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23551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US troops into Pak? on: March 28, 2009, 12:18:37 AM
US laying ground for troops in Pak?

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/03/white-house-won.html
23552  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 27, 2009, 10:06:16 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow  cool
23553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Murphy's hat on: March 27, 2009, 04:00:37 PM
Murphy At Mass

Murphy showed up at Mass one Sunday and the priest almost fell down when he saw him. Murphy had never been seen in church in his life.

After Mass, the priest caught up with Murphy and said, "Murphy, I am so glad ya decided to come to Mass, what made ya come?"

Murphy said, "I got to be honest with you Father, a while back, I misplaced me hat and I really, really love that hat. I know that McGlynn had a hat just like me hat, and I knew that McGlynn came to church every Sunday. I also knew that McGlynn had to take off his hat during Mass and figured he would leave it in the back of church. So, I was going to leave after Communion and steal McGlynn's hat."

The priest said, "Well, Murphy, I notice that ya didn't steal McGlynn's hat. What changed your mind?"

Murphy said, "Well, after I heard your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I decided that I didn't need to steal McGlynn's hat after all"

The priest gave Murphy a big smile and said; "After I talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' ya decided you would rather do without your hat than burn in Hell, right?"

Murphy slowly shook his head and said, "No, Father, after ya talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' I remembered where I left me hat."
23554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: March 27, 2009, 12:49:30 PM
27 March 2009

President Obama has just spoken on AfPak.  I closed my eyes and listened closely to his words, coming via the BBC from the other side of the world.

The President's words were disappointing.  He talked about our goal to reach a force level of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police by 2011.  This is not even in the neighborhood of being enough.  Further, the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire.  One can only expect that sometime in 2010, the President will again be forced to announce another increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

If there were not people like Gates and Petraeus up there, my gut would say to pull out.  It is only my faith in the military, and what I saw them accomplish against heavy odds in Iraq, that gives me hope.

Others would disagree with me.  A well placed and very experienced British officer just emailed me his impressions, to whit:

“An impressive statement of intent – I particularly liked the bits about bearing down on Afghan corruption and corruption in how USAID money is spent.  The speech inspires confidence and, as he is not Bush, it could encourage others to come to the party in a more meaningful way.

I don’t mean any offence about Bush as I for one see history judging him more favorably than contemporary commentators it’s just that the Europeans might follow Obama in a way that they never would Bush.”

And so my views clearly are not held by everyone.  Most British and American officers – especially American – have been far more positive about Afghanistan than I have been.  My confidence in them is great, and before publishing this I called London to talk about this.  Clearly there is more confidence coming from the British Army than meets the public eye.

Michael
23555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 12:36:05 PM
Sorry for my failed effort at laconic wit  smiley

In a free market, who gets something is determined by price.
23556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Iron Balls on: March 27, 2009, 10:47:40 AM
Iron balls!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyNmV2Y43ko&feature=related
23557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 10:41:47 AM
I too like Newt a lot.

One of my deep concerns is that the Big Lie that "the free market caused it" is becoming accepted fact.
23558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 10:39:34 AM
"That said we will need to ration care anyway at some point."

The proper mechanism is called "price". grin
23559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The 10th Amendment; States' Rebellion pending on: March 27, 2009, 10:10:43 AM
States Rebellion Pending
By Walter E. Williams

Our Colonial ancestors petitioned and pleaded with King George III to get his boot off their necks. He ignored their pleas, and in 1776, they rightfully declared unilateral independence and went to war. Today it's the same story except Congress is the one usurping the rights of the people and the states, making King George's actions look mild in comparison. Our constitutional ignorance -- perhaps contempt, coupled with the fact that we've become a nation of wimps, sissies and supplicants -- has made us easy prey for Washington's tyrannical forces. But that might be changing a bit. There are rumblings of a long overdue re-emergence of Americans' characteristic spirit of rebellion.

Eight state legislatures have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution; they include Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. There's speculation that they will be joined by Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania.

You might ask, "Isn't the 10th Amendment that no-good states' rights amendment that Dixie governors, such as George Wallace and Orval Faubus, used to thwart school desegregation and black civil rights?" That's the kind of constitutional disrespect and ignorance that big-government proponents, whether they're liberals or conservatives, want you to have. The reason is that they want Washington to have total control over our lives. The Founders tried to limit that power with the 10th Amendment, which reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

New Hampshire's 10th Amendment resolution typifies others and, in part, reads: "That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General (federal) Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." Put simply, these 10th Amendment resolutions insist that the states and their people are the masters and that Congress and the White House are the servants. Put yet another way, Washington is a creature of the states, not the other way around.

Congress and the White House will laugh off these state resolutions. State legislatures must take measures that put some teeth into their 10th Amendment resolutions. Congress will simply threaten a state, for example, with a cutoff of highway construction funds if it doesn't obey a congressional mandate, such as those that require seat belt laws or that lower the legal blood-alcohol level to .08 for drivers. States might take a lead explored by Colorado.

In 1994, the Colorado Legislature passed a 10th Amendment resolution and later introduced a bill titled "State Sovereignty Act." Had the State Sovereignty Act passed both houses of the legislature, it would have required all people liable for any federal tax that's a component of the highway users fund, such as a gasoline tax, to remit those taxes directly to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The money would have been deposited in an escrow account called the "Federal Tax Fund" and remitted monthly to the IRS, along with a list of payees and respective amounts paid. If Congress imposed sanctions on Colorado for failure to obey an unconstitutional mandate and penalized the state by withholding funds due, say $5 million for highway construction, the State Sovereignty Act would have prohibited the state treasurer from remitting any funds in the escrow account to the IRS. Instead, Colorado would have imposed a $5 million surcharge on the Federal Tax Fund account to continue the highway construction.

The eight state legislatures that have enacted 10th Amendment resolutions deserve our praise, but their next step is to give them teeth.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
23560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 27, 2009, 08:48:04 AM
Grateful for this thread and its daily reminder to have my mind right.
23561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 08:38:59 AM
At the moment   wink I disagree.

I think we are in serious danger of cultural transmission of the American Creed crossing a tipping point from which we may never recover.     Reagan was a clarion voice in the wilderness for many, many years before he was elected.  People trusted that he believed what he said because of this.
23562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Surprising Facts on: March 27, 2009, 08:33:23 AM
second post

How U.S. Health Care Really Stacks Up
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Facts: A movie has been made solely to criticize it. The left treats it as if it's an invader that must be repelled. Most Americans, however, are satisfied with this object of so much hate — America's health care industry.


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

Read More: Health Care


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Manipulative filmmaker Michael Moore says "we have the worst health care in the Western world" and has offered up Cuba as a paradigm for the U.S. to follow.

Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, who was nearly named the administration's health and human services secretary, says the "flaws in our health care system are pervasive and corrosive."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a former Democratic presidential candidate, called the current health care market "predatory capitalism." Some Democrats go so far as to say the system is racist.

The kindest thing most Democrats will say about health care in the U.S. is that it's broken. Their talking points to back up the claim revolve around costs, America's low position (37th) in World Health Organization rankings and the number of uninsured.

The last is a useless measure, since only a small portion of the uninsured are chronically without coverage. So are the WHO rankings, which can't be trusted because of disparities in how countries compile statistics, demographic and cultural differences, and the WHO's leftist bias.

Which leaves us with the issue of costs.

Yes, with $2.5 trillion expected to be spent this year, health care in the U.S. is more expensive than in any other country, including Great Britain and Canada, whose nationalized, universal care systems are held up as models .

But what we spend isn't thrown down a rathole. The National Center for Policy Analysis has published a study, "10 Surprising Facts About American Health Care," that shows how Americans get something for the extra dollars they lay out. To wit:

• "Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers." Breast cancer mortality: 52% higher in Germany and 88% higher in the United Kingdom than in the U.S. Prostate cancer mortality: 604% higher in the U.K., 457% higher in Norway. Colo-rectal cancer mortality: 40% higher among Britons.

• "Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians." Rates for breast cancer (9%), prostate cancer (184%) and colon cancer among men (10%) are higher than in the U.S.

• "Americans have better access to treatment of chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries." Roughly 56% of Americans who could benefit are taking statin drugs. Only 36% of the Dutch, 29% of the Swiss, 26% of Germans, 23% of Britons and 17% of Italians who could benefit receive them.

• "Americans have better access to preventive cancer screenings than Canadians." Nine of 10 middle-aged American women have had a mammogram; 72% of Canadian women have. Almost every American woman (96%) has had a pap smear; fewer than 90% of Canadian women have. Roughly 54% of American men have had a prostate cancer test; fewer than one in six Canadian men have. Almost a third of Americans (30%) have had a colonoscopy; only 5% of Canadians have had the procedure.

• "Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians." Nearly 12% of U.S. seniors with below-median incomes self-report being in "excellent" health, while 5.8% of Canadian seniors say the same thing.

• "Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom." Canadians and Britons wait about twice as long, sometimes more than a year, to see a specialist, have elective surgery or get radiation treatment.

• "People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed." More than seven in 10 Germans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Britons say their health systems need either "fundamental change" or "complete rebuilding."

• "Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians." More than half (51.3%) of Americans are very satisfied with their health care services, while 41.5% of Canadians hold the same view of their system.

• "Americans have much better access to important new technologies like medical imaging than patients in Canada or the U.K." There are 34 CT scanners per million Americans. There are 12 per million in Canada and eight per million in Britain. The U.S. has nearly 27 MRI machines per million. Britain and Canada have 6 per million.

• "Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations." The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single developed nation; the most important recent medical innovations were developed here.

Can the nationalized, universal systems in Britain, Canada or anywhere else improve on this? No, but we can ruin our health care by following the policies of countries where medical treatment is far below the American standard.

23563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 08:20:31 AM
Ummm , , , has "no care" actually been the case?
23564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times on: March 27, 2009, 08:19:11 AM
Third post of the day

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan, officials said Thursday.


In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.

“The era of the blank check is over,” Mr. Obama told Congressional leaders at the White House, according to an account of the meeting provided on the condition of anonymity because it was a private session.

The new strategy, which Mr. Obama will formally announce Friday, will send 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan shortly after taking office, administration and Congressional officials said. But for now, Mr. Obama has decided not to send additional combat forces, they said, although military commanders at one point had requested a total of 30,000 more American troops.

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

American officials have repeatedly said that Afghanistan has to make more progress in fighting corruption, curbing the drug trade and sharing power with the regions, while they have insisted that Pakistan do more to cut ties between parts of its government and the Taliban. Mr. Obama telephoned President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on Thursday to share the main elements of the strategic review.

Setting benchmarks for Pakistan could be particularly difficult. For years, the United States has simply paid bills submitted by the Pakistani government for counterterrorism operations, even during truces when its military was not involved in counterterrorism. Pakistan has resisted linking its aid to specific performance criteria and officials acknowledged that developing those criteria could be problematic.

The key elements of Mr. Obama’s plan, with its more robust combat force, its emphasis on training, and its far-reaching goals, foreshadow an ambitious but risky and costly attempt to unify and stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama is unveiling his approach at a time when the conflict is worsening, the lives of the people are not visibly improving, and the intervention by American-led foreign powers is increasingly resented.

The goals that Mr. Obama has settled on may be elusive and, according to some critics, even naïve. Among other things, officials said he planned to recast the Afghan war as a regional issue involving not only Pakistan but also India, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian states.

His plan envisions persuading Pakistan to stop focusing military resources on its longstanding enemy, India, so it can concentrate more on battling insurgents in its lawless tribal regions. That goal may be especially hard to achieve given more than a half century of enmity — including a nuclear arms race — between Pakistan and India.

All told, the 21,000 additional American troops that Mr. Obama will have authorized almost precisely matches the original number of additional troops that President George W. Bush sent to Iraq two years ago, bringing the overall American deployment in Afghanistan to about 60,000. But Mr. Obama avoids calling it a “surge” and resisted sending the full reinforcements initially sought by commanders.

Instead, Mr. Obama chose to re-evaluate troop levels at a series of specific moments over the next year, officials said. Approaching the issue in increments may be easier to explain to members of Mr. Obama’s own party who fear he is getting the country as entangled in Afghanistan as Mr. Bush did in Iraq.

The officials said Mr. Obama planned to frame the American commitment as a counterterrorism mission aimed at denying havens for Al Qaeda, with three main goals — training Afghan security forces, supporting the weak central government in Kabul and securing the population. While the new strategy will call for expanding Afghan security forces more rapidly, it will not explicitly endorse the request from American commanders to increase the national police and army to 400,000.

At the same time, Mr. Obama warned Congressional leaders that he would need more than the $50 billion in his budget plan for military operations and development efforts. Asked by lawmakers about the prospect of reconciliation with moderate members of the Taliban, officials said Mr. Obama replied that he wanted to sift out hard-core radicals from those who were fighting simply to earn money.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, emerged from a briefing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to declare that in his judgment the administration’s review “was right on track.” He said the new strategy would send a significant number of additional trainers to work with the Afghan National Army and police, part of an overall strategy to “transfer responsibilities to the Afghans, both militarily and in terms of economic development.”

Mr. Levin, who was part of a bipartisan group that pressed Mr. Bush to set benchmarks for Iraq two years ago, embraced the idea of doing the same again for Afghanistan. “There is a determination to set some benchmarks for Afghanistan, and that will be incredibly important,” Mr. Levin said. “We haven’t had them in Afghanistan.”

Republicans emerging from briefings at the White House and on Capitol Hill withheld comment. Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said in a statement that he “had a constructive meeting at the White House” and that he would “reserve public comment until the president makes his formal announcement.”

Dennis C. Blair, the administration’s director of national intelligence, said the United States still lacked intelligence about the power structures inside the country and other basic information necessary for a counterinsurgency campaign. “We know a heck of a lot more about Iraq on a granular level than we know about Afghanistan,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Blair estimated that up to three quarters of the Taliban’s rank and file in Afghanistan could be peeled away from the Taliban’s leadership, most of whom are hiding in sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
23565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: David Brooks on: March 27, 2009, 08:14:40 AM
A surprising article from a NYTimes columnist who usually is quite the useful idiot:
=============

Op-Ed Columnist
The Winnable War
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID BROOKS
Published: March 26, 2009
Khyber Pass, Afghanistan

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David Brooks

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I came to Afghanistan skeptical of American efforts to transform this country. Afghanistan is one of the poorest, least-educated and most-corrupt nations on earth. It is an infinitely complex and fractured society. It has powerful enemies in Pakistan, Iran and the drug networks working hard to foment chaos. The ground is littered with the ruins of great powers that tried to change this place.

Moreover, we simply do not know how to modernize nations. Western aid workers seem to spend most of their time drawing up flow charts for each other. They’re so worried about their inspectors general that they can’t really immerse themselves in the messy world of local reality. They insist on making most of the spending decisions themselves so the “recipients” of their largess end up passive, dependent and resentful.

Every element of my skepticism was reinforced during a six-day tour of the country. Yet the people who work here make an overwhelming case that Afghanistan can become a functional, terror-fighting society and that it is worth sending our sons and daughters into danger to achieve this.

In the first place, the Afghan people want what we want. They are, as Lord Byron put it, one of the few people in the region without an inferiority complex. They think they did us a big favor by destroying the Soviet Union and we repaid them with abandonment. They think we owe them all this.

That makes relations between Afghans and foreigners relatively straightforward. Most military leaders here prefer working with the Afghans to the Iraqis. The Afghans are warm and welcoming. They detest the insurgents and root for American success. “The Afghans have treated you as friends, allies and liberators from the very beginning,” says Afghanistan’s defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Second, we’re already well through the screwing-up phase of our operation. At first, the Western nations underestimated the insurgency. They tried to centralize power in Kabul. They tried to fight a hodgepodge, multilateral war.

Those and other errors have been exposed, and coalition forces are learning. When you interview impressive leaders here, like Brig. Gen. John Nicholson of Regional Command South, Col. John Agoglia of the Counterinsurgency Training Center and Chris Alexander of the U.N., you see how relentless they are at criticizing their own operations. Thanks to people like that, the coalition will stumble toward success, having tried the alternatives.

Third, we’ve got our priorities right. Armies love killing bad guys. Aid agencies love building schools. But the most important part of any aid effort is governance and law and order. It’s reforming the police, improving the courts, training local civil servants and building prisons.

In Afghanistan, every Western agency is finally focused on this issue, from a Canadian reconstruction camp in Kandahar to the top U.S. general, David McKiernan.

Fourth, the quality of Afghan leadership is improving. This is a relative thing. President Hamid Karzai is detested by much of the U.S. military. Some provincial governors are drug dealers on the side. But as the U.N.’s Kai Eide told the Security Council, “The Afghan government is today better and more competent than ever before.” Reformers now lead the most important ministries and competent governors run key provinces.

Fifth, the U.S. is finally taking this war seriously. Up until now, insurgents have had free rein in vast areas of southern Afghanistan. The infusion of 17,000 more U.S. troops will change that. The Obama administration also promises a civilian surge to balance the military push.

Sixth, Pakistan is finally on the agenda. For the past few years, the U.S. has let Pakistan get away with murder. The insurgents train, organize and get support from there. “It’s very hard to deal with a cross-border insurgency on only one side of the border,” says Mr. Alexander of the U.N. The Obama strategic review recognizes this.

Finally, it is simply wrong to say that Afghanistan is a hopeless 14th-century basket case. This country had decent institutions before the Communist takeover. It hasn’t fallen into chaos, the way Iraq did, because it has a culture of communal discussion and a respect for village elders. The Afghans have embraced the democratic process with enthusiasm.

I finish this trip still skeptical but also infected by the optimism of the truly impressive people who are working here. And one other thing:

After the trauma in Iraq, it would have been easy for the U.S. to withdraw into exhaustion and realism. Instead, President Obama is doubling down on the very principles that some dismiss as neocon fantasy: the idea that this nation has the capacity to use military and civilian power to promote democracy, nurture civil society and rebuild failed states.

Foreign policy experts can promote one doctrine or another, but this energetic and ambitious response — amid economic crisis and war weariness — says something profound about America’s DNA.
23566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Imagine on: March 27, 2009, 08:01:13 AM
Imagine If A Republican Were President
By LARRY ELDER | Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT

President Barack Obama, in an appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, made a self-deprecating but ill-advised joke, in which he referred to the Special Olympics. He quickly apologized. Crisis averted. Fair enough.

But the real story is the media double standard: Imagine the uproar if a President John McCain made the Special Olympics comment.

For that matter, imagine if a President McCain mistook a White House window for a door, his secretary of Treasury had not paid taxes, he granted two dozen waivers to his no-lobbyists-in-government rule and he had promised bipartisanship but got only three across-the-aisle votes for his "stimulus" package.

Imagine if President McCain, after promising a "clean break" from his predecessor, retained "extraordinary rendition," the FISA program, the option of wiretapping without warrants and the option of using "enhanced interrogation techniques.

Or if he promised to close Gitmo, then said it would take as long as a year, but then our European allies refused to take in "detainees" from their own countries.

Or if he reneged on or fudged his promise to have all combat troops out of Iraq within "16 months of his presidency."

Or if he adopted for Afghanistan the same counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq, which, as a candidate, he'd criticized for not "achieving its objectives.

Or if he used the same "state secrets" argument as did the Bush administration in the same court case, to avoid turning over certain national security documents in an ACLU-brought case on behalf of an alleged torture victim/detainee.

Imagine if — on the campaign trail — a future President McCain had declared a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable" but agreed to engage in negotiations without preconditions, if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the new president he must apologize for 60 years of anti-Iranian activity, if President McCain then reached out to the Iranians in a televised address and, in response, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who holds ultimate authority in Iran — told him to a) drop animosity and criticism, b) end sanctions, c) unfreeze assets, and d) end "unconditional support" for Israel.

Imagine if President McCain acted "outraged" — as though he, his secretary of Treasury and a party leader (Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.) had not previously known about and approved the controversial AIG bonuses and that executives at Freddie and Fannie, failed institutions now taken over by government, were getting bonuses, too.

Or if, during this recession and after criticizing taxpayer-funded corporate retreats, President McCain and First Lady Cindy McCain threw taxpayer-funded White House parties nearly every night, hiring entertainers such as Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers.

Imagine if, as sitting president, McCain appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and cracked jokes, while — as the media would have written — "millions of Americans have lost their homes and their jobs with millions afraid they're next, yada, blah, etc."

Or if he tripled the projected annual deficit and intended, within a short period, to double the national debt. Or if he promised to "create or save" an ever-changing number of jobs — never offering a yardstick to define a "saved job."

Imagine that McCain's vice president made a number of gaffes, including not knowing the "recovery" Web site despite going on national television to promote it and revealing on television — through his wife — that he'd had the option of a job as secretary of State or VP — thus showing the administration's extreme disrespect toward the current secretary of state.

Imagine if, of the 18 important sub-Cabinet positions in the Treasury Department, none was filled. Or if, after promising "transparency," McCain wouldn't say where the TARP money had gone and who had gotten it. Or after receiving bailout money, the largest 20 financial institution recipients actually reduced lending — the opposite intent of the program.

Or if after saying that he wasn't a "socialist," McCain defended himself by asserting that "it wasn't on my watch" that we'd bought shares of banks — but omitted that, as senator, he'd supported and voted for it.

Or if he constantly said he'd "inherited" the deficit despite — as a senator — voting for TARP and other programs that had wildly increased it.

Imagine if President McCain ungraciously treated Prime Minister Gordon Brown from the U.K. — our closest and oldest ally — and gave him cheap, tacky gifts apparently picked up from the White House gift shop and someplace like Wal-Mart.

Imagine if, despite a reputation for "eloquence," President McCain relied on teleprompters for even the most minor of statements, verbally stumbling and flailing when the teleprompters malfunctioned.

Or if he broke protocol and tradition by pre-picking and giving notice to the reporters to be called on in press conferences. Or if he admonished the out-of-power party by denouncing a popular talk show host and imploring the opposite party to refuse to listen to him.

Imagine if the media kept referring to him as "popular" when his poll numbers were virtually identical to those of George W. Bush at the 50-day mark in their respective presidencies.

Or if his chief of staff, in a newspaper article about his achievements as a House member, said in front of a reporter that the opposition party could "go f*** themselves."

On the other hand, Cleveland State beat Wake Forest.
23567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran recalibrates its strategy for Iraq on: March 27, 2009, 07:49:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran Recalibrates Its Strategy For Iraq
March 25, 2009
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani met for two hours Wednesday with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s foremost Shiite religious leader, in An Najaf, a holy city in southern Iraq. Earlier this month, Iranian Assembly of Experts Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani led a 105-person delegation to Iraq, where he too met with al-Sistani, Iraq’s three other grand ayatollahs, its president, prime minister and other politicians.

Larijani and Rafsanjani are two of Iran’s most powerful political figures. Both are part of the pragmatic conservative camp and are bitter rivals of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking re-election in June. Larijani and Rafsanjani both view Ahmadinejad as a reckless leader, and they often coordinate with each other and with their allies to cast him in a negative light. And though al-Sistani welcomed Larijani and Rafsanjani to An Najaf, STRATFOR is told that he refused to host Ahmadinejad, whose radical views apparently do not sit well with the influential ayatollah in Iraq.

The Iranian visits to An Najaf go far beyond the petty political rivalries of Tehran. Regardless of whether a hard-liner like Ahmadinejad or a reformist like Mir Hossein Mousavi wins the election in June, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will still be the primary figure calling the shots as he mediates between the rival factions. In fact, the national election Iran really has to worry about is the one taking place next door in Iraq come December.

Iran’s primary goal is to consolidate Shiite influence in Iraq and use its foothold there for projecting Persian influence in the wider region. Iran’s “Plan A” for making this happen was to carve out a federal Shiite zone in Iraq’s oil-rich south. This would give Tehran a firmer grip on Iraq’s Shiite political factions, while also creating a tie to revenues from the oil fields. The main vehicle for the plan was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), an allied Iraqi faction led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, which has devoted significant resources to pushing the idea of an autonomous zone in the south among Shiite voters.

So far, Iran’s Plan A has not progressed as hoped.

The ISCI took a beating in January’s provincial elections, while the more independent Shiite parties that prefer to keep their distance from Iran, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Hizb al-Dawah, Muqtada al-Sadr’s radical Shiite movement and the Fadhila Party, saw their popularity soar. In reviewing what went wrong, the ISCI recognized that its close affiliation with Iran, use of religious symbols in campaigning, false claims of al-Sistani’s backing and the push for the creation of a Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq all cost the party support. Ultimately, most Iraqi Shia favored more autonomous candidates, like al-Maliki, who have refused to tether themselves to Tehran when they have other, overarching political, security and economic interests to look after.

Those election results were a setback for Tehran and a sign of trouble to come for Iran’s ability to manage Iraqi Shiite politics. With the United States drawing down its military presence in Iraq and the Turks starting to get more involved in the Middle Eastern region, the time for Iran to consolidate its power in Iraq is now. The Iranians had known this would be no easy task, but they are realizing just how tough it will be now that the plan for an autonomous Shiite zone in Iraq seems unlikely to pan out soon. The best Iran can do between now and the Iraq’s election in December is to shore up support among the various Iraqi Shiite parties, stick to its usual tactics of playing Shiite rivalries against each other and use its commercial, intelligence and religious links to diversify its support base.

To get rid of obstacles like al-Maliki, the Iranians have a contingency plan that would call on their political allies, along with select Kurdish and Sunni groups, to try to unseat the prime minister through a soft coup. (Of course, it would still take a good deal of political maneuvering to get a no-confidence vote passed in Parliament.) Just as importantly, the Iranians must win the support of the Shiite clerical establishment in Iraq if they want their political allies to fare better in December polls. This explains the recent visits by powerbrokers like Rafsanjani and Larijani to An Najaf.

Iraq’s elections are still many months away, but the Iranians appear to be wasting no time in recalibrating their political strategy for Iraq. The fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created an opening for Iranian expansion into the Arab world, but the United States — backed by the Arab powers and the Turks — remains the gatekeeper in Baghdad. Even as the United States winds down its war in Iraq, the Iranians will not be able to escape Washington’s shadow in their efforts to influence policy in Iraq. That is not to say the Iranians haven’t retained considerable influence to the west. But if Iran already is being forced to turn to Plan B, even as the United States is drawing down its military presence, any lingering ambitions to turn Iraq into an Iranian satellite are likely headed for disappointment.
23568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin; Madison on: March 27, 2009, 07:40:11 AM
"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy."

--Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, circa 1774

THE FOUNDATION
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." --James Madison, Federalist No. 45
23569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Our new strategy on: March 26, 2009, 11:45:53 PM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will unveil a new Afghanistan strategy Friday that calls for devoting significant new resources to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan and economic development in Pakistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

The administration now plans to send about 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan -- in addition to the recently announced 17,000 additional troops -- and hundreds of diplomats and other civilian officials. The U.S. financial commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan will grow by billions of dollars per year under the plan.


Aid will be tied for the first time to performance benchmarks, though administration officials declined to specify what they were or how they'd be measured.

The Pentagon also is considering a new U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan that would assume responsibility for the American troops deploying there. The area is currently commanded by European NATO generals, and a new U.S. command would signal increasing American control over the war effort.

The moves are part of a broad push to prevent the stalemated Afghan war from destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since taking office in January, President Barack Obama has announced plans to wind down military operations in Iraq next year and shift more military resources to Afghanistan. The president was to outline his approach in a White House address Friday morning.


President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan region means additional troops and civilian officials to counter narcotics trade in Southern Afghanistan and more financial aid for the economic development, says WSJ military correspondent Yochi Dreazen.
Senior U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about Afghanistan and Pakistan. The resurgent Taliban exert day-to-day control over many rural parts of Afghanistan and have pushed U.S. and Afghan military casualties to record highs. Militants in Pakistan have battled the Pakistani army to a draw in several regions of the country and carry out regular suicide bombings.

"There's a clear understanding that the status quo is not remotely sustainable in either country," said a U.S. official involved in the new approach.

The strategy will effectively focus U.S. efforts in Afghanistan on the narrow goal of defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban allies, a shift away from the Bush administration's broader nation-building efforts there.

Officials said the 4,000 American trainers, along with the additional diplomats and civilian officials, will be on the ground in Afghanistan by the fall.

The plan calls for expanded American diplomatic outreach inside and outside Afghanistan. U.S. officials will try to persuade moderate Taliban elements in Afghanistan to abandon violence and join the country's political process. American diplomats will also reach out to Tehran in the hope of winning Iranian assistance in stabilizing the country.

The new strategy is notable for the emphasis it places on Pakistan, which senior officials now see as critical to determining whether Afghanistan stabilizes or continues its downward spiral. The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $10 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S., mostly in military assistance. As part of its new strategy, the Obama administration plans to instead give Pakistan at least $1.5 billion in economic development aid in each of the next five years.

The economic aid will be accompanied by additional American strikes on militant targets inside Pakistan. U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes.

The policy changes come less than a week before Mr. Obama travels to France for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit devoted heavily to Afghanistan. Administration officials say Mr. Obama has come to accept that NATO nations are unlikely to contribute more combat troops to Afghanistan because of domestic political opposition.

Instead, White House officials say Mr. Obama will ask European nations to provide more military and police trainers to Afghanistan, as well as additional economic assistance to Pakistan.

The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has been a source of increasing friction within the military alliance. In response, Pentagon officials are firming up plans to redraw the balance of power between the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, according to three military officers familiar with the deliberations.

The idea getting the most support calls for a U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan, the officers said. It would be led by a two-star American general.

Most of the American reinforcements are being deployed to the south of the country, a Taliban stronghold that is one of the largest opium-producing regions in the world. U.S. and NATO officials believe that the drug trade provides the Taliban with billions of dollars each year.

The Obama administration hopes to undercut the Taliban by launching a new counter-narcotics offensive in the Helmand River Valley and other parts of southern Afghanistan. The mission will be the primary focus of the U.S. reinforcements.

Under one facet of the plan, U.S. or Afghan troops will first offer Afghan farmers free wheat seed to replace their crops that produce opium. If the farmers refuse, U.S. or Afghan personnel will burn their fields, and then again offer them free replacement seeds. A senior U.S. military official described the approach as a "carrot, stick, carrot" effort.

—Jonathan Weisman contributed to this article.
23570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MA shows what will happen on: March 26, 2009, 11:39:14 PM
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

 
AP
Mitt Romney.
In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006.

Like gamblers doubling down on their losses, Democrats have already hiked the fines for people who don't obtain insurance under the "individual mandate," already increased business penalties, taxed insurers and hospitals, raised premiums, and pumped up the state tobacco levy. That's still not enough money.

So earlier this year, Mr. Patrick appointed a state commission to figure out how to control costs and preserve "this grand experiment." One objective is to change the incentives for preventative care and treatments for chronic disease, but everyone says that. It sometimes results in better health but always more spending. So-called "pay for performance" financing models, on the other hand, would do away with fee for service -- but they also tend to reward process, not the better results implied.

What are the alternatives? If health planners won't accept the prices set by the marketplace -- thus putting themselves out of work -- the only other choice is limiting care via politics, much as Canada and most of Europe do today. The Patrick panel is considering one option to "exclude coverage of services of low priority/low value." Another would "limit coverage to services that produce the highest value when considering both clinical effectiveness and cost." (Guess who would determine what is high or low value? Not patients or doctors.) Yet another is "a limitation on the total amount of money available for health care services," i.e., an overall spending cap.

The Institute for America's Future -- which is providing the intellectual horsepower (we use the term loosely) for reforms like those in Massachusetts -- argues that the cost overruns prove the state must cap how much insurers are allowed to charge consumers and regulate their profits. If Mr. Patrick doesn't get there first, that is. He reportedly told insurers and hospitals at a closed meeting this month that if they didn't take steps to hold down the rate of medical inflation, he would.

Even the single-payer cheerleaders at the New York Times have caught on to this rolling catastrophe. In a page-one story this month, the paper reported on the "expedient choice" that Mr. Romney and Democrats made to defer "until another day any serious effort to control the state's runaway health costs. . . . Those who led the 2006 effort said it would not have been feasible to enact universal coverage if the legislation had required heavy cost controls. The very stakeholders who were coaxed into the tent -- doctors, hospitals, insurers and consumer groups -- would probably have been driven into opposition by efforts to reduce their revenues and constrain their medical practices, they said."

Now they tell us. What really whipped along RomneyCare were claims that health care would be less expensive if everyone were covered. But reducing costs while increasing access are irreconcilable issues. Mr. Romney should have known better before signing on to this not-so-grand experiment, especially since the state's "free market" reforms that he boasts about have proven to be irrelevant when not fictional. Only 21,000 people have used the "connector" that was supposed to link individuals to private insurers.

Which brings us to Washington, where Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats are about to try their own Bay State bait and switch: First create vast new entitlements that can never be repealed, then later take the less popular step of rationing care when it's their last hope to save the federal fisc.

The consequences of that deception will be far worse than those in Massachusetts, however, given that prior to 2006 the state already had a far smaller percentage of its population uninsured than the national average. The real lesson of Massachusetts is that reform proponents won't tell Americans the truth about what "universal" coverage really means: Runaway costs followed by price controls and bureaucratic rationing.

 
23571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 26, 2009, 07:48:10 PM
Amazing how the Crusades being a REACTION to Muslim conquest has been forgotten by so many , , ,
23572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sgt Dockery earns Silver Star in Afg on: March 26, 2009, 06:19:58 PM
GI Earns Silver Star for Enemy Charge
 March 20, 2009
Army News Service

BAMBERG, Germany -- Staff Sgt. Lincoln V. Dockery said he didn't even see the grenade that sent shrapnel into his right forearm while charging insurgent fighters in Afghanistan's Korengal valley, Nov. 16, 2007.

"Someone yelled out, and I looked up and saw it coming. My hand went up and a hot, sharp feeling went through," he said.

Dockery, a combat engineer then assigned to a route clearance patrol with Company A of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Special Troops Battalion, said he decided the injury wasn't major, and continued his charge up a hill into enemy fire and earning a Silver Star for valor. The medal and a Purple Heart were awarded here, March 11.

"I don't want to think about what would have happened had he not been there," said Capt. William Cromie, Dockery's platoon leader that day in Afghanistan. "It would have been a completely different day. While described in the infantry field manual, and taught at every schoolhouse in our career, if asked to charge into an enemy, uphill and within hand grenade range, most people only know yes as a book answer."

Dockery said the description of the mission for which the patrol departed from Forward Operating Base Asadabad in Kunar Province that day sounded like the description of their mission for any other day: "Out looking for bombs."

"My only concern was for the guys who worked under me," the 25-year-old Runnemede, N.J., native stated.

His concern became reality when the lead vehicle on the mission, a Husky mine-detecting vehicle, activated an improvised explosive device. Rocket-propelled grenades immediately started hitting the damaged vehicle and it became clear the convoy was in the middle of an ambush.

"Across [a nearby river] we could see RPGs and small-arms fire coming at us," Dockery said. "But when I looked over to the right, I could see that RPGs were hitting our side of the vehicle."

Dockery determined that another enemy fire team was hidden much closer, and that a quick decision had to be made.

"I realized the enemy was actually 20 meters from our position," he said. "If we didn't assault the hill they were attacking from, they would have taken us out. They couldn't miss with their weapons they were so close."

Dockery said his first move was to investigate the lead vehicle's driver, Pfc. Amador Magana, who could have been seriously injured or killed by the IED blast.

"I could see RPGs and rounds impacting all over the vehicle, and the front windshield was about to cave in from all the (AK-47) bullets," Dockery said.

Sneaking around from the other side and climbing up the back tire, he knocked on the window and saw that Magana was barely conscious, but not wounded. Magana managed to give a thumbs-up, he said, and soon stood up, manned his M-249 machine gun and returned fire on the enemy.

Dockery said he then made his decision to storm the hill.

The sergeant began making his way up the hill with one of his Soldiers, Spc. Corey Taylor, as their team members provided support from the convoy.

During the charge Dockery was injured, but he kept going, through hand grenade exchanges and incoming RPGs.

"The shrapnel didn't really hurt initially. We also had to dig shrapnel out of Taylor's leg later," he said.

The pair low-crawled the rest of the way up, watching bullets kick up rocks and dirt all around them, then pushed the enemy back from their position and found the IED command detonator and wire.

Indirect fire, air strikes and other close air support was called in later to deal with about 30 fleeing fighters, but Dockery's assault kept everyone else from the patrol alive.

"Hopefully anybody would have done the same thing I did that day," Dockery said, downplaying his role in the event.

Cromie, who was awarded a Silver Star July 12, 2008 for his own actions in Afghanistan that day, sees it differently. He said Dockey was nothing less than a hero.

Before the mission, Cromie had put Dockery in charge of his own squad and made him a patrol leader for the eight months the unit performed route clearance operations.

"I had an insurmountable amount of trust in him," Cromie said. "He was the most combat proven NCO in the platoon."

A brand new officer at the time, Cromie said having such a competent NCO was amazing, and that he will measure every one he works with up to Dockery.

"He's the best at what he does," the captain said.

Dockery has lived in Bamberg for eight years with his wife Dominika and son and daughter, Lincoln, 4, and Pria, 2. He said plans to stay there the rest of his life.


© Copyright 2009 Army News Service
23573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. McCaffrey on: March 26, 2009, 06:16:46 PM



Gen. McCaffrey in 1996 -
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House drug policy director, traveled to Mexico in March 1996 smoothing the way for an agreement between the two governments which has resulted in Mexican soldiers beginning to train at Ft. Bragg and other American bases, and in the gift of 73 "surplus" helicopters, four C-26 surveillance planes, night vision goggles, radios and other military equipment. In addition, the White House has requested $9 million in military aid for Mexico for fiscal year 1998 (up from $3 million in fiscal year 1996) for the purchase of new weapons from U.S. arms manufacturers. - http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/mexico.htm

Gen McCaffrey 2009 -
The outgunned Mexican law enforcement authorities face armed criminal attacks from platoon-sized units employing night vision goggles, electronic intercept collection, encrypted communications, fairly sophisticated information operations, sea-going submersibles, helicopters and modern transport aviation, automatic weapons, RPG’s, Anti-Tank 66 mm rockets, mines and booby traps, heavy machine guns, 50 cal sniper rifles, massive use of military hand grenades, and the most modern models of 40mm grenade machine guns. - http://www.mccaffreyassociates.com/pdfs/Mexico_AAR_-_December_2008.pdf
23574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 26, 2009, 06:01:44 PM

Michigan Man Sentenced to 90 Days in Prison for Sex Act With Car Wash Vacuum

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SAGINAW, Mich. — A man police caught performing a sex act with a car wash vacuum has been sentenced to 90 days in prison.

Jason Leroy Savage must also submit to drug testing.

The 29-year-old from Michigan, was sentenced Wednesday at Saginaw County Circuit Court.

Savage pleaded no contest to indecent exposure last month.

Police say Savage was arrested after a resident called officers early on Oct. 16 to report suspicious activity at a car wash in Thomas Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.

Savage's attorney, Philip Sturtz, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
23575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: March 26, 2009, 03:38:13 PM
tral America: An Emerging Role in the Drug Trade
March 26, 2009

By Stephen Meiners

As part of STRATFOR’s coverage of the security situation in Mexico, we have observed some significant developments in the drug trade in the Western Hemisphere over the past year. While the United States remains the top destination for South American-produced cocaine, and Mexico continues to serve as the primary transshipment route, the path between Mexico and South America is clearly changing.

These changes have been most pronounced in Central America, where Mexican drug-trafficking organizations have begun to rely increasingly on land-based smuggling routes as several countries in the region have stepped up monitoring and interdiction of airborne and maritime shipments transiting from South America to Mexico.

The results of these changes have been extraordinary. According to a December 2008 report from the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center, less than 1 percent of the estimated 600 to 700 tons of cocaine that departed South America for the United States in 2007 transited Central America. The rest, for the most part, passed through the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Ocean en route to Mexico. Since then, land-based shipment of cocaine through Central America appears to have ballooned. Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Stephen McFarland estimated in an interview with a Guatemalan newspaper that cocaine now passes through that country at a rate of approximately 300 to 400 tons per year.

Notwithstanding the difficulty associated with estimating drug flows, it is clear that Central America has evolved into a significant transshipment route for drugs, and that the changes have taken place rapidly. These developments warrant a closer look at the mechanics of the drug trade in the region, the actors involved, and the implications for Central American governments — for whom drug-trafficking organizations represent a much more daunting threat than they do for Mexico.

Some Background
While the drug trade in the Western Hemisphere is multifaceted, it fundamentally revolves around the trafficking of South American-produced cocaine to the United States, the world’s largest market for the drug. Drug shipment routes between Peru and Colombia — where the vast majority of cocaine is cultivated and produced — and the United States historically have been flexible, evolving in response to interdiction efforts or changing markets. For example, Colombian drug traffickers used to control the bulk of the cocaine trade by managing shipping routes along the Caribbean smuggling corridor directly to the United States. By the 1990s, however, as the United States and other countries began to focus surveillance and interdiction efforts along this corridor, the flow of U.S.-bound drugs was forced into Mexico, which remains the main transshipment route for the overwhelming majority of cocaine entering the United States.

A similar situation has been occurring over the last two years in Central America. From the 1990s until as recently as 2007, traffickers in Mexico received multiton shipments of cocaine from South America. There was ample evidence of this, including occasional discoveries of bulk cocaine on everything from small propeller aircraft and Gulfstream jets to self-propelled semisubmersible vessels, fishing trawlers and cargo ships. These smuggling platforms had sufficient range and capacity to bypass Central America and ship bulk drugs directly to Mexico.

By early 2008, however, a series of developments in several Central American countries suggested that drug-trafficking organizations — Mexican cartels in particular — were increasingly trying to establish new land-based smuggling routes through Central America for cocaine shipments from South America to Mexico and eventual delivery to the United States. While small quantities of drugs had certainly transited the region in the past, the routes used presented an assortment of risks. A combination of poorly maintained highways, frequent border crossings, volatile security conditions and unpredictable local criminal organizations apparently presented such great logistical challenges that traffickers opted to send the majority of their shipments through well-established maritime and airborne platforms.

In response to this relatively unchecked international smuggling, several countries in the region began taking steps to increase the monitoring and interdiction of such shipments. The Colombian government, for one, stepped up monitoring of aircraft operating in its airspace. The Mexican government installed updated radar systems and reduced the number of airports authorized to receive flights originating in Central and South America. The Colombian government estimates that the aerial trafficking of cocaine from Colombia has decreased by as much as 90 percent since 2003.

Maritime trafficking also appears to have suffered over the past few years, most likely due to greater cooperation and information-sharing between Mexico and the United States. The United States has an immense capability to collect maritime technical intelligence, and an increasing degree of awareness regarding drug trafficking at sea. Two examples of this progress include the Mexican navy’s July 2008 capture — acting on intelligence provided by the United States — of a self-propelled semisubmersible vessel loaded with more than five tons of cocaine, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s February 2009 interdiction of a Mexico-flagged fishing boat loaded with some seven tons of cocaine about 700 miles off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Presumably as a result of successes such as these, the Mexican navy reported in 2008 that maritime trafficking had decreased by an estimated 60 percent over the last two years.

While it is impossible to independently corroborate the Mexican and Colombian governments’ estimates on the degree to which air- and seaborne drug trafficking has decreased over the last few years, developments in Central America over the past year certainly support their assessments. In particular, STRATFOR has observed that in order to make up for losses in maritime and aerial trafficking, land-based smuggling routes are increasingly being used — not by Colombian cocaine producers or even Central American drug gangs, but by the now much more powerful Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.

Mechanics of Central American Drug Trafficking
It is important to clarify that what we are defining as land-based trafficking is not limited to overland smuggling. The methods associated with land-based trafficking can be divided into three categories: overland smuggling, littoral maritime trafficking and short-range aerial trafficking.

The most straightforward of these is simple overland smuggling. As a series of investigations in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua demonstrated last year, overland smuggling operations use a wide variety of approaches. In one case, authorities pieced together a portion of a route being used by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel in which small quantities of drugs entered Costa Rica from Panama via the international point of entry on the Pan-American Highway. The cocaine was often held for several days in a storage facility before being loaded onto another vehicle to be driven across the country on major highways. Upon approaching the Nicaraguan border, however, the traffickers opted to avoid the official port of entry and instead transferred the shipments into Nicaragua on foot or on horseback along a remote part of the border. Once across, the shipments were taken to the shores of the large inland Lake Nicaragua, where they were transferred onto boats to be taken north, at which point they would be loaded onto vehicles to be driven toward the Honduran border. In one case in Nicaragua, authorities uncovered another Sinaloa-linked route that passed through Managua and is believed to have followed the Pan-American Highway through Honduras and into El Salvador.

The second method associated with land-based trafficking involves littoral maritime operations. Whereas long-range maritime trafficking involves large cargo ships and self-propelled semisubmersible vessels capable of delivering multiton shipments of drugs from South America to Mexico without having to refuel, littoral trafficking tends to involve so-called “go-fast boats” that are used to carry smaller quantities of drugs at higher speeds over shorter distances. This method is useful to traffickers who might want to avoid, for whatever reason, a certain stretch of highway or perhaps even an entire country. According to Nicaraguan military officials, several go-fast boats are suspected of operating off the country’s coasts and of sailing outside Nicaraguan territorial waters in order to avoid authorities. While it is possible to make the entire trip from South America to Mexico using only this method — and making frequent refueling stops — it is believed that littoral trafficking is often combined with an overland network.

The third method associated with land-based drug smuggling involves short-range aerial operations. In these cases, clandestine planes make stops in Central America before either transferring their cargo to a land vehicle or making another short flight toward Mexico. Over the past year, several small planes loaded with drugs or cash have crashed or been seized in Honduras, Mexico and other countries in the region. In addition, authorities in Guatemala have uncovered several clandestine airstrips allegedly managed by the Mexican drug-trafficking organization Los Zetas. These examples suggest that even as overall aerial trafficking appears to have decreased dramatically, the practice continues in Central America. Indeed, there is little reason to expect that it would not continue, considering that many countries in the region lack the resources to adequately monitor their airspace.

While each of these three methods involves a different approach to drug smuggling, the methods share two important similarities. For one, the vehicles involved — be they speedboats, small aircraft or private vehicles — have limited cargo capacities, which means land-based trafficking generally involves cocaine shipments in quantities no greater than a few hundred pounds. While smaller quantities in more frequent shipments mean more handling, they also mean that less product is lost if a shipment is seized. More importantly, each of these land-based methods requires that a drug-trafficking organization maintain a presence inside Central America.

Actors Involved

There are a variety of drug-trafficking organizations operating inside Central America. In addition to some of the notorious local gangs — such as Calle 18 and MS-13 — there is also a healthy presence of foreign criminal organizations. Colombian drug traffickers, for example, historically have been no strangers to the region. However, as STRATFOR has observed over the past year, it is the more powerful Mexico-based drug-trafficking organizations that appear to be overwhelmingly responsible for the recent upticks in land-based narcotics smuggling in Central America.

Based on reports of arrests and drug seizures in the region over the past year, it is clear that no single Mexican cartel maintains a monopoly on land-based drug trafficking in Central America. Los Zetas, for example, are extremely active in several parts of Guatemala, where they engage in overland and short-range aerial trafficking. The Sinaloa cartel, which STRATFOR believes is the most capable Mexican trafficker of cocaine, has been detected operating a fairly extensive overland smuggling route from Panama to El Salvador. Some intelligence gaps remain regarding, for example, the precise route Sinaloa follows from El Salvador to Mexico or the route Los Zetas use between South America and Guatemala. It is certainly possible that these two Mexican cartels do not rely exclusively on any single route or method in the region. But the logistical challenges associated with establishing even one route across Central America make it likely that existing routes are maintained even after they have been detected — and are defended if necessary.

The operators of the Mexican cartel-managed routes also do not match a single profile. At times, Mexican cartel members themselves have been found to be operating in Central America. More common is the involvement of locals in various phases of smuggling operations. Nicaraguan and Salvadoran nationals, for example, have been arrested in northwestern Nicaragua for operating a Sinaloa-linked overland and littoral route into El Salvador. Authorities in Costa Rica have arrested Costa Rican nationals for their involvement in overland routes through that country. In that case, a related investigation in Panama led to the arrest of several Mexican nationals who reportedly had recently arrived in the area to more closely monitor the operation of their route.

One exception is Guatemala, where Mexican drug traffickers appear to operate much more extensively than in any other Central American country; this may be due, at least in part, to the relationship between Los Zetas and the Guatemalan Kaibiles. Beyond the apparently more-established Zeta smuggling operations there, several recent drug seizures — including an enormous 1,800-acre poppy plantation attributed to the Sinaloa cartel — make it clear that other Mexican drug-trafficking organizations are currently active inside Guatemala. Sinaloa was first suspected of increasing its presence in Guatemala in early 2008, when rumors surfaced that the cartel was attempting to recruit local criminal organizations to support its own drug-trafficking operations there. The ongoing Zeta-Sinaloa rivalry at that time triggered a series of deadly firefights in Guatemala, prompting fears that the bloody turf battles that had led to record levels of organized crime-related violence inside Mexico would extend into Central America.

Security Implications in Central America
Despite these concerns and the growing presence of Mexican traffickers in the region, there apparently have been no significant spikes in drug-related violence in Central America outside of Guatemala. Several factors may explain this relative lack of violence.

First, most governments in Central America have yet to launch large-scale counternarcotics campaigns. The seizures and arrests that have been reported so far have generally been the result of regular police work, as opposed to broad changes in policies or a significant commitment of resources to address the problem. More significantly, though, the quantities of drugs seized probably amount to just a drop in the bucket compared to the quantity of drugs that moves through the region on a regular basis. Because seizures have remained low, Mexican drug traffickers have yet to launch any significant reprisal attacks against government officials in any country outside Guatemala. In that country, even the president has received death threats and had his office bugged, allegedly by drug traffickers.

The second factor, which is related to the first, is that drug traffickers operating in Central America likely rely more heavily on bribes than on intimidation to secure the transit of drug shipments. This assessment follows from the region’s reputation for official corruption (especially in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Guatemala) and the economic disadvantage that many of these countries face compared to the Mexican cartels. For example, the gross domestic product of Honduras is $12 billion, while the estimated share of the drug trade controlled by the Mexican cartels is estimated to be $20 billion.

Finally, Mexican cartels currently have their hands full at home. Although Central America has undeniably become more strategically important for the flow of drugs from South America, the cartels in Mexico have simultaneously been engaged in a two-front war at home against the Mexican government and against rival criminal organizations. As long as this war continues at its present level, Mexican drug traffickers may be reluctant to divert significant resources too far from their home turf, which remains crucial in delivering drug shipments to the United States.

Looking Ahead
That said, there is no guarantee that Central America will continue to escape the wrath of Mexican drug traffickers. On the contrary, there is reason for concern that the region will increasingly become a battleground in the Mexican cartel war.

For one thing, the Merida Initiative, a U.S. anti-drug aid program that will put some $300 million into Mexico and about $100 million into Central America over the next year, could be perceived as a meaningful threat to drug-trafficking operations. If Central American governments choose to step up counternarcotics operations, either at the request of the United States or in order to qualify for more Merida money, they risk disrupting existing smuggling operations to the extent that cartels begin to retaliate.

Also, even though Mexican cartels may be reluctant to divert major resources from the more important war at home, it is important to recognize that a large-scale reassignment of cartel operatives or resources from Mexico to Central America might not be necessary to have a significant impact on the security situation in any given Central American country. Given the rampant corruption and relatively poor protective security programs in place for political leaders in the region, very few cartel operatives or resources would actually be needed if a Mexican drug-trafficking organization chose to, for example, conduct an assassination campaign against high-ranking government officials.

Governments are not the only potential threat to drug traffickers in Central America. The increases in land-based drug trafficking in the region could trigger intensified competition over trafficking routes. Such turf battles could occur either among the Mexican cartels or between the Mexicans and local criminal organizations, which might try to muscle their way into the lucrative smuggling routes or attempt to grab a larger percentage of the profits.

If the example of Mexico is any guide, the drug-related violence that could be unleashed in Central America would easily overwhelm the capabilities of the region’s governments. Last year, STRATFOR considered the possibility of Mexico becoming a failed state. But Mexico is a far stronger and richer country than its fragile southern neighbors, who simply do not have the resources to deal with the cartels on their own.
23576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An invitation to talk on: March 26, 2009, 12:00:59 PM
Iran: Accepting an Invitation to Talk
STRATFOR Today » March 26, 2009 | 1536 GMT

AFP/Getty Images
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 21, 2009 in Mashhad, IranIran confirmed March 26 that it will accept a U.S. invitation to participate in a U.N. conference at The Hague on March 31 regarding the future of Afghanistan. The conference, originally proposed by the United States, will be attended by delegates from more than 80 countries. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said that Iran still has yet to decide who it will send to the meeting on behalf of Tehran.

The acceptance of the U.S. invitation follows a televised address by U.S. President Barack Obama on the occasion of the Persian New Year, in which he offered a new “diplomatic beginning” with the Islamic Republic. The United States is not only publicly recognizing the staying power of the clerical regime, but is also acknowledging an Iranian sphere of influence that spreads to Southwest Asia in Afghanistan. While Iran is pleased to be in this diplomatic spotlight, it must also tread carefully. The Iranians made it clear in their response to Obama that the mere offering of talks is insufficient. Iran has geopolitical interests in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and Iran is motivated to develop its nuclear program, all of which clash with U.S. interests. If the United States is unwilling to shift its position on any of these issues, then Iran will not exhibit much eagerness to go beyond the talks and actually deal.

Still, Iran is not about to pass up an opportunity to show the world that it carries significant influence beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic. The United States and its NATO allies could use Iran’s assistance in Afghanistan, specifically in regard to the wealth of intelligence the Iranians have on Taliban and al Qaeda movements in the country. There is also potential for discussions over a supplemental supply route for coalition forces in southern Afghanistan that could run through Iran. Although Iran is willing to play the diplomatic game, tangible cooperation will come at a high price, particularly as the United States is building a strategy to engage “moderate” Taliban. On a tactical level, the Iranians might offer support to certain Taliban factions in Afghanistan with an aim of keeping U.S. and NATO forces tied down on its eastern frontier. But on a strategic level, the Iranians do not want to see their Taliban rivals back in power in any shape or form. This is just one of many core disputes that will complicate any new “diplomatic beginning” between Washington and Tehran.
23577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Free Speech, the movie on: March 26, 2009, 10:47:55 AM
Hillary Clinton had her silver screen moment in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when the Justices heard a case that could determine the reach of campaign finance laws to control political advertising. The tone of the oral argument also hinted that five Justices on the Court may be increasingly leery of campaign-finance limits.

During the 2008 Presidential primaries, a nonprofit group called Citizens United produced a 90-minute documentary chronicling the exploits of then-Senator Clinton. Let's just say that "Hillary: the Movie" was not an endorsement. Because the film, and trailers for it, were scheduled to run in the heat of the race on cable TV, it ran afoul of campaign finance "reform" law.

Under the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act, also known as McCain-Feingold, electioneering communications paid by corporations or unions that "expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate" cannot run within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election. Citizens United filed suit against the Federal Election Commission to assert its right to distribute the film.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a federal district court agreed with the FEC that the ban on electioneering communications should just as reasonably apply to a 90-minute movie as to a two-minute advertisement. Writ large, that's scary news. According to Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, who argued the case, the government could theoretically regulate other forms of pre-election corporate speech as well, including books and the Internet.

"That's pretty incredible," said Justice Samuel Alito. "You think that if a book was published, a campaign biography that was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, that could be banned?" Yes, Mr. Stewart said, if a corporation or union were paying for it. It would be possible to "prohibit the publication of the book using the corporate treasury funds."

With Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito has previously taken a cautious, piecemeal approach to campaign finance law. But as the current case shows, McCain-Feingold is a blunt instrument that gives federal bureaucrats the power to decide what kind of campaign advertising is allowed during an election. If "Hillary: the Movie" isn't allowed, then Michael Moore's documentaries should be banned, and newspaper endorsements would also be suspect despite a specific carve-out in the law. If newspapers didn't have that carve-out, then maybe so many editors wouldn't cheerlead for this kind of law.

McCain-Feingold is a frontal assault on political speech, and President Bush's decision to sign it while claiming to dislike it was one of the worst moments of his eight years in office. Citizens United gives the Justices a new opportunity to chip away at this attack on the First Amendment, and even better if they use it to declare the whole thing unconstitutional.

 
23578  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / IBD editorial on: March 26, 2009, 10:45:39 AM
Yes, Hugo Cheated
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Democracy: In a little-noted agency hearing, the CIA admitted that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez rigged his recall referendum in 2004. So why does he still merit global recognition as a democratically elected leader?


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Read More: Latin America & Caribbean


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Anyone who steals an election has no claim to democracy. But somehow there's an exception for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who's still recognized as a "democratically elected" leader by the U.S. and others.

It now comes to light that the CIA cybersecurity experts know he fixed his 2004 recall referendum. Two weeks ago, at a field hearing before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in Orlando, Fla., CIA's Steve Stigall cited Venezuela, along with Macedonia and Ukraine, as examples of the risks of electronic voting.

Chavez, he said, controlled most voting machines and may have provided the program used to "randomly" select them for audit during a recount, the Miami Herald reported.

The problem went beyond cheating. The referendum was then certified as free and fair by none other than ex-President Jimmy Carter and recognized by the hemisphere as democratic.

That extended Chavez's term in power at a time when the real sentiment of voters was to throw him out. That, in turn, undercut Venezuela's opposition parties as political forces, making it nearly impossible for them to gain ground.

It also made Chavez obnoxious in international forums, using his false democratic legitimacy to undermine the interests of democratic nations while no one said anything.

He's about to play this like a fiddle at the upcoming Summit of the Americas, promising to "get the artillery out" against U.S. President Barack Obama in reflexive anti-Americanism all about reinforcing his grip on power.

While Carter was declaring Venezuela a democracy, the scam was not entirely unnoted. Mathematicians at universities like Yale, Johns Hopkins, MIT, University of Santa Cruz and in Venezuela all found a "very subtle algorithm" in the voting software that adjusted the ballot count in Chavez's favor, the Herald noted.

Carter dismissed them arrogantly and a New York Times editorial abusively told the Venezuelan opposition to "grow up," and accept Chavez as president. They shouldn't. And neither should we.

That the U.S. now recognizes this vote was a fraud means we should fix our mistake. It's vital for democracy in this hemisphere.

Not only do the enablers owe Venezuela's democrats an apology, the U.S. and others need to decertify Chavez a democratic leader in all international forums.

23579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Soul Awakens on: March 26, 2009, 10:36:14 AM
By Tzvi Freeman
When the soul awakens, it descends like a fire from heaven. In a moment of surprise, we discover something so powerful, so beyond our persona, we cannot believe it is a part of us. Or, better, that we are a part of it.
23580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson: Law and religion on: March 26, 2009, 10:32:13 AM
 
"Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both."

--James Wilson, law lectures at the University of Pennsylvania
 
23581  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: March 26, 2009, 12:40:48 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZIn2Lv6ZWQ&feature=channel_page
23582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's bluff on: March 26, 2009, 12:31:59 AM
   
Geopolitical Diary: China's Calculated Currency Rhetoric
March 25, 2009
One of the more popular conventional wisdoms is that the United States is in decline and that it is a simple matter to select options that will edge the United States out of its dominant position in the world. In an editorial published Tuesday, Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan spoke to one of the more popular financial conspiracy theories in this vein when he wrote that the time had come to establish a new scrip to replace the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency. The issue is close to Beijing’s heart: The Chinese reserve fund is a significant holder of U.S. debt, with some $750 billion in U.S. T-bills.

China does not purchase U.S. debt out of choice, but out of a lack of choice. China is a state with serious social stability issues that are mitigated only by state intervention in the economic structure to maintain mass employment. Since there isn’t much internal demand for the goods these employed masses produce — due in part to a high savings rate and low incomes — China must peddle its goods abroad. The U.S. consumer market, with annual sales of approximately $10 trillion, is roughly equivalent in bulk to the next six consumer markets combined. Sales to the United States and other countries hardwired into the American supply chain — which includes the bulk of East Asia — are the only reasonable option. And so the Chinese yuan has a de facto peg to the U.S. dollar.

That is hardly the extent to which the Chinese are bound to the dollar, however. Because China lacks the financial and industrial infrastructure needed to metabolize the massive revenues generated by exports, the income must be stored in some sort of non-Chinese asset. Outstanding U.S. T-bills currently total $11 trillion, which — with the notable exception of Japanese government debt, which very few foreigners even touch — is greater than the next five government debt issues combined, by a ratio of two to one. U.S. debt outsizes combined euro-denominated government debt by more than three to one.

Corporate debt isn’t much of an option either, even though the combined global corporate debt market is sufficiently large to absorb China’s currency reserves. Whenever an investor holds a substantial portion of any company’s debt, market liquidity is constrained and trading dynamics are altered. The solution is a highly diversified — and therefore actively managed — portfolio. But the administrative cost of a trillion-dollar portfolio so diversified that it does not affect the value of any particular asset would be staggering. In contrast, U.S. government debt is a one-stop shop that requires — at most — minimal management.

That China’s income is primarily in either dollars or dollar-linked currencies only strengthens the rationale for pouring surplus income into American assets in general, and U.S. government debt in particular. Plainly put, China cannot put its income anywhere else because there is no other option available. There have been some mild attempts to diversify, but a dearth of options means that “mild” is about as dynamic as a diversification program for China can get.

As to a world beyond the dollar, the issue is that a reserve currency is not decided upon; it creates itself. Two things are needed to create a reserve currency. First, there must be sufficient liquidity to support a global system. That requires a central bank with an enormous amount of autonomy from a state government, and the U.S. Federal Reserve is unparalleled on this count. Not even the European Central Bank can compete. Second, the economy upon which the currency is based must be large enough to withstand fluctuations caused by other economies buying and selling its assets in massive amounts. Again, the United States is the only economy that potentially could qualify.

Part and parcel of any replacement of the U.S. dollar would be a large-scale abandonment of U.S. T-bills as the core of Chinese currency reserves, which — as the conventional wisdom holds — would force intractable economic problems upon the United States. But a closer look reveals that this is not the case. First, selling U.S. T-bills en masse simply is not possible. Every seller requires a buyer, and the volumes at hand cannot be exchanged quickly. Second, starting down that road would cause the value of the securities in question to plummet, destroying the savings the Chinese have been building up for years. The so-called “nuclear option” really is not an option at all.

So why are the Chinese bringing this up in the first place? Beijing clearly has done the math already and knows that this idea — even if it had broad support — is a nonstarter. There are two reasons. First, officials in Beijing know that any direct confrontation — whether military or financial — with the United States would end in disaster for Chinese national interests. Therefore, they want to foster anything they can that would create an international structure to restrain American power; failing that, something that just gets people thinking in that direction will have to do. Second, China is more severely affected by the ongoing financial crisis than it would like the world to register. The Chinese need sustained international demand to maintain their export industries and, consequently, their high employment levels. Espousing rhetoric that makes it appear that you have more options than you do, while redirecting attention toward a foreign power, always plays well at home.

 
23583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 26, 2009, 12:29:55 AM
Thread coherence nazi here.  The last 5 posts (including one by me  embarassed ) belong on Islam vs. Free Speech or the Communicating with Islam threads.
23584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: March 26, 2009, 12:26:59 AM
Obama to redistribute Super Bowl trophies

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Updated: March 32, 2009

Steelers to loose Super Bowl Trophies

The Super Bowl XLIII Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the only team to win six titles, will soon be loosing half of those trophies. After a meeting between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and President Barack Hussain Obama, Obama decided to redistribute half of their Steeler Super Bowl victories and trophies to less fortunate teams in the league.

"We live everyday in the country that invented the Super Bowl." said Obama "We are not about to lose this Great American tradition in the wake of these difficult times." Obama’s plan calls for the Steelers, who are a successful NFL team, to give half of their Super Bowl trophies to teams that are not successful or have not been as successful as the Steelers. "The Detroit Loins are just as much a part of the same fiber of the NFL as the Steelers and they should, no rather will, be entitled to a Super Bowl Trophy as well." Obama explains in his plan that he has imposed on Goodell and the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who by virtue of hard work, excellent team play, stellar draft choices, responsible investing of free agents, careful hiring of coaches and excellent community service and commitment to their fans, has prospered greatly during the past 30 years and have won six Super Bowl Trophies. But President Barack Hussain Obama’s plan calls for the Pittsburgh Steelers to carry the larger burden of the NFL’s less successful teams. Obama went on to further proclaim, "In these difficult times we are all in this to work together. We must reclaim the NFL Championship Dream for every team, for every city and for every fan."

"My plan will not affect 31 of the 32 teams in the league." Obama assures. That’s over 95 percent of the teams in the NFL will not have to worry about loosing any Super Bowl Trophies. "The worst teams in the NFL and the teams that can’t seem to get a break and win a championship will no longer have to worry about going without a title." Obama promises. "We are a country and league of hope. We all need to make a change. It does not matter the color of the teams uniforms, the personal decisions that the teams make or their performance but rather if they are a member of this great American league."

The Super Bowl XLIII trophy will be redistributed to the 0-16 Detroit Lions. Through no fault of their own incompetence, the Lions could not manage a victory all season and this trophy will help ease the pain of their lack of performance and give them hope once again. The redistribution of Super Bowl XL trophy will go directly to the Steeler’s division rival the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals who also have fallen on hard times have never won a Super Bowl. This victory will bring a smile to hundreds of Bengal fans all over the world as they can now celebrate. Finally, one of the Steeler’s two Super Bowl victories over the Dallas Cowboys will go back to the Cowboys since the league needs to provide hope in the face of difficulty and provide hope in the face of uncertainty. This is a heavy burden for the Steelers but together we can all prosper.

All hope is not lost for Pittsburgh fans, Barack Hussain Obama has another plan in place. Obama has meet with MLB and commissioner Bud Selig on a similar plan. The New York Yankees will redistribute two of their world series trophies to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a supplement to their loosing 16 straight seasons and counting. This plan will help stimulate the Pirates and enable them to regain the American Dream. Barack Hussain Obama will be meeting with the NHL and Michael Phelps in the upcoming weeks as this issue is high on his agenda for "Hope and Change."
23585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10th Mountain on: March 25, 2009, 06:05:22 PM
McClatchy Newspapers (mcclatchydc.com)
March 23, 2009

U.S. Troops Confront Disciplined, Wily, Mobile Afghan Insurgents

By Philip Smucker, McClatchy Newspapers

ASMAR, Afghanistan — When the young American lieutenant and his 14 soldiers glanced up at the rock face, they thought that the major who'd planned the mission must have been kidding.

Elijah Carlson, a strapping, blue-eyed Southern Californian and a self-proclaimed "gun nut," gripped the crumbling rock, tugged backward by 90-pounds of ammunition and gear. "If we fall back, we are dead!" he whispered to Lt. Jake Kerr, the platoon leader.

In seconds, a rock shot loose beneath one soldier's boot and dropped 20 feet onto another soldier below, sending him tumbling 15 feet to the base and cracking his bulletproof side plate.

What transpired over the next 16 hours was the kind of clash that's led Kerr's commanders in the Army's 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., to conclude that there's no "victory" waiting around the next bend in Afghanistan, only a relentless struggle with a fleet-footed, clever enemy. For Kerr, a recent West Point graduate who specialized in counterinsurgency, it was the first face-off with an often-elusive opponent and a case study in the complex politics of rural Afghanistan.

Kunar, where Combat Company of the 1st Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division's 32nd Infantry Regiment is stationed, is one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan. Asmar is just 10 miles from the border with Pakistan's Bajaur Tribal Agency, which has been a sanctuary for al Qaida and Afghan Taliban leaders.

The mission was to disrupt the men and weapons infiltrating from Pakistan and root out their staging bases in Afghanistan. The Americans had hoped first to confer with village elders, but after intelligence indicated that insurgents were in the area, they moved in with heavy machine guns.

Kerr's platoon moved for three hours in the darkness. Each time they thought they'd reached the peak, the land shot up farther. The unit came across enemy fighting positions, piled high with rocks and littered with food wrappers.

Afghan and American intelligence reports said these were "Bakt Ali's men," insurgents who lay claim to nearby villages in central Kunar. Ali is a senior Taliban guerrilla leader in Kunar who's thought to have direct ties to Abu Ikhlas al Masri, an Egyptian al Qaida leader in Pakistan. At each dug-in position, Kerr recorded the GPS coordinates of unmanned enemy positions, down to the 10th digit.

As dawn broke over the rocks, company commander Maj. Andy Knight, of Ann Arbor, Mich., set out on foot in the valley 700 feet below. Kerr would provide support from his eagles' nests as Knight attempted to clear two villages where, he said, residents had complained of insurgent intimidation. Accompanied by a reporter, Knight and a detachment of American and 14 Afghan soldiers stepped carefully along mud dikes, greeting Afghan children and their parents with a cordial "Sengay?" — "How are you?"

What Kerr, from Lake Placid, N.Y., heard from his perch above the valley was a surprise: Unseen men along the valley floor were shouting to one another like an oral tag team, passing the news that "the Americans have arrived."

Within minutes, three men, one in a white shalwar kamis — a loose pajama-like shirt and pants — another in a black one and a third in a brown shawl and gray pants, sprinted down the valley from the west with machine guns toward Knight's patrol, which was walking along a dry, rocky streambed about 1,000 feet away.

Kerr, 25, part of a new generation of American warriors schooled at West Point in the raw lessons of fighting counterinsurgencies in the Islamic world, spotted them instantly.

"They were running at Major Knight with AK-47s," Kerr said after the battle. "We opened up on them, and they began firing. But we had the three men outgunned, and they dove for cover in the streambed."

In the valley, the hiking party splashed through irrigation channels and dove for cover amid tall bushes that lined the stream. The chatter of machine guns fired from both sides echoed off the ridges and stone walls.

Knight, who played tight end on the Army football team, shot past in a blur to the front of the marching party. He didn't yet know that two of the insurgents had been hit. They were pulling themselves on their bellies through the rocks, desperate to reach a bend in the stream.

Within five minutes, two Apache attack helicopters buzzed the valley, scanning for enemy positions and listening to Kerr direct them to the target. "I was shooting tracers down at the two fighters crawling in the stream, and the other man in a brown shawl was shooting back," Kerr said.

Hidden behind a wooden shack, Knight's party could see the two Apaches sweep down, ripping up the stream bed. The insurgents had slipped just out of Kerr's sight, however, back up a bend in the stream and away from Knight's party. When the Apaches unleashed their Hellfire missiles, the men already had vanished.

"Dawg 1,6!" Knight snapped into his radio to Lt. David Poe, 24, of Buffalo, N.Y., a few hundred yards away, as he crouched in the rocks. "Are you near the woman in the green dress, tending to the animals? We are moving towards your location."

Almost all the males in the valley had gone missing, but Afghan women were trying to keep spooked cows and goats from fleeing. As Knight's party climbed into the rocks above the stream and dashed along the mountainside, a woman in a black shawl appeared, waving her arms and wailing, berating U.S. and Afghan forces as they passed. An Afghan soldier shouted back, incorrectly, "Back in your house, lady! They shot first!"

Knight stopped to catch his breath. "Do we have maps of these villages?" he demanded of Lt. Eric Forcey, 23, of Lynchburg, Va., who was at his side.

"No, sir," Forcey replied. "For all intents and purposes, they do not exist."

"I think they've existed for a long time, Forcey; the mapmakers just have not found them," the major replied.

"Yes, sir."

WIth "shhh-thwamps, shhh-thwamps," two more Hellfire missiles crashed into the rocks.

With constant translations of the enemy radio chatter in Pashtu, picked up through electronic eavesdropping, and the major's narration of the battle, events appeared to turn. "I think one of them is badly injured," Knight speculated. "They will have to make a decision to drag him out or leave him."

The U.S. forces, augmented by the 14 Afghans, were deliberate, at times cumbersome. From above, Kerr's men heard radio traffic indicating that the insurgents had slipped into a larger village farther up the ravine.

Enemy radio chatter also indicated that the helicopter strikes were landing just in front of the house from which Bakt Ali's men apparently were talking.

Still, this was a shell game with no certainty about the targets' whereabouts, and Knight — who spent a year in Kunar in 2006 and 2007 — knew it. He refused to order an airstrike on the suspected hideout.

Instead, he took Kerr's plea over the radio that, "We can own this valley, sir!" He ordered two Humvees to rush up the stream bed and take up "support-by-fire" positions in front of a group of wooden houses and dispatched Dawg Company's Poe to oversee a group of Afghan commandos, who'd search the village on foot.

The choppers returned from refueling. Once in the village, the Afghan soldiers went house to house, room by room. A cluster of women and children stood on a rooftop. "This is a virtual ghost town, sir," came Poe's report. An Afghan interpreter sniped: "It almost always ends this way."

Kerr and his men were tired and frustrated. No one had found the fugitives' "blood trails," which he'd hoped to follow.

As his men packed in their heavy weapons and began to pull back down the mountain, the insurgents' radio traffic intensified.

"We could hear them actually counting our numbers, and they were saying that they would hit us. A commander told them to wait until we were grouped." The insurgents apparently wanted to target only the departing forces and to avoid destroying the village.

Kerr's team hiked back down the ridgeline, descended about 1,000 feet into the riverbed, linked up with Knight's fighters in U.S. jeeps and reached for water bottles.

Suddenly, an Afghan interpreter, monitoring radio traffic, heard Bakt Ali's commander order the attack. Kerr dove for cover. The pavement exploded with rocket blasts and fire from massive PK machine guns. Carlson, 23, from Torrance, Calif., dropped to his knees, curling into a fetal position under a dirt ledge with his machine gun trained on the crest of the mountain he'd scaled earlier. One U.S. soldier was hit in the groin as he leapt for cover.

Kerr's platoon's work was about to pay dividends, however.

With a rush of satisfaction, Kerr reached into his pocket and pulled out the GPS coordinates of the enemy positions he'd scribbled down that morning. From six miles away at their base in Asmar, a 10th Mountain artillery battery unleashed a torrent of 105 mm howitzer shells onto the enemy positions. In the twilight, .50-caliber machine guns blazed.

The day was over. No one was going back to hunt for the living or the dead. The insurgents had lost fighters, but they'd proved to be a wily, disciplined and mobile force.

The U.S. and Afghan forces had had a reality check. If they didn't already know it, they now understood why they'd been unable to have a peaceful discussion with the village elders. Bakt Ali's forces owned the villages, and until last Thursday, they more or less controlled the entire ravine. It would take more than better maps for the Afghan army and its U.S. allies to wrest control of them.

Smucker is a McClatchy special correspondent.
23586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Burger King robber bagged by CCW holder on: March 25, 2009, 04:37:15 PM
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/966133.html
23587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 25, 2009, 04:34:13 PM
Wednesday Chronicle
Vol. 09 No. 12
25 March 2009

THE FOUNDATION
"Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason." --Benjamin Franklin

 
Switching from teleprompter to big-screen TV
THE DEMO-GOGUES
Lies and statistics: "n this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term -- even under the most pessimistic estimates." --President Barack Obama, who doubled the budget deficit before he could halve it

Says the pot to the kettle: "
  • ne of the things that I'm trying to break is a pattern in Washington where everybody is always looking for somebody else to blame." --Barack Obama

Mentally challenged: "I bowled a 129. ... It's like -- it was like Special Olympics or something." --Barack Obama making fun of the Special Olympics on "The Tonight Show"

Pick socialism: "[W]e need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people." --Barack Obama

Regulatory Commissars: "I think the most important thing that we can do is make sure that we put in a bunch of financial regulatory mechanisms to prevent companies like an AIG holding the rest of us hostage. Because that's â??- that's the real problem." --Barack Obama

This week's "Quid Pro Homo" Award: "At some point, [the Defense of Marriage Act] is going to have to go to the United States Supreme Court. I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court." --Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an open homosexual **Scalia has more than one vote?

Global warmism: "When we talk about drilling, the new thing we have to think about is the Arctic. There is a dangerous irony occurring. We are drilling, burning oil, sending CO2 up into the atmosphere, creating global warming -- and it's melting the Arctic making it possible for people to drill. Now there is this gold rush to start punching oil wells in a place we just desecrated because of global warming. That's one place we have to get a new moratorium where there hasn't been one before, because there has always been ice there before." --Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA)

Vocabulary police: "This Administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT]. Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'" --email from Dave Riedel of the Office of Security Review

UPRIGHT
"The more the Fed takes on its balance sheet, the more the long-run independence of the central bank is damaged. Monetizing so much government debt is what Third World nations do. Draining the new money from the system will someday be a problem. It may introduce a round of 'beggar-thy-neighbor,' central bank-engineered currency depreciations." --economist Tyler Cowen

"[treasury] Secretary Geithner wants AIG and executives at other companies that receive tax dollars to be paid according to performance. That is a standard most of us would like to see applied to Congress, which enjoys annual pay increases no matter how much incompetence, malfeasance and misfeasance it demonstrates." --columnist Cal Thomas

"This whole AIG fiasco -- where the entire political class is suddenly screaming over bonuses paid to derivative traders in AIG's financial-products division -- is just a complete farce. What it really shows is how the government has completely bungled the AIG takeover. Blame the Bush administration and the Obama administration. It also shows, once again, why the government shouldn't run anything, because it cannot run anything." --economist Lawrence Kudlow

"What do we learn about Obama from the 'Special Olympics' gaffe? We learn, first and foremost, what we already knew: Obama is an elitist with a high school sense of humor." --columnist Ben Shapiro

"This country no longer has any enemy combatants to worry about. There, don't you feel better? Probably not, because you know that, although the new administration has decided to drop the legal designation Enemy Combatants, they're all too real. Only the name is gone." --columnist Paul Greenberg

"[W]hen I think of my children and my grandchild, I'm not worried that they will suffer for lack of money. I worry they'll suffer a much worse fate: lack of freedom. ... We have to fight our way -- not back, but forward -- to a country in which self-dealing politicians control less of our economy and less of our lives." --columnist Paul Jacob

"We can recall that the founders of our country intended the role of government to protect our lives and property, not violate them. And that in times when we have respected that proper use of government, our country has prospered." --columnist Star Parker

INSIGHT
"The main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery." --former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." --American physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

"When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set." --Chinese writer Lin Yutang (1895-1976)

EDITORIAL EXEGESIS
"There should be no hurdles to restoring freedom. But when Congress attempts to restrict it, the hurdle should be high, if not impossible to clear. It's chilling to watch as men with authority and influence prefer to instead crash their way through. The power to tax is the power to destroy, as is the power to regulate and limit choices. These powers should be wielded judiciously, and only within a system that safeguards against excess and demands accountability. The overly ambitious and unelected can't be allowed to govern by walking over the governed." --Investor's Business Daily

DEZINFORMATSIA
Wipe the drool off your chin: "Whether it's creating commissions for women and girls, ordering the investigation of President Bush's use of signing statements, or jamming a huge stimulus package through Congress, the man is working his tail off. And he seems to be loving every minute of it. It's almost as though our president was born to do exactly what he's doing. He's leading, and boy, is that refreshing." --CNN's Jack Cafferty

 
Bringing dignity to his office?
Obamamania: "When I heard [Obama] was going to [be on "The Tonight Show"] I thought, should a president really do that? Then I actually stayed up and watched it and he calmed me down. I've really been getting pretty upset in the last week, just like every other American I think. And he calmed me down. And he was presidential. I thought it was just a masterful performance." --NPR's Nina Totenberg

Covering the president: "Nothing goes unescaped when it comes to the president. He did talk about the Special Olympics. Some people took that as an offensive remark. However, this morning on a radio show, the director of the Special Olympics for the state of Illinois, a man by the name of Doug Snyder, talked about that, and he thinks he knows where all this came from, because he remembers a couple years back introducing the president to a little girl named Caitlyn, who showed the president how to bowl, and did a darn better job of doing it at the time than the president was able to do it. He thinks Caitlyn is actually perhaps the inspiration for the president deciding to be a bit better as a bowler." --MSNBC's Alex Witt covering for Obama's tasteless "Special Olympics" comment on the "Tonight Show"

Getting it right: "Obama is on track to accomplish exactly what he promised to change during the campaign, creating a massive burden for the next generation to fund politically popular policies in the short term." --Time magazine writer Michael Scherer

Newspulper Headlines:

Now He Tells Us!: "Obama Asks Americans Not to Expect Too Much From Him" --Associated Press

What an Insensitive Headline: "Chinks Exposed in Obama's Taliban Plan" --Asia Times

No One Knows for Sure: "Guess Profit Falls 13 Percent" --Los Angeles Business Journal

Drinking and Driving Don't Mix: "Wild Turkey Sends Maine Motorcyclist to Hospital" --Associated Press

News You Can Use: "Scientists: We're Doomed. Or Are We?" --Greenpeace UK Web site

Bottom Stories of the Day: "Animal Rights, Circus Lawyers Differ on Elephants" --Associated Press ++ "Gore to Revisit Climate Crisis in New Book" --New York Times Web site

(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)

VILLAGE IDIOTS
Name that standard: "The desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies." --Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China **Didn't that used to be called "gold"?

Village Academic Curriculum: "If you make it a practice of killing other people's babies for personal gain ... eventually they're going to give you a taste of the same thing." --former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who once called the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns" after one of the architects of the Holocaust, testifying in his lawsuit seeking to get his job back

Non Compos Mentis: "Barack Obama is the first Hispanic president the same way Bill Clinton was the first black [president]." --Geraldo Rivera discussing immigration

Say what?: "The kids love to say SheetzuCacaPoopoo. Well, that was the key. But, the book is really about Barack Obama. Okay? Let me explain. ... The dog -- Max is in trouble. They send him to obedience school, okay? When he's in obedience school is when he becomes Barack. He becomes a community organizer. And he organizes the big dogs around the little dogs. 'Cause at first, the big dogs, also known as the Republicans, don't like him. See? And so, he finds ways, pragmatically, to help the big dogs. ... They can reach itches for them. They can go underneath to get to spots. They can scare the cats away. And so, he becomes popular. And everybody loves each other. ... It's all about pragmatism and change, and trying to find a solution in your situation, which is Barack Obama." --Joy Behar of "The View" promoting her new children's book **Well, SheetzuCacaPoopoo IS the perfect name...


 

SHORT CUTS
"[Obama] might be 'a fairly sensitive and compassionate man.' Alternatively, he could be a mean, self-absorbed S.O.B. who regards anyone other than himself as intellectually disabled. The truth is we don't know, because in the course of the presidential campaign the press declined to do even the most elementary due diligence on him. And, like Congress with the stimulus, the electorate didn't bother to find out what's in there before they voted for it." --columnist Mark Steyn

"One of the things that concerns me about Obama's presidency is that every time he opens his yap, he sounds so darn naive. Just recently, he spoke about reaching out to moderates in the ranks of the Taliban. A moderate in that society is a cretin who wants to murder Christians, Jews and any woman who refuses to wrap herself in a bed sheet before leaving the house, but who draws the line at beheading his victims for Al-Jazeera's TV cameras." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

"I can't believe we've decided to do battle with al-Qaida by vernacular-ing them to death." --comedian Dennis Miller

"The New York Times reported Sunday that President Obama is planning to regulate salaries paid by every company in the financial services industry. Already he's insulted Britain and Special Olympians while making nice to Iran and North Korea. One more week of this and everybody's going to be searching for the birth certificate." --comedian Argus Hamilton

Jay Leno:

People made a big deal out of the fact this is the first time a sitting president has done a late-night show. We tried to have other presidents on, but President Bush went to bed every night at 9:00. And President Clinton always seemed to have other late-night plans.

More problems for AIG: It turns out that the bonus money was actually $218 million, not $165 million as originally reported. AIG says they misplaced $53 million in bonus money. Today Sen. Chris Dodd said, "You mean that wasn't a campaign contribution?"

Senator Chris Dodd -- or 'Chris Dodge,' as they're calling him now -- after first denying it, now admits he's the one who eliminated the provision in the stimulus package that outlawed excessive bonuses. And coincidentally, he just happened to receive $280,000 from AIG in campaign contributions. What are the odds of that?

Congress is now investigating the special treatment that "Senator Dodge" ... received from Countrywide Mortgage for a couple of mortgages. Senator Dodd has contended he didn't know he was getting special rates on the mortgages. And, really, to be fair, how would the Senate chairman of the banking committee have any idea what the normal lending rate would be?
23588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit MP rips PM Brown a new one on: March 25, 2009, 04:30:09 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94lW6Y4tBXs
23589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 25, 2009, 04:10:23 PM
THAT is the key question!!!
23590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Missing Somalis return on: March 24, 2009, 11:59:40 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509839,00.html

Source: 'Several' Missing Somali-Americans Back in U.S. After Overseas Terror Mission

Thursday , March 19, 2009
By Mike Levine


Many of the Somali-American men who were recruited to join an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group overseas have returned to the United States, according to a source familiar with an FBI investigation into the matter — but the FBI still has not revealed publicly if it is pursuing arrests in the case.
"Some of the guys who were missing aren't missing anymore," the source said. "Some of them got blown up and some of them came back, and some of them are still there [in Somalia]."
For several months the FBI has been investigating at least 20 Somali-American men from the Minneapolis area who traveled to war-torn Somalia, where some of them trained and fought with an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group known as al-Shabaab, according to counterterrorism officials.
Asked to characterize how many of those men are now back on American soil, the source would only say that "several" have returned. Federal authorities believe the men went to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, which has been warring with the moderate Somali government since 2006.
Usama bin Laden weighed in Thursday on the battle. In an audiotape posted online, the Al Qaeda leader urged Somalis to fight against the Somali government, insisting, "The war which has been taking place on your soil these past years is a war between Islam and the international crusade."
At a Senate hearing in Washington last week, counterterrorism officials said there is no intelligence to indicate that Somali-Americans who traveled to Somalia are planning attacks inside the United States.
“We do not have a credible body of reporting right now to lead us to believe that these American recruits are being trained and instructed to come back to the United States for terrorist attacks,” said Philip Mudd, a top-ranking official with the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Yet, obviously, we remain concerned about that, and watchful for it.”
Minneapolis has become the hub — and the media focus — of the FBI's investigation. But the FBI is casting a wide and growing net across the country, even in places hundreds of miles away from Minneapolis.
Testimony from counterterrorism officials and others at the Senate hearing last week suggested that the FBI investigation is active in Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Boston; Seattle; and San Diego.
"The FBI will follow leads wherever they takes us," said Rich Kolko, the chief of the FBI's National Press Office.
In fact, the FBI Field Office in San Diego has already interviewed "dozens" of people from the Somali-American community there, according to a local attorney.
The lawyer, Mahir Sherif, said he knows many of those who were interviewed, and he said the FBI often asked the same questions: Do you know anyone who has left the United States for Somalia? What are your feelings about Somalia? What are your feelings about Barack Obama? Do you know anyone who has committed an act of terrorism?
Sherif also said he knows at least one Somali-American who has received a subpoena to appear before a San Diego grand jury in the next couple of weeks. Sherif wouldn't identify the person but described him as a naturalized U.S. citizen in his 30s. Sherif said the person "consulted" with him after receiving the subpoena. The person recently traveled to the Middle East, which may have raised a red flag with authorities, according to Sherif. He did not say where in the Middle East the person visited.
Last week, a Muslim leader in the Minneapolis area told FOX News that at least 10 people in the Somali community there had been subpoenaed to testify before a Minneapolis grand jury, and another 40 had been interviewed by the FBI.
In cases like this, the field office leading the investigation — with help from FBI headquarters in Washington — "outlines" an investigative plan that is then implemented by other field offices, according to Kevin Donovan, a former FBI Assistant Director with the New York Field office.
"The lead field office basically sends out assignments in field offices across the U.S. and even around the world," he said.
It's unclear exactly what the FBI or any grand jury in San Diego would be investigating. A former Justice Department official said an FBI or grand jury investigation could be looking into something as clear-cut as a group of men from San Diego who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia, or they could be investigating whether someone from the San Diego area helped finance the Minneapolis men's travel overseas.
Either way, the former official said, "there has to be some kind of link to the Southern District of California."
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials tell FOX News that federal authorities in Seattle have been keeping track of a group of men in Washington state with alleged ties to Somali-American terrorists.
Authorities in Seattle recently arrested a Muslim convert the FBI believes had been in contact with Ruben Shumpert, one of the first Americans to join Islamic militants in Somalia. Shumpert, also a convert to Islam, was killed in Somalia last year.
Two weeks ago federal authorities charged Jimmy Lee King with drug and weapons-related offenses stemming from an incident in late November, according to court documents. An FBI official said King had been on the FBI's radar for some time, first gaining the FBI's attention after "assocating" with Shumpert. It's unclear whether the FBI has interviewed King in its investigation of Somali-linked terrorism, but court documents filed two weeks ago by the Joint Terrorism Task Force say King talked with the FBI "on several previous occasions regarding matters unrelated to the [November incident]."
The FBI official said King is believed to be involved in gang activity in Seattle, but the FBI is still trying to determine exactly how strong of a connection — if any — he has to international terrorism.
Donovan, the former FBI official, said charging a suspect with "lesser charges" when that suspect may have information relevant to a bigger investigation is "prudent."
"Many times it would be absolutely critical using lesser charges ... to get deeper into an organization," he said.
Dan Springer contributed to this report from Seattle



“We do not have a credible body of reporting right now to lead us to believe that these American recruits are being trained and instructed to come back to the United States for terrorist attacks,” said Philip Mudd, a top-ranking official with the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Yet, obviously, we remain concerned about that, and watchful for it.”
23591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Belgium on: March 24, 2009, 04:44:26 PM
Politicians Fret as Muslim Population Swells in Europe

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

Politicians Fret as Muslim Population Swells in Europe Amid Little Integration
Tuesday , March 24, 2009

By Greg Burke
BRUSSELS, Belgium —

A clash of civilizations may be taking place on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's also happening a lot more quietly in European cities.  Old Europe's population is dwindling even as immigration and high birth rates among Muslim groups are swelling in cities all over the continent.  And in Belgium, it is no different.

Filip Dewinter, a leader of the far-right separatist party Vlaams Belang, predicts there will eventually be a kind of civil war when the longtime residents of Brussels — the nation's capital and administrative seat of the European Union — realize their city is about to be taken over by Muslim immigrants.

• Click here for video.

Although there are no official statistics on how many Muslims live in Brussels, it is believed they make up about 25 percent of the city’s 1 million urban residents. Dewinter, who opposes immigration and has called Islamophobia a "duty," claims three of the 19 sections of Brussels, each with its own mayor, now have Muslim majorities.

"In those neighborhoods it's not our government that's in power," he said, "but the Muslim authorities — the mosques, the imams — who are in charge."

FOX News visited one of those neighborhoods, called Molenbeek, which looks more like North Africa than the heart of Europe.

For some Belgians, that's not a problem. The mayor of Molenbeek, Socialist Philippe Moureaux, has worked hard to help Muslims try to integrate over the past decade and a half.  Moureaux believes multiculturalism is a good thing. He says even those who disagree with him should get used to life as it is in Brussels today: "Be realistic. They're here. They're relatively numerous and they're growing."

Many Moroccans have been in Belgium for decades and are now citizens, as are their children. The imam of one of the main mosques, which thousands of young Moroccans attend each Friday, stressed that Muslim immigrants have starting blending in around Brussels.

During FOX News' brief visit, there were no fiery demonstrations of the kind that have wracked the Netherlands, though the municipality is sometimes considered dangerous to traverse at night.

Yet Molenbeek remains disconcerting. Belgian police assigned three plainclothes officers to watch over a FOX News team shooting street scenes one morning in Molenbeek. When FOX News returned in the afternoon as more people were out and about, the police said it would be safer not to get out of the car. It wasn't even dark yet.

Part of that fear stems from particularly nasty street crime, something that can happen in bad neighborhoods in any big European — or American — city. But part of it is due to strong anti-Western sentiment among Belgium's Muslims, which suggests that true integration is still a long way off.

Mayor Moureaux blames the problems on a tiny number of very violent youths who are condemned by everyone, including the Muslim community.

But for Dewinter, integration simply isn't working. He claims the great majority of the Muslims don't want it to work. So instead of being a melting pot, Brussels has become a city that does everything possible to appease Islam, he claims.

"Halal food is served in the schools, not only for Muslim children, but for all the children," said Dewinter, adding that municipal pools in Brussels now have separate hours for men and women to swim.

The anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang, once considered a pariah party, now controls about 24 percent of the Belgian vote, a trend matched in other European countries with burgeoning Muslim populations.

Though the immigration debate has not yet reached the fever pitch it has in the U.S., a real test will come when a major European city has a Muslim majority. The first could be Marseilles, in France, or Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. But don't count out Brussels, the heart and capital of Europe.


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,510364,00.html
23592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Physics of a stick strike on: March 24, 2009, 04:06:49 PM
Just got this question from a TV producer.  Anyone have a good and/or clever answer?
==================

Me again, in regards to the Time Warp segment you all did on stick fighting!  The Discovery Channel is asking for a bit more information on the force of the blows a rattan stick can wield.  Something along the lines of how a stick wielded at this speed striking a man weighing XXX pounds would exert XX force.  I’m not sure how we can address this (seems like too many variables) but
do you have any suggestions?

=================
23593  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Seeing Eye Dog; current fighter's list on: March 24, 2009, 04:05:31 PM
This just in:

Woof Crafty,
I will be unable to attend the Gathering for April 2009.  I will be going to have eye surgery tommorrow to repair a stitch on the scleral buckle in my left eye.

"Seeing-Eye Dog" Richard Estepa

Pain is temporary, regret is forever...
==================================
Current fighter's list:

Lonely Dog

Cyborg Dog
Guide Dog
Pappy Dog
Red Dog

C-Kaju Dog (aka) "Doc"
C-Lefty Dog
C-Scotty Dog
C-Spider Dog
C-Tahiti Dog
C-Tennessee Dog

Dog Matt
Dog Randall
Dog Ryan
Dog Tom Stillman

Terry Crutcher
Will Dixon (Lone Wolf)
Dominic Ischer (Lonely Den Clan)
Mike Norrell (MikeGPK)
23594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: March 24, 2009, 03:47:49 PM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2009/03/18/

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2009/03/19/

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2009/03/23/
23595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brave Pak village on: March 24, 2009, 03:39:37 PM
Washington Post
March 22, 2009
Pg. 12

Pakistani Villagers Pay A Price For Defying Rebels

A Few Tribal Leaders Fight Religiously Cloaked Mayhem

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Foreign Service

BAZITKHEL, Pakistan -- This tiny village in northwestern Pakistan has paid a high price for its defiance.

The health clinic lies in ruins, blasted to rubble by a car bomb that exploded outside three weeks ago. The mayor's compound next door is full of jagged holes. Five residents are dead, including a shopkeeper's small son and daughter. More than 20 were injured, including a young man whose right hand was severed.

But while most inhabitants of this violence-plagued region near the Afghan border have been cowed by the growing tide of Islamist and criminal violence, those in a handful of communities like Bazitkhel -- where tribal bonds are especially strong -- are determined to arm themselves and fight back.

Any vehicle that approaches Bazitkhel on the winding road from Peshawar, the provincial capital about 20 miles away, is quickly surrounded by men of all ages, each carrying a rifle and many loaded with grenade vests, ammo belts or military weapons. None wears a uniform or a badge.

"I am an educated and peaceful man. I would rather be carrying a book than a gun," said Hizar Amin Shah, 22, leaning on a rocket launcher. Shah said he spent the past decade studying and working in the capital, Islamabad, but has answered the call to return and defend his home. "These terrorists want to destroy the peace of Pakistan. It is up to us to finish them," he said.

The government of Pakistan, facing pressure from the West and increasing concern among its own citizens, has been struggling for months to contain an epidemic of religiously cloaked mayhem that is spreading from tribal havens along the Afghan border into the surrounding belt of "settled" areas that are theoretically protected by the state.

Authorities have tried various methods, first using the army to attempt to quash the rebels, and more recently negotiating truces with individual militia groups. Thousands of conflict-zone inhabitants, terrified by government bombing and insurgent brutality, have fled their homes. Few local officials dare visit their constituencies without military escorts.

A few tribal leaders, however, have refused to budge and are urging others to do the same. One of the first was Anwar Kamal Marwat, a former member of Parliament, who decided to organize a self-defense force in 2007 after Taliban militias began kidnapping and threatening people in his native Lakki Marwat district, demanding their support for a holy war.

"We are Muslims, and we know what holy war is. What they were doing was committing crimes," Marwat, 60, said last week in Peshawar. "They kept threatening us, but our tribe is very united and every village went on alert. We wanted to stop them before the cancer spread. It took many months, but now all their camps are gone, and they have not been back."

Marwat's success has been both an inspiration to other vulnerable communities and an embarrassment to the government, whose police are supposed to keep order and whose army is supposed to fight extremists.

One problem, according to experts and tribal leaders, is the divided loyalties and limited capacity of the security forces. Police are easily corrupted, tribal constabularies are ill-equipped and soldiers are often reluctant to shoot fellow Muslims. It is also widely believed here, though the government denies it, that Pakistani intelligence agencies covertly aid the insurgents in order to create trouble for next-door Afghanistan.

A second problem is that malefactors of all types benefit from a peculiar administrative arrangement, instituted by British colonial rulers, in which Pakistan's seven tribal zones are overseen by a federal agency and are off-limits to provincial or state security forces. As a result, they have become sanctuaries for both Islamist militias and criminal mafias, a distinction that local leaders said is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

"Some of the tribal agencies are totally controlled by the militants, and we are surrounded on three sides," said Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official in the party that rules North-West Frontier Province. Khattak has been a key promoter of the recent peace agreement with Taliban commanders in the Swat Valley, a tourist region in the province just outside the tribal belt.

The agreement has been criticized as creating a launching pad for a fundamentalist sweep through Pakistan. Last week, Islamic law courts began operating in Swat under the agreement, but Taliban commanders have not yet laid down their weapons. Still, Khattak said he believes the deal will hold.

"We have morally disarmed the militants in Swat. Now we have to create the conditions for physically disarming them," he said. "Swat is in a transition stage, and there is some confusion. The Taliban have no knowledge of law, and a few of them are addicted to violence, but 90 percent are behaving well."

But even in Peshawar, a city of several million, the chilling effects of Talibanization are everywhere. Half the movie theaters have shut down for lack of attendance at Bollywood action films deemed un-Islamic. Wedding parties have stopped hiring musicians, and only one craftsman who carves traditional instruments has remained in Dabgari Garden, a famous alley that once hummed with nightlife.

Gulzar Alam, an ethnic Pashto singer, has not performed at a single event since two gunmen ambushed him in a cemetery several months ago. As a further precaution, he has grown a beard and carries prayer beads.

"There is no more music in this city, not even in the public buses," Alam said, adding that most of his fellow entertainers have moved away or joined religious minstrel groups. The new provincial government hoped to spark a cultural revival, he added, "but now they've forgotten about it. The militancy problem has taken over everything."

In rural districts closer to the tribal zones, people are even more vulnerable to the predations of outlaw militias that roam freely just a few miles away. Bazitkhel, for example, is very near the Khyber Agency, a relatively prosperous tribal area that bustles with cross-border commerce but is also the stronghold of Mangal Bagh, a former bus driver who heads an Islamist militia-turned-criminal gang.

Leaders in Bazitkhel said most of their troubles originated with Bagh's followers, whom they allege enjoy the tacit acceptance of federal tribal officers. They said they had given authorities specific evidence about numerous attacks and their perpetrators, including cellphone records linking them to gang leaders in Khyber, but that nothing had come of it.

The village council head, Fahim ur Rahman, is now guarded around the clock by a small army of tribal members. He recounted half a dozen recent attacks and tribal retaliations, including a decisive battle last month in which hundreds of villagers encircled a group of militiamen in a three-hour gunfight, killing nine. Two weeks later came a message of gruesome revenge.

A pickup pulled into the village square in mid-afternoon and the driver walked into a shop, asking for cigarettes. The shopkeeper's children were outside munching on candy when the truck exploded, spraying deadly shrapnel in all directions. Two children died on the spot, and a third was rushed to a hospital in Peshawar with her stomach in shreds.

"These people call themselves Taliban, but they are nothing but criminals," Rahman said over rice and meat in his shrapnel-pocked compound. "We ask the security forces to crush them, but the police are afraid to take action, and other authorities protect them. If our tribe were not so united, we would have no hope of defending ourselves. We do not have permission to do this, but we have no choice."
23596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Geithner's new plan on: March 24, 2009, 07:57:38 AM
The best news about the new Treasury bad bank asset purchase plan is that Secretary Timothy Geithner has finally settled on a strategy. The uncertainty was getting almost as toxic as those securities. Now all Mr. Geithner has to do is find private investors willing to "partner" with the feds (Congress!) to bid for those rotten assets, coax the banks to sell them at a loss, and hope that the economy doesn't keep falling lest taxpayers lose big on their new loan guarantees.

 
APOther than that, General, how was the siege of Moscow?

Markets nonetheless roared their approval yesterday, though also for the increase in existing home sales and for the Obama Administration's (belated) pushback against Congress's rage against bankers and private contracts. In simplest terms, Treasury is using loan guarantees and $100 billion in remaining TARP money to create a more liquid market for dodgy financial assets. These include those infamous mortgage securities, as well as various loans that may be nonperforming. The idea is to create new buyers for those assets, perhaps leading to higher prices than now exist in a illiquid market, and thus help banks gradually clean up their balance sheets.

This isn't the worst idea the federal government has ever had, and if it works it will help banks take their losses and burn down debt. A Resolution Trust Corp. would have been a simpler and more politically transparent way to do this, especially six months or a year ago. But this Administration and the entire bailout have already lost too much standing with the public to pull that off now. So in essence this is an attempt at a slow-motion bank workout without a fight over a new resolution agency or having to ask Congress for more money.

On the other hand, none of this will be easy to execute. Start with the problem of attracting private investors, who will have to accept Uncle Sam as a 50-50 business partner. Mr. Geithner says investors won't be subject to the same compensation limits as TARP recipients, but what happens if their asset purchases pay off in big profits? Will Congress settle for only half the upside -- especially as it faces epic deficits in the years ahead? Most likely, cries will go up that the buyers were allowed to underpay for the assets and thus make a killing.

Especially after last week, every investor has to ask whether the potential payoff is worth the risk of appearing in the future before a Congressional committee, saying "I do solemnly swear . . ." Maybe Treasury should also sell investors some Nancy Pelosi-political risk insurance.

Then there is the question of whether the banks will sell enough of those assets to make a difference. Mr. Geithner's bet is that the banks will judge that they are better off disposing of their bad assets, even if it means taking losses. With a cleaner balance sheet, they would then have an easier time raising more private capital and repaying their TARP money to Treasury more quickly. The stronger banks may well find this attractive, since they'd emerge faster from asset purgatory and get a competitive jump on the laggards.

The harder call is the weaker banks, such as Citigroup, which fear that taking big losses will weaken them further. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit has publicly said that he'd be violating his fiduciary duty to shareholders to take such losses when he thinks the market value of its assets is artificially low. Citi and Bank of America already have federal guarantees against tens of billions in future losses, so they have even less incentive than most to sell and write them down. Much will depend on how much Treasury can raise asset prices with this new liquidity play. Some banks -- some of them big -- will undoubtedly fail anyway.

Of course the largest risk, as always, is to the taxpayers. Don't be fooled because Treasury isn't going to Capitol Hill for more cash. The Obama Administration is instead leveraging the balance sheets of the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which will lend to the new public-private entities to buy the toxic assets.

In the case of the FDIC, it will lend at a debt-to-equity ratio of 6-to-l to the buyers. This means, according to the Treasury example, that the FDIC would guarantee 72 cents in funding for an asset purchased for 84 cents on the dollar. The feds and private investors would each put up six cents in capital. If the asset rises in value over time, the taxpayer and investors share the upside. If it falls further, then the taxpayers would absorb by far the biggest chunk of the losses. Better hope the recovery really is, as the White House says, just around the corner.

Whatever the Geithner plan's pitfalls, we sincerely hope this works. The feds have so thoroughly botched the TARP execution and various bailouts that Treasury has few options left. No accounting change can make bank losses vanish, or inspire investors and short sellers to value bank assets at more than their market price. Yes, banks need to earn their way out of trouble, and many are doing that, but they also need to burn losses. Might as well get on with it.
23597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Cause and necessity of taking up arms on: March 24, 2009, 06:44:40 AM
"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."

--Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms, 6 July 1775
23598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Motives behind Russia's security proposal on: March 24, 2009, 05:34:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Motives Behind Russia's Security Proposal
March 23, 2009

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on Sunday blasted Russia’s proposal for a new security agreement with Europe and said the Americans should not force Poland into “regretting its trust in them.” Speaking at the 2009 Brussels Security Forum, Sikorski was reacting to a proposal that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented March 21, intended to create a new treaty to combat terrorism. According to Lavrov, the agreement would “respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of countries, inadmissibility of the use of force, guarantees for the provision of equal security, basic parameters of control over armaments and reasonable sufficiency in the development of military capability.” The initiative is meant to prove that no outside state and no international organization has the exclusive right to security in Europe.

Russia’s audience for the proposal was the United States, NATO and the European Union. While the treaty is said to be an anti-terrorism agreement, the Poles — and many others — see the true motives behind Lavrov’s proposal. The measure looks more like an attempt to re-create circumstances in which the United States is not invited to interfere in Russo-European affairs. It also could be intended to create a situation in which Europe is not allowed to cross into the former Soviet sphere dominated by Russia, since Lavrov’s proposal came just days after the European Union decided to launch partnership agreements with many countries in that sphere.

EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana — who happens to be a former NATO secretary-general — immediately shot down Lavrov’s proposal, adding that it is “a very intelligent set-up” for Europe to have the United States as the key guarantor of its security.

But it seems not everyone in Europe is as confident in the U.S.-European relationship as Solana.

The initiative Lavrov spoke of is actually based on a new treaty that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev placed before a select group of his European counterparts in June 2008. During the summer, Medvedev and others were very tight-lipped on what exactly this security agreement entailed and whether it actually could serve as a counter to U.S. and NATO influence in Europe. But at the time, STRATFOR sources said German leaders were considering Medvedev’s proposals. The point of that security agreement was to begin fracturing the U.S. hold over Europe and NATO by targeting individual states and pulling them out of Washington’s orbit.

Since Medvedev’s first push for an exclusive security agreement with certain European states, much has happened: the Russo-Georgian war, another natural gas shut-off from Russia to Ukraine (affecting Europe) and a possible move forward in U.S.-Russian negotiations. The time is ripe for Moscow to again try to create a more permanent structure involving Russia and Europe — especially one that counters the United States. Country by country, Moscow is attacking the Europeans’ confidence in Washington. In Moscow’s view, the Russians have the upper hand now: In the war with Georgia, they proved they are willing to invade a U.S. ally; with the natural gas cutoff, they issued a reminder that Europeans still depend on Russian natural gas; and the ongoing U.S.-Russian negotiations have many U.S. allies concerned about what Washington will barter away.

Solana has discounted the idea that any European country will be interested in Russia’s new security deal. However, it seems that some countries might not be quick to pass it up, while others fear the United States cannot follow through on its security guarantees.
23599  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 24, 2009, 05:31:02 AM
Uhhh , , , , ummmm, , , ,

1) rhomboid
2) lats
3) traps
, , , ummm  embarassed cheesy
23600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friedman: US-Iran negotiations on: March 23, 2009, 04:15:05 PM
March 23, 2009




By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
U.S.-Iran Negotiations
The Iranian Nuclear Game
Iraq, Iran and the Shia

U.S. President Barack Obama released a video offering Iran congratulations on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday. Israeli President Shimon Peres also offered his best wishes, referring to “the noble Iranian people.” The joint initiative was received coldly in Tehran, however. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the video did not show that the United States had shifted its hostile attitude toward Iran.

The video is obviously part of Obama’s broader strategy of demonstrating that his administration has shifted U.S. policy, at least to the extent that it is prepared to open discussions with other regimes (with Iran being the hardest and most controversial case). The U.S. strategy is fairly straightforward: Obama is trying to create a new global perception of the United States. Global opinion was that former U.S. President George W. Bush was unwilling to engage with, and listen to, allies or enemies. Obama’s view is that that perception in itself harmed U.S. foreign policy by increasing suspicion of the United States. For Obama, offering New Year’s greetings to Iran is therefore part of a strategy to change the tone of all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

Getting Peres to offer parallel greetings was undoubtedly intended to demonstrate to the Iranians that the Israelis would not block U.S. initiatives toward Iran. The Israelis probably were willing to go along with the greetings because they don’t expect them to go very far. They also want to show that they were not responsible for their failure, something critical in their relations with the Obama administration.

The Iranian response is also understandable. The United States has made a series of specific demands on Iran, and has worked to impose economic sanctions on Iran when Tehran has not complied. But Iran also has some fairly specific demands of the United States. It might be useful, therefore, to look at the Iranian view of the United States and the world through its eyes.

From the Iranian point of view, the United States has made two fundamental demands of Iran. The first is that Iran halt its military nuclear program. The second, a much broader demand, is that Iran stop engaging in what the United States calls terrorism. This ranges from support for Hezbollah to support for Shiite factions in Iraq. In return, the United States is prepared to call for a suspension of sanctions against Iran.

For Tehran, however, the suspension of sanctions is much too small a price to pay for major strategic concessions. First, the sanctions don’t work very well. Sanctions only work when most powers are prepared to comply with them. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are prepared to systematically comply with sanctions, so there is little that Iran can afford that it can’t get. Iran’s problem is that it cannot afford much. Its economy is in shambles due more to internal problems than to sanctions. Therefore, in the Iranian point of view, the United States is asking for strategic concessions, yet offering very little in return.

The Nuclear Question
Meanwhile, merely working on a nuclear device — regardless of how close or far Iran really is from having one — provides Iran with a dramatically important strategic lever. The Iranians learned from the North Korean experience that the United States has a nuclear fetish. Having a nuclear program alone was more important to Pyongyang than actually having nuclear weapons. U.S. fears that North Korea might someday have a nuclear device resulted in significant concessions from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The danger of having such a program is that the United States — or some other country — might attack and destroy the associated facilities. Therefore, the North Koreans created a high level of uncertainty as to just how far along they were on the road to having a nuclear device and as to how urgent the situation was, raising and lowering alarms like a conductor in a symphony. The Iranians are following the same strategy. They are constantly shifting from a conciliatory tone to an aggressive one, keeping the United States and Israel under perpetual psychological pressure. The Iranians are trying to avoid an attack by keeping the intelligence ambiguous. Tehran’s ideal strategy is maintaining maximum ambiguity and anxiety in the West while minimizing the need to strike immediately. Actually obtaining a bomb would increase the danger of an attack in the period between a successful test and the deployment of a deliverable device.

What the Iranians get out of this is exactly what the North Koreans got: disproportionate international attention and a lever on other topics, along with something that could be sacrificed in negotiations. They also have a chance of actually developing a deliverable device in the confusion surrounding its progress. If so, Iran would become invasion- and even harassment-proof thanks to its apparent instability and ideology. From Tehran’s perspective, abandoning its nuclear program without substantial concessions, none of which have materialized as yet, would be irrational. And the Iranians expect a large payoff from all this.

Radical Islamists, Iraq and Afghanistan
This brings us to the Hezbollah/Iraq question, which in fact represents two very different issues. Iraq constitutes the greatest potential strategic threat to Iran. This is as ancient as Babylon and Persia, as modern as the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Iran wants guarantees that Iraq will never threaten it, and that U.S. forces in Iraq will never pose a threat to Iran. Tehran does not want promises alone; it wants a recognized degree of control over the Iraqi government, or at least negative control that would allow it to stop Baghdad from doing things Iran doesn’t want. To achieve this, Iran systematically has built its influence among factions in Iraq, permitting it to block Iraqi policies that Iran regards as dangerous.

The American demand that Iran stop meddling in Iraqi policies strikes the Iranians as if the United States is planning to use the new Baghdad regime to restore the regional balance of power. In fact, that is very much on Washington’s mind. This is completely unacceptable to Iran, although it might benefit the United States and the region. From the Iranian point of view, a fully neutral Iraq — with its neutrality guaranteed by Iranian influence — is the only acceptable outcome. The Iranians regard the American demand that Iran not meddle in Iraq as directly threatening Iranian national security.

There is then the issue of Iranian support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamist groups. Between 1979 and 2001, Iran represented the background of the Islamic challenge to the West: The Shia represented radical Islam. When al Qaeda struck, Iran and the Shia lost this place of honor. Now, al Qaeda has faded and Iran wants to reclaim its place. It can do that by supporting Hezbollah, a radical Shiite group that directly challenges Israel, as well as Hamas — a radical Sunni group — thus showing that Iran speaks for all of Islam, a powerful position in an arena that matters a great deal to Iran and the region. Iran’s support for these groups helps it achieve a very important goal at little risk. Meanwhile, the U.S. demand that Iran end this support is not matched by any meaningful counteroffer or by a significant threat.

Moreover, Tehran dislikes the Obama-Petraeus strategy in Afghanistan. That strategy involves talking with the Taliban, a group that Iran has been hostile toward historically. The chance that the United States might install a Taliban-linked government in Afghanistan represents a threat to Iran second only to the threat posed to it by Iraq.

The Iranians see themselves as having been quite helpful to the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as they helped Washington topple both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. In 2001, they offered to let U.S. aircraft land in Iran, and assured Washington of the cooperation of pro-Iranian factions in Afghanistan. In Iraq, they provided intelligence and helped keep the Shiite population relatively passive after the invasion in 2003. But Iranians see Washington as having betrayed implicit understandings that in return for these services, the Iranians would enjoy a degree of influence in both countries. And the U.S. opening to the Taliban is the last straw.

Obama’s Greetings in Context
Iran views Obama’s New Year greetings within this context. To them, Obama has not addressed the core issues between the two countries. In fact, apart from videos, Obama’s position on Iran does not appear different from the Bush position. The Iranian leadership does not see why it should respond more favorably to the Obama administration than it did to the Bush administration. Tehran wants to be very sure that Obama understands that the willingness alone to talk is insufficient; some indications of what is to be discussed and what might be offered are necessary.

Many in the U.S. administration believe that the weak Iranian economy might shape the upcoming Iranian presidential election. Undoubtedly, the U.S. greetings were timed to influence the election. Washington has tried to influence internal Iranian politics for decades, constantly searching for reformist elements. The U.S. hope is that someone might be elected in Iran who is so obsessed with the economy that he would trade away strategic and geopolitical interests in return for some sort of economic aid. There are undoubtedly candidates who would be interested in economic aid, but none who are prepared to trade away strategic interests. Nor could they even if they wanted to. The Iran-Iraq war is burned into the popular Iranian consciousness; any candidate who appeared willing to see a strong Iraq would lose the election. American analysts are constantly confusing an Iranian interest in economic aid with a willingness to abandon core interests. But this hasn’t happened, and isn’t happening now.

This is not to say that the Iranians won’t bargain. Beneath the rhetoric, they are practical to the extreme. Indeed, the rhetoric is part of the bargaining. What is not clear is whether Obama is prepared to bargain. What will he give for the things he wants? Economic aid is not enough for Iran, and in any event, the idea of U.S. economic aid for Iran during a time of recession is a non-starter. Is Obama prepared to offer Iran a dominant voice in Iraq and Afghanistan? How insistent is Obama on the Hezbollah and Hamas issue? What will he give if Iran shuts down its nuclear program? It is not clear that Obama has answers to these questions.

Rebuilding the U.S. public image is a reasonable goal for the first 100 days of a presidency. But soon it will be summer, and the openings Obama has made will have to be walked through, with tough bargaining. In the case of Iran — one of the toughest cases of all — it is hard to see how Washington can give Tehran the things it wants because that would make Iran a major regional power. And it is hard to see how Iran could give away the things the Americans are demanding.

Obama indicated that it would take time for his message to generate a positive response from the Iranians. It is more likely that unless the message starts to take on more substance that pleases the Iranians, the response will remain unchanged. The problem wasn’t Bush or Clinton or Reagan, the problem was the reality of Iran and the United States. Only if a third power frightened the Iranians sufficiently — a third power that also threatened the United States — would U.S.-Iranian interests be brought together. But Russia, at least for now, is working very hard to be friendly with Iran.
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