of the people arrested June 27.
Nothing in the complaint indicates why, after more than 10 years of investigation, the FBI decided to arrest the 11 suspects June 27. It is not unusual for investigations to be drawn out for years, since much information on tradecraft and intent can be obtained by watching foreign intelligence agencies operate without knowing they are being watched. Extended surveillance can also reveal additional contacts and build a stronger case. As long as the suspects aren’t posing an immediate risk to national security (and judging by the criminal complaint, these 11 suspects were not), there is little reason for the authorities to show their hand and conclude a fruitful counterintelligence operation.
It has been suggested that some of the suspects were a flight risk, so agents arrested all of them in order to prevent them from escaping the United States. Metsos left the United States on June 17 and was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, however, his whereabouts are currently unknown, as he has not reported back to Cypriot authorities after posting bail. A number of the suspects left and came back to the United States numerous times, and investigators appear not to have been concerned about these past comings and goings. It isn’t clear why they would have been concerned about someone leaving at this point.
The timing of the arrests so soon after U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 25 meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev also raises questions about political motivations. Medvedev was in Washington to talk with Obama in an attempt to improve relations between the two countries on the day the FBI officially filed the criminal complaint. The revelation of a network of undeclared foreign agents operating in the United States would ordinarily have a negative effect on relations between the United States and the foreign country in question. In this case, though, officials from both countries made public statements saying they hoped the arrests would not damage ties, and neither side appears to be trying to leverage the incident. Indeed, if there were political motivations behind the timing of the arrests, they remain a mystery.
Whatever the motivations, now that the FBI has these suspects in custody it will be able to interrogate them and probably gather even more information on the operation. The charges for now don’t include espionage, but the FBI could very well be withholding this charge in order to provide an incentive for the suspects to plea bargain. We expect considerably more information on this unprecedented case to come out in the following weeks and months, revealing much about Russian clandestine operations and their targets in the United States.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to shut down the Fed?
on: June 30, 2010, 12:34:18 PM
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Economics Last updated: June 29th, 2010http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100006729/time-to-shut-down-the-us-federal-reserve/
Like a mad aunt, the Fed is slowly losing its marbles.
Kartik Athreya, senior economist for the Richmond Fed, has written a paper condemning economic bloggers as chronically stupid and a threat to public order. Matters of economic policy should be reserved to a priesthood with the correct post-doctoral credentials, which would of course have excluded David Hume, Adam Smith, and arguably John Maynard Keynes (a mathematics graduate, with a tripos foray in moral sciences).
“Writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy.”
Don’t you just love that throw-away line “decent”? Dr Athreya hails from the University of Iowa.
“The response of the untrained to the crisis has been startling. The real issue is that there is an extremely low likelihood that the speculations of the untrained, on a topic almost pathologically riddled by dynamic considerations and feedback effects, will offer anything new. Moreover, there is a substantial likelihood that it will instead offer something incoherent or misleading.”
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
“Economics is hard. Really hard. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-boggingly hard it is. I mean you may think doing the Sunday Times crossword is difficult, but that’s just peanuts to economics. And because it is so hard, people shouldn’t blithely go shooting their mouths off about it, and pretending like it’s so easy. In fact, we would all be better off if we just ignored these clowns.”
I hold my hand up Dr Athreya and plead guilty. I am grateful to Bruce Krasting’s blog for bringing this stinging rebuke to my attention.
However, Dr Athreya’s assertions cannot be allowed to pass. The current generation of economists have led the world into a catastrophic cul de sac. And if they think we are safely on the road to recovery, they still fail to understand what they did.
Central banks were the ultimate authors of the credit crisis since it is they who set the price of credit too low, throwing the whole incentive structure of the capitalist system out of kilter, and more or less forcing banks to chase yield and engage in destructive behaviour. They ran ever-lower real interests with each cycle, allowed asset bubbles to run unchecked (Ben Bernanke was the cheerleader of that particular folly), blamed Anglo-Saxon over-consumption on excess Asian savings (half true, but still the silliest cop-out of all time), and believed in the neanderthal doctrine of “inflation targeting”. Have they all forgotten Keynes’s cautionary words on the “tyranny of the general price level” in the early 1930s? Yes they have. They allowed the M3 money supply to surge at double-digit rates (16pc in the US and 11pc in euroland), and are now allowing it to collapse (minus 5.5pc in the US over the last year). Have they all forgotten the Friedman-Schwartz lessons on the quantity theory of money? Yes, they have. Have they forgotten Irving Fisher’s “Debt Deflation causes of Great Depressions”? Yes, most of them have. And of course, they completely failed to see the 2007-2009 crisis coming, or to respond to it fast enough when it occurred.
The Fed has since made a hash of quantitative easing, largely due to Bernanke’s ideological infatuation with “creditism”. QE has been large enough to horrify everybody (especially the Chinese) by its sheer size – lifting the balance sheet to $2.4 trillion – but it has been carried out in such a way that it does not gain full traction. This is the worst of both worlds. So much geo-political capital wasted to such modest and distorting effect.
The error was for the Fed to buy the bonds from the banking system (and we all hate the banks, don’t we) rather than going straight to the non-bank private sector. How about purchasing a herd of Texas Longhorn cattle? That would do it. The inevitable result of this is a collapse of money velocity as banks allow their useless reserves to swell.
And now the Fed tells us all to shut up. Fie to you sir.
The 20th Century was a horrible litany of absurd experiments and atrocities committed by intellectuals, or by elite groupings that claimed a higher knowledge. Simple folk usually have enough common sense to avoid the worst errors. Sometimes they need to take very stern action to stop intellectuals leading us to ruin.
The root error of the modern academy is to pretend (and perhaps believe, which is even less forgiveable), that economics is a science and answers to Newtonian laws.
In any case, Newton was wrong. He neglected the fourth dimension of time, as Einstein called it, and that is exactly what the new classical school of economics has done by failing to take into account the intertemporal effects of debt – now 360pc of GDP across the OECD bloc, if properly counted.
There has been a cosy self-delusion that rising debt is largely benign because it is merely money that society owes to itself. This is a bad error of judgement, one that the intuitive man in the street can see through immediately.
Debt draws forward prosperity, which leads to powerful overhang effects that are not properly incorporated into Fed models. That is the key reason why Ben Bernanke’s Fed was caught flat-footed when the crisis hit, and kept misjudging it until the events started to spin out of control.
Economics should never be treated as a science. Its claims are not falsifiable, which is why economists can disagree so violently among themselves: a rarer spectacle in science, where disputes are usually resolved one way or another by hard data.
It is a branch of anthropology and psychology, a moral discipline if you like. Anybody who loses sight of this is a public nuisance, starting with Dr Athreya.
As for the Fed, I venture to say that a common jury of 12 American men and women placed on the Federal Open Market Committee would have done a better job of setting monetary policy over the last 20 years than Doctors Bernanke and Greenspan.
Actually, Greenspan never got a Phd. His honourary doctorate was awarded later for political reasons. (He had been a Nixon speech-writer). But never mind.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Door Work, Bouncing, Bodyguarding
on: June 30, 2010, 12:23:00 PM
Actually SG's pichost clip makes it easier for me to see more and now that I do I better see why Jonobos posted this clip and hereby upgrade my opinion of the performance involved.
The weight on the heels and right hand dow as Problem Child approaches remain as serious defects, but there are some things I do like:
Using StillJames's comments as a frame of reference:
"When he avoids the punch, he wastes a tick bringing his left foot back in front while punching with his right hand. While some people can hit hard from there, the way he's doing it is turning his hip away from the direction he's trying to project power."
Security Guy awaits in a left lead and takes a step back as PC approaches. If he had kept his left hip and shoulder forward we could have said he was in a Kali Fence
I have no problem with his stepping in with the left foot as he throws the right hand-- indeed it is a primary option while throwing the right from the KF.
"And when he starts on the shove, knee, push sequence, he wastes time again having to get his left knee loaded by reversing his feet yet again. , , , Oh, and while he is using his right to fight, his other hand keeps a death grip on that loose white shirt the man is wearing. Notice that the doorman's punch seems to have more of a damaging effect than the knee. The knee moves the man backwards but does not appear to do any actual damage."
I see this differently. I see the left hand's hold as doing a fine job of keeping PC turned and the footwork as driving nicely on what we call the T-Bone line. Note PC's line of approach and that the angle SG's drive puts PC into the car. I see the knee simply as a smoothly integrated part of this drive.
Putting aside the weight on heels and the right hand down (which invites the intiation by the left hook) I'd give this a B or even a B+.
SG, would you please post this on the DBMAA forum too?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indian friend recommends part 2
on: June 29, 2010, 09:01:54 PM
AMERICAN OPERATIONS in South Asia, however, are threatening to upset this fragile balance between Islam and nationalism in the Pakistani military. The army's members can hardly avoid sharing the broader population's bitter hostility to U.S. policy. To judge by retired and serving officers, this includes the genuine conviction that either the Bush administration or Israel was responsible for 9/11. Inevitably therefore, there was deep opposition throughout the army after 2001 to American pressure to crack down on the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani sympathizers. "We are being ordered to launch a Pakistani civil war for the sake of America," an officer told me in 2002. "Why on earth should we? Why should we commit suicide for you?"
Between 2004 and 2007, there were a number of instances of mass desertion and refusal to serve in units deployed to fight militants, though mostly in the Pashtun-recruited Frontier Corps rather than in the regular army. These failures were caused above all by the feeling that these forces were compelled to turn against their own. We must realize in these morally and psychologically testing circumstances, anything that helps maintain Pakistani military discipline cannot be altogether bad-given the immense scale of the stakes concerned, and the consequences if that discipline were to fail.
For in 2007-2008, the battle was beginning to cause serious problems of morale. The most dangerous single thing I heard during my visits to Pakistan in those years was that soldiers' families in villages in the NWFP and the Potwar region of the Punjab were finding it increasingly difficult to find high-status brides for their sons serving in the military because of the growing popular feeling that "the army is the slave of the Americans" and "the soldiers are killing fellow Muslims on America's orders."
By late 2009, the sheer number of soldiers killed by the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, and still more importantly, the increasingly murderous and indiscriminate Pakistani Taliban attacks on civilians, seem to have produced a change of mood in the areas of military recruitment. Nonetheless, if the Pakistani Taliban are increasingly unpopular, that does not make the United States any more well liked; and if Washington ever put Pakistani soldiers in a position where they felt that honor and patriotism required them to fight America, many would be willing to do so.
And we have seen this willingness before. In August and September 2008, U.S. forces entered Pakistan's tribal areas on two occasions in order to raid suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda bases. During the second incursion, Pakistani soldiers fired in the air to turn the Americans back. On September 19, 2008, General Kayani flew to meet U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and, in the words of a senior Pakistani general, "gave him the toughest possible warning about what would happen if this were repeated."
Pakistani officers from captain to lieutenant general have told me that the entry of U.S. ground forces into Pakistan in pursuit of the Taliban and al-Qaeda is an incredibly dangerous scenario, as it would put both Pakistan-U.S. relations and the unity of the army at risk. As one retired general explained, drone attacks on Pakistani territory, though humiliating for the ordinary officers and soldiers, are not the critical issue. What would create a military overthrow takes more:
U.S. ground forces inside Pakistan are a different matter, because the soldiers can do something about them. They can fight. And if they don't fight, they will feel utterly humiliated, before their wives, mothers, children. It would be a matter of honor, which as you know is a tremendous thing in our society. These men have sworn an oath to defend Pakistani soil. So they would fight. And if the generals told them not to fight, many of them would mutiny, starting with the Frontier Corps.
At this point, not just Islamist radicals, but every malcontent in the country would join the mutineers, and the disintegration of Pakistan would become imminent.
THERE IS a further complication. Of course, the Pakistani military has played a part in encouraging Islamist insurgents. The army maintains links with military and jihadi groups focused on fighting India (its perennial obsession). Contrary to what many believe, the military's support of these actors has not been based on ideology. The bulk of the high command (including General Musharraf, who is by no conceivable stretch of the imagination an Islamist) has used these groups in a purely instrumental way against New Delhi with Pakistani Muslim nationalism as the driver. But this doesn't mean balancing these relationships with U.S. demands will be easy.
Since 2002, the military has acted to rein in these groups, while at the same time keeping some of them (notably Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the 2008 terrorist attacks against Mumbai) on the shelf for possible future use against India should hostilities between the two countries resume. Undoubtedly, however, some lower-level officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), responsible for "handling" these groups, have developed close affinities for them and have contributed to their recent operations. The ISI's long association with the militants, first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir, had led some ISI officers to have a close personal identification with the forces that they were supposed to be controlling.
The high command, moreover, is genuinely concerned that if it attacks some of these groups, it will drive them into joining the Pakistani Taliban-as has already occurred with sections of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, suspected in the attempts to assassinate Musharraf in December 2003 (apparently with low-level help from within the armed forces).
This leads to a whole set of interlocking questions: How far does the Pakistani high command continue to back certain militant groups? How far does the command of the ISI follow a strategy independent from that of the military? And how far have individual ISI officers escaped from the control of their superiors and supported and planned terrorist actions on their own? And this leads to the even-more-vital question of how far the Pakistani military is penetrated by Islamist extremist elements, and whether there is any possibility of these groups carrying out a successful military coup from below.
Since this whole field is obviously kept very secret by the institutions concerned (including Military Intelligence, which monitors the political and ideological allegiances of officers), there are no definitive answers. What follows is informed guesswork based on numerous discussions with experts and off-the-record talks with Pakistani officers, including retired members of the ISI.
Concerning the ISI, the consensus of my informants is as follows: There is considerable resentment of the organization in the rest of the military due to its perceived arrogance and suspected corruption. However, when it comes to overall strategy, the ISI follows the line of the high command. It is, after all, always headed by a senior regular general, not a professional intelligence officer, and a majority of its officers are also seconded regulars. General Kayani was director of the ISI from 2004-2007 and ordered a limited crackdown on jihadi groups that the ISI had previously supported. As to the military's attitude toward the Afghan Taliban, the army and the ISI are as one, and the evidence is unequivocal: both groups continue to give them shelter, and there is deep unwillingness to take serious action against them on America's behalf, both because it is feared that this would increase the potential for a Pashtun insurgency in Pakistan and because they are seen as the only assets Pakistan possesses in Afghanistan. The conviction in the Pakistani security establishment is that the West will quit Kabul, leaving civil war behind, and that India will then throw its weight behind the non-Pashtun forces of the former Northern Alliance in order to encircle Pakistan strategically.
This attitude changes, however, when it comes to the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. The military as a whole and the ISI are now committed to the struggle against them, and by the end of 2009, the ISI had lost more than seventy of its officers in this fight-some ten times the number of CIA officers killed since 9/11, just as Pakistani military casualties fighting the Pakistani Taliban have greatly exceeded those of the United States in Afghanistan. Equally, however, in 2007-2008 there were a great many stories of ISI officers intervening to rescue individual Taliban commanders from arrest by the police or the army-too many, and too circumstantial, for these all to have been invented.
It seems clear, therefore, that whether because some ISI officers felt a personal commitment to these men, or because the institution as a whole still regarded them as potentially useful, actions were taking place that were against overall military policy-let alone that of the Pakistani government. As well, some of these Islamist insurgents had at least indirect links to al-Qaeda. This does not mean that the ISI knows where Osama bin Laden (if he is indeed still alive), Ayman al-Zawahri and other al-Qaeda leaders are hiding. But it does suggest that they could probably do a good deal more to find out.
However, for Islamist terrorists who wish to carry out attacks against India, ISI help is not necessary (though it has certainly occurred in the past). The discontent of sections of India's Muslim minority (increased by ghastly incidents like the massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and encouraged by the Hindu nationalist state government) gives ample possibilities for recruitment; the sheer size of India, coupled with the incompetence of the Indian security forces, give ample targets of opportunity; and the desire to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan gives ample motive. But whether or not the ISI is involved in future attacks, India will certainly blame Pakistan for them.
This creates the real possibility of a range of harsh Indian responses, stretching from economic pressure through blockade to outright war. Such a war would in the short term unite Pakistanis and greatly increase the morale of the army. The long-term consequences for Pakistan's economic development would, however, be quite disastrous. And if the United States were perceived to back India in such a war, anti-American feelings and extremist recruitment in Pakistan would soar to new heights. All of this gives the United States every reason to push the Pakistani military to suppress some extremist groups and keep others on a very tight rein. But Washington also needs to press New Delhi to seek reconciliation with Islamabad over Kashmir, and to refrain from actions which will create even more fear of India in the Pakistani military.
IN THE end, Washington must walk a very fine line if it wants to keep the military united and at least onboard enough in the fight against extremists. If it pushes the army too far by moving ground troops into Pakistan proper, the consequences will be devastating. The military-and therefore the state of Pakistan-will be no longer.
Anatol Lieven, a senior editor at The National Interest, is a professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington, DC. He is author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2004). His next book,Pakistan: A Hard Country, is to be published in 2011.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An Indian friend recommends this article
on: June 29, 2010, 09:01:00 PM
Down the Orwellian memory hole, eh? How perfect.
Changing subjects, here's this piece which comes recommended by an Indian friend who has sent many good things my way over the years. Note the congruity with what I suggested the other day-- though my suggestion (Pashtunistan) sought the fragmentation/dissolution of Pakistan, here the other side of the coin is that if our current strategy is really applied, Pakistan's current incarnation will not survive.
All Kayani's Men
written by: Anatol Lieven, 02-Jun-10
VOLTAIRE REMARKED of Frederick the Great's Prussia that "where .some states have an army, the Prussian Army has a state!" The same can easily be said of Pakistan. The destruction of the army would mean the destruction of the country. Yet this is something that the Pakistani Taliban and their allies can never achieve. Only the United States is capable of such a feat; if Washington ever takes actions that persuade ordinary Pakistani soldiers that their only honorable course is to fight America, even against the orders of their generals and against dreadful odds, the armed forces would crumble.
There is an understanding in Washington that while short-term calculations demand some kind of success in Afghanistan, in the longer run, Pakistan, with its vastly greater size, huge army, nuclear weapons and large diaspora, is a much more important country, and a much greater threat should it in fact succumb to its inner demons. The collapse of Pakistan would so vastly increase the power of Islamist extremism as to constitute a strategic defeat in the "war on terror."
The Pakistani military is crucial to preventing such a disaster because it is the only state institution that works as it is officially meant to. This means, however, that it also repeatedly does something that it is not meant to-namely, overthrow what in Pakistan is called "democracy" and seize control of the government. The military has therefore been seen as extremely bad for Pakistan's progress, at least if that progress is to be defined in standard Western terms.
Yet, it has also always been true that without a strong military, Pakistan would probably have long since disintegrated. That is truer than ever today, as the country faces the powerful insurgency of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. That threat makes the unity and discipline of the army of paramount importance to Pakistan and the world-all the more so because the deep dislike of U.S. strategy among the vast majority of Pakistanis has made even the limited alliance between the Pakistani military and the United States extremely unpopular in general society and among many soldiers. Those soldiers' superiors fully understand the importance of this alliance to Pakistan and the disastrous consequences for the country if it were to collapse.
The Pakistani army is a highly disciplined and professional institution, and the soldiers will continue to obey their generals' orders. Given their basic feelings, however, it would be unwise to push the infantrymen too far. One way of doing this would be to further extend the U.S. drone campaign by expanding it from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to Baluchistan. Much more disastrous would be any resumption of U.S. ground raids into Pakistani territory, such as occurred briefly in the summer of 2008.
TO UNDERSTAND this somewhat-counterintuitive (at least to Western audiences) prescription, a close look inside the military is necessary. In essence, the armed forces' success as an institution and its power over the country come from its immunity to kinship interests and the corruption they bring with them; but the military has only been able to achieve this immunity by turning into a sort of giant kinship group itself, extracting patronage from the state and distributing it to its members.
During my journeys to Pakistan over the years, I have observed how the Pakistani military, even more than most armed forces, sees itself as a breed apart, and devotes great effort to inculcating new recruits with the feeling that they belong to a military family different from (and vastly superior to) civilian society. The mainly middle-class composition of the officer corps increases contempt for the "feudal" political class. The army sees itself as both morally superior to this group and far more modern, progressive and better educated.
Pakistani politics is dominated by wealth and inherited status, whereas the officer corps has become increasingly egalitarian and provides opportunities for social mobility that the Pakistani economy cannot. As such, a position in the officer corps is immensely prized by the sons of shopkeepers and big farmers across Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This allows the military to pick the very best recruits and increases their sense of belonging to an elite. In the last years of British rule, circa 1947, and the first years of Pakistan, most officers were recruited from the landed gentry and upper-middle classes. These are still represented by figures like former-Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Jehangir Karamat, who, perhaps most tellingly, is the former president of the Pakistan Polo Association; but a much more typical figure is the current COAS, General Ashfaq Kayani, the son of an NCO. This social change partly reflects the withdrawal of the upper-middle classes to more comfortable professions, but also the immense increase in the quantity of officers required in the military as a result of its vast expansion since independence.
A number of officers and members of military families have told me something to the effect that "the officers' mess is the most democratic institution in Pakistan because its members are superior and junior during the day, but in the evening are comrades. That is something we have inherited from the British."
This may seem like a ludicrous statement, until one remembers that in Pakistan, saying that something is the most spiritually democratic institution isn't saying very much at all. Pakistani society is permeated by a culture of deference to superiors.
Islamabad's dynastically ruled "democratic" political parties exemplify this subservience in the face of inheritance and wealth; while in the army, as an officer told me:
You rise on merit-well, mostly-not by inheritance, and you salute the military rank and not the sardar [tribal chieftain and great landowner] or pir [hereditary religious figure] who has inherited his position from his father, or the businessman's money. These days, many of the generals are the sons of clerks and shopkeepers, or if they are from military families, they are the sons of havildars [NCOs]. It doesn't matter. The point is that they are generals.
Meanwhile, the political parties continue to be dominated by "feudal" landowners and wealthy urban bosses, many of them not just corrupt but barely educated. This increases the sense of superiority in the officer corps has toward the politicians-something I have heard from many officers (and which was very marked in General Pervez Musharraf's personal contempt for the late Benazir Bhutto and her husband, the current president).
This same disdain for the country's civilian political leadership is widely present in Pakistani society as a whole, and has become dominant at regular intervals, leading to mass popular support for military coups. Indeed, it is sadly true that whatever the feelings of the population later, when each military coup initially occurred, it was popular with most Pakistanis-including the media-and was subsequently legitimized by the judiciary.
It is possible that developments since 2001 have changed this pattern, above all because of the new importance of the independent judiciary and media, and the way that the military's role in both government and the unpopular war with the Pakistani Taliban has tarnished its image with many Pakistanis. However, it is not yet clear that such a sea change has definitively taken place. Whether or not it eventually does depends in large part on how Pakistani civilian governments perform in the future.
By the summer of 2009-only a year after the resignation of then-President Musharraf, who had seized power from the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif in 1999-many Pakistanis of my acquaintance, especially in the business classes, were once again calling for the military to step in and oust the civilian administration of President Asif Ali Zardari; not necessarily to take over themselves, but to purge the most corrupt politicians and create a government of national unity (or, at the very least, a caretaker administration of technocrats).
AS THE military has become more egalitarian, the less-secular have filled its ranks. This social change in the officer corps over the decades has caused many in the West to fear that the army is becoming "Islamized," leading to the danger that the institution as a whole might support Islamist revolution, particularly as the civilian government falters. More dangerously, there might be a mutiny by Islamist junior officers against the high command. These dangers do exist, but in my view, the absolutely key point is that only a direct attack on Pakistan by the United States could bring them to fruition.
Westerners must realize that commitment to the army, and to martial unity and discipline, is drilled into every officer and soldier from the first hour of their joining the military. Together with the material rewards of loyal service, it constitutes a very powerful obstacle to any thought of a coup from below, which would by definition split the army and very likely destroy it altogether. Every military coup in Pakistan has therefore been carried out by the chief of army staff, backed by a consensus of the corps commanders and the rest of the high command. Islamist conspiracies by junior officers against their superiors (of which there have been two over the past generation) have been penetrated and smashed by Military Intelligence.
It is obviously true that as the officer corps becomes lower-middle class, so its members become less Westernized and more religious-after all, the vast majority of Pakistan's population is conservative Muslim. However, it is made up of many different kinds of orthodox Muslim, and this is also true of the officer corps.
In the 1980s, then-President of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff General Zia ul-Haq did undertake measures to make the army more Islamic, and subsequently, a good many officers who wanted a promotion adopted an Islamic facade. Zia also encouraged Islamic preaching within the army, notably by the Tablighi Jamaat, a nonviolent, nonpartisan but fundamentalist group dedicated to Islamic proselytizing and charity work. But, as the career of the notoriously secular General Musharraf indicates, this did not lead to known secular generals being blocked from promotion; and in the 1990s, especially under Musharraf, most of Zia's measures were rolled back. In recent years, preaching by the Tablighi has been strongly discouraged, not so much because of political fears (the Tablighi is determinedly apolitical) as because of instinctive opposition to any groups that might encourage factions among officers and loyalties to anything other than the army.
Of course, the Pakistani military has always gone into battle with the cry of Allahu Akbar (God is Great)-just as the imperial-era German army inscribed Gott mit Uns(God with Us) on its helmets and standards; but according to Colonel Abdul Qayyum, a retired, moderate-Islamist officer:
You shouldn't use bits of Islam to raise military discipline, morale and so on. I'm sorry to say that this is the way it has always been used in the Pakistani army. It is our equivalent of rum-the generals use it to get their men to launch suicidal attacks. But there is no such thing as a powerful jihadi group within the army. Of course, there are many devoutly Muslim officers and jawans [enlisted troops], but at heart the vast majority of the army are nationalists, and take whatever is useful from Islam to serve what they see as Pakistan's interests. The Pakistani army has been a nationalist army with an Islamic look.
On the whole, by far the most important aspect of a Pakistani officer's identity is that he (or sometimes she) is an officer. The Pakistani military is a profoundly shaping influence as far as its members are concerned. This can be seen, among other places, in the social origins and personal habits of its chiefs of staff and Pakistan's military rulers over the years. It would be hard to find a more different set of men than generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul-Haq, Pervez Musharraf, Mirza Aslam Beg, Jehangir Karamat and Ashfaq Kayani in terms of their social origins, personal characters and attitudes toward religion; some were rich others poor, some secular others religious and some conspiratorial others loyal. Yet all have been first and foremost military men.
This means in turn that their ideology is largely one of nationalism. The military is tied to Pakistan, not to the universal Muslim ummah of the radical Islamists' dreams; tied not only by sentiment and ideology but also by the reality of what supports the army. If it is true, as so many officers have told me, that "no army, no Pakistan," it is equally true that "no Pakistan, no army."