Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yes, another Stuxnet article
on: October 03, 2010, 01:42:24 AM
October 1, 2010, 11:25 AM
There's a new cyber-weapon on the block. And it's a doozy. Stuxnet, a malicious software, or malware, program was apparently first discovered in June.
Although it has appeared in India, Pakistan and Indonesia, Iran's industrial complexes - including its nuclear installations - are its main victims.
Stuxnet operates as a computer worm. It is inserted into a computer system through a USB port rather than over the Internet, and is therefore capable of infiltrating networks that are not connected to the Internet.
Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Company, told reporters Monday that the malware operated undetected in the country's computer systems for about a year.
After it enters a network, this super-intelligent program figures out what it has penetrated and then decides whether or not to attack. The sorts of computer systems it enters are those that control critical infrastructures like power plants, refineries and other industrial targets.
Ralph Langner, a German computer security researcher who was among the first people to study Stuxnet, told various media outlets that after Stuxnet recognizes its specific target, it does something no other malware program has ever done. It takes control of the facility's SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition system) and through it, is able to destroy the facility.
No other malware program has ever managed to move from cyberspace to the real world. And this is what makes Stuxnet so revolutionary. It is not a tool of industrial espionage. It is a weapon of war.
From what researchers have exposed so far, Stuxnet was designed to control computer systems produced by the German engineering giant Siemens. Over the past generation, Siemens engineering tools, including its industrial software, have been the backbone of Iran's industrial and military infrastructure. Siemens computer software products are widely used in Iranian electricity plants, communication systems and military bases, and in the country's Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
The Iranian government has acknowledged a breach of the computer system at Bushehr. The plant was set to begin operating next month, but Iranian officials announced the opening would be pushed back several months due to the damage wrought by Stuxnet. On Monday, Channel 2 reported that Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility was also infected by Stuxnet.
On Tuesday, Alipour acknowledged that Stuxnet's discovery has not mitigated its destructive power.
As he put it, "We had anticipated that we could root out the virus within one to two months. But the virus is not stable and since we started the cleanup process, three new versions of it have been spreading."
While so far no one has either taken responsibility for Stuxnet or been exposed as its developer, experts who have studied the program agree that its sophistication is so vast that it is highly unlikely a group of privately financed hackers developed it. Only a nation-state would have the financial, manpower and other resources necessary to develop and deploy Stuxnet, the experts argue.
Iran has pointed an accusatory finger at the US, Israel and India. So far, most analysts are pointing their fingers at Israel. Israeli officials, like their US counterparts, are remaining silent on the subject.
While news of a debilitating attack on Iran's nuclear installations is a cause for celebration, at this point, we simply do not know enough about what has happened and what is continuing to happen at Iran's nuclear installations to make any reasoned evaluation about Stuxnet's success or failure. Indeed, The New York Times has argued that since Stuxnet worms were found in Siemens software in India, Pakistan and Indonesia as well as Iran, reporting, "The most striking aspect of the fast-spreading malicious computer program... may not have been how sophisticated it was, but rather how sloppy its creators were in letting a specifically aimed attack scatter randomly around the globe."
ALL THAT we know for certain is that Stuxnet is a weapon and it is currently being used to wage a battle. We don't know if Israel is involved in the battle or not. And if Israel is a side in the battle, we don't know if we're winning or not.
But still, even in our ignorance about the details of this battle, we still know enough to draw a number of lessons from what is happening.
Stuxnet's first lesson is that it is essential to be a leader rather than a follower in technology development. The first to deploy new technologies on a battlefield has an enormous advantage over his rivals. Indeed, that advantage may be enough to win a war.
But from the first lesson, a second immediately follows. A monopoly in a new weapon system is always fleeting. The US nuclear monopoly at the end of World War II allowed it to defeat Imperial Japan and bring the war to an end in allied victory.
Once the US exposed its nuclear arsenal, however, the Soviet Union's race to acquire nuclear weapons of its own began. Just four years after the US used its nuclear weapons, it found itself in a nuclear arms race with the Soviets. America's possession of nuclear weapons did not shield it from the threat of their destructive power.
The risks of proliferation are the flipside to the advantage of deploying new technology. Warning of the new risks presented by Stuxnet, Melissa Hathaway, a former US national cybersecurity coordinator, told the Times, "Proliferation is a real problem, and no country is prepared to deal with it. All of these [computer security] guys are scared to death. We have about 90 days to fix this [new vulnerability] before some hacker begins using it."
Then there is the asymmetry of vulnerability to cyberweapons. A cyberweapon like Stuxnet threatens nation-states much more than it threatens a non-state actor that could deploy it in the future. For instance, a cyber-attack of the level of Stuxnet against the likes of Hizbullah or al-Qaida by a state like Israel or the US would cause these groups far less damage than a Hizbullah or al-Qaida cyber-attack of the quality of Stuxnet launched against a developed country like Israel or the US.
In short, like every other major new weapons system introduced since the slingshot, Stuxnet creates new strengths as well as new vulnerabilities for the states that may wield it.
As to the battle raging today in Iran's nuclear facilities, even if the most optimistic scenario is true, and Stuxnet has crippled Iran's nuclear installations, we must recognize that while a critical battle was won, the war is far from over.
A war ends when one side permanently breaks its enemy's ability and will to fight it. This has clearly not happened in Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it manifestly clear during his visit to the US last week that he is intensifying, not moderating, his offensive stance towards the US, Israel and the rest of the free world. Indeed, as IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Ganz noted last week, "Iran is involved up to its neck in every terrorist activity in the Middle East."
So even in the rosiest scenario, Israel or some other government has just neutralized one threat - albeit an enormous threat - among a panoply of threats that Iran poses. And we can be absolutely certain that Iran will take whatever steps are necessary to develop new ways to threaten Israel and its other foes as quickly as possible.
What this tells us is that if Stuxnet is an Israeli weapon, while a great achievement, it is not a revolutionary weapon. While the tendency to believe that we have found a silver bullet is great, the fact is that fielding a weapon like Stuxnet does not fundamentally change Israel's strategic position. And consequently, it should have no impact on Israel's strategic doctrine.
In all likelihood, assuming that Stuxnet has significantly debilitated Iran's nuclear installations, this achievement will be a one-off. Just as the Arabs learned the lessons of their defeat in 1967 and implemented those lessons to great effect in the war in 1973, so the Iranians - and the rest of Israel's enemies - will learn the lessons of Stuxnet.
SO IF we assume that Stuxnet is an Israeli weapon, what does it show us about Israel's position vis-à-vis its enemies? What Stuxnet shows is that Israel has managed to maintain its technological advantage over its enemies. And this is a great relief. Israel has survived since 1948 despite our enemies' unmitigated desire to destroy us because we have continuously adapted our tactical advantages to stay one step ahead of them. It is this adaptive capability that has allowed Israel to win a series of one-off battles that have allowed it to survive.
But again, none of these one-off battles were strategic game-changers. None of them have fundamentally changed the strategic realities of the region. This is the case because they have neither impacted our enemies' strategic aspiration to destroy us, nor have they mitigated Israel's strategic vulnerabilities. It is the unchanging nature of these vulnerabilities since the dawn of modern Zionism that gives hope to our foes that they may one day win and should therefore keep fighting.
Israel has two basic strategic vulnerabilities.
The first is Israel's geographic minuteness, which attracts invaders. The second vulnerability is Israel's political weakness both at home and abroad, which make it impossible to fight long wars.
Attentive to these vulnerabilities, David Ben- Gurion asserted that Israel's military doctrine is the twofold goal to fight wars on our enemies' territory and to end them as swiftly and as decisively as possible. This doctrine remains the only realistic option today, even if Stuxnet is in our arsenal.
It is important to point this plain truth out today as the excitement builds about Stuxnet, because Israel's leaders have a history of mistaking tactical innovation and advantage with strategic transformation. It was our leaders' failure to properly recognize what happened in 1967 for the momentary tactical advantage it was that led us to near disaster in 1973.
Since 1993, our leaders have consistently mistaken their adoption of the West's land-forpeace paradigm as a strategic response to Israel's political vulnerability. The fact that the international assault on Israel's right to exist has only escalated since Israel embraced the landfor- peace paradigm is proof that our leaders were wrong. Adopting the political narrative of our enemies did not increase Israel's political fortunes in Europe, the US or the UN.
So, too, our leaders have mistaken Israel's air superiority for a strategic answer to its geographical vulnerability. The missile campaigns the Palestinians and Lebanese have waged against the home front in the aftermath of Israel's withdrawals from Gaza and south Lebanon show clearly that air supremacy does not make up for geographic vulnerability. It certainly does not support a view that strategic depth is less important than it once was.
We may never know if Stuxnet was successful or if Stuxnet is Israeli. But what we do know is that we cannot afford to learn the wrong lessons from its achievements.http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2010/10/the-lessons-of-stuxnet.php
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / How to recognize and fight a terrorist on a plane
on: October 02, 2010, 03:16:23 PM
How to Recognize and Fight a Terrorist on a Plane
by Randy Plante (more by this author)
Posted 01/05/2010 ET
Updated 01/05/2010 ET
The attempted bombing of Delta/Northwest 253 on Christmas Day was not the first from the Islamic terrorists nor will it be the last. Since I am a pilot, I have had people ask what can a passenger do onboard an airplane to help thwart a terrorist attack. Having personal experience with a few events myself, as well as reading articles and hearing stories from other crewmembers, I can give you some information which might assist you in dealing with a suspicious passenger or situation.
The first thing to realize is that there are a few different scenarios which the terrorists could be using on your particular flight. (Also realize that it could happen on any flight, not just one originating from a non U.S. location.) Options include testing TSA and law enforcement personnel, testing passengers and crewmembers, observation, dry run/practice, and actual execution of an attack. Of course it is hard to differentiate which scenario is playing out until after your flight lands, but it might assist you in recognizing the threat and knowing how serious your reaction should be if you know all of the options. In most of these instances, their job is to also scare you. Terrorists create terror. If you stop flying, they win. So be pro-active. Maybe something you do will cause them to call off the attack.
As a passenger you must be observant and vigilant. Most often someone notices some unusual activity or behavior. It doesn’t have to be just a person either. Suspicious bags, luggage, packages, notes, pillows, and electronic devices have been found on planes. One of the biggest advantages you have is the ability to profile. TSA refuses to do the obvious thanks to political correctness. Everyone knows who is committing these attacks -- Muslim, Middle-Eastern men between 18 and 40. Maybe al Qaeda is trying to recruit others than don’t fit this profile but it sure fits the mold right now.
Some things to look for: groups or pairs of men, a passenger talking to themselves, speaking Arabic, watching crewmembers (this is different than looking), staring at the cockpit door, long stays or multiple trips to the lavatory, reading a book but not turning any pages, nervousness, being unusual by trying to fit in, taking pictures/videos, not making eye contact. When you are at the boarding area and on the plane if you notice a suspicious passenger, look for others. How many? If it is one or two then they could be planning on bombing the aircraft or just making observations of crew procedures. 6 or more? Then this cell’s objective would be hijacking the plane by brute force. Also remember that there are sleepers that try to blend in with the other passengers and could be very hard to notice. A website reports a well-dressed man in custody that was also a passenger on Delta Flight 253. After an incident, your entire plane might be delayed for security and they will treat everyone as suspects. Also expect the government and airline to try to cover up parts or all of an event.
A recent example of a possible test occurred on Nov 17 with an Airtran flight from Atlanta to Houston. Eleven Muslim men got on the plane and caused a big disturbance and ended with passengers assisting the flight attendants in the commotion. TSA was called, they took the men off, talked to them, and put them back on. The crewmembers walked off the plane refusing to fly it, and then passengers walked off as well. The terrorists tested the TSA and passengers but probably also threatened lawsuits to the government and Airtran. This could be setting up a later mission with hopes the TSA and airline would be afraid to take them off the plane. Just like the Delta flight, the final layer of security, the crewmembers and passengers, are the ones who might have prevented an attack, nothing the government did was successful.
The best time to do something is prior to boarding and before the aircraft pushes back from the gate while the door is still open. This is when you have some control in the situation and easier for the captain to get involved. Before you board you can talk to a TSA employee or gate agent and explain your concerns. The gate agents are usually very busy and might give you the brush off. Talk to other passengers. While on the plane you will have to find a flight attendant, which could prove difficult because at times the boarding process can be quite chaotic. If one flight attendant seems to ignore you then talk to the other one. Maybe ask to see the captain. Write a note. If you are really scared, grab your bags, say you are sick, and get off the plane. Some crewmembers can be just as ignorant about the serious nature of the threat as our government officials. One time after a flight years ago a flight attendant asked me what the captain did about the suspicious passenger. She had called the cockpit inflight to report the behavior to the captain (since retired) and he neglected to tell me anything and did nothing.
While seated look for able-bodied men, military personnel, or deadheading crew to assist you. Maybe you notice a suspicious passenger but do not feel it warrants a visit with TSA/Flight Attendant or it happens inflight . Volunteer yourself or change seats on your own to sit next to or right behind any suspicious passengers. A recent crew moved a soldier to sit next to a nervous Middle-Eastern passenger before pushback. Once while I was deadheading in coach during a flight, the captain told the flight attendant to move me next to a suspicious passenger.
Once airborne there are limited options. Talking to the flight attendants and moving seats is basically all you can do. A divert takes time and would be a major emergency. On the flight I diverted for security issues we had an F-16 on our tail, ready to shoot us down if we didn’t immediately land.
If an actual attack occurs, then all bets are off. Take Action! DO NOT wait for crewmember instruction! This is a life or death situation. The terrorists will be hoping for the element of surprise. You will probably die anyways if the terrorists are successful so you might as well die giving them a fight. If it is a hijacking, block the aisles and do not let them get to the cockpit. For a bombing, jump on the passenger and separate him from the ignition source. For a suspicious package, box, etc. there is a place on the plane to move it to, but do not move it until necessary and with guidance from the crew.
The airlines are doing their best just to stay in business with the recession, bad weather, tough competition, and low fares. The employees are very frustrated with pay cuts, long hours, full planes, grumpy customers and poor morale. The commercial aviation system wasn’t designed to fight terrorists. And don’t necessarily blame the TSA and law enforcement agencies. They have some really hard working personnel trying to protect us. It is the policies implemented by people working in the U.S. government that is the problem, and amazing enough, it is the federal government that is required by law to defend us by the U.S. constitution. So what do they do? President Obama decides to take legal action against CIA employees for using special interrogation techniques to obtain information from terrorists to keep us safe. It was an obvious emotional, liberal, political decision. This will only make it much more difficult for the intelligence agencies to do their jobs and recruit/retain top talent, as well as lowering morale.
Another government employee, the DHS Secretary herself, said after the 12/25 attempted bombing, “the system worked” when it was obvious to the world that it did not. The news media gave President Bush an amazing amount of grief for not connecting the dots with 9/11. Regarding the underwear bomber on Flight 253; his father warned the government, was on a watch list, paid cash for his ticket, no passport, no luggage. A third grader could have connected these dots. The Republicans had to undo the laws and policies enacted by the Clinton Administration that impeded communication between intelligence and law enforcement agencies while President Bush implemented new ones to protect us after September 11. Now Democrats are acting like it is September 10 again.
Government by definition is a bureaucratic monopoly. It is managed by politicians and career bureaucrats. Slow, inefficient, unaccountable. Lots of finger pointing, blame games, commissions, hearings, conferences, meetings, and reports, but do you know anybody that got fired after 9/11, Fort Hood, or any other government blunder? Deja vous with this security lapse? It feels like we are on a team that wants to lose. And I don’t like being on a team that likes losing and neither does millions of people across the United States.
Unfortunately, until the Obama administration, Congress, and our government officials get serious with national security and the war on terrorism, then what we will lose is more of our freedoms and the lives of more American citizens.
Randy Plante is a former Air Force Captain and F-111 pilot. He flew a C-130 with the Air National Guard and served two tours in the Bosnian War. Currently Mr. Plante is a Captain with 19 years at a major airline.
Picture these guys shaved and in a suit, and ready to die as a part of killing you. Are you ready?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfQ1ps6QXog
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential
on: October 02, 2010, 02:41:23 PM
I have not really heard him discuss economics, so I will keep an ear open for that.
That said, my intended point is a bit more amorphous than that.
Following Carl Jung's analysis, people have one of four dominant functions: Thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. I suspect most of us here have thinking as their dominant modality, yet thinkers are about only 10% of the population. A good politician must be able to communicate in the language(s) which most voters understand e.g. emotion. Reagan was great at this. So was candidate Obama. Alan Keyes (inter alia, BO's last minute opponent for US Senate from Illinois) is brilliant, yet he is virtually 100% thinker and as such is utterly tone deaf to human emotion and therefore a poor candidate. I suspect a similar dynamic with Bolton, though to a far lesser degree than Keyes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH struggles to understand/slam Tea Party
on: October 02, 2010, 02:19:39 PM
By KATE ZERNIKE
Published: October 1, 2010
The Tea Party is a thoroughly modern movement, organizing on Twitter and Facebook to become the most dynamic force of the midterm elections.
The books Glenn Beck cites during his speaking engagements usually draw the interest and curiosity of his supporters.
But when it comes to ideology, it has reached back to dusty bookshelves for long-dormant ideas.
It has resurrected once-obscure texts by dead writers — in some cases elevating them to best-seller status — to form a kind of Tea Party canon. Recommended by Tea Party icons like Ron Paul and Glenn Beck, the texts are being quoted everywhere from protest signs to Republican Party platforms.
Pamphlets in the Tea Party bid for a Second American Revolution, the works include Frédéric Bastiat’s “The Law,” published in 1850, which proclaimed that taxing people to pay for schools or roads was government-sanctioned theft, and Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” (1944), which argued that a government that intervened in the economy would inevitably intervene in every aspect of its citizens’ lives.
The relative newcomer is “The 5000 Year Leap,” self-published in 1981 by an anti-communist crusader shunned by his fellow Mormons for his more controversial positions, including a hearty defense of the John Birch Society. It asserts that the Founding Fathers had not intended separation of church and state, and would have considered taxes to provide for the welfare of others “a sin.”
If their arguments can be out there (like getting rid of the 17th Amendment, which established the direct election of senators by popular vote) or out of date (Bastiat warned that if government taxed wine and tobacco, “beggars and vagabonds will demand the right to vote”), the works have provided intellectual ballast for a segment of the electorate angry or frustrated about the economy and the growing reach of government.
They have convinced their readers that economists, the Founding Fathers, and indeed, God, are on their side when they accuse President Obama and the Democrats of being “socialists.” And they have established a counternarrative to what Tea Party supporters denounce as the “progressive” interpretation of economics and history in mainstream texts.
All told, the canon argues for a vision of the country where government’s role is to protect private property — against taxes as much as against thieves. Where religion plays a bigger role in public life. Where any public safety net is unconstitutional. And where the way back to prosperity is for markets to be left free from regulation.
As the Tea Party has exerted increasing force over American politics, the influence of the books has shown up in many ways.
Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, alluded to “The Road to Serfdom” in introducing his economic “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which many other Republicans have embraced. Ron Johnson, who entered politics through a Tea Party meeting and is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Wisconsin, asserted that the $20 billion escrow fund that the Obama administration forced BP to set up to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill circumvented “the rule of law,” Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”
Justin Amash, the 30-year-old Republican state legislator running for the House seat once held by Gerald Ford in Michigan, frequently posts links to essays by Hayek and Bastiat on his Facebook page, his chief vehicle for communicating with voters. “There is no single economist or philosopher I admire more than F. A. Hayek,” he wrote in May. “I have his portrait on the wall of my legislative office and the Justin Amash for Congress office.”
In Maine, Tea Party activists jammed the state Republican convention last spring to reject the party platform, replacing it with one that urged “a return to the principles of Austrian economics,” as espoused by Hayek, and the belief that “freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.” The new platform also embraced the idea that “it is immoral to steal the property earned by one individual and give it to another who has no claim or right to its benefits” — a line ripped from Bastiat’s jeremiad against taxation and welfare.
The Tea Party canon includes other works, some of them unlikely. Organizers have promoted “Rules for Radicals,” by Saul D. Alinsky, as a primer on community organizing tactics, and “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, an argument for the strength of movements built around ideas rather than leaders.
But the ideological works tend to draw heavily on the classics of Austrian economics (Hayek, Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises) and on works arguing for a new perspective on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. (“The 5000 Year Leap,” “The Real George Washington” and “The Real Thomas Jefferson.”)
Doug Bramley, a postal worker and Tea Party activist in Maine, picked up “The Road to Serfdom” after Mr. Beck mentioned it on air in June. (Next up for Mr. Bramley, another classic of libertarian thought: “I’ve got to read ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ ” he said.) He found Hayek “dense reading,” but he loved “The 5000 Year Leap.”
“You don’t read it,” Mr. Bramley said, “you study it.”
Across the country, many Tea Party groups are doing just that, often taking a chapter to discuss at each meeting.
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The book was published in 1981 by W. Cleon Skousen, a former Salt Lake City police chief who had a best seller in “The Naked Communist” in the 1960s, and died in 2006 at the age of 92. “The 5000 Year Leap” hit the top of the Amazon rankings in 2009 after Mr. Beck put it on his list for the 9/12 groups, his brand of Tea Party.
“The 5000 Year Leap,” published in 1981, asserts that the Founding Fathers had not intended separation of church and state.
It spins the Constitution in a way most legal scholars would not recognize — even those who embrace an “originalist” interpretation.
It argues that the Founding Fathers were guided by 28 “principles of liberty,” above all, a belief that government should be based on “Natural Law,” or “a code of right reason from the Creator himself.” The founders, Skousen wrote, believed in the equal protection of rights, but not the equal distribution of things — an argument that many Tea Party activists now make against the health care overhaul passed in March.
“One of the worst sins of government, according to the Founders, was the exercise of coercive taxing powers to take property from one group and give it to another,” he wrote.
“Leap” argues that when Jefferson spoke of a “wall of separation between church and state,” he was referring only to the federal government, and was in fact “anxious” for the state governments to promote religion. In Skousen’s interpretation, public schools should be used for religious study, and should encourage Bible reading.
It is from this book that many Tea Party supporters and candidates have argued for repeal of the 17th Amendment. Prior to the amendment, state legislators elected United States senators. “Since that time,” Skousen wrote, “there has been no veto power which the states could exercise against the Congress in those cases where a federal statute was deemed in violation of states’ rights.”
Neither Hayek nor Bastiat were writing with the United States in mind. But their arguments, too, have become fodder for a movement that believes that government intervention is the wrong solution to the country’s economic woes — and is, in fact, the problem, resulting in runaway national debt.
Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1974, argued that when a government begins any kind of central economic planning, it must decide which needs are more and less important, and therefore ends up controlling every aspect of its citizens lives.
Bastiat called taxation “legal plunder,” allowing the government to take something from one person and use it for the benefit of someone else, “doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” In his view, protective tariffs, subsidies, progressive taxation, public schools, a minimum wage, and public assistance programs were of a piece. “All of these plans as a whole,” he wrote, “constitute socialism.”
The works are more suited to protest than to policy making, as Bastiat himself recognized. “If you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle of socialism that may have crept into your legislation,” he urged. “This will be no light task.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Federalizing the police
on: October 02, 2010, 02:12:49 PM
SANTIAGO, Mexico — The Mexican government is preparing a plan to radically alter the nation’s police forces, hoping not only to instill a trust the public has never had in them but also to choke off a critical source of manpower for organized crime.
The proposal, which the president’s aides say is expected in the coming weeks, would all but do away with the nation’s 2,200 local police departments and place their duties under a “unified command.” It comes at a critical moment for President Felipe Calderón, who faces mounting pressure from the United States and within Mexico to demonstrate progress in defeating the drug cartels.
He has already hurled the military into the fight, using soldiers to buttress the federal police and battle the drug traffickers, but violence continues to soar and corruption among the nation’s police forces remains a constant, fundamental scourge.
Police departments around the country, filled with underpaid, undertrained officers, are heavily infiltrated by criminal organizations or under the thumb of mayors, often simply escorting local officials rather than patrolling the community, according to a report by Mexico’s Senate last month.
Mr. Calderón’s new plan would eliminate what are now wide variations in police training, equipment, operations and recruitment in favor of a single national standard, helping the government field a more professional, cohesive force to work alongside its soldiers and agents fighting the drug war.
The approach has its pitfalls, though. State authorities, which would now control the local police forces in coordination with the federal police, are hardly immune to corruption themselves, and municipal officials are suspicious of surrendering autonomy. It is also unclear how dishonest officers will be weeded out of the new chain of command.
But the government is running out of options, and the public’s worries have only intensified with a recent rash of assassinations.
Here in this pastel-splashed colonial town, it was a shock to most residents when the popular mayor was bundled into a sport utility vehicle in August and found dead days later. It was less of a surprise that several local police officers were accused of the murder.
Eleven mayors have been killed this year. Just this week, the mayor of Tancitaro was found dead from a blow with a stone . The previous mayor and several town officials had already resigned after threats from drug traffickers and complaints that the police were ineffective; the state and federal authorities took over enforcement because the 60-member police force was believed to be enmeshed in crime.
Several mayors here in northeastern Mexico now spend the night in the United States out of concern that the local police cannot protect them, state officials confirmed.
Until now, Mr. Calderón’s main approach has been to draw on the military and the federal police, but the strategy has come under withering criticism for its human rights record. The State Department withheld funds from Mexico under an antidrug initiative for the first time this year partly because of abuses.
The military has been accused of unlawful killings, torture, seizures and indiscriminate fire that has killed innocents.
“We are still waiting for justice,” said Juan Carlos Arredondo, the uncle of one of two students killed in Monterrey by soldiers, who claimed they were criminals and, according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission, manipulated the crime scene to make it look that way.
Last week, Human Rights Watch sent a scathing letter to Mr. Calderón, accusing him of sitting silent in face of evidence that military abuses “have grown significantly with each year of your presidency.”
Mr. Calderón’s aides remain confident that their strategy is making progress and are counting on the police reform to help make the kind of turnover that the president has been promising.
Despite talk in Washington about increasing the role of the United States military here — small teams have advised the Mexican military for several years — Mr. Calderón’s chief security spokesman, Alejandro Poiré, ruled that out.
“This a matter in which we need to rebuild our own institutions,” he said, after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the fight against traffickers here was taking on the characteristics of an “insurgency,” angering Mexican officials. President Obama contradicted her the next day.
Since Mr. Calderón took office, the federal police have expanded to more than 30,000 officers from about 6,000, and have often swooped in with the military to take over policing from local officers deemed corrupt or under the control of drug gangs.
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The government’s new plan would place local police departments under the command of governors, preserving the closely guarded autonomy of the states and allowing the authorities to more easily move people to trouble spots.
Mr. Calderón announced in June that he would propose constitutional changes for the measure this year and recently held “public dialogues” to help build support. He has proposed spending $2.4 billion next year to carry it out, which might allow for higher salaries and help steer officers away from corruption.
“That is one of the deficits of the last 20 or 30 years of Mexico’s political development, that we didn’t build the police institutions to prevent crime,” Mr. Poiré said.
Officials in Monterrey, a city of two million, recently reported that its police force stood at 350 officers, half what it was a year ago because of dismissals and resignations.
While the new approach would make law enforcement more accountable to state leaders, analysts note that state forces — and even the federal police, where nearly a tenth of the force has been dismissed this year for suspected corruption and other problems — do not have great records themselves.
“The problem is the state governments are not exactly clean,” said John Ackerman, editor of the Mexican Law Review. “It can hardly be worse than the municipal level, but the state has problems too.”
Here in Santiago, the police force has dwindled to about 20 from 160 a year ago, with state and federal police filling the gap, according to the mayor, Bladimiro Montalvo. Residents like Gonzalo Almaguer, a 62-year-old retiree, say they hardly go out anymore, especially at night. “This was a peaceful town but now you don’t know who to trust; it is like the rest of the country,” said Mr. Almaguer, one of the few people in the central plaza last week.
Mayor Montalvo said he worried most about the 50 percent drop in tourism because of the swelling violence around his town, including shootings and kidnappings in nearby Monterrey that prompted the State Department to pull children of its workers out of the country.
“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he worried for his safety. “Something can happen, but if you are orderly and respectful that is something they will respect,” he said of criminal organizations. He then dashed off, driven away in a sport utility vehicle by two bodyguards.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty
on: October 02, 2010, 03:27:18 AM
BELLEVUE, Wash., Sept. 16 –
BELLEVUE, Wash., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The appointment of anti-gun rights former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels as an alternate representative to the United Nations has removed any doubt about the Obama administration's intentions regarding global gun control initiatives, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today.
Nickels, a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the author of Seattle's failed attempt to override Washington's state firearms preemption statute, was sworn in Wednesday to "help represent the United States in the UN assembly," according to the Seattle Times.
"Putting an extremist gun banner in any position to represent this country at the United Nations amounts to renting a billboard for advertising against the Second Amendment," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. "While he was Seattle's mayor, Greg Nickels supported every anti-gun scheme put forth by Washington CeaseFire, the Northwest's most active gun prohibition lobby.
"Nickels is a gun ban proponent," he continued, "so his appointment as an alternate to the UN is a clear signal of Barack Obama's intention to rubber stamp the UN's global gun ban agenda. We had to sue Nickels while he was still Seattle's mayor to overturn his illegal city parks gun ban. Now he gets to push his anti-gun philosophy on a world scale. It hardly seems a coincidence that Nickels has been appointed by the Obama administration at a time when the UN is considering treaties and initiatives that pose a serious threat to the Second Amendment."
Nickels was turned out of office in 2009, which was something of a feat in a liberal enclave like Seattle, Gottlieb recalled. His defeat in the primary demonstrated the degree of alienation voters felt from a politician who once epitomized the Seattle liberal establishment.
"By naming Greg Nickels as an alternate representative at the UN," Gottlieb stated, "President Obama has essentially told America's 85 million gun owners that their firearm civil rights are in jeopardy. Nickels cannot be counted on to defend the Second Amendment because he would like to see it erased from the Constitution."
With more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (www.ccrkba.org
) is one of the nation's premier gun rights organizations. As a non-profit organization, the Citizens Committee is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local communities throughout the United States.
SOURCE Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV
on: October 01, 2010, 10:33:32 PM
Actually, no. Not only would be quite impractical for us to keep track of that, but based on the last 22 years there is more than sufficient track record of how we treat people in our use of the footage for people to decide.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: October 01, 2010, 07:06:00 PM
The tweets started arriving in August, and they did not mince words. One of the first accused the South Korean government of being "a prostitute of the United States." The Twitter account, under the name "uriminzok," or "our nation," seemed to be part of a sprawling North Korean digital operation that included a Facebook account (registered as a man interested in "meeting other men," but solely for "networking purposes") and a series of YouTube videos meant to celebrate the might of the North Korean military.
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.A spokesman for the North Korean government quickly denied any involvement with the Facebook and Twitter accounts, but he acknowledged that they were the work of government supporters living in China and Japan. The owner of the Facebook page (which the Palo Alto, Calif., company eventually deleted, citing violation of its terms of service) told a South Korean news agency that it was run by a Pyongyang-based publishing outlet affiliated with the government. Apparently, even the notoriously isolated rulers of North Korea know how to practice what the U.S. State Department calls "21st-century statecraft."
While authoritarian governments continue to censor the Web and crack down on bloggers—a few days ago, Iran sentenced the controversial blogger Hossein Derakhshan to 19½ years in prison for "insulting sanctities," among other charges—they are also increasingly using the Internet for their own propaganda. Officials are pouring resources into social media and hitting the blogs to disseminate pro-government views and undermine their critics. And they're succeeding: The decentralized nature of online conversations often makes it easier to manipulate public opinion, both domestically and globally. Regimes that once relied on centralized systems of media control can now deliver ideological messages more subtly, with the help of little-known intermediaries like anonymous commenters on websites.
Chinese authorities have established a formidable online propaganda operation, much of it geared to internal needs. Not only do they train and pay bloggers to try to steer dissenting online discussions in a more favorable direction, they also send text messages with inspirational Maoist quotes, promote computer games in which players fight corrupt officials, and design patriotic ring tones. (On National Day in 2009, millions of customers of state-controlled China Mobile woke up to discover that their ring tones had been replaced with a nationalistic tune sung by the actor Jackie Chan.)
The Kremlin is not far behind. It relies on the services of several high-profile bloggers who promote the government's talking points, helping the Kremlin to reach the hip digital audiences who avoid its masterful propaganda on TV. But the authorities haven't given up on television altogether. Some of the Kremlin's Internet cardinals even get to co-host their own shows during prime time. Russian authorities are also embracing new platforms. In early 2010 the Duma announced a proposal to give tax breaks to firms that feature patriotic themes in their computer games.
The North Korean case is unusual, of course. Ordinary citizens have no access to the Web, so the tweeting is presumably meant to tease South Koreans, who aren't allowed to visit North Korean websites without permission from their own government. In August, Seoul quickly blocked access to the North Korean tweets, probably to the great delight of the North Korean authorities, who seem to relish any opportunity to highlight the South's undemocratic regulations.
Tweets From the Top
@uriminzok: South Korea is 'a prostitute of the United States' (North Korea, regime supporters)
@chavezcandanga: 'The squalid ones said they won. Well, let them keep winning like this!' (Hugo Chávez)
@KremlinRussia_E: 'My congratulations to @BarackObama on his birthday' (Dmitry Medvedev)
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.North Korea's Internet presence has traditionally been limited to a handful of official sites, but the situation is slowly beginning to change. Earlier this year, South Korean authorities accused the North of penetrating South Korean blogs and forums to spread rumors that the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March 2010—one of the thorniest issues in recent relations between the two countries—was orchestrated by Seoul in order to blame the disaster on Pyongyang.
This doesn't mean that there are hordes of North Korean government officials who spend their days surfing indie rock blogs. Such latitude might undermine the morale of government bureaucrats: Once they got on Facebook, they might start learning about capitalism by playing FarmVille. Such operations are probably executed much as they would be by any other government, by outsourcing them to the private sector or, at minimum, encouraging those who sympathize with the government
North Korea aside, most authoritarian governments have already accepted the growth of the Internet culture as inevitable; they have little choice but to find ways to shape it in accord with their own narratives—or risk having their narratives shaped by others. Once they realize that censorship doesn't work in an environment where new blogs can be set up in a matter of seconds, they turn to propaganda. Instead of blocking the views that they don't like, they seek to marginalize them, often by undermining the credibility of critics. Accusing them of being Western stooges often does the trick.
For all the supposed omnipotence of China's censorship apparatus, even Chinese leaders acknowledge that online spin can be more effective at diffusing online tensions. Wu Hao, a local official who's become the godfather of China's Internet propaganda, said last year that "public opinion on the Internet must be solved with the means of the Internet." It's for this reason that the government has nurtured a digital army of online commentators—known as the 50-Cent Party for the scant pay they receive for each comment—who eagerly perform damage control on the Chinese Internet.
Fifty-centers are only rarely used to promote some genuinely new party position, but rather as a means of containing the online reaction to sensitive political issues, predominantly by seeding doubt. The governments of Azerbaijan and Nigeria have experimented with similar schemes. For all their supposed fear of the Twitter Revolution, the Iranian clerics in Qom have been running blogging workshops—mostly targeting religious women—since 2006. Their goal is to influence online discourse about highly sensitive issues like the role of women in Iranian society.
There is also a more pragmatic reason for authoritarian governments to go online: Many of their opponents are already active in this space. Countless Facebook groups in support of Gamal Mubarak—who may soon succeed his father at the helm of Egypt—sprouted up after many young Egyptians took to the site to vent their criticisms and publicize antigovernment protests. (The junior Mr. Mubarak claims no relationship to his online boosters.)
Something similar is happening in Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez, after seeing the opposition use Twitter to mobilize campaigns against him, jumped on the bandwagon, gaining nearly 900,000 followers in five months. Using the name Chavezcandanga (in Spanish, candanga means "the devil," but Venezuelans also use the term to describe someone naughty and wild), Mr. Chávez has been avidly tweeting his way through the recent parliamentary election campaign. His Twitter response to the results of last weekend's election: "The squalid ones said they won. Well, let them keep winning like this!" Given his designs for a transcontinental revolution, Mr. Chávez may also see Twitter as a way to mobilize supporters in other Spanish-speaking countries, who don't always have the privilege of watching "Aló Presidente," his Sunday TV show.
In many of these propaganda fights, the quality of one's arguments often matters far less than their quantity. Victory often comes down to who can construct the most impressive online persona by adding new friends and writing witty tweets. Incumbents, who have state resources at their disposal, usually enjoy a significant advantage. A few months into his Twitter adventure, Mr. Chávez announced a plan to allocate 200 staffers and state funds to boost his Twitter presence.
As the public sphere has grown decentralized and media based in the West have lost their dominance in setting the global agenda, it has become easier for governments—as well as for corporations, fringe movements and anyone else with an ax to grind—to promote their agendas. Bribing 100 bloggers is often much easier than bribing the editorial board of one newspaper.
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.In doing this, of course, anxious authoritarians are simply following wider market trends. Helping clients to establish effective control online has already become a lucrative industry. Australia's uSocial offers to place a story of your choice on the front page of popular social news sites like Digg.com, as well as to sell you new Facebook friends (1,000 for just $197) or new Twitter followers (1,000 for just $87). Although most Internet companies frown on such abuse of their services, they cannot root them out completely—and, as existing brands try to master the digital space, the demand is poised to grow.
Or consider Megaphone, a desktop tool designed by a group of Israeli activists and released during the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. Megaphone identifies any new online polls about Israel and immediately prompts its users to visit the poll's website and cast their votes. It also tracks favorable articles about Israel in the international press, urging users to push such stories to the "most emailed" lists on websites by sending them to all their friends. Moscow and Beijing would presumably love to have a Megaphone-like tool the next time that the international press accuses them of starting yet another war in the Caucasus or suppressing the rights of Tibetans.
Can supporters of democracy in the West stop or at least thwart the growth of authoritarian influence on the Internet? Maybe. Should they try? That is a much harder question to answer. Western governments could fight this insidious new form of state propaganda by creating, for example, some kind of website for rating the authenticity of Russian or Chinese online commentators. Alternatively, all comments from one IP address might be aggregated under a unique online profile, thus exposing the operatives working from the offices of the government's propaganda department.
But in most cases, such Western interventions would also erode online anonymity and put dissidents' lives on the line. The best that Western governments can do is to educate—in person or remotely—those running important political websites about how to build communities, keep their content visible despite all the spin and avoid being overwhelmed by pro-government intruders.
In the meantime, as long as it helps to embarrass its enemies in the South, a tweeting North Korea is also a stronger North Korea. American officials, still giddy with enthusiasm for digital statecraft, have been a little too quick to welcome North Korea's entry into the world of social media. "The Hermit Kingdom will not change overnight, but technology once introduced can't be shut down. Just ask Iran," tweeted the U.S. State Department's Philip Crowley in August. Maybe—but technology, once introduced, can also be co-opted to serve ends very different from free expression. Just ask the Kremlin or China's 50-centers.
—Evgeny Morozov is a visiting scholar at Stanford University, a fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom," due out in January.
Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704116004575522072016129094.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLETopMiniLeadStory#ixzz119gbhyFQ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Asia (Japan, China, etc)
on: October 01, 2010, 11:28:01 AM
In the wake of Japanese weakness to Chinese pressure comes this , , ,
Russia's Focus Shifts to the East
While on a visit to the far eastern Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said on Wednesday that the Pacific Kuril Islands chain is a “very important” part of Russia. Medvedev pledged to visit the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, in the “nearest future.” Medvedev was scheduled to visit the islands during his trip, but the stop was canceled, allegedly due to bad weather.
STRATFOR has closely followed how Moscow has paid and continues to pay substantial attention to the geopolitical events to its west — i.e., Europe and the United States. But over the past few years, Russia has finally achieved a degree of security that allows it to turn its attention to its neighbors to the east. It is true that these eastern neighbors are thousands of desolate Siberian miles from the Russian core of Moscow and St. Petersburg. But they are important to Russia nonetheless, as Medvedev’s comments about the Kurils indicate. This eastern front, which not only includes the heavyweights of China and Japan but also dynamic players like Vietnam and Indonesia, has of late seen a notable increase in attention from Russia. These interactions raise interesting questions, not only about what is going on now, but also what this could bring — in terms of opportunities, risks and challenges — in the future.
Russia is a country that spans nearly the entire Eastern Hemisphere. As such, while its core and core interests are in the West, it has natural interests in the East as well. And these interests in the Asia Pacific region have paralleled what has in recent decades been a remarkable shift in global economic power from West to East. China and Japan continue to jockey over the position of the world’s second largest economy, and South Korea is nearly in the top 10. While European countries struggle to determine what exactly the eurozone should and should not be, Asian economies, generally in better financial shape after having suffered their own crisis in 1997-98, concentrated on public investment to maintain growth and expanding regional trade relationships to make up for lower demand from Europe and the United States. While they are still heavily dependent on exports, they are not shackled by debt like the Western developed countries and continue to grow at relatively fast rates.
“Russia has finally achieved a degree of security that allows it to turn its attention to its neighbors to the east.”
For Russia, Asia’s increased economic power has made it a growing market to tap. As a country that is capital poor with an economy that is driven by the export of natural resources, Russia inevitably looks to East Asia in its efforts to build new relationships. Russia is increasingly looking at the energy-hungry countries of Northeast Asia especially as an opportunity to increase its oil and natural gas exporting portfolio, signing major deals over the past few years with the likes of China and Japan. Russia sends liquefied natural gas exports to Korea and Japan, and 200,000 barrels of oil flow daily to China. But there are opportunities with other countries as well. Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Indonesia are hungry for military, energy, nuclear and space technology — something that Russia also happens to have copious amounts of and is increasingly sending their way.
Even better for Russia, the East Asia region is one where Moscow does not need to attempt to exert hegemony the way it does in Europe. Since the Mongol invasions, there have been no strategic challengers that pose an existential threat to Russia as Hitler or Napoleon did — although Japan has repeatedly threatened Russia’s Pacific presence and China could one day threaten Russia’s dominance in Central Asia. But even if a more substantial challenger were to emerge, Russia has the strategic depth of the sheer space of Siberia, as opposed to the short and smooth invasion route presented by the North European Plain.
Of course there are challenges and potential perils for Russia when looking east as well. Russia has had a historically ambivalent relationship with China, and a disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese war was one of the primary reasons for the fall of Tsardom that led to the Russian Revolution. In geopolitics there is no such thing as permanent allies — only alliances of necessity or convenience — and while a dynamic East Asia could present some convenient relationships now, this convenience can quickly change, whether through economic stagnation, political realignment or other means. In particular, Medvedev’s promise of a trip to the Kuril Islands is especially (and deliberately) aggravating for Japan, which is in the midst of a lengthy dispute with China over another group of disputed islands and is therefore attempting to strengthen its defense posture and shore up its security alliance with the United States.
In terms of energy cooperation, Moscow is pursuing opportunities in the Asia Pacific region that show promise, though they also bring enormous geographical and financial difficulties. The success of these projects depends on future Asian economic growth, which faces risks related to global circumstances and, in particular, China’s structural flaws and deepening imbalances. Moreover, Russia’s thorny territorial disputes and deep-seated antagonism with Japan, and the persistent differences with China that prevent a long-term strategic alignment, ensure that a growing Russian focus on the region brings political and security challenges. Asian countries also have much to gain from Russia, but are simultaneously wary of Russia’s tendency to use energy as a political tool, its military might, its arms trade with their regional opponents, and its plans to revitalize its naval presence in the Pacific. At the same time, the United States is strengthening its Pacific alliance structure and attempting to re-engage with Southeast Asia. In other words, Russia is becoming more involved in the region at a time when the region’s economic and security conditions are changing rapidly, and changing in ways that suggest heightening competition.
So after decades of being engrossed in the Western theater throughout the Cold War, and the subsequent 20 years of rebuilding the influence it had lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has emerged in the East an area worth looking at for Russia. And now, even if only remarking on the importance of a small and far-flung island chain, it certainly appears that Moscow finally has a mounting interest to do so.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-6
on: October 01, 2010, 11:14:34 AM
I have been asked what it's like in the Green Zone, especially how is it different than when I was here 11/2008-11/2009.
Well I'll try. But first a little background.
There are many Amercians who reside and operate in the IZ. Soldiers on FOBs (forward operating bases). Embassy employees on the NEC (New Embassy Complex). And sundry other contractors who do not reside or work on either of those. (Generally speaking I fall into that last category). Many soldiers and civilians never leave the FOBs they work on. Many embassy employees never leave the NEC.
For the embassy employees, even if they leave the NEC to go somewhere they have to get permission. They have to be transported in an armored vehicle with a driver who waits for them. They are not allowed to walk around in the IZ.
Many contractors never leave the bases they work on.
So all in all there are not too many people driving around the IZ by themselves, in a thin skinned vehicle, sometimes parking out of the street, and working in a complex that is not part of a FOB or the embassy. And there are even fewer who are living in a building by themselves, that has only some Iraqis living in containerized housing units on the same grounds (that will change soon when my partner gets here).
As far as "being safe", the siutation here like this. The chances of a VBIED detonation are much less likely than out in the Red Zone because ostensibly all vehicles allowed into the IZ are thoroughly searched. Regular IEDs would still be more difficult to emplace, but not impossible. Heck, a sticky bomb was found on a car inside the IZ on Christmas Eve 2008. However, the IZ is a mortars and rockets magnet. The NEC is right on the Tigris, and the Red Zone is right across from it (the Sdar City side I might add). So rockets and mortars fly into here with some regularity. In the past 2-years several Triple Canopy Peruvian guards have died on their posts. Also some U.N. employees around December 2008/January 2009. Since the IZ is rather small to begin with, the footprint insurgents need to get rockets or mortars into in order to mess with the Americans, Brits, and Iraqi govt. is not that large.
On a good day the counter rocket and mortar system (CRAM) which is able to detect flying objects of specified speeds and angles will sound an alarm and you have maybe 15-seconds to get under cover. They have a video here of a guy who suddenly took off running for a duck and cover bunker (sample photo attached), and maybe 10-seconds later a mortar landed on the exact spot he was standing on when the alarm first sounded. The duck and cover photo attached is actually a better one because it has sandbags around the concrete overhead and side cover.http://
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: TARP not so expensive
on: October 01, 2010, 10:17:02 AM
Well it is POTH writing on a subject likely to exhibit itself at its worst. Is there any truth to any of this?
WASHINGTON — Even as voters rage and candidates put up ads against government bailouts, the reviled mother of them all — the $700 billion lifeline to banks, insurance and auto companies — will expire after Sunday at a fraction of that cost, and could conceivably earn taxpayers a profit.
A final accounting of the government’s full range of interventions in the economy, including the bailouts of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is years off and will most likely remain controversial and potentially costly.
But the once-unthinkable possibility that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program could end up costing far less, or even nothing, became more likely on Thursday with the news that the government had negotiated a plan with the American International Group to begin repaying taxpayers.
The rescue of the troubled insurer included $70 billion from the bailout program that was enacted two years ago, at the height of the global financial crisis late in the Bush administration, initially to prop up big banks.
At the White House on Thursday, the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, briefed President Obama about A.I.G. and about the broader outlook for the expiring rescue program, putting the projected losses at less than $50 billion, at most. Yet neither the White House nor Congressional Democrats are likely to boast much in the month remaining before midterm elections. For most voters, TARP remains a four-letter word.
Brian A. Bethune, the chief financial economist in the United States for IHS/Global Insight, while critical of parts, called the program over all “a tremendous success. Now obviously, they can’t go out on the campaign trail and say that, because certainly, for a lot of voters, it’s just not going to resonate.”
The “bank bailout” was the first big issue, before the Obama administration’s roughly $800 billion stimulus plan and its health insurance overhaul, to stoke the rise of the Tea Party movement. After supporting TARP, several Republicans have lost elections largely because of their votes. For many Americans, TARP is more than a vote; it is a symbol of big government at its worst, intervening in private markets with taxpayers’ billions to save Wall Street plutocrats while average Americans struggle through the recession those financiers spawned.
Fewer than three in 10 Americans say they believe the program was necessary “to prevent the financial industry from failing and drastically hurting the U.S. economy,” according to a poll in July for Bloomberg News.
“This is the best federal program of any real size to be despised by the public like this,” said Douglas J. Elliott, a former investment banker now associated with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
“It was probably the only effective method available to us to keep from having a financial meltdown much worse than we actually had. Had that happened, unemployment would be substantially higher than it is now, the deficit would have gone up even more than it has,” Mr. Elliott added. “But it really cuts against the grain for a public that is so angry at banks to think that something that so plainly helped the banks could also be good for the public.”
After Sunday the Treasury can no longer commit money to new initiatives or recycle repayments to other purposes.
The Treasury never tapped the full $700 billion. It committed $470 billion and has disbursed $387 billion, mostly to hundreds of banks and later to A.I.G., the car industry — Chrysler, General Motors, the G.M. financing company and suppliers — and to what is, so far, a failed effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosures.
When Mr. Obama took office, the financial system remained so weak that his first budget indicated the Treasury might need another $750 billion for TARP. The administration soon dropped that idea as Mr. Geithner overhauled the rescue program and the banking system stabilized. Still, by mid-2009, the administration projected that TARP could lose $341 billion, a figure that reflected new commitments to A.I.G. and the auto industry.
The Congressional Budget Office, which had a slightly higher loss estimate initially, in August reduced that to $66 billion.
Now Treasury reckons that taxpayers will lose less than $50 billion at worst, but at best could break even or even make money. Its best-case assumptions, however, assume that A.I.G. and the auto companies will remain profitable and that Treasury will get a good price as it sells its corporate shares in coming years.
“We’d have to be very lucky to have both A.I.G. and the auto companies pay us back in full,” Mr. Elliott said.
Also, the best result for taxpayers could mean bad results for squeezed homeowners. Treasury has been ready to use up to $50 billion to help modify mortgages for people facing foreclosure, but its initiatives have been such a failure that little has been spent.
Whatever the final losses from housing, auto companies, A.I.G. or smaller banks, those will be offset by taxpayers’ profits from the big banks that have been the focus of their ire since 2008.
They have repaid their loans and Treasury has collected about $25 billion more from dividends and proceeds from the sale of warrants held as collateral, officials say. Many smaller banks hold on to their loans, however, reflecting their weakness and the desire of some others to keep the money given its advantageous terms. Scores are behind on dividend payments to the Treasury.
By any measure, TARP’s final tally will be less than expected amid the crisis. But the program remains a big loser politically.
On Wednesday, four days before its expiration, House Republicans nonetheless unsuccessfully forced a vote on legislation to end TARP. “We would be much better served if private institutions would either fail or be successful on their own,” said Representative Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, in an interview.
Among those who voted for the program in 2008, several Republicans have lost nominating contests for re-election or for another office, and others are on the defensive in fall races.
Senator Robert F. Bennett of Utah was “Bailout Bob” to Republicans who refused to re-nominate him for a fourth term.
“For those who were screaming at me — and screaming was the operative word — ‘You’ve just saddled our children and grandchildren with $700 billion,’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t,” Mr. Bennett said in an interview.
“My career is over,” he added. “But I do hope that we can get the word out that TARP, number one, did save the world from a financial meltdown and, number two, did so in a manner that, I believe, won’t cost the taxpayer anything. And even if it did not all get paid back, it was still the thing to do.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV
on: October 01, 2010, 09:23:52 AM
Speaking of the wrong side of a highlight reel, I still remember being the wrong side of Top Dog's power backhand that dropped me and left me eye's spinning which appears in various of our promo clips.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV
on: September 30, 2010, 04:15:28 PM
I don't really understand how the PPV thing works, except for what we can watch via out satellite TV service. The name of the show is "Dog Brothers Cruel Combat"
As for the language on the fighter registration form, "video etc , , , and otherwise" seems rather obvious and quite clear to me; my intention has always be to be quite clear-- just like "no suing for no reason for nothing no how no way". Both are all-encompassing language. Forgive my crankiness (lot of elbow pain from an injury sustained last week) but I am not getting how this can be missed.
I've been at making Dog Brothers Gatherings happen for 22 years now. My truck is 20 years old. I think people should be glad that I have a shot at some success here!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: September 30, 2010, 11:24:59 AM
Here's Stratfor's report on the same matter:
Pakistan Blocks ISAF Supply Lines After Border Incident
September 30, 2010 | 1332 GMT
TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images
NATO supply trucks traveling through the Khyber PassRelated Special Topic Page
The War in Afghanistan
Attack helicopters supporting International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops on the Afghan-Pakistani border reportedly fired upon a Pakistani Frontier Corps position Sept. 30, killing three paramilitary Frontier Corps troops and wounding three others. According to Pakistani media reports, there have been two incidents of ISAF attack helicopters engaging targets in Pakistan. One took place before dawn and one at 9:30 a.m. local time, both northwest of Parachinar, the main town in the Kurram agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to preliminary reports. The ISAF forces were operating in the Dand Patan district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province. ISAF has claimed that its troops were responding to mortar fire and remained on the Afghan side of the border, and it believes that at least one of the two places engaged by close air support could have been on the Afghan side of the border. The Pakistani government quickly issued strong condemnation of the incident.
(click here to enlarge image)
There is no shortage of potential scenarios for what actually happened on the ground. ISAF troops are regularly engaged from the Pakistani side of the border, and cross-border exchanges of fire and fighting on the border are common. ISAF may have even been fired upon from the Frontier Corps position. Or it may have been an error on the ISAF’s part and the Frontier Corps position was accidentally or inappropriately engaged. Pakistan has suggested that the Frontier Corps position was deliberately engaged.
But the facts in this case are really beside the point. According to a well-placed STRATFOR source in Pakistan, the Pakistani army’s General Headquarters considers this the fourth incident in less than a week — and the most offensive because the Pakistanis believe their troops were directly targeted. Just two days earlier, Pakistan warned that it would stop protecting ISAF supply lines to Afghanistan if foreign aircraft continued engaging targets across the border. Following through on that threat, the Pakistanis closed the border crossing over the Khyber Pass at Torkham in response to the Sept. 30 incident.
It is not yet clear how long the border will remain closed in protest. Short disruptions are completely manageable logistically in Afghanistan and have been accommodated in the past. But the government in Islamabad has been feeling increased pressure as U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes on militant positions in Pakistan’s tribal areas have increased, and widespread domestic dissatisfaction with the response to the humanitarian disaster caused by flooding earlier this year has only further strained the government.
Domestically, Islamabad has little room to compromise or back down on this. Moving forward, the key issue is not the facts of this particular incident, but the Pakistani government’s response — essentially whether this is largely for show, and what Islamabad demands of the United States operationally. At this stage it is unclear how long this situation will persist but it is very likely that the move to block the supply route was designed to force the United States to back off from the latest wave of cross-border operations.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Israel?
on: September 30, 2010, 11:18:07 AM
In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue
By JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 29, 2010
Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.
That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.
Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.
There are many competing explanations for myrtus, which could simply signify myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project. Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel.
“The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed,” one former intelligence official who still works on Iran issues said recently. “Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure.”
So a calling card in the code could be part of a mind game, or sloppiness or whimsy from the coders.
The malicious code has appeared in many countries, notably China, India, Indonesia and Iran. But there are tantalizing hints that Iran’s nuclear program was the primary target. Officials in both the United States and Israel have made no secret of the fact that undermining the computer systems that control Iran’s huge enrichment plant at Natanz is a high priority. (The Iranians know it, too: They have never let international inspectors into the control room of the plant, the inspectors report, presumably to keep secret what kind of equipment they are using.)
The fact that Stuxnet appears designed to attack a certain type of Siemens industrial control computer, used widely to manage oil pipelines, electrical power grids and many kinds of nuclear plants, may be telling. Just last year officials in Dubai seized a large shipment of those controllers — known as the Simatic S-7 — after Western intelligence agencies warned that the shipment was bound for Iran and would likely be used in its nuclear program.
“What we were told by many sources,” said Olli Heinonen, who retired last month as the head of inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, “was that the Iranian nuclear program was acquiring this kind of equipment.”
Also, starting in the summer of 2009, the Iranians began having tremendous difficulty running their centrifuges, the tall, silvery machines that spin at supersonic speed to enrich uranium — and which can explode spectacularly if they become unstable. In New York last week, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shrugged off suggestions that the country was having trouble keeping its enrichment plants going.
Yet something — perhaps the worm or some other form of sabotage, bad parts or a dearth of skilled technicians — is indeed slowing Iran’s advance.
The reports on Iran show a fairly steady drop in the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium at the main Natanz plant. After reaching a peak of 4,920 machines in May 2009, the numbers declined to 3,772 centrifuges this past August, the most recent reporting period. That is a decline of 23 percent. (At the same time, production of low-enriched uranium has remained fairly constant, indicating the Iranians have learned how to make better use of fewer working machines.)
Computer experts say the first versions of the worm appeared as early as 2009 and that the sophisticated version contained an internal time stamp from January of this year.
These events add up to a mass of suspicions, not proof. Moreover, the difficulty experts have had in figuring out the origin of Stuxnet points to both the appeal and the danger of computer attacks in a new age of cyberwar.
For intelligence agencies they are an almost irresistible weapon, free of fingerprints. Israel has poured huge resources into Unit 8200, its secretive cyberwar operation, and the United States has built its capacity inside the National Security Agency and inside the military, which just opened a Cyber Command.
But the near impossibility of figuring out where they came from makes deterrence a huge problem — and explains why many have warned against the use of cyberweapons. No country, President Obama was warned even before he took office, is more vulnerable to cyberattack than the United States.
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For now, it is hard to determine if the worm has infected centrifuge controllers at Natanz. While the S-7 industrial controller is used widely in Iran, and many other countries, even Siemens says it does not know where it is being used. Alexander Machowetz, a spokesman in Germany for Siemens, said the company did no business with Iran’s nuclear program. “It could be that there is equipment,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we never delivered it to Natanz.”
But Siemens industrial controllers are unregulated commodities that are sold and resold all over the world — the controllers intercepted in Dubai traveled through China, according to officials familiar with the seizure.
Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant who was the first independent expert to assert that the malware had been “weaponized” and designed to attack the Iranian centrifuge array, argues that the Stuxnet worm could have been brought into the Iranian nuclear complex by Russian contractors.
“It would be an absolute no-brainer to leave an infected USB stick near one of these guys,” he said, “and there would be more than a 50 percent chance of having him pick it up and infect his computer.”
There are many reasons to suspect Israel’s involvement in Stuxnet. Intelligence is the single largest section of its military and the unit devoted to signal, electronic and computer network intelligence, known as Unit 8200, is the largest group within intelligence.
Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for the newspaper Haaretz and is at work on a book about Israeli intelligence over the past decade, said in a telephone interview that he suspected that Israel was involved.
He noted that Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, had his term extended last year partly because he was said to be involved in important projects. He added that in the past year Israeli estimates of when Iran will have a nuclear weapon had been extended to 2014.
“They seem to know something, that they have more time than originally thought,” he said.
Then there is the allusion to myrtus — which may be telling, or may be a red herring.
Several of the teams of computer security researchers who have been dissecting the software found a text string that suggests that the attackers named their project Myrtus. The guava fruit is part of the Myrtus family, and one of the code modules is identified as Guava.
It was Mr. Langner who first noted that Myrtus is an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively.
“If you read the Bible you can make a guess,” said Mr. Langner, in a telephone interview from Germany on Wednesday.
Carol Newsom, an Old Testament scholar at Emory University, confirmed the linguistic connection between the plant family and the Old Testament figure, noting that Queen Esther’s original name in Hebrew was Hadassah, which is similar to the Hebrew word for myrtle. Perhaps, she said, “someone was making a learned cross-linguistic wordplay.”
But other Israeli experts said they doubted Israel’s involvement. Shai Blitzblau, the technical director and head of the computer warfare laboratory at Maglan, an Israeli company specializing in information security, said he was “convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet.”
“We did a complete simulation of it and we sliced the code to its deepest level,” he said. “We have studied its protocols and functionality. Our two main suspects for this are high-level industrial espionage against Siemens and a kind of academic experiment.”
Mr. Blitzblau noted that the worm hit India, Indonesia and Russia before it hit Iran, though the worm has been found disproportionately in Iranian computers. He also noted that the Stuxnet worm has no code that reports back the results of the infection it creates. Presumably, a good intelligence agency would like to trace its work.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: September 30, 2010, 10:56:23 AM
Good points about the CBO and the JCT. To this list of two I would add a third, "Baseline Budgeting" which is the unique set of rules which apply to governmental bookkeeping. Example? A 10% rate of increase is projected over 5 years. Then in year 2, the rate of increased is reduced to 6%. Under BB, this is called a 4% cut.
Anyway, here's this:
Alexander's Essay – September 30, 2010
The New and Improved GOP?
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." --The Signers
Republican congressional leaders have issued their 21-page "Pledge to America" with the objective of convincing "the American people we have learned our lesson and we are ready to govern," as one of them claimed.
However, this Pledge amounts to "Trust Us, Version 2.0," and reads like a punch list for all the things Republicans did not do when they held the House, Senate and the White House, just a few short years ago. (As you may recall, Republicans controlled the House for the first six years of George W. Bush's presidency, and the House sets the budget.) It notes that its objective is to "stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade," a large measure of which occurred under Republican rule.
The new Pledge is modeled after Newt Gingrich's successful "Contract with America," which was issued six weeks before the 1994 midterm election in the first term of another charismatic charlatan, Bill Clinton. That pledge propelled the GOP into a House majority for the first time in four decades.
The current slate of Republican leaders are hoping that enough of Barack Hussein Obama's supporters have awakened to the error of their ways, and will propel Republicans into the majority again. (It remains to be seen if enough Republicans have awakened to the error of their ways, and if so, can they follow up with a presidential nominee in 2012 with a bit more gravitas than Bob Dole, who, as Bush 41 did in 1992, gave Clinton the presidency.)
The Pledge spells out a few elements of the Reagan model for economic restoration, which Republicans promise to enact if they achieve a congressional majority after the November elections. To that end, it serves as a benchmark for accountability.
It vows to stop any tax increase scheduled after 1 January 2011.
It promises to end the much-maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), revokes any unspent "stimulus" dollars, and commits to "roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels," which would reduce the budget by $120 billion in 2011 -- only about 10 percent of the deficit, but that's a start. It also pledges to end government intervention in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the massive mortgage entities that seeded the current economic decline.
It obligates Republicans to pass legislation requiring congressional approval for any government regulation that would have more than a $100 million impact on the economy (cap-and-trade legislation), effectively holding legislators accountable for the labyrinth of regulations which have greatly stifled job growth and productivity, and which cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
While failing to address non-discretionary spending such as entitlements and debt service, which constitute most of the $3.8 trillion budget, the Pledge does promise a vote to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care." This, of course, leads us to ask: Replace it with what?
The Pledge commits to put a cap on non-military government hiring and spending, but it lacks earmark reform (especially attached to military spending bills) and fails to mention the line-item veto, much less a Balanced Budget Amendment. It requires a "sunset clause" for any new federal program, which would require legislators to renew funding periodically -- and face the consequences of those votes.
The Pledge affirms, "Foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens," which is to say that acts of terrorism will not be watered down into mere criminal acts. It also "reaffirms the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws," and the immediate need to secure our southern border.
However, the most important element of the Pledge is this: It assures that Republicans will pass legislation requiring "the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified" for any and all legislation ... which will most assuredly put the contest between Rule of Law and the so-called "living constitution" front and center, where it belongs.
The Republicans' current Pledge is clearly a stepchild of the "Contract from America," a grassroots effort by the Tea Party movement to restore constitutional integrity. The Tea Party has thus rung the bell of wayward Republicans, most of whom are now promising to reform their ways.
Will the Pledge succeed?
The short answer is, yes, because among the diminished ranks of Republicans left in the House and Senate there are about 120 members who have been steadfast in their commitment to the conservative principles outlined in the Republican Platform, as their voting records attest. In other words, there is still a powerful core contingent of conservative Republicans in Congress.
But, the real chance of success lies in the influx of an outstanding slate of new candidates running on conservative principles, those who did not need a Pledge to America to run. And keep your eye on those outspoken Republican women among them -- they are leading the charge in defense of our Constitution.
Unfortunately, plenty of pantywaist RINOs, Republicans who have most certainly not voted consistently in support of conservative principles, will still hold congressional seats after November, and they will certainly derail some of the Pledge's commitments.
The bottom line, however, is not whether Republicans stick to their Pledge to America, but whether they will honor their sacred oath to "support and defend" our Constitution, as specified in Article VI, clause 3. It is that pledge which should, first and foremost, guide every elected official.
Finally, allow me a few words about the language in the preamble to the Republican Pledge: "America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny. Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course."
The language above is a Beltway-processed knockoff of the real thing from our Declaration of Independence which set forth as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [and] whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."
The latter is not about replacing "government agendas" when they become destructive to liberty, it is about replacing government.
Politicians of every stripe should take note: The defense of Essential Liberty was the foundation of the first Tea Party back in 1773, and it remains so in today's Tea Party movement. Millions of Patriots once again avow, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
That is how Republicans should close their Pledge.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV
on: September 30, 2010, 09:24:04 AM
Ummm , , , not sure why you would think that. From the very beginning part of the deal has been that Dog Brothers Inc. gets all rights to the footage etc. Footage has been appearing in publicly offered for sale videos/DVDs for some 17 years now! And there was the Nat Geo show too, which has been aired many, many times.
Anyway, here is the In Demand schedule for the show:
1) In Demand.
iN1 10/18 at 10:00pm
iN1 10/18 at 1:00am
iN3 10/19 at 6:00pm
iN2 10/20 at 1:30pm
iN3 10/21 at 11:00am
iN1 10/21 at 9:00pm
iN2 10/22 at 10:30am
iN3 10/23 at 12:00pm
iN1 10/25 at 11:00pm
iN2 10/27 at 7:30am
iN1 10/28 at 8:00pm
iN2 10/29 at 6:30pm
iN1 10/30 at 8:00am
iN3 10/30 at 11:00am
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-5
on: September 30, 2010, 12:27:06 AM
I heard yesterday that the plethora of silenced pistols finding their way into Iraq, and which are becoming the preeminent means of hits, are coming in from Iran.
I also heard that one member of the Commission on Integrity was whacked several weeks back by a gunman with silenced pistol, as he sat in his car right at an entrance into the Green Zone. The gunman then just melted away.
This is always a difficult senario when pontificating on personal security in a place like Iraq. We always tell them "alter your routes." Well there aren't very many entrances into the Green Zone, and it's not like it's convenient to go to another one. That could add another hour to your commute. Sometimes there simply aren't any alternate routes. In Karmah, or Hadithah, or other places I have been, there is basically one road in and out of those places.
So what does that leave? Altering your times? Well you can't get into the Green before a certain time. And you pretty much want to be out before sunset. So once again the window of option is not that large.
I am sure it doesn't help that half the Iraqis I see driving are on a cell phone, so they don't have the alert level they need to maybe pickup on an attack in progress.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Negotiations with the Taliban
on: September 30, 2010, 12:10:25 AM
The Necessity -- and Difficulties -- of Negotiations With the Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an impassioned speech on Tuesday calling for the Taliban to enter into negotiations to reach a political settlement. His office then announced the names of 68 former officials and tribal leaders who will form the High Peace Council. This council, which was decided upon in June during the National Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration, is to be responsible for negotiations with the Taliban — and the government in Kabul is, at least in theory, expected to abide by the agreement the council reaches. Of course, Karzai has handpicked the council members, so his interests are protected. The day before Karzai’s speech, The New York Times published comments from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, that “very high-level” Taliban leaders have reached out to the “highest levels” of the Afghan government. The correlation of these events indicates that considerable movement has occurred this week on efforts to set the stage for negotiations with the Taliban.
Not only did elements of the Taliban issue denials on Tuesday regarding Petraeus’ assertion, but also another Taliban spokesman insisted that the Afghan people were anxiously anticipating a Taliban victory in Afghanistan. While some factions of the Taliban might be interested in a negotiated settlement, as a whole the movement has maintained considerable internal discipline and is not being forced to the negotiating table out of fear of defeat.
“The Taliban lose little by being at the negotiating table; they can always walk away.”
But negotiation and political accommodation can stem from both fear and opportunity. It is the role of force of arms to provide the former, and the current counterinsurgency strategy has not instilled — and does not appear close to instilling — that fear. But U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force efforts have not been without their tactical effect. The squeeze has been put on Taliban funds, and special operations forces raids have reduced the Taliban’s ranks. There is certainly the opportunity for a settlement that brings political accommodation about sooner rather than later and at a reduced cost to the Taliban in terms of lives and effort. The Taliban lose little by being at the negotiating table; they can always walk away. And they do not harbor illusions about being able to return to power and control the country to the degree they did at the turn of the century.
So the question is not one of whether talks might take place. They already have taken place behind closed doors, and they will no doubt continue. The question is what the cost will be, in terms of concessions, of convincing the Taliban to negotiate meaningfully and genuinely on a political settlement on a timeframe compatible with U.S. constraints. Because the United States, and by proxy Karzai’s regime, are now at the height of their military strength, and because the Taliban — not Washington and Karzai — enjoy the luxury of time, the Taliban have little incentive to allow negotiations to proceed rapidly or make significant concessions themselves.
Thus, the question becomes what price the Taliban will demand from their position of strength and whether that price is one that not only Kabul and Washington, but also Islamabad (which could well be key to a negotiated settlement), will accept. That remains very much in doubt. None of the underlying realities of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan have suddenly shifted.
The developments of recent days essentially provide additional infrastructure to facilitate negotiations, but it is unclear whether an agreement on political accommodation is reachable or on what timetable any agreement might be implemented. Nevertheless, political accommodation will both underlie and facilitate a U.S. drawdown, so the prospects for progress will warrant careful scrutiny.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Pelosi-Reid deficits
on: September 29, 2010, 02:57:28 PM
By STEVE MOORE
During a recent press conference, President Obama blamed George W. Bush for the nation's fiscal condition. "When I walked in," he declared, "wrapped in a nice bow was a $1.3 trillion deficit sitting right there on my doorstep." Earlier this year he asserted that "we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade."
Neither statement is correct, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). True enough, the outgoing Bush administration bequeathed big deficits to Mr. Obama. The expected 2009 deficit was $1.19 trillion, not $1.3 trillion, however—and the actual deficit for 2009 came in at $1.41 trillion, meaning that the new president added some $220 billion to the total.
Steve Moore in Washington with the latest on the looming tax increases.
.Far more significant, however, was the president's misstatement that Mr. Bush and the Republicans left the country with $8 trillion of debt over the next 10 years. The CBO's projected 10-year deficit when Mr. Obama took office was actually $4.09 trillion. Now, after 20 months of his presidency, the expected deficit has almost doubled, to $7.68 trillion.
A strong case can be made that the people most responsible for the gigantic deficits we face today are neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama. The real culprits are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Congress controls the purse strings. When Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid rose to their present jobs in January 2007, the deficit was $161 billion. It had been on a downward trajectory from $413 billion in 2004. Three years later, the Pelosi-Reid Congress had added $1.2 trillion to the deficit.
Of course, Mr. Bush sponsored or signed into law many of these deficit-raising bills, such as the bank bailouts and effective tax rebates of 2008. But the Democratic Congress passed them.
View Full Image
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
.Long forgotten is the promise Mrs. Pelosi made on the day she became speaker: "Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt." I think future generations would like a do-over.
Today, Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress love to talk about how Mr. Bush turned a $200 billion Clinton surplus into a $1 trillion deficit. Indeed he did, though they ignore the 9/11 terrorist attacks that happened less than a year after Mr. Bush became president. Those attacks were fiscal game-changers, jolting the economy to a temporary standstill and requiring unplanned spending for homeland security and antiterrorism efforts.
For the sake of comparison, let's look at the Pelosi-Reid fiscal record over 10 years. In January 2007, the CBO projected a $379 billion surplus over the next decade. Now, after four years under Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid, and two years of Mr. Obama in the White House, the 2007-2016 projection is a deficit of $7.16 trillion.
This deterioration of the nation's fiscal situation is arguably the worst in United States history, and it was brought to us courtesy of a congressional leadership that pledged "pay as you go" budgeting to bring the budget into balance.
It is no wonder that Americans are not eager to retain the services of these two spendthrifts as leaders of Congress.
Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Chronicle 9/29/10
on: September 29, 2010, 02:44:13 PM
Chronicle · September 29, 2010
"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will now and then peek out and show itself." --Benjamin Franklin
With friends like these... "People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up. ... If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place. ... It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. ... The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible." --Barack Obama hammering his own base in an interview with Rolling Stone
"[I want to] remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He's kept his promises." --Joe Biden on the same talking points
"And so those who don't get -- didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward and -- but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward." --Joe Biden
"We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." --Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), another snotty elitist lecturing voters
The GOP's best friend: "f we allow this to be a referendum on whether people are happy where they are now, we'll lose." --Joe Biden
But on the other hand: "I guarantee you we're going to have a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. I absolutely believe that." --Biden
Patronizing: "There are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected." --Barack Obama
"[Fox News has] a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world." --Obama in the Rolling Stone interview
On fiscal responsibility: "What I'm seeing out of the Republican leadership over the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible, and we saw in their Pledge to America a similar set of irresponsible policies. ... [Although GOP leaders] say they want to balance the budget, they propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts, and then they say we're going to somehow magically balance the budget. That's not a serious approach." --Barack Obama, who must consider Republicans amateurs when it comes to blowing money
"Democrats seeking to boost voter turnout this fall are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley's portrayal of a 'motivational speaker' on Saturday Night Live. Farley's character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn't amount to 'jack squat' and would someday be 'living in a van down by the river.' ... This week President Obama chimed in with another uplifting message about the American electorate. Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that the tea party movement is financed and directed by 'powerful, special-interest lobbies.' But this doesn't mean that tea party groups are composed entirely of corporate puppets. Mr. Obama graciously implied that a small subset of the movement is simply motivated by bigotry. The President said 'there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the President.' The tea party is now supported by a third of the country in some polls. Perhaps advocates for smaller government shouldn't take Mr. Obama's comments personally. In the new Democratic attacks on the voting public, not even Democrats are spared. Vice President Joe Biden recently urged the party's base to 'stop whining' and 'buck up,' a message echoed by Mr. Obama in his Rolling Stone interview. The President ... added that 'if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.' Making the case for left-wing voters to show up in November, Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that he is presiding over 'the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.' We'd agree, but his problem is that most Americans don't like that agenda and millions of voters in both parties wanted him to oversee an economic expansion instead. Blaming the voters is not unheard of among politicians, but usually they wait until after an election." --The Wall Street Journal
"We demand entire freedom of action and then expect the government in some miraculous way to save us from the consequences of our own acts.... Self-government means self-reliance." --President Calvin Coolidge (1873-1933)
"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." --American writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)
"Progressives want to raise taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year because they say it's wrong for the rich to be 'given' more money. Sunday's New York Times carries a cartoon showing Uncle Sam handing money to a fat cat. They just don't get it. As I've said before, a tax cut is not a handout. It simply means government steals less. What progressives want to do is take money from some -- by force -- and spend it on others. It sounds less noble when plainly stated." --columnist John Stossel
"Americans are learning once again that campaign rhetoric is no substitute for sound economics. And any American President who promises to make your life better by vilifying your fellow countryman, is a very dangerous character indeed." --columnist Austin Hill
"What optimistic Americans used to call a rising tide that lifts all boats is now once again derided as trickle-down economics. In other words, a newly peasant-minded America is willing to become collectively poorer so that some will not become wealthier." --historian Victor Davis Hanson
Point: "Obama and his cronies keep referring to 'the last decade' in their sorry attempt to blame the Republicans for the present state of the nation. The truth, however, is that the GOP only ran things for the first six of those 10 years. Once the liberals took control of Congress in 2006, it was Dodd, Frank and Obama, along with their good friends at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who brought about the housing meltdown and the ensuing financial collapse. Since 2008, it's been the Obama administration that has sent the national deficit soaring through the stratosphere." --columnist Burt Prelutsky
Counterpoint: "In the 'Pledge to America' they unveiled last week, House Republicans promise they will 'launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade.' Who better for the job than the folks who ran the government for most of that time?" --columnist Jacob Sullum
"[The tea party movement] is about electing people who are going to get the Federal government to stop pressing the handle that has been flushing America's wealth, ingenuity, and capacity for hard work down the toilet bowl of history by promising more and more to people who have produced less and less until no one has anything." --political analyst Rich Galen
The sycophant's lament: "People don't appreciate some of the amazing legislative agenda that [Barack Obama has] accomplished. Is this a failure of leadership? Has he allowed the opposition to define him?" --ABC's Christiane Amanpour
Asking the tough questions: "Former President Clinton said he doesn't think the Democrats, and you included, have been rigorous enough in pushing back against some of the Republican attacks. Over these next five weeks [before the November election], Mr. President, do you intend to change your tone or your emotion in terms of your pushing back?" --NBC's Matt Lauer to BO
Demented: "You think business can sit on those billions and trillions of dollars for two more years after they screw Obama this time? Are they going to keep sitting on their money so they don't invest and help the economy for two long years to get Mr. Excitement Mitt Romney elected president? Will they do that to the country?" --MSNBC's Chris Matthews
The "living constitution": "Joe Miller, the Palin-blessed Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska, suggests that Social Security is unconstitutional because it wasn't in the Constitution. The Constitution is a dazzling document, but do these originalists really think things haven't changed since then? If James Madison beamed down now, he would no doubt be stunned at the idea that America had evolved so far but was hemming itself in by the strictest interpretation of his handiwork. He might even tweet about it." --New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd
Breaking News From March: "Democrats Decide on Political Suicide" --The New Republic website
Questions Nobody Is Asking: "Will God Save the Democrats?" --TheAtlantic.com
Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking: "Why Democrats Are Pushing a Series of Bills Doomed to Fail" --Christian Science Monitor
The One Thing They Know About: "Congress Changes Intellectual Disability Wording" --Associated Press
Out on a Limb: "Bill Clinton: There's a 50-50 Chance for Peace Deal" --YNetNews.com (Israel)
News You Can Use: "Manhattan Is No Place to Juice Up Your Mitsubishi Clown Mobile" --Bloomberg
Breaking News From 1 Samuel 17:50-51: "Humiliating Doesn't Begin to Describe Giants' Performance" --CBS Sports website
Bottom Stories of the Day: "Obama Calls Republican Leaders 'Irresponsible'" --ABC news website (U.S.)
(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)
Pot and kettle: "If you love deficits, you will love the Republican plan." --White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, who must have missed the deficit quadrupling under Democrat control
More lectures: "People have a right to be angry. They have a right to be disappointed. But they still have to be make a choice. An election is not a referendum on their anger. It's a choice between two candidates." --Bill Clinton
That's a good question: "Do you know how many political and economic decisions are made in this world by people who don't know what in the living daylights they are talking about?" --Bill Clinton
We know what's best for you: "[T]here's a little Homer Simpson in all of us. Sometimes we have self-control problems, sometimes we're impulsive and that in these circumstances, both private and public institutions, without coercing, can make our lives a lot better. Once we know that people are human and have some Homer Simpson in them, then there's a lot that can be done to manipulate them." --Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, on helping us make "right choices"
We're not buying what you're selling: "I'm extremely sensitive to the feelings of the families of 9/11." --Ground Zero Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
"President Obama's old sloganeering has worn thin. It's time for a new motto for the most powerful man in the world. And he's up to the challenge. Obama's new slogan: 'It's not me, it's you.'" --columnist Ben Shapiro
"On the political gimmickry scale, the GOP's new 'Pledge to America' is worse than some, better than others. Let's say it falls somewhere between the Federalist Papers and a Harry Reid press release -- which, admittedly, pins it down as much as saying you lost a cufflink somewhere between Burkina Faso and Cleveland." --columnist Jonah Goldberg
"This week, all we've heard about is how [Christine] O'Donnell once said she went on a date with a guy in high school who claimed to be a witch. (So what? Bill Clinton married one!)" --columnist Ann Coulter
"President Obama signaled a change in U.S. policy toward the Third World Thursday in a U.N. speech. He said he intends to promote commerce and free trade with poor nations rather than just give them money. If it works there, he's going to try it here." --comedian Argus Hamilton
"I've got some problems with evolution myself. ... I look around at, say, Democrats, and I say, 'That's evolved?'" --columnist P.J. O'Rourke
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Closer ties with US? (China)
on: September 29, 2010, 01:21:37 PM
The recent trip by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to the United States offered several hints on Manila’s foreign policy plans, namely, its desire to balance China and the United States off each other, and expand economic and political cooperation with Washington while avoiding a direct confrontation with Beijing.
Newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino III arrived back in Manila on Sept. 20 following his weeklong visit to the United States, his first official foreign trip as president. During his visit, Aquino attended various business conferences, the U.N. General Assembly summit, the second U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meeting, and held a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Since his inauguration in late June, Aquino has not provided many clues on his foreign policy intentions. However, evidence from the trip suggests that his preferred course may be to expand ties with the United States while being careful to avoid directly confronting China, and play both powers off one another. With Washington looking to re-engage in the Asia-Pacific region, Manila may find an eager partner on its economic development plans, a priority after years of underperformance.
Aquino was accompanied on his trip by dozens of top Philippine business leaders seeking investment from multinational corporations under the auspices of the Public-Private Partnership initiative heavily promoted by the new government. The United States is atop the list of countries where Manila has sought this investment, and according to Aquino, the trip has yielded $2.4 billion from various global giants, including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and JPMorgan Chase, and secured more than 43,000 new jobs that will be established over the next three years. Aquino also witnessed the signing of a $434 million grant through the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) antipoverty initiative.
Aside from the business deals, the trip has indicated Manila’s foreign policy inclinations in multiple ways. One highly contentious issue at the U.S.-ASEAN summit was the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, in which countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and China all stake claims over various islands. The United States has increased its involvement in these disputes as part of its Asia-Pacific re-engagement plan, pushing for free navigation in the waters and taking the side of ASEAN nations against China, which has become more assertive on its claims. While ASEAN claimants do not oppose (and to some extent encourage) U.S. involvement when it could improve their position in dealing with China, most do not want such involvement to become so obtrusive as to spark a confrontation with Beijing.
Until this point, Aquino’s administration has declined to request U.S. assistance in territorial disputes, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo emphasizing that the issue is “a matter between ASEAN and China,” and Philippine defense officials reiterating during U.S. Pacific Command chief Robert Willard’s visit to the country that the Philippines has no desire for a territorial confrontation. This appears to have changed recently, as the Philippines has shown more aggressiveness on the disputed Spratly islands, which several other countries also claim. The Philippine government announced a plan Sept. 14 to repair and upgrade its military outposts, including the airport and other facilities in the Spratlys and said four government ministers would soon visit, a move criticized by China.
In another example of increased aggressiveness, the draft of a joint declaration prepared by the United States and the Philippines for the Sept. 24 U.S.-ASEAN summit in New York originally intended to address the South China Sea and reassert the principles of a nonviolent dispute resolution enshrined in the 2002 China-ASEAN code of conduct agreement. The explicit mention of the South China Sea was stricken from the final statement after consultation with other ASEAN member states concerned about offending China, but Aquino appeared to be undeterred, telling the Council on Foreign Relations that ASEAN members should respond as a bloc if China attempts to dictate the future of the South China Sea.
Though it may be unrelated, it is worth noting that the Aquino administration’s newfound assertiveness coincided with a strain in Sino-Philippine relations over the fallout from a hostage crisis that left eight Chinese tourists dead in Manila. Beijing initially exerted substantial pressure on the Aquino government to investigate the incidents but then backed off, perhaps to avoid pushing Manila closer to Washington ahead of the just-concluded trip by Aquino. The language in the original ASEAN draft resolution would appear to prove these fears well founded, but the eventual acquiescence to tone down the resolution by omitting reference to the South China Sea may indicate Manila is not willing to risk a direct confrontation with Beijing at this point.
Using the United States to balance against Beijing in the near term as well as deeper and more long-lasting security concerns about territorial disputes appear to have affected Aquino’s decision on reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) — a legal framework for U.S. soldiers stationed in the Philippines. Aquino was expected to raise the issue in his meeting with Obama, but reports have indicated he declined to discuss it, likely fearing it could jeopardize his country’s entreaties to the United States. Instead, he discussed possible joint removal of war materials on Corregidor Island left from World War II.
While this suggests the new government appeared to be on the track of improving the relations with Washington, it is being careful to avoid directly challenging Beijing. Despite the recent strain in relations, Aquino while in New York expressed a wish to see Chinese leaders, Beijing has offered an invitation to Aquino for a visit, and the Philippines has several investment deals planned with China as well. Ultimately, Manila’s goal for years has been to avoid relying on one single power. Maintaining good relations with both powers enabled the Philippines to balance the United States and China off each other. Particularly since the new government places economic rebuilding as the country’s primary goal, cash-rich China could play an important role in the process.
Read more: The Philippine Push for Closer Ties with Washington | STRATFOR
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ:
on: September 29, 2010, 11:20:16 AM
Democrats seeking to boost voter turnout this fall are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley's portrayal of a "motivational speaker" on Saturday Night Live. Farley's character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn't amount to "jack squat" and would someday be "living in a van down by the river."
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who prefers sailing vessels to vans by the river, recently tried out the Farley method. Said Mr. Kerry, "We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." Bay State voters are surely thrilled to be represented by a man so respectful of their concerns.
This week President Obama chimed in with another uplifting message about the American electorate. Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that the tea party movement is financed and directed by "powerful, special-interest lobbies." But this doesn't mean that tea party groups are composed entirely of corporate puppets. Mr. Obama graciously implied that a small subset of the movement is simply motivated by bigotry.
The President said "there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the President." The tea party is now supported by a third of the country in some polls.
Perhaps advocates for smaller government shouldn't take Mr. Obama's comments personally. In the new Democratic attacks on the voting public, not even Democrats are spared. Vice President Joe Biden recently urged the party's base to "stop whining" and "buck up," a message echoed by Mr. Obama in his Rolling Stone interview. The President demanded that his supporters "shake off this lethargy," warning that it would be "inexcusable" for liberals to stay home on Election Day.
Mr. Obama added that "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place." Making the case for left-wing voters to show up in November, Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that he is presiding over "the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward."
We'd agree, but his problem is that most Americans don't like that agenda and millions of voters in both parties wanted him to oversee an economic expansion instead. Blaming the voters is not unheard of among politicians, but usually they wait until after an election.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Mex Security Memo 9/27/10
on: September 28, 2010, 04:43:15 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 27, 2010
September 27, 2010 | 1936 GMT
PRINT Text Resize:
Arrest of El Tigre
Mexican Federal Police agents arrested Margarito “El Tigre” Soto Reyes and
eight other integral members of the Sinaloa Federation in an operation in
Zapopan, Jalisco state, the afternoon of Sept. 25. Soto Reyes assumed
control of the Sinaloa Federation’s methamphetamine trafficking, production
and supply chain after the death of Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal in
a Mexican military operation July 29. The U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency reported that Soto Reyes was responsible for sending
nearly half a ton of methamphetamine to the United States each month after
procuring precursor chemicals (pseudoephedrine and ephedrine) via the “South
Pacific” route — from Argentina through Peru, Panama and Central America to
Mexico — and manufacturing the drug in rural drug labs in west-central
Mexico. Several key operational players in the organization’s
methamphetamine logistical and manufacturing line were among the eight
arrested with Soto Reyes:
a.. Juan Pedro Mora, who allegedly was responsible for procuring precursor
chemicals from suppliers in South America, often posing as a veterinarian
b.. Martin Terrazas Leyva, who was in charge of Soto Reyes’ personal
affairs and security as well as monitoring shipments of narcotics;
c.. Hilarion Diaz Rosas, who reportedly was responsible for the physical
security for the various large-scale drug laboratories where the
organization would manufacture large quantities of methamphetamine; and
d.. Maximino Martinez Sanchez, who allegedly was responsible for the
organization’s massive drug manufacturing operations in the large and often
rural drug labs.
The others arrested with Reyes reportedly were employees at the drug labs.
El Nacho’s death in July appeared to decapitate the leadership of the
Sinaloa Federation’s methamphetamine production operations, possibly
damaging relationships with suppliers and trafficking contacts, but it did
not really affect the organization’s capacity to produce and traffic
methamphetamine. The operation that netted Soto Reyes and his top
operational leaders likely has done more damage to the Sinaloa Federation,
as it will be incredibly difficult to replace the operational knowledge and
expertise taken out of commission by the arrests, and it will certainly
impede the organization’s ability to produce and traffic methamphetamine in
the short term. Furthermore, the detailed knowledge and information that
could be gleaned from those arrested Sept. 25 likely will lead to follow-on
raids and arrests of other Sinaloa Federation operational assets.
The Sinaloa Federation arguably has been the biggest producer and trafficker
of methamphetamine in Mexico for the past several years, but its reduced
operational capacity could result in other organizations like La Familia
Michoacana (LFM), which also has a history of methamphetamine production in
the region, moving in and taking a larger portion of the Mexican
methamphetamine production market. Even though LFM and the Sinaloa
Federation are part of the New Federation alliance with the Gulf Cartel
against Los Zetas, business operations typically are seen as more important
than these types of cartel agreements and could be a point of contention
between the two organizations.
Attacks on Mayors in Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua
Unknown gunmen shot and killed Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas, the mayor of
Doctor Gonzalez, Nuevo Leon state, and another city employee in an ambush
near the entrance of Rodriguez’s ranch outside the city around 9:30 p.m.
local time Sept. 23. Doctor Gonzalez is a small rural agricultural community
about 56 km (35 miles) east of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, and is located
in a region that has been rife with conflict between Los Zetas and the New
Federation and has seen numerous Mexican military operations. Several people
were brought in for questioning in the shooting, including three brothers
who were involved in a land dispute with Rodriguez, but all have since been
released. The ambush style of the attack on Rodriguez bears the hallmark of
a cartel-sanctioned operation; however, no group has officially been accused
of being behind the attack.
Also, Ricardo Solis Manriquez, the mayor-elect of Gran Morelos, Chihuahua
state, was shot multiple times in the head in an attack inside a business
along the Cuauhtemoc-Chihuahua highway around 1:30 p.m. local time Sept. 24
by a group of armed men in two cars. Solis underwent seven hours of
emergency surgery and is reportedly in critical condition in the intensive
Rodriguez is the second mayor to have been killed in two months in Nuevo
Leon state after the death of Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos Leal, whose
body was found Aug. 18 after he was reported kidnapped. The recent attacks
on elected officials in both Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua state continue to show
the brazenness of criminal groups operating in the region and that no
position of authority in the region is safe from the reach of these groups.
While no motive for the attacks on Rodriguez and Solis has been declared
officially, and there has been no indication that either mayor was working
with a criminal organization, it is common for organized crime groups to
target their rivals’ support structure, which has included local law
enforcement and local elected officials in past cases. With endemic
corruption still a large issue, particularly in these two regions of Mexico,
it cannot immediately be ruled out that these two mayors were simply working
for the wrong side of the cartel conflict taking place in their respective
Click to view map
a.. Unidentified gunmen killed a former coordinator for the state attorney
general’s office in Durango, Durango state. The victim had resigned from his
post three days earlier.
b.. Police discovered five dismembered bodies in Tanhuato, Michoacan
state. The letter “J” had been carved into the victims’ backs.
c.. A woman was killed in the Benito Juarez neighborhood of
Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state, by an unidentified gunman. The attacker shot
the victim once in the chest.
a.. Police in the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zuniga discovered a
severed head and a dismembered body next to a sign warning that the remains
were booby trapped with explosives. No explosives were found at the scene.
b.. Residents of Ascension, Chihuahua state, beat two suspected kidnappers
c.. Four men died in an ambush in the municipality of Atotonilco de Tula,
d.. Unidentified gunmen killed two children of Ecologist Green Party of
Mexico President Sonia Hernandez in Otatitlan, Veracruz state.
a.. Unidentified gunmen attacked a ministerial police station in the
Urdiales neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. No injuries were
b.. Two severed heads were discovered near the entrance to the settlement
of “El 30” in the municipality of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
c.. Unidentified gunmen killed three people at a seafood restaurant in San
Ignacio, Sinaloa state.
a.. Police arrested Carlos Barragan Figueroa, a suspected leading figure
of Los Zetas, in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. Barragan Figueroa is suspected
of ordering an attack on a bar, which resulted in the deaths of eight
b.. Seven people were killed during a firefight between suspected
organized crime groups in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Soldiers arrested five
policemen at the scene who were allegedly accompanying a group of gunmen.
a.. Authorities announced the arrest of a suspected La Linea gunman
identified as “El 7,” who is believed to have participated in the killing of
an El Diario journalist in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, in 2008.
b.. Police discovered the mutilated body of an unidentified man in a
drainage canal in the Anahuac neighborhood of San Nicolas de los Garza,
Nuevo Leon state.
c.. Two suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight with
soldiers in the municipality of General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.
a.. Unidentified gunmen killed the Mexican Roma community patriarch in a
Mexico City hospital.
b.. Four men suspected of dismembering two people were arrested in
Zapotlanejo, Jalisco state, after a firefight with police.
c.. Police arrested suspected Sinaloa cartel member Margarito “El Tigre”
Soto Reyes in Zapopan, Jalisco state. Soto Reyes is believed to be the
successor to Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal.
a.. Soldiers arrested the leader of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state,
identified as Jose de Fernandez Lara Diaz, and seized several weapons, 1.35
million pesos (more than $107,000) and $36,000.
b.. Police found the bodies of four men abandoned near a highway in
Cuernavaca, Morelos state. A message near the victims attributed the crime
to the Cartel Pacifico Sur.
Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 27, 2010 | STRATFOR
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest
on: September 28, 2010, 03:10:38 PM
I am very sorry to hear that Andy Whitfield's health problems continue and pray for his health to return.
I know they have been advertising a prequel season (The Rise of Krixus seems to be the theme), but still AW's withdrawal leaves a huge and perhaps fatal gap in the show for the show's future. How can he be replaced at this point?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: More drones in Waziristan
on: September 28, 2010, 07:35:27 AM
Certainly it is hard to square with reports like this:
WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.
The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan.
Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.
Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign against the Taliban and Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds while American “surge” forces are in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.
As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.
“Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens,” said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. “He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.”
Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.
But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.
“We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before a Senate panel last week.
The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters, but also to disrupt any plots directed from or supported by extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas that were aimed at targets in Europe. “The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity,” the official said.
The 20 C.I.A. drone attacks in September represent the most intense bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the C.I.A. carried out 11 strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.
According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the C.I.A. drone campaign.
Over all the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according to the Web site The Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes. A vast majority of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.
The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the C.I.A.’s drone program, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by American spies. According to The Long War Journal, the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.
One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to “keep the pressure on as long as we can.”
But the C.I.A.’s campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are fueling anger in the Muslim world. The man who attempted to detonate a truck filled with explosives in Times Square told a judge that the C.I.A. drone campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.
In a meeting with reporters on Monday, General Petraeus indicated that it was new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.
In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance blimps that can hover over hide-outs thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan.
The intelligence technology, General Petraeus said, has also enabled the expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban operatives in those areas.
Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.