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23651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Satellite launch implications on: February 05, 2009, 11:10:53 AM
Second post

Summary
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 3 declared a nighttime indigenous satellite launch a success. The technology required to pull off such a launch is, by and large, also applicable to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though responses from foreign governments have been slow to come in, such a success — if genuine — will give Tehran new leverage with the United States and Europe.


Iran claims to have inserted a small telecommunications satellite into orbit during a nighttime launch broadcast on Iranian state television Feb. 3, amid the 10-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the country on television, calling the launch a success.

If the claims are true, the event would mark the first indigenously designed and built satellite Iran has put into orbit on its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite launch vehicle (SLV), which is also indigenously designed and built. This is a feat Iran apparently failed to accomplish last August (and something North Korea just barely failed to do in 1998 with its first Taepodong SLV). While this satellite insertion is a significant development in and of itself for the Iranian missile program, it has much more far-reaching implications for Iran’s relations with other powers.

Stratfor argued two years ago that such a launch was quite feasible based on Iranian cooperation with North Korea and Pakistan in missile development. The Safir Omid has the same distinctive narrow, elongated shape as North Korea’s Taepodong series. Indeed, North Korea is currently moving its own latest Taepodong SLV to a new launch facility on the country’s northwest coast for an anticipated launch later this spring.

Both the Taepodong and the Safir Omid rely heavily on the Russian Scud design, which is itself based heavily on the Nazi V-2 from World War II and has likely been pushed beyond its inherent design limitations in many ways. A demonstration of successful staging and satellite insertion, however, is also a demonstration of rudimentary intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. The distinction between an SLV and an ICBM is largely one of guidance and payload. (This is not to say, however, that an ICBM version of the Safir Omid would necessarily have anywhere near the range to reach the continental United States on a conventional ballistic trajectory, that it has any meaningful degree of accuracy, or that Iran is anywhere near having a nuclear device that could be mounted on it.)

For the United States, the launch certainly gives new impetus to the argument in favor of completing a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. While the new administration of President Barack Obama has thus far kept its position on these installations deliberately ambiguous, it will be the White House’s first major policy choice on BMD. And Iran might have just made it more difficult (though hardly impossible) to delay the building of these installations, much less to cancel them outright.

The Iranian launch also comes close on the heels of a Feb. 2 announcement by NATO that it would permit member states to make independent, bilateral arrangements with Tehran for the transit of supplies to NATO military forces in Afghanistan. The relationship between the West and Iran is complex, especially as most or all of Europe is likely within range of an Iranian ICBM version of the Safir Omid. The launch will not necessarily derail such transit talks, but Iran’s relationships with even the more amenable European powers still face significant hurdles. But as North Korea has so aptly demonstrated, such launches — in addition to serving as nationalistic fodder for domestic audiences — can have very real utility in international negotiations.
23652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Treasury Dept puts Kurd Party on Terrorist list on: February 05, 2009, 11:05:31 AM
The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.
23653  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Venezolano on: February 05, 2009, 09:07:47 AM
!Adelante caballero!
23654  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pos. Drug tests in Bonds case on: February 05, 2009, 08:52:52 AM
Positive Drug Tests in Bonds Case
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: February 4, 2009

The government’s perjury case against Barry Bonds gained vivid detail on Wednesday when more than 200 pages of evidence were unsealed. The pages included documents tying Bonds to four positive tests for steroids, calendars that prosecutors described as doping schedules, and a transcript of a recorded conversation in which Bonds’s former trainer is quoted as saying that he injected Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs.

Three urine samples that were sent for testing in 2000 and 2001 by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative showed the presence of anabolic steroids, according to the documents. A fourth test from a 2003 sample collected by Major League Baseball showed the presence of the designer steroid THG, the fertility drug clomid and a form of testosterone not naturally produced by the body.

When tested under Major League Baseball’s program, that sample came back negative for performance-enhancing drugs. But after the sample was seized in a 2004 raid by federal agents, it was retested by the U.C.L.A. Olympic Analytical Laboratory, with a different and, for Bonds, potentially troublesome result.

Not all of the information provided in the unsealed documents is new. But the documents provide a more complete portrait of the evidence that federal prosecutors have gathered on Bonds since the investigation of Balco began in 2002. Bonds is scheduled to go on trial March 2 in San Francisco on charges that he committed perjury in 2003 when he told the grand jury investigating Balco that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds’s lawyers filed a motion two weeks ago to have much of the evidence in the case excluded, arguing that it could not be authenticated. As part of that motion, the defense lawyers filed the evidence in dispute under seal, not wishing for it to be revealed. But United States District Judge Susan Illston ordered that it be made public and has scheduled a hearing for Thursday about its admissibility.

“While it may seem damning now, the judge may exclude a lot of the evidence and it may never make it before the jury,” said Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, in assessing the new information about the case. “But with all the attention being given to the case, the judge is going to have to be extra careful that the jury she seats has not been prejudiced by this information.”

Among the most intriguing sections in the unsealed documents is a description of what authorities said was a tape-recorded conversation, made in 2003, between Bonds’s former business manager, Steve Hoskins, and Bonds’s longtime trainer, Greg Anderson. Anderson spent more than a year in prison on contempt-of-court charges for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds.

According to a summary of the tape and a partial transcript, Anderson told Hoskins that he had injected Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs and that they were not detectable under baseball’s drug-testing program at the time. Anderson also told Hoskins that he had advance notice of when the drug tests would be conducted.

“I’ll know like probably a week in advance, or two weeks in advance,” Anderson is quoted as telling Hoskins in the transcript. According to the documents, Hoskins was recording the conversation, which took place in the Giants’ clubhouse, because Bonds’s father, Bobby, did not believe his son was using steroids.

Hoskins and Bonds were childhood friends who became particularly close after Bonds returned to San Francisco to play for the Giants in 1993. The two had a falling out in 2003 and Hoskins later cooperated with federal authorities, telling them that Bonds flew into “roid rages.” In the partial transcript, Hoskins is quoted as asking Anderson if the drugs being given to Bonds were the same “that Marion Jones and them were using.”

“Yeah, same stuff, the same stuff that worked at the Olympics,” Anderson is quoted as saying.

And, Anderson added for emphasis, Olympians were tested every week. “So that’s why I know it works,” Anderson is quoted as saying. (Jones, an Olympic gold-medal winner, pleaded guilty in 2007 to making false statements about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and received a six-month prison sentence.)

Although the results of the three urine samples that Balco tested in 2000 and 2001 do not have Bonds’s name on them, prosecutors say they can be connected to handwritten notes seized at Balco and Anderson’s home in 2003. Those notes display the names of Bonds and other individuals and numbers that, prosecutors say, correlate to samples that Balco sent for drug testing. Prosecutors contend that the three tests show Bonds tested positive for two steroids — methenolone and nandrolone — in November 2000 and February 2001.

But in their 28-page motion to exclude evidence, Bonds’s lawyers said: “It appears that as to every proffered test result, the government can attempt to link Mr. Bonds to the sample in question only through purported hearsay statement of Anderson.”
===========

In all, five pages of handwritten notes are attributed to Anderson, and in disputing them, the defense states: “The notes are barely comprehensible. Their author(s) are unknown as are the time and purpose of their preparation.”

The defense lawyers said the notes were indicative “of the government’s zeal to convict Mr. Bonds by any means at all.” They also said the doping calendars, which the prosecutors say Anderson created so he could monitor Bonds’s use of drugs, should not be admissible, either.

The fourth positive steroid test cited in the documents does not involve Anderson or his notes. Instead, it stems from the anonymous drug tests that were conducted by Major League Baseball in 2003, the first year of steroid testing on the major league level. There were no penalties for positive results, and not even the players were supposed to know how their tests came out.

Bonds’s urine sample did not produce a positive test under baseball’s guidelines. But in a raid in 2004, authorities seized the samples and test results of Bonds and the nine other players who had testified before the Balco grand jury. Two years later, the U.C.L.A. laboratory that retested Bonds’s sample concluded that it contained the designer steroid THG, known as “the clear”; clomid, an anti-estrogen drug used to stimulate natural testosterone levels; and the presence of testosterone not naturally made by the body.

Baseball did not test for THG in 2003 and did not begin testing for clomid until the 2007 season. Why Bonds did not test positive for testosterone in 2003 is not clear.

When Bonds testified before the Balco grand jury in 2003, he said that he had used the “clear” and the “cream,” a lotion with epitestosterone and testosterone, but did not believe they were performance-enhancing drugs. He said he believed the “clear” was flaxseed oil and that the “cream” was a balm for arthritis. He said he used the “cream” sparingly.

The New York Times reported last week that federal authorities had detected a steroid other than the “clear” and the “cream” in a urine sample from Bonds. The documents unsealed Wednesday said that testosterone had been detected in Bonds’s 2003 sample, but did not say whether the source was the “cream” or another anabolic steroid.

“You cannot tell from a urine analysis whether a person has used the cream or has been using other sources of testosterone, like gels, patches or injectables,” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, an antidoping expert and member of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The documents also included a 2006 letter from Commissioner Bud Selig to Bonds notifying him of a first-time positive test for amphetamines, which does not result in a suspension. The test result does not appear to be directly related to the perjury case.

23655  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYT: Science found wanting in crime labs on: February 05, 2009, 08:39:06 AM
Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs
By SOLOMON MOORE
Published: February 4, 2009
Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s pre-eminent scientific research group.


Robert L. Stinson, convicted of murder in 1984, was freed from a Wisconsin prison last month after tests found that bite-mark and DNA analysis did not match evidence from the crime scene.

 

The report by the National Academy of Sciences is to be released this month. People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.

The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court. It concludes that Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field, which has been dominated by law enforcement agencies, say forensic professionals, scholars and scientists who have seen review copies of the study. Early reviewers said the report was still subject to change.

The result of a two-year review, the report follows a series of widely publicized crime laboratory failures, including the case of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer from Portland, Ore., and Muslim convert who was wrongly arrested in the 2004 terrorist train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded 2,000.

American examiners matched Mr. Mayfield’s fingerprint to those found at the scene, although Spanish authorities eventually convinced the Federal Bureau of Investigation that its fingerprint identification methods were faulty. Mr. Mayfield was released, and the federal government settled with him for $2 million.

In 2005, Congress asked the National Academy to assess the state of the forensic techniques used in court proceedings. The report’s findings are not binding, but they are expected to be highly influential.

“This is not a judicial ruling; it is not a law,” said Michael J. Saks, a psychology and law professor at Arizona State University who presented fundamental weaknesses in forensic evidence to the academy. “But it will be used by others who will make law or will argue cases.”

Legal experts expect that the report will give ammunition to defense lawyers seeking to discredit forensic procedures and expert witnesses in court. Lawyers could also use the findings in their attempts to overturn convictions based on spurious evidence. Judges are likely to use the findings to raise the bar for admissibility of certain types of forensic evidence and to rein in exaggerated expert testimony.

The report may also drive federal legislation if Congress adopts its recommendations. Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, who has pushed for forensic reform, said, “My hope is that this report will provide an objective and unbiased perspective of the critical needs of our crime labs.”

Forensics, which developed within law enforcement institutions — and have been mythologized on television shows from “Quincy, M.E.” to “CSI: Miami” — suffers from a lack of independence, the report found.

The report’s most controversial recommendation is the establishment of a federal agency to finance research and training and promote universal standards in forensic science, a discipline that spans anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and law. The report also calls for tougher regulation of crime laboratories.

In an effort to mitigate law enforcement opposition to the report, which has already delayed its publication, the draft focuses on scientific shortcomings and policy changes that could improve forensics. It is largely silent on strictly legal issues to avoid overstepping its bounds.

Perhaps the most powerful example of the National Academy’s prior influence on forensic science was a 2004 report discrediting the F.B.I. technique of matching the chemical signatures of lead in bullets at a crime scene to similar bullets possessed by a suspect. As a result, the agency had to notify hundreds of people who potentially had been wrongfully convicted.

In its current draft report, the National Academy wrote that the field suffered from a reliance on outmoded and untested theories by analysts who often have no background in science, statistics or other empirical disciplines.

Although it is not subject to significant criticism in the report, the advent of DNA profiling clearly set the agenda. DNA evidence is presented in less than 10 percent of all violent crimes but has revolutionized the entire science of forensics. While DNA testing has helped to free more than 200 wrongfully convicted people, “DNA was a shock to police culture and created an alternative scientific model, which promoted standardization, transparency and a higher level of precision,” said Paul Giannelli, a forensic science expert at Case Western Reserve University School of Law who presented his research to the National Academy. Enforcement officials, Mr. Giannelli said, “chose to say they never make mistakes, but they have little scientific support, and this report could blow them out of the water.”

============



Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs


Published: February 4, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)



Peter J. Neufeld, a co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that uses DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, presented to the academy a study of trial transcripts of 137 convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence and found that 60 percent included false or misleading statements regarding blood, hair, bite mark, shoe print, soil, fiber and fingerprint analyses.


The courts have long struggled with the proper role of scientific evidence. In a 1993 landmark decision, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the Supreme Court held that scientific testimony had to meet an objective standard. Federal courts have occasionally excluded evidence like handwriting and hair analysis.

Donald Kennedy, a Stanford scientist who helped select the report’s authors, said federal law enforcement agencies resented “intervention” of mainstream science — especially the National Academy — in the courts.

He said the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Department, tried to derail the forensic study by refusing to finance it and demanding to review the findings before publication. A bipartisan vote in Congress in 2005 broke the impasse with a $1.5 million appropriation.

Mr. Shelby also accused the National Institute of Justice of trying to infiltrate the forensic study panel with lobbyists for private DNA analysis companies, who were seeking to limit the research to DNA studies.

The National Institute of Justice said it would not comment until the report was released. But a preview of potential turf wars played out in the presentations to the National Academy in December 2007. A forensic expert from the Secret Service blasted the F.B.I. for developing questionable techniques “on an ad-hoc basis, without proper research.”

He said the Secret Service wanted the National Academy “to send a message to the entire forensic science community that this type of method development is not acceptable practice.”

Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that the report would be a force of change in the forensics field.

One person who has reviewed the draft and who asked not to be identified because of promises to keep the contents confidential said: “I’m sure that every defense attorney in the country is waiting for this report to come out. There are going to be challenges to fingerprints and firearms evidence and the general lack of empirical grounding. It’s going to be big.”
23656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: on: February 05, 2009, 07:58:14 AM
"Wish not so much to live long as to live well."

--Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1746
23657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq's elections on: February 04, 2009, 11:50:09 PM
Iraq's Remarkable Election
The government ensured integrity and security. Iran and sectarianism were the big losers.
 
By KIMBERLY KAGAN and FREDERICK W. KAGAN
When the surge in Iraq began in January 2007, no one imagined that two years later Iraq would plan and conduct provincial elections with limited Coalition assistance and presence, that those elections would proceed smoothly and peacefully, and that the United Nations special envoy would be able to certify its legitimacy immediately. Nor could anyone have dreamt that the news story would be not the smoothness and peacefulness of the polling, but its results and the prospects they offer for political progress in Iraq.

The security was an impressive demonstration of the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its legitimacy with Iraqis. Iraqi National Police, local police, and Iraqi Army troops were entirely responsible for the physical security of all polling places on election day. They rehearsed procedures for requesting and receiving quick-reaction forces drawn from Coalition and other Iraqi troops, but did not need to implement these emergency plans.


There had been reason to fear suicide bombers at polling sites, but none struck. But Iraqis were confident enough to bring their children to polling places. This was the first time that U.S. forces were not increased prior to an Iraqi election.

The Iraqi High Electoral Commission played a role in conducting legitimate elections. It standardized procedures for ISF securing the polls. Working in conjunction with the U.N. Assistance Mission Iraq, the commission guided the registration of voters and candidates, and oversaw polling procedures, absentee balloting, and the counting of ballots.

Iraqi voters chose nationalist, secularist parties over religious parties by a wide margin. In the mostly Shiite south, candidates associated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party appear to have gained significantly. This outcome is noteworthy because Dawa came to power in the 2005 elections with virtually no grass-roots support or organization. Few would have predicted Mr. Maliki's electoral success even a year ago.

Moqtada al-Sadr, by contrast, relied on grass-roots support for his movement and seemed poised to dominate elections in the south a year ago. But he lost much of his popular support when Iraqi Security Forces defeated his militias in Basra, Baghdad and Maysan in June 2008. The door was open for the well-organized Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council (ISCI), the clerically dominated party that had controlled many important provincial governorships and councils in the south. Yet Iraqis voted instead for Mr. Maliki's coalition or for the secular Shiite coalition of former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

Mr. Maliki certainly used his position as prime minister and his control of Iraq's wealth to enhance his political position among the Shiites. But he delivered more than money. He cleared southern Iraq's urban areas of Shiite militias, including those directly and actively supported by Iran, and re-established civil order in wartorn Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Maysan, Wasit and Dhi Qar provinces. He thereby gave a degree of security to these communities for which he is now being rewarded electorally.

Early results in the Sunni-Arab core provinces of Anbar, Salah-ad-Din and Diyala are equally heartening. Large numbers of Sunni Arabs boycotted the 2005 provincial and parliamentary elections, leading to feelings of political disenfranchisement that helped fuel the insurgency. Furthermore, those Sunni Arabs who did vote in the 2005 parliamentary elections elected a very narrow and extremist slate that claimed to speak for the entire Sunni-Arab community and refused to make compromises with the Shiite government.

The Sunni political spectrum in 2009 encompasses a much wider range of views, which have each achieved a share of the votes. This development offers the possibility of real cross-sectarian coalitions, as Mr. Maliki is no longer dependent on ISCI for influence in the Shiite areas, and can choose among possible Sunni partners in mixed areas.

The most surprising results were from Ninewah province in the north, where a new political entity formed in 2008 called al Habda seems to have won a majority of the council seats. The Sunni boycott of the 2005 provincial elections had left this province largely under the influence of Kurdish council-members. Kurdish leaders took advantage of that fact to try to create conditions on the ground that would support the annexation of large parts of Ninewah, including parts of its capital, Mosul, to the Kurdish Regional Government.

This effort was highly destabilizing. Ninewah is one of the most diverse provinces, and many of its Arabs and ethnic minorities resented what they perceived as Kurdish expansion. Resentment against this expansion, and also against the failure of the provincial government to provide services, perpetuated a low-level insurgency in this area, permitting al Qaeda to retain its last foothold in Iraq.

Al Habda is a provincial coalition that stands against Kurdish domination of the province and for the provision of security and services to the people of Ninewah. Its rise offers an opportunity to deprive al Qaeda of tacit support within Mosul. It will also force Kurdish leaders to re-evaluate their insistence on "maximalist" demands that threatened to unravel Iraq.

The big loser in this election was Iran. Iranian agents spent a lot of money trying to influence the outcome of the elections in the south, and they largely failed. Iran's favored parties did poorly. The Iranians had hoped to persuade Iraqi voters to punish Mr. Maliki for signing the security agreement with the United States. Instead, these elections proved to be a powerful vote of confidence for the prime minister and his policies, including that agreement.

The big winner in this election was the concept of a unitary Iraq. An attempt to hold a referendum on establishing an autonomous Basra failed before the election. ISCI, the only Arab party that had favored the creation of an autonomous Shiite region, lost ground throughout that region, including in its own stronghold of Najaf. Iraqis have sent a clear message that they want to live in a single state with a strong central government connected to strong provincial governments, rather than in some sort of artificially federated state.

Despite these achievements, American forces will continue to play a vital role as honest brokers and impartial arbiters standing behind efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully. National elections will not occur until December, which may cause considerable tension in a parliament whose majority rests on the disfavored parties. The parliamentary conflict between the prime minister and the disfavored parties may be dramatic.

Results in Ninewah and the south offer the prospect of political resolutions to thorny problems that had been generating violence. In the short term, however, those who stand to lose by those political resolutions may well increase violence and brinksmanship.

Al Qaeda will respond violently, if desperately, to the new Sunni political order. Iran has trained and armed Shiite extremists who fled from Baghdad, Basra and Maysan, and who will seek to reinfiltrate and destabilize those areas.

Also, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces narrowly avoided armed conflict in August 2008 in the ethnically-mixed city of Khanaqin. The status of Kirkuk is still unresolved, much more delicate, and has the potential to generate conflict between the central and regional governments in 2009. The seating of the new councils between now and March, and the election of new governors by those councils, will certainly generate friction, if not armed conflict or assassinations. There are still district (local) and parliamentary (national) elections ahead in 2009.

Now that Iraqis have elected provincial governments of their liking, it is essential that those governments succeed. They will have large budgets to execute with new statutory powers. And the expectations of their electorates are very high.

U.S.-run Provincial Reconstruction Teams, civilian-military units working to rebuild government functions, have a growing role to play in Iraq's provinces and depend on the presence and dispersion of U.S. forces to function. U.S. forces and headquarters still help connect the provinces and the central government, aiding the Iraqi government.

Iraq has gone from being an impending disaster to a golden opportunity. Helping Iraqi internal politics develop peacefully and across sectarian lines is a critical part of reintegrating Iraq into the Arab world, making the world's only Shiite-controlled Arab state acceptable to the Sunni regimes that surround it. That reintegration, in turn, offers tantalizing prospects for balancing Iran and stabilizing the heart of the Muslim world. The stakes in Iraq remain very high, but we are finally starting to see the return on our investment.

Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of "Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power" (AEI Press, 2008).

=======================



Iraq's Latest Progress
Political compromise follows security, not vice versa.
 
 
One sign that Iraq's local elections went well on the weekend is that there's been so little reporting of the event. Mayhem in the Middle East always gets attention, but a democracy growing in Baghdad is apparently a snooze.

The result is nonetheless worth noting because it showed several encouraging trends in Baghdad while settling some old debates in Washington. While complete results won't be known until the end of the week, the vote itself was peaceful and early returns suggest a victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition and other secular parties at the expense of more religious Shiite parties.

This isn't surprising considering that Mr. Maliki is getting -- and deserves -- credit for rescuing Basra, Baghdad's Sadr City and other parts of Iraq from sectarian violence in the last year. Mr. Maliki's coalition ran on a nationalist platform, in contrast to a couple of the religious parties more closely identified with Iran. The theory that a democratic Iraq would inevitably fall under the orbit of the radical mullahs in Qom has taken another blow.
Iraqi Shiites in particular seemed to favor a strong central government in Baghdad, rather than a splintered nation of the kind favored only a couple years ago by sectarian politicians -- not to mention then-Senator Joe Biden. Iraqi Sunnis also participated this time, unlike in 2005, which shows that they too believe they can get their share of power from the still-largely Shiite government in the capital. Ethnic tensions haven't vanished -- especially in Mosul and Kirkuk in the North, where Arabs and Kurds mix uneasily -- but we are a long way from the fragmenting Iraq of famous prediction.

The peacefulness of the election is also noteworthy. When provincial elections were last held in 2005, terrorists attacked more than 100 polling stations, and U.S. and Iraqi military leaders were girding this time for a macabre reprise. But al Qaeda and other terrorists were a no-show, and we'll wager that isn't because they made a strategic decision to be nice. Rather, it's evidence both of al Qaeda's weakness in Iraq, along with the growing effectiveness of Iraq's security forces.

The election is further evidence that President Bush and proponents of the 2007 surge were right on another point as well: to wit, that security would precede political reconciliation. Recall that Senator Jack Reed, Mr. Biden and for that matter Barack Obama insisted in 2007 that a political agreement was needed before the killing would stop. But such an accord was impossible until Iraqis began to feel safe enough to be able to make compromises. The surge brigades (Iraqi and American), the new U.S. counterinsurgency strategy and above all the demonstration of sustained U.S. commitment improved security so much that democratic deal-making became possible.

All this amounts to a huge strategic gift to the Obama Administration. Iraq now stands as a democratic and pluralistic model for other Arab states, and as proof that Iranian-style theocracy isn't in the Shiite political DNA. If the "smart power" that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likes to talk about has any meaning, it's to capitalize on developments like these.

That's why we're puzzled by media reports that Mr. Obama intends to name Christopher Hill to replace Ryan Crocker as America's ambassador in Baghdad. Part of the puzzle is that retired Marine General Anthony Zinni -- a straight-shooter if ever there was one, with long experience in Mideast diplomacy -- claims he was tapped for the job, until the White House withdrew the offer without notice or explanation.

But the greater puzzle is why Mr. Hill -- who has spent the better part of the last few years making unreciprocated concessions to North Korea and whose previous stints included postings in Macedonia, Poland and South Korea -- is qualified to be the ambassador. Unlike Mr. Crocker, Mr. Hill has no real diplomatic experience in the Middle East and is not an Arabic speaker, no small point since Prime Minister Maliki is not an English speaker.

Especially with U.S. troop levels going down, Iraqis need the assurance of someone both more knowledgeable and sympathetic. Plenty of Iraqis -- especially Sunnis -- remain suspicious that the U.S. will bargain with Tehran by conceding Iranian interests in Iraq. As ambassador, Mr. Crocker held talks with the Iranians but emerged with a sober view of Tehran's malignant role in Iraqi politics. The elections were another notable sign of Iraq's democratic progress, and the U.S. needs an emissary who won't lose the Iraqi trust so painstakingly won by so many.
23658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Arrest Michael Phelps! on: February 04, 2009, 11:24:18 PM
But is this a matter for freedom of choice (a.k.a. "Stupid should hurt")  or for the feds kicking in doors?

==============

By STANTON PEELE
The sheriff's office in Richland County, S.C., is investigating a report -- prompted by a photo of the event published in a British tabloid -- that Olympic hero Michael Phelps smoked marijuana there. It's possible Mr. Phelps will be prosecuted. That's right: For those of you who don't know, marijuana is illegal.

I'm guessing it won't take much investigating to discover that Mr. Phelps used the drug at a University of South Carolina house party last November. After all, the 23-year-old swimming phenom -- whose feats in the pool and at meals have been promoted across the globe -- has publicly apologized for doing so, promising "my fans and the public it will not happen again."

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And why wouldn't he apologize? Fat chance Mr. Phelps is about to become a drug policy reformer. He -- and his mom -- want to keep those endorsements rolling in. Imagine if all the prominent people who have ever been exposed for drug use argued for their decriminalization? There would be mayhem -- a lot of people might take drugs and no one would arrest them! The federal government's own surveys reveal that 40% of Americans have consumed marijuana, including the last three presidents of the United States.

The attitude of most Americans, Richland County's sheriff aside, is "Who cares?" After all, smoking pot didn't prevent Barack Obama from becoming president. And obviously, recreational marijuana use hasn't harmed Mr. Phelps, whose prodigious performances have garnered 14 gold medals, the most in Olympic history. If he can smoke pot and perform at such a superhuman level, then perhaps we should reconsider the effects of -- and punishments for -- use of the substance.

Today, not only is it illegal to smoke marijuana, but, most people are surprised to learn, the number of arrests for marijuana use and possession are increasing. In that bastion of liberal values and political views, New York City, close to 400,000 people were apprehended for marijuana misdemeanors in the decade ending in 2007. This was almost 10 times the number arrested in the previous decade. In 2007 alone, nearly 800,000 Americans were arrested for simple possession of marijuana, according to FBI statistics.

But, you're probably thinking, very few presidents, Olympic champions and college students are arrested for drug use. My daughter attends a prominent private university in the city, and she tells me many of her peers smoke pot. Yet neither she nor I had ever heard of a single arrest for this crime on campus.

Who are all of these people getting arrested? And what the heck's the matter with them? Don't they know how to get pot delivered 24/7 to their dorm via carriers from whom you order by cellphone?

Well, here's a hint: 83% of those arrested in New York City in the last decade were African-American or Latino. This occurred even though these groups, while underrepresented among college students, don't actually comprise the majority of drug users.

Then why are they the ones who are most often arrested?

It's complicated. Neighborhoods, social status, police activism, lingering racism, money and power, legal representation: It's a giant ball of wax.

Which gets us back to Michael Phelps and the sheriff of Richland County. What's amazing is not that he would prosecute a marijuana user -- this happens daily across the U.S. What's incredible is that the sheriff wants to apply the law equally, including to an Olympic god.

Next thing you know, he'll be suggesting that we imprison government officials who don't pay their taxes. Doesn't the man know how the world works?

Let me mention one thing I am grateful for: At least Mr. Phelps didn't claim he was addicted, enter the Betty Ford Center for 28 days, then emerge to do public service ads about his recovery. Now that would be hypocritical.

Mr. Peele is a psychologist, attorney and creator of the Life Process Program for addiction recovery. His most recent book is "Addiction-Proof Your Child" (Crown, 2007).
23659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: February 04, 2009, 11:17:31 PM
His Glibness's weak vacilations already begin to bear insipid fruit  tongue

Geopolitical Diary: Prague Stalls on Lisbon Treaty
February 4, 2009
After a long and arduous debate, the lower house of the Czech parliament voted Tuesday on the Lisbon Treaty, a key document meant to streamline decision making in the European Union and serve as its proto-constitution.

Or at least that was the plan.

Instead, Prague has delayed the debate and the subsequent vote yet again, this time until Feb. 15. The official reason is that the relevant parliamentary committees have not yet examined the treaty — originally drafted in September 2007 — sufficiently to reach a unified stance. However, the real reason has nothing to do with Prague’s suspicion of the Lisbon Treaty, with the Czech Republic’s case of euroskepticism or even with the European Union. At issue is the geopolitical choice that Prague feels pressured to make between a resurging Moscow on one side and, on the other, a new American administration that is undecided on its level of commitment to ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Europe.

In short, Prague is struggling to decide to whom it will turn for protection and with whom it needs agreements in order to avoid becoming collateral damage in a Moscow-Washington fight — something with which all of its Central European neighbors can certainly empathize.

The Czechs currently hold the rotating EU presidency. This fact has been something of a running embarrassment for the bloc, since the Czech Republic is the one country (apart from the notoriously euroskeptical Ireland) that has stalled on ratifying the core treaty that is supposed to make the EU more efficient. However, Prague’s skepticism toward the Lisbon Treaty and the general idea of greater European political unity is long held. Fundamentally, the Czech Republic’s fear is that under the new treaty, its own foreign policy agenda would be subject to Brussels’ approval — particularly since Lisbon sets out provisions for streamlining and centralizing decision-making on EU foreign policy (such as the creation of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and of a “president of the European Union,” a position that would be held by a person rather than a country and would serve for two and a half years).

For a country that historically has been stuck between competing land powers in Europe (Germany, Austria, Poland and the Soviet Union/Russia), giving away control over foreign policy is tantamount to surrendering its only means of expressing a modicum of independence. The Czechs are hardly alone in this way of thinking. The Poles, Balts and Hungarians, for example, are all newer to the EU, and would be on the front line in any potential conflict with Russia. They want to retain the ability to bargain on their own terms, not become bargaining chips for Paris and Berlin to trade with Moscow.

To compensate, all of these states — but most notably Poland and the Czech Republic — have been looking not to Western Europe for security, but to the United States. These two countries have struck preliminary deals to host BMD sites (Poland would host the missile sites and the Czech Republic would house the radar installations). It is not so much that these sites would provide any direct defense against Russia — in fact, Prague even offered to include the Russians in the project — but that they would be manned by Americans, that is important. Having U.S. boots on Czech and Polish soil — even if just a few hundred technicians and support security staff — would ward off the Russians like garlic would vampires. Or so Warsaw and Prague hope.

However, the election of U.S. President Barack Obama has changed the calculus for Warsaw and Prague. Obama thus far has been noncommittal on whether the United States will continue its BMD plan in Central Europe, and this has rattled Prague and Warsaw to the core. For them, the perception of U.S. dithering — no matter the stated reason — signals possible abandonment in order to prevent a larger U.S. clash with Russia.

Prague is therefore delaying its vote on the Lisbon Treaty again, holding off a decision until it gets firmer security commitments from Washington. If the United States does abandon the Czech Republic, Prague’s choices would be to try to reshape the Lisbon Treaty in order to form a better set of protective measures — which would be highly difficult if not impossible — or to turn toward the Kremlin to strike a deal.

Either way, Central Europeans will be looking for assurances that they would not become stepping-stones in a Russian path to Western Europe once again.
23660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 04, 2009, 10:06:02 PM
Its just like during the Michigan primaries.  Hot Air is right that is vapidity is showing.   I fear we are in for one helluva ride.
23661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 04, 2009, 07:50:34 PM
Confirmation
http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-04-voa79.cfm?rss=asia

23662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: February 04, 2009, 07:39:25 PM
 shocked

Refresh my memory-- what was Stephanopolous under President Clinton?  Press Secretary?  or?
23663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russians happy with BO on: February 04, 2009, 07:37:27 PM
Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons

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

From Times Online

February 4, 2009

Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons




Tony Halpin in Moscow

Russia moved swiftly today to extend a hand to President Obama over American plans for big cuts in nuclear weapons.

Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia was ready to sign a new strategic missile treaty with the United States after The Times disclosed that Mr Obama is to seek an 80 per cent reduction in stockpiles.

"We welcome the statements from the new Obama Administration that they are ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-US treaty on the limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Mr Ivanov, a hawkish former defence minister once seen as a candidate to become president of Russia.

He added: "We are also ready for this, undoubtedly."



The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 is due to expire in December. It reduced stockpiles held by the two states from 10,000 to 5,000 but there has been little progress in negotiating a successor treaty.

Talks faltered in part over President George W. Bush's enthusiasm for siting a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe, a move that infuriated Russia. Mr Obama has not said whether he will press ahead with the plan to put ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

A delay in the programme could ease Russian concerns and pave the way for talks to cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. An official in the US Administration told The Times: “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.”

The significance of missile defence as an obstacle to successful negotiations was underlined by a former chief of staff for the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Colonel-General Viktor Yesin said that a deal on missile cuts made sense only if Washington accepted Moscow's security concerns.

"If the American Administration really intends to radically cut Russia's and the US's strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads, this would undeniably be a step that could promote real nuclear disarmament," he told Interfax news.

"However, with such considerable reductions of nuclear arsenals, an equal level of security for Russia and the US could be ensured only on condition that Washington drops the idea of deploying . . . its missile defence system in Europe."

Andrei Piontkovsky, executive director of the Strategic Studies Centre in Moscow, said that defence experts in Russia understood that the US missile shield posed no military threat, but Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and former president, was determined to prove that the West could not decide anything in Eastern Europe without Moscow's approval.

"The Start treaty for Russia is a symbol that it is still a superpower, so I think the Kremlin would be satisfied with the fact that Obama is not pushing this issue [missile defence] ahead," Mr Piontkovsky said.

Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia's leading defence analysts, told The Times that Mr Obama would face domestic pressure to accelerate the missile-defence programme after Iran's success in launching a satellite into space yesterday.

"This puts a serious shadow over the arms-control negotiations because it was assumed that the Democrats would freeze or postpone deployment of this project until the missile threat emerged. Now it has," he said.

"The pressure is going to be on the new US Administration to continue deployment and maybe even speed it up. With missile defence in Europe getting this new impulse from Tehran, that makes it even more difficult to achieve results with Russia."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5660089.ece
23664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Russians happy with BO on: February 04, 2009, 07:33:06 PM
Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons

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

From Times Online

February 4, 2009

Moscow welcomes President Obama's plan for cut in nuclear weapons




Tony Halpin in Moscow

Russia moved swiftly today to extend a hand to President Obama over American plans for big cuts in nuclear weapons.

Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia was ready to sign a new strategic missile treaty with the United States after The Times disclosed that Mr Obama is to seek an 80 per cent reduction in stockpiles.

"We welcome the statements from the new Obama Administration that they are ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-US treaty on the limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Mr Ivanov, a hawkish former defence minister once seen as a candidate to become president of Russia.

He added: "We are also ready for this, undoubtedly."



The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 is due to expire in December. It reduced stockpiles held by the two states from 10,000 to 5,000 but there has been little progress in negotiating a successor treaty.

Talks faltered in part over President George W. Bush's enthusiasm for siting a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe, a move that infuriated Russia. Mr Obama has not said whether he will press ahead with the plan to put ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

A delay in the programme could ease Russian concerns and pave the way for talks to cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. An official in the US Administration told The Times: “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.”

The significance of missile defence as an obstacle to successful negotiations was underlined by a former chief of staff for the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Colonel-General Viktor Yesin said that a deal on missile cuts made sense only if Washington accepted Moscow's security concerns.

"If the American Administration really intends to radically cut Russia's and the US's strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads, this would undeniably be a step that could promote real nuclear disarmament," he told Interfax news.

"However, with such considerable reductions of nuclear arsenals, an equal level of security for Russia and the US could be ensured only on condition that Washington drops the idea of deploying . . . its missile defence system in Europe."

Andrei Piontkovsky, executive director of the Strategic Studies Centre in Moscow, said that defence experts in Russia understood that the US missile shield posed no military threat, but Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and former president, was determined to prove that the West could not decide anything in Eastern Europe without Moscow's approval.

"The Start treaty for Russia is a symbol that it is still a superpower, so I think the Kremlin would be satisfied with the fact that Obama is not pushing this issue [missile defence] ahead," Mr Piontkovsky said.

Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia's leading defence analysts, told The Times that Mr Obama would face domestic pressure to accelerate the missile-defence programme after Iran's success in launching a satellite into space yesterday.

"This puts a serious shadow over the arms-control negotiations because it was assumed that the Democrats would freeze or postpone deployment of this project until the missile threat emerged. Now it has," he said.

"The pressure is going to be on the new US Administration to continue deployment and maybe even speed it up. With missile defence in Europe getting this new impulse from Tehran, that makes it even more difficult to achieve results with Russia."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5660089.ece
23665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Colter: Second hand children on: February 04, 2009, 07:28:02 PM
by  Ann Coulter

02/04/2009


It's been weeks since the last one, so on Sunday, The New York Times Magazine featured yet another cheery, upbeat article on single mothers. As with all its other promotional pieces on single motherhood over the years, the Times followed a specific formula to make this social disaster sound normal, blameless and harmless -- even brave.

These single motherhood advertisements include lots of conclusory statements to the effect that this is simply the way things are -- so get used to it, bourgeois America! "(A)n increasing number of unmarried mothers," the article explained, "look a lot more like Fran McElhill and Nancy Clark -- they are college-educated, and they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s."

Why isn't the number of smokers treated as a fait accompli that the rest of us just have to accept? Smoking causes a lot less damage and the harm befalls the person who chooses to smoke, not innocent children.

The Times' single motherhood endorsements always describe single mothers as the very picture of middle-class normality: "She grew up in blue-collar Chester County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, and talks like a local girl (long O's). Her father was a World War II vet who worked for a union and took his kids to Mass most Sundays." Even as a girl she dreamed of raising a baby with a 50 percent greater chance of growing up in poverty.

 How about some articles on all the nice middle-class smokers whose fathers served in World War II and took them to Mass? Only when describing aberrant social behavior do Times writers even recognize what normality is, much less speak of it admiringly.

According to hysterical anti-smoking zealots at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking costs the nation $92 billion a year in "lost productivity." (Obviously these conclusions were produced by people who not only have never smoked, but also don't know any smokers, who could have told them smoking makes us 10 times more productive.)

Meanwhile, single motherhood costs taxpayers about $112 billion every year, according to a 2008 study by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi.

Smoking has no causal relationship to crime, has little effect on others and -- let's be honest -- looks cool. Controlling for income, education and occupation, it causes about 200,000 deaths per year, mostly of people in their 70s.

Single motherhood, by contrast, directly harms children, occurs at a rate of about 1.5 million a year and has a causal relationship to criminal behavior, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, sexual victimization and almost every other social disorder.

If a pregnant woman smokes or drinks, we blame her. But if a woman decides to have a fatherless child, we praise her as brave -- even though the outcome for the child is much worse.

Thus, the Times writes warmly of single mothers, always including an innocent explanation: "Many of these women followed a similar and familiar pattern in having their first child: They planned to marry, found they hadn't by their 30s, looked some more and then decided to have a child without a husband." At which point, a stork showed up with their babies.

So apparently, single motherhood could happen to anyone!

How about: These smokers followed a similar and familiar pattern, they planned never to start smoking, found themselves working long nights at the law firm and then decided to have a cigarette to stay alert.

Then there is the Times' reversal of cause and effect, which manages to exonerate the single mother while turning her into a victim: "The biggest reason that children born to unmarried mothers tend to have problems -- they're more likely to drop out of school and commit crimes -- is that they tend to grow up poor."

First, the reason the children "tend to grow up poor" is that their mothers considered it unnecessary to have a primary bread-earner in the family.

Second, the Times simply made up the fact that poverty, rather than single motherhood, causes anti-social behavior in children. Poverty doesn't cause crime -- single mothers do. If poverty caused crime, how did we get Bernie Madoff?

Studies -- including one by the liberal Progressive Policy Institute -- have shown that controlling for factors such as poverty and socioeconomic status, single motherhood accounts for the entire difference in black and white crime rates.

The Times' claim that poverty is the "biggest reason" for the problems of illegitimate children is on the order of claiming that the biggest reason that smokers develop heart disease and lung cancer is not because they smoke, but because they tend to work so hard. It's a half-baked, wishful-thinking theory contradicted by all known evidence. Other than that, it holds up pretty well.

Finally, the Times produced an imaginary statistic that is valid only in the sense that no study has specifically disproved it yet. "No one has shown," the Times triumphantly announced, "that there are similar risks for the children of college-educated single mothers by choice."

No one has shown that there are similar risks for smokers who run marathons, either. There are probably about as many college graduate single mothers by choice (7 percent) as there are smokers who run marathons. And, unlike single mothers, smokers who run marathons look really cool.


If the establishment media wrote about smoking the way they write about unwed motherhood, I think people would notice that they seem oddly hellbent on destroying as many lives as possible.
23666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: BO's rendition policy on: February 04, 2009, 05:19:19 PM
Obama and the Treatment of Terrorist Suspects
February 4, 2009
By Fred Burton and Ben West

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order Feb. 1 approving the continued use of renditions by the CIA. The order seems to go against Obama’s campaign promises to improve the image of the United States abroad, as renditions under the Bush administration had drawn criticism worldwide, especially from members of the European Union. The executive order does not necessarily mean that renditions and other tactics for dealing with terrorist suspects will proceed unchanged, however.

Obama came into office promising changes in the way the United States combats terrorism. One of these changes was a new emphasis on legal processes and a shift away from controversial methods of treating terrorist suspects, like rendition, harsh interrogation techniques and secret prisons. The Obama administration can and will roll back some of these tactics, as demonstrated by the president’s Jan. 22 order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But some will continue.

Renditions and the Legal Process
Renditions are a powerful tool for counterterrorism operations. They involve agents moving into a foreign country to execute a warrant. Once the fugitive is located, agents track, seize and transport him out of the country for interrogations, or to stand trial, as in the cases of Lebanese hijacker Fawaz Younis, CIA shooter Mir Amal Kanzi, 1993 World Trade Center bombers Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) and Mahmud Abouhalima, and even Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (aka Carlos the Jackal).

Some of the individuals targeted for renditions have warrants out for their arrest, but are taking refuge in countries that either lack the law enforcement capability to capture them or cannot arrest and extradite them for political reasons. By contrast, the renditions where there is no indictment or warrant and where the suspect is transported to a secret prison for interrogation and detention without a public trial are far more controversial. Renditions of either kind virtually always occur with the knowledge of the host country, and usually with the host government’s express consent. (Few countries wish to shelter suspected terrorist masterminds.)

Renditions thus involve legal questions as much as they do diplomatic questions. Before renditions can be carried out, the Washington bureaucracy kicks into full swing. The U.S. State Department must consider the diplomatic ramifications. The ambassador in the host country must consider his or her position and judge the response of his or her contacts in the host country government. The U.S. Justice Department must also sign on. Finally, the agency in charge of actually nabbing the suspect must be willing to work within any restrictions imposed by any one of the many individuals who must approve the operation.

Even when the government ultimately deems a rendition operation legal, numerous factors can still stymie the effort (not least of which is that by the time all the necessary approvals have been obtained, the window of opportunity to nab the suspect might have closed). So while Obama’s executive order in theory permits renditions, it is only one part of the whole process; the appropriate members of Obama’s administration must also be on board.

Many members of the Obama administration also served in the Clinton administration, which was widely seen as considering all legal ramifications of potential renditions before taking any action. As a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, new Attorney General Eric Holder enjoyed a reputation for deliberating on renditions to the point of inaction — effectively vetoing such operations.

While an appearance of greater attention to the law might come as a relief to many, actors in the field do not have the luxury of endless deliberation and total consensus — they have a narrow window of opportunity in which to act on perishable intelligence. Assuming that Obama’s administration acts with deliberation and pursues consensus building (as he himself has emphasized, and has demonstrated in the bipartisan nature of his Cabinet selections), the legality of renditions might become moot if they are not agreed upon in a timely manner. There is a fine line to walk between efficiency and legality in this field, with extremes on either side being detrimental to national security.

By their very nature, renditions are ad hoc and rarely fit into a nice, clean process, something that explains their controversial nature. They frequently occur in countries allied to the United States, meaning the practice falls outside the scope of war. And renditions resulting in suspects’ standing trial are far less controversial than those involving secret prisons, harsh interrogation tactics and reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations — tactics disfavored by the Obama administration.

Alternatives to Rendition

Apprehending suspects in foreign countries does not always involve controversial tactics. U.S. counterterrorism officials also use tactics abroad that are not forbidden under U.S. law, though they might be illegal if used within the United States (and could well be illegal in the country where U.S. agents employ them). In general, such tactics remain constant as administrations change. These tactics include surveillance of foreign targets, ruse operations and economic incentives and punishments to encourage cooperation in counterterrorism efforts.

Ruse operations, a less controversial way to apprehend fugitives than renditions, involve deception, obviating the need to jump through the bureaucratic hoops required for renditions. Ruse operations involve luring suspects to a location where U.S. agents can apprehend them legally. This involves persuading targets to venture into international waters, for example, or even to travel to the United States, where U.S. agents lie in wait.

While such tactics avoid the legal complexities surrounding renditions, they are extremely difficult to carry out. Suspects worth chasing around the world typically are not overly gullible, and know where it is safe to travel. So while there is no reason to believe that ruse operations will cease anytime soon, successful ones are few and far between.

Sometimes killing a terrorist target is both more efficient and less legally complex than renditions or ruse operations. Tactical strikes, such as the unmanned aerial vehicle-launched missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, both remove a suspected terrorist target and avoid drawn-out legal processes. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration apparently sees striking at al Qaeda targets along the Pakistani-Afghan border as acceptable within the scope of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, despite Pakistani protests. The latest such U.S. strike came Jan. 23, just three days after Obama took office. Given the administration’s presumed hesitation based on legal reservations and an unwillingness to expand warfare beyond the Afghan theater, this tactic is unlikely to pop up in other areas of the world without a serious threat escalation.

Secret Prisons and Interrogation Issues

Obama on Jan. 22 also ordered the CIA to close its secret prisons around the world that hold detainees without adhering to U.S. legal standards. Because fewer than 100 detainees were held in these prisons, however, this is a minor point.

A different executive order also issued Jan. 22 applied the interrogation guidelines outlined in the U.S. military field handbook and the Geneva Conventions to the CIA. Obama and Holder also have made it clear that the new administration views waterboarding as torture and thus illegal, settling the debate on the matter.

Still, it is only a matter of time before new techniques used by interrogators in the field will face questions of legality and morality. No national leader can micromanage at the field level. Even though the Justice Department and senior White House officials in the Bush administration signed secret findings authorizing the CIA to conduct waterboarding in specific cases, tactical, field-level topics do not stick around at the level of national policy for very long.

With secret prisons on the way out, more restrictions on how agents act in the field and an expected decline in renditions, a greater U.S. reliance on third countries to carry out rendition operations is possible. During the Clinton and Bush administrations, countries like Egypt and Jordan were known to cooperate with U.S. agencies in detaining and interrogating prisoners.

Critics claimed that relying on third countries exploited a loophole that allowed the United States to see that unsavory acts were committed without directly carrying them out. Obama’s emphasis on using diplomacy to improve the U.S. image in the world suggests that his administration will turn to other countries for counterterrorism assistance instead of operating unilaterally. Obama already has asked for other countries to help out more in Afghanistan (specifically European countries). Obama might also tap third countries like Portugal, Switzerland or Germany to take in detainees leaving Guantanamo who are not sent back to home countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia after the facility’s closure. Working with these countries to ensure safe delivery of the detainees out of U.S. custody will remove a lightning rod for criticism of the United States in the Muslim world.

Delegating counterterrorism responsibilities to other countries allows the United States to avoid the legal complexities inherent in renditions, secret prisons and harsh interrogation. But ultimately, increased reliance on other countries with different interests can enhance the overall complexity of missions. It is also important to remember that the United States possesses one of the most capable counterterrorism forces in the world, and that other countries simply cannot carry out the same missions that the United States does. This is not to say that pursuing U.S. interests abroad does not call for diplomacy (which is one of the administration’s main tools to fight terror), but that seeking international approval and establishing legal cover does reduce efficiency and restrain U.S. capabilities. Finding the balance between fighting terror efficiently and remaining within legal boundaries will be a key challenge for the Obama administration.

23667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A tear goes out to our British brothers on: February 04, 2009, 04:33:35 PM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1129143/Soldier-lost-legs-Afghanistan-refused-permission-specially-adapted-bungalow-grandparents-land.html

Soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan is refused permission for specially-adapted bungalow on grandparents' land
By Vanessa Allen
Last updated at 1:09 AM on 28th January 2009
Comments (95) Add to My Stories
 'Devastated': Marine Joe Townsend with his grandfather David Carter

After losing both legs to an anti-tank mine while serving in Afghanistan, 20-year-old Joe Townsend was trying his best to rebuild his life.

And after 20 operations in hospital, the Royal Marine’s grandfather gave him the best possible incentive to get better.
David Carter decided to build a modest bungalow on land near the home he shares with his wife Lynda, 60, to help Joe become more independent. It seemed the perfect solution.

But the council disagreed. Joe’s bungalow would be ‘intrusive’, planners said. And anyway, his case was not exceptional enough for them to waive strict laws and allow the bungalow to be built.

They narrowly ruled against the plans, even though there had been no objections – and despite a direct appeal from Joe, who was desperate to live near his family, in Pevensey, East Sussex.

Their decision devastated the wheelchair-bound veteran. It means he must stay in a rehabilitation centre instead.

‘I said I had been a local lad all my life and always wanted to live round my granddad’s,’ he said.

‘His idea of building me a place in his paddock was a massive incentive for me to crack on, get better and get my independence back. The rejection was a kick in the teeth.’

Mr Townsend was 19 when his legs were amputated after he stepped on an anti-tank mine buried on his patrol’s route in Helmand in February.

He has had many operations, with more surgery due next month, and has received round-the-clock care at Headley Court Armed Forces rehabilitation centre, in Surrey.

 Rejected: Mr Carter stands by the plot of land where he wanted to build the bungalow

Most people had seemed happy to help him get on with his life. The plans for his bungalow, which would have had a treatment room, a bedroom for a carer and an en- suite bathroom, were drawn up for free by an architect who wanted to thank Joe for his sacrifice.

Meanwhile, Mr Carter, 72, said his neighbours had supported the scheme. Critics condemned the council for not doing the same. Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former soldier, said: ‘Marine Townsend has paid an extraordinary price for his service to this country. I believe he is an extraordinary case and should be viewed as such.’

The Royal British Legion said: ‘This man’s injuries were incurred defending this country abroad.

‘I hope this council will reconsider what their decision means, not only to this individual but symbolically to all our Armed Forces.’

Councillor Niki Oakes, who considered the application and by coincidence is also a double amputee, had called on the committee to help Joe.

‘I said “Damn the rules!” There has to be a way to get round them sometimes in a case like this,’ she said.

But Wealden District Council stood firm: ‘The proposed dwelling by reason of its siting and detailed design would appear as an intrusive development within this semi-rural area. The circumstances in this case are not considered sufficient to warrant an exception to the usual restraint policies.’
23668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / News now made in China too? on: February 04, 2009, 11:49:04 AM
Bringing this over from the China thread

China: Beijing Plans to Infiltrate Mainstream Western Media(to buy & control failing MSM)
Boxun ^ | 01/28/09

Beijing Plans to Infiltrate Mainstream Western Media

By chinafreepress.org (translation)

Jan 28, 2009 - 11:06:03 AM

Boxun Exclusive

In mid-January 2009, a week before Chinese New Year, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party held a meeting to discuss its plan for foreign propaganda work in the year to come. It summarized the past decade's progress in co-opting international Chinese-language media into doing the propaganda work of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Politburo decided that in addition to continuing its Chinese-language international image promotion, it plans to infiltrate and influence mainstream Western media. The meeting cited the example of the Russian former KGB officer and present tycoon who has purchase the defunct British newspaper The Evening Standard. This overt an approach is undesirable, the meeting concluded, and instead influential overseas Chinese in the media business should be utilized to purchase and operate mainstream Western media organs.

The spring 2008 coverage of the uprising in Tibet by CNN and other Western mainstream media organs sounded an alarm. China's Politburo concluded that it must counter this by infiltrating and influencing Western coverage of China and China's image in the international media.

The opportunity is presently ripe because of the downturn in the world economy. Many media organizations are in economic difficulty, even going bankrupt, and they can be purchased and it will look like an investment and business opportunity and not the attempt of the Chinese government to infiltrate Western media organs and influence Western popular opinion toward China that it is.

Full Chinese report at:

http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2009/01/200901280838.shtml

http://www.boxun.us/news/publish/chinanews/Beijing_Plans_to_Infiltrate_Mainstream_Western_Media.shtml
23669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rape used to create bombers on: February 04, 2009, 10:57:47 AM
 Insurgents Use Rape to Create Female Bombers

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

BBC News: Iraq's 'female bomber recruiter'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7869570.stm

 
Samira Jassim is accused of recruiting dozens of female attackers


Suspected militant recruiter Samira Jassim reportedly calls herself "the Mother of Believers". Detained in January by Iraqi security forces, the mother of six is accused of converting dozens of vulnerable women into suicide attackers.

In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.  She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the "shamed" women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.

Her apparent confession could help throw light on the recent increase in attacks in Iraq involving female bombers. In 2007 there were eight suicide attacks by women; in 2008 there were 32, the US military says. In early January, a female bomber killed at least 35 Shia pilgrims in a blast near a Baghdad shrine.

Insurgents use female bombers because they can hide explosives under their robes and are less likely to be searched by male guards at security checkpoints.

'Bring her to us'

Samira Jassim worked with Sunni militants from the Ansar al-Sunnah group in Diyala province, one of the last remaining centres of Sunni insurgency, Iraqi security officials said.
 
Women can sometimes bypass the security checks in Iraqi cities

She had recruited 80 women to act as bombers, 28 of whom had gone on to launch attacks, a military spokesman told journalists at a news conference in Baghdad. 

In a filmed confession, the black-robed Jassim described how she recruited one woman for an attack in the city of Mukdadiyah, 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

"I talked to her a number of times," she said. "I went back to them (the militants) and gave them the details on her. And they told me, bring her to us... And I took her to the police station and that's where she blew herself up."

She also described the long process of persuading a woman named Amal, who had family problems, to launch an attack.

"I talked to her many times, sat with her and she was very depressed," she said.

In a separate interview with AP a week after her 21 January arrest, Jassim also described how insurgents used organised rape as a way of generating more bombers. Her role was to persuade the traumatised victims that carrying out a suicide attack was their only way out.

That claim was impossible to verify, AP said, and during their interview with her police interrogators sat in an adjoining room.  But in a culture where rape is considered very shameful for the victim, it is not implausible, correspondents say.
23670  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: February 04, 2009, 08:58:42 AM
Agradezco que mi hijo ha cambiado de escuela.  Estamos muy, muy contentos con la nueva situacion.
23671  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 04, 2009, 08:57:08 AM
Gracias por los informes Denny. 
23672  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Dog Brothers Facebook on: February 04, 2009, 08:54:08 AM
"Te comprendo y para ello utilizo una frece que dice: "¡GANALE AL PRI!",   me entiendes?"

Pues costo unos 70 anos, pero al fin gano' el PAN.  Pues tengo 10 anos de matrimonio y 56 anos de edad.  Parece que estoy j*d*do.  cheesy
23673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: February 04, 2009, 08:51:07 AM
"I think i've proven that I absolutely cannot be enlightened....  ; )"

Argue for your limitations and they are yours.  cheesy
23674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: February 04, 2009, 08:49:04 AM
"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, 14 December 1787
23675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / G. Friedman: Afghan supplies, Russian demands on: February 04, 2009, 08:39:07 AM


Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands
By GEORGE FRIEDMAN
Published: February 3, 2009
Washington

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Alex Nabaum
THE Taliban didn’t wait long to test Barack Obama. On Tuesday, militants bombed a bridge in the Khyber Pass region in Pakistan, cutting off supply lines to NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. This poses a serious problem for President Obama, who has said that he wants more American troops in Afghanistan. But troops need supplies.

The attack was another reminder that the supply line through Pakistan is extremely vulnerable. This means that the Obama administration might have to consider alternative routes through Russia or other parts of the former Soviet Union. But the Russians were unhappy about the Bush administration’s willingness to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, and they will probably not want to help with American supply lines unless Mr. Obama changes that position.

In addition to our guaranteeing that NATO will not expand further, the Russians seem to want the United States to promise that NATO forces will not be based in the Baltic countries, and that the United States will not try to dominate Central Asia. In other words, Russia wants the United States to pledge that it will respect the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They will probably want this guarantee to be very public, as a signal to the region — and the Europeans — of Russian dominance. This is one guarantee that Mr. Obama will not want to give.

There is also no certainty that countries in the Russian sphere of influence, like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, would agree to let the United States use these routes without Russian permission.

Here is where Mr. Obama could use some European help. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to come soon. Many Europeans, particularly Germans, rely on Russia’s natural gas. In January, the Russians cut natural gas shipments to Ukraine. As much of the Russian natural gas that goes to Europe runs through Ukraine, the cutoff affected European supplies — in the middle of winter. Europeans can’t really afford to irritate the Russians, and it’s hard to imagine that the Germans will confront them over supply routes to Afghanistan. Pakistan, unfortunately, is hardly a reliable partner either.

So how can Mr. Obama reconcile the two goals of strengthening the American presence in Afghanistan while curbing Russian expansionism? The answer is to rely less on troops, and more on covert operations like the C.I.A. Covert operators are far more useful for the actual war that we are fighting (and they can carry their supplies on their backs). The primary American interest in Afghanistan, after all, is preventing terrorist groups from using it as a base for training and planning major attacks. Increasing the number of conventional troops will not help with this mission.

What we need in Afghanistan is intelligence, and special operations forces and air power that can take advantage of that intelligence. Fighting terrorists requires identifying and destroying small, dispersed targets. We would need far fewer forces for such a mission than the number that are now deployed. They would make us much less dependent on supply deliveries, which would help solve our Russian problem.

Winding down the conventional war while increasing the covert one will demand a cultural change in Washington. The Obama administration seems to prefer the conventional route of putting more troops on the ground. That would be a feasible strategy if supply lines to Afghanistan were secure. The loss of that bridge yesterday demonstrates very clearly that they are not.

George Friedman is the chief executive of Stratfor, a global intelligence company, and the author of “The Next 100 Years.”

23676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 04, 2009, 08:21:54 AM
I agree strongly about the risks of protectionism, trade wars, beggar-thy-neighbor devaluations.

In his brilliant "The War the World Works" Jude Wanniski has the most insightful analysis of the causes of the Great Depression that I have ever seen.  Bottom line-- fragmentation of the world economy via protectionism, trade wars, beggar-thy-neighbor devaluations and FDR's liberal fascist economic policies.
23677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From SNAFU to TARFU to FUBAR on: February 04, 2009, 08:15:39 AM
Second post of the AM:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090203/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_afghanistan


Pentagon study: US should pare Afghanistan goals
By ROBERT BURNS and PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writers
29 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and other military leaders.

A senior defense official said Tuesday that it will likely take several weeks before the Obama administration rolls out its long-term strategy for Afghanistan.

The Joint Chiefs' plan reflects growing worries that the U.S. military was taking on more than it could handle in Afghanistan by pursuing the Bush administration's broad goal of nurturing a thriving democratic government.

Instead, the plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials who confirmed the essence of the report. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan publicly.

The recommendations are broadly cast and provide limited detail, meant to help develop the overarching strategy for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region rather than propose a detailed military action plan.

During a press conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted ongoing reviews of Afghan policy, but did not say when they would be made public. Obama intends, he said, to "evaluate the current direction of our policy and make some corrections as he goes forward."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would not comment Tuesday on the details of the Joint Chiefs' report, but acknowledged that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is a critical component for success in Afghanistan.
"When you talk about Afghanistan, you can't help but also recognize the fact that the border region with Pakistan is obviously a contributing factor to the stability and security of Afghanistan, and the work that Pakistan is doing to try to reduce and eliminate those safe havens, and the ability for people to move across that border that are engaged in hostile intentions," Whitman said.

Part of the recommended approach is to search for ways to work more intensively and effectively with the Pakistanis to root out extremist elements in the border area, the senior defense official said.

The heightened emphasis on Pakistan reflects a realization that the root of the problem lies in the militant havens inside its border — a concern outlined last week to Congress in grim testimony by Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

But the report does not imply more incursions by U.S. combat forces inside Pakistan or accelerating other forms of U.S. military involvement, the senior defense official emphasized. Pakistani officials have repeatedly raised alarms after a surge of U.S. Hellfire missile strikes from drone predators in recent months, and renewed those complaints after a new strike killed 19 people inside Pakistan days after Obama took office.

"The bottom line is we have to look at what the art of the possible is there," said a U.S. military official who has operated in Afghanistan. The official, who has not seen the Joint Chiefs' report, said the challenge is to craft a strategy that achieves U.S. goals of stabilizing the region and constraining al-Qaida, but also takes into account the powerful tribes that resist a strong central government and the ties among ethnic Pashtuns on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The Joint Chiefs' report advises a greater emphasis on U.S. military training of Pakistani forces for counter-terror work.

Pakistan's government is well aware of growing U.S. interest in collaborating to improve its military's muscle against al-Qaida and Taliban elements in the border areas. The topic has been broached repeatedly by senior U.S. officials, including Mullen.

The training efforts also would expand and develop the Afghan army and police force, while at the same time work to improve Afghan governance.

The report also stresses that Afghan strategy must be driven by what the Afghans want, and that the U.S. cannot impose its own goals on the Afghanistan government.

During discussions about a new Afghanistan strategy, military leaders expressed worries that the U.S. ambitions in Afghanistan — to stabilize the country and begin to build a democracy there — were beyond its ability.
And as they tried to balance military demands in both Iraq and Afghanistan, some increasingly questioned why the U.S. continued to maintain a war-fighting force in Iraq, even though the mission there has shifted to a more support role. Those fighting forces, they argued, were needed more urgently in Afghanistan.
Military leaders have been signaling for weeks that the focus of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan would change.

Gates told armed services committees in Congress last week that the U.S. should keep its sights on one thing: preventing Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists who would harm the U.S. or its allies. He bluntly added that the military could not root out terrorists while also propping up Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.

"Afghanistan is the fourth or fifth poorest country in the world, and if we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose," Gates said, a mythology reference to heaven.
Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that he was briefed last week on the military's proposed new Afghan strategy, which he called evolving but headed in the right direction.
"There will be no Anbar awakening," McCain, R-Ariz., told The Associated Press, referring to the tribal uprising against al-Qaida in Iraq's Anbar province that triggered a turnaround in that conflict. "It will be long, hard and difficult."

The Joint Chiefs report's overall conclusions were first reported Saturday by The Associated Press. Politico reported additional details of the report Tuesday.

The U.S. is considering doubling its troop presence in Afghanistan this year to roughly 60,000, in response to growing strength by the Islamic militant Taliban, fed by safe havens they and al-Qaida have developed in an increasingly unstable Pakistan.

Obama is expected to announce soon his decision on a request for additional forces from the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan. Several officials said they believe the president will approve sending three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, totaling roughly 14,000 troops.
___

Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Anne Gearan, Pamela Hess, Lara Jakes and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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23678  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bill to ban folders in Hawaii on: February 04, 2009, 08:06:46 AM
http://www.blademag.com:80/article/hawaiibillwouldbanfolders/

Hawaii Bill Would Ban Folders
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

February 02, 2009

On Jan. 11, 2009, Hawaii Senator Les Ihara, Jr. introduced Bill 126 that would essentially ban folding knives throughout the state. In a letter to the senator, David Kowalski, of the American Knife & Tool Institute, laid out why the bill is bad for law-abiding knife owners.

Currently, Hawaiian law applies only to possession of switchblades, enforceable at the felony level. Bill 126 would expand the scope of knife regulation to include folders. However, the penalty would be a misdemeanor, not a felony.

What follows is Kowalski's letter.

Dear Senator Ihara:
 
The bill you introduced last week (HI S 126) would make de facto criminals of tens of thousands of your law-abiding  citizens and potentially millions more who visit your beautiful state each year. It reads, in part…
 A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO DANGEROUS WEAPONS. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
     SECTION 1. Chapter 134, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to part III to be appropriately designated and to read as follows: "Section 134- Pocket knives; sale prohibited; penalty. Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports a pocket knife in the State shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. As used in this section: "Pocket knife" means a knife with a blade that folds into the handle and which is suitable for  carrying in the pocket."

On behalf of the American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI), which represents the $1 Billion sporting knife industry in the United States, I would ask two things of you.

First, please call me at your earliest convenience to discuss this proposed legislation. I understand you have introduced the bill at the request of a constituent. It would be important to understand your goals and those of your constituent. While passing a knife law might seem a simple issue, there are grave consequences if it is vague, discriminatory, highly discretionary or simply so broad it is unenforceable.
 
AKTI has worked successfully with lawmakers in several states to make sure their knife laws support the goals of law enforcement, mesh with the needs of a diverse and strong economy, preserve the heritage of men and women who hunt, fish, and enjoy a broad variety of outdoor recreation, allow the construction industry to function at a high level, and preserve the rights of ordinary citizens who may have carried a knife their entire life to open letters and do some pruning in the rose garden.
 
Secondly, I would ask you to consider just a few issues that might give you some new insight into the issues that your bill raises.
 
Broadly, AKTI supports rational, equitable knife laws. Simple possession of a knife should not be punished. Knives do no harm unless used by someone who intends to harm. But we do support significant punishment of anyone who uses a knife in the commission of a crime.
 
Every five years, our U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service documents the impact of hunting and fishing in each of the
50 states. Released in the fall of 2007, its 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated
Recreation documents that, nationally, hunters and fishers spend more than $76 Billion annually (State statistics page attached).
 
Hawaii benefited from an estimated $163,363,000 spent by hunters and fishers in 2006. Since most hunters and fishers carry knives, we should not subject them to prosecution for knife possession or jeopardize that vital revenue.
 
Your marine and sport fishing industry is heavily dependent on knife usage. To forbid pocket knives on the docks and marinas of Hawaii would be an economic disaster and an enforcement nightmare.
 
Speaking further about economics, AKTI published its own report in 2007 entitled The AKTI State of the Sporting Knife Industry. Projections from the AKTI study peg annual sporting knife revenue at the manufacturer/importer level in Hawaii at $41,686,375.
 
Sales at Hawaii distribution and retail outlets would nearly double that number to some $82 million. That’s a
lot of jobs, taxes and economic vitality. When you run those dollars through all the local economies affected, the total economic impact of the sporting knife industry in Hawaii approaches $492 million annually.
 
The construction trades are heavily dependent on workmen using knives. They carry them from homes to job sites and back again daily … millions of times each day. I am not an expert on the Hawaiian construction trades, but ask yourself how many of these people could keep Hawaii building and growing without all their necessary tools.
 
Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, farm workers, greenhouse staff, lawn care workers, tree trimmers, nursery and garden center staff all use knives daily. Scientific research is significant in Hawaii where pocket knives are commonly used to procure samples. Then there are thousands of gardeners throughout the islands, many of whom carry a knife on their person. To bust every grandmother in her rose garden for carrying and using a pocket knife would be a social disaster beyond measure.
 
I have been to Hawaii several times. My small folding knife goes into checked baggage when I fly but then I carry it when I go biking or whale watching. Multiply me by millions of visitors who hunt, fish, hike, rock climb, bike, kayak, canoe, deep-sea fish, snorkel or scuba. Do you really want to threaten all those law-abiding visitors with arrest for carrying a small pocket knife? Whether they come from the continental U.S. or the Pacific Rim countries, their tourist dollars are very discretionary dollars and they can take them elsewhere.
 
Knives are man’s oldest tools. We don’t ban automobiles or cameras or computers because they have become more complex in mechanism and materials, more sophisticated in design, more aesthetically rich, and focused on ever-narrower market niches. We don’t ban baseball bats or golf clubs because they can cause physical injury.
 
Ideally, AKTI’s position is that knife possession of any sort should be permitted. AKTI’s ideal law would read, "A knife is illegal only if it is carried with the intent to assault or harm another person." However, I recognize that Hawaii already bans switchblades (and I have attached your current knife statute).
 
AKTI and AKTI members urge you to withdraw your bill since, as it is written, it would be a broad-brush attack on millions of law-abiding Hawaiian citizens and visitors. Its economic impact on several vital industries would be disastrous, especially given our current economic climate.
23679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Liberal Fascism strikes again on: February 04, 2009, 07:45:25 AM
'They say we're too old to care for our grandchildren': Social workers hand brother and sister to gay men for adoption

By Graham Grant and Marcello Mega
Last updated at 12:38 AM on 29th January 2009

Two young children are to be adopted by a gay couple, despite the protests of their grandparents.  The devastated grandparents were told they would never see the youngsters again unless they dropped their opposition.  The couple, who cannot be named, wanted to give the five-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister a loving home themselves. But they were ruled to be too old - at 46 and 59.

For two years they fought for their rights to care for the children, whose 26-year- old mother is a recovering heroin addict. They agreed to an adoption only after they faced being financially crippled by legal bills.  The final blow came when they were told the children were going to a gay household, even though several heterosexual couples wanted them.

When the grandfather protested, he was told: 'You can either accept it, and there's a chance you'll see the children twice a year, or you can take that stance and never see them again.' The man said last night: 'It breaks my heart to think that our grandchildren are being forced to grow up in an environment without a mother figure. We are not prejudiced, but I defy anyone to explain to us how this can be in their best interests.'

Social workers themselves have admitted that the little girl is 'more wary' of men than women.

The case, in Edinburgh, raises worrying issues about state interference in family life.

It will also fuel concern over the practice of gay adoption, which has been promoted by Left-wing ministers and council bosses.
Some local authorities forbid adoption by smokers and obese people but actively support gay fostering and adoption - even though research shows overwhelmingly that children are best brought up by a mother and father.

The grandparents first stepped in because the children's mother was unable to look after them.

But council social workers became worried that the grandparents' ages and health problems meant they would also be unable to care for the children properly. The 59-year-old grandfather, a farm worker, has angina while his wife is receiving medication for diabetes.
The children were taken into foster care during the two years of court hearings.

When the grandparents eventually conceded defeat, they were assured by social workers that they would still have regular contact with them. The fostering arrangement worked well, but the council decided that the children should be adopted, to give them a permanent home.  The grandparents agreed - as long as they could be assured that the adoptive parents would be a loving mother and father.  The couple were then told an adoption had been arranged - but the grandfather 'hit the roof' when he discovered that the adoptive parents were two gay men.

Social workers dealing with the case admitted that heterosexual couples who were approved as adoptive parents had also been keen to adopt the children.  The decision was taken even though a confidential social work report - now part of the court records held by the grandparents - contained that the little girl is generally not as happy around men.

The report says she 'has tended to be more wary of males in general.'

Her grandparents insist they are not homophobic.

But they reject the view of social workers that the decision to allow the gay couple to adopt the children was made 'in accordance with who can best meet their needs.'

When they made their opposition clear, however, the couple were told that social workers would 'certainly look' at allowing them access to the children 'when you are able to come back with an open mind on the issues'.

The grandfather was told by a social worker: 'If you couldn't support the children [in the gay adoption], if you were having contact and couldn't support the children, and were showing negative feelings, it wouldn't be in their best interests for contact to take place.'

He said last night: 'The ideal for any child is to have a loving father and a loving mother in their lives. But in our society the mother is generally the cornerstone of the family and the most important person for a young child.'

His wife added: 'It's so important for children to fit in, and I feel our grandchildren will be marked out from the start when they draw pictures of their two dads.'

The last time the couple saw their grandchildren was shortly after the agreement for them to be adopted but before the decision to place them with a gay couple.  They took dozens of photographs and tried, for the sake of the youngsters, not to break down.

'Granny, I'm not going to see you for a very long time,' said the five-year-old boy. 'Maybe when I'm in Primary Seven I'll be able to see you.'

'We'll try our very hardest to see you soon,' said his grandmother, choking back tears.

The boy told his grandfather: 'Grandad, if you want to see me you will have to pick me up because I will be a very long way away.'
Then he added innocently: 'We are getting a new mummy and daddy.'

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic church condemned the council's decision last night, warning that the children's welfare could be jeopardised.
Peter Kearney said: 'This is a devastating decision which will have a serious impact on the welfare of the children involved.  There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that same-sex relationships are inherently unstable and reduce the life expectancy of those involved.  With this in mind, the social work department has deliberately ignored evidence which undermines their decision and opted for politically correct posturing rather than providing stability and protection.  It is impossible to see how this decision is in the best interests of the children.'

The City of Edinburgh Council said last night that it could not comment on individual cases.

Adoption by gay couples in Scotland was approved by MSPs in 2006 - despite an official consultation process which showed that nearly 90 per cent of people opposed it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ld--46-59.html
23680  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Membership on: February 04, 2009, 07:32:06 AM
For the record Tyler is also a Trainer in DBMAA.

Gord, hope you can make it to the seminar this weekend in Toronto.
23681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Farah on: February 04, 2009, 07:24:15 AM
Bringing GM's post from the Cognitive Dissonance thread to here.  My comments come at the end:

===================================


http://www.douglasfarah.com/article/447/understanding-the-islamist-agenda-and-negotiations.com

Feb 2, 15:42
Understanding the Islamist Agenda and Negotiations

There are many good reasons for wanting to talk directly to one’s enemies, particularly states that pose a direct threat to one’s security. The Obama administration, facing a host of domestic problems and inheriting the ineffective policies of the previous administration in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, has incentives to want to get the Iran issue contained, at a minimum.

The same can be said for the Afghanistan crisis, which is lurching from bad to worse. The Taliban, flush with opium money, is making inroads while the corrupt and ineffective government fiddles, and Kabul is close to burning.

But one has to be clear that the other side wants some sort of serious back and forth. This is what is missing in both cases.

One must start from a recognition of what it is Iran wants: the abolition of Israel, the unimpeded sponsorship of armed non-state actors (Hezbollah and Hamas, with the dalliance with al Qaeda when convenient), and imposition of a global theocracy. None of these issues is negotiable.

From this Wall Street Journal piece, it is quite clear that Iran sees nothing to be gained by talks, and much to be gained by trying to humiliate the incoming administration. Perhaps they are simply recognizing the reality that their basic goals leave little room for substantive negotiations.

It seems to me that Fareed Zakaria makes serious mistake in his assessment of Afghanistan policy in calling for talks with the Taliban.

This is largely for the same reason: the lack of a understanding of what the Taliban want and what they are.

Like the Iranians (yes, the Taliban is Sunni and wahhabist, and yes the Iranians are Shi’ite and they have much disdain for each other on many issues) the Taliban has as its bottom line the establishment of a global Islamist caliphate that starts in Afghanistan and from there, the world.

The differences with al Qaeda are cultural clashes and discomfort with the way the Arab forces treat the Taliban, but not over fundamental beliefs, tactics or strategy. A world under Sharia law, as understood by both groups, is a divine mandate and therefore not negotiable.

Zakaria writes that:

The United States is properly and unalterably
opposed to al-Qaeda. We have significant differences with the Taliban on many issues—democracy and the treatment of women being the most serious. But we do not wage war on other Islamist groups with which we similarly disagree (the Saudi monarchy, for example). Were elements of the Taliban to abandon al-Qaeda, we would not have a pressing national security interest in waging war against them.

That is simply not true. As he notes later, al Qaeda (the old guard, perhaps less relevant than ever) is essentially a parasite, living off host groups and nations. But in the case of the Taliban, the host has welcomed the parasite, fed it, clothed it, protected it and embraced it.

The idea that the Taliban would, in a verifiable way, renounce and cut ties to al Qaeda, is simply not realistic. The idea that we should stand by and deal with-and likely assure the ascent to power of-a group whose basic philosophy is to return everything they can back to the Middle Ages is an abandonment of everything we claim to stand for. The fact that we tolerate Saudi Arabia’s abysmal behavior is no reason to watch another country fall under the worst kind of enslavement and barbarism.

Finally, the line about having no pressing national security interest in the Taliban repeats exactly the misguided analysis that led the Taliban to facilitate the execution of the 9/11 attacks. Every major attack (1998 East Africa bombings, USS Cole, 9/11) were carried out by non-state actors (al Qaeda) operating from a “failed” state or sympathetic state (Taliban and Sudan).

Dialogue is a useful, vital tool in international relations. But it is only useful when the bottom lines of both sides are understood and the areas of overlap can be discussed. Otherwise, it is a waste of precious time and resources.
Posted on: February 03, 2009, 08:50:25 PMPosted by: G M 
Insert Quote
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Tom Daschle Withdraws: Another Ethics Casualty for Obama
Posted By Jennifer Rubin On February 3, 2009 @ 10:53 am In . Feature 01, Money, Politics, US News | 73 Comments

How quickly they fall. Tom Daschle, who just yesterday had the full backing of President Barack Obama, has announced he is withdrawing his name from consideration as Health and Human Services secretary. For both Daschle and Obama, it has been a rough ride, calling into question the latter’s judgment and skill as a chief executive.

President Barack Obama rode into Washington on a veritable cloud of goodwill and sky-high expectations. The mainstream media had swooned over his transition with some justification. They had swooned over his inaugural speech with far less. But hopes, even among conservatives, were high for a break from business as usual, a degree of bipartisan pragmatism and a can-do approach to solving the nation’s economic problems. But in a mere two weeks, the thrill is gone and nagging questions have begun.

Most glaringly, we have been treated to a raft of embarrassing personnel issues. Tim Geithner made it through the confirmation hearing but Bill Richardson did not; nor did the “[1] chief performance officer” who could not perform the task of paying all her own taxes. Then Tom Daschle, who just yesterday garnered the support of President Obama and Democrats in the Senate, has now announced he is backing out. This followed a storm of criticism from not just conservatives who are aghast at the tax cheats and revolving-door-ism. [2] Marie Cocco summed up:

No need to fumble for words that sum up the stew of hypocrisy, arrogance, and insiderism that is the unfolding saga of Tom Daschle. This is the audacity of audacity. … The rationale for confirming Geithner was that he is a financial wizard — one of a handful of people, it was argued, with the experience and intellect necessary to manage the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression. But surely there is more than one Democrat capable of managing the Department of Health and Human Services. And undoubtedly there is more than one — there are perhaps, hundreds — as committed to the cause of revamping the health care system. Daschle isn’t indispensable. But he is indefensible.

And [3] Richard Cohen was no less critical:

Taken individually, the tax problems of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the health and human services secretary-designate, Tom Daschle, don’t amount to much. Together, though, they amount to a message: If you are beloved by this administration, you don’t necessarily have to play by the rules. Both Geithner and Daschle are good men, but their appointments send the message that Washington’s new broom sweeps a bit like the old one.

The Daschle debacle is not the only problem bedeviling the Obama team. This follows a slew of ethics waivers which has made the so-called ethics rules (prohibiting ex-lobbyists from working on issues for which they previously lobbied) into Swiss cheese. The [4] good-government types are fuming. And even the MSM has noticed the pattern, which includes an ethics waiver for William Lynn, a former lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon who has been nominated for the Pentagon’s number two job.

[5] TIME magazine explains:

But the controversy over the waivers, which have been criticized by both Democratic and Republican senators, is just one of the perception problems dogging Obama’s new ethics policy. Another issue stems from the people nominated to the administration who have worked in the lobbying business but are not technically lobbyists — people, in other words, like Tom Daschle, or former Senator George Mitchell, the new Middle East peace envoy who had previously served as the chairman of a law firm that has done lobbying and legal work for many clients in the region, including the leader of Dubai.

In short, we are back to the very same Washington, D.C., brew of sleaze, double standards, ethical lapses, and hypocrisy. That it comes from an administration which ran on such a sanctimonious platform only makes it that much more disappointing and indeed infuriating.

But that’s not all. Aside from the ethics issues, the number one priority, the Obama stimulus plan, has run aground. The administration’s stimulus bill has become the subject of widespread criticism from [6] conservatives and [7] mainstream outlets alike for its porked-up spending plans and insufficient attention to fulfill the president’s directives for a temporary and targeted response to the recession. What was supposed to garner bipartisan support has instead invigorated the Republican opposition. As ABC’s [8] The Note summed up: “Team Obama lost the early battle to define the bill — which has become a pork-stuffed monstrosity, instead of economic salvation wrapped in legislation.”

On foreign policy the record is more mixed. The president’s declaration that he will close Guantanamo, as soon as he has figured out what to do with the prisoners, brought conservative criticism and has proven to be [9] unpopular with voters who, come to think of it, don’t like the idea of moving dangerous terrorists to their neighborhoods or releasing them to the battlefield. And liberals are miffed that the Bush-era terrorist [10] rendition program has been retained or indeed expanded. President Obama’s apologetic interview with Al-Arabyia was panned by conservatives and lauded by liberals (but, tellingly, was not echoed by his new secretary of state and was greeted with contempt by Ahmadinejad.)

It is fair to ask: what’s wrong? Several things, it appears, are at work here.

First, the Obama team certainly does not place ethical standards or the appearance of ethical standards above other concerns (e.g., avoiding embarrassment or getting a key player). Now this should come as no surprise from the team which promised to work within the public campaign financing rules and then decided it was better not to. In the course of the campaign, however, against the dreaded Republicans this passed muster. In the glare of the White House press corps lights when expectations are higher, it induces biting criticism and even anger.

Second, Obama has never been an expert legislator and has, it seems, lost control of his own stimulus bill. By deferring to the House Democrats he lost the policy and political high ground. Now an astounding [11] 54% of Americans either want a major reworking of the bill or to block it entirely. The president and his advisors seem to have mistaken his own personal popularity with both the public’s and the Republicans’ willingness to accept anything he and the Democrats could dream up.

And finally, the Republicans have played their cards well on the stimulus — speaking in respectful tones about the president, displaying heretofore unheard of unity, and hammering at the excessive and unwise aspects of the stimulus bill. By holding their ground, they have forced Obama into a tight corner. He must now either revise the bill or pass it on his own. And by standing on principle, they have denied the president the chance to do what he has done successfully throughout his career; namely, to claim the mantle of bipartisanship while advocating a far-left agenda.

Now, President Obama’s approval numbers are still high, but they are [12] floating steadily back to earth. This is the messy business of governing — when rhetoric comes up against reality and the sky-high expectations of supporters are ratcheted down, bit by bit.

It was never realistic to expect President Obama would reinvent politics, but it would have been nice had he not sacrificed his principles quite so quickly. It has not earned him any brownie points. Instead, conservatives are revived, liberals are dismayed, and the general public is left wondering: Didn’t we vote for something better than this?

Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/tom-daschle-another-ethics-casualty-for-obama/

URLs in this post:
[1] chief performance officer: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/02/03/1778480.aspx
[2] Marie Cocco: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/02/daschle_is_indefensible.html
[3] Richard Cohen: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/02/AR2009020202054.html
[4] good-government types: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/23/william-lynn-obamas-first_n_160512.html
[5] TIME magazine: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1876550,00.html?xid=rss-topstories
[6] conservatives: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/100dyjdy.asp
[7] mainstream: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/31/AR2009013101535.html
[8] The Note: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2009/02/the-note-2309-s.html
[9] unpopular: http://www.gallup.com/poll/114091/Americans-Approve-Obama-Actions-Date.aspx
[10] rendition program: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/rubin/52402
[11] 54%: http://www.gallup.com/poll/114097/Americans-Support-Stimulus-Major-Changes.aspx
[12] floating steadily back: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/polls

======================

GM:

So what does Farah/do you propose?  THAT is the question!  For many months now I have been questioning the coherence of our strategy for Afg-Pak.   I am not alone in this.   Indendent reporter Michael Yon (whom I respect so highly that I donate to him on a monthly basis) says a clusterfcuk comes.  Sec Def Gates, not a weenie, says similar things.   WHAT ARE WE TO DO?   WHAT IS THE STRATEGY?  What does success in Afg look like?
23682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 04, 2009, 07:19:38 AM
Woof All:

This thread is in danger of becoming a ghoulash of everything about BO which annoys us. GM, I'm thinking that the piece you post better belongs in one of the threads on WW3, our strategy vs. Islamo-fascism, the Afg-Pak thread etc.   

Anyone interested in responding to it please do so in one of those threads.

Thank you,
Marc
23683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bird Flu breakout in China? on: February 04, 2009, 07:13:45 AM
A friend forwarded the following to me.  The site's reliability is unknown to me

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/health/news/article_1457257.php/Hong_Kong_expert_warns_of_%26quotterrible%26quot_China_bird-flu_outbreak__Roundup__
23684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: February 04, 2009, 07:12:12 AM
"Sounds like a zen koan."

Exactly.  Perhaps in its contemplation you will find satori.   grin
23685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dog and elephant become friends on: February 04, 2009, 07:10:21 AM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o0GsA4qDHE
23686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: February 03, 2009, 08:22:18 PM
Exactly so.
23687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: February 03, 2009, 08:16:51 PM
Question:  You know those you caught.   How do you know those you didn't?
23688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim (Pak? Arab? or?) mob set Brit police fleeing on: February 03, 2009, 07:10:34 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UatySUUOJYM
23689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: February 03, 2009, 06:07:01 PM
Well of course it is!  You are a LEO!  cheesy cheesy cheesy



23690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: February 03, 2009, 05:20:43 PM
No.

One of my best friends in law school (Columbia) made law review and later went on to become a senior VP of legal affairs at a major Hollywood studio as well as a law professor. 

His modus operandi before plowing into some heavy SEC regs was to fire up a fat doobie.  It wasn't my way, but it sure worked for him.

GM, I could give you lots and lots of stories like this.  Perhaps because of your profession, there are a lot of people around you who unbeknownst to you, are stoners.  Unlike you, because of my pursuit of happiness, live and let live approach to life, such people do not fear that I will try to throw them in jail-- so they see no need to hide from me who they are.
23691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 03, 2009, 12:42:32 PM
There's a very funny post on the Phelps pot affair over on the Libertarian thread of the SCH forum.  I'm thinking any discussion of this will be a better fit there than on this thread here.
23692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Phony War on Torture on: February 03, 2009, 12:27:59 PM
Congress's Phony War on Torture Why not ban waterboarding once and for all?By WILLIAM MCGURN
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When Leon Panetta comes before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday about his nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency, he ought to be asked tough questions about the things he's said about torture. And he will.

At a time when key congressional Democrats are backing calls to investigate Bush administration officials for war crimes, it would help if our elected representatives first answered the tough questions themselves. But they won't. And therein lies the key to understanding contemporary congressional morality.

For the past few years, no word has been more casually thrown about than "torture." At the same time, no word has been less precisely defined. That suits Congress just fine, because it allows members to take a pass on defining the law while reserving the right to second-guess the poor souls on the front lines who actually have to make decisions about what the law means.

Last February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thumped loudly when they sent George W. Bush a bill that would have limited the CIA to the interrogation techniques found in the Army Field Manual -- knowing full well that he would veto it. Now they have a Democratic president who says he shares their views. So why not send him a bill declaring once and for all that waterboarding and other interrogation techniques constitute torture?

Manifestly our system of government gives them the right to do so. As CIA Director Michael Hayden noted in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2007, the "CIA operates only within the space given to us by the American people. . . . That space is defined by the policy makers we elect and the laws our representatives pass."

Of course, defining that space would require something in short supply in Washington: an adult conversation. In such a conversation, good men and women could present the case for enhanced interrogation without having their words twisted and finding themselves held up in public as latter-day Torquemadas. Such a conversation might also begin by examining the reigning assumption of today's debate: that context and circumstances have nothing to say about what we call torture.

This is not the reasoning we apply in other areas. Consider a police officer who kills a criminal in a justifiable shooting. We do not call that murder, because the circumstances surrounding the act determine our judgment of that act. If that's true for something as serious as killing, is it really impossible that similar reasoning might apply to interrogation practices that leave no permanent physical or mental damage?

At times, even critics inadvertently make the point. When it is argued, for example, that Navy Seals have undergone waterboarding as part of their training, the response is, well, waterboarding someone as part of his military training is different from waterboarding someone in custody. Yes: Of course it is. In the real world, circumstances and context are crucial to our moral judgments.

While we're at it, let's forget about the theoretical ticking time bomb. Instead, consider a real assertion: Leaders in our intelligence community have declared that the intelligence gained from enhanced interrogations of high-value terrorists have helped save innocent lives.

You don't believe them? Fine. Bring in the people who know -- behind closed doors if you want them to speak honestly and avoid spilling classified information. And then come to an informed conclusion.

In a better day, Congress would allow the executive branch a great deal of latitude during a time of war. We, however, do not live in a better day. In our day, senators and congressmen call for inquisitions of people who operate within a vague torture statute that Congress could easily clarify if it wanted.

A year ago, the Speaker of the House expressed herself thus: "Failing to legally prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh techniques," she said, "undermines our nation's moral authority, puts American military and diplomatic personnel at risk, and undermines the quality of intelligence."

So what's stopping her? The ban President Barack Obama has put in place is not a law but an executive order that can be reversed. This order came, moreover, with a huge back door in the form of a "task force" that will study whether eliminating waterboarding and other enhanced techniques will affect our intelligence needs.

If Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid believe their own public statements that waterboarding and other techniques are both torture and ineffective, they ought to incorporate their words into a law that takes these practices off the table forever.

That, of course, would mean a vote that would force lawmakers to face up to the real-life consequences of their actions -- and submit those actions to the judgment of the American people.

And as Mr. Obama is learning, the one thing that frightens Congress more than al Qaeda is accountability.

23693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Normalization of Evil on: February 03, 2009, 12:04:46 PM
By JUDEA PEARL
This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. My wife Ruth and I wonder: Would Danny have believed that today's world emerged after his tragedy?

 
Reuters/Corbis
Jimmy Carter.
The answer does not come easily. Danny was an optimist, a true believer in the goodness of mankind. Yet he was also a realist, and would not let idealism bend the harshness of facts.

Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters. Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of "the resistance." Or that another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, would spend his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.

No. Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny's murder would be a turning point in the history of man's inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism -- the ideological license to elevate one's grievances above the norms of civilized society -- was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable "tactical" considerations.

This mentality of surrender then worked its way through politicians like the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In July 2005 he told Sky News that suicide bombing is almost man's second nature. "In an unfair balance, that's what people use," explained Mr. Livingstone.

But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel." Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.

Mr. Carter's logic has become the dominant paradigm in rationalizing terror. When asked what Israel should do to stop Hamas's rockets aimed at innocent civilians, the Syrian first lady, Asma Al-Assad, did not hesitate for a moment in her response: "They should end the occupation." In other words, terror must earn a dividend before it is stopped.

The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

Then came the August 2008 birthday of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant killer who, in 1979, smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl with his rifle after killing her father before her eyes. Al Jazeera elevated Kuntar to heroic heights with orchestras, fireworks and sword dances, presenting him to 50 million viewers as Arab society's role model. No mainstream Western media outlet dared to expose Al Jazeera efforts to warp its young viewers into the likes of Kuntar. Al Jazeera's management continues to receive royal treatment in all major press clubs.

Some American pundits and TV anchors didn't seem much different from Al Jazeera in their analysis of the recent war in Gaza. Bill Moyers was quick to lend Hamas legitimacy as a "resistance" movement, together with honorary membership in PBS's imaginary "cycle of violence." In his Jan. 9 TV show, Mr. Moyers explained to his viewers that "each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man's terrorism becomes another's resistance to oppression." He then stated -- without blushing -- that for readers of the Hebrew Bible "God-soaked violence became genetically coded." The "cycle of violence" platitude allows analysts to empower terror with the guise of reciprocity, and, amazingly, indict terror's victims for violence as immutable as DNA.

When we ask ourselves what it is about the American psyche that enables genocidal organizations like Hamas -- the charter of which would offend every neuron in our brains -- to become tolerated in public discourse, we should take a hard look at our universities and the way they are currently being manipulated by terrorist sympathizers.

At my own university, UCLA, a symposium last week on human rights turned into a Hamas recruitment rally by a clever academic gimmick. The director of the Center for Near East Studies carefully selected only Israel bashers for the panel, each of whom concluded that the Jewish state is the greatest criminal in human history.

The primary purpose of the event was evident the morning after, when unsuspecting, uninvolved students read an article in the campus newspaper titled, "Scholars say: Israel is in violation of human rights in Gaza," to which the good name of the University of California was attached. This is where Hamas scored its main triumph -- another inch of academic respectability, another inroad into Western minds.

Danny's picture is hanging just in front of me, his warm smile as reassuring as ever. But I find it hard to look him straight in the eyes and say: You did not die in vain.

Mr. Pearl, a professor of computer science at UCLA, is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, founded in memory of his son to promote cross-cultural understanding
23694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Perpetual Debt on: February 03, 2009, 11:55:46 AM
"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 12 July 1816
23695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq is BO's pillar on: February 03, 2009, 11:32:10 AM
Imagine yourself as Barack Obama, gazing at a map of the greater Middle East and wondering how, and where, the United States can best make a fresh start in the region.

 
AP
An Iraqi man holds up an ink-stained finger after casting his vote in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Jan. 31.

Your gaze wanders rightward to Pakistan, where preventing war with India, economic collapse or the Talibanization of half the country would be achievement enough. Next door is Afghanistan, where you are committing more troops, all so you can prop up a government that is by turns hapless and corrupt.

Next there is Iran, drawing ever closer to its bomb. You're mulling the shape of a grand bargain, but Israel is talking pre-emption. Speaking of Israel, you're girding for a contentious relationship with the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, the all-but certain next prime minister.

What about Israel's neighbors? Palestine is riven between feckless moderates and pitiless fanatics. Lebanon and Hezbollah are nearly synonyms. You'd love to nudge Syria out of Iran's orbit, but Bashar Assad isn't inclined. In Egypt, a succession crisis looms the moment its octogenarian president retires to his grave.

And then there is Iraq, the country in the middle that you would have just as soon banished from sight. How's it doing? Perplexingly well.

The final tallies for Saturday's provincial elections aren't in yet. But a few conclusions are warranted. This time, the election seems to have been mostly free of fraud; four years ago, it was beset by fraud. This time, there was almost no violence; four years ago, there were 299 terrorist attacks. This time, 40% of voters in the overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar went to the polls; four years ago, turnout was 2%.

In 2005, Iraqis voted their sectarian preferences. Now sectarian parties are out of fashion. "Those candidates who campaigned under the banner of religion should be rejected," Abdul Kareem told Al Jazeera. "They corrupted the name of religion because they are notorious for being thieves. Religion is not politics." Mr. Kareem is a Shiite cleric.

Also out of fashion: Iran, previously thought to be the jolly inheritor of our Iraq misadventure. In 2005, Tehran's political minions in the Iranian-funded Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- itself the funder of the dreaded Badr brigade -- swept the field. Candidates loyal to anti-American fire-breather Moqtada al-Sadr also did well. This time, Sadr didn't even dare to field his own slate, and early reports are that the Supreme Council was trounced.

What's in fashion, electorally speaking, are secular parties, as well as the moderately religious Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Palestinian parliamentary election of 2006 that put Hamas in power was taken in the West as proof that Arab democracy was destined to yield illiberal results. Saturday's election suggests otherwise, assuming there is a structure that guarantees that Islamists must stand for election more than once.

What about security? A month ago, Gen. Ray Odierno predicted that "al Qaeda will try to exploit the elections because they don't want them to happen. So I think they will attempt to create some violence and uncertainty in the population." But al Qaeda was a no-show on Saturday. Meanwhile, more U.S. soldiers died in accidents (12) than in combat (4) for the month of January. The war is over.

So what are you going to do about the one bright spot on your map -- an Arab country that is genuinely democratic, increasingly secular and secure, anti-Iranian and, all-in-all, on your side? So far, your only idea seems to bid to it good luck and bring most of the troops home in time for Super Bowl Sunday, 2010.

That's a campaign promise, but it isn't a foreign policy. Foreign policy begins with the recognition that Iraq has now moved from the liability side of the U.S. ledger to the asset side. As an Arab democracy, it is a model for what we would like the rest of the Arab world to become. As a Shiite democracy, it is a reproach to Iranian theocracy. As the country at the heart of the Middle East, it is ideally located to be a bulwark against Tehran's encroachments.

There was a time when American strategists understood the role countries could play as "pillars" of a regional strategy. Israel has been a pillar since at least 1967; Iran was one until 1979. Turkey, too, is a pillar, but it is fast slipping away, as is Egypt.

Within the Arab world, Iraq is the only country that can now fulfill that role. For that it will need military and economic aid, and lots of it. Better it than futile causes like Palestine, or missions impossible like winning over the mullahs. With Saturday's poll, Iraq has earned a powerful claim to our friendship.

Yes, you'd rather look elsewhere on the map for a Mideast legacy. But Iraq is where you'll find it. Don't miss your chance.
23696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq is BO's pillar on: February 03, 2009, 11:21:50 AM
Was Bush right after all?  evil
=======================

Imagine yourself as Barack Obama, gazing at a map of the greater Middle East and wondering how, and where, the United States can best make a fresh start in the region.

 
AP
An Iraqi man holds up an ink-stained finger after casting his vote in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Jan. 31.
Your gaze wanders rightward to Pakistan, where preventing war with India, economic collapse or the Talibanization of half the country would be achievement enough. Next door is Afghanistan, where you are committing more troops, all so you can prop up a government that is by turns hapless and corrupt.

Next there is Iran, drawing ever closer to its bomb. You're mulling the shape of a grand bargain, but Israel is talking pre-emption. Speaking of Israel, you're girding for a contentious relationship with the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, the all-but certain next prime minister.

What about Israel's neighbors? Palestine is riven between feckless moderates and pitiless fanatics. Lebanon and Hezbollah are nearly synonyms. You'd love to nudge Syria out of Iran's orbit, but Bashar Assad isn't inclined. In Egypt, a succession crisis looms the moment its octogenarian president retires to his grave.

The Opinion Journal Widget
Download Opinion Journal's widget and link to the most important editorials and op-eds of the day from your blog or Web page.
And then there is Iraq, the country in the middle that you would have just as soon banished from sight. How's it doing? Perplexingly well.

The final tallies for Saturday's provincial elections aren't in yet. But a few conclusions are warranted. This time, the election seems to have been mostly free of fraud; four years ago, it was beset by fraud. This time, there was almost no violence; four years ago, there were 299 terrorist attacks. This time, 40% of voters in the overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar went to the polls; four years ago, turnout was 2%.

In 2005, Iraqis voted their sectarian preferences. Now sectarian parties are out of fashion. "Those candidates who campaigned under the banner of religion should be rejected," Abdul Kareem told Al Jazeera. "They corrupted the name of religion because they are notorious for being thieves. Religion is not politics." Mr. Kareem is a Shiite cleric.

Also out of fashion: Iran, previously thought to be the jolly inheritor of our Iraq misadventure. In 2005, Tehran's political minions in the Iranian-funded Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- itself the funder of the dreaded Badr brigade -- swept the field. Candidates loyal to anti-American fire-breather Moqtada al-Sadr also did well. This time, Sadr didn't even dare to field his own slate, and early reports are that the Supreme Council was trounced.

What's in fashion, electorally speaking, are secular parties, as well as the moderately religious Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Palestinian parliamentary election of 2006 that put Hamas in power was taken in the West as proof that Arab democracy was destined to yield illiberal results. Saturday's election suggests otherwise, assuming there is a structure that guarantees that Islamists must stand for election more than once.

What about security? A month ago, Gen. Ray Odierno predicted that "al Qaeda will try to exploit the elections because they don't want them to happen. So I think they will attempt to create some violence and uncertainty in the population." But al Qaeda was a no-show on Saturday. Meanwhile, more U.S. soldiers died in accidents (12) than in combat (4) for the month of January. The war is over.

So what are you going to do about the one bright spot on your map -- an Arab country that is genuinely democratic, increasingly secular and secure, anti-Iranian and, all-in-all, on your side? So far, your only idea seems to bid to it good luck and bring most of the troops home in time for Super Bowl Sunday, 2010.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Dodd's Peek-A-Boo DisclosureNationalize ThisMotley Paint Crew

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Main Street: Congress's Phony War on Torture
– William McGurn

COMMENTARY

Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil
– Judea PearlWhat Other Financial Crises Tell Us
– Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. RogoffHow to Value Toxic Bank Assets
– Robert C. PozenThat's a campaign promise, but it isn't a foreign policy. Foreign policy begins with the recognition that Iraq has now moved from the liability side of the U.S. ledger to the asset side. As an Arab democracy, it is a model for what we would like the rest of the Arab world to become. As a Shiite democracy, it is a reproach to Iranian theocracy. As the country at the heart of the Middle East, it is ideally located to be a bulwark against Tehran's encroachments.

There was a time when American strategists understood the role countries could play as "pillars" of a regional strategy. Israel has been a pillar since at least 1967; Iran was one until 1979. Turkey, too, is a pillar, but it is fast slipping away, as is Egypt.

Within the Arab world, Iraq is the only country that can now fulfill that role. For that it will need military and economic aid, and lots of it. Better it than futile causes like Palestine, or missions impossible like winning over the mullahs. With Saturday's poll, Iraq has earned a powerful claim to our friendship.

Yes, you'd rather look elsewhere on the map for a Mideast legacy. But Iraq is where you'll find it. Don't miss your chance.

23697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: February 03, 2009, 11:12:07 AM
You are on the bus when you suddenly realize ... you need to fart, real bad.

The music is really loud, so you time your farts with the beat. After
a couple of songs, you start to feel better as you approach your stop.

As you are leaving the bus, people are really staring you down, and
that's when you remember: you've been listening to your ipod.

 
23698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Supply routes through Iran?!? on: February 03, 2009, 11:05:21 AM
Stratfor:

NATO Members Free To Seek Iranian Supply Route
February 3, 2009 | 0255 GMT

Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s senior military commander, announced late Feb. 2 that the alliance would not oppose individual member nations reaching bilateral deals with Iran for the transit of supplies to Afghanistan. This development follows statements by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Jan. 26, encouraging member states to engage Tehran over the campaign in Afghanistan. These are not small or off-the-cuff statements, and they signal a significant development in the West’s relationship with Iran.

Though it might be too soon for the United States to choose this route to supply its troops in Afghanistan, several European nations could seize the opportunity to end their reliance on vulnerable supply lines through Pakistan. In truth, everyone is looking for the elusive alternative. But some will be more prepared to strike deals with Tehran than others.

No deals have been inked yet, but NATO officials would not make these public announcements out of the blue. Craddock’s statement itself suggests that at least a few member states contributing to the Afghan campaign have been pushing for this green light for some time. By implication, some arrangements between Tehran and select European capitals are likely to follow in short order.

More important, NATO’s recent signals are an enormous development amid the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Moscow over a potential Central Asian supply route. Pakistan has always been the United States’ shortest, most direct route to Afghanistan — precisely because the prospect of cooperation with Iran, after the Bush administration labeled it a member of the Axis of Evil, was politically absurd. But despite the fact that supplies shipped through Iran would traverse more territory in Afghanistan proper (some of it host to a heavy Taliban presence), an Iranian route still makes for an exceptionally competitive alternative — especially in comparison to the long, drawn-out and politically treacherous Central Asian routes under consideration. Supplies would be offloaded at the Iranian port of Chah Bahar on the Arabian Sea and transported by truck directly to Afghan territory.

Simply by raising the prospect of Iran as a viable alternative, Washington’s hand in negotiating other routes becomes stronger.

For Tehran, this is an enormous opportunity to engage directly with the Western world in an area of mutual interest. Iran — a Persian and Shiite power — is enormously threatened by the empowerment of hard-line Sunni extremists across its eastern frontier. (Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, there were even some backchannel discussions between Washington and Tehran over Iranian support for the planned U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.)

If a number of NATO allies — with Germany among the likely inaugural candidates — choose to sustain their national efforts in Afghanistan via the short, accessible route through Iran, the opportunities for wider political rapprochement also expand. Of course, it will not be all smooth sailing. Tehran will be looking to extract significant concessions in exchange for such significant and overt assistance.

From a military perspective, if the United States can lock down the tortuous Central Asian route as well, NATO suddenly would have three independent supply lines to some of the most inaccessible territory on Earth. That would prevent any one route from being too heavily leveraged against the United States, thereby weakening both Islamabad’s and Moscow’s negotiating positions in relation to Washington.
23699  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 03, 2009, 11:01:50 AM
Although I did see BJ try to establish lockdown one time (and here vasaline vel non would be relevant), I agree it probably didn't make a difference in the fight.

That said, I think it important to establish that cheating will not be tolerated lest this sport become like boxing.
23700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: February 03, 2009, 10:48:42 AM
An updated version of the previous Stratfor report:

Hints of a Possible Cartel Cease-fire

Violence related to organized crime continued across Mexico this past week. Among the more noteworthy incidents was the discovery of three severed heads inside a cooler just outside Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Meanwhile, some 20 armed men shot and killed two police officers in San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero state, then set fire to two buildings before fleeing. And in Durango, Durango state, a group of gunmen traveling in at least one vehicle shot and killed two people.

While violence in most of the country continues at a level we have come to expect, Sinaloa state registered a noticeable decrease in homicides. This decline also coincided with reports that Mexico’s major drug-trafficking organizations had reached at least a limited cease-fire as a result of several meetings held in December. Rumors of such meetings and truces are quite common in Mexico, and more often than not, such agreements quickly break down. Nevertheless, the situation warrants monitoring, especially considering that this has been a year of flux in cartel relationships, and any new truces or alliances could have a significant impact on the country’s security environment.

Talk of a Shift in Strategy

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told a group of legislators this past week that the United States and Mexico are finalizing a new strategy for the fight against the cartels that will be launched in the next few days, according to several press reports. The new strategy will focus on slowing the flow of weapons and money crossing into Mexico from the United States, one Mexican legislator said, adding that it would involve a change in actions in two current hot spots of violence: Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and Tijuana, Baja California state. Another Mexican congressional source told reporters that Mexico City and Washington have been in contact regarding how to combat organized crime. During the meeting, several congressmen from northern Mexican states reportedly complained to Medina Mora about the continuing violence in their districts and the general lack of progress in the cartel war. Also this past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ordered a top-down review of border policy, which includes customs, immigration and other law enforcement functions.

While at first glance these reports suggest that Mexico and the United States might soon adopt a new approach to fighting the cartels, it is important to recall that this is not the first time the Mexican government has considered a so-called shift in strategy. In many cases, such reports often turn out to be intended to show the Mexican public and congress that the federal government is considering all options and pursuing a coherent strategy. It would appear that is the case with these latest reports as well, especially given that breaking up weapons trafficking networks in the United States — something law enforcement north of the border has been engaged in for a long time — is hardly a new strategy. Nevertheless, Medina Mora’s statement could be an indication of a U.S. reassessment of the situation, something Stratfor has been looking for from the new Obama administration.

Sinaloa Cartel Operations in Nicaragua

The Sinaloa cartel continues to operate drug-trafficking routes in Nicaragua and is looking to recover its operations along the country’s Pacific coast, Nicaraguan national police chief Aminta Granera reported this past week. Granera said that the majority of Sinaloa operatives are Nicaraguan nationals from the eastern part of the country who operate in the west, citing recent arrests and small cocaine seizures in the western cities of Rivas, Chinandega and Villanueva (though the Chinandega arrest also involved Salvadoran nationals). She added that the trafficking routes involve land and maritime components, and that most small boats tend to sail in international waters to avoid running into Nicaraguan authorities.

Despite Granera’s description of the arrests, it appears that they have had little impact on the Sinaloa cartel’s operations there. The routes and trafficking patterns described by Granera closely match previous arrests and seizures associated with Sinaloa operations in Nicaragua. In addition, Granera’s description of arrest locations suggests that Sinaloa continues to operate the same routes as before, presumably still relying on private vehicles to carry small shipments from Costa Rica to El Salvador. While the arrests will be a nuisance to the organization, there is no reason to think the routes cannot quickly be restored.

Jan. 26

Assailants armed with assault rifles shot and killed two men in Zapopan, Jalisco state.

Mexican army officials reported discovering and destroying a marijuana field and clandestine airstrip near Jilotlan de los Dolores, Jalisco state, believed to have been used by the Sinaloa cartel.   
Authorities at Panama City’s international airport reported the arrest of a Mexican man in possession of $430,464 that he failed to declare upon arriving on a flight from Mexico City.
At least five gunmen shot and killed five motorcyclists at a seafood restaurant in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. At least 10 others were killed in separate incidents in the state.
Mexican officials confirmed that alleged Sinaloa operative Lamberto Verdugo Calderon died in a firefight with Mexican army forces in Sinaloa state on Jan. 22.

Jan. 27

Federal police arrested one Russian and one Cuban citizen, both reportedly U.S. residents, on charges of human smuggling in Frontera Comalapa, Chiapas state.

Jan. 28

Authorities in Cosoleacaque, Veracruz state, discovered the body of an unidentified man bearing signs of torture.
Several gunmen in a vehicle shot and killed three unidentified people in La Mesa, Baja California state.
Police near Durango, Durango state, found the body of a man who had been kidnapped several days before. Authorities believe he had been beaten to death.
Several gunmen shot and killed two police officers in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.
Authorities recovered more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as assorted firearms and grenades, from a safe house in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.

Jan. 29

Mexican army forces raided a safe house in a suburb of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, seizing some seven vehicles and undisclosed documents.

Feb. 1

At least one assailant shot and killed a police officer in Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua state.
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