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23951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: June 22, 2009, 04:16:09 PM
By George Friedman

Related Link
The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress
Related Special Topic Page
Ongoing Coverage and Updates
Successful revolutions have three phases. First, a strategically located single or limited segment of society begins vocally to express resentment, asserting itself in the streets of a major city, usually the capital. This segment is joined by other segments in the city and by segments elsewhere as the demonstration spreads to other cities and becomes more assertive, disruptive and potentially violent. As resistance to the regime spreads, the regime deploys its military and security forces. These forces, drawn from resisting social segments and isolated from the rest of society, turn on the regime, and stop following the regime’s orders. This is what happened to the Shah of Iran in 1979; it is also what happened in Russia in 1917 or in Romania in 1989.

Revolutions fail when no one joins the initial segment, meaning the initial demonstrators are the ones who find themselves socially isolated. When the demonstrations do not spread to other cities, the demonstrations either peter out or the regime brings in the security and military forces — who remain loyal to the regime and frequently personally hostile to the demonstrators — and use force to suppress the rising to the extent necessary. This is what happened in Tiananmen Square in China: The students who rose up were not joined by others. Military forces who were not only loyal to the regime but hostile to the students were brought in, and the students were crushed.

A Question of Support
This is also what happened in Iran this week. The global media, obsessively focused on the initial demonstrators — who were supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opponents — failed to notice that while large, the demonstrations primarily consisted of the same type of people demonstrating. Amid the breathless reporting on the demonstrations, reporters failed to notice that the uprising was not spreading to other classes and to other areas. In constantly interviewing English-speaking demonstrators, they failed to note just how many of the demonstrators spoke English and had smartphones. The media thus did not recognize these as the signs of a failing revolution.

Later, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke Friday and called out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, they failed to understand that the troops — definitely not drawn from what we might call the “Twittering classes,” would remain loyal to the regime for ideological and social reasons. The troops had about as much sympathy for the demonstrators as a small-town boy from Alabama might have for a Harvard postdoc. Failing to understand the social tensions in Iran, the reporters deluded themselves into thinking they were witnessing a general uprising. But this was not St. Petersburg in 1917 or Bucharest in 1989 — it was Tiananmen Square.

In the global discussion last week outside Iran, there was a great deal of confusion about basic facts. For example, it is said that the urban-rural distinction in Iran is not critical any longer because according to the United Nations, 68 percent of Iranians are urbanized. This is an important point because it implies Iran is homogeneous and the demonstrators representative of the country. The problem is the Iranian definition of urban — and this is quite common around the world — includes very small communities (some with only a few thousand people) as “urban.” But the social difference between someone living in a town with 10,000 people and someone living in Tehran is the difference between someone living in Bastrop, Texas and someone living in New York. We can assure you that that difference is not only vast, but that most of the good people of Bastrop and the fine people of New York would probably not see the world the same way. The failure to understand the dramatic diversity of Iranian society led observers to assume that students at Iran’s elite university somehow spoke for the rest of the country.

Tehran proper has about 8 million inhabitants; its suburbs bring it to about 13 million people out of Iran’s total population of 70.5 million. Tehran accounts for about 20 percent of Iran, but as we know, the cab driver and the construction worker are not socially linked to students at elite universities. There are six cities with populations between 1 million and 2.4 million people and 11 with populations of about 500,000. Including Tehran proper, 15.5 million people live in cities with more than 1 million and 19.7 million in cities greater than 500,000. Iran has 80 cities with more than 100,000. But given that Waco, Texas, has more than 100,000 people, inferences of social similarities between cities with 100,000 and 5 million are tenuous. And with metro Oklahoma City having more than a million people, it becomes plain that urbanization has many faces.

Winning the Election With or Without Fraud
We continue to believe two things: that vote fraud occurred, and that Ahmadinejad likely would have won without it. Very little direct evidence has emerged to establish vote fraud, but several things seem suspect.

For example, the speed of the vote count has been taken as a sign of fraud, as it should have been impossible to count votes that fast. The polls originally were to have closed at 7 p.m. local time, but voting hours were extended until 10 p.m. because of the number of voters in line. By 11:45 p.m. about 20 percent of the vote had been counted. By 5:20 a.m. the next day, with almost all votes counted, the election commission declared Ahmadinejad the winner. The vote count thus took about seven hours. (Remember there were no senators, congressmen, city council members or school board members being counted — just the presidential race.) Intriguingly, this is about the same time in took in 2005, though reformists that claimed fraud back then did not stress the counting time in their allegations.

The counting mechanism is simple: Iran has 47,000 voting stations, plus 14,000 roaming stations that travel from tiny village to tiny village, staying there for a short time before moving on. That creates 61,000 ballot boxes designed to receive roughly the same number of votes. That would mean that each station would have been counting about 500 ballots, or about 70 votes per hour. With counting beginning at 10 p.m., concluding seven hours later does not necessarily indicate fraud or anything else. The Iranian presidential election system is designed for simplicity: one race to count in one time zone, and all counting beginning at the same time in all regions, we would expect the numbers to come in a somewhat linear fashion as rural and urban voting patterns would balance each other out — explaining why voting percentages didn’t change much during the night.

It has been pointed out that some of the candidates didn’t even carry their own provinces or districts. We remember that Al Gore didn’t carry Tennessee in 2000. We also remember Ralph Nader, who also didn’t carry his home precinct in part because people didn’t want to spend their vote on someone unlikely to win — an effect probably felt by the two smaller candidates in the Iranian election.

That Mousavi didn’t carry his own province is more interesting. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett writing in Politico make some interesting points on this. As an ethnic Azeri, it was assumed that Mousavi would carry his Azeri-named and -dominated home province. But they also point out that Ahmadinejad also speaks Azeri, and made multiple campaign appearances in the district. They also point out that Khamenei is Azeri. In sum, winning that district was by no means certain for Mousavi, so losing it does not automatically signal fraud. It raised suspicions, but by no means was a smoking gun.

We do not doubt that fraud occurred during Iranian election. For example, 99.4 percent of potential voters voted in Mazandaran province, a mostly secular area home to the shah’s family. Ahmadinejad carried the province by a 2.2 to 1 ratio. That is one heck of a turnout and level of support for a province that lost everything when the mullahs took over 30 years ago. But even if you take all of the suspect cases and added them together, it would not have changed the outcome. The fact is that Ahmadinejad’s vote in 2009 was extremely close to his victory percentage in 2005. And while the Western media portrayed Ahmadinejad’s performance in the presidential debates ahead of the election as dismal, embarrassing and indicative of an imminent electoral defeat, many Iranians who viewed those debates — including some of the most hardcore Mousavi supporters — acknowledge that Ahmadinejad outperformed his opponents by a landslide.

Mousavi persuasively detailed his fraud claims Sunday, and they have yet to be rebutted. But if his claims of the extent of fraud were true, the protests should have spread rapidly by social segment and geography to the millions of people who even the central government asserts voted for him. Certainly, Mousavi supporters believed they would win the election based in part on highly flawed polls, and when they didn’t, they assumed they were robbed and took to the streets.

But critically, the protesters were not joined by any of the millions whose votes the protesters alleged were stolen. In a complete hijacking of the election by some 13 million votes by an extremely unpopular candidate, we would have expected to see the core of Mousavi’s supporters joined by others who had been disenfranchised. On last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, when the demonstrations were at their height, the millions of Mousavi voters should have made their appearance. They didn’t. We might assume that the security apparatus intimidated some, but surely more than just the Tehran professional and student classes posses civic courage. While appearing large, the demonstrations actually comprised a small fraction of society.

Tensions Among the Political Elite
All of this not to say there are not tremendous tensions within the Iranian political elite. That no revolution broke out does not mean there isn’t a crisis in the political elite, particularly among the clerics. But that crisis does not cut the way Western common sense would have it. Many of Iran’s religious leaders see Ahmadinejad as hostile to their interests, as threatening their financial prerogatives, and as taking international risks they don’t want to take. Ahmadinejad’s political popularity in fact rests on his populist hostility to what he sees as the corruption of the clerics and their families and his strong stand on Iranian national security issues.

The clerics are divided among themselves, but many wanted to see Ahmadinejad lose to protect their own interests. Khamenei, the supreme leader, faced a difficult choice last Friday. He could demand a major recount or even new elections, or he could validate what happened. Khamenei speaks for a sizable chunk of the ruling elite, but also has had to rule by consensus among both clerical and non-clerical forces. Many powerful clerics like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wanted Khamenei to reverse the election, and we suspect Khamenei wished he could have found a way to do it. But as the defender of the regime, he was afraid to. Mousavi supporters’ demonstrations would have been nothing compared to the firestorm among Ahmadinejad supporters — both voters and the security forces — had their candidate been denied. Khamenei wasn’t going to flirt with disaster, so he endorsed the outcome.

The Western media misunderstood this because they didn’t understand that Ahmadinejad does not speak for the clerics but against them, that many of the clerics were working for his defeat, and that Ahmadinejad has enormous pull in the country’s security apparatus. The reason Western media missed this is because they bought into the concept of the stolen election, therefore failing to see Ahmadinejad’s support and the widespread dissatisfaction with the old clerical elite. The Western media simply didn’t understand that the most traditional and pious segments of Iranian society support Ahmadinejad because he opposes the old ruling elite. Instead, they assumed this was like Prague or Budapest in 1989, with a broad-based uprising in favor of liberalism against an unpopular regime.

Tehran in 2009, however, was a struggle between two main factions, both of which supported the Islamic republic as it was. There were the clerics, who have dominated the regime since 1979 and had grown wealthy in the process. And there was Ahmadinejad, who felt the ruling clerical elite had betrayed the revolution with their personal excesses. And there also was the small faction the BBC and CNN kept focusing on — the demonstrators in the streets who want to dramatically liberalize the Islamic republic. This faction never stood a chance of taking power, whether by election or revolution. The two main factions used the third smaller faction in various ways, however. Ahmadinejad used it to make his case that the clerics who supported them, like Rafsanjani, would risk the revolution and play into the hands of the Americans and British to protect their own wealth. Meanwhile, Rafsanjani argued behind the scenes that the unrest was the tip of the iceberg, and that Ahmadinejad had to be replaced. Khamenei, an astute politician, examined the data and supported Ahmadinejad.

Now, as we saw after Tiananmen Square, we will see a reshuffling among the elite. Those who backed Mousavi will be on the defensive. By contrast, those who supported Ahmadinejad are in a powerful position. There is a massive crisis in the elite, but this crisis has nothing to do with liberalization: It has to do with power and prerogatives among the elite. Having been forced by the election and Khamenei to live with Ahmadinejad, some will make deals while some will fight — but Ahmadinejad is well-positioned to win this battle.
23952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Man bites dog!!! on: June 22, 2009, 04:01:17 PM

Sarkozy says burqas are 'not welcome' in France

1 hr 25 mins ago
PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Muslim burqa would not be welcome in France, calling the full-body religious gown a sign of the "debasement" of women.

In the first presidential address to parliament in 136 years, Sarkozy faced critics who fear the burqa issue could stigmatize France's Muslims and said he supported banning the garment from being worn in public.

"In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity," Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris.
"The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly," he said. "It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic."

Dozens of legislators have called for creating a commission to study a possible ban in France, where there is a small but growing trend of wearing the full-body garment despite a 2004 law forbidding it from being worn in public schools.  France has Western Europe's largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million people, and the 2004 law sparked fierce debate both at home and abroad.  Even the French government has been divided over the issue, with Immigration Minister Eric Besson saying a full ban would only "create tensions," while junior minister for human rights Rama Yade said she was open to a ban if it was aimed at protecting women forced to wear the burqa.

The terms "burqa" and "niqab" often are used interchangeably in France. The former refers to a full-body covering worn largely in Afghanistan with only a mesh screen over the eyes, whereas the latter is a full-body veil, often in black, with slits for the eyes.
A leading French Muslim group, the French Council for the Muslim Religion, has warned against studying the burqa, saying it would "stigmatize" Muslims.

Sarkozy was due to host a state dinner Monday with Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani of Qatar, where women wear Islamic head coverings in public — whether while shopping or driving cars.
23953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The desk story on: June 22, 2009, 03:52:52 PM
A Good Teacher

A lesson that should be taught in all schools . . And colleges
Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School inLittle Rock, did something not to be forgotten.
On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.   When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.
'Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?'
She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.'
They thought, 'Well, maybe it's our grades..'
'No,' she said..
'Maybe it's our behavior.'
She told them, 'No, it's not even your behavior.'
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.   By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.
The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, 'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'
At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.
Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.
Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it.'
By the way, this is a true story.

Please consider passing this along so others won't forget that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned by U. S. Veterans.

23954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Govt health care violates 9th? on: June 22, 2009, 08:10:37 AM
Is a government-dominated health-care system unconstitutional? A strong case can be made for that proposition, based on the same "right to privacy" that underlies such landmark Supreme Court decisions as Roe v. Wade.

The details of this year's health-care reform bill are still being hammered out. But the end result is sure to be byzantine in complexity. Washington will have immense say over how, when and through whom Americans are treated. Moreover, despite the administration's public pronouncements about painless cuts in wasteful spending, only the most credulous believe that some form of government-directed health-care rationing can be avoided as a means of controlling costs.

The Supreme Court created the right to privacy in the 1960s and used it to strike down a series of state and federal regulations of personal (mostly sexual) conduct. This line of cases began with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (involving marital birth control), and includes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The court's underlying rationale was not abortion-specific. Rather, the justices posited a constitutionally mandated zone of personal privacy that must remain free of government regulation, except in the most exceptional circumstances. As the court explained in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), "these matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life."

It is, of course, difficult to imagine choices more "central to personal dignity and autonomy" than measures to be taken for the prevention and treatment of disease -- measures that may be essential to preserve or extend life itself. Indeed, when the overwhelming moral issues that surround the abortion question are stripped away, what is left is a medical procedure determined to be "necessary" by an expectant mother and her physician.

If the government cannot proscribe -- or even "unduly burden," to use another of the Supreme Court's analytical frameworks -- access to abortion, how can it proscribe access to other medical procedures, including transplants, corrective or restorative surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, or a myriad of other health services that individuals may need or desire?

This type of "burden" analysis will be especially problematic for a national health system because, in the health area, proper care often depends upon an individual's unique physical and even genetic history and characteristics. One size clearly does not fit all, but that is the very essence of governmental regulation -- to impose a regularity (if not uniformity) in the application of governmental power and the dispersal of its largess. Taking key decisions away from patient and physician, or otherwise limiting their available choices, will render any new system constitutionally vulnerable.

It is true, of course, that forms of rationing already exist in our current system. No one who has experienced the marked reluctance to treat aggressively lethal illnesses in the elderly can doubt that. However, what may be permissible for private actors -- including doctors and insurance companies -- is not necessarily lawful when done by the government.

Obviously, the government does not have to pay for any and all services individual citizens may desire. And simply refusing to approve a procedure or treatment under applicable reimbursement rules, as under the government-run Medicare and Medicaid, does not make the system unconstitutional. But if over time, as many critics fear, a "public option" health insurance plan turns into what amounts to a single-payer system, the constitutional issues regarding treatment and reimbursement decisions will be manifold.

The same will be true of a quasi-private system where the government claims a large role in defining acceptable health-insurance coverage and treatments. There will be all sorts of "undue burdens" on the rights of patients to receive the care they may want. Then the litigation will begin.

Anyone who imagines that Congress can simply avoid the constitutional issues -- and lawsuits -- by withdrawing federal court jurisdiction over the new health system must think again. A brief review of the Supreme Court's recent war-on-terror decisions, brought by or on behalf of detained enemy combatants, will disabuse that notion. This area of governmental authority was once nearly immune from judicial intervention. Over the past five years, however, the Supreme Court (supposedly the nonpolitical branch) has unapologetically transformed itself into a full-fledged, policy-making partner with the president and Congress.

In the process, the justices blew past specific congressional efforts to limit their jurisdiction and involvement like a hot rod in the desert. Questions of basic constitutionality (however the court may define them) cannot now be shielded from judicial review.

It is, of course, impossible to predict how and when the courts will ultimately rule on the new health system. Much depends on the details and the extent to which reasonable and practical private alternatives to the national plan remain. In crafting the law, however, its White House and congressional sponsors must keep privacy -- that near absolute right to personal autonomy they have so often praised and promoted -- squarely before them. The only thing that is certain today is that the courts, and not Congress, will have the last word.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
23955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is it Constitutional? on: June 22, 2009, 08:09:57 AM
Is a government-dominated health-care system unconstitutional? A strong case can be made for that proposition, based on the same "right to privacy" that underlies such landmark Supreme Court decisions as Roe v. Wade.

The details of this year's health-care reform bill are still being hammered out. But the end result is sure to be byzantine in complexity. Washington will have immense say over how, when and through whom Americans are treated. Moreover, despite the administration's public pronouncements about painless cuts in wasteful spending, only the most credulous believe that some form of government-directed health-care rationing can be avoided as a means of controlling costs.

The Supreme Court created the right to privacy in the 1960s and used it to strike down a series of state and federal regulations of personal (mostly sexual) conduct. This line of cases began with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (involving marital birth control), and includes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The court's underlying rationale was not abortion-specific. Rather, the justices posited a constitutionally mandated zone of personal privacy that must remain free of government regulation, except in the most exceptional circumstances. As the court explained in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), "these matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life."

It is, of course, difficult to imagine choices more "central to personal dignity and autonomy" than measures to be taken for the prevention and treatment of disease -- measures that may be essential to preserve or extend life itself. Indeed, when the overwhelming moral issues that surround the abortion question are stripped away, what is left is a medical procedure determined to be "necessary" by an expectant mother and her physician.

If the government cannot proscribe -- or even "unduly burden," to use another of the Supreme Court's analytical frameworks -- access to abortion, how can it proscribe access to other medical procedures, including transplants, corrective or restorative surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, or a myriad of other health services that individuals may need or desire?

This type of "burden" analysis will be especially problematic for a national health system because, in the health area, proper care often depends upon an individual's unique physical and even genetic history and characteristics. One size clearly does not fit all, but that is the very essence of governmental regulation -- to impose a regularity (if not uniformity) in the application of governmental power and the dispersal of its largess. Taking key decisions away from patient and physician, or otherwise limiting their available choices, will render any new system constitutionally vulnerable.

It is true, of course, that forms of rationing already exist in our current system. No one who has experienced the marked reluctance to treat aggressively lethal illnesses in the elderly can doubt that. However, what may be permissible for private actors -- including doctors and insurance companies -- is not necessarily lawful when done by the government.

Obviously, the government does not have to pay for any and all services individual citizens may desire. And simply refusing to approve a procedure or treatment under applicable reimbursement rules, as under the government-run Medicare and Medicaid, does not make the system unconstitutional. But if over time, as many critics fear, a "public option" health insurance plan turns into what amounts to a single-payer system, the constitutional issues regarding treatment and reimbursement decisions will be manifold.

The same will be true of a quasi-private system where the government claims a large role in defining acceptable health-insurance coverage and treatments. There will be all sorts of "undue burdens" on the rights of patients to receive the care they may want. Then the litigation will begin.

Anyone who imagines that Congress can simply avoid the constitutional issues -- and lawsuits -- by withdrawing federal court jurisdiction over the new health system must think again. A brief review of the Supreme Court's recent war-on-terror decisions, brought by or on behalf of detained enemy combatants, will disabuse that notion. This area of governmental authority was once nearly immune from judicial intervention. Over the past five years, however, the Supreme Court (supposedly the nonpolitical branch) has unapologetically transformed itself into a full-fledged, policy-making partner with the president and Congress.

In the process, the justices blew past specific congressional efforts to limit their jurisdiction and involvement like a hot rod in the desert. Questions of basic constitutionality (however the court may define them) cannot now be shielded from judicial review.

It is, of course, impossible to predict how and when the courts will ultimately rule on the new health system. Much depends on the details and the extent to which reasonable and practical private alternatives to the national plan remain. In crafting the law, however, its White House and congressional sponsors must keep privacy -- that near absolute right to personal autonomy they have so often praised and promoted -- squarely before them. The only thing that is certain today is that the courts, and not Congress, will have the last word.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
23956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson on: June 22, 2009, 07:42:22 AM
"The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it."

--James Wilson, Of the Study of Law in the United States, Circa, 1790
23957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghan fight shows challenge for US troops on: June 21, 2009, 11:02:55 PM
Afghan fight shows challenge for U.S. troops
Bloody summer in forecast as Washington tries to turn around the war
The Associated Press
updated 11:44 a.m. PT, Sun., June 21, 2009

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan - Missiles, machine guns and strafing runs from fighter jets destroyed much of a Taliban compound, but the insurgents had a final surprise for a pair of U.S. Marines who pushed into the smoldering building just before nightfall.

As the two men walked up an alley, the Taliban opened fire from less than 15 yards, sending bullets and tracer fire crackling inches past them. They fled under covering fire from their comrades, who hurled grenades at the enemy position before sprinting to their armored vehicles.

The assault capped a day of fighting Saturday in the poppy fields, orchards and walled compounds of southern Afghanistan between newly arrived U.S. Marines and well dug-in Taliban fighters. It was a foretaste of what will likely be a bloody summer as Washington tries to turn around a bogged-down, eight-year-old war with a surge of 21,000 troops.

"This was the first time we pushed this far. I guess they don't like us coming into their back door," said Staff Sgt. Luke Medlin, who was sweeping the alley for booby traps as Marine Gunner John Daly covered him from behind when the Taliban struck.

"And now they know we will be back," said Medlin, from Richmond, Ind.

Symbol of what went wrong
The fighting was on the outskirts of Now Zad, a town that in many ways symbolizes what went wrong in Afghanistan and the enormous challenges facing the United States. It is in Helmand province, a center of the insurgency and the opium poppy trade that helps fund it.

Like much of Afghanistan, Now Zad and the surrounding area were largely peaceful after the 2001 invasion. The United Nations and other Western-funded agencies sent staff to build wells and health clinics.

But in 2006 — with American attention focused on Iraq — the insurgency stepped up in the south. Almost all the city's 35,000 people fled, along with the aid workers.

British and Estonian troops, then garrisoned in Now Zad, were unable to defeat the insurgents. They were replaced last year by a small company of about 300 U.S. Marines, who live in a base in the center of the deserted town and on two hills overlooking it.

The Taliban hold much of the northern outskirts and the orchards beyond, where they have entrenched defensive positions, tunnels and bunkers.

The Marines outnumber the Taliban in the area by at least 3-to-1 and have vastly superior weapons but avoid offensive operations because they lack the manpower to hold territory once they take it. There are no Afghan police or troops here to help.

"We don't have the people to backfill us. Why clear something that we cannot hold?" said Lt. Col. Patrick Cashman, head of the battalion in charge of Now Zad and other districts in Helmand and Farah provinces, where some 10,000 Marines are slowly spreading out in the first wave of the troop surge.

'A bad situation'
Cashman said the Marines did not intend to allow the Taliban free rein in parts of Now Zad, but was unable to give any specific plans or time frame for addressing what he acknowledged is "a bad situation."

Saturday's mission was aimed at gathering intelligence and drawing a response from enemy positions close to a street called "Pakistani alley" because of one-time reports suggesting fighters from across the border had dug in there.

"We're bait," one Marine said as the convoy of five vehicles left the base at 8 a.m. and trundled north.

It quickly came across a roadside bomb — the kind which killed a member of the company on June 6 and has wounded at least seven others in the four weeks since the company has been stationed here. An engineer was dispatched and came back an hour later carrying the parts of the bomb — two 82mm mortar shells attached to a pressure plate.

Heading to inspect suspected tunnel
The vehicles were heading to inspect a suspected tunnel when the Taliban struck, firing mortars that landed close by. Machine gunners atop the vehicles and troops in an open-sided truck scanned the scene for plumes from weapons fire.

"We're taking fire from both sides here!" Lance Cpl. James Yon yelled.

"Hit 'em Yon!" came the call from below.

Hours of exchanges followed, with the Taliban opening fire with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and rockets from the orchards or inside walled compounds.

A mortar punctured the tire of a Humvee; a grenade swooshed just over a troop truck.

"That was close," Daly said. "If they were a better shot, we'd be canceling Christmas."

Each time the insurgents attacked, the Marines returned fire if they could spot their foes or radioed in coordinates for air strikes.

"Bombs are away," a voice crackled over the radio as Dutch fighter jets dropped laser-guided bombs on a compound, sending clouds of dust mushrooming into the air. The planes then strafed the position, leaving a line of fire and destruction 50 yards long. Other times mortar teams back at the base in Now Zad pummeled enemy positions.

Final close call
The Marines left their vehicles twice. Each time, they came under attack as they entered maze-like, high-walled compounds with ill-fitting, aging wooden doors and small windows, ideal for sniper positions.

In the late afternoon, U.S. forces fired two missiles from 55 miles away to hit a compound being used by the attackers. Minutes later, Marine Harrier jets strafed the compound, setting fire to a wheat field outside it but sparing a poppy patch — an irony not lost on the troops.

The Marines got their final close call as they assessed the compound for damage.

After blowing a hole through the wall, Medlin and Daly were met by a hail of bullets as they pressed up an alley.

"Gunner, are you good? You need to come back!" one Marine shouted into the gathering gloom. "I'll cover you!"

The two man leapt to safety. Daly sprained his ankle as he leapt from a wall, but that was the only Marine injury.

Twenty minutes after the troops withdrew, two Cobra helicopters fired a Hellfire missile that streaked at a 45-degree angle across the night sky into the building, then bombed and strafed it, igniting a blaze.

"Payback time," one Marine muttered in the dark of a truck; cheers erupted in another vehicle.

There were no confirmed Taliban casualties, but observers later spotted a funeral, and video images suggested others were killed in the aerial attacks.

Capt. Zachary Martin said such sustained contact sent the militants a message that they were not safe anywhere and bought the Marines — and the few civilians in the area — some "security space."

"We kicked the snot out of these guys," he told the Marines on their return to base, some 14 hours after they left.


June 22, 2009

With a Plan and a Rope, Captives Escaped Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan

An Afghan journalist who was held captive by the Taliban for more than seven months along with a New York Times reporter revealed details on Sunday of a nighttime escape that included weeks of careful plotting, taking advantage of weary guards and dropping down a 20-foot wall with a rope.

The Afghan journalist, Tahir Ludin, 35, said in an interview that the escape early Saturday from the second floor of a Taliban compound in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, was a desperate attempt by two severely demoralized reporters who believed that the Taliban were not seriously negotiating and would hold them indefinitely.

Mr. Ludin and David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Times, along with their driver, Asadullah Mangal, were abducted outside Kabul on Nov. 10 as Mr. Rohde traveled to interview a Taliban commander for a book he was writing about Afghanistan.

Mr. Ludin said that he and Mr. Rohde had been threatened with death by their captors. The past two to three months were so “hopeless,” Mr. Ludin said, that he considered committing suicide with a large knife. Mr. Rohde, who was reuniting with his family on Sunday, confirmed the accuracy of Mr. Ludin’s account but declined to comment further.

The three men were abducted on a road just a few minutes from where they planned to meet the Taliban commander, known as Abu Tayeb, in Logar Province, southeast of Kabul.

Mr. Ludin had previously escorted two other foreign journalists to safe interviews with the commander, and during those meetings the two established a degree of trust. Mr. Ludin said Mr. Tayeb had betrayed that trust by directly orchestrating the kidnapping.

The reporters and the driver were shuttled to various houses in Pakistan’s tribal areas while they were imprisoned, Mr. Ludin said.

As their captivity dragged on, he said, he and Mr. Rohde began plotting their escape by surveying the compound and its surroundings.

Once, Mr. Ludin said, he faked illness to visit a doctor outside the complex. Other times he asked his captors if he could watch local cricket matches — a sport he pretended to adore — so that he could study potential escape routes.

Still, it seemed impossible to escape from a town controlled by Taliban and foreign militants.

On Friday evening, in a planned bid to keep their captors awake as late as possible to ensure that the men would eventually sleep soundly, Mr. Ludin challenged the militants who slept beside them in the same room to a local board game.

When at last the games ended at midnight, the journalists waited for the militants to fall asleep.

At 1 a.m., Mr. Rohde woke Mr. Ludin and sneaked out of the room. Mr. Ludin recited several verses of the Koran and followed him. They made their way to the second floor, and Mr. Ludin got to the top of a five-foot-high wall.

When Mr. Ludin looked down, he said, he was greeted by an unnerving view: a 20-foot drop.

Mr. Rohde handed Mr. Ludin a rope that he had found two weeks earlier and had hidden from the guards. They fastened the rope to the wall, and Mr. Ludin lowered himself along the rope before unclenching his fists for good.

He crashed to the ground, leaving him with a sprained right foot and other injuries. He cut his foot, he said, pointing to his swollen and heavily bruised ankle and his bandaged big toe.

Mr. Rohde then lowered himself along the wall and jumped down without injury, Mr. Ludin said.

When asked why their captives did not hear the thump of their impact with the ground, Mr. Ludin said they waited to make the escape attempt on a night when the city had electrical power. At night, an old, noisy air-conditioner that ran masked the sound.

As the two men walked away, dogs barked at them from nearby compounds. At one point, barking stray dogs rushed at them in the darkness. To their surprise, no Taliban members emerged from nearby houses.

After 15 minutes, Mr. Ludin said, they arrived at a Pakistani militia post that he had spotted during one of his daytime trips outside the house. In the darkness, a half-dozen guards who suspected they were suicide bombers aimed rifles at them and shouted for them to raise their hands and not move.

“They said, ‘If you move, we are going to shoot you,’ ” he said.

Mr. Ludin said he was shivering in the darkness, and it took 15 minutes of anxious conversation to convince the guards that he had been kidnapped along with an American journalist — who hardly looked the part, with his long beard and Islamic attire.

The men were eventually allowed in the compound, ordered to take off their shirts, searched, blindfolded and taken to the base’s headquarters. After Pakistani officials confirmed their identities, they were treated well. Later that day, they were transferred to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and to an American military base outside Kabul.

While telling his story, Mr. Ludin showed flashes of his exuberant personality, as when he waved his arms and proclaimed “the food was excellent,” or when he joked about the gray hairs he had grown since his abduction. He spoke with his seven children gathered around him.

But more often than not, Mr. Ludin spoke in a burst of sentences and alluded several times to being in a confused mental state. On three occasions, he mistakenly referred to a visiting journalist as “David.”

Mr. Ludin said the driver, Mr. Mangal, appeared to be overwhelmed by fear of his captors and had not participated in the planning or the escape.
23958  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: toronto dbma training camp featuring Crafty Dog, Top Dog and Sled Dog Aug 21-23 on: June 21, 2009, 10:57:54 PM
@ Jeff:  Awesome you will be there  cool

@ Rene:  Still waiting for that info so I can post it on our Seminar page.
23959  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: June 20, 2009, 09:10:20 AM
Looking forward to a rocking good time on Monday!
23960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: June 20, 2009, 09:09:00 AM
Fox - 19 June 2009

The U.S. military is preparing for a possible intercept of a North Korean flagged ship suspected of proliferating weapons material in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last Friday, FOX News has learned.

The USS John McCain, a Navy destroyer, is positioning itself in case it gets orders to intercept the ship Kang Nam as soon as it leaves the vicinity off the coast of China, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The order to inderdict has not been given yet, but the ship is moving into the area.

"Permission has not been requested. Nor is it clear it will be," a military source told FOX News. "This is a very delicate situation and no one is interested in precipitating a confrontation."

The ship left a port in North Korea Wednesday and appears to be heading toward Singapore, according to a senior U.S. military source. The vessel, which the military has been tracking since its departure, could be carrying weaponry, missile parts or nuclear materials, a violation of U.N. Resolution 1874, which put sanctions in place against Pyongyang.

The USS McCain was involved in an incident with a Chinese sub last Friday - near Subic Bay off the Philippines. The Chinese sub was shadowing the destroyer when it hit the underwater sonar array that the USS McCain was towing behind it.

This is the first suspected "proliferator" that the U.S. and its allies have tracked from North Korea since the United Nations authorized the world's navies to enforce compliance with a variety of U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for its recent nuclear test.

The ship is currently along the coast of China and being monitored around-the-clock by air.

The apparent violation raises the question of how the United States and its allies will respond, particularly since the U.N. resolution does not have a lot of teeth to it.

The resolution would not allow the United States to board the ship forcibly. Rather, U.S. military would have to request permission to board -- a request North Korea is unlikely to grant.

North Korea has said that any attempt to board its ships would be viewed as an act of war and promised "100- or 1,000-fold" retaliation if provoked.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that the resolution allows states to seek permission to inspect cargo.

"If permission is not granted, then the flag state, the owner of the ship, is instructed to send that ship to a port for -- for a formal inspection to be made," Kelly said, adding that he would not go into any details of any particular ship or the way inspections are conducted.

"We would hope that -- that North Korea would -- would comply with international law and -- and allow the inspection," he said.

Since the U.S. does not expect to be granted permission, it expects to be asked to interdict that it will have to shadow the ship until it runs out of fuel. At that point, the ship would likely have to be towed into the port.

The U.S. military may request that the host country not provide fuel to the ship when it enters its port. North Korean merchant ships usually need fuel as they approach Singapore and the ports of eastern India. When tipped off, Indian port authorities are stringent enforcers of UN sanctions against ships carrying contraband.

The U.S. Navy does not need to enforce the sanctions. Instead, it could "poison the host," a move that entails working behind the scenes with Indian Ocean port authorities to inspect and confiscate illegal cargos.

This move worked last year when U.S. officials reportedly warned Indian officials in advance of a North Korean transport aircraft that had requested permission to fly through Indian airspace on the way to Iran after stopping in Burma to refuel. The Indians refused to allow the aircraft to fly through their airspace. The aircraft reportedly was carrying gyroscopes for ballistic missiles.

The Kang Nam is known to be a ship that has been involved in proliferation activities in the past -- it is "a repeat offender," according to one military source. The ship was detained in October 2006 by authorities in Hong Kong after the North Koreans tested their first nuclear device and the U.N. imposed a subsequent round of sanctions.

"North Korea does not export anything other than weapons," a U.S. official told FOX News. "And this ship is presumed to be carrying something illicit given its past history."

The latest tension follows a Japanese news report that North Korea may fire a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii in early July.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the military is "watching" that situation "very closely," and would have "some concerns" if North Korea launched a missile in the direction of Hawaii. But he expressed confidence in U.S. ability to handle such a launch.

Gates said he's directed the deployment of the Theater High Altitude Area Defense, a mobile missile defense system used for knocking down long- and medium-range missiles.

"The ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action. So, without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say ... I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect the American territory."
23961  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Will resume after Labor Day on: June 20, 2009, 08:45:08 AM
Woof All:

I just realized I forgot to post here that my Saturday class at the Inosanto Academy is suspended for the summer and will resume after Labor Day.

Guro Crafty
23962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Founding Fathers as fathers on: June 20, 2009, 07:54:58 AM
Barack Obama is a doting father who says that one of the greatest pleasures of his presidency is eating dinner with his daughters on the nights when he is in town.

Some of the nation's Founding Fathers were not so lucky. Doting dads though they were, patriotic service forced them to live apart from their families for years at a time. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the three Founders who spent the most time abroad, missed milestone events. Franklin was a no-show at his daughter's wedding and his wife's funeral. Adams was in Philadelphia when his wife, Abigail, gave birth to a stillborn daughter. While in France, Jefferson received word that his 2-year-old daughter had died of whooping cough. The news came seven months after her funeral.

Trans-Atlantic separations proved too painful to bear. Whenever possible, the Founders took their children with them or sent for the children once they had established a household abroad. John Adams set off on his maiden voyage to England accompanied by his 9-year-old son, John Quincy. On a second crossing he brought along sons John Quincy and Charles. His teenage daughter, Abigail, arrived in France with her mother a few years later. Benjamin Franklin's son, William, and his two grandsons, Temple Franklin and Benny Bache, were part of the Franklin overseas ménage at various times. A new widower, Jefferson took his elder daughter, Patsy, along with him on his diplomatic mission to France and later sent for his younger daughter, Polly.

The children were not always thrilled to go. Charles Adams sobbed inconsolably as he boarded the ship with his father. Eight-year-old Polly begged her father to let her remain at home in Virginia with her beloved aunt: "I am very sorry you sent for me," she bravely wrote. "I don't want to go to France." Still she went, accompanied on the journey by a 14-year-old babysitter named Sally Hemings. Upon arrival in London, the homesick girl spent the next month in the temporary care of Abigail Adams until her father sent a French-speaking manservant to fetch her. Abigail pointedly reminded Jefferson that the experience was traumatic for the child who, once again, was faced with separation from a mother figure and sent off to live with a father she did not know.

Nor was the arrangement a piece of cake for their fathers. In addition to the all-consuming diplomatic responsibilities of winning allies and funders for the Revolution, these lone fathers had to raise Revolutionary Kids. Chief among their responsibilities was securing an elite European education for their young offspring while protecting them from the temptations and dissipations of living abroad. The Founders' children and grandchildren kept company with an aristocratic power elite, savored Continental fads and fashions, and learned to speak fluent French.

It was all too easy, their fathers worried, for the Revolutionary Kids to abandon the republican virtues of industry and frugality and, even worse, to lose their native language. "It is a mortification to me," John Adams wrote to John Quincy, "that you write better in a foreign language than in your mother tongue."

To protect their children from corrupting influences, therefore, the Founding Fathers had to part with them again. Franklin dispatched his 9-year-old grandson, Benny Bache, to school in Switzerland for five years. The Adams sons attended schools in Holland. The Jefferson daughters were placed in a convent in Paris.

Yet no matter how devoted, the Founding Fathers were not inclined, as today's parents are, to lavish their students with praise. "Good job" was not in their vocabulary. "Take care you never spell a word wrong," Jefferson admonished his younger daughter. "Remember too . . . not to go out without your bonnet because it will make you very ugly and then we should not love you so much."

Nor did the Founding Fathers leave it up to their children to "make good choices." Instead, they moralized endlessly on the perils of indolence, time-wasting and thriftlessness. Jefferson reproved Patsy: "If at any moment, my dear, you catch yourself in idleness, start from it as you would from the precipice of a gulph." John Adams lectured John Quincy, hardly a slouch of a student, to "lose no Time. There is not a moral Percept of clearer Obligation or of greater Import."

When Benny Bache asked his grandfather for a gold watch, Franklin responded tartly: "You should remember that I am at a great Expence for your education . . . and you should not tease me for things that can be of little or no Service to you."

Even the profligate Thomas Jefferson embraced the virtue of frugality. When Patsy appealed for extra money, her father refused: "The rule I wish to see you governed by is of never buying anything which you have not money in your pocket to pay for. Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want."

Judged by today's psychological standards, these 18th century fathers sound harsh and unfeeling. Yet to see the Founding Fathers as flesh-and-blood dads, to glimpse their struggles to rear their children at a time of grave uncertainty and peril, is to appreciate their service and sacrifice anew. Founding a nation meant more than winning a war. It also called upon the nation's Founders to pass on the passion for freedom, educational excellence and civic virtue to their children and grandchildren.

John Adams said it best in a letter to Abigail: "The education of our children is never out of my Mind . . . Fire them with Ambition to be useful and make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their Ambition upon great and solid objects."

Ms. Whitehead is director of the John Templeton Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values and co-editor of "Franklin's Thrift: The Lost History of a American Virtue," just published by Templeton Press
23963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ammo control begins in CA on: June 19, 2009, 03:43:13 PM
Commencing July 1, 2010, it will be illegal for anyone in CA to privatley transfer more than 50 rounds of handgun ammunition....

(3) Commencing July 1, 2010, a vendor shall not sell or otherwise
transfer ownership of any handgun ammunition without at the time of
delivery legibly recording the following information on a form that
is in a format to be prescribed by the department:
(A) The date of the sale or other transaction.
(B) The purchaser's or transferee's driver's license or other
identification number and the state in which it was issued.
(C) The brand, type, and amount of ammunition sold or otherwise
(D) The purchaser's or transferee's signature.
(E) The name of the salesperson who processed the sale or other
(F) The right thumbprint of the purchaser or transferee on the
above form.
(G) The purchaser's or transferee's full residential address and
telephone number.
(H) The purchaser's or transferee's date of birth.
23964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in India reports-2 on: June 19, 2009, 01:06:13 PM

Even today the Pak army is focussing only on the "bad talibunnies". problem is that the "good talibs" from the puki perspective, are bad from the US I can see no benefit from the continued drain of US money in Pukistan. Pak needs to focus on all Talibs. As a reminder the bad Talibs are anti-Pak and active inside Pak, the good Talibs (eg Haqqani group) are against the US and active in Afghanistan. From one of the blogs I frequent...
If Estimates of Taliban Forces Are Correct, Pakistan Cannot Win


For many years, each time the Pakistan Army has said it lacks the resources to fight the Taliban, at we've engaged in rude sniggering. The Pakistan Army has close to 30 division-equivalents worth of troops, 80% infantry. It is one of the largest armies in the world. Its men are long-service professionals - long service means 10, 15, and 20 years for the soldiers and NCOs. It is well-trained, reasonably well equipped by Third World standards and well led.

How then could Pakistan claim it cannot fight the Taliban?

Of course, it didn't/doesn't want to fight the Taliban because even today with the exception of Baitullah Mesud whom the Pakistan Army says it is hunting, the other three major commanders are pro-Government, as are a host of minor commanders.

But from June 17, 2009 we learn that this Mesud gentleman has 30,000 fighters under his command and another 20,000 in allied/associated groups. The three other major commanders have 50,000 fighters. AQ in Pakistan has 10,000. This makes 110,000 fighters, and it doesn't take too much math to calculate that at 600 fighters per Pakistan army battalion (rifle and weapons companies) the Pakistan army has 130,000 infantry to the Taliban's 100,000. Of course, that doesn't count the Pakistan Army's approximately 130 or so towed artillery battalions and the approximately 300 or so fighter aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force.

No one can argue that the Pakistan Army has firepower superiority. But the Taliban's forces, for all they operate in units as large as brigades, do not fight a conventional fight when facing the Pakistan Army. They are guerrillas, and while that firepower comes in handy if the Taliban commander makes a mistake, it is of basically no help except to make holes in the ground and kill civilians.

So Pakistan could send every single soldier it has facing India to the west, it is absolutely, completely, totally not in a position to fight the Taliban and win. Even the US, for all its phenomenal surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, mobility, and firepower resources cannot win at such odds.

So - something we'd better get used to as a concept - even if Pakistan suddenly got religion and decided to go after the Taliban, it is not going to win. You are going to get one ghastly mess that will, within a year's of fighting, destroy what remains of Pakistan's economy and unity because all out wars inflict unbearable stress on any country, leave alone a 3rd world nation riven by ethnic divides on every side.

Now, Pakistan is not going to get religion. It's going after the Mesud because the US has given the 10-centimer diameter steel shaft and because it seems the Pakistan Army has decided to come down on the Government's side - at least for now. You must keep in mind the Army's leadership is totally opportunistic. At any rate, its not going to go after the other commanders because they are vital strategic assets against the US in Afghanistan and India.

The prospect of taking on the Mesud and his 50,000 own/allied fighters is bad enough, AQ will have to join in because the Pakistan Army is intruding into its safe havens. Now here's what's really scary: the Pakistanis are doing their level to keep the "good" Taliban out of this battle and perhaps even get some of them to help with eliminating Mesud. But, as Bill Roggio at LWJ says, basing his opinion on local information and media the good Taliban are tied by promises and ethnic loyalties to the Mesud fellow. The Pakistan army can say all it wants "we are only targeting an anti-Pakistan person", and it is true in the Frontier money does run thicker than blood, but if for no reason other than that the "good" Taliban have to wonder if Mesud is knocked out the Pakistan state is not going to go after them to bring them under control they way they were under control before the fall of Kabul in 1996.

So: to sum up. Mesud and AQ have 60,000 fighters which is way too many for the entire Pakistan Army to take on to begin with. The whole kit and kaboodle has 110,000 fighters. This is not a winning situation no matter which way anyone looks at it.

Here's more bad news: according to the Indians, Pakistan has deployed 22 brigades against the Taliban. That's almost a third of its infantry, and people, you have to realize that so far the Taliban haven't really put up up a fight. For all the drama the ISPR tries to keep going, if 390 Pakistan soldiers/Frontier Corps have been killed, that's 65 a week. That's not a war, its a bunch of skirmishes.

As someone who has closely studied the Pakistan Army for forty years, Editor can testify that by its lights, the Pakistan army is doing what it can.

Because - please don't forget - there's the equivalent of 40 powerful Indian divisions sitting to the East of the Kashmir Cease Fire Line and International Border, excluding the minimum defense against China and the 70,000 specialized CI troops - who are all regular soldiers, by the way, not paramilitary. You want paramilitary, India can deploy 500,000 against Pakistan if it needs to.

Beyond a point, if anyone thinks the US is going to be able to restrain India indefinitely so that Pakistan can shift all its infantry to the west is plain dreaming. Study the history of the subcontinent for just the last 1000 years and you will see this is just the right time for Delhi to start preparing to bring India's fractious and turbulent northwest under control. In case someone doesn't get it, India's northwest includes ALL of Pakistan.

The Pakistanis would have to be absolute lunatics to even think of moving many more troops to the west. Now if an Editor as an Indian citizen is saying that, think what the Pakistanis will say if the US wants them to move more troops. And that's if they want an all-out war with the Taliban that they cannot win. And they don not want such a war.

My best guess is, we can slow the pace, but not the outcome (talibanization of Pak). What frustrates me is that we are not seeking genuine change from Pak, but are satisfied with cosmetic change to show the US populace that Obama is getting things done. So what exactly is being achieved in Pak. A few random thoughts.
1. IDP's (internally displaced people): About 2 million IDP's have been generated, their homes have been flattened by indiscriminate use of Pak fire power, more civilians have been killed than Taliban. It is guaranteed that these 2 million will form the seed for the next generation of talibunny recruits.
2. Many of the soldiers who fight the Taliban have their homes in the pashtoon areas. They do not appreciate seeing their homes blown up. If Pak instead utilises punjabi troops (pakjabi in Indian vernacular), then it generates a punjabi-pashtoon ethnic divide. Of note the army is considered to be mostly Punjabi. This is corroborated by reports in the media (India Today) that many are deserting their units.
3. The claimed victories in Swat, remain to be confirmed. They are fighting a guerilla force, who disappear into the mountains when the going gets tough. Its guaranteed that the Talibs will be back, once the army withdraws. I dont see the army maintaining a perpetual presence in NWFP.
4. The US is asking Pak to go after the "bad guys". This is against Pak national interest. Their military doctrine talks about strategic depth in Afganistan and the use of proxies to fight their wars with India. This is not going to happen, unless the US is willing to threaten break up of Pak.
5. Note the motto of the Pak army "Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah", translated as "Faith, Piety and Fight in the path of God". The army is doing jihad, the talib's are doing jihad. So the question to the common abdul is, who is the purest of them all. Also of note "pakistan" means land of pure. In this contest of purity, the Talibs are considered purer. Is it then any wonder that the Pak army hesitates to fight the Taliban mano a mano, but rather just lobs bombs on them from a distance.
6. If we look at the madarassa curriculum, its full of hateful propaganda. Unless they can change the curriculum, there will be no shortage of little mujahids. There is no one in Pak who is powerful enough to do that.
7. Look at the internal contradictions in Pakistan, Balochistan is simmering, The NWFP/FATA appears lost.
We cannot win the AFPak war this way. We got out of Iraq with atleast a semblance of a draw or perhaps even a victory. The difference was that in Iraq, the US did the heavy lifting and the fighting. In the FakAp region, we are using the Pukes as our proxy. If history is any guide, the Pukes will take the money, and do the minimum necessary. They will never go for the kill. Why would they kill the golden goose ?. If they knock off the Talibs, who will pay them for holding a gun to their head ?.
23965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WTF?!? on: June 19, 2009, 11:42:39 AM

U.S., Russia: Washington's Latest Offer to Moscow
Stratfor Today » June 18, 2009 | 1939 GMT

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama in London on April 1Summary
Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Russia, STRATFOR has received unconfirmed information indicating that Washington could be willing to yield to Moscow on the issue of ballistic missile defense in Eastern Europe if Moscow gives Washington assurances on issues related to Afghanistan and Iran. It could be that the United States is willing to make a deal with Russia in the short term, but overall Washington has made it clear that Afghanistan and Iran take priority over Eastern Europe.


In the lead-up to U.S. President Barack Obama’s July 6-8 visit to Russia, a flurry of public negotiations is taking place. However, one of the tougher subjects being negotiated more privately is Russia’s demand that the United States abandon its plans to place ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. STRATFOR has received unconfirmed information on what the United States may be considering conceding to the Russians in order to gain assurances on other critical issues — like Iran and Afghanistan — from Moscow.

In the negotiations between Moscow and Washington, there are myriad issues on the table — some of which Russia feels confident in handling, like NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine or renegotiating START. Then there are other issues that Russia considers more difficult, like the BMD plans. For Russia, this issue is about more than BMD; it is about an actual U.S. military presence on the former Soviet border. When Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met in April, Russia was prepared to push its demand to keep BMD installations out of Poland, but the United States held firm on the issue.

However, since April, Washington has become more concerned with its war in Afghanistan, the destabilization of neighboring Pakistan, and more recently the post-election situation in Iran. Enmity between Washington and Moscow could make all of these situations more difficult. The United States knows Russia has some very old but powerful ties to Afghanistan and its Islamist groups. There is little proof yet that Russia has been meddling in Afghanistan, but there is potential. With Pakistan entrenched in chaos, the United States is still interested in using supplementary logistical routes for military supplies bound for Afghanistan, and the only real alternative to Pakistan is Russia’s turf in Central Asia — and even Russia itself — though Russia has frozen all talks on the use of such routes.

And then there is Iran. Russia has given Iran rhetorical backing in recent years. Russia also helped to build Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant and continually threatened the West with further military deals with Tehran (though it has consistently abstained from selling Iran strategic air defense systems). But Obama seems committed to negotiating with Iran, even though its anti-U.S. president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad most likely will serve a second term, and Washington does not need Russia to interfere or escalate tensions.

For quite some time, STRATFOR has noted that with U.S. foreign policy focused on fighting the Afghan war and on negotiations with Iran, the question regarding Russia’s resurgence has not been whether the United States will make concessions to the Russians, but how much and how publicly.

STRATFOR sources in Moscow have said that the latest offer from the Americans reportedly entails abandoning the Polish/Czech Republic arrangement and instead incorporating existing Russian radars into the existing U.S. BMD architecture. This proposal has advantages and disadvantages both technically and geopolitically.

From a technical perspective, the matter is problematic. U.S. ballistic missile defenses rely upon X-band radar for tracking and plotting intercepts. Russia’s Gabala early warning radar in Azerbaijan — one of the radar systems being considered for U.S. use — is of the older Pechora type, and operates at a different frequency than the X-band. While the Gabala radar would certainly be useful for early warning and monitoring Iranian missile tests, it is also oriented toward the Indian Ocean, so that an Iranian ballistic missile launched at Western Europe or the continental United States would quickly pass out of its field of view. The territory of Azerbaijan would also be too close to Iran for basing ground-based midcourse defense interceptors.

A newer, next-generation Voronezh-DM type radar at Armavir in the Russian Caucasus was activated and put on alert in February. The newer radar is thought to have more direct applicability to U.S. BMD efforts, but is still fixed in orientation — in this case toward Africa — so that while Iran and Western Europe both fall within its coverage, an Iranian missile launch directed at the United States would likely be on the periphery of the radar’s field of vision. More study would likely be necessary to determine its precise utility and how exactly it would fit into an overall scheme. But from a technical perspective, it could likely only serve as a complement to — not a replacement for — the fixed X-band radar slated for the Czech Republic.

That said, there are alternatives to placing an X-band radar in the Czech Republic. The United States also has a mobile deployable X-band radar (though the one currently in place in Israel reportedly experienced some technical issues during emplacement), and BMD-capable Aegis-equipped warships could be parked in the Black and Mediterranean seas as well as the North Sea east of the United Kingdom.

There also remains the issue of basing for interceptors. The ground-based midcourse defense interceptors slated for Poland require fixed concrete silos. Poland is about as good a spot as any, though an alternative site could be considered. In addition, it has been suggested that an Iranian missile caught with sufficient warning and with proper tracking data could be engaged by an interceptor based in Alaska.

Ultimately, from a purely technical standpoint, doing a deal with the Russians that sacrifices the Poland and Czech Republic sites in exchange for some access to Russian radar data does not seem particularly compelling. But the United States’ issues with Russia are much larger and more complex than BMD meant to defend against Iran. Washington could still decide that using alternative methods to guard against Iranian ballistic missiles is sufficient, and a larger deal with Moscow is worth the sacrifice.

There is also the possibility that the United States is striking a deal with Russia in the short term in order to get its house in order over Afghanistan and Iran, while in the longer term keeping its door open with Poland and the Czech Republic (though as BMD technology continues to mature, Washington will field increasingly flexible and mobile systems; the need for a fixed installation is fleeting). But such a scheme would be tricky since Moscow does not entirely trust Washington, and Warsaw will most likely not be pleased that the United States has abandoned it, even temporarily, in order to appease the Russians.

But from a geopolitical viewpoint, the United States has made it clear that its priorities are Afghanistan and Iran at the moment, not Russia or its resurgence. Conceding on Poland would not only create a more amiable Russia that could help with Afghanistan and Iran, it would also prevent the Afghan and Iranian situations from getting more difficult for the United States.

This plan seems reasonable geopolitically, but many within the administration are not on board, as they know the ramifications of a deal with Moscow. Such a deal could lose the faith of those NATO allies that depend on the United States to protect them from a resurgent Russia (not just Poland, but many former Soviet states that continue to feel pressure from Moscow). It would also mean effectively surrendering ground to Russia that — even when the United States has more room to maneuver — could be difficult to win back. Both of these consequences are something Moscow wants, so the Kremlin is closely examining the latest offer regarding BMD. Russia is concerned that Washington could rescind the offer because of the plan’s technical shortcomings and because the implications for the perception of America’s commitment to its NATO allies are very apparent to some within the administration.
23966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fox News piece on Survivalists on: June 19, 2009, 11:32:50 AM
23967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: June 19, 2009, 09:59:10 AM
From which island is that?
23968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Khamenei lays down the word on: June 19, 2009, 09:25:25 AM
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to the Iranian people during Friday prayers June 19, siding with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and ordering protesters to end their demonstrations. Khamenei has decided that using force to suppress the uprising is worth the risk, even if it leads to greater infighting among the power brokers of the system. It remains unclear if Ahmadinejad’s opponents will stage a showdown, but the protests have grown enough in size and energy to take on a life of their own.


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a rare but critical Friday sermon prayer June 19 in which he addressed the continuing public unrest in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June 12 presidential election, as well as the schism among the country’s political leadership. As expected, he took a clear position in favor of the president, rejecting accusations of electoral fraud and framing the conflict in terms of foreign powers exploiting the Islamic republic’s internal troubles. More importantly, he warned both the protesters and their leaders to halt the demonstrations and that they would be responsible for any bloodshed.

Khamenei has clearly opted for the forcible suppression of the uprising. STRATFOR had pointed out in a previous report that the country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has taken command of domestic law enforcement in Tehran. Consequently, from today forward, we can expect to see security forces crush protests. That the two main defeated challengers of Ahamdinejad, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karroubi did not attend the prayer session shows that they are not about to accept the verdict.

At the same time, Mousavi and Karroubi cannot be perceived as openly defying the supreme leader and they have an interest in the preservation of the cleric-led political system. Furthermore, their supporters on the streets are far more radical than they are because Mousavi and Karroubi are part and parcel of the system (something which Khamenei pointed out when he said that that all four candidates in the recent presidential election belonged to Iran’s Islamic establishment). Therefore, they will have a hard time balancing between the need to sustain their opposition to the results of the election and controlling the protesters on the streets, especially during a major security crackdown. Regardless of whether the opposition leaders choose to take charge of the demonstrations, the protests have swelled enough in size and energy to take on a life of their own.

Khamenei’s speech also telegraphed to Ahmadinejad’s opponents that he is fully behind the president. He said, “Differences of opinion do exist between officials which is natural. But it does not mean there is a rift in the system. Ever since the last presidential election there existed differences of opinion between Ahmadinejad and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (the second most powerful cleric in the state). Of course my outlook is closer to that of Ahmadinejad in domestic and foreign policy.” Khamenei also spoke of the difference between him and Rafsanjani, but also praised him as being “close” to the revolution.

This puts Rafsanjani and his pragmatic conservative allies — including the powerful speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani and former IRGC chief and presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezaie — in a difficult spot. On one hand, they cannot accept Ahmadinejad because he is a threat to their political interests. On the other, they cannot openly defy Khamenei as that could lead to the unraveling of the regime. This would explain why Larijani, along with Judiciary Chief Shahroudi and Tehran’s mayor Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf — who are all key pragmatic conservatives who oppose the president — attended the sermon along with the president and his cabinet. Rezaie did not attend the sermon, but wrote a letter to Khamenei, signaling that he wanted to resolve the issues amicably under the leadership of Khamenei.

Rafsanjani is therefore likely to face great difficulties in his efforts to build a consensus among the clerics against the president because now it is no longer simply about Ahmadinejad. Instead, his moves will be seen as facing off against the supreme leader. As the head of the Assembly of Experts, the most powerful institution in the country, which has the power to remove the supreme leader, he can make a move against Khamenei. That has never been done in the history of the Islamic republic. Therefore, it is unclear whether Rafsanjani is ready to escalate matters to such a level. The split amongst the political leadership is also manifesting itself in the country’s security apparatus with reports of arrests of several IRGC commanders who do not agree with Ahmadinejad.

The stage is now set for a major confrontation, but it is unclear who will emerge victorious. Regardless of which political faction wins, Khamenei has decided that it is worth the risk to bring in the IRGC. Though the Iranian state security apparatus is adept at extinguishing protests, it is still a risky gamble that will further fuel the fire of discontent.
23969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bonner: The third and final stage on: June 19, 2009, 09:20:02 AM
Bill Bonner
Provided as a courtesy of Agora Publishing & The Daily Reckoning
Jun 18, 2009


<<The United States has entered the third and final stage in the life and death of a great country.

America's history can be divided into three broad stages. The first stage was industrialization. This is what took the United States from a marginal nation of settlers, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs and religious refugees to become the world's richest and most powerful country. The source of its wealth and power was its factories... and its people. The factories were the best in the world. And the people how labored in them were accustomed to hard work, saving, and self-discipline. There were no free lunches in America during this period. The fastest growing cities of the time were manufacturing centers - Chicago, Gary, Detroit, Pittsburg, and Birmingham. Thanks to its smokestacks and assembly lines, the US could make things better, cheaper and faster than any other country, with the possible exception of Germany before WWI and Japan after WWII. That is how the US became the world's largest creditor - by selling US-made goods to foreigners. And it's how the United States won WWI and WWII too. American factories could turn out more tanks, more planes, more guns and more butter than any other nation. And the United States had an abundant source of fuel too; "Texas Tea" they called it.

After WWII America enjoyed its glory days. It was on top of the world... in practically every sense. The United States was #1.

Nothing fails like success. The New Deal had fundamentally changed Americans' relationship to the state. Federal meddlers began playing a larger and larger role in the economic life of the country. Soon, American attitudes evolved to fit the circumstances. With the world's reserve currency... a huge lead over its competitors... and a government that promised to take care of its wants and needs, the US workforce relaxed. Gradually, it shifted from making things to buying them... while industry turned its focus from production to sales... and then, financing. Then, the United States entered the second stage: financialization.

In this second stage, the center of gravity shifted from the wealth-producing factories to the financial centers - mainly Manhattan. Prices of real estate in New York soared. Wall Street came to be seen not merely as a place to invest the proceeds of honest toil... but a way to create wealth. The most ambitious college graduates turned from engineering and manufacturing first to sales and marketing and later to finance; because that's where the money was. At the peak, in the Bubble Epoch, 2003-2007, Wall Street was drawing in the world's leading scholars in mathematics and statistics... These people were creating the biggest debt bombs in history... exotic, complicated financial concoctions... that eventually blew up in their faces.

Detroit went into a decline as early as the late '60s. GM continued to make cars, but it looked to financing as a way of make money. GMAC became the major source of GM's profits. Still mills along the Monongahela River began to rust in the '70s. Ships began to come to the US laden with goods in the '80s and '90s... and to go back empty. The US Fed tried to stimulate the US economy on several occasions, but it had a strange effect. It put more credit in the hands of US consumers - who used the money to buy goods from overseas. In effect, the US Fed was stimulating manufacturing in China!

But in 2007-2008 the bubble in consumer debt blew up. GM went broke in May of '09. The financialization stage ended. In its place comes a new stage: politicization, the third and fatal phase of a great nation.

Where is the money now? It took the train from Grand Central Station in Manhattan down to Union Station in Washington, DC. Want money? Ask Washington. It's pledged an amount equal to three times what it spent in WWII to the fight against deflation.

Where is the power now? Just ask Chrysler bondholders; in the end it didn't matter what their contracts said... when the US government turned against them, their goose was cooked. The Obama Administration, owner of GM, now sets top salaries and determines what kind of cars the company will make. Washington also determines which businesses will be kept alive - AIG - and which will die - Lehman Bros. Now it's the politicians, not Wall Street, nor investors, who decide the allocation of big capital...

And when ambitious young people buy a ticket to begin their careers, are they going to Milwaukee... to Manhattan... or to the lobbyists' mecca in Northern Virginia?>>

Jun 18, 2009
Bill Bonner
23970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IDF training on: June 19, 2009, 09:11:31 AM
Last update - 01:49 19/06/2009     
How an IDF colonel trains infantrymen to think, as well as charge 
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent 
Tags: Israel News, IDF, Infantry 

During the final exercise for Battalion 906, which ends a week-long program for squad leaders at the infantry combat training school, the Brigade Commander, Colonel Yaron Boim, as well as his small group of command officers, run at least twice as much as the soldiers participating in the training. Brigade commanders normally oversee the big picture and large unit movements under their command, but in this case Boim runs alongside the companies and the platoons, simulating counter-attacks against hills in the mountains of the northern Negev.

He feels it's important to operate with the lowest levels, that of the foot soldiers in the field and the junior officers. During the exercise Boim barely talks to the officers, but appears behind the squads; as shots ring out, he fires questions at those who in a few weeks will lead fresh squads in IDF infantry units. He points out the slightest details in terms of managing their fire, and how they should move in the terrain. When a soldier exposes himself to the fire of an imaginary foe, Boim does not hesitate to "drop" them as wounded, thus delaying the entire squad that now must evacuate an injured man to the rallying point.

"With this kind of exercise we force the trainees to stop thinking only as a soldier that needs to rush forward and shoot on his own, but to look around, get a feel of his position on the ground and a sense of where the other elements of the force are, choose a path for progress and a direction for the assault," Boim says. "We ask them to plan the exercise, prepare the commands, and offer various ways for conquering targets."
The IDF decided to hold a battalion-size exercise at the completion of the course for infantry squad commanders. Part of the purpose of this exercise is to prevent the possibility that young squad commanders in infantry brigades would move to their next assignments without having experienced a large-scale exercise in command.

Combining ground forces with air power

Even though most of the large exercises, starting at battalion level, have been held regularly since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, great emphasis is placed on combining the various types of ground forces with an element of air power. As such, it is not uncommon to now have infantry, armor, combat engineers and artillery participating in combined training operations with helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and air strike units.

All participants are trained in various command skills, navigation, using the terrain, and all the specializations of infantry soldiers. The exercise begins a short while before midnight, with a slow advance of infantry carrying their equipment through rough terrain, along dry river beds. At about 2:30 AM, they form into units at their assault points; half an hour before sunrise, heavy machine guns begin firing from selected positions prepared ahead of time. They are then followed by a gradual wave assault, carried out by three companies.

The course for squad leaders lasts 13 weeks and includes training in all the specializations of infantry soldiers - including navigation in open terrain, urban warfare, and indoctrination and morale classes that revolve around Zionism.

Boim says the assault on the Gaza Strip in January, as part of Operation Cast Lead, proved that the course is effective in training infantry squad leaders. Lessons from the operation have already been adopted into the second part of the training, which involves 30 different classes for training infantry troops in using various types of weapons and driving armored vehicles.

"From the operation [in Gaza] we learned to place emphasis on the use of mortars, especially on how to locate and pinpoint targets," Boim says. On a number of occasions during Cast Lead, mortars were fired against mistaken locations, injuring IDF troops and Palestinian civilians. In most of these cases, the issues stemmed from problems in relaying target data to the units operating the mortars.

Since the Second Lebanon War, the IDF has invested a great deal in the infantry Brigades, including acquiring new combat gear that no longer requires . Plans to acquire new armored personnel carriers, which have been delayed for budgetary reasons for nearly 20 years, are now being implemented in the form of the Namer tank, modeled on the chassis of the Mercava main battle tank.

The level of investment is also evident in the infrastructure at the base, where classrooms are air-conditioned, and there are computer rooms where the trainees undergo testing. The troops are also housed in permanent structures, rather than the typical tents. "It does not make the soldiers soft," Boim assures us. "We still go out to the field a great deal and we sleep in tents under difficult conditions, but the new means are force multipliers. Think of the time saved when we can now check the trainees' tests with computers rather than manually," he adds. 
23971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 23 State Attorney Generals on: June 18, 2009, 03:44:27 PM

EXCELLENT find!  I am spreading it around.


Here's this:

23 State Attorneys General To Attorney General Holder: "No Semi-Auto Ban"

Friday, June 12, 2009

On June 11, the top law enforcement officials of nearly half the states signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, expressing their opposition to reinstatement of the federal ban on semi-automatic firearms.

"We share the Obama Administration's commitment to reducing illegal drugs and violent crime within the United States. We also share your deep concern about drug cartel violence in Mexico. However, we do not believe that restricting law-abiding Americans' access to certain semi-automatic firearms will resolve any of these problems," the letter said.

The letter notes congressional opposition to bringing back the ban, and calls for increasing enforcement of existing laws.

We encourage NRA members to let these state officials know we appreciate them standing up to the incessant clamor for gun control that is currently coming from anti-gun groups and their media allies.

The 23 state Attorneys General, in alphabetical order, by state, are:

Arkansas – The Honorable Dustin McDaniel
Alabama - The Honorable Troy King
Colorado - The Honorable John W. Suthers
Florida - The Honorable Bill McCollum
Georgia - The Honorable Thurbert E. Baker
Idaho - The Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden
Kansas - The Honorable Steve Six
Kentucky - The Honorable Jack Conway
Louisiana - The Honorable James D. Caldwell
Michigan - The Honorable Mike Cox
Missouri - The Honorable Chris Koster
Montana - The Honorable Steve Bullock
Oklahoma - The Honorable W.A. Edmonson
Nebraska - The Honorable Jon Bruning
Nevada - The Honorable Catherine Cortez Masto
New Hampshire - The Honorable Kelly A. Ayotte
North Dakota - The Honorable Wayne Stenehjem
South Carolina - The Honorable Henry McMaster
South Dakota - The Honorable Lawrence Long
Texas - The Honorable Greg Abbott
Utah - The Honorable Mark L. Shurtleff
Wisconsin – The Honorable J.B. Van Hollen
Wyoming - The Honorable Bruce A. Salzburg

To read the letter in its entirety, please click here.
23972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Incorp'g the 2d via Citizenship clause? on: June 18, 2009, 03:37:44 PM
Hat tip to BBG:

Will Second Amendment Be Incorporated Through Citizenship Clause?
Posted Jun 17, 2009, 06:49 am CDT   
By Debra Cassens Weiss

Federal appeals courts hearing gun rights cases after the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment ruling last year in District of Columbia v. Heller are confronting an old issue: whether the amendment applies to restrict state and local laws under the incorporation doctrine.

Heller found that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own a gun in the District of Columbia, a federal enclave. New suits challenging state and local laws have resulted in a split. Two federal appeals courts refused to apply the Second Amendment to local laws without express Supreme Court authorization. A third disagreed.

University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson told the New York Times that the case could present a dilemma for some conservative justices who scoffed at incorporation arguments in the past. Because of the touchy issues, he says he would be surprised if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear new cases on the issue.

Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar told the Times that incorporation fell out of favor after the 1960s, but it’s being resurrected by liberal scholars. Most of the Bill of Rights have been applied to the states under liberal Warren Court rulings that found the 14th Amendment required incorporation. One exception is the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, which has not been applied to the states.

“The precedents are now supportive of incorporation of nearly every provision of the Bill of Rights,” Amar told the Times. “Now what’s odd is that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states.”

He believes the justices will support incorporation. A post at the Volokh Conspiracy after the Heller ruling cited evidence that Justice Antonin Scalia may be on board.

Scalia’s Heller opinion highlights the importance to the newly freed slaves of the right to keep and bear arms in the home—the kind of evidence used to support incorporation. One Scalia passage hints that he believes the amendment could be incorporated through the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause, rather than due process safeguards, says the Volokh Conspiracy writer, University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter.
23973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis et al on: June 18, 2009, 03:35:12 PM
Well, here's three bright people, including Scott Grannis offering their thoughts on this:  See the transcript of their conversation at

While you are there, surf around a bit and click on some of the pieces there.
23974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 18, 2009, 12:15:23 PM

The case for the economy coming out of recession is very well made here by my friend supply side economist Scott Grannis:

I recommend this blog for regular reading in the highest terms.
23975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yes Senator Boxer! on: June 18, 2009, 12:12:56 PM
What a ____!  rolleyes
23976  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Security, Executive Protection, Bodyguard, Surveillance issues on: June 18, 2009, 06:49:08 AM
Security at Places of Worship: More Than a Matter of Faith
June 17, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

In recent months, several high-profile incidents have raised awareness of the threat posed by individuals and small groups operating under the principles of leaderless resistance. These incidents have included lone wolf attacks against a doctor who performed abortions in Kansas, an armed forces recruitment center in Arkansas and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Additionally, a grassroots jihadist cell was arrested for attempting to bomb Jewish targets in the Bronx and planning to shoot down a military aircraft at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.

In addition to pointing out the threat posed by grassroots cells and lone wolf operatives, another common factor in all of these incidents is the threat of violence to houses of worship. The cell arrested in New York left what they thought to be active improvised explosive devices outside the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center. Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Although Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad conducted his attacks against a Little Rock recruiting center, he had conducted preoperational surveillance and research on targets that included Jewish organizations and a Baptist church in places as far away as Atlanta and Philadelphia. And while James von Brunn attacked the Holocaust Museum, he had a list of other potential targets in his vehicle that included the National Cathedral.

In light of this common thread, it might be instructive to take a more detailed look at the issue of providing security for places of worship.

Awareness: The First Step
Until there is awareness of the threat, little can be done to counter it. In many parts of the world, such as Iraq, India and Pakistan, attacks against places of worship occur fairly frequently. It is not difficult for religious leaders and members of their congregations in such places to be acutely aware of the dangers facing them and to have measures already in place to deal with those perils. This is not always the case in the United States, however, where many people tend to have an “it can’t happen here” mindset, believing that violence in or directed against places of worship is something that happens only to other people elsewhere.

This mindset is particularly pervasive among predominantly white American Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. Jews, Mormons, Muslims and black Christians, and others who have been targeted by violence in the past, tend to be far more aware of the threat and are far more likely to have security plans and measures in place to counter it. The Jewish community has very well-developed and professional organizations such as the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Anti-Defamation League that are dedicated to monitoring threats and providing education about the threats and advice regarding security. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has taken on a similar role for the Muslim community and has produced a “Muslim community safety kit” for local mosques. (I have written to Stratfor complaining of the credibility it gives here to this nefarious organization-Marc)The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) also has a very organized and well-connected security department that provides information and security advice and assistance to LDS congregations worldwide.

There are no functional equivalents to the SCN or the LDS security departments in the larger Catholic, evangelical Protestant and mainline Protestant communities, though there are some organizations such as the recently established Christian Security Network that have been attempting to fill the void.

Following an incident, awareness of the threat seems to rise for a time, and some houses of worship will put some security measures in place, but for the most part such incidents are seen as events that take place elsewhere, and the security measures are abandoned after a short time.

Permanent security measures are usually not put in place until there has been an incident of some sort at a specific house of worship, and while the triggering incident is sometimes something that merely provides a good scare, other times it is a violent action that results in tragedy. Even when no one is hurt in the incident, the emotional damage caused to a community by an act of vandalism or arson at a house of worship can be devastating.

It is important to note here that not all threats to places of worship will emanate from external actors. In the midst of any given religious congregation, there are, by percentages, people suffering from serious mental illnesses, people engaged in bitter child-custody disputes, domestic violence situations and messy divorces. Internal disputes in the congregation can also lead to feuds and violence. Any of these situations can (and have) led to acts of violence inside houses of worship.

Security Means More than Alarms and Locks

An effective security program is more than just having physical security measures in place. Like any man-made constructs, physical security measures — closed-circuit television (CCTV), alarms, cipher locks and so forth — have finite utility. They serve a valuable purpose in institutional security programs, but an effective security program cannot be limited to these things. Devices cannot think or evaluate. They are static and can be observed, learned and even fooled. Also, because some systems frequently produce false alarms, warnings in real danger situations may be brushed aside. Given these shortcomings, it is quite possible for anyone planning an act of violence to map out, quantify and then defeat or bypass physical security devices. However, elaborate planning is not always necessary. Consider the common scenario of a heavy metal door with very good locks that is propped open with a trashcan or a door wedge. In such a scenario, an otherwise “secure” door is defeated by an internal security lapse.

However, even in situations where there is a high degree of threat awareness, there is a tendency to place too much trust in physical security measures, which can become a kind of crutch — and, ironically, an obstacle to effective security.

In fact, to be effective, physical security devices always require human interaction. An alarm is useless if no one responds to it, or if it is not turned on; a lock is ineffective if it is not engaged. CCTV cameras are used extensively in corporate office buildings and some houses of worship, but any competent security manager will tell you that, in reality, they are far more useful in terms of investigating a theft or act of violence after the fact than in preventing one (although physical security devices can sometimes cause an attacker to divert to an easier target).

No matter what kinds of physical security measures may be in place at a facility, they are far less likely to be effective if a potential assailant feels free to conduct preoperational surveillance, and is free to observe and map those physical security measures. The more at ease someone feels as they set about identifying and quantifying the physical security systems and procedures in place, the higher the odds they will find ways to beat the system.

A truly “hard” target is one that couples physical security measures with an aggressive, alert attitude and sense of awareness. An effective security program is proactive — looking outward to where most real threats are lurking — rather than inward, where the only choice is to react once an attack has begun to unfold. We refer to this process of proactively looking for threats as protective intelligence.

The human interaction required to make physical security measures effective, and to transform a security program into a proactive protective intelligence program, can come in the form of designated security personnel. In fact, many large houses of worship do utilize off-duty police officers, private security guards, volunteer security guards or even a dedicated security staff to provide this coverage. In smaller congregations, security personnel can be members of the congregation who have been provided some level of training.

However, even in cases where there are specially designated security personnel, such officers have only so many eyes and can only be in a limited number of places at any one time. Thus, proactive security programs should also work to foster a broad sense of security awareness among the members of the congregation and community, and use them as additional resources.

Unfortunately, in many cases, there is often a sense in the religious community that security is bad for the image of a particular institution, or that it will somehow scare people away from houses of worship. Because of this, security measures, if employed, are often hidden or concealed from the congregation. In such cases, security managers are deprived of many sets of eyes and ears. Certainly, there may be certain facets of a security plan that not everyone in the congregation needs to know about, but in general, an educated and aware congregation and community can be a very valuable security asset.


In order for a congregation to maintain a sense of heightened awareness it must learn how to effectively do that. This training should not leave people scared or paranoid — just more observant. People need to be trained to look for individuals who are out of place, which can be somewhat counterintuitive. By nature, houses of worship are open to outsiders and seek to welcome strangers. They frequently have a steady turnover of new faces. This causes many to believe that, in houses of worship, there is a natural antagonism between security and openness, but this does not have to be the case. A house of worship can have both a steady stream of visitors and good security, especially if that security is based upon situational awareness.

At its heart, situational awareness is about studying people, and such scrutiny will allow an observer to pick up on demeanor mistakes that might indicate someone is conducting surveillance. Practicing awareness and paying attention to the people approaching or inside a house of worship can also open up a whole new world of ministry opportunities, as people “tune in” to others and begin to perceive things they would otherwise miss if they were self-absorbed or simply not paying attention. In other words, practicing situational awareness provides an excellent opportunity for the members of a congregation to focus on the needs and burdens of other people.

It is important to remember that every attack cycle follows the same general steps. All criminals — whether they are stalkers, thieves, lone wolves or terrorist groups — engage in preoperational surveillance (sometimes called “casing,” in the criminal lexicon). Perhaps the most crucial point to be made about preoperational surveillance is that it is the phase when someone with hostile intentions is most apt to be detected — and the point in the attack cycle when potential violence can be most easily disrupted or prevented.

The second most critical point to emphasize about surveillance is that most criminals are not that good at it. They often have terrible surveillance tradecraft and are frequently very obvious. Most often, the only reason they succeed in conducting surveillance without being detected is because nobody is looking for them. Because of this, even ordinary people, if properly instructed, can note surveillance activity.

It is also critically important to teach people — including security personnel and members of the congregation — what to do if they see something suspicious and whom to call to report it. Unfortunately, a lot of critical intelligence is missed because it is not reported in a timely manner — or not reported at all — mainly because untrained people have a habit of not trusting their judgment and dismissing unusual activity. People need to be encouraged to report what they see.

Additionally, people who have been threatened, are undergoing nasty child-custody disputes or have active restraining orders protecting them against potentially violent people need to be encouraged to report unusual activity to their appropriate points of contact.

As a part of their security training, houses of worship should also instruct their staff and congregation members on procedures to follow if a shooter enters the building and creates what is called an active-shooter situation. These “shooter” drills should be practiced regularly — just like fire, tornado or earthquake drills. The teachers of children’s classes and nursery workers must also be trained in how to react.


One of the things the SCN and ADL do very well is foster security liaison among Jewish congregations within a community and between those congregations and local, state and federal law enforcement organizations. This is something that houses of worship from other faiths should attempt to duplicate as part of their security plans.

While having a local cop in a congregation is a benefit, contacting the local police department should be the first step. It is very important to establish this contact before there is a crisis in order to help expedite any law enforcement response. Some police departments even have dedicated community liaison officers, who are good points of initial contact. There are other specific points of contact that should also be cultivated within the local department, such as the SWAT team and the bomb squad.

Local SWAT teams often appreciate the chance to do a walk-through of a house of worship so that they can learn the layout of the building in case they are ever called to respond to an emergency there. They also like the opportunity to use different and challenging buildings for training exercises (something that can be conducted discreetly after hours). Congregations with gyms and weight rooms will often open them up for local police officers to exercise in, and some congregations will also offer police officers a cup of coffee and a desk where they can sit and type their reports during evening hours.

But the local police department is not the only agency with which liaison should be established. Depending on the location of the house of worship, the state police, state intelligence fusion center or local joint terrorism task force should also be contacted. By working through state and federal channels, houses of worship in specific locations may even be eligible for grants to help underwrite security through programs such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

The world is a dangerous place and attacks against houses of worship will continue to occur. But there are proactive security measures that can be taken to identify attackers before they strike and help prevent attacks from happening or mitigate their effects when they do.
23977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Greg Mortenson on: June 18, 2009, 05:59:08 AM

Best-selling Co-author of “Three Cups of Tea” and Noble Peace Prize Nominee to Hold Event on the U.S.S. Midway Museum-

Greg Mortenson, co-author of the New York Times best-selling book “Three Cups of Tea” and current Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will be in San Diego on Wednesday night, July 1st, to continue his bridge building efforts with the military community by addressing a largely military audience on the U.S.S. Midway Museum. The event will also be open to the general public with proceeds donated to the Central Asia Institute, Greg’s non-profit organization, with the mission to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A former world-class mountain climber who has devoted the past 16 years to building schools in Central Asia, Mortenson has attracted the notice (and the readership) of both General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With the situation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan becoming more problematic, the military leadership is increasingly gravitating to Mortenson’s advice on how to build stronger relationships with tribal leaders and village elders – a key to winning the “hearts and minds” aspect of the conflict in the region.

Since 1993, Mortenson has built 78 schools, which are currently educating over 28,000 children with an emphasis on teaching girls. “If you educate a boy,” says Mortenson, “you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.”

Mortenson has had more than his share of close calls while leading this unique effort. In 1996, he survived an eight-day kidnapping and in 2003, managed to escape a firefight between feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under a pile of putrid animal hides. Readers of his best-selling book (122 weeks on the NYT best seller list, #1 for 41 weeks, translated into 29 languages, with a children and Young Readers edition available as well) gain an intimate look into his efforts and challenges and no doubt feel an admiration for his passion and persistence.

In the past two years, the Taliban have shut down 500 schools in Afghanistan and 175 in Pakistan, almost all of them schools for girls. But only one school built by Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute has been attacked. That school was reopened after two days via a counterattack by a warlord whose own daughters were attending students. The key difference has been in Mortenson’s approach to building and maintaining the schools – with a keen understanding and respect for local culture and authority.

“Education is a long-term solution to fanaticism,” says Colonel Christopher Kolenda, who commanded an Army brigade in a part of eastern Afghanistan where Mortenson founded two schools. “As Greg points out so well, ignorance breeds hatred and violence.”

Initially resistant to working with the military, despite being an Army veteran himself, Mortenson has rethought his approach. “I get criticism from the NGO community, who tell me I shouldn’t talk to the military at all,” he said. “But the military has a willingness to change and adapt that you don’t see in other parts of the government.”

Tickets for the event will be $25.00 purchased in advance at Search on keyword “Mortenson” and click on the July 1 event. Active duty and retired military personnel can reserve Free tickets by e-mailing This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it by June 24th (military ID will be required).

For more information, visit: – Greg Mortenson - book - Central Asia Institute

Photo Editors:
Free editorial images available on.

Literary/Book Editors:
"Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace and Build Nations ... One School At A Time," by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; ISBN: 0670034827/Viking/Hardcover/338 pages/$25.95.

Contact information:
Event contact: Gretchen Breuner, GJBB@COX.NET This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Press contact: Cynthia Guiang, CG Communications, 858-793-2471, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
23978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine on: June 18, 2009, 05:17:48 AM
"As parents, we can have no joy, knowing that this government is not sufficiently lasting to ensure any thing which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method of argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we should take our children in our hand, and fix our station a few years farther into life; that eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight."

--Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
23979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 18, 2009, 05:16:34 AM
Its an idea that a economic fascist would love.
23980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We have lost a player on: June 18, 2009, 04:46:08 AM
Woof All:

We have lost JDN as a player here due to a lack of the "after dinner" tone of some recent comments.

I know he irritated some, but this bit about the after dinner tone matters, regardless of the POV and whether responses are  , , , responsive.   

23981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More on sunspots on: June 18, 2009, 04:25:49 AM

The article starts talking about low wheat production due to the weather, then discusses the role of sunspots on the earths temperature.  The sunspot issue was first flagged here quite some time ago, but now begins to getting wider notice.
23982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The death and life of HC reform on: June 17, 2009, 07:15:11 AM
The following is a draft of a speech titled "The Obama Years: A Reappraisal" that mysteriously was never delivered at the 2070 national meeting of the Institute of Advanced Obamalogy:

So it came to pass in the waning days of the health-care wars that Democrats learned the American people really didn't want a nationalized health-care industry.

The Obama administration's "public option," which all knew to be a vote for a government takeover, proved a drink too stiff for four or five Democratic senators whose re-election was not in the bag.

President Obama applauded himself for achieving "85% of what we set out to accomplish." But pundits and wonks were in despair. They retreated to their watering holes and cried into their Stoli martinis. The cause of their lives was over. A once-in-a-generation opportunity had been muffed. Without a massive bill in Congress, with many titles and subtitles and subchapters, they moaned, there was no hope for fixing all that ailed the American health-care system.

But politics went on, and while the armies of wonkdom mourned, three little-known congressmen (Eric Paul, Ryan Cantor and Kemp Newtley) discovered an unexpected public enthusiasm for a flat tax.

Through incessant Twittering over the heads of the media, they persuaded millions of voters they'd be better off with lower rates even if it meant giving up tax-free employer provided health insurance. It didn't hurt, either, that the wailing of insurance and medical lobbyists was over-the-top -- convincing voters that the tax benefit really was just a form of corporate welfare disguised as a mostly illusory benefit for individuals.

Though the realization was slow in dawning, policy experts would eventually rediscover what they had known all along (but had conveniently forgotten in order to lend their voices to "solutions" that required ever more government spending) -- that tax reform, in the American context, is health-care reform.

And, lo, it proved true, as 100 million intelligent, well-educated employees of Corporate America were allowed to see for the first time what "tax free" health insurance was really costing them. They saw how it distorted their behavior and caused them to allocate far more of their incomes to the medical-industrial complex than they would have chosen for themselves.

Eyes newly opened, they demanded cheaper insurance options, covering fewer services (cancer wigs, family counseling, in-vitro fertilization), and opted for plans with higher deductibles and co-pays in return for much lower monthly rates.

Because consumers were now spending their "own" money on health care, doctors and hospitals found it necessary to publish and even advertise their prices. A hospital that specialized in heart surgery, performing thousands of procedures a year, found it had both the highest quality and lowest cost -- and now marketed itself as such. Ditto specialists in cancer, diabetes and other conditions.

For the first time, Americans spent less and got more. Spending fell overnight by 13%, which happened to be exactly what economists had predicted if the price tags were restored to health care and consumers were allowed to see clearly what they were getting (or not getting) for their money. As predicted, too, spending thereafter rose only in line with incomes.

What's more, many fewer people remained voluntarily uninsured now that health insurance was no longer a gold-plated extravagance affordable only by those in the top brackets who could slough off 40% of the cost on other taxpayers. Existing programs for the needy, in turn, could be downsized and revamped into voucher programs. The federal budget benefited twice over -- from fewer claimants and from medical care that was less costly. Fiscal wreck was avoided.

In truth, President Obama had been little involved to this point. Following his early domestic "successes," he was spending more and more time abroad sharing his matchless eloquence with previously unblessed audiences from Ulan Bator to Ouagadougou.

A highly symbolic moment, however, came when Mr. Obama, who had put on weight in office and now tipped the scales at nearly 300 pounds, returned from a speaking tour on the virtues of nonproliferation to audiences in the Islamic Republic of Palau. Having overindulged in local delicacies, he was surprised when the White House medical office handed him a Wal-Mart debit card and sent him to a nearby Wal-Mart supercenter boasting "Everyday Low Prices on Gastric Bypass Surgery."

Emerging afterward to the usual crowd of ululating network reporters and bloggers, Mr. Obama pronounced himself entirely pleased and satisfied with the "success of my health-care reforms."

And so it came to pass that historians and Obamalogists would count health-care reform among the incomparable triumphs of the Obama administration, and lost to history would be the names of Eric Paul, Ryan Cantor and Kemp Newtley.
23983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster on: June 17, 2009, 06:28:15 AM
"Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country."

--Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
23984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Destabilizing from within? on: June 17, 2009, 12:20:59 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Islamic Republic Destabilizing From Within?
June 16, 2009
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran on Monday to protest results of the June 12 election, which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. State broadcasters reported that seven people were killed in shooting that erupted after the Basij militia opened fire on protesters, who hurled rocks at a Basij compound near the main protest. The protests have now spread beyond Tehran to several other cities.

Clearly, the situation on the streets has escalated exponentially since the initial weekend protests in Tehran, when the number of demonstrators was much lower. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters are likely to lead to greater unrest in the days ahead; such events tend to feed off one another and build in intensity. The last time Iran experienced so great a level of unrest was during the 1979 revolution, which brought the current regime to power. Consequently, questions are being raised about the stability of the Islamic Republic.

These questions are not being raised only by outside observers. In fact, we are told that the most powerful figures within the clerical establishment — including the second most powerful cleric, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — have warned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the situation could metastasize and lead to the collapse of the regime unless election results are annulled and a fresh vote ordered. Rafsanjani is joined by many other powerful conservatives, who are working behind the scenes to steer the country away from what appears to be an increasingly explosive situation.

Rafsanjani and those who agree with him are obviously concerned about the almost unprecedented unrest on the streets and the possibility that it could destabilize the regime from within. But the radical advice of these conservatives to the Supreme Leader is being driven by the threat to their own political interests that comes not from the public, but from Ahmadinejad and his allies — who would like to use their election win to set the stage for an eventual purge of Rafsanjani and those like him. In other words, Ahmadinejad’s enemies within the system would like to use the current crisis to launch a preemptive strike and neutralize the threat they face from his re-election.

Khamenei, who has long acted as the ultimate arbiter between factions in Tehran, is therefore in the biggest quandary of his political career. He does not want to see the Islamic Republic collapse on his watch. But he has little room to maneuver: He can neither contain the unrest in the streets without a brutal crackdown that could radicalize both the opposition and key government factions, nor can he move easily toward a fresh vote. Ahmadinejad and his allies will not back down after winning what was, ostensibly, a landslide election in their favor.

While many compelling arguments have been made about the improbability of Ahmadinejad winning the election by several million votes, there is insufficient empirical evidence to support the claim of fraud. Foul play on such a large scale would not be possible without the involvement of a very large number of people. Furthermore, requests for the kind of data that could corroborate such fraud have been ignored.

Iran’s powerful Guardians Council, which must certify the election results, has begun a probe into the matter, and therefore it is quite possible that in the next several days such evidence may emerge. But what is stunning is how, thus far, there have been no leaks to the press on the details of the alleged vote tampering. So long as there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing, Ahmadinejad’s opponents cannot make a convincing case against his government.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict the trajectory of events — but this election has clearly resulted in a breach within the Islamic Republic that could prove difficult to mend, regardless of the outcome of the clash between the president and his opponents. Until Friday’s vote, Iran had proven quite resilient — weathering a devastating eight-year war, decades of international sanctions, multiple rebel groups, and a long confrontation with the United States. In the last four days, the regime has found that the greatest threat to its existence comes from within.
23985  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: toronto dbma training camp featuring Crafty Dog, Top Dog and Sled Dog Aug 21-23 on: June 16, 2009, 09:05:39 PM
Woof Dog Rene:

Would you please post here EXACTLY what you want us to post on our seminar page.

Thank you,
Guro C.
23986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Delphi on: June 16, 2009, 12:50:03 PM
The Obama Administration's fast-track sale of bankrupt auto-parts supplier Delphi hit a speed bump late last week when Judge Robert Drain ordered that Delphi conduct an open auction for its assets. That has a number of distressed-debt investors circling. It may also mean that the public will get some answers about the curiously structured sale that GM had quietly put forward the same day it filed for bankruptcy protection itself.

Under that deal, a bankrupt GM -- which is to say, taxpayers -- was set to provide most of the funding for Delphi's exit from bankruptcy, with private-equity firm Platinum Equity throwing in some cash and getting a sizable equity stake in return. The investors who have so far provided most of the debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing during Delphi's four-year bankruptcy case would have gotten as little as 20 cents on the dollar -- almost unheard-of in bankruptcy cases.

Those investors cried foul, pointing out that DIP financers generally have the right to take control of the company if they can't be paid in full. GM and the government at first threatened to play hardball, claiming that Platinum was the only buyer acceptable to GM and so its deal was the only one on the table. Judge Drain wasn't buying it, however. "I don't know what makes Platinum acceptable to GM and why Platinum is unique," he said. "Unless I hear more, there's something going on here that doesn't to me make sense."

That's putting it mildly. When the government arranged the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, it noted with some justification that, as the DIP financer for the cases, it had wide latitude to determine the companies' fates and ownership structure. But when it comes to Delphi's private DIP lenders, it has taken a very different position, apparently in the interests of wrapping up Delphi's case as quickly as possible to speed GM's own exit from bankruptcy. Taxpayers and investors alike deserve to know more about what looks like a sweetheart deal for one favored group of investors, and Judge Drain deserves kudos for putting on the brakes.
23987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 16, 2009, 11:02:24 AM
Good source of economic charts and other data:
23988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Netanyahu's speech on: June 16, 2009, 08:53:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Netanyahu's Speech and the Peace Process
June 15, 2009
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday gave his long-awaited speech, which was in effect a response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s demand that Israel stop expanding its settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu framed his response in the context of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory. His argument was essentially that the problem was not the presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank, but rather the attitude of Palestinians, Arabs and Iranians to Israel. In doing this, Netanyahu is trying to transform the discussion of the Palestinian peace process, particularly in the United States.

Netanyahu argued that the occupation was not the problem. First, he pointed out that Palestinians had rejected peace with Israel prior to 1967, just as much as after. He went on to say, “Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.” In other words, the U.S. demand for a halt to settlement expansions misses the point. There was no peace before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, and there was no peace when Israel withdrew or offered to withdraw from those territories.

Therefore, he argued, the problem is not what Israel does, but what the Palestinians do, and the core of the problem is the refusal of the Palestinians and others to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Essentially, the problem is that the Palestinians want to destroy Israel — not that Israel is occupying Palestinian territories.

The prime minister went on to make an offer that is radically different from the traditional concept of two states. He accepted the idea of a Palestinian state — but only as a disarmed entity, with Israel retaining security rights in the territories. Having defined the problem as Palestinian hostility, he redefined the solution as limiting Palestinian power.

This clearly puts Netanyahu on a collision course with the Obama administration. He rejected the call to stop the expansion of settlements. He has accepted the idea of a two-state solution — but on the condition that it includes disarmament for the Palestinians — and he has rejected the notion of “land for peace,” restructuring it as “land after peace.” This is not a new position by Netanyahu, and it will come no surprise to the United States.

The game Obama is playing is broader than the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He is trying to reshape the perception of the United States in the Islamic world. In his view, if he can do that, the threat to the United States from terrorism will decline and the United States’ ability to pursue its interests in the Muslim world will improve. This is the essential strategy Washington is pursuing, while maintaining a presence in Iraq and prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

There is obviously a tension in U.S. policy. In order for this strategy to work, Obama must deliver something, and the thing that he believes will have the most value is a substantial Israeli gesture leading to a resumption of the peace process. That’s why Obama focused on settlements: It was substantial and immediate, and carried with it some pain for Israel.

Netanyahu has refused to play. He has rejected not only the settlements issue but also the basic concepts behind the peace process that the United States has been pushing for a generation. He has rejected land for peace and, in some ways, the principle of full Palestinian sovereignty. Rather than giving Obama what he wanted, Netanyahu is taking things off the table.

Netanyahu has said his piece. Now Obama must decide what, if anything, he is going to do about it. He has few choices other than to persuade Netanyahu to back off, sanction Israel or let it slide. Netanyahu cannot be persuaded, but he might be forced. Sanctioning Israel in the wake of the Iranian election would not be easy to do. Letting it slide undermines Obama’s wider strategy in the Muslim world.

Netanyahu has called Obama’s hand. All Obama can do is pass, fold or raise. According to Reuters, the White House has responded to Netanyahu’s speech by announcing that Obama “believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel’s security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a viable state.” Obama is trying to pass for the moment. The Arabs won’t let him do that for long.
23989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Corruption, Skullduggery, and Treason on: June 16, 2009, 08:40:55 AM
Glenn Beck has done some good work bringing attention to this case:

Today the WSJ jumps in:

President Obama swept to office on the promise of a new kind of politics, but then how do you explain last week's dismissal of federal Inspector General Gerald Walpin for the crime of trying to protect taxpayer dollars? This is a case that smells of political favoritism and Chicago rules.

A George W. Bush appointee, Mr. Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.

Associated Press
Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation For National and Community Service, was fired by President Barack Obama.
Mr. Walpin's investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.

At the end of May, Mr. Walpin's office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be "suspended" from receiving federal funds. The Corporation's official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin's office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

So far, so normal. But that all changed last fall, when Mr. Johnson was elected mayor of Sacramento. News of the suspension had become public, and President Obama began to discuss his federal stimulus spending. A city-hired attorney pronounced in March that Sacramento might be barred from receiving stimulus funds because of Mr. Johnson's suspension.

The news caused a public uproar. The U.S. Attorney's office, which since January has been headed by Lawrence Brown -- a career prosecutor who took over when the Bush-appointed Attorney left -- had already decided not to pursue criminal charges. Media and political pressure then mounted for the office to settle the issue and lift Mr. Johnson's suspension. Mr. Walpin agreed Mr. Johnson should pay back money but objected to lifting the suspension. He noted that Mr. Johnson has never officially responded to the Corporation's findings and that the entire point of suspension is to keep federal funds from individuals shown to have misused them.

Mr. Brown's office responded by cutting off contact with Mr. Walpin's office and began working directly with the Corporation, the board of which is now chaired by one of Mr. Obama's top campaign fundraisers, Alan Solomont. A few days later, Mr. Brown's office produced a settlement draft that significantly watered down any financial repayment and cleared Mr. Johnson. Mr. Walpin told us that in all his time working with U.S. Attorneys on cases he'd referred, he'd never been cut out in such fashion.

Mr. Walpin brought his concerns to the Corporation's board, but some board members were angry over a separate Walpin investigation into the wrongful disbursement of $80 million to the City University of New York. Concerned about the St. HOPE mess, Mr. Walpin wrote a 29-page report, signed by two other senior members of his office, and submitted it in April to Congress. Last Wednesday, he got a phone call from a White House lawyer telling him to resign within an hour or be fired.

We've long disliked the position of inspectors general, on grounds that they are creatures of Congress designed to torment the executive. Yet this case appears to be one in which an IG was fired because he criticized a favorite Congressional and executive project (AmeriCorps), and refused to bend to political pressure to let the Sacramento mayor have his stimulus dollars.

There's also the question of how Mr. Walpin was terminated. He says the phone call came from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, who said the President felt it was time for Mr. Walpin to "move on," and that it was "pure coincidence" he was asked to leave during the St. HOPE controversy. Yet the Administration has already had to walk back that claim.

That's because last year Congress passed the Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the President to give Congress 30 days notice, plus a reason, before firing an inspector general. A co-sponsor of that bill was none other than Senator Obama. Having failed to pressure Mr. Walpin into resigning (which in itself might violate the law), the Administration was forced to say he'd be terminated in 30 days, and to tell Congress its reasons.

White House Counsel Gregory Craig cited a complaint that had been lodged against Mr. Walpin by Mr. Brown, the U.S. Attorney, accusing Mr. Walpin of misconduct, and of not really having the goods on Mr. Johnson. But this is curious given that Mr. Brown himself settled with St. HOPE, Mr. Johnson and his assistant, an agreement that required St. HOPE (with a financial assist from Mr. Johnson) to repay approximately half of the grant, and also required Mr. Johnson to take an online course about bookkeeping.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, a co-sponsor of the IG Reform Act, is now demanding that the Corporation hand over its communications on this mess. He also wants to see any contact with the office of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has taken a particular interest in AmeriCorps, and whose former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, recently arrived at the Corporation as a "senior adviser."

If this seems like small beer, keep in mind that Mr. Obama promised to carefully watch how every stimulus dollar is spent. In this case, the evidence suggests that his White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.
23990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Spengler on: June 16, 2009, 08:20:39 AM
second post

 Feb 24, 2009 
 Sex, drugs and Islam
By Spengler

Political Islam returned to the world stage with Ruhollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution in Iran, which became the most aggressive patron of Muslim radicals outside its borders, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers
have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the "decadent" West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

"Iran is dying for a fight," I wrote in 2007 (Please see Why Iran is dying for a fight, November 13, 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.

Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American "great Satan" have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran's leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran's neighbors.

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing.

First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later, and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution ... they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law."

There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. "A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women," I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world's hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran's prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today's Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran's prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.

A year ago I observed that prices for Tehran luxury apartments exceeded those in Paris, as Iran's kleptocracy distributed the oil windfall to tens of thousands of hangers-on of the revolution. $35 billion went missing from state oil funds, opposition newspapers charged at the time. Corruption evidently has made whores of Tehran's educated women. (Please see Worst of times for Iran, June 24, 2008.)

Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, "Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts." That is, 5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent (from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population.

Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China's throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran's startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization.

For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran's youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country's Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.

As I reported in the cited essay, the potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. This winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat.

The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.

In a recent paper entitled "Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran [2], American and Iranian demographers observe:
A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country and only 1.5 for the Tehran area (which has about 8 million people) ... A decline in the TFR [total fertility rate] of more than 5.0 in roughly two decades is a world record in fertility decline. This is even more surprising to many observers when one considers that it happened in one of the most Islamic societies. It forces the analyst to reconsider many of the usual stereotypes about religious fertility differentials.
The census points to a continued fall in fertility, even from today's extremely low levels, the paper maintains.

Most remarkable is the collapse of rural fertility in tandem with urban fertility, the paper adds:
The similarity of the transition in both urban and rural areas is one the main features of the fertility transition in Iran. There was a considerable gap between the fertility in rural and urban areas, but the TFR in both rural and urban areas continued to decline by the mid-1990s, and the gap has narrowed substantially. In 1980, the TFR in rural areas was 8.4 while that of urban areas was 5.6. In other words, there was a gap of 2.8 children between rural and urban areas. In 2006, the TFR in rural and urban areas was 2.1 and 1.8, respectively (a difference of only 0.3 children).
What the professors hoped to demonstrate is that as rural literacy levels in Iran caught up with urban literacy levels, the corresponding urban and rural fertility rates also converged. That is a perfectly reasonable conjecture whose only flaw is that the data on which it is founded were faked by the Iranian regime.

The Iranian government's official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran's Literacy Movement Organization admitted last year (according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008) that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million (or an adult population of about 52 million). This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data.

A better explanation of Iran's population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini's revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process.

Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran's collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.

Theocracy subjects religion to a political test; it is hard for Iranians to repudiate the regime and remain pious, for religious piety and support for political Islam are inseparable, as a recent academic study documented from survey data [3].

As in the decline of communism, what follows on the breakdown of a state ideology is likely to be nihilism. Iran is a dying country, and it is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with a nation all of whose available choices terminate in oblivion.

[1] Der Standard, Die Wahrheit hinter der islamischen Fassade

[2] Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran

[3] Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran, by Gunes Murat Tezcur and Tagh Azadarmaki.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 



23991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: June 16, 2009, 07:47:14 AM
"It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823
23992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler on: June 16, 2009, 07:34:51 AM
Middle East

Jun 16, 2009


Hedgehogs and flamingos in Tehran
By Spengler

In Wonderland, Alice played croquet with hedgehogs and flamingos. In the Middle East, United States President Barack Obama is attempting the same thing, but with rats and cobras. Not only do they move at inconvenient times, but they bite the players. Iran's presidential election on Friday underscores the Wonderland character of American policy in the region.

America's proposed engagement of Iran has run up against the reality of the region, namely that Iran cannot "moderate" its support for its fractious Shi'ite allies from Beirut to Pakistan's northwest frontier. It also shows how misguided Obama was to assume that progress on the Palestinian issue would help America solve more urgent strategic problems, such as Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons.

By assigning 64% of the popular vote to incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in last weekend's elections, Iran's reigning mullahs, if there was indeed rigging, made a statement - but to whom? The trumpet which dare not sound an uncertain note was a call to Tehran's Shi'ite constituency, as well as to a fifth of Pakistani Muslims. Religious establishments by their nature are conservative, and they engage in radical acts only in need.

Tehran is tugged forward by the puppies of war: Hezbollah in Lebanon and its co-sectarians in Pakistan. With a population of 170 million, Pakistan has 20 million men of military age, as many as Iran and Turkey combined; by 2035 it will have half again as many. It also has nuclear weapons. And it is in danger of disintegration.

Against a young, aggressive and unstable Pakistan, Iran seems a moribund competitor. Iran's fertility decline is the fastest that demographers ever have observed. As I reported on this site last February (Sex, drugs and Islam, February 24, 2009), Iranian fertility by some accounts has fallen below the level of 1.9 births per female registered in the 2006 census to only 1.6, barely above Germany's.

Collapsing fertility is accompanied by social pathologies, including rates of drug addiction and prostitution an order of magnitude greater than in any Western country. Of the 15 countries that show the biggest drop in population growth since 1980, eight are in the Middle East, and the head of the United Nations population division calls the collapse of Islamic population growth "amazing". Pakistan is the great exception, and that makes it the fulcrum of the Muslim world.

Ahmadinejad's invective may be aimed at Jerusalem, but his eye is fixed on Islamabad. That explains the decisions of his masters in Tehran's religious establishment who may have rigged, or at least exaggerated, his election victory. Pakistan's ongoing civil war has a critical sectarian component which the Shi'ites never sought: the Taliban claim legitimacy as the Muslim leadership of the country on the strength of their militancy against the country's Shi'ite minority. Were the Taliban to succeed in crushing Pakistan's Shi'ites, Iran's credibility as a Shi'ite power would fade, along with its ability to project influence in the region.

As Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes asks, "Why did [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei select Ahmadinejad to "win" the election? Why did he not chose a president-puppet who would present a smile to the world, including Obama, handle the economy competently, not rile the population, and whose selection would not inspire riots that might destabilize the regime? Has Khamenei fallen under the spell of Ahmadinejad or does he have some clever ploy up his sleeve? Whatever the answer is, it baffles me."

The issue is less baffling when raw numbers are taken into account. The issues on which Iran's supposed moderation might be relevant, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, are less pressing for Tehran than the problems on its eastern border. Of the world's 200 million Shi'ite Muslims, about 30% reside in Iran. Another 10% live in neighboring Iraq, and comprise about two-thirds of the country's population. Yet another 30% of the Shi'ite live in the Indian sub-continent, about equally divided between India and Pakistan. Pakistani Shi'ites make up only about one-fifth of the country's population. Their numbers are just large enough to make the Sunnis ill at ease with their presence.

                           Shi'ite                         Sunni


TOTAL                   219,667,367            1,238,699,792

Iran                        61,924,500                  6,880,500

Pakistan                  33,160,712               127,668,738

India                       30,900,000               123,600,000

Iraq                        18,158,400                  9,777,600

Turkey                    14,550,000                 58,200,000

Shi'ite leaders of the region believe that they stand on the verge of an irreversible breakdown of Islamic civilization, a thesis which Iraqi leader Ali W Allawi argued forcefully in a recent book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. Allawi wrote, "The much heralded Islamic 'awakening' of recent times will not be a prelude to the rebirth of an Islamic civilization; it will be another episode in its decline. The revolt of Islam becomes instead the final act of the end of a civilization." I reviewed Allawi's book on this site in (Predicting the death of Islam May 5, 2009).

Iran's aspirations for a restored Islamic civilization cannot exclude Pakistan's 30 million Shi'ites. The Taliban's insurgency inside Pakistan is directed against the Shi'ites more than any other target, and to make matters worse, Pakistani intelligence is agitating among Iran's own Sunni minority.

On June 12, the day before Iran's election, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi in Lahore, the leader of the pro-government Barelvi Muslim current in Pakistan. As Pakistan's Daily Times wrote June 14, "The reason for this murder was not far too seek. Mufti Naeemi, arguably the most influential of the Ahle Sunnat-Barelvi school of thought in Pakistan, had recently presided over an all-Barelvi conference in Islamabad condemning the Taliban practice of suicide-bombing, and presenting to the nation, as it were, a choice between the extremist Deobandi Taliban and the moderate Ahle Sunnat clerical confederation."

The Deobandi wing of Sunni Islam preaches violence against Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, whose position would be fragile were the Taliban to take power. Although Deobandi Islam is a minority current among Pakistani Sunnis, "The conduct of covert jihad by the state has thrown the Barelvis into obscurity and a lack of street power over the years," the Daily Times wrote. "Their mosques, once in a majority in the country, were either grabbed by the more powerful Deobandis with trained jihadi cadres who could be violent, or simply outnumbered by the more resourceful Deobandi-linked ones."

The threat to Iran from the Pakistani Taliban extends to Iran's eastern provinces. A May 28 bomb destroyed a mosque in the Kordestan city of Zahedan, on the Pakistani border. Iran called in Pakistan's ambassador to protest alleged official support for the terrorists of the Pakistan-based Jundallah Sunni group which planted the bomb. Tehran also has circulated murky allegations that Israel's secret service was behind the mosque bombing.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi wrote on June 3 in Asia Times Online, "Where Iran has Hezbollah, Israel has Jundallah, given Israel's apparent efforts to destabilize Iran by playing an 'ethnic card' against it. This, by some reports, it is doing by nurturing the Sunni Islamist group Jundallah to parallel Tehran's support for Lebanon's formidable Shi'ite group, Hezbollah." (Please see Hezbollah spices up Israel-Iran mix.)

In addition to Israel, Xinhua reported May 30, "Iran also blamed the United States, Britain and some other Western countries behind these attacks, accusing them of destabilizing the Islamic Republic, a charge denied by Washington and London."

It is hard to guess who might be funding Jundallah. Pakistan's secret service as well as the Saudis have a motive to do so. Washington's interest is to strengthen the coalition against the Pashtun-speaking Taliban, which means keeping several ethnic minorities allied against the Taliban with the Punjabi core of Pakistan's armed forces. These include the Dari-speaking Kabuli Pashtuns, the Tajiks and the mainly Shi'ite Hazara, a Turkic tribe whom the Iranians tend to deprecate. That is where Washington looks for help from Teheran.

If Tehran were playing a two-sided chess game with Washington, a moderate face like that of Hossein Mousavi would have served Iranian interests better than Ahmadinejad, as Pipes suggests. But Tehran also has to send signals to the sidelines of the chess match. With the situation on its eastern border deteriorating and a serious threat emerging to the Shi'ites of Pakistan, Iran has to make its militancy clear to all the players in the region. Washington's ill-considered attempts at coalition building are more a distraction than anything else.

Because Tehran's credibility is continuously under test, it cannot hold its puppies of war on a tight leash. Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon will continue to nip at the Israelis and spoil the appearance of a prospective settlement. The louder Iran has to bark, the less credible its bite. Iran's handling of last weekend's presidential election results exposes the weakness of the country's strategic position. That makes an Israeli strike against its alleged nuclear weapons facilities all the more likely - not because Tehran has shown greater militancy, but because it has committed the one sin that never is pardoned in the Middle East - vulnerability.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things (

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
23993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 16, 2009, 06:57:01 AM
23994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: June 15, 2009, 05:03:04 PM
Today we worked our way along a nice little progression that led to boxing gloves on and entry with Dodger-Dracula against the Jab Cross with follow ups.

The last 40 minutes (typical session is 90-120 minutes) were dedicated to the Ilustrisimo step vs the MT round kick.
23995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Border incident in Region V on: June 15, 2009, 03:46:04 PM
Border Incident Yesterday in Region V


From One Of My Sources. IMHO, running away solves nothing

Subject: Border Incident Yesterday in Region V

This is a short recap about the incident yesterday in Region V during which two of our employees (Mark F******* and Matt W******) along with a Pima County employee (Joe ********) came under gun fire from what appeared to be drug traffickers from south of the border.

About mid afternoon our people were on three quads in the Tumacacori Mountains doing recon for an access project with Pima County south of Bear Grass Tank about four miles due east of Arivaca Lake. In a small canyon area through which the road they were on traversed they came upon at close quarters and surprised a group of hispanic males (at least 4) dressed in camo who were in the immediate vicinity and probably using water jugs left by the “No More Deaths” organization (this organization has recently been successfully prosecuted for their water jug distribution activities under the littering laws on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge; and now their activities have directly put our people at risk as well).

Upon the initial sighting of the first two camo clad persons who immediately fled a short distance up a hill from the area dropping down into the grass our people backed out of the immediate vicinity and regrouped. After a few minutes Mark F******* crept up to small rise about 30 yards from the road to look over the scene with his binoculars; he observed another 2 hispanic males also in camo in the area but over in a different direction from the first two. At that point Mark started back down to the quads and a shot was heard coming from the direction where the first two suspects had fled.

The bullet impacted the ground within ten feet or so behind Mark. At that point, with two of the quads with drivers and already pointed in the necessary exit direction, Mark ran and jumped on the back of the quad with Joe as the driver; Matt was on the other quad. Both quads with our three people quickly and immediately departed the area heading back to high ground closer to Arivaca to make contact with radio.

Once in contact with dispatch, we called in Border Patrol, Pima County SO and DPS Ranger to the area to join up with our people and take care of the situation. Within 30 to 45 minutes approximately 15 – 20 BP, 15 – 20 SO, and three helicopters were in the area to handle and investigate the situation. Subsequently, and unfortunately, the suspects were able to evade the search party, however SO as the lead for the investigation, did recover several fresh shot 9mm casings from the area where the initial shot likely came from, indicating that subsequent shots may have been fired at our people as they were getting out of the area. The third quad was recovered and had not been touched by the suspects.

I am glad to say that Mark, Matt and Joe made all of the right decisions and moves when things went bad, and most importantly, they ended the day safe and sound. We will study and learn from this matter with the objective of continuing to keep our people safe along the treacherous border area. Please distribute this information as you see fit so as to quell any misinformation, and should you have any questions please give me a call. Thank you.

Leonard L. Ordway
Region V Supervisor

Arizona Game and Fish Department
Region V Office
555 N. Greasewood Road
Tucson, AZ 85745
23996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Prisoner policy on: June 15, 2009, 11:32:43 AM
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is revamping its detention policies in Afghanistan, borrowing practices from Iraq that are designed to rehabilitate detainees by teaching them moderate Islam, literacy and vocational skills.

Senior U.S. military officials said the new approach is meant to separate extremist Afghan detainees from more moderate ones. Militant detainees will then be isolated, while the remainder will be given job training and courses in civics, mathematics, and other subjects. U.S. officials say they hope these detainees will eventually be freed.

"You can't lock guys up forever," said a U.S. military official in Afghanistan. "The idea is to change how they see the world and give them the tools that at least give them a chance at a decent life."

The new effort is being temporarily overseen by Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, a Marine who ran a similar effort in Iraq that led to the release of tens of thousands of detainees. It is the latest sign that the Obama administration's new commanders in Afghanistan aim to revitalize the war effort there with methods honed in Iraq.

The shift comes as the Pentagon restructures its management of the war effort and floods Afghanistan with 21,000 American reinforcements. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the top American officer in Kabul, Gen. David McKiernan, and replaced him with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is set to assume command Saturday.

On Friday, Mr. Gates said Gen. McChrystal would work to minimize Afghan civilian casualties, a source of growing public anger within Afghanistan.

"Every civilian casualty -- however caused -- is a defeat for us and a setback for the Afghan government," he said during a stop in Brussels.

The new effort is based at the U.S. detention facility at Bagram Air Base, near Kabul. The facility is being renovated to create separate holding areas -- similar to conventional U.S. jails -- for detainees judged to be extremist. Construction is set to be finished this fall.

The remaining detainees will be allowed to take carpentry, sewing and classes in moderate Islamic thought, taught by Afghan contractors and clerics.

Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, alluded to the new approach in a speech in Washington Thursday. He said it reflected lessons learned in Iraq, where moderate and extremist detainees were for years held in the same facilities, giving militants ample opportunity to win over new recruits.

"We had created terrorist university," he said. "We had the baddest of the bad guys right in with the not-quite-so-bad guys, and they were recruiting al Qaeda in Iraq operatives."

Gen. Stone, a Marine reservist who has run software firms in civilian life, worked to change those dynamics in Iraq by separating out hard-core detainees, which he saw as a minority of the total population, and rehabilitating the remaining detainees.

"Make no mistake, detainees operation is certainly a battlefield," Gen. Stone wrote in a strategy document for Iraq. "It is the battlefield of the mind, and it is one of the most important fights in counterinsurgency."

Senior military officials said Gen. Stone and a small group of other military personnel from Task Force 134, which ran detainee operations in Iraq, will be at Bagram for several weeks conducting a broad review of American detainee operations.

As in Iraq, part of his work is designed to improve the public reputation of the detention facilities themselves. Army investigators found evidence that two Afghan detainees -- one a taxi driver arrested after driving near the base -- were beaten to death at Bagram in 2002 by U.S. personnel. The incidents were later featured in a documentary film, "Taxi to the Dark Side."

More recently, Bagram has been at the center of a legal battle over detainee rights. A U.S. district court judge ruled that non-Afghans seized overseas and then brought to Bagram had the right to challenge their detentions in American courts. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.
23997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: The Neocon conspiracy on: June 15, 2009, 10:23:29 AM
"[F]or years, mainstream liberalism and other outposts of paranoid Bush hatred have portrayed neoconservatives -- usually code for conservative Jews and other supporters of Israel -- as an alien, pernicious cabal. 'They have penetrated the culture at nearly every level from the halls of academia to the halls of the Pentagon,' observed the New York Times. '...They've accumulated the wherewithal financially (and) professionally to broadcast what they think over the airwaves to the masses or over cocktails to those at the highest levels of government.' NBC's Chris Matthews routinely used the word 'neocon' as if it was code for 'traitor.' He asked one guest whether White House neocons are 'loyal to the Kristol neoconservative movement, or to the president?' [Holocaust Museum shooter James] Von Brunn may have wondered the same thing, which is why he reportedly had the offices of Bill Kristol's 'Weekly Standard' on his hit list. Unhinged Bush-hater Andrew Sullivan insists that, 'The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right.' Leading liberal intellectual Michael Lind warned about the alarming fact that 'the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique' of neoconservative plotters. Even with Bush out of the picture, some see the problem emerging again. Just this week, Jeremiah Wright, the president's longtime mentor and pastor, whined that, 'Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me.' Maniacs like von Brunn connect dots that aren't there because that's what paranoid anti-Semites do. What's the left's excuse?" --National Review editor Jonah Goldberg
23998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; J. Adams on: June 15, 2009, 10:20:42 AM
"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788

"The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. ... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?" --John Adams
23999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part 2 on: June 15, 2009, 10:08:52 AM

Part of the Russian government’s latest recapitalization efforts is the $89 billion crisis measure fund, which was announced in April and will come on line sometime in June or July. A large part of the package, $52.9 billion, will go to various banking programs intended to recapitalize the banks; $23 billion will go to industry (the largest chunk to profit tax cuts that should benefit energy exporters and auto industry support); and $13.1 billion to labor market measures (including helping pensioners and unemployed people weather the crisis). The latter is intended to nip in the bud any social unrest stemming from rising unemployment. Russia’s steel industry, for instance, is strategic, has a powerful lobby and employs many people. Interestingly, while global steel demand and prices remain depressed, the utilization of production capacities at Russian steel companies has increased from around 57 percent to 71 percent since the beginning of the year. Despite the Kremlin’s measures, domestic steel demand remains weak, and thus the increase does not so much reflect increased foreign demand for Russian steel for government-funded infrastructure projects in China, India, and the Middle East. Rather, it reflects pressure by the Kremlin on Russian steelmakers to keep production going — therefore ensuring employment and stability in Russia’s one-industry towns — even if it means exporting steel below cost.

Social unrest, however, rarely causes revolutionary political change in Russia. The most famous examples of social unrest resulting in part from economic crisis, such as the revolutions of 1905 and February (March by the Gregorian calendar) 1917, essentially failed and had to wait for an elite-driven revolution (such as the October 1917) to succeed. In fact, when ruled by a focused and powerful central government, Russia’s population can be heavily strained, a fact that served Stalin’s industrialization efforts of the 1930s well. In order for the Kremlin to attain its goals of rapid industrialization, it drove much of the population into the ground. The social aspects of this effort are particularly notable and are different from other countries — particularly those in the West — in that the government’s economic efforts are not focused on profit, lowering unemployment and social stability. Russia’s main economic imperatives are dictated by its massive security costs, and are therefore concentrated on maintaining security and clamping down on social dissent and internal political or ethnic fragmentation, or both.

The current economic crisis is not without a social evolution of its own, although it is one where the government has turned on an elite group that threatened the Kremlin’s grip on Russia’s economy: the oligarchs. Because most successful regime changes in Russia are elite-driven, the oligarchs at one time represented a serious challenge to the Kremlin’s power. One of the most fundamental changes this economic crisis has had on the Russian economic system is that it has stripped the power of independent business empires run by the oligarchs. Indebted abroad when the crisis hit, the oligarchs were told that they would receive access to state funding only if they made substantial capital injections into the Russian economy themselves — particularly into the crashing stock market. In fact, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made it a point to call all the major oligarchs to a meeting at the Kremlin as the crisis was unfolding, giving them a choice of either helping immediately or forsaking any future help from the state.

(click chart to enlarge)
After that initial choice, the oligarchs were essentially told that they would either toe the Kremlin’s line on economic and political matters, or receive no help at all as foreign banks recalled their debts. Once the oligarchs were sufficiently bled of capital, the state offered to bail them out in select cases, with funding coming with strings attached. The oligarchs that survive the culling will be the ones the Kremlin has selected for survival, thus creating evolutionary pressures that will breed loyalty and subservience. An illustration of this dynamic was Russian steel magnate Igor Zyuzin, who gave the Kremlin billions, reducing his worth from more than $10 billion to just $1 billion. Only after he proved his loyalty, which at the time had been questioned due to a public fallout with Putin, did the state-controlled Vnesheconombank offer him credit.

(Click here for interactive chart)

Oligarchs will still exist as an elite, but they essentially will be reduced to the role of “capital emissaries” of the Kremlin to the West and the rest of the world. As such, they will be a powerful (but not independent) tool for the Kremlin’s foreign policy designs, another addition to the already-powerful arsenal that also contains intelligence networks and energy exports. Oligarchs may have acquired their fortunes through guile and luck, but they are also the most business-savvy elite — particularly in terms of Western business practices — in Russia. They know exactly how the West is run, having made many partnerships abroad through acquisitions and investments. This makes them extremely valuable, particularly as the Kremlin begins to direct its resources to foreign investments in strategic industries (such as energy), and for political reasons.

An example of this new role for the oligarchs is Oleg Deripaska, who at one point was the richest man in Russia. Deripaska is the chief of RUSAL, the world’s second-largest aluminum producer, and investment firm Basic Element. Deripaska’s wealth dropped from an estimated $36 billion to somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion as he poured immense funds into his company and the Kremlin. As a reward for his efforts, Deripaska could become the chief of a rumored consolidated — and state- directed — metals conglomerate, giving him enormous power, but power that he will exercise at the whim of the Kremlin.

He also will be one of the Kremlin’s first “capital emissaries” abroad, as signified by a recent partnership between the state-owned Sberbank and Deripaska-controlled auto manufacturer GAZ in the purchase of German carmaker Opel. Deripaska was able to use his partnership with Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International Inc., and state funding through Sberbank, to form a partnership that will see Opel producing cars in Russia. This is exactly the sort of deal the Kremlin wants to encourage. It is also the kind of deal that the Russian oligarchs, with their considerable foreign business acumen, can provide — combining foreign partners acquired through their businesses, Russian state financing and impressive personal charisma to conclude politically motivated business deals.

With the purchase of Opel, Russia has come to the aid of a crucial European power and its leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, three months before general elections — a favor Merkel will not forget should she return to power, which she most likely will. In the past, Moscow would have been unable to so effectively pair government funding and oligarch business acumen. Now it can do so in pursuit of foreign policy goals. The Opel bailout is part of Moscow’s strategic move to widen the rift emerging between Germany and the United States, and is therefore an extremely important — and very well-played — foreign policy initiative, and not just any other business deal.

In the long term, greater government control will not resolve the endemic problems Russia faces. Combined with its geographic and infrastructural challenges, Russia is also facing a daunting demographic challenge — a low birthrate combined with rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS and drug use — and an overall economic overreliance on energy exports. The share of energy exports as a percentage of overall exports has increased from 50.3 percent in 2000 to 65.8 percent in 2008, despite rhetoric from the Kremlin that it had been seeking to diversify the economy since Putin’s arrival on the political scene in 1999. Furthermore, demographic and geographical challenges are continuing to depress Russian productivity, with Russian labor productivity at only one-third of U.S. productivity.

Nonetheless, when the account of the costs and benefits of the current financial crisis is made, it will show that the crisis cost the Kremlin much of its currency reserves and money accumulated during the boom years between 1999 and 2008. However, the crisis also returned the Kremlin to the driver’s seat of the Russian economy, which is in fact the natural state of affairs because of Russia’s geography and impediments to security. It is from this position that the Kremlin will face the much more serious challenge to Russian economic well-being in the next five years: decreasing energy exports caused by European diversification efforts away from Russian natural gas, and the continuing demographic challenge. While the current recession may have bolstered the Kremlin’s powers in the short term, how the Kremlin tackles the long-term crises will define Russia in the 21st century.

24000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia on: June 15, 2009, 10:08:18 AM
The economic outlook for Russia appears bleak, and the road to recovery appears to be a long one. Rising unemployment, falling industrial production and the flight of foreign investment have put a dent in Russia’s massive currency reserves. However, the Kremlin has reasserted its power over the country and is in prime position to overcome its short-term challenges.

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth part in a series on the global recession and signs indicating how and when the economic recovery will — or will not — begin.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev spoke of “alarming figures” when discussing the Russian economy during an exclusive interview with U.S. news network CNBC on June 2, pointing specifically to rising unemployment and falling industrial production. Medvedev also highlighted the expected Russian gross domestic product (GDP) decline, which according to him will be “no less than 6 percent” in 2009, but most likely close to 7.5 percent, a figure not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Indeed, the prognosis for Russia appears grim. Russian GDP contracted by 9.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009; industrial production has averaged double-digit contraction since January, and the April contraction equaled 17 percent year-on-year. Foreign investment has declined 30 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009, and unemployment is likely to reach double digits by the end of 2009 — a dramatic increase over the 7.7 percent rate of 2008.

Moscow’s attempt to rein in the crisis is costing it its precious currency reserves and bloating its budget deficit after years of commodity-fueled surpluses. The budget deficit stood at 11 percent of GDP in April, and revenue destined for government coffers declined by a whopping 16.2 percent of GDP between April and May. Russia is staring at an approximate $100 billion budget deficit, a figure that is likely to consume all the cash in its Reserve Fund.

Russia does have a lot of money in its various government reserves, the combined value of which totals nearly $600 billion. (Its currency reserves stood at $409 billion on June 1, with the Reserve Fund at $100.9 billion and the National Welfare Fund at $89.9 billion.) There also is potentially another $40 billion to $50 billion in a third, less public fund. This is not too far from the $750 billion Russia had at the beginning of the economic crisis, but the expected $100 billion budget deficit in 2009 will further drain the reserves very quickly. The Russian Finance Ministry said recently that it might have to enter the international bond market to seek external funding for its budget deficit.

However, the effects of the current economic crisis do not foreshadow the decline of the Russian state. Conversely, the crisis has already strengthened the Kremlin’s grip on the country’s financial sector and its once-independent business elite, the oligarchs. With oil prices starting to rise again and the Kremlin now firmly in control of the country’s finances, it is likely that Russia will come out of the crisis with the Kremlin firmly in control of the economy, a natural order for Russia.

The Geography of the Russian Economy
Russia is blessed geologically and geographically, with its vast territory containing the world’s largest proven natural gas reserves, second-largest proven coal reserves, third-largest known and recoverable uranium reserves and eighth-largest proven oil reserves. However, from an economic development standpoint, Russia is anything but well endowed.

Throughout history, Russia has lacked navigable river transportation and access to ocean trading routes. Furthermore, Russia’s population is scattered across its vast territory, its natural resources are mostly found in unpopulated areas and a number of regional challengers constantly threaten its territorial integrity. Russia’s core is essentially the northeastern portion of European Russia. It has no natural borders, forcing Russia to strive continually to extend its control of territory to natural buffers (as far down the North European Plain as possible, to the Carpathian Mountains to the southwest, the Caucasus and Hindu Kush to the south and the Altai Mountains, Tian Shan and Stanovoy Range in the Far East).

With vast territory, constant expansion to the buffers and a lack of internal transportation, Russia requires a substantial amount of resources to maintain and defend its borders. It requires top-down management of the economy to focus resources on overcoming geographical impediments to development and security. As such, Russia is not a capital-rich country; it is starved for capital by its infrastructural needs, security costs, chronic low economic productivity, harsh climate and geography. Unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, where industrial and post-industrial economic development can spring forth with little or no direction thanks to favorable geography (intricate river transportation systems in the United States and access to oceanic trade routes for both) and the relative security of oceanic barriers, Russia has had to rely on firm state-driven economic development.

The current crisis has therefore returned the Russian economic system to its “natural” state, one in which the state is the main driver of activity. Gone is the experiment with nonstate-directed capitalism (roughly between 1991 and 2003), the Wild West, Russian style, where different elites and power groupings vied for economic and political power. The state’s ability to now marshal and focus resources toward infrastructure projects and resource exploration will help Russia in the short term. State direction and control will also help Russia focus its financial resources toward certain key foreign policy goals. In the long term, however, a lack of nonstate funding and private capital will be a problem, creating inefficiencies across the spectrum, particularly in areas where the state does not focus all of its resources. Additionally, Russia is facing a staffing problem. Running the vast country and its economy may simply be far too complex for its ever-more powerful executive.

The Current Recession: The Government Reclaims Control
To understand how the Russian state has fully returned to its natural position as the helmsman of the Russian economy, it is important to examine the effects of the crisis on the Russian financial and corporate systems.

The main negative effect of the current crisis for Russia is the credit crunch, which is even more serious than low commodity prices. Credit in Russia is scarce and is therefore essentially one of the most important imports for the country. Businesses that are not state-controlled require funding from abroad because the state hoards capital and only lends it through political links. As a result, Russian private banks and corporations that had gorged on the cheap credit that flowed on the international markets since 2001 were particularly hungry for foreign capital. The government was not going to supply this capital by sharing the surplus from commodity sales, particularly if the capital was going to private entities it did not control. While the credit crunch does not hurt Russia’s government-controlled strategic industries — whose profits are in dollars anyway — it will cause a restructuring of the private financial and corporate sectors.

When the financial crisis hit in mid-September 2008, the first place foreign investors looked to pull capital from were emerging markets. Investors had already soured on Russia because of the Kremlin’s repeated meddling in foreign ventures, and because of Russia’s August 2008 intervention in Georgia (after which $63 billion in foreign investment was pulled immediately). Consequently, Russia was first on the list of places to withdraw from. Net capital outflows from Russia reached a record $130 billion in 2008, followed by $39 billion in the first quarter of 2009. Investors scrambled to sell their Russian assets and then used those rubles to buy dollars, francs, yen or gold. When this deluge of rubles hit the foreign exchange market, the ruble’s value fell off a cliff, stoking fears in Russia of another “ruble crisis” that could cause social discontent, as it did in 1998.

To counteract the effects of capital outflows pushing the ruble’s value down, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) intervened, using its massive reserves of dollars and euros to purchase rubles on the open market. Had domestic banks not sold their ruble-denominated government handouts, the CBR’s $210 billion defense of the ruble might have been less expensive. But instead of letting the ruble crash, the Kremlin opted to manage the inevitable decline and has since bought the ruble enough times for it to be supported by real demand.

Though the ruble has now stabilized, its fall in value has been a considerable problem for private banks and corporations, particularly those not engaged in commodity sales. Russian enterprises that engaged in commodity exports had no problem with a declining ruble, because all of their revenue is in foreign currency, and their costs (salaries, operation costs, etc.) are in rubles. However, private banks and corporations that depend on internal demand and consumption for revenue — everything from regional retail banks to auto manufacturers — were suddenly left holding enormous foreign-denominated loans with no way to repay them. Russian banks and corporations owe approximately $400 billion in external debt over the next four years, with $90 billion worth of debt due between the second and fourth quarters of 2009 for banks alone (although it is estimated that about $40 billion of that may be held by foreign bank subsidiaries). In 2010, Russian banks will have to repay another $75 billion.

This is where the Kremlin has firmly stepped in. Its strategy from the very beginning of the crisis has been to consolidate the banking system under its control, with the primary source of capitalization being short-term, high-interest loans designed to quickly transfer banks’ obligations from foreign hands into the Kremlin’s steely grip. These loans will now be coming due for small regional banks, and it is likely that Russian state-owned banking behemoths Sberbank and VTB will greatly enhance their market share as result of the consolidation. The government is already the single largest creditor to banks, with 12 percent of all bank liabilities held by the state (mostly short-term loans with 8.5 percent interest). At the same time, banks and businesses that owe money to the state, but that the state does not want to save, will be allowed to fail, further consolidating different economic sectors in the hands of a few government-controlled or directly owned enterprises.

The culling of the Russian banking system will not be without its serious effects, and the transition from private hands to government ownership will not be smooth. The recession has already cut domestic demand, which is a problem because Russian industry (aside from extractive industry) depends almost solely on domestic consumers, with some trade with the other Former Soviet Union states — which are themselves facing a difficult recession. Domestic manufacturing was already down 25 percent in April year-on-year, a figure that foreshadows a mounting number of bankruptcies.

As bankruptcies rise and companies default on their loans, the rate of nonperforming loans (NPLs) rises as well; it is already more than 4 percent and predicted to reach 10 percent. NPLs are usually a solid gauge of how well an economy is performing, and in the Western world, a rate of above 3 percent is usually considered a serious problem. In 1998, the rate of NPLs in Russia hit 40 percent. However, according to Renaissance Capital’s calculations, even if the share of NPLs reaches 20 percent in the current recession, the required recapitalization (money the state would have to throw at the problem in order to fix it) would be less than $30 billion — easily covered by Russian state coffers. This is mainly because the government has already devoted a considerable amount of money to the problem. But though the banks now have abundant capital (albeit in foreign currency), they are loath to lend to businesses, thus further exacerbating the crisis.
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