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23751  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: October 06, 2009, 11:31:18 PM
The good times continue to roll.
23752  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 06, 2009, 11:30:51 PM
Had what is presumably the final big edit day for DLO 3 today.  Next Tuesday we dot the "i-s" and cross the "t-s" and will be done.
23753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is the US preparing to bomb Iran? on: October 06, 2009, 08:37:39 PM
Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran?
Is the U.S. Stepping Up Preparations for a Possible Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities?
Oct. 6, 2009—

Is the U.S. stepping up preparations for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities?

The Pentagon is always making plans, but based on a little-noticed funding request recently sent to Congress, the answer to that question appears to be yes.

First, some background: Back in October 2007, ABC News reported that the Pentagon had asked Congress for $88 million in the emergency Iraq/Afghanistan war funding request to develop a gargantuan bunker-busting bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It's a 30,000-pound bomb designed to hit targets buried 200 feet below ground. Back then, the Pentagon cited an "urgent operational need" for the new weapon.

Now the Pentagon is shifting spending from other programs to fast forward the development and procurement of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer.

Click here to see a copy of the Pentagon's request, provided to ABC News.

The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers.

'Urgent Operational Need'
The notification was tucked inside a 93-page "reprogramming" request that included a couple hundred other more mundane items.

Why now? The notification says simply, "The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON." It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).

Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran?
The request was quietly approved. On Friday, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide "Massive Penetrator Ordnance Integration" on B-2 aircraft.

This is not the kind of weapon that would be particularly useful in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran.

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures
23754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion /'s take on the recent deaths in Afpakia on: October 06, 2009, 08:17:52 PM's take on the recent US deaths in Af-Pak area...FWIW...

Three days ago the Taliban attacked a US/Afghan outpost in Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. The outpost is described as "remote"; this is not particularly helpful because most any part of Afghanistan is "remote" Be that as it may, the outpost is set among forests and mountains, perhaps 10-km as the bird flies from the Pakistan border.

The reason the outpost was set up in the first place was to interdict infiltration from Pakistan. when attacked, it had 50 US soldiers and 90 Afghan Army and police. A year ago the US decided things weren't working, and decided to withdraw the outpost. The new Afghanistan strategy in any case calls for giving up desolate outposts in the middle of nowhere, and focusing the limited available resources on the main town and cities. This is sensible, as in any case no one manages to control the countryside, which has been, is, and always will be the home of the tribes. If the west thinks it will at some point succeed in building up sufficient Afghan forces to permit Kabul to control the country, then the west is sadly deluded and will fail even worse than it is failing.

Back to the outpost.

Every story we read leaves us shaking our head in sheer bewilderment. We cannot understand in the slightest what the US military thinks it has been doing.

Let us first make very, very clear: we would never presume to judge the tactics employed at a particular place and time, no matter which army we are discussing. Not just are we going solely by the media reports, the media more often than not gets things very wrong. Unless we went over, carefully examined the ground, and extensively discuss matters with the US troops, the Afghan military, the locals, and the Taliban, we would lack the data needed for an objective judgment.

So we are not passing any judgments: we are simply going to point out a few things that make absolutely no sense to us about this outpost.

The outpost was situated 1-km down-mountain of the mosque and village used by the insurgents as their assembly area. It does not matter what the reason, you absolutely never put yourself down-mountain of the enemy especially when he is practically at your doorstep.

US troops had not visited the village for a year, and also did not visit other villages in the area. The reason given is that the US, in the interests of good relations, did not want to enter the local villages unless invited, and they were never invited. Bosh, Baloney and Bunkum. Since when has it been US policy not to enter villages without invitation? Where in the world when you are doing CI do you wait for invitations from the locals who are hand in glove with the insurgents to issue you polite invites for tea and crumpets?

US troops could not patrol the area beyond a couple of thousand meters out. The reason given is that the area was too dangerous. We accept that. But in that case the Army was super-negligent in stationing the outpost because the troops there are blind to what's happening all around them, and sending over a UAV every so often is not going to give them eyes to see.

The outpost was not evacuated because the local Governor said if the Americans withdrew before the election, it would Not Look Good. In case you are waiting for us to grandly proclaim: "Military decisions should never be made on political grounds," you wait in vain. That is complete twaddle. Everything in CI is political first, military second.

But a clear distinction has to be made: the decision to go to that region can be political. Once you arrive there, however, purely military considerations have to take over. How can it be that US Army found the outpost untenable but hung around for a year because the provincial governor would lose face? Makes no sense - and here we are willing to acknowledge likely the press has got things wrong. Nonetheless, if for political reasons US had to be there, the US Army should have done everything possible to make the outpost defensible.

US is short of helicopter lift and could not evacuate earlier Someone has got something egregiously wrong here. It take 4-5 Chinook sorties or 20 UH-60 sorties to get 140 men and essential equipment out. Mo way you will get us to believe that for weeks or months or whatever US couldn't spare this tiny bit of airlift.

US Army knew this was a hotspot: outpost has come under attack 50 times since May 2009. This speaks for itself. No one can say they were caught unawares.

How it looks to us in the absence of better information. You have an outpost in the middle of nowhere, and the troops are boxed into a tiny space. They cannot get out because its not safe. They cannot go out every night and lay ambushes, even if it is just a 2-man sniper team. They are sitting passively in the middle of Indian Country, with a big Kick My Butt sign on the outpost. The enemy knows everything the post does, the post knows nothing of what the enemy is doing.

The Taliban obliged.

We are NOT attempting to second-guess anyone We are not joining the coulda woulda shoulda brigade here. We don't know the whole story, likely even 5% of the story. But what we do know is, this outpost looks like a Prime A error to us. It smells of careless complacency and people who have still not understood what counter-insurgency is about.

If and when we get more information, we will be the first to revise/update/change our formulation. Right now things don't look good to us, not one little bit.

What's the big deal, the outpost held It did. Excellent. We are not going all mushy hearted because 8 US soldiers got killed. That's war. People get killed, and most of them get killed for no good reason or meaningful gain. Sorry about that.

But see, people. We are not writing about this outpost because of the battle the other day. The same outpost was written up in detail some weeks back in the WashPo. Our head shaking reaction is from then. We've been mulling over writing the same thing we have above, then.

We're writing because when we read the first article, we thought what we have said here: why is the US Army accepting being in lock-down in a little place in the middle of nowhere. The story then said no one had been interdicted or intercepted in months. And that's not because All Was Calm, etc., the troops made clear they couldn't get out and couldn't control anything.

The Taliban on the battle This battle, as far as is know as of now, was very professionally fought by the Taliban. Aside from the US casualties, there were several Afghan dead and perhaps 20 or more Afghans captured. This means the Taliban caught the outpost completely by surprise and got inside the wire. This is Big Boys League.

Likely this is the caliber of the enemy in this region, because the Taliban certainly has not managed anything like this elsewhere. The 2008 attack at Wanat, which in the same province, was also highly professional.

US deploys a powerful lot of firepower, and when artillery, gunships and tactical air joins in the battle, a lot of attackers are going to die. But only five bodies were found. This is very, very professional indeed.

So, we are suspicious and so is our occasional correspondent Major AH Amin. He has said, in a circumspect way, that he believes the Pakistan Army conducted the attack. Nothing impossible: till the US came into Afghanistan the hard military core of the Taliban was the Pakistan Army, not just as advisors, but as entire brigades. That's how the Taliban came out of "nowhere" and in two years took the entire country bar 15% in the northwest, beating one warlord after another in conventional battle.

In fairness, we must say Bill Roggio does not agree He feels the Taliban are quite capable of executing such attacks by themselves and there is no need to invoke the Pakistan Army.

Either way, however, this attack is trouble, even if only - say - 10 percent of the Taliban have reached this level of competence.

Meanwhile, the Taliban tied the attack directly to the impending US reinforcement of Afghanistan, saying they too could reinforce, and reinforce more than the US could.

Now boys and girls: here is a question. Since the outpost is 10-km from Pakistan border, guess just where those Taliban or Pakistani-soldiers-as-Taliban came from.

Hint: it wasn't from London or Paris.
23755  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: DBMA DVD en espanol on: October 06, 2009, 08:16:37 PM
Acabo de ver los primeros 11 minutos.  Van a aparecer aqui en este foro  cool  Mi' editor Ron los va a mandar a nuestro webmaster para que el los ponga aqui. 

Espero que aparezcan aqui adentro al fines de la semana que viene.
23756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 06, 2009, 10:49:35 AM
IMHO I have found GF to be one of the deepest and most perceptive observers that we have.

That said I agree with your questioning of some of his premises here. 

The problem may lie in the fact that GF's model seeks to be coldly analytical and not at all partisan.   As I see it, the fact of the matter is that our President is talking and taking certain steps consistent only with action-- and I have seen serious US polls that think some 70% of the American people think he is being too soft on Iran.  GF HAS said that various actors doubt our President has a line that he will not allow to be crossed; as I understand GF's model it includes making such assessments.

That doesn't change the fact that we seem to have elected a clueless pussy.
23757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO backs limits on Free Speech on: October 06, 2009, 10:42:17 AM

You Can't Say That
At the UN, the Obama administration backs limits on free speech.
by Anne Bayefsky
10/05/2009 12:00:00 AM

The Obama administration has marked its first foray into the UN human rights establishment by backing calls for limits on freedom of expression. The newly-minted American policy was rolled out at the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, which ended in Geneva on Friday. American diplomats were there for the first time as full Council members and intent on making friends.

President Obama chose to join the Council despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Islamic states quickly interpreted the president's penchant for "engagement" as meaning fundamental rights were now up for grabs. Few would have predicted, however, that the shift would begin with America's most treasured freedom.

For more than a decade, a UN resolution on the freedom of expression was shepherded through the Council, and the now defunct Commission on Human Rights which it replaced, by Canada. Over the years, Canada tried mightily to garner consensus on certain minimum standards, but the "reformed" Council changed the distribution of seats on the UN's lead human rights body. In 2008, against the backdrop of the publication of images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, Cuba and various Islamic countries destroyed the consensus and rammed through an amendment which introduced a limit on any speech they claimed was an "abuse . . [that] constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination."

The Obama administration decided that a revamped freedom of expression resolution, extracted from Canadian hands, would be an ideal emblem for its new engagement policy. So it cosponsored a resolution on the subject with none other than Egypt--a country characterized by an absence of freedom of expression. Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs. In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1--adopted by consensus the following day--the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:
"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased--for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."
The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

Pakistan's Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, made it clear that they understand the resolution and its protection against religious stereotyping as allowing free speech to be trumped by anything that defames or negatively stereotypes religion. The idea of protecting the human rights "of religions" instead of individuals is a favorite of those countries that do not protect free speech and which use religion--as defined by government--to curtail it. Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that "human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions." The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that "the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media" goes "well beyond" existing international law and "the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms."

In 1992 when the United States ratified the main international law treaty which addresses freedom of expression, the government carefully attached reservations to ensure that the treaty could not "restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

The Obama administration's debut at the Human Rights Council laid bare its very different priorities. Threatening freedom of expression is a price for engagement with the Islamic world that it is evidently prepared to pay.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a professor at Touro College, and the editor of
23758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Federalist #25, 1787 on: October 06, 2009, 09:19:22 AM
"Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every break of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country."  --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25, 1787
23759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: October 06, 2009, 04:36:34 AM
The BO Administration's policy on Honduras is so wrong and so stupid as to challenge the assumption of good faith. angry
23760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 05, 2009, 11:06:14 PM
I don't see it either-- BO is painting us into a corner that requires action, but will puss out , , , and everyone knows it.  Sanctions are a meaningless threat without the Russians and the Chinese.

I suppose one could argue that maybe he is holding off on Afg because he knows what comes with Iran, but ultimately the man is universally believed to be a pussy and that is how all players are going to play.

Edited to add this from the WSJ:
NEW YORK—When American diplomats sat down for the first in a series of face-to-face talks with their Iranian counterparts last October in Geneva, few would have predicted that what began as a negotiation over Tehran's nuclear programs would wind up in a stunning demand by the Security Council that Israel give up its atomic weapons.

Yet that's just what the U.N. body did this morning, in a resolution that was as striking for the way member states voted as it was for its substance. All 10 nonpermanent members voted for the resolution, along with permanent members Russia, China and the United Kingdom. France and the United States abstained. By U.N. rules, that means the resolution passes.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.
.The U.S. abstention is sending shock waves through the international community, which has long been accustomed to the U.S. acting as Israel's de facto protector on the Council. It also appears to reverse a decades-old understanding between Washington and Tel Aviv that the U.S. would acquiesce in Israel's nuclear arsenal as long as that arsenal remained undeclared. The Jewish state is believed to possess as many as 200 weapons.

Tehran reacted positively to the U.S. abstention. "For a long time we have said about Mr. Obama that we see change but no improvement," said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "Now we can say there has been an improvement."

The resolution calls for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. It also demands that Israel sign the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and submit its nuclear facilities to international inspection. Two similar, albeit nonbinding, resolutions were approved last September by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

At the time, the U.S. opposed a resolution focused on Israel but abstained from a more general motion calling for regional disarmament. "We are very pleased with the agreed approach reflected here today," said then-U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies.

Since then, however, relations between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, never warm to begin with, have cooled dramatically. The administration accused Tel Aviv of using "disproportionate force" following a Nov. 13 Israeli aerial attack on an apparent munitions depot in Gaza City, in which more than a dozen young children were killed.

Mr. Netanyahu also provoked the administration's ire after he was inadvertently caught on an open microphone calling Mr. Obama "worse than Chamberlain." The comment followed the president's historic Dec. 21 summit meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Geneva, the first time leaders of the two countries have met since the Carter administration.

But the factors that chiefly seemed to drive the administration's decision to abstain from this morning's vote were more strategic than personal. Western negotiators have been pressing Iran to make good on its previous agreement in principle to ship its nuclear fuel to third countries so it could be rendered usable in Iran's civilian nuclear facilities. The Iranians, in turn, have been adamant that they would not do so unless progress were made on international disarmament.

"The Iranians have a point," said one senior administration official. "The U.S. can't forever be the enforcer of a double standard where Israel gets a nuclear free ride but Iran has to abide by every letter in the NPT. President Obama has put the issue of nuclear disarmament at the center of his foreign policy agenda. His credibility is at stake and so is U.S. credibility in the Muslim world. How can we tell Tehran that they're better off without nukes if we won't make the same point to our Israeli friends?"

Also factoring into the administration's thinking are reports that the Israelis are in the final stages of planning an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who met with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak in Paris last week, has been outspoken in his opposition to such a strike. The Jerusalem Post has reported that Mr. Gates warned Mr. Barak that the U.S. would "actively stand in the way" of any Israeli strike.

"The Israelis need to look at this U.N. vote as a shot across their bow," said a senior Pentagon official. "If they want to start a shooting war with Iran, we won't have their backs on the Security Council."

An Israeli diplomat observed bitterly that Jan. 20 was the 68th anniversary of the Wannsee conference, which historians believe is where Nazi Germany planned the extermination of European Jewry. An administration spokesman said the timing of the vote was "purely coincidental."

Write to

23761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Strat: Two Leaks on: October 05, 2009, 04:11:56 PM

Two Leaks and the Deepening Iran Crisis
October 5, 2009
By George Friedman

Two major leaks occurred this weekend over the Iran matter.

In the first, The New York Times published an article reporting that staff at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear oversight group, had produced an unreleased report saying that Iran was much more advanced in its nuclear program than the IAEA had thought previously. According to the report, Iran now has all the data needed to design a nuclear weapon. The New York Times article added that U.S. intelligence was re-examining the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2007, which had stated that Iran was not actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.

The second leak occurred in the British daily The Times, which reported that the purpose of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s highly publicized secret visit to Moscow on Sept. 7 was to provide the Russians with a list of Russian scientists and engineers working on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The second revelation was directly tied to the first. There were many, including STRATFOR, who felt that Iran did not have the non-nuclear disciplines needed for rapid progress toward a nuclear device. Putting the two pieces together, the presence of Russian personnel in Iran would mean that the Iranians had obtained the needed expertise from the Russians. It would also mean that the Russians were not merely a factor in whether there would be effective sanctions but also in whether and when the Iranians would obtain a nuclear weapon.

We would guess that the leak to The New York Times came from U.S. government sources, because that seems to be a prime vector of leaks from the Obama administration and because the article contained information on the NIE review. Given that National Security Adviser James Jones tended to dismiss the report on Sunday television, we would guess the report leaked from elsewhere in the administration. The Times leak could have come from multiple sources, but we have noted a tendency of the Israelis to leak through the British daily on national security issues. (The article contained substantial details on the visit and appeared written from the Israeli point of view.) Neither leak can be taken at face value, of course. But it is clear that these were deliberate leaks — people rarely risk felony charges leaking such highly classified material — and even if they were not coordinated, they delivered the same message, true or not.

The Iranian Time Frame and the Russian Role
The message was twofold. First, previous assumptions on time frames on Iran are no longer valid, and worst-case assumptions must now be assumed. The Iranians are in fact moving rapidly toward a weapon; have been extremely effective at deceiving U.S. intelligence (read, they deceived the Bush administration, but the Obama administration has figured it out); and therefore, we are moving toward a decisive moment with Iran. Second, this situation is the direct responsibility of Russian nuclear expertise. Whether this expertise came from former employees of the Russian nuclear establishment now looking for work, Russian officials assigned to Iran or unemployed scientists sent to Iran by the Russians is immaterial. The Israelis — and the Obama administration — must hold the Russians responsible for the current state of Iran’s weapons program, and by extension, Moscow bears responsibility for any actions that Israel or the United States might take to solve the problem.

We would suspect that the leaks were coordinated. From the Israeli point of view, having said publicly that they are prepared to follow the American lead and allow this phase of diplomacy to play out, there clearly had to be more going on than just last week’s Geneva talks. From the American point of view, while the Russians have indicated that participating in sanctions on gasoline imports by Iran is not out of the question, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did not clearly state that Russia would cooperate, nor has anything been heard from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the subject. The Russian leadership appears to be playing “good cop, bad cop” on the matter, and the credibility of anything they say on Iran has little weight in Washington.

It would seem to us that the United States and Israel decided to up the ante fairly dramatically in the wake of the Oct. 1 meeting with Iran in Geneva. As IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran, massive new urgency has now been added to the issue. But we must remember that Iran knows whether it has had help from Russian scientists; that is something that can’t be bluffed. Given that this specific charge has been made — and as of Monday not challenged by Iran or Russia — indicates to us more is going on than an attempt to bluff the Iranians into concessions. Unless the two leaks together are completely bogus, and we doubt that, the United States and Israel are leaking information already well known to the Iranians. They are telling Tehran that its deception campaign has been penetrated, and by extension are telling it that it faces military action — particularly if massive sanctions are impractical because of more Russian obstruction.

If Netanyahu went to Moscow to deliver this intelligence to the Russians, the only surprise would have been the degree to which the Israelis had penetrated the program, not that the Russians were there. The Russian intelligence services are superbly competent, and keep track of stray nuclear scientists carefully. They would not be surprised by the charge, only by Israel’s knowledge of it.

This, of course leaves open an enormous question. Certainly, the Russians appear to have worked with the Iranians on some security issues and have played with the idea of providing the Iranians more substantial military equipment. But deliberately aiding Iran in building a nuclear device seems beyond Russia’s interests in two ways. First, while Russia wants to goad the United States, it does not itself really want a nuclear Iran. Second, in goading the United States, the Russians know not to go too far; helping Iran build a nuclear weapon would clearly cross a redline, triggering reactions.

A number of possible explanations present themselves. The leak to The Times might be wrong. But The Times is not a careless newspaper: It accepts leaks only from certified sources. The Russian scientists might be private citizens accepting Iranian employment. But while this is possible, Moscow is very careful about what Russian nuclear engineers do with their time. Or the Russians might be providing enough help to goad the United States but not enough to ever complete the job. Whatever the explanation, the leaks paint the Russians as more reckless than they have appeared, assuming the leaks are true.

And whatever their veracity, the leaks — the content of which clearly was discussed in detail among the P-5+1 prior to and during the Geneva meetings, regardless of how long they have been known by Western intelligence — were made for two reasons. The first was to tell the Iranians that the nuclear situation is now about to get out of hand, and that attempting to manage the negotiations through endless delays will fail because the United Nations is aware of just how far Tehran has come with its weapons program. The second was to tell Moscow that the issue is no longer whether the Russians will cooperate on sanctions, but the consequence to Russia’s relations with the United States and at least the United Kingdom, France and, most important, possibly Germany. If these leaks are true, they are game changers.

We have focused on the Iranian situation not because it is significant in itself, but because it touches on a great number of other crucial international issues. It is now entangled in the Iraqi, Afghan, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese issues, all of them high-stakes matters. It is entangled in Russian relations with Europe and the United States. It is entangled in U.S.-European relationships and with relationships within Europe. It touches on the U.S.-Chinese relationship. It even touches on U.S. relations with Venezuela and some other Latin American countries. It is becoming the Gordian knot of international relations.

STRATFOR first focused on the Russian connection with Iran in the wake of the Iranian elections and resulting unrest, when a crowd of Rafsanjani supporters began chanting “Death to Russia,” not one of the top-10 chants in Iran. That caused us to focus on the cooperation between Russia and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on security matters. We were aware of some degree of technical cooperation on military hardware, and of course on Russian involvement in Iran’s civilian nuclear program. We were also of the view that the Iranians were unlikely to progress quickly with their nuclear program. We were not aware that Russian scientists were directly involved in Iran’s military nuclear project, which is not surprising, given that such involvement would be Iran’s single-most important state secret — and Russia’s, too.

A Question of Timing
But there is a mystery here as well. To have any impact, the Russian involvement must have been under way for years. The United States has tried to track rogue nuclear scientists and engineers — anyone who could contribute to nuclear proliferation — since the 1990s. The Israelis must have had their own program on this, too. Both countries, as well as European intelligence services, were focused on Iran’s program and the whereabouts of Russian scientists. It is hard to believe that they only just now found out. If we were to guess, we would say Russian involvement has been under way since just after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, when the Russians decided that the United States was a direct threat to its national security.

Therefore, the decision suddenly to confront the Russians, and suddenly to leak U.N. reports — much more valuable than U.S. reports, which are easier for the Europeans to ignore — cannot simply be because the United States and Israel just obtained this information. The IAEA, hostile to the United States since the invasion of Iraq and very much under the influence of the Europeans, must have decided to shift its evaluation of Iran. But far more significant is the willingness of the Israelis first to confront the Russians and then leak about Russian involvement, something that obviously compromises Israeli sources and methods. And that means the Israelis no longer consider the preservation of their intelligence operation in Iran (or wherever it was carried out) as of the essence.

Two conclusions can be drawn. First, the Israelis no longer need to add to their knowledge of Russian involvement; they know what they need to know. And second, the Israelis do not expect Iranian development to continue much longer; otherwise, maintaining the intelligence capability would take precedence over anything else.

It follows from this that the use of this intelligence in diplomatic confrontations with Russians and in a British newspaper serves a greater purpose than the integrity of the source system. And that means that the Israelis expect a resolution in the very near future — the only reason they would have blown their penetration of the Russian-Iranian system.

Possible Outcomes
There are two possible outcomes here. The first is that having revealed the extent of the Iranian program and having revealed the Russian role in a credible British newspaper, the Israelis and the Americans (whose own leak in The New York Times underlined the growing urgency of action) are hoping that the Iranians realize that they are facing war and that the Russians realize that they are facing a massive crisis in their relations with the West. If that happens, then the Russians might pull their scientists and engineers, join in the sanctions and force the Iranians to abandon their program.

The second possibility is that the Russians will continue to play the spoiler on sanctions and will insist that they are not giving support to the Iranians. This leaves the military option, which would mean broad-based action, primarily by the United States, against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Any military operation would involve keeping the Strait of Hormuz clear, meaning naval action, and we now know that there are more nuclear facilities than previously discussed. So while the war for the most part would be confined to the air and sea, it would be extensive nonetheless.

Sanctions or war remain the two options, and which one is chosen depends on Moscow’s actions. The leaks this weekend have made clear that the United States and Israel have positioned themselves such that not much time remains. We have now moved from a view of Iran as a long-term threat to Iran as a much more immediate threat thanks to the Russians.

The least that can be said about this is that the Obama administration and Israel are trying to reshape the negotiations with the Iranians and Russians. The most that can be said is that the Americans and Israelis are preparing the public for war. Polls now indicate that more than 60 percent of the U.S. public now favors military action against Iran. From a political point of view, it has become easier for U.S. President Barack Obama to act than to not act. This, too, is being transmitted to the Iranians and Russians.

It is not clear to us that the Russians or Iranians are getting the message yet. They have convinced themselves that Obama is unlikely to act because he is weak at home and already has too many issues to juggle. This is a case where a reputation for being conciliatory actually increases the chances for war. But the leaks this weekend have strikingly limited the options and timelines of the United States and Israel. They also have put the spotlight on Obama at a time when he already is struggling with health care and Afghanistan. History is rarely considerate of presidential plans, and in this case, the leaks have started to force Obama’s hand.
23762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 05, 2009, 10:34:04 AM
second post of the AM

The ego, the arrogance, the utter cluelessness boggle the mind , , ,

Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan

The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war.

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 7:00AM BST 05 Oct 2009

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

An adviser to the administration said: "People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".

When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."

He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."

The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

Gen McChrystal delivered a report on Afghanistan requested by the president on Aug 31, but Mr Obama held only his second "principals meeting" on the issue last week.

He will hold at least one more this week, but a decision on how far to follow Gen McChrystal's recommendation to send 40,000 more US troops will not be made for several weeks.

A military expert said: "They still have working relationship but all in all it's not great for now."

Some commentators regarded the general's London comments as verging on insubordination.

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: "As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements."

He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to "pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy".

Relations between the general and the White House began to sour when his report, which painted a grim picture of the allied mission in Afghanistan, was leaked. White House aides have since briefed against the general's recommendations.

The general has responded with a series of candid interviews as well as the speech. He told Newsweek he was firmly against half measures in Afghanistan: "You can't hope to contain the fire by letting just half the building burn."

As a divide opened up between the military and the White House, senior military figures began criticising the White House for failing to tackle the issue more quickly.

They made no secret of their view that without the vast ground force recommended by Gen McChrystal, the Afghan mission could end in failure and a return to power of the Taliban.

"They want to make sure people know what they asked for if things go wrong," said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defence.

Critics also pointed out that before their Copenhagen encounter Mr Obama had only met Gen McChrystal once since his appointment in June.
23763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: AQ's diminished role? on: October 05, 2009, 08:27:23 AM
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad and SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington
Since first invading Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, America set one primary goal: Eliminate al Qaeda's safe haven.

Today, intelligence and military officials say they've severely constrained al Qaeda's ability to operate there and in Pakistan -- and that's reshaping the debate over U.S. strategy in the region.

Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al Qaeda is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistani and U.S. officials. Conversations intercepted by the U.S. show al Qaeda fighters complaining of shortages of weapons, clothing and, in some cases, food. The number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan appears to be declining, U.S. military officials say.

For Arab youths who are al Qaeda's primary recruits, "it's not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding," said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.

In Washington, the question of Al Qaeda's strength is at the heart of the debate over whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan. On Saturday, eight American troops and two Afghan soldiers were killed fighting Taliban forces -- one of the worst single-day battlefield losses for U.S. forces since the war began.

Opponents of sending more troops prefer a narrower campaign consisting of missile strikes and covert action inside Pakistan, rather than a broader war against the Taliban, the radical Islamist movement that ruled Afghanistan for years and provided a haven to al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden. Their reasoning: The larger threat to America remains al Qaeda, not the Taliban; so, best not to get embroiled in a local war that history suggests may be unwinnable.

Military commanders pressing for extra troops counter that sending more forces could help translate the gains against al Qaeda into a political settlement with less ideologically committed elements of the Taliban. And, they argue, that would improve the odds of stabilizing Afghanistan for the long run.

A key point of contention in President Barack Obama's review of war strategy is the ability of al Qaeda to reconstitute in Afghanistan. Some officials, including aides to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S.'s special representative to the region, have argued that the Taliban wouldn't allow al Qaeda to regain its footing inside Afghanistan, since it was the alliance between the two that cost the Taliban their control of the country after Sept. 11.

A senior military official, however, characterized this as a minority view within the debate. He noted that even if the Taliban sought to keep al Qaeda from returning, it would have little means to do so.

Retired Gen. James Jones, the president's National Security Adviser, acknowledged on CNN Sunday that the links between the two groups had become a "central issue" in the White House discussion. He said he believed the return of the Taliban "could" mean the return of al Qaeda.

Afghan Attack Kills Eight U.S. Soldiers
In the political debate, al Qaeda's diminished role has bolstered the argument of those advocating a narrower campaign. They say continuing the drone campaign is sufficient to keep al Qaeda at bay, said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who has written extensively on al Qaeda. Mr. Hoffman believes that argument is misguided, however, and that if the U.S. pulls out, al Qaeda will return.

"Al Qaeda may be diminished, but it still poses a threat," he said. The debate will move to Capitol Hill Tuesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on confronting al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Though there is emerging international consensus among counterterrorism officials that al Qaeda isn't the foe it used to be, U.S., Afghan and Pakistani officials caution that it doesn't mean the fight in Afghanistan or Pakistan is tilting America's way. "They're not defeated. They're not dismantled, but they are being disrupted," said a senior U.S. intelligence official in Washington.

Mr. Obama himself has argued that al Qaeda could strengthen if the U.S. eases up on the Taliban. "If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting," he said at a speech in Phoenix at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in August, before the current strategy debate heated up. "This is fundamental to the defense of our people."

Al Qaeda apparently retains a global reach, as suggested by the Sept. 19 arrest in Colorado of Najibullah Zazi, 24 years old. U.S. prosecutors allege Mr. Zazi is part of an al Qaeda cell who trained in Pakistan and was trying to make the same kind of explosives used in the 2005 London bombings.

U.S. officials also say al Qaeda remains tight with the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, one of the Afghan insurgency's top leaders. The late leader of the Pakistan Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, was similarly close with al Qaeda before being killed in August by a strike from a U.S. drone aircraft. U.S. officials say they hope his death will weaken al Qaeda's Taliban ties.

For years, the fortunes of al Qaeda and the Taliban moved in tandem. The Taliban hosted al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and Mr. bin Laden's network launched its 2001 attacks from there. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban continued to provide haven after retreating to the tribal areas of Pakistan, while al Qaeda trained Taliban fighters.

But in the past year, the fates of the two organizations have diverged. The Taliban insurgency has become increasingly violent and brazen and spread to areas of Afghanistan that only a year ago were considered solidly pro-government. Al Qaeda, in contrast, has seen its role shrink because it is struggling to raise money from its global network of financiers and attract recruits.

Today there are signs al Qaeda is relying more on affiliated groups to press its agenda world-wide, according to one official briefed on the matter. These groups include Pakistani movements such as Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah and the Islamic Jihad Union, whose roots are in Uzbekistan.

As affiliates like these "continue to develop and evolve," their threat to the U.S. has grown, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in Senate hearings last week.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the presence of fewer foreign fighters -- Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and others -- potentially changes the dynamics of the fight there.

Foreign militants serve as a battlefield "accellerant," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, in an interview. "When a foreign fighter comes into Afghanistan, he doesn't have anything else he's going to do -- he's going to fight until he dies or goes somewhere else," he said. By contrast, "an Afghan is fighting for something, and if he starts to get that, his motivation changes."

Right now, Gen. McChrystal said, "we don't see huge numbers of foreign fighters, which obviously makes you believe there's not nearly the presence there was of foreign fighters....I hope it's a trend, but I'm not prepared to confidently say that."

Even if Al Qaeda is struggling, it already has imparted dangerous knowledge -- how to build suicide car bombs, launch complex gunmen assaults and tap wealthy sympathizers in the Persian Gulf -- that made it a key asset to the Taliban several years ago.

Al Qaeda also remains allied with and protected by the Taliban. Allowing the insurgents to succeed would likely give al Qaeda the space it needs to regroup, rearm and, most importantly, reestablish itself as the premier global jihadi movement, U.S., Pakistani and Afghan officials say.

Al Qaeda's message of world-wide jihad, however, has lost much of its popularity amid the rise of militant groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere who tend to focus their ire locally. That, combined with a perception among would-be followers that the group has only paid lip-service to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also has reduced its global credibility, officials say.

Support is even declining among some of al Qaeda's allies. It has lost support from a group of Saudi sheiks known as the Sahwa, or "Awakening," movement. (It's unrelated to a similar-sounding group in Iraq.) Some of the sheiks are now trying to persuade members of al Qaeda's North African branch to give up jihad, said Daniel Lav, director of the Middle East and North Africa Reform Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington.

Mr. bin Laden and al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. But a U.S. campaign of missile strikes by pilotless Predator aircraft has decimated al Qaeda's second- and third-tier leadership.

One example cited by U.S. and Pakistani officials: Usama al-Kini, a Kenyan citizen believed to have been al Qaeda's operations chief inside Pakistan and a key architect of the September 2008 truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which killed at least 50 people. He was slain along with his deputy, Sheik Ahmed Salim Swedan, a Kenyan, in a Jan. 1 missile strike, officials say.

Both men's history with al Qaeda stretched back to the group's first major strike, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Officials also pointed to Rashid Rauf, the alleged mastermind of a 2006 plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, who they say was slain in a drone attack last year, although Pakistani and British officials express uncertainty over whether he is actually dead.

But even if Mr. Rauf is still alive, the fact that he became such a primary target made it tough for him to fulfill his role as a communications link between Pakistan and Britain, says an officer from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Other operatives who have been detained by British authorizes have further eroded those communications links, an official familiar with the intelligence reports on al Qaeda added.

The drones, operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, have so far killed 11 of the men on the U.S.'s initial list of the top 20 al Qaeda targets, the official said. The U.S. has since drawn up a fresh list, including the nine holdovers from the first one. Four of the men on the new list are now dead, too. Those who remain are focused on finding sanctuary, possibly at the expense of operations and training, say officials and militants with links to al Qaeda.

"The Arabs stay out of sight now. They were always secretive. But now they are very secretive...They see spies everywhere," said a man named Walliullah, who Pakistani officials say is an aide to Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Mr. Hekmatyar is allied with the Afghan Taliban and loosely tied to al Qaeda.

At the same time, U.S. intelligence collection in Pakistan has vastly improved, officials say. Western intelligence services have had more success penetrating al Qaeda groups lately, according to Richard Barrett, the United Nations' coordinator for monitoring al Qaeda and the Taliban. "There's many more human sources being run into the groups," Mr. Barrett, a former official with Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, told an audience at a Washington think tank last week.

Similarly, the U.S. in the past was unable to comprehensively monitor communications in Pakistan; that has now been rectified, said an official briefed on U.S. operations. Through that monitoring, U.S., British and Pakistani intelligence officials have seen increasing evidence that al Qaeda is having difficulty raising money.

"Al Qaeda is in fund-raising mode, and they seem to be hurting for cash," said another U.S. official. Intercepts of conversations have caught al Qaeda militants complaining they lack cash and supplies, including weapons.

The new intelligence has provided fresh ways to try to undermine the foreign al Qaeda fighters. Pakistani authorities say they've started targeting food shipments believed to be headed for al Qaeda operatives, who prefer their own cuisine over local fare. "The Talibs, they're eating mutton, chicken, bread -- the food ordinary people eat," said an officer from Pakistan's ISI spy agency. "The Arabs want their own food."

—Rehmat Mehsud in Islamabad and Evan Perez and Peter Spiegel in Washington contributed to this report.
Write to Matthew Rosenberg at and Siobhan Gorman at
23764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 08:15:14 AM
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say they have put aside for the time being any plans to push for a referendum on the U.S.-Iraqi security pact governing the American troop pullout here.

The threat of a referendum had clouded U.S. withdrawal plans. If Iraqi voters were given a chance to vote on the deal some U.S. officials feared they would reject it, forcing an accelerated U.S. withdrawal.

Military officials have said they will comply with any quicker withdrawal in the case of a "no" vote in a referendum. The flagging momentum for a referendum now, however, eases pressure on U.S. commanders.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza said the referendum is an issue that is up to the Iraqis, and American troops are focused on continuing to comply with the security pact.

The security pact calls for all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. When the security treaty was approved, Sunni lawmakers insisted on a referendum as a condition of their support. Originally scheduled for last July, it was delayed.

Many observers suspected it might never happen. But in August, Iraq's cabinet set a new date of Jan. 16, coinciding with nationwide parliamentary polls. A "no" vote on the deal would trigger a termination clause, speeding up a full American troop withdrawal by almost a year. Lawmakers said Sunday there weren't any moves afoot to push through legislation authorizing the referendum. That, they say, means it will either be delayed once again, or dropped altogether.

Recent worry over Iraq's ability to take over security from the U.S. faster -- should the referendum force an early American withdrawal -- appears to have cooled some Sunnis' insistence on the referendum.

"A fast withdrawal of American troops may create a security vacuum," said Sunni lawmaker Saleh Mutlaq, who had pushed for a referendum.

Lawmakers are also consumed with trying to pass a crucial elections law, and they have had no time to deal with legislation for a referendum vote, said Muther al-Hakim, a member of both the largest Shiite alliance in parliament and the legal committee, which would be responsible for putting together a referendum proposal.

Mr. Hakim and Rashid al-Azawi, a lawmaker and senior member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, both said a referendum was no longer necessary because the U.S. military had so far abided by the security pact.

In the battle over the separate election legislation, political leaders have largely agreed to rely on the elections law from the 2005 race, with a few changes, lawmakers said Sunday.
23765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Swanson: on: October 05, 2009, 08:03:26 AM
On Sept. 25, AT&T accused Google of violating the very "net neutrality" principles the world's dominant search company has righteously sought for others.

Net neutrality conjures the benign notion of an open and fair Web, where all applications and data packets are treated equally. Net reality is much more complicated. Google says it doesn't have to abide by rules meant for telecom companies. But with the Internet obliterating such distinctions, this defense exposes net neutrality's inherent flaws.

The controversy involves Google Voice, a new service that rings all of a user's phone lines simultaneously and provides other conference-calling and voice-mail features. Like myriad digital applications, the service is possible because the Web and phone lines have in many ways converged. Google can thus offer "free" services over the world's vast, expensive broadband networks.

Google thinks net neutrality should regulate only traditional phone and cable companies. Phone carriers have long been ordered to connect all calls. And open Internet principles agreed to by all sides in 2005 offer similar guidance for the Web: no blocking of Web sites or applications.

But Google Voice does not connect all calls. It blocks access, for example, to some rural areas and conferencing services that would impose heavier interconnection fees on Google. AT&T thus charged Google with cherry-picking. Why, AT&T asks, can Google exploit expensive communications networks when it's profitable but refuse neutral service to all customers when it's not?

This row unmasks something far more important than Google's hypocrisy: the deep structural flaws of net neutrality itself. Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a more expansive and legally binding regime. He would not only codify existing nonblocking principles but would also add a highly controversial "nondiscrimination" rule. This regulation could expand bureaucratic oversight to every bit, switch and business plan on the Internet.

Basic technologies, like packet prioritization (voice calls first, spam second), could be banned. So could many business plans based on robust and differentiated services. This regime could send all routing algorithms and network services into courtrooms for the next decade.

Despite the brutal economic downturn, Internet-sector growth has been solid. From the Amazon Kindle and 85,000 iPhone "apps" to Hulu video and broadband health care, Web innovation flourishes. Mr. Genachowski heartily acknowledges these happy industry facts but then pivots to assert the Web is at a "crossroads" and only the FCC can choose the right path.

The events of the last half-decade prove otherwise. Since 2004, bandwidth per capita in the U.S. grew to three megabits per second from just 262 kilobits per second, and monthly Internet traffic increased to two billion gigabytes from 170 million gigabytes—both tenfold leaps.

No sector has boomed more than wireless. Yet Mr. Genachowski wants to extend his new regulations to the most technically complicated and bandwidth-constrained realm—mobile networks and devices.

In 2004, Wi-Fi was embryonic, the Motorola Razr was the hot phone, the BlackBerry was a CEO's email device, and Apple's most recognizable product was an orange-sicle laptop. But then the industry turned upside-down in a flurry of dynamism. Both Motorola and Palm plummeted in popularity and only now are attempting real comebacks. BlackBerry and Apple vaulted to smart-phone supremacy from out of nowhere, Nokia became the world's largest camera company, and a new wireless reading device rekindled Amazon's fortunes.

Wireless carriers invested $100 billion in just the past three years, and the U.S. vaulted past Europe in fast 3G mobile networks. Americans enjoy mobile voice prices 60% cheaper than foreign peers. And the once closed mobile ecosystem is more open, modular and dynamic than ever.

All this occurred without net neutrality regulation.

My research suggests that U.S. Internet traffic will continue to rise 50% annually through 2015. Cisco estimates wireless data traffic will rise 131% per year through 2013. Hundreds of billions of dollars in fiber optics, data centers, and fourth-generation mobile networks will be needed. But if network service providers can't design their own networks, offer creative services, or make fair business transactions with vendors, will they invest these massive sums to meet (and drive) demand?

Some question the network companies' expensive and risky plans, asking if the customers will come. But one thing's for sure: If you don't build it, they can't come.

If net neutrality applies neutrally to all players in the Web ecosystem, then it would regulate every component and entrepreneur in a vast and unknowable future. If neutrality applies selectively (oxymoron alert) to only one sliver of the network, then it is merely a political tool of one set of companies to cripple its competitors.

At a time of continued national economic peril, the last thing we need is a new heavy hand weighing down our most promising high-growth sector. Better to maintain the existing open-Web principles and let the Internet evolve.

Mr. Swanson is president of the technology research and strategy firm Entropy Economics LLC.
23766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: BO getting played yet again on: October 05, 2009, 07:41:34 AM
The most widely touted outcome of last week's Geneva talks with Iran was the "agreement in principle" to send approximately one nuclear-weapon's worth of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for enrichment to 19.75% and fabrication into fuel rods for Tehran's research reactor. President Barack Obama says the deal represents progress, a significant confidence-building measure.

In fact, the agreement constitutes another in the long string of Iranian negotiating victories over the West. Any momentum toward stricter sanctions has been dissipated, and Iran's fraudulent, repressive regime again hobnobs with the U.N. Security Council's permanent members. Consider the following problems:

• Is there a deal or isn't there? Diplomacy's three slipperiest words are "agreement in principle." Iran's Ambassador to Britain exclaimed after the talks in Geneva, "No, no!" when asked if his country had agreed to ship LEU to Russia; it had "not been discussed yet." An unnamed Iranian official said that the Geneva deal "is just based on principles. We have not agreed on any amount or any numbers." Bargaining over the deal's specifics could stretch out indefinitely.

Other issues include whether Iran will have "observers" at Russian enrichment facilities. If so, what new technologies might those observers glean? And, since Tehran's reactor is purportedly for medical purposes, will Mr. Obama deny what Iran pretends to need to refuel it in 2010?

• The "agreement" undercuts Security Council resolutions forbidding Iranian uranium enrichment. No U.S. president has been more enamored of international law and the Security Council than Mr. Obama. Yet here he is undermining the foundation of the multilateral campaign against Tehran's nuclear weapons program. In Resolution 1696, adopted July 31, 2006, the Security Council required Iran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development." Uranium enriched thereafter—the overwhelming bulk of Iran's admitted LEU—thus violates 1696 and later sanctions resolutions. Moreover, considering Iran's utter lack of credibility, we have no idea whether its declared LEU constitutes anything near its entire stockpile.

By endorsing Iran's use of its illegitimately enriched uranium, Mr. Obama weakens his argument that Iran must comply with its "international obligations." Indeed, the Geneva deal undercuts Mr. Obama's proposal to withhold more sanctions if Iran does not enhance its nuclear program by allowing Iran to argue that continued enrichment for all peaceful purposes should be permissible. Now Iran will oppose new sanctions and argue for repealing existing restrictions. Every other aspiring proliferator is watching how violating Security Council resolutions not only carries no penalty but provides a shortcut to international redemption.

• Raising Iran's LEU to higher enrichment levels is a step backwards. Two-thirds of the work to get 90% enriched uranium, the most efficient weapons grade, is accomplished when U235 isotope levels in natural uranium are enriched to Iran's current level of approximately 3%-5%. Further enrichment of Iran's LEU to 19.75% is a significant step in the wrong direction. This is barely under the 20% definition of weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU). Ironically, Resolution 1887, adopted while Mr. Obama presided over the Security Council last week, calls for converting HEU-based reactors like Iran's to LEU fuel precisely to lower such proliferation risks. We should be converting the Tehran reactor, not refueling it at 19.75% enrichment.

After Geneva, the administration misleadingly stated that once fashioned into fuel rods, the uranium involved could not be enriched further. This is flatly untrue. The 19.75% enriched uranium could be reconverted into uranium hexafluoride gas and quickly enriched to 90%. Iran could also "burn" its uranium fuel (including the Russian LEU available for the Bushehr reactor) and then chemically extract plutonium from the spent fuel to produce nuclear weapons.

The more sophisticated Iran's nuclear skills become, the more paths it has to manufacture nuclear weapons. The research-reactor bait-and-switch demonstrates convincingly why it cannot be trusted with fissile material under any peaceful guise. Proceeding otherwise would be winking at two decades of Iranian deception, which, unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems perfectly prepared to do.

The president also said last week that international access to the Qom nuclear site must occur within two weeks, but an administration spokesman retreated the next day, saying there was no "hard and fast deadline," and "we don't have like a drop-dead date." Of course, neither does Iran. Once again, Washington has entered the morass of negotiations with Tehran, giving Iran precious time to refine and expand its nuclear program. We are now even further from eliminating Iran's threat than before Geneva.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
23767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Absurd Results on: October 05, 2009, 07:38:22 AM
'In recent years, many Americans have had cause to wonder whether decisions made at EPA were guided by science and the law, or whether those principles had been trumped by politics," declared Lisa Jackson in San Francisco last week. The Environmental Protection Agency chief can't stop kicking the Bush Administration, but the irony is that the Obama EPA is far more "political" than the Bush team ever was.

How else to explain the coordinated release on Wednesday of the EPA's new rules that make carbon a dangerous pollutant and John Kerry's cap-and-trade bill? Ms. Jackson is issuing a political ultimatum to business, as well as to Midwestern and rural Democrats: Support the Kerry-Obama climate tax agenda—or we'll punish your utilities and consumers without your vote.

The EPA has now formally made an "endangerment finding" on CO2, which will impose the command-and-control regulations of the Clean Air Act across the entire economy. Because this law was never written to apply to carbon, the costs will far exceed those of a straight carbon tax or even cap and trade—though judging by the bills Democrats are stitching together, perhaps not by much. In any case, the point of this reckless "endangerment" is to force industry and politicians wary of raising taxes to concede, lest companies have to endure even worse economic and bureaucratic destruction from the EPA.

Ms. Jackson made a show of saying her new rules would only apply to some 10,000 facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, as if that were a concession. These are the businesses—utilities, refineries, heavy manufacturers and so forth—that have the most to lose and are therefore most sensitive to political coercion.

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Associated Press
 .The idea is to get Exelon and other utilities to lobby Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill that gives them compensating emissions allowances that they can sell to offset the cost of the new regulations. White House green czar Carol Browner was explicit on the coercion point last week, telling a forum hosted by the Atlantic Monthly that the EPA move would "obviously encourage the business community to raise their voices in Congress." In Sicily and parts of New Jersey, they call that an offer you can't refuse.

Yet one not-so-minor legal problem is that the Clean Air Act's statutory language states unequivocally that the EPA must regulate any "major source" that emits more than 250 tons of a pollutant annually, not 25,000. The EPA's Ms. Jackson made up the higher number out of whole cloth because the lower legal threshold—which was intended to cover traditional pollutants, not ubiquitous carbon—would sweep up farms, restaurants, hospitals, schools, churches and other businesses. Sources that would be required to install pricey "best available control technology" would increase to 41,000 per year, up from 300 today, while those subject to the EPA's construction permitting would jump to 6.1 million from 14,000.

That's not our calculation. It comes from the EPA itself, which also calls it "an unprecedented increase" that would harm "an extraordinarily large number of sources." The agency goes on to predict years of delay and bureaucratic backlog that "would impede economic growth by precluding any type of source—whether it emits GHGs or not—from constructing or modifying for years after its business plan contemplates." We pointed this out earlier this year, only to have Ms. Jackson and the anticarbon lobby deny it.

Usually it takes an act of Congress to change an act of Congress, but Team Obama isn't about to let democratic—or even Democratic—consent interfere with its carbon extortion racket. To avoid the political firestorm of regulating the neighborhood coffee shop, the EPA is justifying its invented rule on the basis of what it calls the "absurd results" doctrine. That's not a bad moniker for this whole exercise.

The EPA admits that it is "departing from the literal application of statutory provisions." But it says the courts will accept its revision because literal application will produce results that are "so illogical or contrary to sensible policy as to be beyond anything that Congress could reasonably have intended."

Well, well. Shouldn't the same "absurd results" theory pertain to shoehorning carbon into rules that were written in the 1970s and whose primary drafter—Michigan Democrat John Dingell—says were never intended to apply? Just asking. Either way, this will be a feeble legal excuse when the greens sue to claim that the EPA's limits are inadequate, in order to punish whatever carbon-heavy business they're campaigning against that week.

Obviously President Obama is hellbent on punishing carbon use—no matter how costly or illogical. And of course, there's no politics involved, none at all.
23768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 07:33:25 AM
We aren't among the doctors invited to a Rose Garden event today to "join the President in pushing for health insurance reform this year and [who] have offered their help and support," as a White House press release put it. It's unfortunate only supporters of the president's plans will be there. Mr. Obama has missed an opportunity to learn more about the real issues facing patients and doctors and to formulate a plan that truly puts patients in control with doctors as trusted advisers.

The United States has the best health care in the world today, and thanks to the ever-expanding frontiers of science and medical innovation the brightest days are ahead. It is true that there are Americans who fall through the cracks of our medical system every day—and as a caring nation, we must do what we can to expand access to medical care to those who need it. But this can be accomplished without a costly and inefficient government overhaul of the entire system. One easy reform would be to enable individuals to buy policies offered in any state, not just where they live. This will enhance competition. But more government-run health insurance will only lead to disaster.

Government cost-cutting would threaten medical innovation.

.Today, Medicare already reimburses doctors less than what many of their treatments cost to provide. Now the government is saying that additional Medicare cuts are coming—thus forcing doctors to try and make up the difference in volume, by seeing more patients. If you ask patients about this, they understand that more volume means less time with the doctor. That's something that all patients and doctors should oppose. In time, it will be difficult to find a physician.

If the goal of reform is to provide the best possible patient care, let's take the government-controlled "public option"—and any legislative trick that could lead to a public option—off the table. It will result in long waiting lines to see a doctor, substandard care, and an end to medical discovery.

There are many other ways to expand access to health care for uninsured Americans. We could strengthen incentives to purchase low-cost health savings accounts, provide tax credits for individuals and families buying health policies on their own, and extend subsidies for those who need financial help. Also, the right of patients to privately contract with physicians to ensure they have the medical care they want, without penalty—regardless of what the government pays—must be recognized and protected. Today, if a doctor wants to bill a patient for additional payment over the Medicare reimbursement, he has to withdraw from Medicare entirely for two years. A patient who agrees with this arrangement can't receive any Medicare money for that service, either.

We need to maintain a plentiful supply of medical expertise. But cuts in payments and bureaucracy could mean fewer individuals entering the medical field—and a dearth of health-care professionals down the road as specialists retire early or limit their practice. Every patient wants to be taken care of by the best medical professional possible. A patient with cancer wants to see a doctor who has had years of training in oncology and is knowledgeable about the latest ways to beat the cancer. But in some provisions in the proposed legislation (such as the medical home model of HR 3200), physician assistants and nurse practitioners may get the authority to make important medical decisions.

The federal government should also continue its investment in medical research through agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and it should better reward innovative discovery in the private sector with tax incentives and patent protection. Americans are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the trillions of dollars in public and private research investment in medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and advanced surgical techniques. We must not put future progress in jeopardy.

Finally, the nation needs comprehensive medical malpractice reform. It is the surest and quickest way to slow down the rising cost of health care. Statistics from private insurers, as well as a Justice Department report of 2007, indicate that upwards of 80% of malpractice cases are closed without payment—and when there is a trial, the physician-defendant wins 89% of the time. Yet these lawsuits, even when dismissed or closed without payment, cost doctors time and money, and encourage defensive medicine. This adds billions to the cost of medical care. It also increases malpractice insurance premiums, the costs of which get passed on to patients. In too many cases, the malpractice environment forces doctors to leave communities, depriving patients of their trusted medical advisers or specialists whom they might need in an accident or other crisis.

The drive to reform health care has led to an acrimonious and often divisive debate. Yet we still believe that doctors, patients and legislators working together with goodwill can improve the medical system and extend its benefits to all Americans.

Dr. Palmisano, president of the American Medical Association from 2003-2004, is spokesman for the Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights, a group of more than 10,000 physicians. Drs. Plested and Johnson were presidents of the American Medical Association from 2006-2007 and 1996-1997 respectively.
23769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 07:29:36 AM
Sometimes I ask myself if Hitler wasn't right when he wanted to finish with that race, through the famous holocaust, because if there are people that are harmful to this country, they are the Jews, the Israelites.

David Romero Ellner

Executive Director

Radio Globo, Honduras, Sept. 25, 2009

Meet one of Honduras's most vocal advocates for the return of deposed president Manuel Zelaya to office. He's not your average radio jock. He started in Honduran politics as a radical activist and was one of the founders of the hard-left People's Revolutionary Union, which had links to Honduran terrorists in 1980s. A few years ago he was convicted and served time in prison for raping his own daughter.

Today Mr. Romero Ellner is pure zelayista, hungry for power and not ashamed to say so. This explains why he has joined Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Mr. Zelaya in targeting Jews. Mr. Chávez has allied himself with Iran to further his ability to rule unchecked in the hemisphere. He hosts Hezbollah terrorists and seeks Iranian help to become a nuclear power. He and his acolytes cement their ties to Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by echoing his anti-Semitic rants.

The Honduras debate is not really about Honduras. It is about whether it is possible to stop the spread of chavismo and all it implies, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism in Latin America. Most troubling is the unflinching support for Mr. Zelaya from President Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. John Kerry—despite the Law Library of Congress review that shows that Mr. Zelaya's removal from office was legal, and the clear evidence that he is Mr. Chávez's man in Tegucigalpa. On Thursday, Mr. Kerry took the unprecedented step of trying to block a fact-finding mission to Honduras by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who is resisting Mr. Obama's efforts to restore Mr. Zelaya to power.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez embraces Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
.Mr. Zelaya, recall, was arrested, deposed and deported on June 28 because he violated the Honduran Constitution. He snuck back into the country on Sept. 21 and found refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital. Mr. Romero Ellner's calumny against Jews was a follow-up to Mr. Zelaya's claim that he was being "subjected to high-frequency radiation" from outside the embassy and that he thought "Israeli mercenaries" were behind it.

The verbal attack on Jews from a zelayista is consistent with a pattern emerging in the region. Take what's been going on in Venezuela. In the earliest years of Chávez rule, a Venezuelan friend, who is a Christian, confessed his fears to me. "In his speech, he always tries to create hate between groups of people," my friend told me. "He loves hate speech."

For a decade, Venezuelans have been force-fed the strongman's view of economic nationalism laced with this divisive language. Venezuelans are encouraged to seek revenge against their neighbors. Crime has skyrocketed.

The Jewish community has been targeted as Mr. Chávez's relationship with Mr. Ahmadinejad has blossomed. In 2004, I reported on a police raid at a Jewish school for young children in Caracas. The pretext was a "tip" that the school was storing weapons. No weapons were found, but the community was terrorized.

In recent years, Venezuela and Iran have signed joint ventures estimated to be worth $20 billion. There are similar pacts, estimated at $10 billion, between Iran and Venezuelan satellite, Bolivia. Both South American countries accused Israel of genocide in Gaza in 2008 and cut diplomatic ties. Mr. Chávez's tirades against Israel during that time emboldened his street thugs. In January 2009, vandals broke into a temple in Caracas and desecrated the sacred space with graffiti calling for the death of Jews.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recently gave a speech to the Brookings Institution in which he said "Iran and Venezuela are beyond the courting phase. We know they are creating a cozy financial, political and military partnership, and that both countries have strong ties to Hezbollah and Hamas."

Iran has courted Honduras as well. When Mr. Zelaya was still in power, the Honduran press reported that his foreign minister Patricia Rodas met with high-ranking Iranian officials in Mexico City. That raised plenty of eyebrows in Central America.

Neither Venezuela nor Honduras has any history of anti-Semitism. But with Mr. Chávez importing Mr. Ahmadinejad's despicable ideology and methods, an assault on the Jewish community goes with the territory.

Honduras recognizes that it was a mistake to deport Mr. Zelaya after he was arrested. But it argues that fears of zelayista extremism and use of violence as a political tool in the months leading up to June 28 provoked desperation. Mr. Romero Ellner—whose radio station was closed down by the government last week—provided exhibit A with his remarks. If the U.S. State Department is opposed to the exile, let it call for Mr. Zelaya to be put on trial now that he is back in Honduras. It has no grounds to demand that democratic Honduras restore an anti-Semitic rabble rouser to power.
23770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IG says Treasury misled on: October 05, 2009, 07:23:20 AM
Pravda on the Hudson
IG says Treasury misled on bailouts
Published: October 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — The inspector general who oversees the government’s bailout of the banking system is criticizing the Treasury Department for some misleading public statements last fall and raising the possibility that it had unfairly disbursed money to the biggest banks.

A Treasury official made incorrect statements about the health of the nation’s biggest banks even as the government was doling out billions of dollars in aid, according to a report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program to be released on Monday by the special inspector general, Neil M. Barofksy.

The report also provides new insight into the way the Treasury allocated billions of dollars to nine of Wall Street’s largest players. The report says that Bank of America appeared to qualify for more aid earlier, under the government plan. That assertion adds another element of intrigue to continuing investigations of the bank’s merger with Merrill Lynch and the role that regulators played in the deal, even as Merrill’s condition deteriorated.

The bailout formula called for banks to get an amount equal to as much as 3 percent of their risk-weighted assets, with aid capped at $25 billion for each institution, according to the report. By size, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America could have qualified for more, and the first two received $25 billion.

But Bank of America was given only $15 billion in October, since Merrill Lynch was earmarked for $10 billion. The two companies agreed to a merger, though their deal had not yet been approved by regulators or shareholders.

Bank of America ultimately received Merrill’s $10 billion in January — as well as $20 billion in additional bailout funds — but if the bank had not been involved in the Merrill deal, it would probably have received $25 billion at the outset, as did Citigroup and JPMorgan.

Another company in the process of a merger was not treated the same. Wells Fargo was acquiring Wachovia, and it received both companies’ money at the start, according to the inspector general.

Mr. Barofsky’s office also says that regulators were wrong to tell the public last year that the earliest bailout recipients were all healthy.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., for instance, said on Oct. 14 that the banks were “healthy,” and that they accepted the money for “the good of the U.S. economy.” The banks, he said, would be better able to increase their lending to consumers and businesses.

In truth, regulators were concerned about the health of several banks that received that first bailout, the inspector general writes.

The inspector general said government officials need to be more careful when describing their actions and rationale. In a letter included with the report, the Federal Reserve concurred with Mr. Barofsky’s concern about the statements made last year, but the Treasury Department said that any review of announcements last year “must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made.”
23771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. Petraeus on: October 05, 2009, 07:20:09 AM
Nice article title by Pravda on the Hudson  rolleyes

Voice of Bush’s Pentagon Becomes Harder to Hear Recommend
Published: October 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was called upon by President Obama “several times” during the big Afghanistan strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will be back for two more meetings this week.

David H. PetraeusBut the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.

No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.

The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.

The general’s aides requested anonymity to talk more candidly about his relationship with the White House.

“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not,” said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and professor of military history at Ohio State University who was the executive officer to General Petraeus when he was the top American commander in Iraq.

“It is other people who are looking at his popularity and saying that he would be a good presidential candidate, and I think rightly that makes the administration a little suspicious of him.”

General Petraeus’s advisers say he has stepped back in part because Mr. Obama has handpicked his own public face for the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who last week gave an interview to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” met with Mr. Obama on Air Force One and used a speech in London to reject calls for scaling back the war effort.

If anything, General McChrystal’s public comments may prove that General Petraeus might be prudent to take a back seat during the debate. On Sunday, when CNN’s John King asked Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, if it was appropriate for a man in uniform to appear to campaign so openly for more troops, General Jones replied, “Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

How much General Petraeus’s muted voice will affect Mr. Obama’s decision on the war is unclear, but people close to him say that stifling himself in public could give him greater credibility to influence the debate from within. Others say that his biggest influence may simply be as part of a team of military advisers, including General McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The men are united in what they see as the need to build up the American effort in Afghanistan, although General Petraeus, who works closely with General McChrystal, said last week that he had not yet endorsed General McChrystal’s request for more troops.

Together the three are likely to be aligned against Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as other administration officials who want to scale back the effort. In that situation, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has worried about a big American presence in Afghanistan but left the door open to more troops, could be the most influential vote.

What is clear is that General Petraeus’s relationship with Mr. Obama is nothing like his bond with Mr. Bush, who went mountain biking with the general in Washington last fall, or with Mr. Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain of Arizona, whose aides briefly floated the general’s name last year as a possible running mate.

By then the general had been talked about as a potential presidential candidate himself, which still worries some political aides at the White House.

But not Mr. Obama, at least according to one of his top advisers. “The president’s not thinking that way, and the vice president’s not thinking that way,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “The president values his insights in helping to turn around an eight-year-old war that has been neglected.”

General Petraeus’s advisers say that to preserve a sense of military impartiality, he has not voted since at least 2003, and that he is not sure if he is still registered in New Hampshire, where he and his wife own property. The general has been described as a Republican, including in a lengthy profile in The New Yorker magazine last year. But a senior military official close to him said last week that he could not confirm the general’s political party.

In the meantime, General Petraeus travels frequently from his home in Tampa to Washington, where he met last week with the Afghan foreign minister. He also had dinner with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general also makes calls on Capitol Hill.

“He understands the Congress better than any military commander I’ve ever met,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that General Petraeus had the nationwide influence to serve as a spokesman for the administration’s policy on the Afghan war.

But until the president makes a decision, and determines if he wants to deploy General Petraeus to help sell it, the commander is keeping his head down. “He knows how to make his way through minefields like this,” said Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army.

Peter Baker contributed reporting
23772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin, 1774 on: October 05, 2009, 07:13:52 AM
"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy." --Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, 1774
23773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: October 04, 2009, 07:47:19 PM
Although it was probably there for me to see before, for some reason this time around I got a clearer sense of him directly criticizing Bush for letting things get so far behind.
23774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sugar on: October 04, 2009, 10:18:00 AM
Ever wonder just how much sugar is in the common food items you eat?
23775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / part two on: October 04, 2009, 10:15:55 AM
Rip Your Strip

All of this is now changing. Fast. The airways across the Southwest are loaded these days with public service announcements urging us to conserve our water. "Rip your strip" may be a phrase unknown in much of the country, but everyone here knows exactly what it means: tear out the lawn between your front yard and the street and put in drought-resistant native plants instead.

Everyone is increasingly expected to do his or her part. In my little town of Torrey, Utah, we voluntarily ration our domestic water on weekends when the tourists are in town, taking long showers and spraying the dust and mud off their tires. Xeriscaping -- landscaping with drought-resistant native plants instead of thirsty grasses and ornamental shrubs -- is now fashionable as well as necessary, even required, in some western towns, a clear sign that at long last we get it. Yes, we live in a desert.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that this sort of thing, useful as it is, will be nearly enough. Our challenge is only marginally to take shorter showers. After all, 80% of Utah's water goes into agriculture, mostly to grow alfalfa to feed beef cows raised by ranchers heavily subsidized by federal grants and tax write-offs. They graze their cows almost for free on public lands and have successfully resisted even modest increases in fees to cover the costs of maintaining the allotments they use.

Utah legislators passed a law last session that gives agriculture precedence when there's not enough water to go around. Consider that a clear signal that the agricultural interests in the state don't have any intention of changing their water-profligate ways without a fight.

Sure, everyone agrees that we have to change, but we in the West are fond of focusing blame on personal bad habits that waste water -- and they couldn't be more real -- rather than corporate habits that waste so much more. The fact is that we Westerners have never paid anything like what our water truly costs and we lack disincentives to waste water and incentives to conserve it. Behind all that fuss you hear from us about the damn government and how independent-minded we Westerners are, is a long history of massive dam and pipeline projects financed by the American taxpayer, featuring artificially low prices and not a few crony-run boondoggles. Call it welfare water.

The Ruins in Our Future

A visit this summer to the most famous ruins in the West, the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park and hollowed out palaces at Chaco Culture National Historic Park, proved a striking, if grim, reminder that we weren't the first to pass this way -- or to face possibly civilization-challenging aridity problems. The pre-Colombian Anasazi culture flourished between 900 and 1150 A.D., culminating in a city in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, that until the nineteenth century contained the largest buildings in the Americas, now uncovered from centuries of drifting sands. Mesa Verde with its "skyscraper" cliffside dwellings, also flourished in the twelfth century and was similarly abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years.

The mysteries of these deserted cities -- their purpose and the reasons they were abandoned -- may never be fully plumbed. This much is undeniable though, as one walks through cobbled plazas and toppled towers, and past sun-blasted walls: cities, dazzling in their day, arose suddenly in the desert, prospered, and then collapsed. Tree-ring data confirm that an epic drought, one lasting at least 50 years, coincided with their demise. Broken and battle-scarred bones unearthed in the charred ruins indicate that warfare followed drought. What the Anasazi experienced -- scarcity, the need to leave homes, and a struggle for whatever remained -- is getting easier to imagine in a water-short West. Only this time at stake will be Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Archaeologists at Chaco recently uncovered a sophisticated cistern system under the city. Anasazi builders, they now believe, learned how to harvest the runoff from the summer rains that poured down and spilled over the sandstone cliffs behind the ruins. Think of these as the Lake Meads and Powells of their time, capturing the torrential monsoon rains just as those reservoirs do the Colorado River's flash floods.

The cistern system provided temporary water security, but eventually it clearly proved inadequate. In the long run, Chaco couldn't be sustained because turbulent, unreliable flows of water are hard to tame. The descendants of those who left it behind settled the mesa-top villages of the Hopis in Arizona and of the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. They learned to live on a smaller scale, with scant rain, and after many hundreds of years, they (unlike their once living and magnificent cities) remain. There is hope in that. It is no less possible now to understand limits, to practice precaution, and to build resilient communities.

Smoke Season

When it comes to the perturbed weather regime we are now entering, it's not just our agriculture and our sprawling cities that are having trouble adapting. The vitality of whole ecosystems is at stake. Native vegetation suffers, too. When critical moisture arrives before temperatures are warm enough for seeds to germinate, they don't. The native grasses on my land didn't thrive despite our cold, wet spring. Invasive cheat grass, however, blooms early, grows quickly, then dies and dries. It ignites easily and burns hot.

When higher temperatures evaporate the moisture in soils, they become drier in late summer and fall. Plants wither and are vulnerable to insect infestations. The vast expanse of mountain I can see out my window may seem like a classic alpine vista to the tourists who flock here every summer. A closer look, however, reveals expanding patches of gray and brown as beetle infestations kill off entire dried-out mountainsides. More than 2.5 million acres of Rocky Mountain woodlands have been destroyed by bark beetles so far. The once deep-green top of Grand Mesa in western Colorado is becoming a gray, grim dead zone, a ghostly forest waiting for lightning or some careless human to ignite it.

Dead forests, of course, are fuel for the dramatic, massive wildfires you now see so regularly on the TV news. We had quite a few of those wildfires this summer in Utah, but -- what with southern California burning -- they didn't make the evening news anywhere but here. That statement can be made all over the West. Both the frequency and size of fires are on the rise in our region. Early in the summer of 2008, while more than 2,000 separate wildfires raged across his state, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a point that many Western governors might soon be making. He claimed that California's fire season is now 365 days long. The infernos that licked the edges of the Los Angeles basin this August were at once catastrophic and routine.

Smoke is dust's inevitable twin in a West beset by climate chaos, and the lousy air quality we suffer when fires are raging is part of the new normal. A few years ago we could check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website to see when winds might shift and bring relief. This summer, like last, there were so many fires and they were so widely distributed that it hardly mattered which way the wind blew: smoke was in our lungs and eyes one way or the other.

All of this adds up to a kind of habitat holocaust for wild species, from the tiniest micro-organisms in the soil to the largest mammals at the top of the food chain like elk and bears. Nobody makes it in a dead zone, whether it's a dust bowl or a desiccated forest.

Changes start at the bottom, as is usually true in ecosystems. When soil dries and the microbial dynamic changes, native plants either die or move uphill towards cooler temperatures and more moisture. The creatures that depend on their seeds, nuts, leaves, shade, and shelter follow the plants -- if they can. Animals normally adapt to slow change, but an avalanche of challenges is another matter. When species begin living at the precarious edge of their ability to tolerate the stress of it all, you have to expect wildlife populations to shift and dwindle. Then invasive species move in and a far different and diminished landscape emerges.

Human populations in the West will also shift and dwindle, with jarring consequences for all of America, if we do not learn quickly that watersheds have limits, especially within arid and unpredictable climates. The land also needs water. And such problems aren't just "Western." Dust storms and smoke won't just stay here.

There are, of course, enlightened and engaged citizens who are doing their best to address the growing challenge of a heated-up, chaotic climate. Conservation groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are working hard to protect critical habitat for stressed species and urging government land management agencies to include global warming in their plans and projections. The Glen Canyon Institute has raised the specter of a diminished Colorado River and is challenging water managers to get innovative and adopt policies that reward water conservation and punish waste. Across the West, people are waking up and learning about their own watersheds -- where their water comes from and where it goes. This, too, is hopeful. Time, unfortunately, is not on their side.

So, come see the beautiful West, our shining mountains, blue skies, and fabled canyons. It's all still here right now. Take pictures. Enjoy. But hurry...

Chip Ward told of his adventures as a grassroots organizer of campaigns to make polluters accountable in Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West. In Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land, he described the visionary conservation projects that are the focus of his current activism. He is a regular and a former library administrator who now lives next to Capitol Reef National Park. His on-line essays are collected at his website.

Copyright 2009 Chip Ward
23776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The End of Welfare Water and the Drying of the West on: October 04, 2009, 10:14:14 AM
13 September 2009

All of us have been watching drought in action this summer. When it hits the TV news, though, it usually goes by the moniker of "fire." As we've seen, California, in the third year of a major drought, has been experiencing "a seemingly endless fire that has burned more than 250 square miles of Los Angeles County" (and that may turn out to be just the beginning of another fire season from hell).

Southern California has hardly been the only drought story, though. For those with an eye out, the southern parts of Texas, the hottest state in the union this year, have been in the grips of a monster drought. Seven hundred thousand acres of the state have already burned in 2009, with a high risk of more to come.

Jump a few thousand miles and along with neighboring Syria, Iraq has been going through analmost biblical drought which has turned parts of that country into a dustbowl, sweeping the former soil of the former Fertile Crescent via vast dust storms into the lungs of city dwellers.

In Africa, formerly prosperous Kenya is withering in the face of another fearsome drought that has left people desperate and livestock, crops and children, as well as elephants, dying.

And, if you happen to be on the lookout, you can read about drought in India, where rice andsugar cane farmers as well as government finances are suffering. Or consider Mexico, where the 2009 wet season never arrived and crops are wilting in a parched countryside from the U.S. border to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Everywhere water problems threaten to lead to water wars, while "drought refugees" flee the land and food crises escalate. It's a nasty brew. But here's the strange thing -- one I'vecommented on before: there has been some fine reporting on each of these drought situations, but you can hunt high and low in the mainstream and not find any set of these droughts in the same piece. There's little indication that drought might, in fact, be an increasing global problem, nor can you find anyone exploring whether the fierceness of recent droughts and their spread might, in part, be connected to climate change. The grim "little" picture is now regularly with us. Whatever the big picture may be, it escapes notice, which is why I'm particularly glad that environmentalist and TomDispatch regular Chip Ward has written a drought piece in which, from his perch in Utah, he takes in the whole weather-perturbed American West. Tom

Red Snow Warning
The End of Welfare Water and the Drying of the West
By Chip Ward

Pink snow is turning red in Colorado. Here on the Great American Desert -- specifically Utah's slickrock portion of it where I live -- hot n' dry means dust. When frequent high winds sweep across our increasingly arid landscape, redrock powder is lifted up and carried hundreds of miles eastward until it settles on the broad shoulders of Colorado's majestic mountains, giving the snowpack there a pink hue.

Some call it watermelon snow. Friends who ski into the backcountry of the San Juan and La Plata mountain ranges in western Colorado tell me that the pink-snow phenomenon has lately been giving way to redder hues, so thick and frequent are the dust storms that roll in these days. A cross-section of a typical Colorado snowbank last winter revealed alternating dirt and snow layers that looked like a weird wilderness version of our flag, red and white stripes alternating against the sky's blue field.

The Forecast: Dust Followed by Mud

Here in the lowlands, we, too, are experiencing the drying of the West in new dusty ways. Our landscapes are often covered with what we jokingly refer to as "adobe rain" -- when rain falls through dust, spattering windows or laundry hung out to dry with brown stains. After a dust "event" this past spring, I wandered through the lot of a car dealership in Grand Junction, Colorado, where the only color seemingly available was light tan. All those previously shiny, brightly painted cars had turned drab. I had to squint to read price stickers under opaque windows.

All of this is more than a mere smudge on our postcard-pretty scenery: Colorado's red snow is a warning that the climatological dynamic in the arid West is changing dramatically. Think of it as a harbinger -- and of more than simply a continuing version of the epic drought we've been experiencing these past several years.

The West is as dry as the East is wet, a vast and arid landscape of high plains and deserts broken by abrupt mountain ranges and deep canyons. Unlike eastern and midwestern America, where there are myriad rivers, streams, lakes, and giant underground lakes, or aquifers, to draw on, we depend on snowpack for about 90% of our fresh water. The Colorado River, running from its headwaters in the snow-loaded mountains of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, is the principal water source for those states, and downstream for Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and southern California as well.

While being developed into a crucial water resource, the Colorado became the most dammed, piped, legislated, and litigated river in America. Its development spawned a major federal bureaucracy, the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as a hundred state agencies, water districts, and private contractors to keep it plumbed and distributed. Taken altogether, this complex infrastructure of dams, pipelines, and reservoirs proved to be the most expensive and ambitious public works project in the nation's history, but it enabled the Southwest states and southern California to boom and bloom.

The downside is that we are now dangerously close to the limits of what the Colorado River can provide, even in the very best of weather scenarios, and the weather is being neither so friendly nor cooperative these days. If Portland soon becomes as warm as Los Angeles and Seattle as warm as Sacramento, as some forecasters now predict, expect Las Vegas and Phoenix to be more like Death Valley.

If the Colorado River shut down tomorrow, there might be two, at most three, years of stored water in its massive reservoirs to keep Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and dozens of other cities that depend on it alive. That margin for survival gets thinner with each passing year and with each rise in the average temperature. Imagine a day in the not so distant future when the water finally runs out in one of those cities -- a kind of slow-motion Katrina in reverse, a city not flooded but parched, baked, blistered, and abandoned. If the Colorado River system failed to deliver, the impact on the nation's agriculture and economy would be comparable to an asteroid strike.

Too Much Too Soon, Then Too Little Too Late

Hot and dry is bad enough; chaotic weather only adds to our problems. As we practice it today, agriculture depends on cheap energy, a stable climate, and abundant water. Those last two are intimately mixed. Water has to be not just abundant, but predictable and reliable in its flow. And the words "predictable," "reliable," and "water" go together ever less comfortably in our neck of the woods.

Here's the problem. Despite the existence of the Colorado River's famous monster-dams like Hoover in Nevada and Glen Canyon in Utah and the mega-reservoirs -- Lake Mead and Lake Powell -- that gather behind them, we really count on the vast snowfields that store fresh water in our mountains to melt and trickle down to us slowly enough that our water lasts from the first spring runoff until the end of the fall growing season. Dust-covered snowpack, however, absorbs more heat, melts sooner, and often runs down into streams and rivers before our farmers can use it. In addition, as the temperature rises, spring storms that once brought storable snow are now more likely to come to us as rain, which only makes the situation worse.

This shift in the way our water reaches us is crucial in the West. Not only is snowpack shrinking as much as 25% in the Cascades of the Northwest and 15% in the snowfields of the Rocky Mountains, but it's arriving in the lowlands as much as a month earlier than usual. Farmers can't just tell their crops to adjust to the new pattern. Even California's rich food basket, the Central Valley, fed by one of the most complex and effective irrigation infrastructures in the country, is ultimately dependent on Sierra snowpack and predictable runoff.

We need a new term for what's happening -- perhaps "perturbulence" would describe the new helter-skelter weather pattern. In my Utah backyard, for example, this past May was unusually hot and unusually cold. At one point, we went from freezing to 80 degrees and back again in three short days. Not so long ago, seasonal changes came on here as if controlled by a dimmer switch, the shift from one season to the next being gradual. Now it's more like a toggle switch being abruptly shut on and off.

To add to the confusion, our summer monsoon season arrived six weeks early this year. A surprisingly wet spring seemed like good news amid the bigger picture of drought, but it turned out to mean that farmers had a hard time getting into their muddy fields to plant. Then when spring showers were so quickly followed by summer storms, some crops were actually suppressed, according to local gardeners and farmers.

The West at Your Doorstep?

Our soggy spring and summer, however, masked an epic drought that has touched almost every corner of the nation west of the Mississippi at one time or another over the past decade. Southern Texas right now is blazingly bone-dry. Seattle had a turn with record-breaking temperatures earlier this summer. In New Mexico, the drought has been less dramatic -- more like a steady drumbeat year after year.

A trip to the edge of Lake Powell in the canyon country of southern Utah in June revealed the bigger picture. A ten-story-high "bathtub ring" -- the band of white mineral deposits left behind on the reservoir's walls as the waterline dropped -- stretches the almost 200-mile length of the reservoir.

Recreational boat users, hoping against hope that the reservoir will refill, have regularly been issuing predictions about a return to "normal" levels, but it just hasn't happened. Side canyons, once submerged under 100 feet of water, have now been under the sun long enough to have turned into lush, mature habitats filled with willows and brush, birds and pack rats. A view from a cliff high above the once bustling, now ghostlike Hite Marina on the receding eastern side of Lake Powell shows the futility of chasing the retreating shoreline with cement: the water's edge and a much-extended boat-launching ramp now have 100 acres of dried mud, grass, and fresh shrubs between them.

After decades of frantic urban development and suburban sprawl across the states that draw water from the Colorado, demand has simply outstripped supply and it's only getting worse as the heat builds. Not surprisingly, a debate is building over what to do if there isn't enough water to fill both Lakes Powell and Mead, the principal reservoirs along the Colorado. Should the seven states that depend on the river live with two half-full reservoirs or a single full one, and if only one, which one? River managers have now realized that both massive "lakes" were always giant evaporation ponds in the middle of a desert and only more so as average temperatures climb. There is no sense in having twice as much water surface as necessary, which means twice as much evaporation, too.

Given the stakes, the debate over what to do if there isn't enough water is playing out like the preview to the all-out water war to come when the reality actually hits. Westerners are well aware that, as always, there will be winners and losers. The constituency for Lake Mead will no doubt prevail because of its proximity to Las Vegas and Phoenix, two cities that grew bloated on cheap but, as it has turned out, temporary water from the dammed Colorado. Already desperate to make up for their lost liquid, they will surely muster all their power and influence to keep the water flowing.

Las Vegas is now aiming to tap into an aquifer under the Snake Valley that straddles eastern Nevada and western Utah. Recently, a rancher friend who ekes out a precarious living there mentioned the obvious to me: the dusty surface of that arid high desert is barely held in place by a thin covering of brush, sage, and grass. Drop the water table even a few more inches and it all dies. The dust storms that would be generated by a future parched landscape like that might make it all the way to the Midwest or even farther. After decades in which Easterners ritualistically visited the American West, the West may be traveling east.

Those we pay to look ahead are now jockeying like mad for position in a future water-short West. A new era of ever more pipelines, wells, and dams is being dreamed up by the private contractors and bureaucrats swelling up like so many ticks on the construction and maintenance budgets of the West's heavily subsidized water-delivery infrastructure. It is unlikely, however, that their dreams will be fully realized. The low-hanging fruit -- the river canyons that could easily be dammed -- were picked decades ago and, unlike in the good ol' days when water simply ran towards money, citizens of our western states are now far more aware of the ecological costs of big dams and ever more awake to the unfolding consequences of dependence on unreliable water sources.

Making more water available never led to prudent use. Instead, cheap and easy water led to such foolishness as putting a golf course with expanses of irrigated green in every desert community, not to speak of rice and cotton farming in the Arizona desert.
23777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Solar on: October 04, 2009, 10:09:50 AM
second post of the day:

Nearly a century ago, American engineer Frank Shuman erected five immense, trough-shaped mirrors in Meadi, Egypt. The parabolic reflectors directed sunlight onto a tube suspended above their 200-foot lengths. Water inside the tubes boiled and created steam. The steam powered a 65-horsepower engine, which pumped 6,000 gallons of water per minute from the Nile River to nearby cotton fields. It was the world’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.

CSP entails focusing the sun’s rays with a reflective surface and putting that energy to work. These days, the heat usually goes to generating electricity. But the principle is quite old.

The ancient Chinese used concave mirrors to start fires, and, according to legend, the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes once used mirrors, perhaps of polished bronze, to ignite and burn an invading Roman fleet.

Shuman was addressing a concern of his time: Fossil fuels, particularly coal, powered the Industrial Revolution – the trains and mills, among other things, that radically changed human experience. But what happens when they ran out?

“One thing I feel sure of, and that is that the human race must finally utilize direct sun power or revert to barbarism,” Shuman told Scientific American magazine in 1911.

Fighting during World War I destroyed Shuman’s plant. But in the end it was cheap, abundant oil that obviated his ideas – or seemed to.

The oil crises of the 1970s again piqued interest in CSP, and, in the 1980s, plants resembling Shuman’s began cropping up in the Mojave Desert. Then natural-gas prices plummeted and the cycle repeated itself. No new commercial-scale CSP plants were built for nearly 20 years.

Now CSP is poised for a second – or third, depending on when the count begins – renaissance. And this time, say experts, it’s here to stay. World CSP capacity is forecast to increase nearly 18-fold in the next five years, from its current 588 megawatt potential to around 10.5 gigawatts. (Very roughly, 100 megawatts is enough energy to power 80,000 houses.) More than half of that new CSP capacity will be installed in the United States.

Several factors are driving the CSP boom. Although utility companies have long viewed CSP as an option for generating electricity from the sun, they’ve hesitated to commit to the technology. That’s partly because CSP becomes efficient and cost-effective only at the megawatt (MW) scale.

Photovoltaics, by contrast, can be installed piecemeal on the kilowatt scale – a panel here, another there. And that’s why photovoltaics have so far dominated the solar market.

Now, the specter of carbon regulation has shifted attention back toward CSP. The prospect of large-scale solar plants is again attractive. The “renewable portfolio” standard – which requires increased production of energy from renewable sources – has also encouraged investment in CSP. And the investment tax credit – a potential 30 percent credit on qualifying solar projects – has made investors more willing to risk capital in CSP ventures.

Solar is here to stay, now

“Twenty years ago, everyone thought the solar era was upon us, and then the industry basically went away when oil and gas got cheap,” says Cara Libby, project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, Calif. Now, “it certainly appears that solar is here to stay.”

For their part, power companies like CSP for old-fashioned reasons. For one, it uses a technology – steam-driven turbines – that is familiar after decades of use in coal-fired plants.

CSP plants also have thermal inertia. That means that, if a cloud passes overhead, they can continue operating for a time with the heat already gathered, and that’s without storage.

Assuming no rechargeable batteries, photovoltaic fields, by contrast, stop producing electricity when clouds arrive.

Technology for storing heat in molten salts, meanwhile, promises to extend CSP plants’ generating capacity well into the night.

But the bottom line is that natural-gas prices are volatile, an unknown for anyone trying to turn a profit. By comparison, CSP costs – when stretched over the life of a plant – are mostly (80 percent, by one estimate) related to installation. CSP maintenance costs are relatively small, and the sun, its fuel, is free.

“There’s a hedging aspect in building a solar thermal plant,” says Nathaniel Bullard, a solar-sector analyst with New Energy Finance in Washington. “Right now it makes sense to burn gas; it’s really cheap. But you could, in the future, end up losing your shirt on it.”

Inventor Thomas Edison, a contemporary of Shuman’s and the man who gave us the system of steam-generated electricity distributed by wires, told friends late in his life that “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!”

Earth has a natural “sun belt,” a swath of relatively empty subtropical deserts including the US Southwest, the Sahara, the Middle East, and much of Australia. By one estimate, installing CSP plants in just 1 percent of the world’s deserts – an area slightly larger than Ireland – could supply all the world’s electricity.

The German Aerospace Center calculates that, assuming high voltage, transmediterranean transmission lines, just 6,023 square miles of CSP in North Africa could keep all of Europe electrified.

In the US, CSP plants in the Southwest could generate 11,000 gigawatts (GWs) of electricity, says Mark Mehos, principal program manager of concentrating solar power at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. That’s roughly 10 times all the electrical generating capacity currently in place, including coal, nuclear, solar, and hydroelectric – more than enough for the country’s energy needs.

In other words, there’s plenty of sun. The real challenge is making CSP technology competitive with coal.

Currently, CSP costs about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), within striking range of current combined-cycle natural-gas plants, in which a gas turbine generator generates electricity and a steam turbine uses the waste heat to generate more. A combined-cycle natural-gas plant produces electricity for about 12 cents per kWh.

Pulverized coal plants, on the other hand, generate electricity for 6 cents per kWh – less than half CSP’s cost. But, says Mr. Mehos, if you assume that future coal-fired plants will require carbon sequestration, then that cost moves up to about 10 cents per kWh. That means CSP prices still need to drop by nearly one-third to be competitive with future coal plants.

A plethora of CSP companies are racing to innovate and reduce costs. At this point, CSP technology comes in four general “flavors,” each with different perceived strengths and weaknesses.

Parabolic-trough systems focus the sun’s energy onto a tube running their length. Temperatures in the tube can reach 750 degrees F. A medium in the tube – sometimes synthetic oil that transfers its heat to water, sometimes water itself – collects heat to drive turbines. A second troughlike system, called a Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector, uses several mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a single receiver tube above.

Trough technology benefits from being proven. That was Shuman’s design, and it’s the one the Mojave plants installed in the 1980s and ’90s. A planned 280-MW CSP plant near Phoenix will use trough technology, and store heat for electrical generation in molten salts.

‘Power towers’ more efficient
But experts say that, although it’s a known quantity, trough technology may be less efficient than newer, albeit less-tested, approaches. One reason: Newer systems achieve higher temperatures, which greatly increase efficiency.

So-called “power towers” – thousands of mirrors, or heliostats, directing the sun’s rays at a central tower – can achieve 1,300 degrees F. They also benefit from not having to pump the receiver fluid through tubing, an energy loss.

The first commercial scale “power tower” plant began operating near Seville, Spain, in 2007. The 11-MW plant resembles a gigantic, silver-petaled flower reflecting rays of light toward a central stamen. (Others compare it to the lidless Eye of Sauron in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.)

In the US, eSolar recently brought a 5-MW “power tower” demonstration plant on line near Lancaster, Calif. It includes a number of innovations, says Jim Shandalov, eSolar’s vice president of business development. Its relatively small mirrors – thousands of them about a yard square – rise no higher than four feet. Compared with troughs, which can be up to 10 feet high, or the Spanish plant, which has mirrors mounted on frames more than 120 square meters in area, the four-foot height keeps the wind profile down. A smaller profile also means fewer building materials.

Small, flat mirrors are also cheaper to manufacture, transport, and install, he says. An automated robot on a track can clean and maintain the mirrors, further cutting costs.
Finally, new software calibrates each mirror individually, an improvement over the “two walkie-talkie men” method of yore, says Mr. Shandalov, “We’ve made it more efficient.” (He won’t say by how much – that’s a trade secret.)

A fourth CSP option uses a reflective parabolic dish. A Stirling engine, the basic design of which is 200 years old, sits at the dish’s focal point. About the size of a motorcycle engine, it contains hydrogen gas. When heated, the gas drives four pistons, generating electricity on the spot. Stirling Energy Systems and its partner company, Tessera Solar, use this approach in their SunCatcher. A 1.5-MW demonstration plant is slated to begin operating in January near Phoenix.

Most efficient method costs more

Some point out that this method’s large pedestals holding the glass parabolas, some 38 feet across, represent a cost that low-profile, flat-mirror approaches have successfully eliminated.

Nonetheless, in purely thermodynamic terms, the SunCatcher is the most efficient CSP approach so far. It converts 31 percent of the sun’s energy to grid-ready electricity. By comparison, photovoltaic ranges between 8 and 15 percent efficiency, and trough CSP between 15 and 19 percent.

The SunCatcher has one more advantage: The engines aren’t cooled with water. The hydrogen cools in an air radiator similar to that found in a car.

That’s important because, in the arid and semiarid regions of the desert Southwest, where CSP makes the most sense, water is already a hot-button issue. And it’s predicted to become more so.

“The Southwest is a great place to build solar, but it’s not a great place to build water-intensive solar,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., a nonprofit devoted to sustainability issues.

Air-cooling CSP is possible, but can decrease efficiency and – in some situations and regions – increase costs by 5 to 10 percent. Yet for some, it’s already a selling point. BrightSource Energy, a company developing a 400-MW “power tower” plant in the Mojave, touts the fact that its plant will be entirely air-cooled.

Other companies are developing new, cost-saving materials. SkyFuel in Albuquerque, N.M., is testing a reflective laminate material that, it says, is more durable than standard glass. Theoretically usable in any of the CSP approaches, it’s 10 to 20 percent cheaper than glass mirrors, says Andi Plocek, SkyFuel’s marketing director.

Many see cost- effective heat storage as the biggest long-term hurdle for CSP. “The cost of storage is higher than we thought,” says Mehos.

Eventually, utilities will want to generate electricity from renewable sources through the night. To do that with CSP, they’ll need to store the sun’s energy.

Molten salts – used as fertilizer in agriculture – are one solution. But they’re also potentially difficult to handle. They freeze below a certain temperature, possibly clogging the system if allowed to cool. Another consideration with any storage is that with each transfer of heat between media, energy is lost and efficiency diminishes.

In other words, on the cusp of a CSP boom, which technology will dominate and how it will store heat is still very much an open question.

“It’s hard to predict who’s going to win in the end, if there is a winner,” says EPRI’s Ms. Libby: “We need to get more hardware on the ground and really test out all the options.”
23778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Solar in Israel on: October 04, 2009, 10:08:16 AM
Solar energy in Israel

It's a knockout

Jul 23rd 2009 | JERUSALEM
From The Economist print edition

Two novel approaches to making electricity from sunlight

ISRAEL is a country with plenty of sunshine, lots of sand and quite a few clever physicists and chemists. Put these together—having first extracted the oxygen from the sand, to leave pure silicon—and you have the ingredients for an innovative solar-power industry. Shining sunlight onto silicon is the most direct way of turning it into electricity (the light knocks electrons free from the silicon atoms), but it is also the most expensive. The scientists are what you need to make the process cheaper. And that is what two small companies based in Jerusalem are trying, in different ways, to do.

The physicists and chemists at GreenSun Energy, led by Renata Reisfeld, think the way is to use less silicon. Traditional solar cells are made of thin sheets of the element covered by glass plates. In GreenSun’s cells, though, only the outer edges of the glass plates are covered by silicon, in the form of thin strips. The trick is to get the light falling on the glass to diffuse sideways to the edges, so that the silicon can turn it into electricity. Dr Reisfeld’s team do this by coating the glass with a combination of dyes and sprinkling it with nanoparticles of a metal whose nature they are not yet willing to disclose.

Depth of field

The dyes are there to absorb the incident sunlight (a mixture is used in order to capture all parts of the spectrum). The role of the metal, though, is more subtle. The dyes in question are fluorescent—having absorbed the light, they re-radiate it. Normally, that would mean it was lost. But interaction with the nanoparticles turns it into a form of electromagnetic radiation called surface plasmons. These, as their name suggests, propagate over the surface of the glass until they are intercepted by the silicon at its edges.

Not only does all this make GreenSun’s cells cheaper than conventional ones, because they use so much less silicon; it also makes them better. In a conventional solar cell much of the energy is lost. The energy of light varies across the spectrum (blue light is more energetic than red) but only a certain amount of energy is needed to knock an electron free. If the incident light is more energetic than necessary, the surplus disappears as heat. Unlike the sun, which scatters its energy across the board, the dye/nanoparticle mix delivers plasmons of the right energy to knock electrons free without waste.

According to Amnon Leikovich, the firm’s boss, the upshot is a device that could already, if put into production, deliver electricity at only twice the cost of the stuff that comes out of a conventional power station. That may not sound great, but the power from traditional cells is about five times as costly as grid electricity, so GreenSun’s system sounds like a winner for places that are not yet connected. Moreover, Mr Leikovich hopes that costs can be brought down, and efficiency improved, to achieve the alternative-energy nirvana of “grid parity”.

He is not the only one, though. Around the corner, Jonathan Goldstein of 3GSolar hopes to get rid of silicon altogether. 3G’s “dye-sensitised” solar cells use titanium dioxide (more familiar as a pigment used in white paints) and complicated dye molecules that contain a metal called ruthenium. When one of the dye molecules is hit by light of sufficient energy, an electron is knocked out of it and absorbed by the titanium dioxide, before being passed out of the cell to do useful work.

This is a well-known process (it was invented 20 years ago by Michael Grätzel, a physicist at the Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne, Switzerland) and several firms are trying to commercialise it. Dr Goldstein, however, thinks 3G has an edge over its rivals because of the way it draws off the power—though he is reluctant to go into details. One thing that is clear, though, is that dye-sensitised cells will be cheap to make. Both silicon cells and a third technology, so-called thin-film cells (which use novel materials such as cadmium telluride deposited onto sheets of glass or steel), have to be made in a vacuum. That is expensive. Dye-sensitised cells can be made by a process similar to screen printing, which is cheap.

Dye-sensitised cells are not as efficient as silicon ones, but their cheapness may outweigh that in many applications. As Barry Breen, 3G’s boss, points out, more than a billion and a half people have no access to grid electricity. With people like Dr Reisfeld and Dr Goldstein around, soon that may not matter.
23779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IMHO worth serious reflection on: October 04, 2009, 08:35:28 AM
10 Steps to Victory in Afghanistan

: October 3, 2009
Op-Ed page of NYTimes

Reform or Go Home

COUNTERINSURGENCY is only as good as the government it supports. NATO could do everything right — it isn’t — but will still fail unless Afghans trust their government. Without essential reform, merely making the government more efficient or extending its reach will just make things worse.

Only a legitimately elected Afghan president can enact reforms, so at the very least we need to see a genuine run-off election or an emergency national council, called a loya jirga, before winter. Once a legitimate president emerges, we need to see immediate action from him on a publicly announced reform program, developed in consultation with Afghan society and enforced by international monitors. Reforms should include firing human rights abusers and drug traffickers, establishing an independent authority to investigate citizen complaints and requiring officials to live in the districts they are responsible for (fewer than half do).

Other steps might include a census and district-level elections (promised since 2001, but never held), fair and effective taxation to replace kickbacks and extortion, increased pay to diligent local officials, the transfer of more budgetary authority to the provinces and the creation of local courts for dispute resolution.

If we see no genuine progress on such steps toward government responsibility, the United States should “Afghanize,” draw down troops and prepare to mitigate the inevitable humanitarian disaster that will come when the Kabul government falls to the Taliban — which, in the absence of reform, it eventually and deservedly will.

— DAVID KILCULLEN, a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus and the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One”

End Suicide Attacks

TO win in Afghanistan, the United States and its allies must prevent the rise of a new generation of anti-American terrorists, particularly suicide terrorists.

The metric for measuring this threat is not the amount of territory controlled by the Taliban or Al Qaeda, but the number of people willing to be recruited as suicide terrorists. These individuals are motivated not by the existence of a terrorist sanctuary, but by deep anger at the presence of foreign forces on land they prize.

This is why the number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan, overwhelmingly against military targets, has skyrocketed as United States and NATO forces have increasingly occupied the country from 2006 on. There were nine attacks in 2005, 97 in 2006, 142 in 2007, 148 in 2008 and more than 60 in the first six months of this year.

It is imperative to decrease the number of suicide attacks. Given the ethnic divisions of the country, our best tactic is to use political and economic means to empower local Pashtuns to feel that they have greater autonomy from both Taliban and Western domination, and less need to respond violently.

A similar strategy toward Sunni groups in Anbar Province reduced anti-American suicide terrorism in Iraq and is our best way forward in Afghanistan.

— ROBERT A. PAPE, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and the author of “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”

If You Can’t Beat Them, Let Them Join

WITHIN a year, we must persuade large numbers of insurgents to lay down their arms or switch to the government’s side. Afghanistan’s doughty warriors have a tradition of changing alliances, but success will require both military operations focused on the insurgent leadership and, even more important, incentives for fighters at the local level.

Mid-level insurgents and their followers should be offered a chance to join a revised version of the Afghan Public Protection Force. These local self-defense forces should be expanded and tied to legitimate local governing structures — both official and tribal. The majority of development funds should be funneled to leaders to strengthen local governance and development and pay the militias’ salaries.

Local self-defense forces in Colombia, Peru, South Vietnam and, most recently, Iraq, have proved very successful. The creation of a viable force like this is the single most important benchmark for the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

— LINDA ROBINSON, the author of “Tell Me How This Ends: Gen. David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq”

Pump Up the Police
FOR all the disputes over strategy, virtually everyone agrees that we need to strengthen the Afghan security forces, make them true partners and put them in the lead. Afghans want lasting security, and they want it to have an Afghan face.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander there, wisely wants to double the size of the Afghan Army and increase the police forces to 160,000 men. This requires not just money, but also a commitment to send more trainers, embedded advisers and partner units. At the moment, international forces in Afghanistan say they still lack about 30 percent of the trainers and mentors needed to train even the current police force.

Creating effective security forces will also require more aid to create a functioning local justice system with courts, lawyers and jails. This will take at least a decade, so for the short term we should assist efforts to revive Afghanistan’s traditional justice systems.

— ANTHONY CORDESMAN, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Kick Out Corruption

TO defeat the insurgency, the Afghan government and its main partner, the United States, need to win the confidence of the public. Accountability must replace the widespread immunity enjoyed by officials who abuse their power.

Despite all the problems with our recent election, the incoming government will have a chance to start fresh, and a proper vetting of all new officials is the place to begin. This means establishing strict accountability mechanisms for high officials in the districts and provinces as well as in the ministries and directorates in Kabul. Simply shuffling abusive and incompetent officials among offices — as has been the norm over the past eight years — keeps the public from getting the governmental services it needs.

While the corruption in Kabul is well known, the alliances that American and other foreign forces have made at the local level with abusive officials and influential figures have emboldened those Afghans and alarmed the Afghan public. These alliances must be examined and stopped. The next government should make a statement by quickly clearing out some of the most blatantly corrupt officials.

— NADER NADERY, a commissioner on the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

Learn to Tax From the Taliban

SKEPTICS of state-building proposals question whether the Kabul government — now almost fully dependent on foreign aid — will ever be able to support the military and police forces being trained. Yet there has been comparatively little investment by the international community in helping Kabul collect taxes, even though insurgents and corrupt officials have proved it can be done.

In addition to collecting taxes from the illegal opium trade, Taliban forces extort money from trucks carrying legal cargo through their territories and demand “protection fees” from local businesses, even hitting up construction projects financed by NATO.

Government officials also take illegal kickbacks — one governor in the eastern part of the country is reported to earn as much as $10 million a month extorting trucking firms. But this money doesn’t end up in state coffers — it just lines the governor’s deep pockets.

The “civilian surge” should include tax experts who could help federal and provincial officials develop mechanisms for collecting revenue — and make sure that money ends up where it belongs.

— GRETCHEN PETERS, the author of “Seeds of Terror”

Polls Have the Power

BY and large, my generation of military professionals trained for and thought about what we might call “Type A” war — modern war, featuring the clash of mechanized forces fielded by industrial states. Happily, we never had to fight the Soviets on the northern German plain, though Operation Desert Storm showed we might have been pretty good at it, had the balloon gone up.

In Afghanistan we’re fighting a “Type B” war that is in some of its essentials “postmodern.” Like postmodernism itself, the concept has a variety of meanings and may not represent a coherent set of ideas. But one thing is clear: the Type B enemy likely has little to lose — no territory to protect, few important targets at risk, perhaps even no life worth living. Thus the Type A objective of fatally weakening an opponent by destroying assets important to his success — in theory, a measurable process — is replaced in Type B war by the much more complicated, essentially unquantifiable task of defeating him.

In time, democracies tire of war, as well they should. Thus, the single most important factor a Type B enemy counts on is time. The outcome in Afghanistan may be determined already, simply because we’ve been there for eight years. The strategic center of gravity is American public opinion, which will tell us when we’ve run out of time. If you want to know how we are doing in Afghanistan, read the polls in America.

— MERRILL McPEAK, the chief of staff of the Air Force from 1990 to 1994

Take a Risk
Page 3 of 3)

WHILE in Afghanistan last summer as part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s initial assessment team, I found many American and other international units more focused on protecting themselves than protecting the Afghan population. Traveling through the allegedly secure city of Mazar-i-Sharif with a German unit, for example, was like touring Afghanistan by submarine. What little I saw of the city was through a small slit of bulletproof glass in an armored personnel carrier. (While I was a light-infantry officer in both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I had never before traveled in an armored personnel carrier.) The Germans offered their assessment of security in the region, but since they lack regular face-to-face contact with the people living there, why should I trust their analysis? Can they speak with authority on the degree to which an insurgent campaign of intimidation is having an effect when they themselves keep the Afghans at such a distance?

It’s not just the Germans, though. Some American and other allied commanders also insist on protective measures that hamper troops from interacting with the population and gathering information on what is driving the conflict at the local level.

After eight years of war with little to show for American and allied efforts, many Americans have tired of the campaign in Afghanistan and are wary of putting our soldiers in greater danger. But if we are to be successful in Afghanistan, it is a risk we must take.

— ANDREW McDONALD EXUM, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security

Don’t Believe That We Can Afford to Lose

AMERICA cannot achieve even the minimal objective of preventing Al Qaeda from re-establishing safe havens in Afghanistan without a substantial increase in forces over the coming year. The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan’s south is growing. The Afghan and international forces there now cannot reverse that growth. They may not even be able to stem it. That is the assessment of the top American commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

President Obama said in August, “If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.” Some of his advisers now say the opposite: Taliban control will not lead to terrorist havens. Why not? Osama bin Laden first built camps in the territory of a Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, in the mid-1980s. Relations between Al Qaeda and the Taliban remain close. Even if they do not invite Al Qaeda in, could they, unlike Pakistan, keep Al Qaeda out? The president was right: the triumph of the Taliban will benefit Al Qaeda.

Rejecting General McChrystal’s request for more forces leaves two options. The United States withdraws and lets Afghanistan again collapse into chaos, or it keeps its military forces and civilians in harm’s way while denying them the resources they need to succeed. Neither is acceptable.

— FREDERICK KAGAN, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and KIMBERLY KAGAN, the president of the Institute for the Study of War

Pakistani Patronage

THE government of Pakistan, through its intelligence agency, has long been a patron of the Afghan Taliban, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal recently warned that the collaboration continues. Pakistan sees the relationship as a way of hedging its bets in Afghanistan, an asset in its confrontation with India.

It is difficult to define a clear benchmark for ending that aid because the Pakistanis refuse to acknowledge that any relationship exists. But let us consider it to have ended or gone into remission if, a year from now, six consecutive months have gone by with no credible reporting of the sort that underlay the general’s observation.

The significance of this benchmark is threefold. First, Pakistani patronage is an impediment to subduing the Taliban. Second, it is an excellent gauge of how well or poorly NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan is going. Continued Pakistani dealing with the Taliban would reflect Islamabad’s judgment that it is going poorly enough that bets still must be hedged. Third, an end to the relationship would eliminate one of the biggest paradoxes in the rationale for the counterinsurgency: the Pakistani government that our efforts in Afghanistan are supposedly helping to save is assisting the forces from which we are trying to save it.

— PAUL R. PILLAR, a former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia at the C.I.A. and a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program
23780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thomas Friedman, neocon (smirk) on: October 04, 2009, 08:21:04 AM
Still Not Tired Recommend
Pravda on the Hudson
Published: October 3, 2009

He didn’t want to wear earplugs. Apparently, he wanted to enjoy the blast.

That is what The Dallas Morning News reported about Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, the 19-year-old Jordanian accused of trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper. He was caught by an F.B.I. sting operation that culminated in his arrest nearly two weeks ago — after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, supplied by the F.B.I., in the garage of a Dallas office tower.

“Inside the S.U.V. was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing,” The News wrote. “Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away. An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, ‘indicating that he wanted to hear the blast,’ authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb. ... Instead, the agents took him into custody.”

If that doesn’t send a little shiver down your spine, how about this one? reported that “it has emerged that an Al Qaeda bomber who died last month while trying to blow up a Saudi prince in Jeddah had hidden the explosives inside his body.” He reportedly inserted the bomb and detonator in his rectum to elude metal detectors. My God.

Or how about this? Two weeks ago in Denver, the F.B.I. arrested Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, and indicted him on charges of planning to set off a bomb made of the same home-brewed explosives used in the 2005 London transit bombings. He allegedly learned how to do so on a training visit to Pakistan. The Times reported that Zazi “had bought some bomb ingredients in beauty supply stores, the authorities said, after viewing instructions on his laptop on how to build such a bomb. When an employee of the Beauty Supply Warehouse asked about the volume of materials he was buying, he remembered Mr. Zazi answering, ‘I have a lot of girlfriends.’ ”

These incidents are worth reflecting on. They tell us some important things. First, we may be tired of this “war on terrorism,” but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more “creative.”

Second, in this war on terrorism, there is no “good war” or “bad war.” There is one war with many fronts, including Europe and our own backyard, requiring many different tactics. It is a war within Islam, between an often too-silent Muslim mainstream and a violent, motivated, often nihilistic jihadist minority. Theirs is a war over how and whether Islam should embrace modernity. It is a war fueled by humiliation — humiliation particularly among young Muslim males who sense that their faith community has fallen behind others, in terms of both economic opportunity and military clout. This humiliation has spawned various jihadists cults, including Al Qaeda, which believe they have the God-given right to kill infidels, their own secular leaders and less pious Muslims to purify Islam and Islamic lands and thereby restore Muslim grandeur.

Third, the newest and maybe most active front in this war is not Afghanistan, but the “virtual Afghanistan” — the loose network of thousands of jihadist Web sites, mosques and prayer groups that recruit, inspire and train young Muslims to kill without any formal orders from Al Qaeda. The young man in Dallas came to F.B.I. attention after espousing war on the U.S. on jihadist Web sites.

Fourth, in the short run, winning this war requires effective police/intelligence action, to kill or capture the jihadists. I call that “the war on terrorists.” In the long run, though, winning requires partnering with Arab and Muslim societies to help them build thriving countries, integrated with the world economy, where young people don’t grow up in a soil poisoned by religious extremists and choked by petro-dictators so they can never realize their aspirations. I call this “the war on terrorism.” It takes a long time.

Our operation in Afghanistan after 9/11 was, for me, only about “the war on terrorists.” It was about getting bin Laden. Iraq was “the war on terrorism” — trying to build a decent, pluralistic, consensual government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Despite all we’ve paid, the outcome in Iraq remains uncertain. But it was at least encouraging to see last week’s decision by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to run in the next election with a nonsectarian, multireligious coalition — a rare thing in the Arab world.

So, what President Obama is actually considering in Afghanistan is shifting from a “war on terrorists” there to a “war on terrorism,” including nation-building. I still have serious doubts that we have a real Afghan government partner for that. But if Mr. Obama decides to send more troops, the most important thing is not the number. It is his commitment to see it through. If he seems ambivalent, no one there will stand with us and we’ll have no chance. If he seems committed, maybe — maybe — we’ll find enough allies. Remember, the bad guys are totally committed — and they are not tired.

23781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even UN nuke agency says Iran going for nukes on: October 04, 2009, 07:45:31 AM
From Pravda on the Hudson:

Report Says Iran Has Data to Make a Nuclear Bomb

Published: October 3, 2009
Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb.

The report by experts in the International Atomic Energy Agency stresses in its introduction that its conclusions are tentative and subject to further confirmation of the evidence, which it says came from intelligence agencies and its own investigations.

But the report’s conclusions, described by senior European officials, go well beyond the public positions taken by several governments, including the United States.

Two years ago, American intelligence agencies published a detailed report concluding that Tehran halted its efforts to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. But in recent months, Britain has joined France, Germany and Israel in disputing that conclusion, saying the work has been resumed.

A senior American official said last week that the United States was now re-evaluating its 2007 conclusions.

The atomic agency’s report also presents evidence that beyond improving upon bomb-making information gathered from rogue nuclear experts around the world, Iran has done extensive research and testing on how to fashion the components of a weapon. It does not say how far that work has progressed.

The report, titled “Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” was produced in consultation with a range of nuclear weapons experts inside and outside the agency. It draws a picture of a complex program, run by Iran’s Ministry of Defense, “aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab 3 missile system,” Iran’s medium-range missile, which can strike the Middle East and parts of Europe. The program, according to the report, apparently began in early 2002.

If Iran is designing a warhead, that would represent only part of the complex process of making nuclear arms. Experts say Iran has already mastered the hardest part, enriching the uranium that can be used as nuclear fuel.

While the analysis represents the judgment of the nuclear agency’s senior staff, a struggle has erupted in recent months over whether to make it public. The dispute pits the agency’s departing director, Mohamed ElBaradei, against his own staff and against foreign governments eager to intensify pressure on Iran.

Dr. ElBaradei has long been reluctant to adopt a confrontational strategy with Iran, an approach he considers counterproductive. Responding to calls for the report’s release, he has raised doubts about its completeness and reliability.

Last month, the agency issued an unusual statement cautioning it “has no concrete proof” that Iran ever sought to make nuclear arms, much less to perfect a warhead. On Saturday in India, Dr. ElBaradei was quoted as saying that “a major question” about the authenticity of the evidence kept his agency from “making any judgment at all” on whether Iran had ever sought to design a nuclear warhead.

Even so, the emerging sense in the intelligence world that Iran has solved the major nuclear design problems poses a new diplomatic challenge for President Obama and his allies as they confront Iran.

American officials say that in the direct negotiations with Iran that began last week, it will be vital to get the country to open all of its suspected sites to international inspectors. That is a long list, topped by the underground nuclear enrichment center under construction near Qum, that was revealed 10 days ago.

Iran has acknowledged that the underground facility is intended as a nuclear enrichment center, but says the fuel it makes will be used solely to produce nuclear power and medical isotopes. It was kept heavily protected, Iranian officials said, to ward off potential attacks.

Iran said last week that it would allow inspectors to visit the site this month. In the past three years, amid mounting evidence of a possible military dimension to its nuclear program, Iran has denied the agency wide access to installations, documents and personnel.

In recent weeks, there have been leaks about the internal report, perhaps intended to press Dr. ElBaradei into releasing it.

The report’s existence has been rumored for months, and The Associated Press, saying it had seen a copy, reported fragments of it in September. On Friday, more detailed excerpts appeared on the Web site of the Institute for Science and International Security, run by David Albright, a nuclear expert.

In recent interviews, a senior European official familiar with the contents of the full report described it to The New York Times. He confirmed that Mr. Albright’s excerpts were authentic. The excerpts were drawn from a 67-page version of the report written earlier this year and since revised and lengthened, the official said; its main conclusions remain unchanged.

“This is a running summary of where we are,” the official said.

“But there is some loose language,” he added, and it was “not ready for publication as an official document.”


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Most dramatically, the report says the agency “assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium.

Weapons based on the principle of implosion are considered advanced models compared with the simple gun-type bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima. They use a blast wave from a sphere of conventional explosives to compress a ball of bomb fuel into a supercritical mass, starting the atomic chain reaction and progressing to the fiery blast. Implosion designs, compact by nature, are considered necessary for making nuclear warheads small and powerful enough to fit atop a missile.
The excerpts of the analysis also suggest the Iranians have done a wide array of research and testing to perfect nuclear arms, like making high-voltage detonators, firing test explosives and designing warheads.

The evidence underlying these conclusions is not new: Some of it was reported in a confidential presentation to many nations in early 2008 by the agency’s chief inspector, Ollie Heinonen.

Iran maintains that its scientists have never conducted research on how to make a warhead. Iranian officials say any documents to the contrary are fraudulent.

But in August, a public report to the board of the I.A.E.A. by its staff concluded that the evidence of Iran’s alleged military activity was probably genuine.

It said “the information contained in that documentation appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, appears to be generally consistent, and is sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needs to be addressed by Iran with a view to removing the doubts” about the nature of its nuclear program.

The agency’s tentative analysis also says that Iran “most likely” obtained the needed information for designing and building an implosion bomb “from external sources” and then adapted the information to its own needs.

It said nothing specific about the “external sources,” but many intelligence agencies assume that Iran obtained a bomb design from A. Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani black marketer who sold it machines to enrich uranium. That information may have been supplemented by a Russian nuclear weapons scientist who visited Iran often, investigators say.

The I.A.E.A.’s internal report concluded that the staff believed “that non-nuclear experiments conducted in Iran would give confidence that the implosion system would function correctly.”
23782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An so it goes , , , on: October 04, 2009, 12:25:41 AM
Because the effort failed these details are likely to slip down the memory hole rather quickly.  Note them now before they do.

All the president’s Olympic cronies
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2009

When government officials play the Olympic lottery, taxpayers lose. That has been the disastrous experience of host cities around the world (Forbes magazine even dubbed the post-Olympic financial burden the “Host City Curse”). So, why are President Obama and his White House entourage headed to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to push a fiscally doomed Chicago 2016 bid? Political payback.

Bringing the games to the Windy City is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s “vision.” The entrenched Democratic power-broker – in office since 1989 – would like to cap off his graft-tainted career with a glorious, $4 billion bread and circuses production. The influential Daley machine backed Barack Obama for the presidential primary. Obama lavished praise on Daley’s stewardship of the city. Longtime Daley cronies helped pave Obama’s path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, they’re returning the favor for their hometown boss.

Senior White House adviser and Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett is a Daley loyalist who worked as his deputy chief of staff, deputy corporation counsel, and planning commissioner. She hired the future First Lady of the United States, then-Michelle Robinson, as a mayoral assistant. Jarrett went on to serve as president and CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate firm with a massive stake in federally-funded Chicago public housing projects.

One of those public-private partnerships, the Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, was run into the ground under Jarrett’s watch. Federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex a bottom-of-the-barrel 11 on a 100-point scale. “They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods, told the Boston Globe last year. “The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”

Coincidentally enough, Grove Parc — now targeted for demolition as a result of years of neglect by Obama’s developer friends—sits in the shadows of the proposed site of the city’s 2016 Olympics Stadium

Jarrett served as vice chair of Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid committee before moving to the White House, where she has helmed a new “White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport” with an undisclosed budget and staff. It’s not just taxpayers in cash-strapped Chicago who should be worried about this field of schemes. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Jarrett and Chicago 2016 committee member Lori Healey met this month with federal officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “to discuss financing options” for the estimated $1 billion Olympic Village.

The door is open and the administration is “willing to meet and listen” to any federal subsidy proposals, Jarrett said. Hey, what happened to Obama’s tough rules on interest-conflicted lobbying by his administration officials?

A majority of Chicagoans who live in pay-for-play-plagued Cook County oppose public funding for the Olympic party. The city has more than a half-billion-dollar deficit – and just received word that its Olympic insurance policy will cover only about $1.1 billion of the $3.8-billion operating budget drawn up by Daley. Cost overruns, fraud, and union-inflated contracts are inevitable. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended President Obama’s all-out campaign for Chicago’s 2016 Olympics bid by claiming America will see a “tangible economic benefit.”

But as is always the case with sports corporate welfare disguised as “economic development,” an elite few will benefit far more than others.

Take senior White House adviser and Obama campaign guru David Axelrod. He’s been a Daley loyalist since 1989, when he signed up as a political consultant for the mayor’s first run. Axelrod’s public relations firm, Chicago-based AKPD Message and Media, has pitched in work for the Chicago 2016 committee. It is unknown how much AKPD has received for its services – or how much they’ll make in future income if the bid is successful. AKPD currently owes Axelrod $2 million.

The head of the Chicago 2016 bid committee is Patrick Ryan, chairman of the Aon Corporation and a co-chair of Obama’s deep-pocketed presidential inaugural committee. (Under Ryan’s watch at Aon, the company settled a massive corruption probe with 3 states for $190 million. More here on Ryan/Aon/Daley dealings More on corruptocrat Chicago Republicans like Ryan and others here.)

Also on both of those committees: Obama confidante Penny Pritzker, who in addition chairs the Olympic Village Subcommittee and is president of Pritzker Realty Group – a mega-developer in Illinois that could reap untold millions in project work if the Daley Machine/White House campaign succeeds.

Former Pritzker executive and Obama campaign treasurer Martin Nesbitt is also on the bid committee – and serves as Mayor Daley’s chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Another bid committee member, Michael Scott Jr., is “trying to develop a for-profit real estate project that would sit within feet of the cycling venue if Chicago wins the 2016 Summer Games,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

It takes a crony-filled White House to raise a Chicago Olympic village. Daley and Obama will get the glory. America will get stuck with the bill.
23783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq, currently in Jordan on: October 03, 2009, 01:27:49 PM

So as you know I am at the Dead Sea.  The Jordanian side.  While I would like to visit the Israeli side the reality is that it is much easier for me to travel to/from Jordan.  It's a no hassle arrangement getting there to/from Baghdad.
So my initial limo driver is Palestinian.  Been in Jordan since 1967.  He believes that Obama will bring peace to the region.  That Obama is different than Bush.  And of course he is, however, when I pointed out that under Obama the USA is sending more soldiers to Afghanistan and effecting more Predator strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he seemed stunned.  He was simply unaware of this reality.  But then he quickly says to me, words to the effect of, "Well good.  That's where all those crazy Muslims are...the ones that need to be killed."
A little while ago I spent time chatting with the Palestinian service manager at one of the outside bars at the hotel I am at.  The very fly, 5 star Kempinski Dead Sea I might add.  He spent time pointing out Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, etc. across the water.  He said he is from Bethlehem.  He also said that he believed Obama would bring peace to the region.  When I asked him why specifically, like what hasd Obama done to make him believe that, he said that the efforts of the last week by Obama made him believe so.  I asked him whether he was aware that Clinton and Carter and who knows else had spent a lot of time on the same subject, and he said generally yes.  So I asked him what was different about this time.  Specifically different minus the same old words we have heard for decades.  He could not provide anything specific.  Just his feeling.
He said the Intifadah was dead.  I asked why.  He said because of the wall.  You know, the wall that the world has condemned Israel for building?  Yup, he said that has pretty much ended the Intifadah.
During the conversation he told me that he knows from watching TV that there were no Jews killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center.  That they had been warned in advance, by Israel of course,  not to go to work that day (we have all heard that lunatic conspiracy theory).  I told him that was utter bullshit.  That all sorts of people were killed that day.  Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Blacks, whites and browns.  He seemed stunned to hear that.  Despite the fact that he is in Jordan and his English is okay, he gets all his news from Arabic TV.  And that's what they are handing out on Arabic TV.
23784  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / El Fire Hydrant: (Noticias) on: October 03, 2009, 01:25:23 PM

Mientras Mauricio estaba aqui filmabos unas cosas que van a aparecer aqui' en estilo "youtube".

La Aventura continua,
Guro Crafty

PD:  ?Como se dice "fire hydrant"?
23785  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: GRAPPLING Y CUCHILLOS... on: October 03, 2009, 01:22:58 PM
Dog Mauricio:
He aqui este hilo para comentar sobre lo que ocurrio al respeto en el Gathering.
23786  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: LA EXPERIENCIA DEL GATHERING OF THE PACK on: October 03, 2009, 01:21:45 PM
En unos dias espero tener tiempo para comentar mas detalladamente, pero por el momento digo que estoy muy contento con las peleas de Mauricio.
23787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 03, 2009, 01:19:51 PM
The Ego has landed , , ,
23788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marek Edelman on: October 03, 2009, 10:16:47 AM
Marek Edelman dies at 90; last surviving leader of doomed Warsaw ghetto revolt
He called for tolerance on each anniversary of the 1943 uprising, the first big Jewish revolt against the Nazis. After World War II, he became a cardiologist and fought communism in Poland.
Marek Edelman stands by the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes monument in Poland. His heroism in fighting the Nazis and communism in Poland earned him membership in the French Legion of Honor and Poland's highest civilian distinction, the Order of the White Eagle. (Alik Keplicz / Associated Press / April 19, 2007)


Associated Press
October 3, 2009


Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the ill-fated 1943 Warsaw ghetto revolt against the Nazis, died Friday in Warsaw. He was 90.

Edelman died of old age at the family home of his friend Paula Sawicka, where he had lived for the last two years. "He died at home, among friends, among his close people," Sawicka said.

Most of Edelman's adult life was dedicated to the defense of human life, dignity and freedom. He fought the Nazis in the doomed Warsaw ghetto revolt and later in the Warsaw Uprising. And then for decades he fought communism in Poland.

His heroism earned him membership in the French Legion of Honor and Poland's highest civilian distinction, the Order of the White Eagle.

One of the few survivors of three weeks of uneven struggle in the Warsaw ghetto, he felt obliged to preserve the memory of the fallen heroes of that first large-scale Jewish revolt against the Nazis. Each year, on the anniversary of the revolt, he called for tolerance.

"Man is evil; by nature, man is a beast," he said, and therefore people "have to be educated from childhood, from kindergarten, that there should be no hatred."

He also felt obliged to appeal repeatedly to the world for freedom and peace -- even when it had to be won in a fight.

"When you cannot defend freedom through peaceful means, you have to use arms to fight Nazism, dictatorship, chauvinism," Edelman said last year.

Edelman was born Jan. 1, 1919, in Homel, which was then in eastern Poland and is now in Belarus. His family soon moved to Warsaw.

When the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Edelman was member of Bund, a Jewish socialist organization that later masterminded plans for resistance against the occupying Germans.

The Germans set up the Warsaw ghetto in November 1940, cramming more than 400,000 Jews from the city and from across Poland in inhuman conditions. After a year, almost half of the people there had died of disease and starvation.

The resistance plans were implemented April 19, 1943, when the Nazis moved to liquidate the ghetto by killing or sending the remaining 60,000 residents to the death camps of Treblinka, Majdanek and Sobibor, all in Poland.

But that April, the well-trained German troops encountered unexpectedly fierce resistance from a few hundred young, poorly armed Jewish civilians, determined to die fighting rather than in gas chambers.

"No one believed they would be saved," Edelman said. "We knew the struggle was doomed, but it showed the world there was resistance against the Nazis, that you could fight the Nazis."

The ghetto fighters inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, but eventually succumbed. More than 55,000 people were killed or deported to Nazi concentration camps when the uprising failed.

The uprising's leaders were rounded up in a bunker and, seeing no chance of escape, committed suicide on May 8, 1943.

The Nazis razed the ghetto street by street as part of their "final solution," in which they killed 6 million people in their effort to wipe out European Jewry.

Edelman was not in the bunker. With a small group of survivors, he left through the sewers to the Aryan side of Warsaw, where he found places to hide and helped coordinate Jewish partisan groups in nearby forests.

The deadly struggle was "worth it . . . even at the price of the fighters' lives," he said later. "They could not be saved, anyway."

In August and September of 1944, Edelman fought in the Warsaw Uprising, another ill-fated revolt meant to free the capital from Germans ahead of the advancing Red Army.

After the war, Edelman became a cardiologist in the central city of Lodz. He joined the democratic opposition and the Solidarity freedom movement, and was interned under the Dec. 13, 1981, martial law aimed against Solidarity.

In the end, the Solidarity movement led to the ouster of communists from power in Poland in 1989.

Edelman's wife, Alina Margolis-Edelman, worked as a nurse in the Warsaw ghetto, and after the war became a pediatrician. With their son, Aleksander, and daughter, Anna, she left Poland for France after the communist-sponsored anti-Jewish purges of 1968. She died in Paris on March 23, 2008.

But Edelman never wanted to leave Poland. "When you were responsible for the life of some 60,000 people, you don't leave and abandon the memory of them," he said.

He is survived by his son and daughter and two grandchildren.
23789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unsecret on: October 03, 2009, 09:39:45 AM
Oy vey.

EXCLUSIVE: Obama agrees to keep Israel's nukes secret Rate this story

By Eli Lake

President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.

The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.

Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs.

Israel had been nervous that Mr. Obama would not continue the 1969 understanding because of his strong support for nonproliferation and priority on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and five other world powers made progress during talks with Iran in Geneva on Thursday as Iran agreed in principle to transfer some potential bomb fuel out of the country and to open a recently disclosed facility to international inspection.

Mr. Netanyahu let the news of the continued U.S.-Israeli accord slip last week in a remark that attracted little notice. He was asked by Israel's Channel 2 whether he was worried that Mr. Obama's speech at the U.N. General Assembly, calling for a world without nuclear weapons, would apply to Israel.

"It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking about North Korea and Iran," the Israeli leader said. "But I want to remind you that in my first meeting with President Obama in Washington I received from him, and I asked to receive from him, an itemized list of the strategic understandings that have existed for many years between Israel and the United States on that issue. It was not for naught that I requested, and it was not for naught that I received [that document]."

The chief nuclear understanding was reached at a summit between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that began on Sept. 25, 1969. Avner Cohen, author of "Israel and the Bomb" and the leading authority outside the Israeli government on the history of Israel's nuclear program, said the accord amounts to "the United States passively accepting Israel's nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its capability or test a weapon."

There is no formal record of the agreement nor have Israeli nor American governments ever publicly acknowledged it. In 2007, however, the Nixon library declassified a July 19, 1969, memo from national security adviser Henry Kissinger that comes closest to articulating U.S. policy on the issue. That memo says, "While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact."

Mr. Cohen has said the resulting policy was the equivalent of "don't ask, don't tell."

The Netanyahu government sought to reaffirm the understanding in part out of concern that Iran would seek Israeli disclosures of its nuclear program in negotiations with the United States and other world powers. Iran has frequently accused the U.S. of having a double standard by not objecting to Israel's arsenal.

Mr. Cohen said the reaffirmation and the fact that Mr. Netanyahu sought and received a written record of the deal suggest that "it appears not only that there was no joint understanding of what had been agreed in September 1969 but it is also apparent that even the notes of the two leaders may no longer exist. It means that Netanyahu wanted to have something in writing that implies that understanding. It also affirms the view that the United States is in fact a partner in Israel's policy of nuclear opacity."

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment, as did the White House National Security Council.

The secret understanding could undermine the Obama administration's goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In particular, it could impinge on U.S. efforts to bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, two agreements that U.S. administrations have argued should apply to Israel in the past. They would ban nuclear tests and the production of material for weapons.

A Senate staffer familiar with the May reaffirmation, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, "What this means is that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give regarding Israel's nuclear program. However, it calls into question virtually every part of the president's nonproliferation agenda.The president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the step was less injurious to U.S. policy.

"I think it is par for the course that the two incoming leaders of the United States and Israel would want to clarify previous understandings between their governments on this issue," he said.

However Mr. Kimball added, "I would respectfully disagree with Mr. Netanyahu. President Obama's speech and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887 apply to all countries irrespective of secret understandings between the U.S. and Israel. A world without nuclear weapons is consistent with Israel's stated goal of achieving a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Obama's message is that the same nonproliferation and disarmament responsibilities should apply to all states and not just a few."

Israeli nuclear doctrine is known as "the long corridor." Under it, Israel would begin to consider nuclear disarmament only after all countries officially at war with it signed peace treaties and all neighboring countries relinquished not only nuclear programs but also chemical and biological arsenals. Israel sees nuclear weapons as an existential guarantee in a hostile environment.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he hoped the Obama administration did not concede too much to Israel.

"One hopes that the price for such concessions is Israeli agreement to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and an acceptance of the long-term goal of a Middle East weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone," he said. "Otherwise, the Obama administration paid too much, given its focus on a world free of nuclear weapons."
23790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Even here BO appeases on: October 03, 2009, 09:31:54 AM
second post of the day

There's a lot of concern out there right now about America's world leadership—facing down Iran's nuclear program, bracing NATO's commitment in Afghanistan, maintaining free trade. Here's something else to worry about: Has the Obama administration just given up U.S. responsibility for protecting the Internet?

What makes it possible for users to connect with all the different Web sites on the Internet is the system that allocates a unique electronic address to each site. The addresses are organized within larger entities called top-level domains—".com," ".edu," ".gov" and so on. Overseeing this arrangement is a relatively obscure entity, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Without the effective oversight of ICANN, the Internet as we know it would not exist, billions of dollars of online commerce and intellectual property would be at risk, and various forms of mass censorship could become the norm.

Since its establishment in 1998, ICANN has operated under a formal contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which stipulated the duties and limits that the U.S. government expected ICANN to respect. The Commerce Department did not provide much active oversight, although the need to renew this contract, called the Joint Project Agreement (JPA), helped keep ICANN policies within reasonable bounds. That's why last spring, when the Commerce Department asked for comment on ending the JPA, the U.S. business community opposed the idea.

But the U.S. government's role in ICANN has long been a source of complaint from foreign nations. United Nations conferences have repeatedly voiced concerns about "domination of the Internet by one power" and suggested that management of the system should be handed off to the International Telecommunications Union—a U.N. agency dominated by developing countries. The European Union has urged a different scheme in which a G-12 of advanced countries would manage the Internet.

The Obama administration has declined to endorse such alternatives. Instead it has replaced the latest JPA, which expired Sept. 30, with a vaguely worded "Affirmation of Commitments." In it, ICANN promises to be a good manager of the Internet, and the Commerce Department promises—well, not much of anything. The U.S. will participate in a Governmental Advisory Committee along with some three dozen other nations but claims no greater authority than any other country on the committee, whose recommendations are not binding on ICANN in any case.

An ICANN cut loose from U.S. government oversight will not, for that reason, be free from political pressures. One source of pressure will come from disputes about expanding top-level domain names. For example, would a ".xxx" domain help to isolate pornographic sites in a unique (and blockable) special area, or would it encourage censorship in other domains by suggesting that offensive images only appear there? Should we have ".food" or ".toys" along with ".com" domains? If we do, as the Justice Department warned last year in a letter to Commerce, companies that have invested huge sums to protect their trademarks under ".com" will have to fight for protection of their names in the new domains. Yet strangely, there is not a word in the new plan about protecting trademark rights or other intellectual property interests that might be threatened by new ICANN policies.

Even more disturbing is the prospect that foreign countries will pressure ICANN to impose Internet controls that facilitate their own censorship schemes. Countries like China and Iran already block Web sites they regard as politically objectionable. Islamic nations insist that the proper understanding of international human-rights treaties requires suppression of "Islamophobic" content on the Internet. Will ICANN be better situated to resist such pressures now that it no longer has a formal contract with the U.S. government?

It may be that the Obama administration expects to exert a steadying hand on ICANN in indirect or covert ways. Or here too it may have calculated that winning applause from other nations now is worth taking serious risks in the long run.

Mr. Rabkin is professor of law at George Mason University. Mr. Eisenach is an adjunct law professor at George Mason and chairman of Empiris LLC, which does consulting work for Verisign, an Internet registry.
23791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Voters not to blame on: October 03, 2009, 09:24:15 AM
With the Golden State still struggling to balance its books, politicians from both sides of the aisle have come up with a nifty way to avoid responsibility for the mess: Blame the voters.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, summed it up for his fellow pols recently by telling a reporter: "All of those propositions tell us how we must spend our money. . . . This is no way, of course, to run a state." State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, has made similar comments in denouncing "ballot-box budgeting."

Their indictment is false. Voters aren't tying lawmakers' hands too much, but too little. Here's the background:

For decades, state officials have habitually proposed deep cuts to the most popular programs unless voters agree to higher taxes. Tired of being manipulated, voters have used the ballot initiative to put some programs off-limits.

Nevertheless, a 2003 analysis by John G. Matsusaka, president of the Initiatives and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, found that no more than a third of California's appropriations that year were locked in by voter initiatives so stringent that legislators couldn't override them. Most of the appropriations—about $30 billion in 2003—were for Proposition 98, which passed in 1988 and mandates funding for K-12 education.

Even this overstates the case against ballot-box budgeting. K-12 spending has remained remarkably stable at around 40% of the budget pre- and post-Prop. 98. Today, California is 24th among the 50 states in terms of the percentage of its general funds it devotes to K-12. This suggests that education spending is not grossly out of line. Prop. 98 aside, Mr. Matsusaka found that only about 2% or 3% of California's budget is frozen as a result of ballot initiatives.

Mr. Matsusaka's analysis was affirmed last month by the Legislative Analyst's Office, a nonpartisan outfit that advises the legislature. It looked at all the restrictions on the state's budget—not just those imposed by ballot initiatives—and concluded that: "Despite these restrictions, the legislature maintains considerable control over the state budget—particularly over the longer term."

So what happened this year that got the politicians and others so upset with ballot-box budgeting? California faced a $42 billion budget deficit. After a round of spending cuts and $12 billion in new taxes, the governor and the legislature called for a special election and placed a number of propositions on the ballot that would have increased taxes an additional $16 billion and allowed for billions more in borrowing and fund shifts. Voters shot those measures down in May.

After much bickering, lawmakers nearly closed the deficit with severe cuts, but left the governor with a $1 billion deficit to close on his own. He did so by using his line-item veto to strike, among other things, $500 million for in-home care, transportation assistance and other social services.

Now the governor is being sued by a whole host of special-interest groups, including a coalition of organizations representing the disabled. Those organizations (along with Mr. Steinberg, who has filed a separate suit), claim that the governor cannot constitutionally cut spending beyond what the legislature has already cut. The suits ignore that the governor is bound by a constitutional requirement that the state's budget be balanced—but in any case have nothing to do with spending that is mandated by ballot initiatives.

In looking for the causes of the state's budget mess, a good place to start is with the unionized public employees, who have filed their own lawsuit against the budget. Public union ranks have grown a whopping 37% since 1990 and consume about one-third of the $85 billion budget in wages and benefits. California also faces a total unfunded future liability of about $110 billion for pensions and health-care benefits. Still, the state's chapter of the Service Employees International Union and other unions are suing the state because their members are being asked to take a few days of furlough to save the state about $1.5 billion. The unions say this is an illegal pay cut. Regardless of whether it is, ballot initiatives are not the issue.

True enough, some lawsuits are driven by ballot initiatives. The California Redevelopment Association is attempting to stop the state from raiding $2 billion in local redevelopment funds. Sixty years ago voters passed a constitutional amendment to prevent such raids, but the state government has found ways around that prohibition. But restoring the will of the voters in this case is essential for sound budgeting, because local development funds are used to pay for bonded contracts for roads and other infrastructure projects. If the state is allowed to grab these funds, the credit ratings of cities and counties will plunge and their borrowing costs will rise.

Whatever the wisdom of ballot initiatives that protect some programs from cuts, they are not the root cause of California's fiscal disaster. That cause is the government's spending addiction. From 1990 to 2008, California's revenues increased 167%, but total spending soared 181%.

This problem won't be tamed by letting lawmakers get their hands on more tax dollars by scrapping Proposition 13, which limits property taxes, as Mr. Steinberg and other lawmakers have suggested. Rather the solution is to restore the Gann Spending Limit that restricted state spending increases to population growth and inflation and required that anything left over be returned to taxpayers.

Such restrictions kept the state from slipping into a cycle of fiscal chaos in the 1980s by checking government expenditures and forced lawmakers to rebate $1.1 billion in excess revenue in 1987. But voters diluted Gann in 1990, when they passed Proposition 111, exempting infrastructure projects, disaster spending and a number of other state expenditures from the spending limit.

Prop. 111 freed politicians in Sacramento to use the revenues that gushed in during the dot-com boom and housing bubble to grow the state budget to unsustainable levels. If Gann hadn't been neutered, a Reason Foundation study found in February, California would have been rolling in a $15 billion surplus this year.

The Golden State's problem is not overly controlling voters—but out-of-control politicians.

Ms. Dalmia is a senior analyst, Mr. Summers a policy analyst, and Mr. Moore a vice president at the Reason Foundation.
23792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ on: October 03, 2009, 09:21:29 AM
So it turns out that Google's enthusiasm for government-imposed "net neutrality" is qualified. The Internet giant wants cumbersome network management rules applied to everyone—except Google.

Google is one of the industry's most vocal advocates of regulating Internet service providers. It wants to prevent companies like Verizon and AT&T from managing their broadband networks in a way that is optimal for most users, but perhaps not for Google. In order to protect its business model, which involves the use of Internet pipes owned by these other companies (and potential competitors), Google wants broadband networks open to all content without restrictions, even if that means a relatively small number of video streamers and other bandwidth hogs could cause congestion for everyone else.

"Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say," explains Google on its Web site, "broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online."

Of late, however, Google is flouting its own net neutrality principles. According to recent media reports, Google Voice, the company's new phone service, is systematically blocking calls to phone numbers in some rural areas. Under so-called intercarrier compensation regulations, phone companies pay high fees to rural operators to connect phone calls. By blocking calls that its competitors are forced by law to connect, Google is saving money. It's also violating the nondiscrimination principle that underlies its net neutrality lobbying.

Citing these news reports, AT&T engaged in a little payback late last week by sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission calling on regulators to force Google to "play by the same rules as its competitors." Google says that Google Voice is not a traditional phone company and should not be regulated as such. The reality is that Google wants to gain a competitive advantage by providing phone service without having to adhere to the same rules as its rivals.

Our own view is that the rules requiring traditional phone companies to connect these calls should be scrapped for everyone rather than extended to Google. In today's telecom marketplace, where the overwhelming majority of phone customers have multiple carriers to choose from, these regulations are obsolete. But Google has set itself up for this political blowback.

Last week FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new rules for regulating Internet operators and gave assurances that "this is not about government regulation of the Internet." But this dispute highlights the regulatory creep that net neutrality mandates make inevitable. Content providers like Google want to dabble in the phone business, while the phone companies want to sell services and applications.

The coming convergence will make it increasingly difficult to distinguish among providers of broadband pipes, network services and applications. Once net neutrality is unleashed, it's hard to see how anything connected with the Internet will be safe from regulation
23793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Review of disaster battle on: October 03, 2009, 09:07:16 AM
This is from Pravda on the Hudson and is about precisely the sort of thing where the NYT is most suspect as a reporting source.  That said the subject matter seems very important-- but caveat lector:

U.S. Review of Battle Disaster Sways Strategy on Afghanistan

Published: October 2, 2009
WASHINGTON — The paratroopers of Chosen Company had plenty to worry about as they began digging in at their new outpost on the fringe of a hostile frontier village in eastern Afghanistan.

Intelligence reports were warning of militants massing in the area. As the paratroopers looked around, the only villagers they could see were men of fighting age idling in the bazaar. There were no women and children, and some houses looked abandoned. Through their night scopes they could see furtive figures on the surrounding mountainsides.

A few days later, they were almost overrun by 200 insurgents.

That firefight, a debacle that cost nine American lives in July 2008, has become the new template for how not to win in Afghanistan. The calamity and its roots have been described in bitter, painstaking detail in an unreleased Army history, a devastating narrative that has begun to circulate in an initial form even as the military opened a formal review this week of decisions made up and down the chain of command.

The 248-page draft history, obtained by The New York Times, helps explain why the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is pressing so hard for a full-fledged commitment to a style of counterinsurgency that rests on winning over the people of Afghanistan even more than killing militants. The military has already incorporated lessons from the battle in the new doctrine for war in Afghanistan.

The history offers stark examples of shortcomings in the unit’s preparation, the style of combat it adopted, its access to intelligence, its disdain for the locals — in short, plenty of blame to go around.

Before the soldiers arrived, commanders negotiated for months with Afghan officials of dubious loyalty over where they could dig in, giving militants plenty of time to prepare for an assault.

Despite the suspicion that the militants were nearby, there were not enough surveillance aircraft over the lonely outpost — a chronic shortage in Afghanistan that frustrated Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the time. Commanders may have been distracted from the risky operation by the bureaucratic complexities of handing over responsibility at the brigade level to replacements — and by their urgent investigation of an episode that had enraged the local population, the killing a week earlier in an airstrike of a local medical clinic’s staff as it fled nearby fighting in two pickup trucks.

Above all, the unit and its commanders had an increasingly tense and untrusting relationship with the Afghan people.

The history cited the “absence of cultural awareness and understanding of the specific tribal and governance situation” and the emphasis on combat operations over the development of the local economy and other civil affairs, a reversal of the practices of the unit that had just left the area.

The battle of Wanat is being described as the “Black Hawk Down” of Afghanistan, with the 48 American soldiers and 24 Afghan soldiers outnumbered three to one in a four-hour firefight that left nine Americans dead and 27 wounded in one of the bloodiest days of the eight-year war.

Soldiers who survived the battle described how their automatic weapons turned white hot and jammed from nonstop firing. Mortally wounded troops continued to hand bullet belts to those still able to fire.

The ammunition stockpile was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, igniting a stack of 120-millimeter mortar rounds — and the resulting fireball flung the unit’s antitank missiles into the command post. One insurgent got inside the concertina wire and is believed to have killed three soldiers at close range, including the platoon commander, Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom.

The description of the battle at Wanat — the heroism, the violence and the missteps that may have contributed to the deaths — ends with a judgment that the fight was “as remarkable as any small-unit action in American military history.”

The author, the military historian Douglas R. Cubbison, also included a series of criticisms in his review, sponsored by the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that laid blame on a series of decisions made before the battle.

The draft report criticized the “lack of adequate preparation time” before arriving in Afghanistan, which meant there was little training geared specifically for Afghanistan, and not even a detailed operational plan for the year of combat that lay ahead.

Pentagon and military officials say those initial criticisms are being revised to reflect subsequent interviews with other soldiers and officers who were at Wanat or who served in higher-level command positions. After a round of revisions, the study will go through a formal peer-review process and be published.

The battle stands as proof that the United States is facing off against a far more sophisticated adversary in Afghanistan today, one that can fight anonymously with roadside bombs or stealthily with kidnappings — but also can operate like a disciplined armed force using well-rehearsed small-unit tactics to challenge the American military for dominance on the conventional battlefield.

Official judgment on whether errors were made by the unit on the ground or by any leaders up the chain of command will be determined by a new investigation opened this week by Gen. David H. Petraeus of United States Central Command at the urging of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The call for such an independent review came from family members of the fallen, including David P. Brostrom, father of the slain platoon commander and himself a retired Army colonel, as well as from a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia.

The history is replete with wrong turns at every point of the unit’s mission, starting with the day it was reassigned to Afghanistan from training for Iraq.


Page 2 of 2)

After having served for more than a year in other hot zones of eastern Afghanistan, the platoon arrived in the village at dark on July 8, 2008, just two weeks from the day it was supposed to go home to its base in Italy.

The men wore their adopted unit emblem — skull patches fashioned after Marvel Comics’ antihero, the Punisher. They unloaded their Humvees, packed with weapons, water and the single rucksack each had kept when the rest of his kit was shipped home. They had plenty of ammunition.

But at the end of an intense tour of combat, they had run out of good relations with an increasingly distrustful population.

They named it Outpost Kahler, after a popular sergeant who had been killed by one of their own Afghan guards early that year. His last words as he moved ahead of his comrades to check whether their Afghan partners were asleep while on duty had been, “This might be dangerous.” (The shooting was ruled an accident, but relations between skeptical American troops and Afghan forces deteriorated.)

Although the 173rd Airborne Brigade had been scheduled to return to Iraq from its base in Italy, the need for forces to counter a resurgence of militant violence in eastern Afghanistan prompted new orders for the brigade to switch immediately to preparations for mountain warfare — many of the outposts were linked only by narrow, rutted trails, and some could be reached only be helicopter — and a wholly different culture and language. “Unfortunately, the comparatively late change of mission for the 173rd Airborne B.C.T. from Iraq to Afghanistan did not permit the brigade sufficient time to prepare any form of campaign plan,” the history reports.

The unit arrived at Wanat ill prepared for the hot work of building an outpost in the mountains in July; troops were thirsty from a lack of fresh water, and their one construction vehicle ran out of gas, so the unit was unable to complete basic fortifications. The soldiers had no local currency to buy favor by investing in the village economy, the history makes clear. The soldiers also said they complained up the chain of command about the lack of air surveillance over their dangerous corner of Afghanistan, but no more was provided.

Even as they settled into their spartan command post, the unit’s commanders were insulted to learn that local leaders were meeting together in a “shura,” or council, to which they were not invited — and which might even have been a session used to coordinate the assault on the Americans that began before dawn the very next morning.

The four-hour firefight finally ended when American warplanes and attack helicopters strafed insurgent positions. The paratroopers drove back the insurgents, but ended up abandoning the village 48 hours later.
23794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: October 03, 2009, 08:51:19 AM
I think I may disagree with Stratfor here.  I tend to go with Krauthammer that this is all a joke, that BO is getting played, and that the Iranians have just successfully picked up several months of delay.

To threaten a punishment of really mean sanctions is meaningless-- the Russians and the Chinese won't be part of it.

By the time the Iranians stall enough that BO begins to negotiate with the Russians, Chinese, Germans (who have voraciously been doing business with Iran all along btw) many months will have passed and all that will be produced with be a fart.

A Delay in the Iran Crisis Timeline
THE P-5+1 MEETING was held in Geneva on Thursday. At its conclusion, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a press conference in Washington. Of all the reactions, the U.S. reaction was the most important, since the U.S. reading of the situation determines the probability of sanctions and, more important, of military action against Iran. It is clear from Obama’s press conference that neither is going to happen at the moment. Therefore, the talks weren’t a disaster.

Iran seems to have agreed to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team coming in two weeks to inspect the recently disclosed uranium enrichment facility at Qom. Of course, whether Iran ends up admitting the team and what it will allow the team to see will be the issue. Iran has been a master at delaying and partially fulfilling agreements like this. Those countries that don’t want a confrontation have used this to argue that limited progress is better than no progress, and that at least some progress is being made. Iran previously has used the ambiguity of its cooperation to provide a plausible basis for those in the coalition against it that don’t want a confrontation to split from those coalition members who do. Given the high degree of unity among foreign powers that is needed for sanctions, IAEA inspections are a superb tool for Iran to use in managing the coalition arrayed against it.

Obama expressly said that delays wouldn’t work, adding that words need to be followed by actions. From the tenor of his speech, it appears that the United States has postponed the crisis but not cancelled it. At the same time, the basic framework of engagement and a long-term process of accommodation with Iran has not been violated. The United States can use ambiguities to justify pulling back from a confrontation.

” The crisis will come not from clear Iranian unwillingness to cooperate, but from ambiguity over whether Iran has cooperated.”
Obama deliberately adopted a resolute tone with a short timeline. Whatever room for maneuver he retained, his tone was extremely firm. Interestingly, his tone was sufficiently hard that how it will play in Iran is now in question. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not want to appear as weak or caving in. Domestically, he cannot afford to appear so easily browbeaten, having just emerged from a messy internal struggle whose losers would appreciate the opportunity to paint him as mishandling negotiations. Therefore, the tone of Obama’s statement might cause him to be more intransigent. The real issue is what happens in the next two weeks. We suspect events will be sufficiently ambiguous to allow any and all interpretations. The crisis will come not from clear Iranian unwillingness to cooperate, but from ambiguity over whether Iran has cooperated.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s decision to visit Washington on the eve of the Geneva talks and the willingness of the United States to give him a visa to do so have confused matters a bit. The visit offered a superb opportunity for high-level talks, but all sides are denying that such talks took place. According to Mottaki, he visited the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy on Sept. 30, had dinner with the staff, and left by 6 a.m. the next day. The itinerary is possible, but somehow doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it was just a symbolic concession on both sides, with Mottaki being willing to visit the capital of the Great Satan and the United States being willing to host a charter member of the Axis of Evil. It could be that simple. But given Obama’s interest in engagement, we can’t help but wonder who else Mottaki spoke to. In the end — or rather, now that the Geneva talks have gone reasonably well — it probably doesn’t matter.

There are two wild cards in this deck. The first is Israel. Israel has clearly chosen to allow this process to proceed without issuing threats. Obama is aware that he must keep the Israelis in check, and that excessive flexibility could create a loose cannon that disrupts the entire process. The other wild card is U.S. domestic politics. Congress has been obsessed with health care reform; it has had no bandwidth for foreign policy. Assuming that some resolution on health care takes place in the next couple of weeks, Congress will have that bandwidth and will start limiting Obama’s room for maneuver.

That, of course, affects Afghanistan as well as Iran. Obama’s trip to Copenhagen on Friday now appears no longer simply about getting Chicago named as a host city for the Olympics, but about meeting with some European officials — undoubtedly about the Afghanistan strategy review now under way. When Congress comes up for air, it will be raising questions on Afghanistan. The White House announced Thursday that Obama is taking another several weeks to review the strategy — and should he decide to increase forces and shift strategy, he will want to be able to demonstrate European cooperation. Going to Congress with a massive increase in U.S. forces and nothing from the Europeans would be difficult.

Therefore, we can expect intense diplomacy in the weeks leading up to the IAEA inspections at Qom, the subsequent report and the controversy that will result from the report. It is the controversy on the report that will shape the next phase of the Iran issue. The timeline has clearly slipped from September to later in the year, but the basic structure of the crisis, in our opinion, remains unchanged.
23795  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 02, 2009, 04:24:18 PM
Me too  cool

Grateful a for a wonderful night's sleep and one of the strongest workouts I've had in a while today.  Grateful its Friday afternoon and time to play with my children.

Life is good.
23796  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hot Dog on: October 02, 2009, 04:22:39 PM
Woof All:

Hot Dog gets married to his long time fiance Carol tomorrow.  cool The Denny clan will be there.

The Adventure continues!
23797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. McChrystal slams Pentagon on: October 02, 2009, 04:12:25 PM
23798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Early Constitutional case law on: October 02, 2009, 11:58:16 AM
A friend writes:

ith the very first Congress consisting almost entirely of Federalist (nationalist), and George Washington as President appointing Federalist to all post within his administration, including the Supreme Court, with the first Chief Justice being John Jay, the power grab for the new government began with ease and the new court led the way. The decisions of the court on various cases didn't matter so much but their opinions written on those decisions set the stage for interpreting the Constitution based on their personal understanding and not as to how the Federalist presented it at the ratifying debates or on the understanding of the ratifiers that agreed to it on those terms, this, even though every judge on the first court helped write the Constitution and argued for ratification giving assurance on those same terms.

 An opinion on a relatively unimportant case regarding a grant to a probate hearing on the enforcement of a will in the Connecticut legislature, the 1798 case Calder vs Bull, would stand to set the majority opinion of high court justices till this day. It didn't seem to matter to them that it nullified the power of the Constitution to restrain the Federal government and its court. Justice Samuel Chase, in his opinion said that although the government powers were defined and that the states retain all powers granted them by the people and not denied by the Constitution; the state legislatures were not absolute and without control even if the state's Constitution did not limit their authority.

 Chase said, "There are certain vital principles in our free republican government which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power; as to authorize manifest injustice by positive law; or to take away that security for personal liberty, or private property, for the protection where of government was established. An act of the legislature (for I cannot call it law), contrary to the great first principles of the social compact cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority."
Chase had based his opinion on natural law, the principles of free republican government. Any state that violated these principles in passing statutes, according to this opinion, were going against the general principles of law and reason and as such would not be enforceable as law. So who gets to decide if a state violated these principles? The federal courts of course! But it's worse than just that as one justice points out even though he to is a federalist.
Justice James Iredell rightfully blasted Chase with an opinion of his own in which he  said that natural law or its principles were not regulated by any fixed standard and that if Congress or a state passed a statute consistent with the power it had been granted, that no court may declare it void merely because in their judgement it was contrary to natural law. Iredell insisted that the system of written constitutions was what guarded against legislative abuse and that the ultimate corrective was elections. Few judges have heeded this opinion.
During this period the federalist were going back on their assurances about the limited powers of the government. It became so bad that Jefferson and Madison teamed up to get the states to rebel against and resist federal policy that they saw as blatantly unconstitutional. They had to this in secret to avoid prosecution under the Sedition Act of 1798. The Constitution was in the hands of its enemies but the election of 1800 was the corrective.
23799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Score!!! on: October 02, 2009, 11:49:59 AM
Pakistan: The Death of an Uzbek Militant
Stratfor Today » October 2, 2009 | 1545 GMT

John Moore/Getty Images
A Pakistani army soldier in Pakistan’s South WaziristanSummary
A U.S. drone strike in Kanigram, Pakistan, killed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) chief Tahir Yuldashev, Reuters reported Oct. 2. The air strike, which happened on Aug. 27, fatally wounded Yuldashev. Although it is unclear that the United States was targeting Yuldashev, his death will exacerbate tensions among Uzbek militants and other jihadist groups.


A suspected U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strike in northwestern Pakistan killed the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Tahir Yuldashev, Reuters reported Oct. 2, citing unnamed Pakistani security officials. The officials said that the top Uzbek jihadist leader was killed when a South Waziristan facility was struck on Aug 27. STRATFOR sources in Pakistan reported that Yuldashev, who was among a group of militants when the strike occurred at Kanigram, succumbed to injuries on Aug. 28 and was buried in Khasori Ladha. Allegedly, the airstrike was not explicitly designed to target him; it is unclear that the United States was aware of his presence at the location.

Yuldashev’s death is a blow to his movement, the Pakistani Taliban, Uighur/East Turkestani militants fighting in China, other Central Asian jihadist outfits and al Qaeda. He is the most significant militant leader to have died after top Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. While Yuldashev was alive, he was instrumental in cooperation between Uzbek and other central Asian militants with Arab and Pashtun fighters. Now that he is dead, the Uzbeks will become more mercenary-like and subservient to non-Uzbek militant forces. This could exacerbate tensions among the Uzbeks and between the Uzbeks and others (Pashtuns, Arabs, Uighurs, Caucasians, other Central Asian, etc.), especially as his successors deal with his death and suspicions of betrayal.

Yuldashev emerged as the top leader of the IMU after his predecessor Juma Namangiani was killed in late 2001 in Afghanistan during the U.S. military campaign that followed 9/11. Yuldashev was a major figure in the movement during the days when Namangiani headed the IMU; that facilitated the succession. But under Yuldashev, no noteworthy deputy has emerged, suggesting that finding a new leader could be an issue.

When the IMU was based in Afghanistan, it was unable to use the country as a launch pad for attacks in Uzbekistan. But hitting Uzbekistan became even more difficult for the IMU after relocating to Pakistan with al Qaeda Prime, when the transnational jihadist base in Afghanistan was destroyed. Yuldashev and thousands of Uzbek fighters moved to the South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where they already had extensive local connections.

The IMU had become more involved in transnational al Qaeda causes while in Afghanistan, and Pakistani Taliban causes after relocating. In March 2004, Yuldashev was reportedly wounded when Pakistani forces launched their first-ever offensive against jihadists in South Waziristan.

Yuldashev and his militants have become a key source of support for the Pakistani Taliban, especially the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) founded by Mehsud. That is because they live in the area controlled by the TTP and have engaged in several battles with Islamabad-allied Taliban factions.

The news of his death also follows the mid-September death of Islamic Jihad Union chief Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov, an Uzbek native implicated in terrorist plots and attacks in Germany and Uzbekistan. Jalolov died in a U.S. UAV strike in North Waziristan. In July, two top Tajik militants — Mirzo Ziyoev and Nemat Azizov — were killed by security forces in Tajikistan soon after they had traveled back to Tajikistan from Afghanistan.

For Pakistan and the United States, Yuldashev’s death is a significant victory, as it will facilitate the efforts to root out foreign fighters from the local ones by potentially turning them against one another. It will also be a relief for Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian republics, which fear that the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and their recent rise in Pakistan could undermine their security in the near future.
23800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 02, 2009, 11:10:10 AM
Lt. Worf?  huh
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