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23801  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 2 civilians and LEO stop mad bomber on: August 21, 2008, 08:34:02 AM
Police: Man with bombs 'ready for war' with city


(CNN) -- A police officer and two civilians subdued an armed man who drove to a California probation office with 11 crude bombs, 70 loaded magazines and more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, police said.

The man, Michael Solano, 54, of Sacramento, was out of jail on bail for a July 18 incident in which police said an explosive device was found in his vehicle at the probation office.

"This guy was ready for war," Yreka Police Chief Brian Bowles said in a written statement. "We were very lucky this guy was stopped and nobody was killed yesterday."

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon, when people saw Solano acting suspiciously near the Siskiyou County Probation Department and called police, Bowles said.

Solano aimed a gun at an officer, police said. Two civilians then jumped into the fray and, with the officer, subdued Solano and wrestled the gun away, police said.

During the scuffle, Solano repeated that he wanted to be killed and reached for the officer's gun and Taser stun gun, Bowles said.
Solano was handcuffed and searched. Police found a pipe bomb in his shoe, Bowles said. A neighborhood near the probation office was evacuated after Solano told police that he had 10 bombs in his car parked nearby, authorities said.

The bombs were "fragmentation grenades," loaded with nails and BBs, Bowles said. In all, police discovered 70 loaded magazines, more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, one stolen pistol and two assault weapons. They also found in Solano's car three other weapons, including one with a silencer, surveillance equipment, a tactical vest and clothing with face masks, Bowles said.

Solano was jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, police said. He was charged with possession of a destruction device, transportation of a destruction device and resisting police officer by force, attempting to take an officer's firearm and assault with a firearm on a peace officer. He is facing additional charges, authorities said.

Bowles thanked Brett Duncan and and Darrell Bourne of Yreka, who he said helped subdue Solano.

"We are lucky that the quick response from officers and help from the citizens saved us from a very serious incident," he said.
23802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russian Tactical Nukes on: August 21, 2008, 12:50:51 AM
 
 
     
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Russia's Nuclear Threat Is More Than Words
By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
August 21, 2008; Page A11

What lies behind Moscow's willingness to crush Georgia with overwhelming force? Analysts have highlighted Russia's newfound economic confidence, its determination to undo its humiliation of the 1990s, and its grievances over Kosovo, U.S. missile-defense plans involving Poland and the Czech Republic, and the eastward expansion of NATO.

But there may be another major, overlooked element: Has a shift in the nuclear balance between the U.S. and Russia helped embolden the bear?

Under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which went into force in 1994, both the U.S. and the USSR made radical cuts in their strategic nuclear arsenals -- that is, in weapons of intercontinental range. The 2002 Moscow Treaty pushed the numbers down even further, until each side's strategic nuclear umbrella was pocket-size.

Yet matters are very different at the tactical, or short-range, level. Here, the U.S., acting unilaterally and with virtually no fanfare, sharply cut back its stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear warheads. As far back as 1991, the U.S. began to retire all of its nuclear warheads for short-range ballistic missiles, artillery and antisubmarine warfare. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, not one of these weapons exists today. The same authoritative publication estimates that the number of tactical warheads in the U.S. arsenal has dwindled from thousands to approximately 500.

Russia has also reduced the size of its tactical nuclear arsenal, but starting from much higher levels and at a slower pace, leaving it with an estimated 5,000 such devices -- 10 times the number of tactical weapons held by the U.S. Such a disparity would be one thing if we were contending with a stable, postcommunist regime moving in the direction of democracy and integration with the West. That was the Russia we anticipated when we began our nuclear build-down. But it is not the Russia we are facing today.

Not only has Russia retained a sizable nuclear arsenal, its military and political leaders regularly engage in aggressive bluster about expanded deployment and possible use, and sometimes they go beyond bluster. Six months ago, Russia began sending cruise missile-capable Bear H bombers on sallies along the coast of Alaska.

As recently as July, the newspaper Izvestia floated the idea that Moscow would station nuclear weapons in Cuba if the U.S. went ahead with the deployment of an antiballistic missile radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland. Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, chief of Russia's strategic missile command, has openly spoken about aiming nuclear-tipped missiles at those two countries. Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that if it were to join NATO, "Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory." Not long before that, Mr. Putin cheerfully described a series of ballistic-missile flight tests as "pleasant and spectacular holiday fireworks."

Such cavalier language stands in striking contrast to the restrained approach of American leaders. "I am committed to achieving a credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs," said President George W. Bush in 2001, in one of his rare pronouncements on the subject. "My goal is to move quickly to reduce nuclear forces." Mr. Bush has kept his word and moved quickly. But has he moved wisely? And given the pugnacious Russia that has suddenly emerged, what is the strategic legacy that he will leave for his successor?

The Russians are steadily acquiring economic and military power, and are not afraid to use threats and force to get their way. Even as they abide by the terms of various treaties, while we are standing still they are finding ways to develop new and highly advanced ground- and submarine-based intercontinental missiles, along with modern submarines to carry and launch them.

As in the Cold War, nuclear weapons are central to the Russian geopolitical calculus. "The weak are not loved and not heard, they are insulted, and when we have [nuclear] parity they will talk to us in a different way." These words are not from the dark days of communist yore. Rather, they were uttered last year by Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and they perfectly capture the mentality we and Russia's neighbors are up against.

Mr. Schoenfeld is the senior editor of Commentary.
 
23803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 21, 2008, 12:15:52 AM
""serial felons"  A rather strong term. I don't remember either Bill or Hillary (don't know about the
rest of the family) ever being found guilty of any felony.  Maybe I am wrong?"

Well apart from the perjury conviction, no.  That said, I mean this accusation in complete seriousness.  In my strongly held opinion these two are despicable criminals. 

One small example:  Hillary's $97,000 in commodity trading was a payoff from Tyson Foods, the largest employer in the state of AK to the wife of gubernatorial candidate Bill.  I've read a serious article by the head of IRS commodity trading fraud division during the years in question and in my mind there is no doubt about this.  Another small example: Selling presidential pardons.  Another small example: Taking $345,000 from Loral Satellite's Bernie Schwartz to bury an investigation into Loral giving the Chinese secret rocket technology by moving it from State Dept review to Commerce Dept.  Another small example:  Hubster Webbell taking $700,000 from the Chinese fronts the Riady's of Indonesia in return for WH's silence on Hillary's law firm's billing crimes-- the records of which we mysteriously found in her office after the statute of limitations expired.  Raising money from the Taiwainese in return for sending a US carrier through the straits between them and China.

There's plenty more.  The Clinton's are dirty to the core.
23804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria open for Russian base on: August 20, 2008, 10:30:27 PM

http://www.barentsobserver.com/russia-sends-aircraft-carrier-to-syria.4502333-16149.html

The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, Newsru.com reports.

President Assad in meetings in Moscow this week expressed support to Russia’s intervention in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defence facilities on his land.
23805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: August 20, 2008, 07:05:00 PM
Violence in Juarez Persists
The bloody turf battles that have been waged for the better part of this year in the northern state of Chihuahua — and in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in particular — continued this past week. The usual cadence of violence in the state was punctuated by two particularly brutal incidents. In the first, eight men armed with assault rifles fired shots at the outside of a drug rehabilitation clinic in Juarez, then entered the building and opened fire again, killing eight people and wounding six others. In the second, at least 13 people — including a 1-year-old child — were killed when a dozen armed men entered a dance hall in Bocoyna, Chihuahua state, and fired indiscriminately at about 100 people celebrating a family gathering. Details of the family’s identity were not released, making it difficult to assess why the family would have been targeted.

The attack on the drug rehab center follows a similar attack during the previous week that left two dead. If the attacks were designed as intimidation to ensure a market of addicts for local distribution of narcotics, it is more likely that a local street gang would have conducted them — as they would have more to lose than would major drug trafficking cartels with markets north of the border. It is also possible, however, that those managing the clinics engaged in other activities detrimental to a cartel or local gang, or refused to cooperate with a local cartel presence. Regardless, the confluence of various criminal groups in the Juarez area and their struggle for control of the city will ensure that incidents like this continue.

Sinaloa Cartel Activities in Central America
Authorities in Costa Rica announced this past week the arrest of a Cuban-American and a Costa Rican believed to control overland drug trafficking routes in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua for the Sinaloa cartel. Authorities seized more than 600 pounds of cocaine from a warehouse during the arrest. The capture follows the seizure earlier this past week in Nicaragua of more than 1.5 tons of cocaine that belonged to a then-unidentified Mexican cartel, as well as the arrest of several Mexican nationals in Panama in possession of more than 150 pounds of cocaine. Authorities do not know how long the cartel had operated the route, but suggested that the Mexicans had only recently arrived in Central America. Reportedly, a lack of trust on their part drove them to more closely oversee the smuggling operation.

The increasing presence of Mexican drug traffickers in Central America is a shift that we have observed over the past year, as maritime and airborne routes to Mexico have become more difficult to use without detection. Several details of these most recent investigations offer keen tactical insight into how drugs are moved from South America to Mexico. Drugs on the route detected in this case, for example, enter Costa Rica via highway through an international port of entry and are kept several days in a safe-house near the border. The shipment is then transported overland across the entire country, entering Nicaragua on horse or on foot at a remote part of the international border. The shipment is then carried to the inland Lake Nicaragua, where is it picked up by boat and transferred to another vehicle as it continues on to Honduras.

Besides these tactical details, this incident offers an opportunity to consider the overall state of the drug trade. It is a testament to the current power of Mexican cartels in general that it is the Mexican groups — and not Colombian groups or others — that have extended their reach into Central America. This reach will not only prove useful for drug trafficking purposes, but also probably will be exploited for delivering drugs to the emerging consumer markets in much of Latin America. The shifts in cartel activity are also a testament to improvements in Mexican aerial and maritime interdiction.

Federal Police on Strike
Several hundred federal police agents in four states carried out a brief work stoppage Aug. 15, demanding additional days off, better pay and more powerful weapons. The strikes — which were carried out by agents assigned to Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, and Tabasco states — left some airport posts in Guanajuato and highway checkpoints elsewhere temporarily abandoned. The Aug. 15 strikes appear to have been a response to the announcement from Mexico City this past week that federal agents would no longer accrue vacation days, therefore making more agents available for duty. The strikes also follow a demonstration this past week by more than 700 federal agents attending a training academy in San Luis Potosi who walked out of class in protest of lax security at the academy. (Several agents have been kidnapped and ambushed in recent weeks while attending the academy.)

Work stoppages, protests and walkouts have become common among state and local Mexican police forces over the past year, as an increase in cartel attacks on police has made the job too dangerous for officers to settle for the salary and working hours they signed on for. Strikes by federal police agents, however, are much less frequent — and their spread could potentially have a devastating impact on the government’s strategy in the cartel war. One clue as to how the government might react to expanded strikes can be drawn from an example we highlighted last week. Following the killing of four federal agents in Michoacan state, a federal police commander there alluded to agents’ concern for safety when he reassuringly announced the arrival of reinforcements and a “change in strategy” to prevent future targeting of agents. A more cautious approach to combating the country’s drug cartels is simply one option of many, which President Felipe Calderon’s administration are likely considering to prevent this latest headache from becoming a more pressing concern.





(click to view map)

Aug. 11
A group of alleged drug cartel enforcers verbally threatened reporters in the parking lot of a newspaper building in Nogales, Sonora state.
Three men driving along a highway in Durango state died when they were shot by men armed with assault rifles.
One person died and another was wounded when the vehicle they were traveling in failed to stop at a highway checkpoint in Sonora state. Authorities said the checkpoint — located just a few miles from a federal policy building — had been erected by an organized criminal group.
Authorities discovered the body of a police commander in Huaniqueo, Michoacan state, who was reported kidnapped several days before.
A deputy police chief in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo state, and his bodyguard died when they were shot outside the chief’s home.
Aug. 12
Federal authorities revealed that six officials in the anti-organized crime unit (SIEDO) of the federal attorney general’s office were arrested the previous week on charges of spying for the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization. An investigation that began several months ago based on military intelligence uncovered a Beltran Leyva counterintelligence ring inside SIEDO that was leaking classified information on cases and upcoming operations.
A deputy police chief in Tepalcatepec, Michoacan state, died when he was shot multiple times by armed men traveling in a vehicle.
Two federal police officers died during a firefight with armed men along a highway in Sinaloa state.
The body of an evangelical pastor who was kidnapped July 23 was found buried behind a safe-house in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The kidnappers initially demanded $200,000, but the family could only pay about $20,000.
Aug. 13
The charred body of an unidentified man who had apparently been shot multiple times was found in the tourist town of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco state.
Two owners of a shipping company were kidnapped simultaneously in separate incidents in Poza Rica, Veracruz.
Aug. 14
A group of approximately 20 armed men traveling in 10 vehicles evaded capture after a prolonged pursuit by police in Tijuana, Baja California state.
A firefight between military forces and armed men in Rincon de Romos, Aguascalientes state, left at least one soldier and two gunmen dead.
Authorities in Sonora state reported that a gunbattle between smuggling gangs in Cananea left one person dead and at least three wounded.
Aug. 15
Authorities in Aguascalientes state reported the kidnapping of four people, including the police chief of Tepezala, a judge and police commander in the state capital Aguascalientes.
A severed, blindfolded head was found in Ecatepec, Mexico state.
One person died and another was wounded in a firefight between alleged alien smuggling groups in Mexicali, Baja California state.
At least 25 homicides were reported in separate incidents in Chihuahua state during a 36-hour period.
Two police officers were wounded in an apparent assassination attempt in Puebla, Puebla state, during which gunmen fired more than 80 rounds. Some reports indicate the officers were bodyguards for a deputy state attorney general.
Aug. 16
Hit men suspected of having ties to a drug cartel opened fire on a family gathering in the town of Creel, Chihuahua state, near the U.S. border, killing 13 people. Masked gunmen fired on the dance hall where a family gathering was taking place. The Mexican government sent 160 federal police and soldiers to the town after the attack.
Aug. 17
A firefight between federal police and gunmen traveling in three vehicles along a highway in Colima state left at least one dead.
23806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's "satellite launch" on: August 20, 2008, 12:52:35 PM
Summary
What Tehran claimed was a successful launch of a “dummy” satellite Aug. 16 is being disputed by Washington — even as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offers to help other Muslim countries launch their own satellites. Despite the likely failure of the launch, the emergence of a multiple-stage satellite-launch vehicle in Iran is a significant event for both Tehran and Washington.

Analysis
Iran’s claim that it successfully launched a “dummy” satellite Aug. 16 aboard its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite-launch vehicle (SLV) was followed by two significant developments only days later. On Aug. 18, Tehran offered to help other Muslim nations put their own satellites into orbit, while the United States reported that the Iranian launch failed when the SLV’s second stage began to behave erratically. While the Safir Omid may indeed prove to have limited capability, the Iranian launch attempt was a noteworthy event nonetheless.

Related Links
The Iranian Missile Program
Iran: The Latest Satellite Launch
United States: The Future of Ballistic Missile Defense
Stratfor has long held that the ability to launch a satellite should not be considered beyond the reach of Iran’s scientists and engineers — an assertion we base largely on the North Korean example. Indeed, cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang in missile development has been extensive, which means that the former can benefit significantly from the latter’s experience and design work. Based on this cooperation, Tehran already has the raw tools at its disposal to potentially achieve a successful launch.

Both countries’ missile programs rely heavily on the Soviet Scud design, which is itself based largely on the World War II German V-2, the world’s first true ballistic missile. The Scud design heritage is clearly evident in the base of the Iranian SLV’s first stage, where both the external fins (visible in the photo below, marked with Roman numerals) and the mountings for the exhaust vanes are evident.


VAHIDREZA ALAI/AFP/Getty Images
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being shown the Safir Omid satellite-launch vehicleThe width of the SLV suggests that its first stage is based on Iran’s Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, and the distinctively tall height and slenderness that characterize the Iranian SLV is remarkably similar to the North Korean Taepodong-1. The main difference in outward appearance is the width of the second stage.





(click image to enlarge)
This height and slenderness is generally considered to be inefficient by Western engineers. But the Scud is what Pyongyang and Tehran have to work with. Although the design has certainly been stretched further than it ever should have been, Pyongyang very nearly demonstrated in 1998 that it would get the job done.

The payload capacity, in all likelihood, is extremely limited — Iran is likely toying with the capability to orbit a radio transmitter smaller than Sputnik. What’s more, Iranian Scud-extrapolations do not appear to have demonstrated a meaningful level of accuracy to be useful as a military weapon. The limitations of the old Scud design also place upper limits on accuracy. Even if the missile could carry a larger payload, it is unlikely that the payload could be delivered with sufficient accuracy to threaten a specific target smaller than a major urban area. (And Iran’s ability to build a crude nuclear device, much less a weapon capable of being mounted on such a missile, remains in question.)

But SLVs have profound implications for a country’s long-range ballistic missile program. It is now clear that Tehran is tinkering with what appears to be a workable design based on North Korean experience that incorporates a second stage. Although the United States claims the second stage performed erratically, this may suggest that separation and ignition were indeed achieved — a significant step.

Iran has more or less hit a wall in terms of the distance it can cover with a single-stage ballistic missile. To further extend its reach, it must master missile staging. If it eventually succeeds in doing so, Tehran will demonstrate that capability to its domestic audience in the form of a nationalism-inspiring SLV. It will also give credence to Washington’s ballistic missile defense efforts in Europe.
23807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 20, 2008, 12:30:36 PM
Well, he certainly hates those serial felons, the Hillbillary Clintons-- with good reason IMHO. 

I think he is in well over his head when he comments on international affairs, but as a student of the American electoral process he has quite a bit to offer.
23808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 20, 2008, 12:27:06 PM
Coming from Mayor Daley's Chicago, Barack Obama's promise to transcend the "old politics" has always been viewed with skepticism by Democratic Party bosses. During Pennsylvania's hard-fought Democratic primary in March, Mr. Obama said: "We're not going to pay for votes, or pay for turnout." He was referring to the practice of handing out "street money" -- i.e. cash paid to partisan workers to get out the vote. Mr. Obama wound up losing Pennsylvania badly, with many party leaders blaming his failure to provide the traditional lubrication. One ward leader told me he expected Mr. Obama would change his tune in November if he became the party's nominee.

Indeed he has. The Philadelphia Daily News quotes Congressman Bob Brady, chairman of the city's Democratic Party, as saying street money is now back in vogue. "They [the Obama campaign] told me there are going to be resources here. That's what we do in Philadelphia; we pay people to work," Mr. Brady said.

Mr. Brady went on to say that by his calculations, Mr. Obama needs a massive Philadelphia win in order to carry the state's 21 electoral votes because he doesn't have the support in central and western Pennsylvania that Al Gore or John Kerry enjoyed. "I think we're going to need that because of the middle part of the state. McCain plays right in there," he said.

Of course, the massive size of Democratic margins in Philadelphia (often exceeding half a million votes) has regularly been a subject of controversy. A key state legislative victory by Democrats was thrown out by a federal judge a few years back due to massive vote fraud. The rolls of city voters have for years contained more registrations than the city contains people over 18, according to Census data. These excess registrations represent an open invitation to turn "street money" into phantom votes if a sufficient number of the living kind can't be drummed up.

For all the hype about his successful Internet campaign, it appears Mr. Obama has reluctantly decided that the "old politics" has it uses after all and must now be embraced.

-- John Fund

Even Cowgirls Give the Blues

In filling a nomination slot for their state's vacant House seat yesterday, Wyoming Republicans rejected a moderate candidate who had backed John Kerry over George Bush in favor of a female conservative who was born on a local ranch.

Businessman Mark Gordon was a much-touted symbol of a "kinder, gentler" Republican Party, and campaigned as a relative moderate for the seat now held by retiring Rep. Barbara Cubin. He was an early favorite for the GOP nomination based on a huge fundraising advantage over former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis. But then Mr. Gordon's political record came tumbling out. Ms. Lummis issued a mailer noting that Mr. Gordon had been "a board member of the Sierra Club" in the 1990s and had supported Democratic nominee John Kerry for president in 2004. "Just what kind of a Republican is he?" the mailer asked.

Mr. Gordon fought back, calling the attack "incendiary" and "designed to throw people off." But his high-flying campaign never recovered. Ms. Lummis won a clear 46% to 38% victory yesterday, sweeping the state's "cow counties."

She must now face Democrat Gary Trauner, who won 49% of the vote against Ms. Cubin in 2006. But he may have a tougher time this year because Ms. Lummis lacks the incumbent's political baggage and because Mr. Trauner suffers from his own "authenticity" issues as an MBA graduate from New York University who moved to Wyoming in the 1990s to become an Internet entrepreneur. Bottom line: This fall's contest looks like a classic contest between the Old West and the New West. My money is on the cowgirl.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"I got [Senator Evan Bayh] the keynote speech at the `96 Democratic convention, and for three weeks, I played telephone tag with him to try and put on anti-Dole negatives in the speech, but he wouldn't go negative, he wouldn't attack anybody, he was going to be absolutely virginal. So finally, we ended up scheduling his keynote at midnight because there was nothing in it. . . . If [Barack Obama] wants an attack dog for vice president, this is not the guy" -- former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris, ruminating on Fox News on the prospect of Evan Bayh as a Democratic vice presidential candidate.

Quote of the Day II

"First, various regulators put pressure on lenders to loosen underwriting standards for minorities and low-income borrowers. That provided the kindling for the housing bubble. Next, increasing numbers of borrowers started speculating in homes. These borrowers were attracted by adjustable-rate mortgages, because they expected to sell the homes for a profit before the rates adjusted. The fact that we now have such a large inventory of unoccupied homes is consistent with the view that many of the new owners were speculators, not owner-occupants. . . . Although I think it is important to point out the role that government policy played in forcing regulated institutions to relax underwriting standards, I do not think that the private sector is blameless here. There was some very serious mispricing of risk going on" -- economist and blogger Arnold Kling, on the origins of a subprime meltdown.

Almost Famous

John McCain may not have the media choir behind him anymore, but he's been on a roll lately and it's starting to show. According to a Reuters/Zogby poll released this morning, the Arizona Senator has finally pulled ahead of Democrat Barack Obama by 46% to 41% among likely voters. Just last month, the same poll showed Mr. Obama ahead by seven points.

"There is no doubt the campaign to discredit Obama is paying off for McCain right now," pollster John Zogby said in a statement. "This is a significant ebb for Obama."

In the same poll, Mr. McCain earned a nine-point edge on the question of which candidate would make a better manager of the economy. Policy shifts could be taking a toll on Obama support, Mr. Zogby notes, especially with the far left of the Democratic Party. "That hairline difference between nuance and what appears to be flip-flopping is hurting him with liberal voters."

Though it was widely skewered by media commentators, a McCain ad comparing Mr. Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton appears now to have been a breakthrough moment just as many Americans were tuning in to the fall race. Mr. McCain followed up with a strong performance at Pastor Rick Warren's presidential forum on Saturday. Even if voters didn't watch, they heard about Mr. McCain's performance from Team Obama -- which accused him of cheating.

Still, Tuesday's Gallup and Quinnipiac polls both showed Mr. Obama continuing to lead, but the race is clearly in flux. A separate Gallup tracking poll out today shows the contest narrowing to a tie in the last five days. "The mainstream media spent months ignoring the National Enquirer's scoop about John Edwards' mistress," writes Robert Stacy McCain, assistant national editor for the Washington Times, in a new posting at the American Spectator Web site. "Now they're ignoring a potentially bigger Democratic scandal: The political incompetence of Team Obama."

That may be an overstatement given the number of handwringing stories about Mr. Obama's failure to "close the deal." But Team McCain is starting to deserve come credit too.
23809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: August 20, 2008, 12:24:30 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The Georgian-Russian Conflict and a Return to Iran
August 20, 2008 | 0139 GMT
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Iranians waited, starving for attention. When last we visited them, the Iranians had met with the United States and the rest of the permanent members of the Security Council, including Russia, had concluded a meeting at which the Iranians were supposed to deliver their answer to demands that they freeze their uranium enrichment program. The United States had given Iran two weeks to provide a clear and satisfactory answer. After the meeting, the United States announced that the Iranians had failed to deliver and therefore new sanctions would be imposed, per prior agreement with the members of the negotiating group.

Just before this, of course, the United States and Israel had very publicly increased the pressure on Iran, carefully orchestrating a sense of impending attack. The Israelis had staged a mock attack on Greece to demonstrate their military capabilities and the United States had carefully released information about the secret exercise’s existence. Reports circulated of Israeli aircraft operating at U.S. air bases in Iraq. The Internet was awash with rumors of a massive U.S. fleet on its way to the Persian Gulf to blockade Iranian ports. Let us pause here for a moment and address all those who wrote in to us asking why we didn’t mention this fleet. For the record, we didn’t write about it because there is no fleet. It was just one of those things that make the blogosphere an exciting place to visit.

Moving forward. At the time, we regarded these threats by the United States as bluffs, but the possibility of sanctions against Iran as very real. And then Georgia intervened. Now, bluffing the Russians on Georgia took precedence over bluffing the Iranians and the U.S. administration went quiet on Iran. Moreover, the very real possibility of additional sanctions has become less real, since the Russians were a key element to those sanctions. If the Russians don’t participate, the Iranians will have to buy European goods through the Russians, an inconvenience with a mark-up but hardly a threat to their national security.

Therefore, as we return to the Iranian crisis, it becomes important to consider what the Russians are going to do and the questions that arise therefrom. First, given the response from NATO on Tuesday that it is still prepared to give NATO membership to Georgia in the future, we ask — are the Russians prepared to participate in the Iranian sanctions regime called for by the United States? Second, and far more important, what is the red line for the Russians? To be more precise, at what point in the American response on NATO do the Russians decide to counter by increasing arms shipments to the Iranians, including the advanced S-300 air defense system, as well as resume supplying nuclear technology for Tehran’s civilian reactor? The United States is at the point where it needs to decide which issue takes priority, Georgia or Iran. We do not see an easy way for the United States to press the Russians on Georgia while also expecting Russian cooperation on Iran.

The Iranians also have important decisions to make. In our view, the Iranians had basically made the decision, in part because they felt isolated from all great powers, to accept the neutralist solution in Iraq and negotiate some settlement on the nuclear program. Now the Iranians must be thoughtfully considering the Russian position toward them and watching to see how far U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate and whether they can recruit an ally. If they can, then all bets on Iraqi stability could be off. Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr re-emerged from the shadows Tuesday threatening to help drive the Americans from Iraq. That is usually a sign that Iran is testing the water.

Our guess is that the Americans will deal with the problem at hand, which is Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That will mean that after a period of delivering strong messages to the Russians, the United States will back off from doing anything that will cause the Russians to retaliate in Iran. In turn, we will soon see warnings made to Russia replaced by warnings made to Iran, and Russia, having started to reshape its sphere of influence, will resume its cooperation with the United States. Thus, we would expect to see Iran on the front pages again shortly.

If this doesn’t happen, if the administration keeps pounding the Russians and leaves the Iranians back at the ranch, then a very quick and strategic re-evaluation has taken place and we are in a different place indeed. Thus, we will likely see the next phase of this evolution unfold on the front page of the New York Times and Washington Post when the administration leaks new, highly secret plans to attack Iran.
23810  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 85 year old woman makes intruder call cops on: August 20, 2008, 12:06:18 PM
Armed 85-year-old woman makes intruder call cops

August 19, 2008 - 11:23pm

POINT MARION, Pa. (AP) - An 85-year-old woman boldly went for her gun and busted a would-be burglar inside her home, then forced him to call police while she kept him in her sights, police said. "I just walked right on past him to the bedroom and got my gun," Leda Smith said.

Smith heard someone break into her home Sunday afternoon and grabbed the .22-caliber revolver she had been keeping by her bed since a neighbor's home was burglarized a few weeks ago.

"I said 'What are you doing in my house?' He just kept saying he didn't do it," Smith said.

After the 17-year-old boy called 911, Smith kept holding the gun on him until state police arrived at her home in Springhill Township, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The boy will be charged with attempted burglary and related offenses in juvenile court, Trooper Christian Lieberum said. He was not identified because of his age.

"It was exciting," Smith said. "I just hope I broke up the (burglary) ring because they have been hitting a lot of places around here."
23811  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack (Reunion de la jauria) on: August 20, 2008, 10:06:17 AM
Guau:

He aqui un articulo que aparence actualmente en Reuters.  http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1543964220080820

En uno de las fotos, se ve nuestro Mauricio Sanchez de Mexico en #17, #27 a http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/cslideshow?sj=20080819194451.js&sn=Fight club&sl=32

La Aventura continua!
Crafty Dog
23812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Quotes of note: on: August 20, 2008, 09:41:39 AM
 “We do not want a deterioration of international relations, we want to be respected. We want our people, our values to be respected. We have always been a peace-loving state. Practically there is not a single occasion in the history of the Russian or Soviet state when we first started military actions. We have not attacked anyone, we only secured the rights and dignity of people as peacekeepers.” —Russia president Dimitry Medvedev

“I could care less about the color of Barack Obama’s skin, but the thinness of it is starting to wear on me.” —Dennis Miller

23813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto on: August 20, 2008, 09:11:09 AM
Talk About Audacity!
By JAMES TARANTO
August 19, 2008

Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars this morning, Barack Obama delivered an amazing show of chutzpah. John McCain had addressed the VFW yesterday, and as the Associated Press reports, he was predictably critical of Obama:

McCain . . . said Obama "tried to legislate failure" in the Iraq war and had put his ambition to be president above the interests of the United States. He said the Illinois senator did this by pushing for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and by voting in the Senate against a major appropriations bill to help fund the troop increase.
Here is Obama's reply:

"One of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Sen. McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same. . . ."
Of course, if Obama were to accuse McCain of picking his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition, everyone would laugh, because it obviously is not true. By contrast, there is quite a bit of evidence that Obama has placed political expediency above national security (for an excellent example, see our item yesterday on his shifting explanations for his original opposition to the liberation of Iraq).

In politics one often hears the charge of hypocrisy: My opponent criticizes me for X, but he has done Y, which is just as bad or worse. Obama's argument here, though, is roughly opposite in form. He concedes that McCain is above reproach on this particular subject and therefore demands that McCain treat him as if he were beyond reproach. Obama's acknowledgment of a McCain virtue is well and good, but it does not mitigate or excuse his own shortcoming.
23814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 20, 2008, 09:08:38 AM
Stratfor
August 19, 2008
Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years, was forced to resign Monday in the face of moves by the South Asian country’s recently elected coalition government to impeach him. Musharraf’s resignation has been a long time coming, with stops along the way over the last nine months during which he was forced to give up control over the military and then the government.

Almost immediately following his announcement, Pakistanis took to the streets to celebrate, demanding that he be tried for crimes against the nation. Musharraf’s personal fate is of no consequence to the continuity (or discontinuity) in the geopolitics of Pakistan. But the conditions in which he fell from power have wide-ranging geopolitical implications not just in his country, but for U.S. policy toward Southwest Asia.

His exit from the scene symbolizes an end of an era for many reasons. The former Pakistani leader was the pointman in U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in Washington’s war against jihadism, which many Pakistanis — both within the government and in wider society — feel has destabilized their country. Now, the country’s democratic government must search for the elusive balance between domestic and foreign policy considerations. This will prove challenging for all the stakeholders in the post-Musharraf state. It also will complicate (to put it mildly) U.S. efforts to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A far greater implication of the decline and fall of the Musharraf regime, however, is that the process has altered the nature of the Pakistani state. Until fairly recently, the Pakistani state was as robust as its army’s ability either directly to govern the country or to maintain oversight over civilian administrations. Policies pursued under the Musharraf government generated two very different kinds of potent opposition to the state, however. The state found itself caught between democratic forces on the one hand and Islamist militant forces on the other, something compounded by a deteriorating economic situation.

As a result, for the first time in the history of the country, the army is no longer in a position to step in and impose order as before. Recognizing that any attempt to impose order militarily on a growing crisis of governance would only further destabilize the country, the army’s new leadership has put its weight behind the civilian government. But since Pakistani civilian institutions historically have never really functioned properly, serious doubts about the viability of the newly democratic Pakistan arise.

Musharraf’s decision to quit has greatly empowered parliament, but the legislature is a collection of competing political forces that for most of their history have engaged in zero-sum games. Meanwhile, the civil-military imbalance — despite the desire of the army to back the government — remains a source of tension within the political system. Moreover, at a time when parliament really has yet to consolidate power, the rise of an assertive judiciary is bound to further complicate governance.

Islamabad will be searching for pragmatic prescriptions to balance the domestic sentiment against the war against jihadism with the need to play its role as a U.S. ally and combat the extremism that also threatens Pakistan. At the same time, however, the legislature and the newly empowered judiciary will be playing an oversight role over the actions of the government in keeping with public sentiment. It will emphasize due process, which will force the hands of the government in the fight against both transnational and homegrown militancy. In other words, an already weakened state will be further handicapped in dealing with the need to combat a growing jihadist insurgency.

The multiple problems Pakistan faces now that the military no longer can simply step in and stabilize the system underscore the potentially dangerous situation in the South Asian country. And this has obvious and grave geopolitical implications for the wider region and the United States.

23815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's foreign minister writes on: August 20, 2008, 09:02:50 AM
America Must Choose
Between Georgia and Russia
By SERGEY LAVROV
August 20, 2008

In some Western nations an utterly one-sided picture has been painted of the recent crisis in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict. The statements of American officials would lead one to conclude that the crisis began when Russia sent in its troops to support its peacekeepers there.

Meticulously avoided in those statements: The decision of Tbilisi to use crude military force against South Ossetia in the early hours of Aug. 8. The Georgian army used multiple rocket launchers, artillery and air force to attack the sleeping city of Tskhinvali.

Some honest independent observers acknowledge that a surprised Russia didn't respond immediately. We started moving our troops in support of peacekeepers only on the second day of Georgia's ruthless military assault. Yes, our military struck sites outside of South Ossetia. When the positions of your peacekeepers and the civilian population they have been mandated to protect are shelled, the sources of such attacks are legitimate targets.

Our military acted efficiently and professionally. It was an able ground operation that quickly achieved its very clear and legitimate objectives. It was very different, for example, from the U.S./NATO operation against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999, when an air bombardment campaign ran out of military targets and degenerated into attacks on bridges, TV towers, passenger trains and other civilian sites, even hitting an embassy.

In this instance, Russia used force in full conformity with international law, its right of self-defense, and its obligations under the agreements with regard to this particular conflict. Russia could not allow its peacekeepers to watch acts of genocide committed in front of their eyes, as happened in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica in 1995.

But what of the U.S.'s role leading up to this conflict? U.S. involvement with the Tbilisi regime—past and future—must be addressed to fully understand the conflict. When the mantra of the "Georgian democratic government" is repeated time and time again, does it mean that by U.S. standards, a democratic government is allowed to act in brutal fashion against a civilian population it claims to be its own, simply because it is "democratic"?

Another real issue is U.S. military involvement with the government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Did Washington purposely encourage an irresponsible and unpredictable regime in this misadventure? If the U.S. couldn't control Tbilisi's behavior before, why do some in the U.S. seek to rush to rearm the Georgian military now?

Russia, by contrast, remains committed to a peaceful resolution in the Caucasus.

We'll continue to seek to deprive the present Georgian regime of the potential and resources to do more mischief. An embargo on arms supplies to the current Tbilisi regime would be a start.

We will make sure that the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan endorsed in Moscow on Aug. 12 is implemented, provided the parties to the conflict cooperate in good faith. So far we are not sure at all that Tbilisi is ready. President Saakashvili keeps trying to persuade the world that the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was destroyed not by the Georgian attack but by the Russian forces who, according to Mr. Saakashvili, bombed the city after they entered it.

Russia is committed to the ongoing positive development of relations with the U.S. That kind of agenda is set forth in the Foreign Policy Concept—the framework document that sets out the basic directions of Russia's foreign policy—recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev.

However, it must be remembered that, as between any other major world powers, our bilateral relationship can only advance upon the basis of reciprocity. And that is exactly what has been missing over the past 16 years. I meant precisely that when I said that the U.S. will have to choose between its virtual Georgia project and its much broader partnership with Russia.

The signs are ominous. Several joint military exercises have been cancelled by the Americans. Now Washington suggests our Navy ships are no longer welcome to take part in the Active Endeavour counterterrorism and counterproliferation operation in the Mediterranean. Washington also threatens to freeze our bilateral strategic stability dialogue.

Of course, that strategic dialogue has not led us too far since last fall, including on the issue of U.S. missile defense sites in Eastern Europe and the future of the strategic arms reduction regime. But the threat itself to drop these issues from our bilateral agenda is very indicative of the cost of the choice being made in Washington in favor of the discredited regime in Tbilisi. The U.S. seems to be eager to punish Russia to save the face of a failed "democratic" leader at the expense of solving the problems that are much more important to the entire world.

It is up to the American side to decide whether it wants a relationship with Russia that our two peoples deserve. The geopolitical reality we'll have to deal with at the end of the day will inevitably force us to cooperate.

To begin down the road of cooperation, it would not be a bad idea to do a very simple thing: Just admit for a moment that the course of history must not depend entirely on what the Georgian president is saying. Just admit that a democratically elected leader can lie. Just admit that you have other sources of information—and other objectives—that shape your foreign policy.

Mr. Lavrov is the foreign minister of the Russian Federation.
23816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 20, 2008, 08:58:24 AM
In a similar vein:
==================

http://www.newsmax.com/morris/obama_new_jimmy_carter/2008/08/20/123638.html

Obama: the New Jimmy Carter
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 8:45 AM
By: Dick Morris & Eileen McGann  Article Font Size   


Last week raised important questions about whether Barack Obama is strong enough to be president. On the domestic political front, he showed incredible weakness in dealing with the Clintons, while on foreign and defense questions, he betrayed a lack of strength and resolve in standing up to Russia's invasion of Georgia.

This two-dimensional portrait of weakness underscores fears that Obama might, indeed, be a latter-day Jimmy Carter.

Consider first the domestic and political. Bill and Hillary Clinton have no leverage over Obama. Hillary can?t win the nomination. She doesn?t control any committees. If she or her supporters tried to disrupt the convention or demonstrate outside, she would pay a huge price among the party faithful.

If Obama lost ? after Hillary made a fuss at the convention ? they would blame her for all eternity (just like Democrats blame Ted Kennedy for Carter?s defeat). But, without having any leverage or a decent hand to play, the Clintons bluffed Obama into amazing concessions.

Hillary will get to play a film extolling her virtues produced by Harry Bloodworth Thomason. Bill will speak on Wednesday night. Hillary?s name will be placed into nomination. She will get to have nominating and seconding speeches on her behalf. And, on Thursday night, the last night of the convention, the roll call will show how narrowly Obama prevailed.

So Obama gave away Tuesday night, Wednesday night and part of Thursday night to the Clintons. It will really be their convention. A stronger candidate would?ve called their bluff and confined the Clintons to one night on which both Hillary and Bill spoke (he would have outshone her). He would have blocked a roll call by allowing a voice vote to nominate by acclimation. He would have stood up to the Clintons and recaptured his own convention.

If Obama can?t stand up to the Clintons, after they have been defeated, how can he measure up to a resurgent Putin who has just achieved a military victory? When the Georgia invasion first began, Obama appealed for ?restraint? on both sides.

He treated the aggressive lion and the victimized lamb even-handedly. His performance was reminiscent of the worst of appeasement at Munich, where another dictator got away with seizing another breakaway province of another small neighboring country, leading to World War II.

After two days, Obama corrected himself, spoke of Russian aggression and condemned it. But his initial willingness to see things from the other point of view and to buy the line that Georgia provoked the invasion by occupying a part of its own country betrayed a world view characterized by undue deference to aggressors.

We know so little about Obama. His experience is so thin that it?s hard to tell what kind of a president he?d be. While he nominally has been in the Senate for four years, he really only served the first two and consumed the rest of his tenure running for president and disregarding his Senate duties.

So we have no choice but to scrutinize his current transactions and statements for some clue as to who he is and what he?d do. In that context, his reaction to the first real-time foreign-policy crisis he faced as a nominee leaves his strength in doubt. So does his palsied response to the Clintons? attempt to make Denver a Clinton convention.

Is Obama an over-intellectualizing Hamlet who is incapable of decisive, strong action? With Iran on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and Russia resurgent, there isn?t much room for on-the-job learning.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
23817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: August 20, 2008, 08:47:45 AM
NATO's 'Empty Words'
August 20, 2008; Page A18
"Empty words." That's how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO's criticism yesterday of Russia's continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

The most NATO ministers could muster at their meeting in Brussels was a statement that they "cannot continue with business as usual" with Russia. There was no move to fast-track Georgia's bid to join NATO, nor a pledge to help the battered democracy rebuild its defenses.

Asked about NATO reconstruction aid, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pointedly said, twice, that it would go for "civilian infrastructure." So here we have a military alliance going out of its way to stress that it will not be providing any military aid. The alliance didn't even cancel any cooperative programs with Russia, though Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said "one can presume" that "this issue will have to be taken into view." That must have the Kremlin shaking.

NATO leaders also failed to mention Ukraine, another applicant for NATO membership that has angered Moscow in recent years and could become its next target. Also missing was any indication that the alliance would begin making long-delayed plans for defending the Baltic member states and other countries on its eastern flank in case of attack. The only good news of the day was that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will eventually send up to 100 monitors, albeit unarmed, to Georgia.

Meanwhile, Russia found new ways to ignore the West and punish the Georgians who are actually abiding by a cease-fire. After exchanging prisoners with Georgia, Russian troops took about 20 Georgians prisoner after briefly retaking the oil port of Poti, blindfolded them and held them at gunpoint. Russia also sank another Georgian navy vessel and stole four U.S. Humvees that had been used in U.S.-Georgian training exercises and were waiting to be shipped out of the country.

All of this continues the Russian pattern of the past week, in which it agrees to a cease-fire and promises to withdraw, only to leave its forces in place while continuing to damage Georgia's military and even its civilian centers. Russian commanders had the cheek to suggest that a return to the troop placements before war broke out on August 8 means that 2,000 Georgian soldiers would have to return to Iraq, from which they had been airlifted home.

One of Moscow's goals is clearly to humiliate Georgia enough to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili, so he can be replaced with a pliable leader who will "Finlandize" the country, to borrow the old Cold War term for acquiescing to Kremlin wishes. In the bargain, it is also betting it can humiliate the West, which will give the people of Ukraine real doubts about whether joining NATO is worth the risk of angering Moscow. Judging by NATO's demoralizing response on Tuesday, the Kremlin is right.
23818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: August 20, 2008, 07:41:35 AM
"One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as
oppressive as one."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 48, 1 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 48.
23819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gorbachev says: on: August 20, 2008, 07:39:55 AM
By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV
Published: August 19, 2008
Moscow

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THE acute phase of the crisis provoked by the Georgian forces’ assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, is now behind us. But how can one erase from memory the horrifying scenes of the nighttime rocket attack on a peaceful town, the razing of entire city blocks, the deaths of people taking cover in basements, the destruction of ancient monuments and ancestral graves?

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

The decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to now cease hostilities was the right move by a responsible leader. The Russian president acted calmly, confidently and firmly. Anyone who expected confusion in Moscow was disappointed.

The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way.

The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing — before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements.

It is still not quite clear whether the West was aware of Mr. Saakashvili’s plans to invade South Ossetia, and this is a serious matter. What is clear is that Western assistance in training Georgian troops and shipping large supplies of arms had been pushing the region toward war rather than peace.

If this military misadventure was a surprise for the Georgian leader’s foreign patrons, so much the worse. It looks like a classic wag-the-dog story.

Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us — the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians — must pick up the pieces.

Those who rush to judgment on what’s happening in the Caucasus, or those who seek influence there, should first have at least some idea of this region’s complexities. The Ossetians live both in Georgia and in Russia. The region is a patchwork of ethnic groups living in close proximity. Therefore, all talk of “this is our land,” “we are liberating our land,” is meaningless. We must think about the people who live on the land.

The problems of the Caucasus region cannot be solved by force. That has been tried more than once in the past two decades, and it has always boomeranged.

What is needed is a legally binding agreement not to use force. Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement, for reasons that have now become abundantly clear.

The West would be wise to help achieve such an agreement now. If, instead, it chooses to blame Russia and re-arm Georgia, as American officials are suggesting, a new crisis will be inevitable. In that case, expect the worst.

In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.

These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?

Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?

There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests.

Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?

A bipartisan commission led by Senator Chuck Hagel and former Senator Gary Hart has recently been established at Harvard to report on American-Russian relations to Congress and the next president. It includes serious people, and, judging by the commission’s early statements, its members understand the importance of Russia and the importance of constructive bilateral relations.

But the members of this commission should be careful. Their mandate is to present “policy recommendations for a new administration to advance America’s national interests in relations with Russia.” If that alone is the goal, then I doubt that much good will come out of it. If, however, the commission is ready to also consider the interests of the other side and of common security, it may actually help rebuild trust between Russia and the United States and allow them to start doing useful work together.

Mikhail Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union. This article was translated by Pavel Palazhchenko from the Russian.
23820  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 20, 2008, 12:01:28 AM
Reuters on our Gathering!

http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1543964220080820?pageNumber=4&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true
23821  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2008, 10:35:02 PM
True friends. cool
23822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canada on: August 19, 2008, 10:22:48 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,406702,00.html

Tuesday , August 19, 2008
By Steve Brown



   

This is part of the America's Future series airing on FOX News Channel, looking at the challenges facing the country in the 21st century.
BRANTFORD, Ontario — Once home to inventor Alexander Graham Bell and hockey great Wayne Gretzky, the small Canadian city of Brantford is now home to a terrorist — and the Canadian government might not do anything about it.
Forty years ago, Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a former teacher, joined the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
On Dec. 26, 1968, Mohammad and another gunman launched an attack on an El Al airliner at Athens International Airport. The two ran up on the tarmac firing guns and, throwing grenades at the passenger jet, wounded a flight attendant as she opened an emergency exit and killed a 50-year-old passenger, Leon Shirdan.
The gunmen were captured, tried and convicted in Greek court, and they were sentenced in 1970 to serve 17 years in prison. But they were released just months later after the PFLP hijacked an Olympic Airways flight and demanded their release as part of a hostage exchange.
In 1987, when a much grayer Mohammad arrived at Canada's doorstep, his entry visa made no mention of his terrorist act. Canadian authorities later determined Mohammad was a convicted terrorist, and they ordered him out of the country.
Yet Mohammad, having repeatedly appealed government orders for his expulsion, has extended his stay for 20 years. He still resides in the same house in Brantford.
"You have many sources to know what you want to know, but don't ask me anything," Mohammad, now 65, said when confronted by FOX News.
The Canadian government has also played a large part in Mohammad's stay; Canada will not send its deportees — even convicted terrorists and murderers — just anywhere .
"The rule is you can't send someone back to [face] torture," said Lorne Waldman, Mohammad's former attorney.
Mohammad's family left for Lebanon after the state of Israel was formed, and despite a government recommendation that he be sent to Lebanon, the Canadian government believes he may be tortured or ill-treated if returned there. Canada will not send him to Israel, and no other country has stepped forward to take him.
These days, Mohammad lives in his Brantford home, tending the fruit trees in his back yard. Despite the terrorist attack he launched in 1968, he is not deemed a threat to public safety.
When asked by FOX News whether he regretted his crime, he would not answer.
"[It's] not your business. [It's] not your business," he said. "This is not your business."
Mohammad calls himself a freedom fighter, not a terrorist. Either way, he is living free in Canada, which doesn't seem to bother his neighbors.
"No, I'm not concerned," said Gayle Cunningham, who lives nearby. "Maybe I should be. Should I be? I don't know."
23823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 03:58:21 PM
Well, if Hillary had, maybe Monica wouldn't have happened.  Do you know how the two of them met?  They dated the same girl in law school. cheesy
23824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ review of Trick or Treatment on: August 19, 2008, 03:54:46 PM
Herbal Legends
By SCOTT GOTTLIEB
August 19, 2008; Page A15

 
Trick or Treatment
By Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, M.D.
(Norton, 342 pages, $24.95)

When I was practicing medicine in the Elmhurst section of New York about five years ago, my colleagues and I confronted an epidemic of liver damage among the recently arrived Chinese immigrants who live there. We put these patients through an exhaustive battery of tests for conventional sources of hepatitis, the most likely culprit, but found none. The mysterious illness, we decided, must have been caused by the folk therapies, usually herbal, that our patients often used but rarely disclosed to their doctors. There was little we could do but counsel them to stop. Instead of following our professional advice, though, they usually just added new herbs to their regimen, hoping to solve their liver problems but sometimes making themselves even more ill.

The Elmhurst epidemic was a classic example of the clash -- both cultural and scientific -- between "alternative" and conventional medicine. In this case, the inability of doctors to treat a liver ailment strengthened the false faith of patients in other cures. Usually, alternative medicine is a harmless distraction. And some treatments actually do offer benefits. But going outside modern medical practice also carries dangers.

Luckily, hundreds of studies have examined the purported benefits of various alternative-medicine treatments. In "Trick or Treatment," Simon Singh and Dr. Edzard Ernst report on the results. Ginseng has been proposed as a cure-all for everything from cancer to common colds, but there's no evidence that it does any good. Shiatsu massage appears to be a "waste of effort and expense," the authors say. Many aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, like the use of the herbs aristolochia and liquorice, are potentially harmful. Aromatherapy can relieve stress, but there is not a lick of evidence that it can treat a specific illness. Chelation therapy -- a legitimate method of removing heavy metals such as lead or mercury from the body, but now pitched in alternative-medicine circles as a cure for heart disease and other ailments -- is "disproven, expensive, and dangerous," according to Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst. They urge patients "not to use this treatment."

Some alternative remedies, it should be said, do appear to have value. There is evidence that St. John's Wort can help mild depression, although probably not as well as conventional antidepressants. Echinacea may be able to help relieve symptoms of the common cold, and perhaps reduce the length of illness, but so can many better understood conventional remedies that are sold over the counter. "It seems bizarre," the authors note, in light of the disappointing results, "that alternative treatments are touted as though they offer marvelous benefits."

Dr. Ernst is not a dispassionate observer. He is a pioneer in the field of complementary medicine -- a branch of the medical profession whose practitioners prescribe selective alternative treatments. But he is also a scourge of too-large claims made for his field. Based at the University of Exeter in England, he leads a research group that has spent 15 years studying alternative remedies, trying to separate snake oil from science. Mr. Singh, his co-author, is a science journalist whose books include "Fermat's Enigma" and "Big Bang." Together they conclude, after cataloging the evidence, that most of the popular forms of alternative medicine are "a throwback to the dark ages." Too many alternative practitioners, they say, are "uninterested in determining the safety and efficacy of their interventions."

And safety is a real concern. "Chiropractors who manipulate the neck can cause a stroke . . . some herbs can cause adverse reactions or can interfere with conventional drugs." The authors are particularly hard on homeopathy, the practice of using ultradilute solutions of common substances. The solutions are so dilute, though, that they are often little more than water. "Homeopathic remedies, which of course contain no active ingredient, can be dangerous if they delay or replace a more orthodox treatment," Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst write, calling homeopathy "the worst therapy encountered so far -- it is an implausible therapy that has failed to prove itself after two centuries and some 200 clinical studies."

"Trick or Treatment" includes a brisk history of our evidence-based approach to medicine, tracing the development of the modern clinical trial from its earliest days, when scurvy was shown to be caused by insufficient vitamin C and bleeding was debunked as a medical cure. Unfortunately, the evidence of clinical trials is largely ignored when it comes to alternative medicine.

So the treatments persist: Americans spend an astonishing $3 billion annually on chiropractors and about $1.5 billion on homeopathy, not to mention billions more for herbal remedies. Government is complicit: Most states mandate health-insurance coverage for chiropractic visits, and many states direct insurers to cover the cost of acupuncture -- another remedy with far fewer benefits than are commonly claimed for it.

Why is there so much blind faith? Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst blame media hype, celebrities and even certain doctors -- complementary-medicine doctors for shading facts but also, importantly, conventional doctors whose high-handedness breeds patient frustration, opening the door to the seductions of alternative medicine.

"Alternative medicine is not so much about the treatments we discuss in this book," the authors write, "but about the therapeutic relationship. Many alternative practitioners develop an excellent relationship with their patients that helps to maximize the placebo effect of an otherwise useless treatment." To bring all treatments in line with rigorous science, an "excellent relationship" between doctor and patient is a good place to start.

Dr. Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is a former official at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
23825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evan Sayet's Right to Laugh on: August 19, 2008, 03:12:17 PM

http://dirtyharrysplace.com/?p=3763
23826  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 02:44:10 PM
BO's not a front runner any more cheesy

And I wonder where he will be after the Hillbillary Clintons are done putting a cigar up his sanctamonious butt at the Demogogue convention  evil
23827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: August 19, 2008, 02:41:09 PM
Here's the Mahdi Army's approach to interrogation:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/08/19/iraq.mosque/index.html
23828  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 19, 2008, 01:41:12 PM
GM, I too await your response to those two, but while the rest of us wait, I indulge in a moment of frivolity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohtIosIXg8

here is a longer version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU6AVtQethw&feature=related
23829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia Still a hungry empire on: August 19, 2008, 12:09:10 PM
Russia Is Still a Hungry Empire
By MATTHEW KAMINSKI
August 19, 2008; Page A17

The sight of Russian tanks rolling through Georgia was shocking yet familiar. Images flash back of Chechnya in 1994 and '99, Vilnius '91, Afghanistan '79, Prague '68, Hungary '56. Before that the Soviet invasions, courtesy of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, of Poland and the Baltics in '39 and '40. Kazaks, Azeris, Tajiks, Ukrainians remember -- from family stories and national lore -- their own subjugation to Russian rule.

 
AP 
Other empires such as Britain and France adjusted, not without difficulty, to the fall of their distant domains. Far more of Russia's essence is tied up in the Imperium, and it barely tried to find a new identity after the Soviet Union fell. The war in Georgia marks an easy return to territorial expansion (here Moscow has taken chunks of Georgia for itself) and attempted regional dominance.

Russia is a relatively young nation, dating from after the turn of the previous millennium. Drive the highway from Gori to Tbilisi and you'll find signs of Christianity that predate Russia by some five centuries. Georgians will tell you, with a mixture of pride and scorn, that their culture and history goes back a lot deeper than Russia's.

Starting out as an isolated village, Muscovy grew by conquest, swallowing up lands and people at a dizzying rate, especially from the 18th century on. Though Russian nationalists claim otherwise, as a nation the Russians are a mix of Slavic, Asian and other European ethnicities. This national hodgepodge was wrenched together by an authoritarian czar who claimed his right to rule from the heavens.

The Soviets were even better empire builders. Vladimir Putin, whose formative years were spent in Dresden spying on the East German colonials, comes from this tradition.

Never in the history of empire was the periphery generally so much more advanced than the center. With each move into Europe, from the partitions of Poland to Stalin's great triumph at Yalta, Russia acquired what it didn't have -- an industrialized economic base, better infrastructure and above all contact with Western civilization. Aside from St. Petersburg and a few other towns, Russia itself stayed a largely rural, Eastern Orthodox backwater. It knew it too.

In the Soviet days, Russian culture, language and history were pressed on its captive nations. But these nations in and outside the U.S.S.R. never gave up their dreams of freedom. Starting in the Baltics, and then spreading to the Caucasus and Ukraine, their resurgence was, as much if not more than Mikhail Gorbachev, the internal force that brought about the Soviet Union's collapse. They easily imagined life without Mother Russia. Russia could not reciprocate. To dominate is to be.

Boris Yeltsin tried to give Russians an alternative narrative. For his own political survival he had to stoke a Russian reawakening against the Soviet behemoth. After leading the charge against the 1991 putsch, Yeltsin put forward democracy as a unifying and legitimizing idea for the new Russian state. But that went up in smoke with the shelling of the Russian parliament in 1993, the first Chechen war and the rise of the oligarchs.

Yeltsinism was fully discredited by the time Vladimir Putin took over. He doesn't give the impression he ever believed in its main precepts of partnership with the West and freedom at home. For a while, Mr. Putin pushed some economic modernization, including cleaning up the tax code. His instinct, however, led him toward the past. The so-called humiliations of the Yeltsin era, which to most Westerners who lived there then looks like a golden era of relative normalcy, called for vengeance. The young democracies around Russia that chose a future in the West were to be forced back into Moscow's sphere of influence.

It is curious to hear Russia invoke the Kosovo precedent to justify its invasion of Georgia. There is an unintended parallel. Two former communist apparatchiks (Mr. Putin and Slobodan Milosevic) took over weakened, demoralized countries and thought expansionist nationalism would lead them to glory.

The second Chechen war consolidated the Putin hold on power in 1999 -- as stirring up the Serbs in Kosovo did for Milosevic in the late 1980s. The Serbs were then like the Russians are today. A European nation, though somewhat set apart by Orthodox Christianity, that opts out of the Western mainstream. This choice, alas, requires victims like Kosovo Albanians or Georgians -- small nations whose fate the outside world might ignore.

The images from Georgia brought me back to a late May evening 12 years ago in Murmansk, the seat of Russia's Northern Fleet. There ahead of elections, I'd met a smart and amiable teacher in the Russian Arctic city who, true to his nation's reputation for hospitality, invited me home for vodka and some dinner.

Hours into our meeting I'd mentioned that perhaps Russia, then looking for its place, might aspire to become something like prosperous Norway just across the border from Murmansk -- a country able to provide its people a good life. It stopped him cold. In this grim setting, my new friend spat in disgust and said, "Russia is no Norway. It is a great power. It is destined to be great." Mr. Putin would doubtless agree.

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.
23830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 19, 2008, 12:03:47 PM
Barack Obama had made real strides in defusing the abortion issue with pro-life voters as late as last week. The Democratic platform had been modified to include language signaling the party's commitment to reducing the number of abortions and supporting women who decide to have a child. In a significant symbolic move, pro-life Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania has been invited to address the Democratic National Convention on its second night. Back in 1992, Democrats did enormous damage to themselves with pro-life voters when they blocked Mr. Casey's father, the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, from speaking.

But Mr. Obama eroded many of those gains last Saturday when he told Pastor Rick Warren during a nationally televised forum that deciding when the rights of personhood should be extended to the unborn was "above my pay grade." Even Doug Kmiec, a conservative Pepperdine University lawyer who has become one of Mr. Obama's most prominent pro-life backers, was unsettled. He called the candidate's answer "much too glib for something this serious."

Mr. Obama compounded his problems after the forum when in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he accused pro-life groups of "lying" about his record in the Illinois State Senate on legislation that would have protected viable babies born after botched abortions. Mr. Obama acknowledged voting against the bill but said he would have voted "yes" if the bill had contained language similar to a federal bill's language making clear that the intention wasn't to diminish overall abortion rights. But, as recently revealed, the Illinois bill had indeed included such language and Mr. Obama still voted against it.

"Senator Obama got caught in the twisting of the truth," says Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "His campaign was later forced to put out a clarifying statement that it was the Senator himself who was actually wrong on the facts. He did indeed vote against a bill in the Illinois State Senate that was identical to the federal legislation that sought to protect babies who survive abortions."

Mr. Obama's stand on the issue is significant. The federal "Born Alive Infant Protection Act" sailed through the Senate in 2001 on a vote of 98 to 0. The bill was supported by Senator Barbara Boxer, the body's leading pro-choice spokeswoman, and was not opposed by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. By getting his facts wrong, Mr. Obama is now in the difficult position of trying to explain why he voted against a bill that the legislative record shows addressed infanticide rather than abortion.

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that a group calling itself The Real Truth About Obama is working to establish a Web site and air radio ads to publicize its view of Mr. Obama's voting record. MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan says he's been told other outside groups are planning their own ad campaigns on Mr. Obama's abortion votes.

-- John Fund

Pennsylvania Play

Senator Barack Obama's strong poll showings in Pennsylvania are not being taken for granted by the Democratic National Committee -- and for good reason. He was leading by 12 points as recently as June, but two new polls show him going backward. Quinnipiac's latest has him just seven points ahead of John McCain; Franklin & Marshall shows him leading by eight.

Mr. Obama still runs far ahead in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia and does well in the suburbs (a battleground in 2004), but hasn't been able close the deal with blue collar, socially conservative and Catholic voters in western and rural Pennsylvania. To help stem the tide, his campaign and the DNC announced last week that pro-life Senator Bob Casey Jr. will speak the second night of the convention, alongside Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Mr. Obama also tapped freshman Democratic Congressman Patrick J. Murphy of the Philadelphia suburbs, the House's only Iraq veteran, to deliver a tribute to veterans the following day.

What should John McCain's countermove be? According to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and cable-show host Michael Smerconish, the answer is former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. "If you can't stomach [Mitt] Romney, take Tom Ridge [as Veep nominee]. This guy has an amazing story: Raised in public housing, he's a Harvard-educated Vietnam veteran. Ex-governor, secretary of Homeland Security, he's a Pennsylvanian with a Central Casting dynamic. Disregard those who say you need a pro-life running mate. Those who say they'll throw you under the bus on this issue hate Obama, and will never sit home. You'll lose by running to the right -- you can only win by running to the middle."

-- Robert Costa

George 'Offshore' Soros

George Soros, one of the richest individuals in the world, has made a name for himself as a financier of the American left, which has been staunchly, stubbornly opposed to offshore drilling in the U.S. Mr. Soros is a big-time backer of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and his nongovernmental organization Open Society is on a campaign "to spread resource wealth in less developed countries." Mr. Soros himself has personally endorsed Al Gore's crusade on global warming and accuses the Bush Administration of being "in denial" about the threat.

But as one of the world's most successful investors and speculators, Mr. Soros seems to have a different set of standards when it comes to his own wallet. His moral indignation takes a back seat to the profit motive. To wit, the billionaire do-gooder has purchased an $811 million stake in Petrobras, "making the Brazilian state-controlled oil company," according to Bloomberg News on Friday, "his investment fund's largest holding."

It's not only that Petrobras is a fossil fuel company. The more interesting aspect of the Soros investment is that Mr. Soros's Petrobras investment cannot be profitable if the company does not exploit its Tupi oil field, the largest offshore find in the hemisphere. Indeed, Petrobras is rapidly emerging as a world leader in technology to exploit such no-no reserves, while Brazil has thousands of miles of pristine coastline and a large indigenous population. Is Mr. Soros not outraged that he will be funding corporate interests that threaten these? Apparently not as long as there is money to be made that will go into his own pocket.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Quote of the Day I

"A former Senator and vice-presidential candidate misused campaign contributions and money pledged to fight poverty so he could bring his mistress on the campaign trail with him during the presidential campaign where he was constantly making appearances with his widely admired cancer stricken wife then fathered the mistress's child sometime around the time he was getting a Father Of The Year Award and then asked his loyal aide who already has a wife and kids to falsely claim paternity while the fake dad and the mistress were funneled money so they could move to be near the mistress's psychic healer friend while the former candidate continued to meet the mistress and baby until he was caught by tabloid reporters and hid in the bathroom and then confessed on national TV a couple of weeks later but both he and his wife continued to lie during that interview and in subsequent statements. And the press is supposed to yawn that story off?" -- liberal blogger Lee Stranahan, writing at HuffingtonPost.com on why media interest in the John Edwards scandal isn't going away.

Quote of the Day II

"[Anti-Obama author Jerome] Corsi's approach to politics is both destructive and self-destructive. If Senator Obama loses, he should lose on the merits: his record in public life and his political philosophy. And while it's legitimate to take into account Obama's past associations with people like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- especially for someone like Obama, about whom relatively little is known -- it's wrong and reckless to throw out unsubstantiated charges and smears against Senator Obama. Conservatism has been an intellectual home to people like Burke and Buckley. The GOP is the party that gave us Lincoln and Reagan. It seems to me that its leaders ought to make it clear that they find what Dr. Corsi is doing to be both wrong and repellent. To have their movement and their party associated with such a figure would be a terrible thing and it will only help the cause of those who hold both the GOP and the conservative movement in contempt" -- Peter Wehner, a former aide to President Bush, writing at Commentary magazine's blog on Jerome Corsi's controversial new biography of Barack Obama.

A Time for Mouth Action?

The Russian invasion of Georgia benefits John McCain by allowing him to show off his foreign-policy credentials -- that's conventional political wisdom and Barack Obama did his best to confirm it last week with his halting and shifting responses from his vacation spot in Hawaii.

After initially even-handedly blaming both sides for the fighting, Mr. Obama got "tough." But even his toughness had a way of betraying him. "Now is the time for action -- not just words," Mr. Obama finally got around to saying Tuesday. But Mr. Obama couldn't list any actions that America, as a country, should take, or that Mr. Obama, as president, would take.

Instead, his action plan was a list of things for the Russians to do: "It is past time for the Russian government to immediately sign and implement a cease-fire. Russia must halt its violation of Georgian airspace and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia."

Mr. Obama's statement was, well, just words, offering little comfort to those wondering how Mr. Obama would handle himself in a foreign policy crisis.

-- Brian M. Carney

23831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Wesbury on Inflation on: August 19, 2008, 11:52:27 AM
Wesbury is an outstanding economist-- one of the very best.
=================================================


Inflation Is a Clear and Present Danger
By BRIAN WESBURY
August 19, 2008; Page A17

The most painful and frustrating economic policy blunder of the past 50 years was the Great Inflation of the 1970s. Painful, because it was the catalyst for three damaging recessions (1973-75, 1980, 1981-82), all the while eroding living standards and seriously undermining confidence in America.

It was also deeply frustrating. Despite the teaching of Milton Friedman -- which clearly explained that inflation was caused by too much money chasing too few goods -- a combination of bad economic models, denial and political expediency allowed it to happen.

 
Corbis 
President Reagan meets with Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, 1981.
One would think that the odds of a repeat were low, and for 20 years, after Ronald Reagan and his Fed Chairman Paul Volcker had the courage to get inflation under control with tight money and tax cuts, this was true. Unfortunately, the lessons seem to be fading. Today, the U.S. (and through it the world) faces its greatest threat from inflation in 30 years. And as in the past, this threat is being met with denial and political expediency.

Today's problems began seven years ago in 2001, when the Federal Reserve overreacted to the deflationary mistake it made in the late 1990s. The Fed vigorously pumped money into the economy in order to drive interest rates down rapidly.

As is so often the case, after the Fed has acted, but before the typical lag in monetary policy has fully played out, conventional wisdom argues that the Fed has become impotent. Back in 2002 and 2003, the logic was that the Fed was powerless over globalization, and low-cost labor would continue to feed deflation. In addition, because long-term rates were rising as the Fed cut short-term rates, many thought that markets were undermining Fed intentions.

But, as always, when the Fed injects excess liquidity into the system, inflation begins to rise. As early as 2002, soaring commodity prices and a falling dollar became the canaries in the coal mine of excessively loose monetary policy.

In their wake, almost every measure of inflation in the U.S. has moved significantly higher. In the past year, producer prices have increased 9.2%, while consumer prices are up 5.6%. Yet, because there are so many measures of inflation it is possible to focus on some, for instance consumer prices excluding food and energy (aka, "core" CPI), which remain benign. This allows many to say there is no inflation.

But oil and food are absorbing a large part of excess Fed liquidity. When consumers spend more on energy, they have less to spend in other arenas. This reduces demand for other goods, keeping prices lower than they would be otherwise. This helps explain the divergence between overall and core measures of inflation.

This divergence is now coming to an end. If the recent decline in energy and food prices continues, that money will be released and other prices will start to rise more quickly. The July jump of 0.3% in "core" CPI inflation is likely one of the first signs.

Some argue that the recent drop in commodity prices indicates lessening inflationary pressures. But nothing could be further from the truth. Commodity prices had reached levels that were not justified by current monetary policy. As a result, their pullback is just a correction, not the beginning of a new trend. If this pullback had occurred as the Fed was lifting the federal-funds rate, like back in 1999, it would be a different story. Excluding food and energy from the CPI is sometimes justified because their price movements are often volatile and short-lived. But the five-year average annual growth rate of the CPI, which should smooth out any short run issues, is now 3.6% -- its highest level since 1994. Moreover, the Cleveland Fed's trimmed mean CPI, which excludes the 8% of prices growing the fastest and the 8% growing the slowest, is also up 3.6% in the past year -- its fastest growth since 1991.

When investors hear comparisons of today with the 1970s, they immediately think double-digit inflation. But, it's not that bad -- yet. It took 20 years of accommodative monetary policy in the 1960s and '70s to create the Great Inflation. A more accurate comparison on the inflation front would be the late 1960s, when consumer price inflation accelerated to 6% from about 1%. This period was the precursor of the 1970s. Except for catch-up after the wage and price controls of 1971, the actual move into double-digit inflation did not occur until the late '70s.

With the real (or inflation-adjusted) federal-funds rate now negative, the signals are clear. The Fed is still adding more money to the system than is demanded, and this suggests that the general increase in inflationary pressures will continue. The only question is whether policy makers will get the courage to fight inflation before it gets out of control.

And this is the rub. Much like the 1970s, there is a widespread denial that inflation is a problem today. Some argue that Fed policy is not easy, either because the money supply is not growing, or that banks are deleveraging, which counteracts any attempt by the Fed to inject money.

The first argument hits at the root of Friedman's monetary theory. If money is not growing, then how can inflation be a problem? But money is growing. No measure of money is declining, despite bank deleveraging, and Reserve Bank Credit (the Fed's balance sheet) has expanded at a 14.4% annual rate in the past three months.

Another sign of easy money is that every country that pegs to the dollar, including China and the United Arab Emirates, is experiencing a rapid acceleration in its inflation rates as it imports inflationary U.S. monetary policy.

The second argument is belied by history. Between 1983 and 1994, exactly 2,747 U.S. banks and S&L's failed, representing total assets of $894 billion. During that period of deleveraging, real GDP in the U.S. expanded at an annual average of 3.5%. The Great Depression is the only period of sharp economic contraction in the U.S. correlated with bank failures. But that was clearly related to a deflationary mistake in Fed policy. Real interest rates were outrageously high in the late 1920s, and much of the '30s, which is not true today.

One of the reasons that monetary policy is so loose today is that our economy is addicted once again to easy money and low interest rates. We hear over and over that the Fed cannot tighten because the housing market and the economy are vulnerable. This was the same argument made in the pre-Volcker 1970s, when the U.S. bounced from one economic crisis to the next.

But a look back at the past 40 years clearly shows that the economy was much healthier in the 1980s and '90s, when real interest rates were high, rather than low as they were in the 1960s and '70s.

The Fed's "dual mandate" -- to keep the economy strong and prices stable -- serves to support this mistake. In contrast, the European Central Bank has a single mandate: price stability. No wonder the dollar has been so weak relative to the euro. Imagine two football teams. One with a single mandate: win. The other with a dual mandate: win and keep your uniforms clean. It's clear that the one with the single mandate will have more success in achieving its goals over time.

It is this combination of denial of actual inflation, bad economic models and the political expediency of keeping interest rates low that makes a repeat of past policy mistakes likely. In the end, inflation can be controlled -- the Volcker-Reagan strategy of tight monetary policy and tax cuts still holds the key -- but only if policy makers find the courage.

Mr. Wesbury is chief economist at First Trust Advisors, L.P.
23832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 11:30:14 AM
Said with love, but I found that to be a useless piece of chattering class drivel that typifies exactly what my post of the David Brooks piece describes.  Its precisely because of chattering twits life Cafferty that any sane candidate gets driven towards the crisp pat answers Cafferty says he describes.

Take this "He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich."  I actually heard McCain's whole answer to the question on Larry Elder, and it was thoughtful, sound, and well said-- not the evasion Cafferty evades his substance with because  Cafferty is too busy trying to pin a "gotcha" on McC. 

McC was certainly far from my preferred candidate, but I do strongly prefer him to Barack "afraid to work without a teleprompter" Obama.  McC regularly put himself in unscripted town halls meetings and BO has kitited out from accepting McC's challenge for 10 such debates.  What is His Glibness afraid of?
23833  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 19, 2008, 08:38:32 AM
Just a bit of housekeeping.  I have pasted the "Open Letter" thread below, so that I no longer need to "sticky" it, which clutters up the beginning of the forum:
================================

Open Letter from Crafty Dog
« on: February 01, 2007, 01:09:50 PM »     

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A Howl of Greeting to All:

It has been brought to me attention that there has been concern by some
people about my mingling of politics and martial arts on the Public Forum.

For me, it was logical to do so.  With the attack by the Islamo-Fascists on
911, Dog Brother Martial Arts' mission statement of "Walk as a Warrior for
all your days" naturally connected with the idea of the heroes of Flight 93
on 911.  In short, as behooves a free people,  the idea is that "We the
people" step forward in our own behalf-- just as envisioned by our Founding
Fathers in the Second Amendment of our Constitution and in Section 311 of
Title 10 of the US Code.

As I see it, our homeland is under attack.  This attack did not begin on 911.  It did not
finish with the attack of 911.  911 was simply one step in a progression-- 
the next step of which may include nuclear contamination.   (Even on 911 the
risk was there:  What would have happened had the Islamo Fascists had flown
Flight 93 into the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island and left
Pennsylvania glowing for several hundred years?)

THIS is the context in which I began including politics on the General
Forum.

Where I rather blithely have missed the point however was in my failure to
appreciate that some people on the Public Forum were worried that
participation in Dog Brothers Martial Arts meant agreement, or would be
taken by others to mean agreement with my distinctive politics.

Certainly this has not been my intention!

I am well aware that intelligent people of good faith can and do come to
different conclusions about how to best go about responding to the
challenges and dangers of our time!

So, please allow me to be perfectly clear: Dog Brothers Martial Arts is for
anyone of any political or religious persuasion that accepts Respect,
Reciprocity and Reason as the basis of human interaction.  When we come
together to train, it is as if we are part of the Olympics.

To accentuate this principle, we have re-organized the public forum so as to
put Politics in its own Forum.  The Spanish language forum continues as
before, but the previous General Forum has now been divided into three
forums:

·         Martial Arts and related matters:

·         Science, Culture & Humanities

·         Politics & Religion:

Whichever forum(s) you go to, we promise you high-IQ, informed, passionate, and lively reading.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
23834  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: August 19, 2008, 08:35:53 AM
From Lonely Dog:

A heartly wuff to all fighters

As you probably know there will be in few weeks the European "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" 2008

I send you this e-mail to kindly remember you to register if you want to fight. 

Please if you haven't done it already send the filled Fighter's Registration form to:

Benjamin Rittiner
Kampfkunst Schule Bern
Waisenhausplatz 21
3011 Bern
Schweiz

If you want more informations or to have a look at the registered fighters: http://www.dogbrothers.ch/pages/en/dog-brothers/gathering.php

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

Schedule:
Saturday 27. September, 4 pm (16:00)

Location:
Turnhalle Bleichestrasse / Stettlen, Switzerland

Registration:
As always, there is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they have fought before. The Fighter's registration form must be filled out whether you have fought before or not. For registration and the registration form please contact me at: lonelydog@dogbrothers.ch

You have to be register until 15. September! Only those who are pre-registered are allowed to fight. You are not registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on the website!

I’m looking forward to have one more time a “DB Gathering of the Pack” in Europe!
And would be glad to see many of you again.

Wuff
Guro Benjamin “Lonely Dog”


The Magic Words:

The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day! This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way! Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies."

This matter of accepting all risks applies to those of you observing as well!

For example, sticks and fighters may go flying into the crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. If a stick or a fight comes careening your way know that the fight has right of way, it is on you to get out of the way! If you are sitting in or near the front row, we will not make fun of you if you wear protective headgear!

As always, NO VIDEO CAMERAS and NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS WILL BE ALLOWED.
23835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: olympics on: August 19, 2008, 08:07:08 AM
Which is why I haven't watched  cheesy
23836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Deism on: August 19, 2008, 08:06:17 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism#Deism_in_the_United_States

A good place to begin with regards to an important strand of thought amongst our Founding Fathers.
23837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: August 19, 2008, 07:55:40 AM
Woof All:

If you are not already familiar with reader supported reporter Michael Yon, you should be.  A former Special Forces soldier, MY goes on patrol with the troops and also gets out and about and gets the real story.  I gave as heavily as I could to support Michael Yon's brave and insightful coverage of the Iraq War.  Now, once again he goes to Afghanistan.  And once again, I give as heavily as I can.  I just finished enabling monthly donations via his website.

To read what he is up to right now, go to http://www.michaelyon-online.com/

Michael Yon seeks Truth.  He is quite willing and able to criticize Foul Ups and say when he sees as doing wrong.  His courage and insight make him a special resource.  If you want Truth and insight from the front lines, if you are tired of MSM hypocrisy, dishonesty, ignorance and incoherence, it is time to count your blessings (for most of us, as Americans) and share a bit of your bounty to support this man's work.

Time to put up or shut up.

The Adventure continues,
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
23838  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest on: August 19, 2008, 07:16:56 AM
URL?
23839  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2008, 07:15:40 AM
Grateful for the moment with my 6 year old daughter and her best friend, sitting in my truck and watching a monster racoon crossing the street in front of our house.  The expressions on their faces were priceless.
23840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 07:13:41 AM
From the NY Times chattering class:

The Education of McCain
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: August 19, 2008

On Tuesdays, Senate Republicans hold a weekly policy lunch. The party leaders often hand out a Message of the Week that the senators are supposed to repeat at every opportunity. Sometimes there will be a pollster offering data that supposedly demonstrates the brilliance of the message and why it will lead to political nirvana.

John McCain generally spends the lunches at a table with a gang of fellow ne’er-do-wells. He cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally ridicules the whole proceeding. Then he takes the paper with the Message of the Week back to his office. He tosses it on the desk of some staffer with a sarcastic comment like: “Here’s your message. Learn it. Love it. Live it.”

This sort of behavior has been part of McCain’s long-running rebellion against the stupidity of modern partisanship. In a thousand ways, he has tried to preserve some sense of self-respect in a sea of pandering pomposity. He’s done it through self-mockery, by talking endlessly about his own embarrassing lapses and by keeping up a running patter on the absurdity all around. He’s done it by breaking frequently from his own party to cut serious deals with people like Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He’s done it with his own frantic and freewheeling style, which was unpredictable, untamed and, at some level, unprofessional.

When McCain and his team set out to win the presidency in 2008, they hoped to run a campaign with this sort of spirit. McCain would venture forth on the back of his bus, going places other Republicans don’t go, saying things politicians don’t say, offering the country the vision of a different kind of politics — free of circus antics — in which serious people sacrifice for serious things.

It hasn’t turned out that way. McCain hasn’t been able to run the campaign he had envisioned. Instead, he and his staff have been given an education by events.

McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.

McCain started out with the same sort of improvised campaign events he’d used his entire career, in which he’d begin by riffing off of whatever stories were in the paper that day. It didn’t work. The campaign lacked focus. No message was consistent enough to penetrate through the national clutter.

McCain started his general-election campaign in poverty-stricken areas of the South and Midwest. He went through towns where most Republicans fear to tread and said things most wouldn’t say. It didn’t work. The poverty tour got very little coverage on the network news. McCain and his advisers realized the only way they could get TV attention was by talking about the subject that interested reporters most: Barack Obama.

McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.

And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.

23841  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 19, 2008, 06:56:49 AM
As logical as GM is, I still think there is a legitimate issue of deep importance here.

The natural slack of Life that has protected us from the State achieving Orwellian capabilities is being tightened-- at an accelerating pace.  The plethora of laws and petty regulations that are not fully enforced because of lack of Orwellian "Big Brother is Watching" capabilities WILL become ever more rigorously and vigorously enforced. 

Changing subjects (for a moment?) here's this:

You are welcome to forward this e-mail; please encourage your colleagues to sign up for periodic mailings at http://www.aele.org/e-signup.html
 
1. The September 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new articles:

* Police Civil Liability
Police Interaction with Homeless Persons 
Part Two - Panhandling and Use of Force
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ101.html

* Discipline and Employment Law
Disciplinary Consequences of Peace Officer Untruthfulness
Part One - Job Applications
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ201.html

* Corrections Law
Staff Use of Force Against Prisoners
Part One: Legal Standard and Individual Liability
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ301.html

What does your community consider "aggressive" panhandling? Some cities have banned these acts:

(1) Continuing to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response to a solicitation; or

(2) Causing a pedestrian or vehicle to take evasive action to avoid physical contact; or

(3) Soliciting next to an automated teller machine; or

(4) Stating that the solicitor is stranded, homeless, or a military veteran when that is not true; or

(5) Using makeup or a device to simulate a deformity.

See our lead article "Panhandling and Use of Force."
http://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ101.html

2. The September 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications without charge. The main menu is at: http://www.aele.org/law
 
Among 100+ different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
 
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***

* Extricating a motorist
Officers acted reasonably in pulling driver from his car when he refused to get out as directed and placing him on the ground to handcuff him. The motorist had allegedly driven in a manner that caused his car to hit curbs and other objects. The court found that the force used was not excessive under these circumstances. Wisler v. City of Fresno, #CV 06-1694, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 50843 (E.D. Cal.).
http://www.aele.org/law/2008LRSEP/wisler.html

* Lethal Force
Officer who shot a suspect acted reasonably because he kept his left hand concealed during a standoff, and he told officers that he "had something" to make the officers do what he "could not," as well as having previously told a 911 operator that he could easily provoke an officer to shoot him. The officer who shot the plaintiff believed that he had made a threatening movement with his concealed hand. Dague v. Dumesic, #07-15317, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 15511 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).
http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/coa/memdispo.nsf/pdfview/071808/$File/07-15317.PDF

*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***

* Critical Incident Reviews - Right to Legal Counsel
Although mandatory participation in a critical incident review is subject to collective bargaining, troopers were not entitled to the presence of legal counsel, because the review is non-disciplinary and is not an administrative interrogation that may lead to discipline or removal. P.B.A. State Troopers v. N.Y. State Police, #118, 2008 NY Slip Op 05957, 2008 N.Y. Lexis 1930, 2008 NY Int. 113.
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/search/display.html?terms=118&url=/nyctap/I08_0113.htm

*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***

* Prisoner Assault: By Officers

Federal appeals court upholds jury verdict for defendant corrections officers in lawsuit brought by prisoner allegedly injured by them when they used force to extract him from his cell. The plaintiff prisoner admitted that he had a weapon in his pocket at the time of the incident, and the evidence showed that he had been belligerent and uncooperative, and created a disturbance. Pepper spray and a 15 OC Stinger grenade used against the prisoner had little effect and failed to subdue him. The officers then shot a 37MM Ferret OC powder round and a 28b Stinger 37 MM 60 Cal. rubber-ball round, and again failed to subdue the prisoner. Another Ferret OC powder round fired into the cell then went through a mattress that the prisoner used to barricade his cell door, and hit him in the groin area, finally subduing him. Muhammad v. McCarrell, #07-2235, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 16682 (8th Cir.).
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/8th/072235p.pdf

AELE now has a free RSS feeder for your browser's toolbar. It will directly link to a recent court case, a new article, or other document of interest. To install the RSS feeder, see the information page at: http://www.aele.org/RSS.html

Conducting research? Learn how to navigate AELE's online library of 26,000+ case digests and 300+ periodicals. http://www.aele.org/navigate.pdf


23842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: August 18, 2008, 07:18:31 PM
Another quality analysis from Stratfor:

By George Friedman

On Sept. 11, 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed Congress. He spoke in the wake of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, the weakening of the Soviet Union, and the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. He argued that a New World Order was emerging: “A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor, and today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.”

After every major, systemic war, there is the hope that this will be the war to end all wars. The idea driving it is simple. Wars are usually won by grand coalitions. The idea is that the coalition that won the war by working together will continue to work together to make the peace. Indeed, the idea is that the defeated will join the coalition and work with them to ensure the peace. This was the dream behind the Congress of Vienna, the League of Nations, the United Nations and, after the Cold War, NATO. The idea was that there would be no major issues that couldn’t be handled by the victors, now joined with the defeated. That was the idea that drove George H. W. Bush as the Cold War was coming to its end.

Those with the dream are always disappointed. The victorious coalition breaks apart. The defeated refuse to play the role assigned to them. New powers emerge that were not part of the coalition. Anyone may have ideals and visions. The reality of the world order is that there are profound divergences of interest in a world where distrust is a natural and reasonable response to reality. In the end, ideals and visions vanish in a new round of geopolitical conflict.

The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order.

The global system is suffering from two imbalances. First, one nation-state, the United States, remains overwhelmingly powerful, and no combination of powers are in a position to control its behavior. We are aware of all the economic problems besetting the United States, but the reality is that the American economy is larger than the next three economies combined (Japan, Germany and China). The U.S. military controls all the world’s oceans and effectively dominates space. Because of these factors, the United States remains politically powerful — not liked and perhaps not admired, but enormously powerful.

The second imbalance is within the United States itself. Its ground forces and the bulk of its logistical capability are committed to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States also is threatening on occasion to go to war with Iran, which would tie down most of its air power, and it is facing a destabilizing Pakistan. Therefore, there is this paradox: The United States is so powerful that, in the long run, it has created an imbalance in the global system. In the short run, however, it is so off balance that it has few, if any, military resources to deal with challenges elsewhere. That means that the United States remains the dominant power in the long run but it cannot exercise that power in the short run. This creates a window of opportunity for other countries to act.

The outcome of the Iraq war can be seen emerging. The United States has succeeded in creating the foundations for a political settlement among the main Iraqi factions that will create a relatively stable government. In that sense, U.S. policy has succeeded. But the problem the United States has is the length of time it took to achieve this success. Had it occurred in 2003, the United States would not suffer its current imbalance. But this is 2008, more than five years after the invasion. The United States never expected a war of this duration, nor did it plan for it. In order to fight the war, it had to inject a major portion of its ground fighting capability into it. The length of the war was the problem. U.S. ground forces are either in Iraq, recovering from a tour or preparing for a deployment. What strategic reserves are available are tasked into Afghanistan. Little is left over.

As Iraq pulled in the bulk of available forces, the United States did not shift its foreign policy elsewhere. For example, it remained committed to the expansion of democracy in the former Soviet Union and the expansion of NATO, to include Ukraine and Georgia. From the fall of the former Soviet Union, the United States saw itself as having a dominant role in reshaping post-Soviet social and political orders, including influencing the emergence of democratic institutions and free markets. The United States saw this almost in the same light as it saw the democratization of Germany and Japan after World War II. Having defeated the Soviet Union, it now fell to the United States to reshape the societies of the successor states.

Through the 1990s, the successor states, particularly Russia, were inert. Undergoing painful internal upheaval — which foreigners saw as reform but which many Russians viewed as a foreign-inspired national catastrophe — Russia could not resist American and European involvement in regional and internal affairs. From the American point of view, the reshaping of the region — from the Kosovo war to the expansion of NATO to the deployment of U.S. Air Force bases to Central Asia — was simply a logical expansion of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a benign attempt to stabilize the region, enhance its prosperity and security and integrate it into the global system.

As Russia regained its balance from the chaos of the 1990s, it began to see the American and European presence in a less benign light. It was not clear to the Russians that the United States was trying to stabilize the region. Rather, it appeared to the Russians that the United States was trying to take advantage of Russian weakness to impose a new politico-military reality in which Russia was to be surrounded with nations controlled by the United States and its military system, NATO. In spite of the promise made by Bill Clinton that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union, the three Baltic states were admitted. The promise was not addressed. NATO was expanded because it could and Russia could do nothing about it.

From the Russian point of view, the strategic break point was Ukraine. When the Orange Revolution came to Ukraine, the American and European impression was that this was a spontaneous democratic rising. The Russian perception was that it was a well-financed CIA operation to foment an anti-Russian and pro-American uprising in Ukraine. When the United States quickly began discussing the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, the Russians came to the conclusion that the United States intended to surround and crush the Russian Federation. In their view, if NATO expanded into Ukraine, the Western military alliance would place Russia in a strategically untenable position. Russia would be indefensible. The American response was that it had no intention of threatening Russia. The Russian question was returned: Then why are you trying to take control of Ukraine? What other purpose would you have? The United States dismissed these Russian concerns as absurd. The Russians, not regarding them as absurd at all, began planning on the assumption of a hostile United States.

If the United States had intended to break the Russian Federation once and for all, the time for that was in the 1990s, before Yeltsin was replaced by Putin and before 9/11. There was, however, no clear policy on this, because the United States felt it had all the time in the world. Superficially this was true, but only superficially. First, the United States did not understand that the Yeltsin years were a temporary aberration and that a new government intending to stabilize Russia was inevitable. If not Putin, it would have been someone else. Second, the United States did not appreciate that it did not control the international agenda. Sept. 11, 2001, took away American options in the former Soviet Union. No only did it need Russian help in Afghanistan, but it was going to spend the next decade tied up in the Middle East. The United States had lost its room for maneuver and therefore had run out of time.

And now we come to the key point. In spite of diminishing military options outside of the Middle East, the United States did not modify its policy in the former Soviet Union. It continued to aggressively attempt to influence countries in the region, and it became particularly committed to integrating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, in spite of the fact that both were of overwhelming strategic interest to the Russians. Ukraine dominated Russia’s southwestern flank, without any natural boundaries protecting them. Georgia was seen as a constant irritant in Chechnya as well as a barrier to Russian interests in the Caucasus.

Moving rapidly to consolidate U.S. control over these and other countries in the former Soviet Union made strategic sense. Russia was weak, divided and poorly governed. It could make no response. Continuing this policy in the 2000s, when the Russians were getting stronger, more united and better governed and while U.S. forces were no longer available, made much less sense. The United States continued to irritate the Russians without having, in the short run, the forces needed to act decisively.

The American calculation was that the Russian government would not confront American interests in the region. The Russian calculation was that it could not wait to confront these interests because the United States was concluding the Iraq war and would return to its pre-eminent position in a few short years. Therefore, it made no sense for Russia to wait and it made every sense for Russia to act as quickly as possible.

The Russians were partly influenced in their timing by the success of the American surge in Iraq. If the United States continued its policy and had force to back it up, the Russians would lose their window of opportunity. Moreover, the Russians had an additional lever for use on the Americans: Iran.

The United States had been playing a complex game with Iran for years, threatening to attack while trying to negotiate. The Americans needed the Russians. Sanctions against Iran would have no meaning if the Russians did not participate, and the United States did not want Russia selling advance air defense systems to Iran. (Such systems, which American analysts had warned were quite capable, were not present in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007, when the Israelis struck a nuclear facility there.) As the United States re-evaluates the Russian military, it does not want to be surprised by Russian technology. Therefore, the more aggressive the United States becomes toward Russia, the greater the difficulties it will have in Iran. This further encouraged the Russians to act sooner rather than later.

The Russians have now proven two things. First, contrary to the reality of the 1990s, they can execute a competent military operation. Second, contrary to regional perception, the United States cannot intervene. The Russian message was directed against Ukraine most of all, but the Baltics, Central Asia and Belarus are all listening. The Russians will not act precipitously. They expect all of these countries to adjust their foreign policies away from the United States and toward Russia. They are looking to see if the lesson is absorbed. At first, there will be mighty speeches and resistance. But the reality on the ground is the reality on the ground.

We would expect the Russians to get traction. But if they don’t, the Russians are aware that they are, in the long run, much weaker than the Americans, and that they will retain their regional position of strength only while the United States is off balance in Iraq. If the lesson isn’t absorbed, the Russians are capable of more direct action, and they will not let this chance slip away. This is their chance to redefine their sphere of influence. They will not get another.

The other country that is watching and thinking is Iran. Iran had accepted the idea that it had lost the chance to dominate Iraq. It had also accepted the idea that it would have to bargain away its nuclear capability or lose it. The Iranians are now wondering if this is still true and are undoubtedly pinging the Russians about the situation. Meanwhile, the Russians are waiting for the Americans to calm down and get serious. If the Americans plan to take meaningful action against them, they will respond in Iran. But the Americans have no meaningful actions they can take; they need to get out of Iraq and they need help against Iran. The quid pro quo here is obvious. The United States acquiesces to Russian actions (which it can’t do anything about), while the Russians cooperate with the United States against Iran getting nuclear weapons (something Russia does not want to see).

One of the interesting concepts of the New World Order was that all serious countries would want to participate in it and that the only threat would come from rogue states and nonstate actors such as North Korea and al Qaeda. Serious analysts argued that conflict between nation-states would not be important in the 21st century. There will certainly be rogue states and nonstate actors, but the 21st century will be no different than any other century. On Aug. 8, the Russians invited us all to the Real World Order.
23843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Steven Wright on: August 18, 2008, 06:48:37 PM
Steven Wright:

1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

2 - Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.

3 - Half the people you know are below average.

4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

8 - If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.

9 - All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.

10 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

11 - I almost had a psychic girlfriend... but she left me before we met.

12 - OK, so what's the speed of dark?

13 - How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?

14 - If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

15 - Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
=================
2008 Darwin Awards

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

Too good not to share:

Eighth Place

In Detroit , a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.

Seventh Place

A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who 'totally zoned when he ran,' accidentally, jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily run.

Sixth Place

While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8 foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand.
People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Fifth Place

Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.

Fourth Place

Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.

Third Place

After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter.... Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up, and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt.

HONORABLE MENTION

Paul Stiller, 47, and his wife Bonnie were bored just driving around at 2 A.M. so they lit a quarter stick of dynamite to toss out the window to see what would happen. Apparently they failed to notice the window was closed.

RUNNER UP

Kerry Bingham had been drinking with several friends when one of them said they knew a person who had bungee-jumped from a local bridge in the middle of traffic. The conversation grew more heated and at least 10 men trooped along the walkway of the bridge at 4:30 AM. Upon arrival at
the midpoint of the bridge they discovered that no one had brought a bungee rope. Bingham, who had continued drinking, volunteered and pointed out that a coil of lineman's cable, lay near by. They secured one end around Bingham's leg and then tied the other to the bridge. His fall lasted 40 feet before the cable tightened and tore his foot off at the ankle. He miraculously survived his fall into the icy water and was rescued by two nearby fishermen. Bingham's foot was never located.

AND THE WINNER IS...

Zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt ( Paderborn, Germany) fed his constipated elephant 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally got relief. Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the relieved beast unloaded. The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground where he struck his head on a rock as the elephant continued to evacuate 200 pounds of dung on top of him.

It seems to be just one of those freak accidents that proves... 'Shit happens'.
23844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: August 18, 2008, 08:26:29 AM
Its the NYTimes so caveat lector.  That said, this seems to be an interesting read.
=================


Helene Cooper, C. J. Chivers and Clifford J. Levy and written by Ms. Cooper.

 WASHINGTON — Five months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, long a darling of this city’s diplomatic dinner party circuit, came to town to push for America to muscle his tiny country of four million into NATO.
On Capitol Hill, at the State Department and at the Pentagon, Mr. Saakashvili, brash and hyperkinetic, urged the West not to appease Russia by rejecting his country’s NATO ambitions.

At the White House, President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer. Laura Bush, the first lady, took Mr. Saakashvili’s wife to lunch. Mr. Bush promised him to push hard for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO. After the meeting, Mr. Saakashvili pronounced his visit “one of the most successful visits during my presidency,” and said he did not know of any other leader of a small country with the access to the administration that he had.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s “red lines,” according to an administration official close to the talks.

Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, “He’s been very truthful and to me, that’s the only way you can find common ground.” It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.

The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

It is also the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence.

As with many foreign policy issues, this one highlighted a continuing fight within the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression.

On the other side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and William J. Burns, the new under secretary of state for political affairs, argued that such a sale would provoke Russia, which would see it as arrogant meddling in its turf, the officials and diplomats said.

They describe three leaders on a collision course. Mr. Bush, rewarding Georgia for its robust troop contribution to Iraq — at 2,000, the third highest, behind the United States and Britain — promised NATO membership and its accompanying umbrella of American military support. Mr. Putin, angry at what he saw as American infringement right in his backyard, decided that Georgia was the line in the sand that the West would not be allowed to cross. And Mr. Saakashvili, unabashedly pro-American, was determined to show, once and for all, that Georgia was no longer a vassal of Russia.

With a vastly more confident Russia, flush with oil money, a booming economy and a rebuilt military no longer bogged down in Chechnya, the stars were aligned for a confrontation in which Russia could, with a quick show of force, teach a lesson to the United States, Georgia and all of the former Soviet satellites and republics seeking closer ties with the West.

“We have probably failed to understand that the Russians are really quite serious when they say, ‘We have interests and we’re going to defend them,’ ” said James Collins, United States ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001. “Russia does have interests, and at some point they’re going to stand up and draw lines that are not simply to be ignored.”

Georgia Makes Its Moves

The stage for the confrontation was set in January 2004, when Mr. Saakashvili handily won the presidency after leading protests against a rigged election the previous year. He made the return of separatist areas to Georgian control a central plank of his platform.

It was a potent theme. Georgia had lost the wars against separatists in the 1990s, and Russia’s involvement stung Georgians. Mr. Saakashvili saw international law on his side. His young government, a small circle of men in their 30s with virtually no military experience, openly endorsed this thinking.

Georgia increased its troop contribution to Iraq, and in return the United States provided more military training. The Georgians clearly saw this as a step toward building up a military that could be used to settle problems with the separatists at home.

Whether they intended to build a military for fighting or deterrence is unclear. American officials said they repeatedly and bluntly told their Georgian counterparts that the Iraq mission should not be taken as a sign of American support, or as a prelude, for operations against the separatists. And it was obvious that Russia’s army, which at roughly 641,000 troops is 25 times the size of Georgia’s, could easily overwhelm the Georgian forces.

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

Page 2 of 3)



Nevertheless, the career foreign policy establishment worried that the wrong signals were being sent. “We were training Saakashvili’s army, and he was getting at least a corps of highly trained individuals, which he could use for adventures,” said one former senior intelligence analyst, who covered Georgia and Russia at the time. “The feeling in the intelligence community was that this was a very high-risk endeavor.”

 
Mr. Saakashvili proceeded against other separatist enclaves — retaking one, Ajaria, in 2004, and advancing high into the mountains of the upper Kodori Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006 to sweep away bands of criminals who had long controlled the place.

Georgia labeled it a police operation, but it was a military one: Mark Lenzi, then the country director for the nonprofit International Republican Institute, visited the region and says he saw that military markings on a helicopter had been freshly painted over with the word “police.”

Mr. Lenzi, who worked with Mr. Saakashvili’s young government, says that in retrospect, there were risks that were not adequately assessed. “It was a combustible,” he said. “But it was a little bit of the price we were willing to pay for the military cooperation in Iraq.”

He added: “I go back to the democracy thing. I’m not saying I gave them a big pass here. But looking back I should have pressed harder.”

By last November, Mr. Saakashvili’s democratic credentials were becoming checkered. Accused by the opposition of corruption, arrogance and centralization, he struck back against demonstrators and declared a state of emergency. After he won a snap election this year on a vote that the opposition said was subtly rigged, Mr. Saakashvili turned his attention back to the enclaves.

Georgia had new military equipment and the experience of Iraq. Russia had engaged in several brief air attacks and had shot down a pilotless reconnaissance plane over Georgian soil.

Inside the Saakashvili government, officials were seething. Batu Kutelia, a first deputy minister of defense, framed the presence of Russia in the enclaves with intensity. “Tell me,” he asked a reporter over dinner this spring, “would you share your wife?”

Several Georgian officials said that night that seizing South Ossetia would be militarily easy. But there was a difference between any operation in the remaining enclaves and the successful reclamation of Ajaria and the Kodori Gorge: the remaining enclaves had large numbers of Russian troops.

Russian Anger

Russia, too, was laying down its markers, strenuously protesting the West’s intention to recognize the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, set on independence after the long Balkans wars of the 1990s. The Russians insisted that independence for Kosovo would be a serious affront. Last February, the United States and the European Union, over Russia’s vehement objections, recognized an independent Kosovo.

Mr. Putin and other Russian officials drew a parallel with Kosovo: If the West could redraw boundaries against the wishes of Russia and its ally Serbia, then Russia could redraw boundaries in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

By April, before the Russians had a chance to grow accustomed to an independent Kosovo, they were being confronted with what they saw as more meddling in their backyard. On April 3, the night before the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Mr. Bush attended a dinner with European leaders and annoyed the Germans and French by lobbying long and hard for Ukraine and Georgia to be welcomed into a Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO membership.

Mr. Bush lost that battle, but won two others the next day that would anger Russia: NATO leaders agreed to endorse a United States missile defense system based in Eastern Europe, and the Europeans said invitations to the membership plan for Georgia and Ukraine might come in a year, at the next summit.

NATO leaders had invited Mr. Putin to Bucharest to speak, seeking to offset the impression that the alliance was hostile to Russia. He was cordial but clear, saying that Russia viewed “the appearance of a powerful military bloc” on its borders “as a direct threat” to its security. “The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice,” Mr. Putin said. “National security is not based on promises.”

The next day, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin went to Sochi. “It definitely wasn’t what I would call a ‘look-into-your-eyes-and-see-your-soul’ meeting,” said a Bush administration official, referring to Mr. Bush’s famous line after he first met Mr. Putin. Mr. Bush had dinner with Mr. Putin and his protégé and successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at the Russian resort, which is near Georgia. The official said the discussion centered on Ukraine and Georgia, and Mr. Putin warned, again, against the NATO push.

Asked how Mr. Bush reacted to the warning, the official said: “It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before.”

=============================
Page 3 of 3)


It appeared that the Bush administration misread the depth of Russia’s fury. A Bush administration official said the Americans understood that Russia was angry, but believed that they could forestall a worsening of the relationship by looking for other possibilities for cooperation.

 
Ms. Rice offered up an 11-page “strategic framework declaration” examining areas where the two nations could work together, which was hammered out with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that night in Sochi. The statement included language describing how they would in the future address the issue of missile defenses the United States had proposed basing in Eastern Europe. The United States promised to work toward “assuaging” Russian concerns.

Washington Weighs In

Nine days later, on April 16, Mr. Putin took action. In one of his last formal acts as president, he issued an order that Russia was broadly expanding support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and would establish legal connections with the regions’ separatist governments.

Washington was quick to rally around Mr. Saakashvili. Senator John McCain, whose campaign foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, had represented Georgia as a lobbyist, was the first to blast Russia. Mr. McCain, who already was the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, telephoned Mr. Saakashvili to offer support, and then told reporters on April 17 that “we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty.” On April 21 came a statement from a “deeply troubled” Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate.

“There’s no doubt that the Georgians have carefully cultivated a broad base of support in Washington,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign who has hosted dinner parties for Mr. Saakashvili in Washington.

Within the Bush administration, “the fight between the hawks and the doves” erupted anew, said one administration official. In this case, the people he called the “hawks” —Mr. Cheney and the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Daniel Fried — argued for more American military aid for Georgia; the “doves” — Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, Mr. Burns — urged restraint.

The United States was already providing Georgia with military aid, equipment and training, and Ms. Rice, for the time being, won the fight against adding American-provided Stinger missiles to Georgia’s arsenal.

On April 21, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down the pilotless Georgian plane over Abkhazia and released what it said was a video of the encounter. Mr. Putin responded that he had expressed “bewilderment” to Mr. Saakashvili at Georgia’s sending reconnaissance planes over Abkhazia.

A senior adviser to Mr. Saakashvili said Mr. Cheney’s office was more openly critical of the Russians after the episode than was the State Department, which struck a more balanced tone, asking Russia to explain their actions.

Bush administration officials have been adamant that they told Mr. Saakashvili that the United States would not back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia, but a senior administration official acknowledged that “it’s possible that Georgians may have confused the cheerleading from Washington with something else.”

In May and June, Russia increased the number of troops in South Ossetia and sent troops into Abkhazia, who Moscow said were going for humanitarian purposes, Georgian and American officials said.

Ms. Rice traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in July, where, aides said, she privately told Mr. Saakashvili not to let Russia provoke him into a fight he could not win. But her public comments, delivered while standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a news conference, were far stronger and more supportive.

And when she brought up NATO membership, mentioning that the Bush administration had pushed for it in Bucharest, Mr. Saakashvili jumped on the opportunity to get a public commitment that the administration would bring the matter up again with NATO before leaving office.

“So are you going — I understood you are going to give a tough fight for us in December,” he said.

Ms. Rice: “Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends.”

The Buildup

The Russians and the Georgians give different accounts of who provoked whom in the weeks before Aug. 7. Each side accuses the other of premeditated attack. While the public line from the Bush administration has been that Russia and Mr. Putin are largely to blame, some administration officials said the Georgian military had drawn up a “concept of operations” for crisis in South Ossetia that called for its army units to sweep across the region and rapidly establish such firm control that a Russian response could be pre-empted.

They note that in January, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a “strategic defense review” that laid out its broad military planning for the breakaway regions. As described by David J. Smith of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the document sets out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.

American officials said that they had clearly told their Georgian counterparts that the plan had little chance of success, given Kremlin statements promising to protect the local population from Georgian “aggression” — and the fact of overwhelming Russian military force along the border.

The shelling from South Ossetia to Georgia proper increased significantly in August. On the morning of Aug. 1, five Georgian police officers were wounded by two remotely detonated explosions on a bypass road in South Ossetia, Georgian officials said. Troops from Georgia battled separatist fighters, killing at least six people; the Georgians accused the South Ossetian separatists of firing at Georgian towns behind the shelter of Russian peacekeepers.

On Aug. 6, the separatists fired on several Georgian villages, Georgian officials said. The Russian Defense Ministry and South Ossetian officials say that Georgians provoked the escalation by shelling Russian peacekeeping positions in the region’s capital of Tskhinvali, along with civilian areas.

The Georgians said the separatists stepped up their shelling. Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili of Georgia called Mr. Fried and told him that her country was under attack, and that Georgia had to protect its people. Mr. Fried, according to a senior administration official, told the Georgian not to go into South Ossetia. The Georgians moved in on Aug. 7.
23845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kristol on the debate on: August 18, 2008, 08:10:10 AM
I had forgotten about this event until I saw this column this morning:
====================


By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Published: August 17, 2008
NY Times

While normal people were out having fun Saturday night, I was home in front of the TV. But I wasn’t enjoying the Olympics. Your diligent columnist was dutifully watching Barack Obama and John McCain answer the Rev. Rick Warren’s questions at Saddleback Church. Virtue is sometimes rewarded. The event was worth watching — and for me yielded three conclusions.

McCain and Obama Agree to Attend Megachurch Forum (July 21, 2008) First, Rick Warren should moderate one of the fall presidential debates.

Warren’s queries were simple but probing. He was fair to both candidates, his manner was relaxed but serious, and he neither went for “gotcha” questions nor pulled his punches. And his procedure of asking virtually identical questions to each candidate during his turn on stage paid off. It allowed us to see the two giving revealingly different answers to the same question.

So, I say, with all due respect to Jim Lehrer, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer — the somewhat nondiverse group selected by the debates commission as the three presidential debate moderators — one of them should step aside for Warren.

Second, it was McCain’s night.

Obama made no big mistakes. But his tendency to somewhat windy generalities meant he wasn’t particularly compelling. McCain, who went second, was crisp by contrast, and his anecdotes colorful.

Now I’m not entirely unbiased (!), so I don’t quite trust my initial judgment in such matters. But it was confirmed the next morning. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported on “Meet the Press” that “the Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context. ... What they’re putting out privately is that McCain ... may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.”

There’s no evidence that McCain had any such advantage. But the fact that Obama’s people made this suggestion means they know McCain outperformed him.

Third, Obama and McCain really do have different “worldviews,” to use Rick Warren’s term.

Perhaps the most revealing moment was the two candidates’ response to a question about evil. Yes, evil — that negation of the good that, Friedrich Nietzsche to the contrary notwithstanding, we seem not to have moved beyond.

Warren asked whether evil exists and if it does, “do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?”

Obama and McCain agreed evil exists and couldn’t be ignored. But then their answers diverged.

Obama said that “we see evil all the time” — in Darfur, on the streets of our cities, in child abusers. Such evils, he continued, need to be “confronted squarely.” And while we can’t “erase evil from the world,” we can be “soldiers” in the task of confronting it when we see it.

But, Obama added, “Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility” as we confront evil. Why? Because “a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.” After all, “just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”

It’s nice to see a liberal aware of the limits of good intentions — indeed, that the road to hell is paved with them. But here as elsewhere, Obama stayed at a high level of abstraction. It would have been interesting if Warren had asked a follow-up question: Where in particular has the United States in recent years — at home or especially abroad — perpetrated evil in the name of confronting evil? Hasn’t the overwhelming problem been, rather, a reluctance to effectively confront evil — in Darfur, or Rwanda, or pre-9/11 Afghanistan?

John McCain appears to think so. Unlike Obama, he took the question about evil to be in the first instance about 9/11. McCain asserted that “of course evil must be defeated,” and he put “radical Islamic extremism,” Al Qaeda in particular, at the top of his to-defeat list. In this context, McCain discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded by mentioning “the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform.”

So while Obama talked of confronting evil, McCain spoke of defeating it. Obama took the view that evil is generally abroad in the world; McCain focused on radical Islam and 9/11. Obama claimed that all of us must be metaphorical “soldiers” against evil; McCain paid tribute to actual American soldiers. And McCain couldn’t resist saying again Saturday night that if he has to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to get him and bring him to justice, he’ll do so.

Rick Warren remarked Saturday night that he wanted to help us understand Obama’s and McCain’s different worldviews. He accomplished his purpose.
23846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Fight for Liberty on: August 18, 2008, 07:57:15 AM

"The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of
this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember
officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the
blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and
that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."

-- George Washington (General Orders, 23 August 1776)

Reference: Maxims of George Washington, Schroeder, ed. (86)
23847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MExico's Prohibition on: August 18, 2008, 07:41:21 AM
WSJ
THE AMERICAS
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY   

 
Mary Anastasia O'Grady is a member of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and editor of the "Americas," a weekly column that appears every Monday in the Journal and deals with politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada.
Ms. O'Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She became a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. She previously worked as an options strategist, first for Advest Inc. and then for Thomson McKinnon Securities in 1983. She moved to Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1984 as an options strategist and was also a product manager and a sales manager for Merrill Lynch Canada and Merrill Lynch International during her 10 years with the company.
In 1997 Ms. O'Grady won the Inter American Press Association's Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary, and in 1999 she received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category. In 2005 she won the Bastiat Prize for journalism, which honors writers who promote the institutions of a free society. Ms. O'Grady, who was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., received a bachelor's degree in English from Assumption College and an M.B.A. in financial management from Pace University.


Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition
August 18, 2008

With the world fixated on Vladimir Putin's expansionist exploits in Georgia, a different sort of assault against a democracy south of the U.S. border is getting scant attention. But it is equally alarming.

Mexico is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against organized crime. Last week six more law enforcement officials were killed in the line of duty battling the country's drug cartels. This brings the death toll in President Felipe Calderón's blitz against organized crime to 4,909 since Dec. 1, 2006.  A number of the dead have been gangsters but they also include journalists, politicians, judges, police and military, and civilians. For perspective on how violent Mexico has become, consider that the total number of Americans killed in Iraq since March 2003 is 4,142.

Kidnapping and armed robbery numbers have also soared. In Tijuana, a kidnapping epidemic has provoked an exodus of upper-middle-class families across the U.S. border in search of safety.

As this column has pointed out many times, one reason that security has so deteriorated in the past decade is the demand in the U.S. for illegal narcotics, and the U.S. government's crackdown on the Caribbean trafficking route. Mexican cartels have risen up to serve the U.S. market, and their earnings have made them rich and well-armed.

The victims of last week's killing spree include the deputy police chief of the state of Michoacan and one of his men, a detective in the state of Chihuahua, and a deputy police chief in the state of Quintana Roo. As of July, 449 police and military officers have died in the Calderón offensive, further underscoring the price Mexico is paying for the U.S. "war on drugs." But the costs go well beyond the loss of life.

 
AP 
Doctors hold banners during a demonstration against a recent wave of crimes and kidnappings in Tijuana, Mexico.
In a developed country like the U.S., prohibition takes a toll on the rule of law but does not overwhelm it. In Mexico, where a newly revived democracy is trying to reform institutions after 70 years of autocratic governance under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupting influence of drug profits is far more pernicious.

According to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, part of the explanation for the kidnapping surge can be traced to the success of the government's squeeze on the drug runners. He told me in February that he expected the pressure to produce a fragmentation of the cartels, turf wars and an increase in other criminal activities to replace shrinking profits in drug trafficking.

If true, the kidnapping spree might be a sign that Mr. Medina Mora's strategy is working. But when federal investigators recently fingered Mexico City police in the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, Mr. Medina Mora's theory lost some credibility. Rather than being the work of demoralized criminals, kidnapping, in the capital anyway, appears to be just one business run by a well-oiled machine with institutional links.

Ricardo Medina, a leading Mexican opinion writer and the editor of El Economista, the country's top financial daily, told me on Thursday the case shows that "independent of the shooting war on drugs there is the problem of institutions being infiltrated by criminals and corrupted."

Even captured criminals often go free, Mr. Medina says, and all branches of government share responsibility for this crisis of impunity. It is true that judges can be intimidated or bribed. But it is also true, for example, that under Mexican law kidnapping is not a federal crime, and therefore must be handled by local authorities. Often victims do not want to press charges because there is a perception that the local police and local governments are in on it.

That perception has been strengthened in the Martí case, but the problem of impunity is hardly new. As Mr. Medina wrote in El Economista on Friday, "impunity is in view of everyone, day after day. We all see it even to the point of smiling ironically or shrugging our shoulders."

Why hasn't this problem been tackled? One possible explanation in Mexico City is that the district police and the rest of the district's bureaucracy represent an important constituency for the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). If the PRD's base prefers the status quo, there is a high political cost to challenging it.

Drug profits going to organized crime only complicate the matter. Writing in the latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, former U.S. foreign service officer Laurence Kerr takes a page out of U.S. history. "America has been in Mexico's shoes: flush with the bounty of illegal liquor sales, organized crime thoroughly penetrated the U.S. justice system during Prohibition. As long as Americans willingly bury Mexican drug traffickers in greenbacks, progress in constraining the trade is likely to be limited." Regrettably, Mexico's institutional reform will also be limited and the death toll will keep climbing.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

 
23848  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 17, 2008, 11:32:00 PM
Today I am grateful to have accompanied my son to a birthday party and to have watched as I saw him swim in the ocean for the first time with his friends.

I first watched for a while to get a sense of how good his judgment was (pleasantly relieved to see it to be pretty good, , , today at least) and then I joined him.
23849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: August 17, 2008, 12:34:51 PM
Secret work of SAS in Iraq exposed

The secret work of SAS troops battling Al Qa'eda terrorists in Iraq has been exposed by the American commander in the country.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:14PM BST 11 Aug 2008


British special forces had played an "immense" role in taking out terrorist bomb-making cells and insurgent leaders over the last five years, said Gen David Petraeus.

In one incident the SAS blended into the heavy Baghdad traffic by hiring a pink pick-up truck and removing their military clothing to capture a terrorist, the general said.

"They have helped immensely in the Baghdad area, in particular, to take down the al-Qaeda car bomb networks and other al-Qaeda operations in Iraq's capital city, so they have done a phenomenal job in that regard," he said.

The exposure of SAS exploits is unusual as the Ministry of Defence very rarely comments on special forces operations giving little insight.

The SAS has been operating from Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 carrying out strike operations against insurgents.

Very little is known about the success of their missions but Gen Petraeus indicated yesterday that working alongside their American colleagues in Delta Force the British had had a significant impact in defeating Al Qa'eda in Iraq.

The SAS had played a key part in defeating a network of car bombers in Baghdad that had brought devastation to the capital.

Quoting the Special Air Service motto "Who Dares Wins" the general said there had been numerous successes on many "very important operations".

"They have exceptional initiative, exceptional skill, exceptional courage and, I think, exceptional savvy. I can't say enough about how impressive they are in thinking on their feet," said Gen Petraeus, the main architect of "surge" strategy that has seen a substantial decrease in violence with the influx of extra American troops.

The SAS, working alongside MI6, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group, are based in The Station, a high security area in Baghdad's Green Zone.
SAS snipers have been extremely successful shooting dead suicide bombers about to detonate their devices and troopers have called in clinical air strikes to kill terror chiefs known as "high value targets".

Officers have said Baghdad is one of the "most challenging" environments the unit has ever faced in the world.
It is thought the troops have killed hundreds of insurgents both in Baghdad and when they have been called down to Basra to assist regular British troops.

But British special forces have paid a high price for their success in Iraq with 10 killed and scores seriously wounded, with some losing limbs.

Among the biggest cause of casualties has been from abseiling out of helicopters while carrying more than 100lbs of equipment. The troops now have a designated physiotherapist.
Last month a coroner allowed the naming of Tpr Lee Fitzsimmons and Sgt John Battersby who were killed when their RAF Puma helicopter crashed near the Baghdad suburb of Salman Pak.

Another SAS soldier Nick Brown died during a firefight with Shia fighters in Baghdad on 26 March when he was part of a team sent in to arrest a militia commander.

American commanders have also said SAS troops have been used to hunt for the five British hostage who were seized from a Finance Ministry building in Baghdad in May last year.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...q-exposed.html
23850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Icebreakers on: August 17, 2008, 11:47:02 AM
A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic
     
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: August 16, 2008
NY TIMES
A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.


 The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States’ two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.

And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska’s Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.

“All I know is, there is water where it didn’t used to be, and I’m responsible for dealing with that,” Admiral Allen said in a recent interview. Given the 8 or 10 years it would take to build even one icebreaker, he added, “I think we’re at a crisis point on making a decision.”

The cost of building icebreakers and keeping the older vessels operating until the new ones have been launched could easily top $1.5 billion, according to several estimates. Arguments for new ships include the strategic, like maintaining a four-seasons ability to patrol northern waters, and the practical, like being able to quickly reach a disabled cruise ship or an oil spill in ice-clogged waters, Admiral Allen said.

Even with the increasing summer retreats of sea ice, which many polar scientists say probably are being driven in part by global warming caused by humans, there will always be enough ice in certain parts of the Arctic to require icebreakers. Admiral Allen and members of the presidential U.S. Arctic Research Commission have been pressing lawmakers for support and urging the White House to issue a presidential directive that emphasizes the need for increased oversight of the Arctic and for new ships.

Shipping traffic in the far north is not tracked precisely. But experts provided telling snapshots of maritime activity to legislators and other officials from Arctic countries at an international conference last week in Fairbanks, Alaska. For example, Mead Treadwell, who attended the conference and is an Alaskan businessman and the chairman of the research commission, said officials were told that more than 200 cruise ships circled Greenland in 2007, up from 27 in 2004.

Lawson W. Brigham, chairman of the three-year Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment that is scheduled to finish work this year, told the gathering that more than 5,400 vessels of 100 tons or larger operated in Arctic waters in the summer of 2004. During that summer there were 102 trips in the Northwest Passage and five complete transits of that legendary route, he said.

The growing Pentagon support for the Coast Guard, which is within the Department of Homeland Security, followed several highly publicized maneuvers by Russia aimed at cementing its position as the Arctic’s powerhouse, including sending a pair of small submarines to the seabed at the North Pole a year ago.

White House officials said they have been reviewing Arctic policies for several years and were nearly finished with a new security policy on the region — the first since 1994. Bush administration officials said last week that it could be issued within a few weeks, but they declined to discuss what it would say.

The enduring question is where the money would come from for rehabilitating the older ships and building new ones. The Department of Homeland Security is still mainly focused on preventing terrorist attacks. The Coast Guard is stretched thin, Admiral Allen said, protecting facilities in the Persian Gulf, seeking drug smugglers and patrolling coastal waters elsewhere.

In Congress, the issue has mainly been championed by lawmakers from Alaska and Washington State. The Polar Sea, Polar Star and Healy are based in Seattle.

As early as 2001, the Navy issued reports saying that it had limited ability to operate ships and planes reliably in the Arctic. But with two costly wars under way, the region has remained a low priority with Navy budgets for polar analysis declining.

The letter from the three military commands to the Joint Chiefs last spring said reliable icebreakers were essential to controlling northern waters and to maintaining American research stations in Antarctica. But the Arctic was clearly the commands’ biggest concern, with the letter citing “climate change and increasing economic activity” as reasons for upgrading the icebreaker fleet.

With no current program aimed at upgrading ships and no new ones planned, the letter said, “The nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic regions.”

On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said that the military’s leadership recognized the importance of the issue and was arranging for Admiral Allen to give a presentation to the Joint Chiefs on Arctic security this year.
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