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23901  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in NYC 6/19-20 on: March 18, 2010, 07:13:13 AM
Sorry to be so thick here:  Uhh , , , what fight in New Jersey?
23902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's potential shift on sanctions against Iran on: March 18, 2010, 07:08:27 AM
China's Potential Shift on Sanctions Against Iran
AHANDFUL OF EVENTS BROUGHT STRATFOR’S ATTENTION to China on Tuesday, suggesting that China may be contemplating a shift in its position on the United States’ effort to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran for its secretive nuclear program.

First, the Chinese foreign minister told his British counterpart, who was arguing on behalf of Iranian sanctions, that while sanctions are not a “fundamental solution,” China is growing “more concerned” about the current situation. While the statement was ambiguous, it differed in tone from previous remarks, and may suggest a greater willingness on the part of the Chinese to entertain the possibility of endorsing — or not actively obstructing — sanctions. Second, the Iranian Foreign Ministry called Western visits to convince China to join the sanctions coalition “ineffectual,” adding that China was “independent enough” to resist Western policies. Iran’s rhetoric — though it may be nothing but rhetoric — could also reveal that Iran is growing more worried about losing Chinese support. Third, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — a renowned figure who played an integral role in breaking the ice between the United States and China in the early 1970s, and who commands respect in China — visited China’s top foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo, presumably to discuss Sino-U.S. tensions and Iran. Taken together, these events not only reveal the ongoing concentrated effort by the West to win over Chinese support, but also the possibility that the Chinese are considering a shift.

While China has long held that Iran must adhere to the international nuclear non-proliferation scheme and not pursue nuclear weapons, it has also resisted attempts by the United States to gather international consensus behind a new round of sanctions to punish Iran, especially “crippling” sanctions called for by Israel. China receives about half of its oil imports from the Persian Gulf, and about 11 percent from Iran. It exports gasoline to Iran, its state energy companies invest in Iranian energy production projects, and Iran’s sizable population offers a market for Chinese goods. As such, Beijing has resisted any sanctions that could break off bilateral ties, or cause tensions to escalate or conflict to erupt in the region. Moreover, Iranian nuclear weapons do not in themselves threaten China’s security. And China is attempting to position itself as an independent power in global affairs and cultivate relationships with states based on its own interests rather than those of the United States. For these reasons, Beijing has flatly and repeatedly stated that sanctions are not the solution.

“China knows that its options are poor, and so has pushed for prolonged diplomacy as the sole solution to the nuclear question.”
Nevertheless, China is also aware that it is limited in its ability to counteract the U.S. drive for international sanctions. China’s first option would be to exercise a veto against a sanctions resolution at the U.N. Security Council, but it seldom uses its veto alone, and is aware that the United States and its allies can take action outside the United Nations, which would render China even less able to affect the course of events. Its second option would be to attempt to circumvent sanctions by assisting Iran. But unlike with Russia, this option is geographically difficult, and to do so would leave China open to opprobrium and reprisals from the U.S.-led coalition. China knows that its options are poor, and so has pushed for prolonged diplomacy as the sole solution to the nuclear question.

But China knows that far more important than Iran are its vulnerabilities and limitations in dealing with the United States. Washington and Beijing have seen relations grow sour since the global recession began, namely with a series of trade disputes. Recently, however, the disagreements have emerged from deeper differences over the two countries’ economic structures. In particular, the United States has ramped up criticism of China’s currency policy, which keeps the yuan pegged to the U.S. dollar at an undervalued exchange rate so as to make Chinese exports to the United States more attractive. This practice undercuts American producers in competition with China and has become a subject of increasing criticism as the United States is struggling to manage the economic recovery — and reduce unemployment — during a year that will see midterm elections in Congress. U.S. President Barack Obama recently called for China to shift to a more “market oriented” exchange rate, a call his spokesman reiterated Tuesday. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the U.S. Congress has been forming to demand that the Treasury Department officially accuse China of currency manipulation, which would help clear the way for Congress to levy tariffs — perhaps even a blanket tariff — on Chinese imports to force China to change policies.

For China, these circumstances are incredibly alarming. After all, Beijing’s paramount focus remains internal — namely, managing its rapidly expanding economy so as to prevent an overheating or slowdown that could cause social frustrations to erupt into unrest. A critical component of this strategy is China’s export sector after the shocks of 2008-2009. The United States remains China’s biggest single market — and its most promising going forward. Beijing’s means of deterring the United States are inadequate. The theoretical option of selling off American debt is not only inherently limited by the need to find enough buyers (which, incidentally, could always be the U.S. Federal Reserve), but also self-destructive because it would negatively affect American consumption and Chinese exports. China’s anxieties are all the greater because U.S. pressure on China is springing from domestic political logic in the United States, rather than purely economic matters. This means that even policy changes to address U.S. complaints could be unsuccessful in calming the United States.

Yet the United States is in need of help on sanctions. Its effort to gather momentum continues to be challenged not only by Chinese resistance, but also (and more critically) by Russia’s reluctance to join. This has led Washington to attempt to water down the sanctions to get support, as well as to downplay Iranian progress on obtaining nuclear weapons. These moves have created tensions with Israel — which has the most to lose in the advent of an Iranian bomb and the least patience for diplomacy — but have not yet won more support for sanctions.

Which means China may have something to gain by altering its stance. STRATFOR sources in Beijing indicate that China may be willing to support sanctions if the United States were to reciprocate, for instance, by not labeling China as a currency manipulator. In other words, rather than considering whether to defend their interests with Iran at a time when the United States is showing a more confrontational attitude, the Chinese may be searching for ways to trade away Iran to gain assurances from the United States that it will not push too hard on the economic front. While it cannot be confirmed that a U.S.-China deal is in the works, Beijing is aware of Washington’s changing mood and is planning its response carefully, keeping its priorities in mind.
23903  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar with Guro Maija Soderholm on: March 17, 2010, 09:19:26 PM
Folks:

Maija is quite good.  Whenever we are in the same town (she here or I there) we get together and exchange.  Highly recommended.

TAC!
Crafty Dog

PS:  Substantial footage of her training with Maestro Sonny can be seen in our "The Grandfathers Speak-2" and in the clip for it.
23904  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 17, 2010, 12:04:38 PM
GSP is quite impressive, so that sounds about right-- but who is Hardy?  Whom has he beat?  What are his strengths and weaknesses?

23905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis on: March 17, 2010, 11:35:32 AM


The always thoughtful and well-informed Scott Grannis:

http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html
23906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Write, call, FAX your Senators and Congressman today!!! on: March 17, 2010, 11:18:43 AM
Not sure what to write/say?

Here's something a friend sent in:
=========================

Dear Friends and Senator _______,                                        March 17, 2010

 

So it has come down to this.

 

After fourteen months of dissembling and obfuscation, of the passage of a Christmas Eve Senate bill full of bribery and soul selling, Madam Speaker does not have the votes to pass the Senate Health Care Bill in the House.

 

Speaker Pelosi does not have the votes to pass the Senate bill, but she is more than willing to ‘deem the Senate bill passed’ the House with no actual vote. So much for the Obama, Axelrod claims that the American people deserve an up or down vote. You see that with ‘deemed to pass’ the Speaker can kill two birds with one stone. The Democrat party will have their Health Care Bill through both Houses and members can go home at the Easter break and claim, “I did not vote for the health Care Bill”. This could be a good thing in November if you are a Democrat and up for reelection, as all House Democrats are.  There is just one problem with the ‘deemed to pass’ strategy; Article 1 Section 7 of the Constitution of the United States (see below). As an aside, when you hear a Democrat say that the people are not interested in the ‘the process’ translate ‘process’ to mean the Constitution.

 

Meanwhile until the decision to ‘deem the Senate Bill as passed’ is made, the push is on to educate the 71% of Americans who did not get it the first 146 times Obama explained his version of Health Care. In backroom smack downs Pelosi, Axelrod and Emanuel are making threats, breaking arms and whoring with the currency of the debt of your children and grandchildren.

 

The Democrat party has been rebuffed by the people on their version of Health Care Reform for over a year. Now when the backs of the far left ideologues are against the wall and failure with its attendant baggage imminent, their last and most dangerous treachery has been hatched. They will pass a bill for the President’s signature and not have a recorded vote in the House.

 

Ask yourselves, did these Democrats take an oath to uphold the constitution? Do the ends justify the means?  If a majority political party controlling all three branches of government can institute a law without voting and thereby fundamentally reshape the relationship of every individual citizen to the Federal Government and control one sixth of the economy, is their anything such a party cannot do? Where is Robert Byrd when you need him? Are their any Statesmen left?

 

Will you be our Statesman Senator _____?  Will you refuse to vote for the reconciliation of the post ‘deemed to have passed’ unconstitutional ploy?  Will you denounce this anarchy, this tyranny? Will you?

 

 

Sincerely,



 

PS: The US has in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid $57 TRILLION in unfunded entitlements. The US is in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Rather than push through another entitlement and force upon the American people the largest tax increase in the history of the country, why doesn’t this Democrat majority do what John Kennedy did in the recession of 1961, cut taxes and Federal spending?  I guess that leftist ideologues don’t do major recessions.

23907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Deemed" to "Slaughter" the Constitutional Order on: March 17, 2010, 08:45:40 AM
WSJ:

We're not sure American schools teach civics any more, but once upon a time they taught that under the U.S. Constitution a bill had to pass both the House and Senate to become law. Until this week, that is, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving to merely "deem" that the House has passed the Senate health-care bill and then send it to President Obama to sign anyway.

Under the "reconciliation" process that began yesterday afternoon, the House is supposed to approve the Senate's Christmas Eve bill and then use "sidecar" amendments to fix the things it doesn't like. Those amendments would then go to the Senate under rules that would let Democrats pass them while avoiding the ordinary 60-vote threshold for passing major legislation. This alone is an abuse of traditional Senate process.

But Mrs. Pelosi & Co. fear they lack the votes in the House to pass an identical Senate bill, even with the promise of these reconciliation fixes. House Members hate the thought of going on record voting for the Cornhusker kickback and other special-interest bribes that were added to get this mess through the Senate, as well as the new tax on high-cost insurance plans that Big Labor hates.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y
.So at the Speaker's command, New York Democrat Louise Slaughter, who chairs the House Rules Committee, may insert what's known as a "self-executing rule," also known as a "hereby rule." Under this amazing procedural ruse, the House would then vote only once on the reconciliation corrections, but not on the underlying Senate bill. If those reconciliation corrections pass, the self-executing rule would say that the Senate bill is presumptively approved by the House—even without a formal up-or-down vote on the actual words of the Senate bill.

Democrats would thus send the Senate bill to President Obama for his signature even as they claimed to oppose the same Senate bill. They would be declaring themselves to be for and against the Senate bill in the same vote. Even John Kerry never went that far with his Iraq war machinations. As we went to press, the precise mechanics that Democrats will use remained unclear, though yesterday Mrs. Pelosi endorsed this "deem and pass" strategy in a meeting with left-wing bloggers.

This two-votes-in-one gambit is a brazen affront to the plain language of the Constitution, which is intended to require democratic accountability. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says that in order for a "Bill" to "become a Law," it "shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate." This is why the House and Senate typically have a conference committee to work out differences in what each body passes. While sometimes one house cedes entirely to another, the expectation is that its Members must re-vote on the exact language of the other body's bill.

As Stanford law professor Michael McConnell pointed out in these pages yesterday, "The Slaughter solution attempts to allow the House to pass the Senate bill, plus a bill amending it, with a single vote. The senators would then vote only on the amendatory bill. But this means that no single bill will have passed both houses in the same form." If Congress can now decide that the House can vote for one bill and the Senate can vote for another, and the final result can be some arbitrary hybrid, then we have abandoned one of Madison's core checks and balances.

Yes, self-executing rules have been used in the past, but as the Congressional Research Service put it in a 2006 paper, "Originally, this type of rule was used to expedite House action in disposing of Senate amendments to House-passed bills." They've also been used for amendments such as to a 1998 bill that "would have permitted the CIA to offer employees an early-out retirement program"—but never before to elide a vote on the entire fundamental legislation.

We have entered a political wonderland, where the rules are whatever Democrats say they are. Mrs. Pelosi and the White House are resorting to these abuses because their bill is so unpopular that a majority even of their own party doesn't want to vote for it. Fence-sitting Members are being threatened with primary challengers, a withdrawal of union support and of course ostracism. Michigan's Bart Stupak is being pounded nightly by MSNBC for the high crime of refusing to vote for a bill that he believes will subsidize insurance for abortions.

Democrats are, literally, consuming their own majority for the sake of imposing new taxes, regulations and entitlements that the public has roundly rejected but that they believe will be the crowning achievement of the welfare state. They are also leaving behind a procedural bloody trail that will fuel public fury and make such a vast change of law seem illegitimate to millions of Americans.

The concoction has become so toxic that even Mrs. Pelosi isn't bothering to defend the merits anymore, saying instead last week that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Or rather, "deeming" to have passed it.
23908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 5th State asserts gun rights from Feds on: March 17, 2010, 08:14:03 AM
Forwarded to me.  The source "worldnetdaily" is not necessarily a reliable one IMHO, but the subject matter is interesting:
 
---------------------------
REBELLION IN AMERICA

5th state exempts guns. Is Washington noticing?
'I think they're going to let it ride, hoping some judge throws out case'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: March 15, 2010
9:11 pm Eastern


By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily
A fifth state – South Dakota – has decided that guns made, sold and used within its borders no longer are subject to the whims of the federal government through its rule-making arm in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and two supporters of the growing groundswell say they hope Washington soon will be taking note.
South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law his state's version of a Firearms Freedom Act that first was launched in Montana. It already is law there, in Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, which took the unusual step of specifying criminal penalties – including both fines and jail time – for federal agents attempting to enforce a federal law on a "personal firearm" in the Cowboy State.
According to a report in the Dakota Voice, the new South Dakota law addresses the "rights of states which have been carelessly trampled by the federal government for decades."
"As the federal government has radically overstepped is constitutional limitations in the past year or so, an explosion of states have begun re-asserting their rights not only with regard to firearms, but also in shielding themselves against government health care, cap and trade global warming taxes, and more," the report said.
(Story continues below)

   
   

South Dakota's law specifically notes "any firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in South Dakota and that remains within the borders of South Dakota is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce."
The provisions are nearly a mirror of the original law penned in Montana as well as those adopted in subsequent decisions by Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association spearheaded the Montana law and now describes himself as a sort of "godfather" to the national campaign.
He told WND the issue is not only about guns but about states' rights and the constant overreaching by federal agencies and Washington to impose their requirements on in-state activities.
Here are answers to all your questions about guns, ammunition and accessories.
He said he's pleased South Dakota has become No. 5, and noted Alaska, Idaho and Oklahoma all have legislation that is approaching the stage of being presented to a governor to be made into law.
The Firearms Freedom Act website also reveals that other states either with pending legislation or pending plans include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Map showing 5 states adopting gun exemptions (in green)
 

Marbut said Washington appears to be reacting the same way it did when states legalized marijuana or rejected the REAL ID national plan: by ignoring it.
"Ultimately we hope there will be lawsuits in other federal circuits, because there are two things that predispose the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case: the national scope of the issue and differing appellate decisions," he told WND.
Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center said Washington likely is not anxious for a confrontation.
"I think they're going to let it ride, hoping some judge throws out the case," he said today.
"When they really start paying attention is when people actually start following the [state] firearms laws," he said.
WND reported earlier when Wyoming joined the states with self-declared exemptions from federal gun regulation.
But when Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed his state's bill into law, it included penalties for any agent of the U.S. who "enforces or attempts to enforce" federal gun rules on a "personal firearm" in Wyoming including up to two years in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.
The bellwether likely is to be a lawsuit pending over the Montana law, which was the first to go into effect.
As WND reported, the action was filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and the Montana Shooting Sports Association in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Mont., to validate the principles and terms of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which took effect Oct. 3, 2009.
Marbut argues that the federal government was created by the states to serve the states and the people, and it is time for the states to begin drawing boundaries for the federal government and its agencies.
The government's filing in the case demands its dismissal, citing a lacking of "standing" for the plaintiffs and the court's lack of "jurisdiction," as well as the Constitution's Commerce clause. The government filing argues, "The Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have repeatedly held that even purely intrastate activities, such as those the MFFA purports to exempt from federal law, do affect interstate commerce and thus are within Congress' power to regulate. As a result, even if plaintiffs had standing and jurisdiction existed, plaintiffs' amended complaint fails to state a claim and must be dismissed."
The Commerce Clause, however, can be interpreted to have been amended by the 10th Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, adopted subsequent to the U.S. Constitution, Marbut explains.
His organization said, "The Commerce Clause was amended – by the 10th Amendment. It is a bedrock principle of jurisprudence that for any conflict between provisions of a co-equal body of law, the most recently enacted must be given deference as the most recent expression of the enacting authority. This principle is ancient. Without this principle, laws could not be amended or repealed."
Learn what you can do about your nation. Get "Taking America Back," Joseph Farah's manifesto for sovereignty, self-reliance and moral renewal
For example, U.S. courts repeatedly affirmed slavery before it ultimately was rejected.
There's no question that the components of the Bill of Rights have authority: Just look at the First Amendment, Marbut explained.
In an analysis by the Tenth Amendment Center, the gun laws were described as a nullification.
"Laws of the federal government are to be supreme in all matters pursuant to the delegated powers of U.S. Constitution. When D.C. enacts laws outside those powers, state laws trump. And, as Thomas Jefferson would say, when the federal government assumes powers not delegated to it, those acts are 'unauthoritative, void, and of no force' from the outset," Boldin wrote.
"When a state 'nullifies' a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or 'non-effective,' within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned. Implied in such legislation is that the state apparatus will enforce the act against all violations – in order to protect the liberty of the state's citizens," he continued.
23909  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 17, 2010, 07:09:57 AM
Don't know anything about Hardy , , ,
23910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in NYC 6/19-20 on: March 17, 2010, 06:57:17 AM
Uhhh  , , , what fight?
23911  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: March 17, 2010, 06:56:38 AM
In western music there are but 12 notes.  That does not mean there are no new melodies however.
23912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / MAdison, #46 on: March 17, 2010, 06:54:38 AM
"For the same reason that the members of the State legislatures will be unlikely to attach themselves sufficiently to national objects, the members of the federal legislature will be likely to attach themselves too much to local objects." --James Madison, Federalist No. 46
23913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: March 16, 2010, 05:10:55 PM
As the saying goes "It's not a justice system, it's a legal system."
23914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar on: March 16, 2010, 10:22:42 AM
Thank you for the commentary.  I had planned to ask this quesetion on the Govt. Programs or Internet thread, but since I have you here and you mention the "bandwidth bottleneck" issue, would you help me understand the issues involved with the FCC/BO plans to fund/create "high speed interent for everyone" both from the perspective of the issues here and with regard to the economic performance i.e. is it going to be a clusterfcuk or is it going to actually do some good at a reasonable cost?
23915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in NYC 6/19-20 on: March 15, 2010, 05:21:30 PM
Meow! cheesy evil cheesy
23916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: March 15, 2010, 05:20:39 PM
My take FWIW:  Even defendants who seem guilty of the nastiest of crimes, deserve able defense. 

That said, one has to be engaged in some serious cranial rectal interface to not suspect that these attorneys are motivated by something other than that; therefore a very fair and very serious question is raised when they are selected to work at DOJ.  The various dubious elements to AG Holder's background and performance on the job add to the stench.
23917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 15, 2010, 10:36:12 AM
"It's all supposed to be voluntary, those 'home visits' that are tucked into the mammoth Obamacare bill. If you have a strong stomach, and a stronger bottom, you can find home visitation on pages 568-595. That's Section 2951 of H.R. 3590, the Senate [health care] bill.... The bill provides for federal funding and supervision for this vast expansion of government intrusion into family life. This is the Nanny State on steroids. Is your family being 'targeted' for such home visitations? Let's see if you fit into one of these very broad categories: Families where Mom is not yet 21. (No mention here whether she is married or not.) Families where someone is a tobacco user. (Does this include the White House? Watch out, Sasha and Malia! Does Grandpa, whom you love and have taken in, enjoy his after-dinner pipe?) Families where children have low student achievement, developmental delays, or disabilities. As if that list were not wide-ranging enough, here's the net that can encompass tens of millions: Families with individuals who are serving or formerly served in the armed forces, including such families that have members of the armed forces who have had multiple deployments outside the United States. [Emphasis added.] ... Do you spank your children? You should know that HHS bureaucrats think you are an abuser. Do you support the Second Amendment? How would you like HHS bureaucrats asking your children if you maintain firearms in the home for family protection? Do you home-school your kids? Take care. Members of Congress who have tried to abolish home-schooling are big backers of this health care bill. Do you wonder why? ... One thing is clear: For life and liberty, we must defeat ObamaCare." --columnist Ken Blackwell
23918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gitmos indefensible lawyers on: March 15, 2010, 08:15:43 AM
By Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn
On the evening of Jan. 26, 2006, military guards at Guantanamo Bay made an alarming discovery during a routine cell check. Lying on the bed of a Saudi detainee was an 18-page color brochure. The cover consisted of the now famous photograph of newly-arrived detainees dressed in orange jumpsuits—masked, bound and kneeling on the ground at Camp X-Ray—just four months after 9/11. Written entirely in Arabic, it also included pictures of what appeared to be detainee operations in Iraq. Major General Jay W. Hood, then the commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, concurred with the guards that this represented a serious breach of security.

Maj. Gen. Hood asked his Islamic cultural adviser to translate. The cover read: "Cruel. Inhuman. Degrades Us All: Stop Torture and Ill-Treatment in the 'War on Terror.'" It was published by Amnesty International in the United Kingdom and portrayed America and its allies as waging a campaign of torture against Muslims around the globe.

"One thread that runs through many of the testimonies from prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, and from Guantanamo," the brochure read, "is that of anti-Arab, anti-Islamic, and other racist abuse."

How did the detainee get it? More importantly, who gave it to him?


David Klein
 .Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi, the detainee in whose cell the brochure was first found, told guards he received the brochure from his lawyer. An investigation by JTF-GTMO personnel revealed that Julia Tarver Mason, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, had sent it to Al Joudi and eight of the firm's other detainee clients through "legal mail"—a designation for privileged lawyer-client communications that are exempt from screening by security personnel. Worse, the investigation showed that Ms. Mason's clients passed it to other detainees not represented by Paul, Weiss lawyers. In all, more than a dozen detainees received a copy.

At Guantanamo, "legal mail" is strictly limited to correspondence between counsel and a detainee that is related to representation of the detainee, privileged documents and publicly filed legal documents. But even "legal mail," according to the rules mandated by Judge Joyce Hens Green in a 2004 protective order, prohibits lawyers from giving detainees information relating to military operations, intelligence, arrests, political news and current events, and the names of U.S. government personnel. Lawyers are forbidden from discussing other detainee cases not directly related to the representation of their own client.

The Amnesty International brochure, handed out at a human rights conference in London, was a political advocacy screed in clear violation of that order, which was formulated to protect force security. Maj. Gen. Hood made a command decision. He banned the Paul, Weiss lawyers from access to Guantanamo. The DOJ notified the firm.

Paul, Weiss immediately went on the offensive, backed by what one former Defense Department official, who requested anonymity, called "an armada of habeas attorneys." They sued the government, demanding that it defend the decision to eject lawyers from Gitmo, making the straight-faced claim that the Amnesty International brochure was a legitimate "report" that was "directly related" to their clients' defense. But their bottom line argument amounted to this: A military commander at a secure overseas military facility in a time of war couldn't remove disruptive lawyers who were inciting captured enemy detainees and endangering the safety and security of military personnel unless he first got permission from a federal judge.

In a sworn affidavit submitted to the D.C. District Court and obtained by the writers of this article in a Freedom of Information Act request, Maj. Gen. Hood did not equivocate when it came to the Amnesty International pamphlet. "The very nature of this document gives tremendous moral support to those who would strike out against our country," he stated. "It is not a factual report. Instead it is filled with second and third hand accounts, photos of protests that were staged, inflammatory photos from Iraq and provocative story captions."

Maj. Gen. Hood noted that many of the captured al Qaeda terrorists held at the camp had been "specifically trained on the Manchester Manual [an al Qaeda training manual discovered at a safe house in Britain]," which "encourages detainees to claim torture and abuse." He warned that "[e]xamples and vignettes of alleged abuse of other detainees" could be used "to fabricate their own claims of abuse and torture."

In fact, from al Qaeda's perspective, the Amnesty International brochure was better than the Manchester Manual. It cued detainees that the abuses at Abu Ghraib "were not an aberration." The brochure told them that images from the Iraqi prison were consistent with "numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment reported from detention centres in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay."

The message to the detainees was clear: If you want to claim you are being tortured, here is a vast menu of examples from which to choose.

But Maj. Gen. Hood's immediate concern about the magazine's "propaganda and misinformation" was the strong potential that it would incite detainees to act out against U.S. personnel in his facility. The Islamic cultural adviser agreed, telling Maj. Gen. Hood that "the tone of the magazine was highly inflammatory" and "would cause a negative reaction, especially amongst the more hard-core terrorist factions within the camp."

That was an understatement. Four months earlier, a core group of detainee leaders recruited as many as 131 detainees to engage in a coordinated hunger strike. The self-starvation was intended to make the detainees look like victims, win sympathy for their cause, and force the U.S. government to choose between letting them die or letting them go. The tactic worked to perfection. Human rights activists created a media firestorm with completely fabricated reports about Guantanamo medical staff using "forced feedings" to "torture" detainees.

Ms. Mason herself inflamed tensions with the hunger strikers during a visit to Guantanamo in October 2005. She told one of the detainees, Yousef Al Shehri, that the U.S. government had no court authority to feed him using a nasal tube, according to Justice Department documents. As a result, Al Shehri pulled out his feeding tube, persuaded detainees in his cell block to do the same and exhorted them to physically resist efforts to reinsert the tube. DOJ lawyers would later argue that Ms. Mason's advocacy "resulted in a disruption of camp security and a potential threat to the health of eight hunger-striking detainees."

Despite this history, Paul, Weiss attorneys were apparently so confident that the DOJ could be cowed into submission that they provided the court with exhibits—letters, emails and court filings—documenting gross violations of the protective order by other habeas attorneys whose access was not cut off, ostensibly to show that Paul, Weiss was being treated unfairly.

We obtained Justice Department accounts of some of those incidents under a Freedom of Information Act request. Examples included an incident in which a lawyer sent his detainee client the transcript of a virulently anti-American speech that compared military physicians to Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor of Auschwitz, called DOJ lawyers "desk torturers" and suggested that the "abuses carried out by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib . . . could involve the President in the commission of war crimes."

Other incidents listed in the FOIA material included: a lawyer who was caught in the act of making a hand-drawn map of a detention camp's layout, including guard towers; a lawyer who sent a letter to his detainee client telling him that "we cannot depend on the military to do the right thing" and conveying his message of support to other detainees who were not his clients; lawyers who posted photos of Guantanamo security badges on the Internet; lawyers who provided news outlets with "interviews" of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organization; and a lawyer who gave his client a list of all the detainees.

If the stated intent was to show that the government had singled out Paul, Weiss attorneys, the unstated purpose was to demonstrate something even more significant to the government's lawyers. They were outnumbered and outgunned. The Gitmo bar had grown to include some 400 lawyers from as many as 50 law firms that were subsidized by the millions of dollars earned from their paying corporate clients. They had the legal talent, the support of the international press and the judicial wind at their backs. They could bury the DOJ in paper. If one lawyer was taken out, she could be replaced by another.

"They were beaten down by the litigation," said the former Defense Department official who asked to remain anonymous. "If I'd gotten caught passing war news to detainees, my security clearance would have been pulled."

But why would American lawyers, after 9/11 and the brutal slaughter of 3,000 fellow citizens, hand members of al Qaeda information about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? The records indicate that attorneys were printing news off the Internet and passing it to detainees at the same time that U.S. forces in Iraq were sustaining devastating casualties from IED attacks.

"They would bring contraband in their briefcases, in manila envelopes," an active-duty officer familiar with Defense Department records on attorney access violations told us. "They did it because they knew the detainees were hungry for news and they wanted to establish trust."

The desire to establish trust is evident in Ms. Mason's own affidavit to the D.C. court concerning the status of her firm's representation of Saudi detainees in habeas cases. The attorneys couldn't remain as attorney of record and go forward with a habeas case if the detainees wouldn't cooperate with them. "While we have made substantial progress in developing rapport and trust with our clients," she stated, "we have not yet been able to secure from all of them written acknowledgment of our representation." She attributes this to "torture and abuse . . . at the hands of the American military" as opposed to the Islamist mindset that sees no distinction between American attorneys in suits and American personnel in uniform. Indeed, court records reveal that Yousef Al Shehri wrote to the court, "expressing in no uncertain terms that he desires neither representation, nor a lawsuit on his behalf."


Ultimately, the government would reach a settlement with the Paul, Weiss lawyers. Ms. Mason and her team were allowed to resume their trips to Guantanamo in May 2006. But the DOJ's surrender emboldened the Gitmo bar even further. Last August, the Washington Post reported that three lawyers defending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his 9/11 co-conspirators showed their clients photographs of covert CIA officers in an attempt to identify the individuals who interrogated them after they were captured overseas. Lawyers working for the John Adams Project, formed to support the legal team representing KSM and his cohorts, provided the defense attorneys with the photographs, according to the Post. None of the attorneys under investigation were identified in the Post report.

In the last several days, the debate has taken a detour about what some have called a "shameful attack" on the "noble attorneys" who have chosen to defend "unpopular people." A national security organization, Keep America Safe (of which Ms. Burlingame is a board member), used the phrase "Al Qaeda 7" in an Internet ad to describe seven unnamed Department of Justice political appointees who previously represented or advocated on behalf of terrorists.

The purpose of the ad was to prod Attorney General Eric Holder to disclose to the public which detainee attorneys he has hired to work on behalf of the American people, and whether they are involved in the policy-making decisions that will affect the nation's safety and security while we are at war. He was asked for this information by several members of the U.S. Senate, and he was stonewalling.

The attorney general has the right to select whomever he chooses to work in his department, and to set policy as he sees fit. He does not, however, have the right to do it in the dark. The policies he advances must face the scrutiny of the American people, his No. 1 client.

The public has a right to know, for instance, that one of Mr. Holder's early political hires in the department's national security division was Jennifer Daskal, a former attorney for Human Rights Watch. Her work there centered on efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, shut down military commissions—which she calls "kangaroo courts"—and set detainees who cannot be tried in civilian courts free. She has written that freeing dangerous terrorists is an "assumption of risk" that we must take in order to cleanse the nation of Guantanamo's moral stain. This suggests that Ms. Daskal, who serves on the Justice Department's Detainee Policy Task Force, is entirely in sync with Mr. Holder and a White House whose chief counterterrorism official (John Brennan) considers a 20% detainee recidivism rate "not that bad."

It is entirely legitimate to ask who else among Mr. Holder's hires from the Gitmo bar is shaping or influencing national security policy decisions. Meanwhile, the public can decide whether the lawyers at Paul, Weiss who are volunteering at Guantanamo are an example of the legal profession's noblest traditions.

We spoke to Ms. Mason's executive assistant on Friday seeking her comments. Multiple calls and emails had not been returned as this paper went to press last night.

On Feb. 20, 2007, a post on the Paul, Weiss Web site proudly announced "Paul, Weiss achieves more victories for Guantanamo detainees." Two detainees were released from Gitmo to their home in Saudi Arabia. One was Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi, a recipient of the Amnesty International "report." The Web site needs an update. The Pentagon has identified Al Joudi as a "confirmed" recidivist who is "directly involved" with the facilitation of "terrorist activities."

Yousef Al Shehri, the detainee who led his cell block in the feeding tube rebellion, was also released in November 2007. In early 2009 he was listed on the Saudi Kingdom's list of 85 "most wanted" extremists. Yousef was killed last October during a shootout with Saudi security forces on his way to a martyrdom operation. He and another jihadist, disguised as women and wearing suicide vests, killed a security officer in the clash. Yousef's brother-in-law, Said Al Shehri, also released from Gitmo, is currently the second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch that launched the Christmas Day airline attack last year.

Ms. Burlingame, a former attorney, is the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. She is a co-founder of Keep America Safe. Mr. Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
23919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, Query 12, 1782 on: March 15, 2010, 08:00:21 AM
"On every unauthoritative exercise of power by the legislature must the people rise in rebellion or their silence be construed into a surrender of that power to them? If so, how many rebellions should we have had already?" --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query 12, 1782
23920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / from Bruce Schneier on: March 15, 2010, 06:47:06 AM
There was a big U.S. cyberattack exercise last month.  We didn't do so well.
http://www.darkreading.com/security/cybercrime/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222900775
or http://tinyurl.com/y9mqfj9
http://www.thenewnewinternet.com/2010/02/16/more-must-be-done-to-prepare-us-for-cyber-attack/
or http://tinyurl.com/ydv6e5f
23921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: March 15, 2010, 06:42:11 AM
Life in Words
Print this Page

By Tzvi Freeman
Not with toil and not with struggle, but by the word of His mouth did the One Above create His world.

Not with toil and not with struggle, but with words of wisdom and kindness does He require we sustain it.

If so, what is the effort He demands from us?

That we invest our very essence in those words, as He invested His very essence within this world He made.

23922  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kali Tudo 4: The Dog Leg Game on: March 14, 2010, 11:47:29 PM
Woof All:

Boo Dog is one of the current standout Dog Brothers.  He brings an unusually well-rounded and distinctive game to the fight, including very stong kicking skills of that aren't supposed to be applicable in a stick fight (see e.g. the clip of the most recent Gathering to see him doing a spinning heel hook to the head behind a back hand strike) and outstanding MMA skills (see e.g. the clip of the most recent Gathering to see him doing a suplex on someone) based upon his being an instructor in LaBelle-Gokor K____ian and a regular sparring partner of major MMA fighters such as Manny Gamborian.

We have been getting together regularly on Sunday mornings and he has definitely been helping me develop my KT game.  Not only does he show me some really good ideas, but now that I am no longer young enough to give my ideas a fair test, he becomes someone with whom I can share KT and have him go test it with serious professional fighters.  cool cool cool

Because Boo looks at MMA with a Dog Brother/KT mind, he has developed two games which definitely meet the KT criteria.  Sometime later this year we will be shooting a DVD featuring Boo Dog  "DBMA Kali Tudo 4: The Dog Leg Game".  The Dog Leg Game integrates nicely with the Running Dog Game and like all KT material meets the criteria of the "Die Less Often- the interface of Gun, Knife, and Empty Hand."

Stay tuned!
Guro Crafty
23923  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: March 14, 2010, 11:35:20 PM
Pretty Kitty tells me the dupe house tells us it will arrive this week.  We will begin shipping immediately.
23924  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 3 on: March 14, 2010, 11:33:44 PM
Night Owl tells me the edit progresses steadily.   SWAG finishing date of early April.
23925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BP being infiltrated?!? on: March 13, 2010, 09:01:35 PM


http://video.foxnews.com/v/4102363/new-concerns-in-bloody-border-battle
23926  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: March 12, 2010, 09:45:20 PM
That caught my curiousity, but I figured "It's the Mayo Clinic , , ," 

Kaju, are you saying something bad would happen if this technique were administered in the presence of a pulse?
23927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in NYC 6/19-20 on: March 12, 2010, 05:20:17 PM
Probable material:

*Kali Tudo
*Die Less Often
*Stick(s)
*and?

New York Jiu Jitsu
666 Broadway, Lower Level
New York, NY 10012

Located at Broadway and Bond St (Entrance on Bond St.)
(212)343-8310

1:30pm - 5:30pm on Saturday
10:00am - 4:00pm on Sunday

We have not been having lunch breaks due to the break up of concentration. We recommend water and small snacks and usually offer a few short 10 minute breaks.

Thank you,
Vince Cantu
Operations Manager
New York Jiu Jitsu
(212)343-8310
23928  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rapid chest compression technique on: March 12, 2010, 01:48:27 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5huVSebZpM
23929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO & China's Exchange Rate on: March 12, 2010, 11:49:29 AM

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., on March 11Summary
U.S. President Barack Obama on March 11 called for China to institute a “more market-oriented” exchange rate. This statement will hit a nerve in Beijing, which already faces major economic challenges and is concerned about the possibility of a U.S. containment policy targeting China.

Analysis
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the Chinese currency’s exchange rate while addressing the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s annual conference March 11. Among other things, Obama called for China to institute a “more market-oriented” exchange rate. Such talk will hit a raw nerve in China, where the leadership is already facing major economic challenges and is anxious about the prospect of increasing pressure from the Americans.

Obama’s speech, “Powering Jobs, Sales and Profits through Exports,” centered on his National Exports Initiative, the administration’s strategy to boost U.S.-made exports. With high unemployment a pressing problem as the U.S. administration attempts to manage an economic recovery during a year that includes mid-term congressional elections, Obama is promoting U.S. exports as a means of increasing job availability and making up for reduced consumption’s effects on growth. The U.S. Export-Import Bank is an agent of this strategy and has targeted Brazil, China, Mexico and India as countries with massive populations whose households and businesses could buy America’s high-value added goods, from specialized machinery, vehicles and equipment to entertainment products and Internet services. New free trade initiatives also are a component of this strategy, hence Obama’s call for the United States to press forward on free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that have been signed but not yet ratified.

In addressing ways to increase U.S. exports, Obama deliberately chose to enter into the intense debate over China’s currency policies, as they have long been a point of contention between the two states. Beijing uses a variety of internal controls to ensure currency only fluctuates within a narrow band in relation to a basket of foreign currencies, where the dollar is the most heavily weighted. The reason for fixing the exchange rate to the dollar is to provide favorable conditions for Chinese exporters when selling to the United States, the world’s largest consumer market and the destination for nearly 18 percent of China’s total exports.

Before 2005, the fixed exchange rate was a means by which China facilitated its export-driven economic growth and gained market share in the United States and several other markets. From 2005 to 2008 China allowed its currency to gradually appreciate by 20 percent against the U.S. dollar in an attempt to alleviate inflationary pressures, restructure the economy (by increasing domestic purchasing power and weeding out uncompetitive enterprises) and deflect foreign criticism that the currency was undervalued to give Chinese businesses an unfair advantage over foreign rivals. But since the global financial crisis in late 2008, China has essentially “re-pegged” its currency to the U.S. dollar to preserve the best possible conditions for its exporters during a time of trouble due to weak foreign demand.

From the U.S. and European point of view, however, China’s maintaining the de facto currency peg is an unfair advantage for Chinese exporters, and this — not to mention Beijing’s other subsidies and rebates for exporters — is especially problematic during an economic downturn. The United States and Europe claim China’s practices are aggravating problems for American and European manufacturers and hurting employment. They also point out that China’s economy is growing rapidly and exports have shown growth since December 2009. In February, exports grew by nearly 45.7 percent compared to February 2009, the trough of the global recession, and by 8.2 percent compared to February 2008.

Moreover, Obama’s campaign to boost American exports has specifically targeted China, with bilateral trade negotiations ongoing despite the rhetorical harping on trade disputes. Obama wants to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China and open more of the 1.3 billion-person Chinese market. Chinese currency appreciation would not only ease competition against American manufacturers but also increase Chinese imports of American goods (since a stronger currency increases Chinese people’s purchasing power).

Even the Chinese themselves have emphasized repeatedly the need to promote domestic consumption, especially household consumption, as a means of restructuring the economy to reduce dependency on exports and develop more self-sustaining growth. However, the problem is complicated. A stronger currency will hurt export businesses and export-related employment — and the last thing China needs at the moment is slower growth and higher unemployment in the coastal manufacturing hubs that drive the rest of the economy (even though currency appreciation would benefit Chinese businesses that are reliant on imports or want to invest abroad). Though recent export growth has caused some in China to fear inflationary pressures and call for currency appreciation, Chinese leaders have stated repeatedly — most especially during the ongoing annual National People’s Congress session — that they intend to keep the exchange rate stable, lest they weaken the export sector, delete the government stimulus package and undercut economic recovery and growth. Hence the Chinese are moving very cautiously on the problem of currency appreciation.

For this reason, Obama’s comments will strike Chinese leaders as a direct attack. Not that it comes as a surprise. Beijing has been wary of the Obama administration’s stance on this issue — and other trade issues — since U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner first said China was “manipulating” its currency (a phrase laden with legal ramifications) during his talk to the Senate before his approval as treasury secretary. Then, in September 2009, the Obama administration imposed tariffs on Chinese-made tires, invoking Section 421, a measure allowing U.S. protections against Chinese goods that China agreed to when it joined the World Trade Organization. With U.S. elections coming during a period of high unemployment, and trade disputes and deeper disagreements over economic policy already flaring, Beijing has begun to fear that Washington is planning to bring more pressure to bear, and is watching intently for the Treasury Department’s report on April 15 which could officially name China a “currency manipulator,” escalating tensions.

But Chinese anxieties have a still deeper source. Beijing fears the United States is making early movements to contain China’s economic power and prevent its military and political power from increasing. In particular, China has observed recent U.S. moves to expand relations with East Asian states on China’s periphery and sees this as the nascent period of a containment policy against China. Trade appears to be an important component of this strategy, for instance with the United States formally opening up avenues for investment with Cambodia and Laos, or initiating diplomatic contact with Myanmar, in 2009. More importantly, Obama is traveling to Australia in March to launch the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade zone that would include Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam and counter China’s trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Obama is also traveling to Indonesia on the same trip, to strengthen bilateral ties.

From the Chinese point of view, U.S. pressure on its currency policy can be seen as only one aspect of what could be an overall assault on China’s rising economic power and influence. However, Beijing knows Washington is constrained in its foreign policy as long as it remains tied up in wars in the Middle East. It will therefore move quickly to prepare itself for more direct U.S. competition, diversify away from dependency on exports (especially exports to the United States), secure its lines of supply for critical goods and solidify its influence in its near abroad.
23930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy-4 on: March 12, 2010, 11:31:04 AM
Summary
Russia is working to form an understanding with regional powers outside the former Soviet sphere in order to facilitate its plans to expand its influence in key former Soviet states. These regional powers — Germany, France, Turkey and Poland — could halt Russia’s consolidation of control if they chose to, so Moscow is working to make neutrality, if not cooperation, worth their while.

Editor’s note: This is part four of a four-part series in which STRATFOR examines Russia’s efforts to exert influence beyond its borders.


Today’s Russia cannot simply roll tanks over the territories it wants included in its sphere of influence. Its consolidation of control in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia would be difficult, if not impossible, if Moscow faced opposition from an array of forces. Moscow’s resurgence in its old Soviet turf is possible because the United States is distracted with issues in the Islamic world, but also because regional powers surrounding Russia are not unified in opposition to the Kremlin.

Moscow is working to cultivate an understanding with regional powers outside the former Soviet Union that are critical to its expansion: Germany, France, Turkey and Poland. If these countries committed to halting Russia’s resurgence, Moscow would be stymied. This is why Russia is determined to develop an understanding — if not also a close cooperative relationship — with each of these countries that will clearly delineate the Russian sphere of influence, give each country incentive to cooperate and warn each country about opposing Moscow openly.

This is not a new policy for Russia. Especially before the Cold War with the West, Moscow traditionally had a nuanced policy of alliances and understandings. Germany and Russia have cooperated many times; Russia was one of the German Empire’s first true allies, through the Dreikaiserbund, and was the only country to cooperate with post-Versailles Germany with the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Russia was also France’s first ally after the 1870 Franco-Prussian war — an alliance whose main purpose was to isolate Germany.

Russia’s history with modern Turkey (and its ancestor the Ottoman Empire) and Poland admittedly has far fewer examples of cooperation. Russia throughout the 19th century coveted territory held by the crumbling Ottoman Empire — especially around the Black Sea and in the Balkans — and had plans for dominating Poland. Currently, however, Moscow understands that the two regional powers with most opportunities to subvert its resurgence are Poland (in Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states) and Turkey (in the Caucasus).





(click to view map)

Germany
Germany is the most important regional power with which Russia wants to create an understanding. Berlin is the largest European economy, an economic and political leader within the European Union and a key market for Russian energy exports — with Russian natural gas exports filling 47 percent of Germany’s natural gas needs. German opposition to Russian consolidation in Eastern Europe would create problems, especially since Berlin could rally Central Europeans wary of Moscow to oppose Russia’s resurgence. However, Germany has offered little resistance to Russia’s increasing influence in Eastern Europe. In fact, it has primarily been Germany’s opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia that stymied Washington’s plans to push NATO’s boundaries further eastward.

If it chose to, Germany could become Russia’s greatest roadblock. It is geographically more of a threat than the United States, due to its position on the North European Plain and the Baltic Sea, and it is a leader in the European Union and could offer Ukraine and Belarus substantial political and economic alternatives to their ties to Russia. With this in mind, Russia has decided to make cooperation worthwhile for Berlin.

Russia’s Levers
Russia’s obvious lever in Germany is natural gas exports. Germany wants a reliable flow of energy, and it is not willing to suffer blackouts or freezing temperatures for the sake of a Western-oriented Ukraine or Georgia. Germany initially fumed in 2005 over Russian gas cutoffs to Ukraine, but later realized that it was much easier to make an arrangement with Russia and back off from supporting Ukraine’s Western ambitions. Moscow carefully managed subsequent Russian gas disputes with Ukraine to limit German exposure, and Berlin has since fully turned against Kiev, which it now sees as an unreliable transit route.

Germany is expanding its energy relationship with Russia, since the upcoming Nord Stream pipeline will not only make more natural gas available to German consumers and industry, it will also make Germany a key transit route for Russian gas. The Nord Stream pipeline project also suggests that Germany does not just want Russia’s gas; it wants to be Russia’s main distributor to Central Europe, which would give Berlin even more political power over its neighbors.

Russia has also very directly offered Germany a key role in the upcoming privatizations in Russia. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally has invited German businesses to invest in Russia. Putin also personally intervened in the General Motors Corp.-Opel dispute in 2009, offering to save Opel and German jobs — a move designed to curry favor with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before Germany’s September 2009 general elections.

Another prominent example of the budding economic relationship between Berlin and Moscow is German industrial giant Siemens’ decision to end its partnership with French nuclear giant Areva, to which it felt it would always be a junior partner, and begin cooperating with Russia’s Atomenergoprom. Siemens and Atomenergoprom will work together to develop nuclear power plants in Russia, Germany and other countries.

France
France and Germany are important partners for Russia because Moscow needs guarantees that its resurgence in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus will not face opposition from a united EU front. Initiatives such as the Swedish-Polish “Eastern Partnership” — which seeks to upgrade relations between the EU states and most former Soviet Union states — are seen as a threat to Moscow’s sphere of influence. The Kremlin feels it can keep these Central European initiatives from gaining steam by setting up informal understandings with Paris and Berlin.

France is a key part of this effort because Russia considers it — rightfully so — as the political leader of the European Union. Moscow therefore wants to secure a mutually beneficial relationship with Paris.

Russia’s Levers
Russia has less leverage over France than over any of the other regional powers discussed. In fact, Russia and France have few overlapping geopolitical interests. Historically, they have intersected occasionally in North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but contemporary Moscow is concentrating on its near abroad, not global dominance. France does not depend on trade with Russia for export revenue and is one of the few continental European powers not to depend on Russia for energy; 76 percent of France’s energy comes from nuclear power.

This is why Moscow is making every effort to offer Paris the appropriate “sweeteners,” many of which were agreed upon during Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s visit to France on March 2. One of the most recent — and most notable — is a deal to purchase the $700 million French Mistral-class helicopter carrier. This would be the Russian military’s first major purchase of non-Russian technology and would give Russia a useful offensive weapon to put pressure on the Baltic states and the Caucasus (via the Black Sea). Russia has suggested that it may want to purchase four vessels in total for $2.2 billion — something that recession-hit Paris would be hard pressed to decline.

Russia has worked hard on getting energy-independent France involved in its energy projects. French energy behemoth Total owns a quarter of the enormous Barents Sea Shtokman gas field and on Feb. 5 reiterated its commitment to the project despite announced delays in production from 2013 to 2016. French energy company EDF is also negotiating entry into the South Stream natural gas pipeline, while energy company GDF Suez signed an agreement with Gazprom for a 9 percent stake in Nord Stream on March 2. Furthermore, France’s Societe Generale and Renault both have interests in Russia through ownership of Russian enterprises, and French train manufacturer Alstom has agreed to invest in Russia’s Transmashholding.

Finally, Russia knows how to play to France’s — particularly French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s — need to be the diplomatic center of attention. Russia gives France and Sarkozy the respect reserved for Europe’s leader, for example by allowing Sarkozy to negotiate and take credit for the peace deal that ended the Russo-Georgian war in August 2008. This is no small gesture from Paris’ perspective since France is constantly under pressure to prove its leadership mettle compared to the richer and more powerful Germany.

Turkey
Turkey is a rising regional power looking to expand its influence mainly along the lines of the former Ottoman Empire. Like an adolescent testing his or her own strengths and limitations, Turkey is not focused on any one area, but rather surveying the playing field. Moscow has allowed Turkey to become focused, however, on the negotiations with Armenia, presenting itself as a facilitator but in reality managing the negotiations behind the scenes.

Russia wants to manage its relationship with Turkey for two main reasons: to guarantee its dominance of the Caucasus and assure that Turkey remains committed to transporting Russia’s — rather than someone else’s — energy to Europe. Russia also wants to make sure that Turkey does not use its control of the Bosporus to close off the Black Sea to Russian trade, particularly oil exports from Novorossiysk.

Russia’s Levers
Moscow’s main lever with Ankara is energy. Turkey depends on Russia for 65 percent of its natural gas and 40 percent of its oil imports. Russia is also looking to expand its investments in Turkey, with refineries and nuclear power plants under discussion.

The second key lever is political. Moscow has encouraged Russian-dominated Armenia to entertain Turkish offers of negotiations. However, this has caused a rift between Turkey and its traditional ally Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan does not want to see Armenia and Turkey conclude their negotiations without first winning concessions from Armenia over the de facto Armenian controlled Nagorno-Karabakh region. The negotiation process — openly encouraged by Moscow — therefore has forced energy-rich Azerbaijan into Russia’s arms and strained the relationship between Ankara and Baku.

Russia has plenty of other levers on Turkey, trade being the most obvious. Turkey’s exports to Russia are considerable; 5 percent of its total exports in 2008 went to Russia (though that number dipped in 2009 due to the recession). Russia has cut this trade off before — like in August 2008, when Turkey and NATO held maneuvers in the Black Sea — as a warning to Ankara. Russia is also considering selling Turkey its advanced air defense system, the S-400.

Poland
The final regional power with which Russia wants an understanding is Poland. Poland may not be as powerful as the other three — either economically or politically — but it has considerable influence in Ukraine and Belarus and has taken it upon itself to champion expansion of the European Union eastward. Furthermore, the U.S. military could eventually use Poland as a base from which to threaten the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad along with Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea. Moscow thus sees the U.S. plan to position a Patriot air defense battery — or any part of the BMD system — in Poland as a key threat.

Russia does not want to see the U.S.-Polish alliance blossom, allowing the United States — once it extricates itself from the Middle East — to reposition itself on Russia’s borders.

Russia’s Levers
The most obvious lever Russia has in Poland is energy. Poland imports around 57 percent of its natural gas from Russia, a number that is set to rise to more than 70 percent with the new Polish-Russian natural gas deal signed in January. Poland is also planning on switching a considerable part of its electricity production from coal to natural gas — in order to meet EU greenhouse gas emission standards — thus making Russian natural gas imports a key source of energy. Poland also imports more than 90 percent of its oil from Russia.

Poland, as a NATO member state, is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. However, as Polish politicians often point out, NATO has offered very few real guarantees to Poland’s security. Russia maintains a considerable military presence in nearby Kaliningrad, with more than 200 aircraft, 23,000 troops and half of Russia’s Baltic fleet stationed between Poland and Lithuania. Russia has often used military exercises — such as the massive Zapad military maneuvers with Belarus in September 2009 — to put pressure on Poland and the Baltic states.

But despite a tense relationship, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has launched something of a charm offensive on Warsaw, and particularly on Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is seen as much more pragmatic than the anti-Russian President Lech Kaczynski. Putin made a highly symbolic gesture by being present at the September 2009 ceremonies in Gdansk marking the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. He also addressed the Polish people in a letter published by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza in which he condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, a nonaggression treaty between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Putin has also made a point to smooth relations between Poland and Russia on the issue of the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by Soviet troops in World War II, inviting Tusk to attend the first ever Russian-organized ceremonies marking the event.

The charm offensive is intended to outmaneuver the knee-jerk anti-Russians among the Polish elites and to make sure that Poland does not create problems for Russia in its efforts to expand influence in its near abroad. It is similar to the charm offensives the Soviet Union used that intended to illustrate to the European left and center-left that the Kremlin’s intentions were benign and that the right-wing “obsessions” about the Kremlin were irrational.

Ultimately, Moscow’s strategy is to assure that Germany, France, Turkey and Poland stay out of — or actively support — Russia’s consolidation efforts in the former Soviet sphere. Russia does not need the four powers to be its allies — although it certainly is moving in that direction with Germany (and possibly France). Rather, it hopes to reach an understanding with them on where the Russian sphere ends, and establish a border that is compatible with Russian interests.

23931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in NYC 6/19-20 on: March 12, 2010, 11:19:16 AM

23932  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: How long does it take various knife wounds to incapacitate? on: March 12, 2010, 10:47:29 AM
Well, duh  cheesy  The question presented is which targets have what effects.  grin
23933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: March 12, 2010, 10:41:30 AM
The one thing we can count on from Census 2010 is controversy. What began 220 years ago as a constitutionally mandated count for proportional representation has morphed over time into a method for divvying out federal funds targeted to specific groups based on the information asked as part of our decennial census.

The 10 questions asked on this year's short form certainly do more than just account for the number of citizens. Citizens are asked about age, race, gender, whether we own or rent our homes, and personal identifying information such as name and telephone number.

Ironically, accounting for race made sense only because the nation once counted certain residents as 3/5 of a person -- a compromise wrought to balance Northern and Southern interests over the question of numbering slaves. While the 14th Amendment ended that practice, the question remains as a vestige of a society not quite colorblind. In response, some plan to answer the race question with "American."

Factor in the advertising campaign which suggests people should reply to get "their fair share" of federal goodies, and the possibility of same-sex couples identifying themselves as married regardless of whether the state they live in allows same-sex marriage, and it's clear that the Census is becoming less about proportion and more about politics.
23934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 12, 2010, 10:39:08 AM
Federal Pay vs. Private Sector Pay
USA Today recently conducted a survey comparing average salaries of private sector employees to those of federal employees. Guess who did better? If you said the public sector worker, go to the front of the class.

First of all, many federal workers are covered by civil service rules, making them nearly impossible to fire and difficult to layoff. On top of that, based on 2008 data, the typical federal worker is paid 20 percent more than one in the private sector in the same occupation. The median salary for a federal employee is $66,591, while that of a private sector employee is $55,500, a difference of $11,091 -- before adding benefits such as medical insurance, sick days and holidays, pensions and the like. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, benefits averaged $40,785 per federal employee versus $9,882 per private worker. Add these to the USA Today figures and the average in total compensation for each is $107,376 versus $65,382, a whopping 64 percent difference of $41,994.

The difference in salaries is greatest in the public relations occupations. The widest spread, $44,169, was for public relations managers, with the federal employee receiving $132,410, compared to $88,241 for his private sector counterpart. The next largest difference was $41,045 for broadcast technicians.

So if you want a job that pays well, has great benefits and offers little chance of being laid off, the federal government is the employer for you -- that is, until it runs out of other people's money.
23935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 12, 2010, 10:37:51 AM
Income Redistribution: You Paid for It
Executive salaries reach $500,000, hourly fees top $600, and millions of your dollars are propping it all up. Welcome to the underworld of the environmental industry. According to Richard Pollock of Pajamas Media, "environmental activist groups have surreptitiously received at least $37 million from the federal government for questionable 'attorney fees'" related to lawsuits that "had nothing to do with environmental protection or improvement."

Since 2000, nine national environmental groups have filed the astounding number of 3,300 lawsuits, most based on "alleged procedural failings of federal agencies" rather than "substance or science." Not only has Uncle Sam doled out the millions, but Washington has "neither tracked nor accounted for" any of the outgo. Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen, who helped uncover the fraud, says the $37 million is just the "tip of the iceberg," estimating the actual number is in the hundreds of millions.

Interestingly, according to the Washington Examiner, compensation for the top 10 paid environmental executives ranges from $308,000 to $496,000. Pajamas Media notes that of the $3.4 million that environmental PACs have given in federal campaign contributions since 2000, approximately 87 percent was to Democrats. Coincidence? We think not.

Eco-activists aren't the only ones greening themselves with your money. It seems Wake Forest University is using a $71,623 federal "we must rescue the economy now" stimu-less grant to study the effects of cocaine on a specific neurotransmitter in addicted monkeys. The economic benefit? Apparently a job "saved." For the record, we believe taxpayer dollars already fund too much monkey business in Washington; there's certainly no need to fund it anywhere else.
23936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2d Lt Eliot Ackerman USMC, Silver Star on: March 12, 2010, 10:35:08 AM
On November 10, 2004, then-2nd Lt. Elliot Ackerman of the United States Marine Corps led a platoon into Fallujah -- at that time, still a hotbed of insurgent activity. The platoon's mission was to establish a foothold from which the battalion would then clear the city. As the Marines pushed into the city, enemy fighters attacked from all sides. Twice in the early fighting, Ackerman risked himself to pull wounded Marines to safety, and then organized their evacuation. As the battle raged, however, the vehicle sent to evacuate the wounded couldn't find their position, so Ackerman again headed into the open and risked what his citation called a "gauntlet of deadly enemy fire" to direct the vehicle to the Marines.

Later in the battle, Ackerman and his team were working to clear a building when he saw some of his Marines exposed on a rooftop. He ordered them down, but took their place to mark targets for American tanks. Under a barrage of enemy fire, he suffered shrapnel wounds in his leg but continued to direct both the attack and four medical evacuations. For his bravery and leadership, Ackerman was awarded the Silver Star. Semper Fi!

23937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: March 12, 2010, 07:55:27 AM
I liked last night's show.  Fascinating to see the footage of just how strong Naziism, Fascism and Communism were in the US in the 1930s.
23938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: autobiography, 1821 on: March 12, 2010, 07:53:48 AM
"If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150 lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected."

 --Thomas Jefferson, autobiography, 1821
23939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Freeman: Reframing on: March 12, 2010, 06:21:36 AM
There are no things. There are only words. The Divine Words of Creation.

The words become fragmented, their letters scattered.
Only then are they called things; for scattered, they have no meaning.
Words in exile.

If so, their redemption lies in the story we tell with them. How we reorganize fragments into meaning, things into words, redefining what is real and what is not, and living life accordingly.

Life is in the interpretation of the words G-d gives us.
23940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Very punny on: March 11, 2010, 05:42:58 PM
Puns For Educated Minds

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's Round Table was Sir Circumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.
4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated in an algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.
5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
6. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
9. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
12. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway One hat said to the other, "You stay here, I'll go on a head."
14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said, "Keep off the Grass."
16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, "No change yet."
17. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
19. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
20. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
21 A backward poet writes inverse.
22. In a democracy, it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your count that votes.
23. Don't join dangerous cults, practice safe sects.
23941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: March 11, 2010, 04:32:46 PM
Speaking of hit pieces, here's a humor hit on Glenn:
http://beck.cnnbcvideo.com/?rc=fb.publish&fv=b|799600-dsmr8Yx

I will say his take on environmental issues irks me a bit.  Yes the Green movement is a watermelon front (green on the outside, red on the inside) for liberal fascism, and yes human caused global warming is a crock, but there REALLY are deep serious problems out there.  His mini-rant last night on Obama taking away fathes' fishing with their sons like on the Andy Griffith show IMHO simply was facetious or even disingenuous.  When species of fish are being fished to the point of utter depletion it is not an unreasonable thought to say "Hey! No fishing for a few years!"

Anyway, Glenn IS awesome.  He will not be taken down.  Too many people watch his show for the Big Lie to work.
23942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: March 11, 2010, 06:24:20 AM

Part Two of this series from Stratfor:

Summary
After Russia consolidates control over the countries it has deemed necessary to its national security, it will turn its focus to a handful of countries that are not as important but still have strategic value. These countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are not necessary to Russia’s survival but are of some importance and can keep the West from moving too close to Russia’s core.

Editor’s note: This is part two of a four-part series in which STRATFOR examines Russia’s efforts to exert influence beyond its borders.

After years of work, Moscow has made significant progress in regaining control over the former Soviet states that are crucial to Russia’s security. Russia’s window of opportunity to exert control in its near abroad is a narrow one, however, and so Moscow has prioritized its list of countries where it is trying to consolidate influence. After reining in the four countries imperative to Moscow’s interests — Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Georgia — Moscow will turn its attention to a group of countries where it would like to have more influence.





(click to view map)

There are six countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — where Moscow would like to reconsolidate its influence if it has the opportunity. Although these countries are not crucial to Russia’s survival, as long as they remain outside Moscow’s control, the West has the ability to get too close to the Russian core for comfort. All these countries know how serious Russia is about its grand plan of expansionism. The 2008 Russo-Georgian war revealed Moscow’s willingness to militarily intervene on its former Soviet turf and sent the message to these countries that they must obey or cut a deal with Moscow, or else risk being crushed. Since then, these countries have watched Russia consolidate Kazakhstan and Belarus into a customs union (with the promise of becoming a formal union) and have seen a pro-Russian wave engulf Ukraine.

The Baltics
Out of the six countries on this shopping list, the Baltics (particularly Estonia and Latvia) are the most critical to Russia’s plan. Estonia and Latvia are a stone’s throw from Russia’s most important cities, with Tallinn just 200 miles from St. Petersburg and eastern Latvia just 350 miles from Moscow. The Baltics lie on the North European Plain, Europe’s easiest route for marching into Russia — something Moscow knows all too well.

Each Baltic state has its own importance to Russia. Whoever controls Estonia also controls the approach to the Gulf of Finland, Russia’s main access to the Baltic Sea. Estonia is also mainly ethnically Ugro-Finnish, which means that Russians are surrounded by Ugro-Finns on both sides of the Gulf of Finland. Latvia has the largest Russian population in the Baltics and the port of Riga, which Russia covets. Lithuania is different from its Baltic brothers since it does not border Russia proper, although it does border Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave, which is home to half of Russia’s Baltic Fleet and more than 23,000 troops. Lithuania is the largest of the Baltic states, both in terms of territory and population. It also had been a key industrial center under the Soviet Union.

The Baltic states were the only countries in the former Soviet Union to be shuffled into the Western set of alliances, being admitted into the European Union and NATO in 2004. This put the Western alliances right on Russia’s doorstep. Estonia and Latvia are fervently anti-Russian, while Lithuania is more pragmatic, feeling less threatened by Moscow since it does not actually border mainland Russia.

The Russian administration is split over whether the Baltics belong on Russia’s “must have” or “would like to have” list. The Kremlin is especially torn over how aggressively to go after Estonia, which is geographically isolated sharing land borders only with Russia and Latvia, and thus in a particularly sensitive position.

Russia’s Levers
Russia holds many levers within the Baltic states, making their future highly uncertain.

Geography: The Baltics are virtually indefensible, lying on the North European Plain. Their small size also makes them incredibly vulnerable. Furthermore, they are bordered by Russia to the east, Kaliningrad to the west and Russian ally Belarus to the south.
Population: Each Baltic state has a sizable Russian population: Russians or Russian speakers make up 30 percent of the population in Estonia, 40 percent in Latvia and nearly 10 percent of Lithuania. Roughly 15 percent of Estonians and 30 percent of Latvians are Orthodox, with many loyal to the Moscow Patriarchy.
Economic: The most critical economic lever for Russia in the Baltics is energy. The Baltics rely on Russia for 90-99 percent of their natural gas supplies and most of their oil. Russia has proven in the past that it is willing to cut these supplies (for example, through the breaking of the Druzhba pipeline). Russia also owns a third of Estonia’s natural gas company and has been in talks to purchase Lithuania’s main refinery. Russia’s economic levers are mainly in Latvia, which relies on Russia for one-third of its energy imports
Military: Russia has 23,000 troops in Kaliningrad and recently moved 8,000 troops to just outside St. Petersburg, near the Estonian border. Russia has also regularly held military exercises in Belarus and Kaliningrad under the guise of contingency planning for an invasion of the Baltics (should one ever be necessary).
Security: Russia’s nationalist youth movements, like Nashi, have continually crossed the border into Estonia and Latvia in order to commit vandalism or stir up pro-Russian sentiments. Estonia has also been one of the prime targets for cyber attacks from Russia, especially at politically heated times.
Political: This is the weakest link for Russia in the Baltics, since each country is pro-Western and a member of the European Union and NATO. However Russia does have some small footholds in Latvia and Lithuania. In 2009, the Harmony Center coalition — comprising parties that mainly represent Latvia’s Russian population — placed second in the country’s European Parliament elections and was as recently as January ranked as the most popular Latvian party, with 16.5 percent approval. There has also been a tradition of pro-Russian parties in Lithuania, though this has tapered off in recent years. The Labor Party, funded by Russian-born billionaire Viktor Uspaskich, was the strongest party in Lithuania in the mid-2000s. However, Uspaskich’s fortunes turned when he was charged with corruption and tax evasion, forcing him to flee to Russia in 2006 to avoid arrest. He has since returned to Lithuania and assumed leadership of the Labor Party, which came fifth in the October 2008 elections.
Russia’s Success and Roadblocks
Moscow has not yet made much progress in consolidating its influence in the Baltics. Estonia and Latvia are still vehemently anti-Russian. They have taken refuge in Western alliances, but after watching what happened to NATO ally Georgia in 2008, both countries — particularly Estonia — are unsure about the West’s ability to come to their aid should Russia actively target them. Instead, Estonia and Latvia tend to look to Sweden and Finland as patrons. These countries hold unique relationships with Russia that could help them curb any Russian action in Latvia and Estonia.

Lithuania has been more pragmatic about its relationship with Russia, counting on its location away from the Russian border to protect it but not wanting to test Moscow’s patience. In recent weeks, Lithuania has been more open to NATO discussions with Russia and negotiations on Russian involvement in the country’s energy sector.

Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is important to Russia for many reasons. The Caucasus state does not border Russia and historically has been rather independently minded. However, it could be drawn in not only by the West but by other regional powers, like Turkey and Iran (Azerbaijan borders Iran, which has a sizeable Azerbaijani population). For Russia, controlling Azerbaijan is about preventing other powers from gaining a foothold in the Caucasus.

Azerbaijan also has access to vast amounts of energy wealth — not only because of its own oil and natural gas resources but also because of its geographic location between Central Asia and the West. Many countries want to tap into Azerbaijan’s energy potential. The West has developed Azerbaijan’s resources in order to have an alternative to Russian energy supplies, while Russia wants to control the flow of Azerbaijan’s oil and natural gas supplies.

Russia’s Levers
Geographic: Azerbaijan’s location is a blessing and a curse. It is near many regional powers, but is torn between them. Russia is skilled in playing the regional powers off each other in order to gain more leverage in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s main energy route also transits Georgia — and Russia proved its willingness to cut that route during the 2008 war.
Political: Azerbaijan and its neighbor Armenia have been locked in a political conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh since a war over the region from 1988-1994. Russia is the key power influencing all parties involved in the negotiations and can easily complicate or keep calm this complex standoff.
Security: Besides the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, Azerbaijan is also highly concerned with militants from Russia’s Muslim regions coming into the country. Baku has complained that Moscow could easily send down militants from Dagestan or Chechnya to destabilize the country if needed.
Military: Russia has 5,000 troops stationed inside Armenia and has an agreement with Yerevan that it can move the troops to the borders as it pleases. Russia also has a military radar base in Gabala, Azerbaijan, but this is in the process of being shut down.
Economic: Azerbaijan is in the process of reviving its energy ties to Russia with deals for natural gas purchases to start this year. Russia has also offered to purchase all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas. Baku has attempted to diversify where it sends its energy, with links to Europe, Iran and now Russia. But as Russia has proven, it is willing to cut some of these links for its own needs.
Russia’s Success and Roadblocks
Russia has been quite successful in the past year in re-establishing its influence over Azerbaijan. Though it traditionally has sought to balance itself among the region’s three powers, Azerbaijan is now reconsidering its relationship with Turkey and becoming more worried about keeping ties with Iran due to Western pressure. This is beginning to leave Russia as Baku’s only option, and Moscow knows it. Furthermore, as the political dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia heated up due to a proposed political deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s traditional ally Turkey, Baku felt abandoned by Ankara, and Russia stepped in to console Azerbaijan. Russia has skillfully played each party in this disagreement — Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey — off each other, and gained leverage to use on each one.

Azerbaijan is still very wary of Russian control, but understands it must deal carefully with Moscow. Unfortunately for Baku, besides other powers’ interest in the country and its geographic location, Azerbaijan has few tools at its disposal to counter Russian pressure.

Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan acts as a buffer for Russia between the critical state of Kazakhstan and the regional power of Iran. It also stands between the former Soviet sphere and the highly unstable South Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Turkmenistan is strategically important to Russia for two other reasons: energy and Uzbekistan.

Turkmenistan holds the world’s fourth-largest natural gas supplies and sizable oil supplies —something sought by the West, the Far East and the Middle East. Russia wants to ensure that these supplies only go where it wants and do not become competition for Russia’s supplies.

Turkmenistan also flanks most of the southern portion of Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s natural leader and a country Russia wants to control. Russia has been able to use the long-standing tensions between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to its advantage.

Russia’s Levers
Turkmenistan’s sparse population and economy makes it difficult to influence, but Russia has some very specific levers in the country.

Geography and population: Turkmenistan does not border Russia, but its geography and lack of consolidation give Russia easy access. Turkmenistan lacks any geographic protective features, except for its size and the large desert that crosses most of the country. Furthermore, its population is split between the Caspian coast and its border with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Russia holds influence over the population in the southeast mainly because the clan that runs that area allegedly is involved in the drug trade, and Russia is said to oversee exports from Turkmenistan through Russia and on to Europe.
Political and security: As mentioned above, Russia holds great political leverage over the southern Turkmen population because of its control over this area’s main economic staple: drugs. This population, led by the Mary Clan, does not run the country politically but could easily challenge the government if it wanted, since it comprises a large percentage of the population. Russia has yet to play this card, but it would not be difficult to do so.
Military: Russian military influence in Turkmenistan has increased. The country cannot defend itself, especially from its neighbor Uzbekistan, so Russia has supplied the Turkmen military and security forces with arms and training. Russia has placed a small contingent of troops inside Turkmenistan as well in order to deter Uzbekistan.
Economic: Fifty percent of Turkmenistan’s gross domestic product comes from energy, with 90 percent of Turkmen energy supplies transiting Russia. Moscow has proven in the past that it is willing to cut these energy supply routes if politically necessary and knows that doing so would crush Turkmenistan economically.
Russia’s Success and Roadblocks
Russia has been able to keep Turkmenistan under its thumb via energy and security. The country understands that it is beholden to Russia for the bulk of its economy and for protection from Uzbekistan. However, part of this equation is changing, since Turkmenistan has expanded its energy infrastructure into China — a major energy consumer. These links depend on the transit of supplies via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan but are the start of a diversification of energy shipments and funding for Turkmenistan.

Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is the heart of Central Asia, holding a large bulk of its population and many of its resources. Uzbekistan’s population, 27 million, dwarfs that of its neighbors. It holds the world’s 11th-largest natural gas reserves and is Central Asia’s major electricity exporter. Uzbekistan is self-sufficient in food as well, controlling the fertile Fergana Valley. Its size, resources and location grant Uzbekistan a greater degree of independence than the other Central Asian states.

This independence is something Russia wants to curb. Russia is not so concerned with other powers influencing Uzbekistan — though the West, China, Turkey and Iran have tried. Instead Moscow is worried about Uzbekistan becoming a regional leader in its own right, commanding the other Central Asian states. Such a move would shift the whole of Central Asia away from Russian control. Losing Uzbekistan would mean losing half of Kazakhstan (including the critical southern region around Almaty), Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and half of Kyrgyzstan. These areas would end up isolated from Russia.

Russia’s Levers
Geographic: Uzbekistan is surrounded by former Soviet states. It has no borders with the non-Soviet world, save a very small border with Afghanistan. As long as Russia controls the other states it can influence Uzbekistan to some extent.

Security: Uzbekistan has faced a great number of security concerns, from its own militant movements in the Fergana Valley to the insurgency in Afghanistan crossing the border. Russia has placed its troops in neighboring countries to counter these militants and can help mold their movements. Moscow also has deep connections with many militant movements in Afghanistan left over from the war in the 1980s.
Economic: Roughly 21 percent of all Uzbek exports — mainly energy, cotton and cars — go to Russia. Natural gas accounts for nearly 32 percent of Uzbekistan’s exports, and 75 percent of that goes to Russia. Uzbekistan may be self-sufficient in energy and food, but all refined energy products (like lubricants) and most processed foods come from Russia. Russia also controls much of the drug flow out of Central Asia and Afghanistan into Russia and Europe. This drug flow is key to the Uzbek economy and many of the power circles in the country.
Military: Russia currently has troops near the Uzbek border in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and has trained Turkmen troops that are stationed on the Turkmen-Uzbek border.
Russia’s Success and Roadblocks
Russia was briefly successful in pulling Uzbekistan back into the Russian fold in 2005, pushing Tashkent to evict the United States from a military base it was using to get supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

But as Tashkent has seen its neighbors and other former Soviet states grow closer to Russia, it has moved in the opposite direction. Uzbekistan’s reaction to the Russian resurgence has been to become increasingly independent and hostile toward Russia. Tashkent feels it should be the natural and independent leader of Central Asia and does not want Russia ruling the region. Uzbekistan has continued to buck Russia’s demands on energy supplies and military locations, and has joined the trend of building pipelines heading to China. In Central Asia, Uzbekistan is Moscow’s biggest and most important challenge.

23943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 11, 2010, 06:10:58 AM


Securitization for Dummies
Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit. By providing her customers' freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS, and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community. The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately the bank, the brokerage houses, and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar, no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class,  non-drinkers who never have been in Heidi's bar.

Now, you understand.
23944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Federalist 55 on: March 11, 2010, 05:14:57 AM
"Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." --James Madison, Federalist No. 55
23945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak's ISI Chief on: March 11, 2010, 04:34:33 AM
Pakistan's ISI Chief: When Personalities Matter
TUESDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS when a key development with global implications got very little attention around the world. On March 9, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani extended the term of service of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the country’s premier intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. Pasha, who has been serving as Director-General of the ISI since his appointment by Kayani in September 2008, was due to retire on March 18. Many of the army’s top brass —including Kayani and Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen. Tariq Majid — are due to retire by autumn.

Normally, personalities and factions do not matter insofar as geopolitics is concerned, certainly not in the long run. In this case, however, we are dealing with the short term, given the narrow window of opportunity that U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has to turn things around in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region –- the epicenter of global jihadist activity. This is why Pasha’s extension is an extremely significant development. Given the domestic and regional jihadist insurgency situation, the development is obviously based on Pakistan’s need for continuity of policy. But it is equally important for the American strategy for Afghanistan.

Pasha heads the ISI, which plays the single most important role in the U.S.-led international effort to bring about an end to the regional jihadist morass. In general, Washington relies heavily on Pakistan’s army-led security establishment to help bring a close to the now nine-year-old jihadist war. But without the ISI, the United States simply could not realize its objectives in the region.

There are two reasons for this. The first has to do with the historical role of the ISI in cultivating and managing Islamist militants, particularly in the case of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. The second reason is that the ISI is in the process of a major shift; it is transitioning from being the cultivator of jihadists to being an entity that fights them.

“The ISI plays the single most important role in the U.S.-led international effort to bring about an end to the regional jihadist morass.”
Both of these attributes are absolutely essential for the success of the American strategy. Washington needs the ISI to help with intelligence to eliminate irreconcilable Taliban and their allies among the al Qaeda-led transnational jihadist nexus. More importantly though, Washington needs the ISI to eventually help negotiate a settlement with the reconcilable elements among the Afghan Taliban.

After years of tense relations, U.S.-Pakistani cooperation has recently seen considerable progress. The gains made thus far are nascent and have largely taken place under the current military-intelligence leadership. In the nearly 18 months that Pasha has been leading the ISI, Pakistan has taken a variety of unprecedented steps against Islamist militants. These include a crackdown against key Lashkar-e-Taiba figures due to their involvement in the Mumbai attacks in November 2008; the retaking of the Swat region from Taliban rebels; the ongoing offensive in the tribal belt, especially South Waziristan; growing intelligence-sharing to facilitate the U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the tribal areas; and the recent actions against the Afghan Taliban.

These accomplishments are not possible without the cooperation of institutions, not just particular individuals. But when we talk about paradigmatic shifts in state behavior, specific individuals become important because they are the ones spearheading the radical changes. In the case of the ISI, this is even more important because the organization is in the process of transforming its decades-old policy of working with Islamist militants, and is now combating them.

The United States has acknowledged that the jihadist war in southwest Asia is primarily an intelligence war, and that it needs the ISI to move in a certain direction. This, in turn, requires specific personalities at the helm. Therefore, not only does Pakistan need continuity in its current intelligence leadership, the United States is dependent upon it as well. In other words, this war is as political as it is geopolitical.

23946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Video Clips of Interest on: March 11, 2010, 04:25:42 AM


Yike Bike

http://www.yikebike.com/site/gallery/video/yikebike-discovery-channel
23947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BS Bingo with BO on: March 10, 2010, 10:40:04 PM


http://www.philstockworld.com/2010/03/10/how-to-stay-awake-during-obama-speeches-play-bullshit-bingo/
23948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH Op Ed on Filibusters on: March 10, 2010, 11:53:50 AM
I have no opinion on this, but post it in search of Truth:

Comments?
========================

A One-Track Senate Recommend

By BARRY FRIEDMAN and ANDREW D. MARTIN
Published: March 9, 2010

THE Senate is badly gummed up. Major policy initiatives — health care reform and financial regulation, to name but two — are stalled in endless negotiations. There’s a big reason for this torpor: the filibuster. But there’s a solution: the filibuster. Don’t be confused. The two aren’t the same.

During the 1960s, the Senate was frozen by lengthy filibusters over civil rights legislation. When, in the mid-’70s, that tactic once again threatened to bring the Senate to a standstill, Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who was the majority whip, invented a dual-track system. This change in practice allowed the majority leader — with the unanimous consent of the Senate or the approval of the minority leader — to set aside whatever was being debated on the Senate floor and move immediately to another item on the agenda.

The result of tracking? No more marathon debate sessions that shut down the Senate. While one bill is being “filibustered,” business can continue on others.

Today a “filibuster” consists of merely telling the leadership that 41 senators won’t vote for a bill. Worse, any single senator can put a “hold” on anything, indefinitely, for any reason. Not only has it become easier to “filibuster,” but tracking means there are far fewer consequences when the minority party or even one willful member of Congress does so, because the Senate can carry on with other things.

Tracking allowed Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama to stop 70 administration nominees while pursuing earmarks for his home state. It permitted the Senate to conduct other business, like confirming a circuit-court judge, during the recent hold by Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, on the unemployment benefit extension. During the “filibuster” of the Senate health care bill, it cleared the way for months of other votes.

Because dual-tracking is a Senate practice, not a formal rule, the majority leader, Harry Reid, could end tracking at any time. By doing so, the Democrats would transform the filibuster and recover their opportunity to govern effectively.

To pull this off, the Democrats need to take three steps: First, they should announce the order in which they will take up their legislative agenda. Next, they should declare that they will no longer be using dual tracking, so that the Senate will hear just one issue at a time. Finally, Democrats should require those who want to filibuster legislation or appointments to actually do so, by holding the floor, talking the issue to death and bringing everything to a halt.

The new-school filibuster would preserve minority rights in the Senate, while imposing significant costs on obstructionist members, changing the calculus that causes today’s logjam. Stuck on the Senate floor, filibustering senators couldn’t meet with lobbyists or attend campaign fund-raising events; they couldn’t do much of anything, really, until their filibuster ended.

Getting rid of dual-tracking would require the minority to make careful choices about what to obstruct, and when to obstruct it. As Senator Bunning’s unsuccessful solo stand against jobless benefits showed, even Republicans have limited tolerance when it comes to stalling legislation for reasons that lack popular support.

After all, filibusters historically broke when public opinion went against the Senate minority. If the Democratic leadership eliminated the dual-track system, serial, single-issue filibusters would give us an opportunity to see where the country actually stands on issues like health care reform and financial regulation — and where the Senate should stand.

By consistently blocking legislation, Republican have made great political gains over the last year. But in a Senate without dual-tracking, Democrats would be able to simply and repeatedly remind the American people that after endless debate there always comes time for a vote. Win or lose, that is how things work in a democracy.

Barry Friedman, a vice dean at New York University School of Law, is the author of the “The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution.” Andrew D. Martin is the chairman of the political science department and a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
23949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTP on: March 10, 2010, 11:35:32 AM
Its WaPo (a.k.a. Pravda on the Potomac) so caveat lector.  That said, we search for the Truth, inconvenient and otherwise, so here it is:



http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/08/AR2010030804916.html
23950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: March 10, 2010, 10:51:05 AM
An ret. American SF officer sends me the following:
==========================================

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7052605.ece

Real allies. None finer.
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