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23951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 23, 2011, 10:38:33 AM
It wouldn't surprise me.  EH took his Christianity pretty seriously.  I remember being moved by him powerfully singing gospel (he was in his church's choir too IIRC) in the locker room before his first fight with Tyson.  When I saw that I knew Tyson was going to lose.
23952  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Not a shining moment on: March 23, 2011, 10:36:27 AM
NYC Subway Hero Says Police Initially Left Him to Fend for Himself Against Killer - FoxNews.com

New evidence shows two police officers who were aboard the subway car where the attack occurred locked themselves into the safe confines of the conductor’s cabin because they thought the suspect, Maxsim Gelman, was reaching for a gun as he approached Joseph Lozito, Edmond Chakmakian, Lozito’s attorney, said.

...a grand jury member told Lozito that jurors were appalled when they heard a police officer's version of the story...

“The juror said cops locked themselves inside because they thought Gelman was going to pull out a gun,” Chakmakian said. “What were the police officers waiting for, an engraved invitation?”
23953  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Beauty Queen on: March 22, 2011, 10:22:09 PM
Armed Beauty Queen Fatally Shoots Intruder in Florida Home Invasion
By Cristina Corbin

Published March 22, 2011

| FoxNews.com




Florida beauty queen Meghan Brown, right, shot and killed an intruder with her pink .38-caliber handgun during a home invasion March 12 (FoxNews.com).

When a burly ex-convict forced his way into a posh Florida home last week, he had no idea what awaited him -- a 25-year-old beauty queen with a pink .38-caliber handgun.

Meghan Brown, a former Florida pageant queen, shot and killed 42-year-old Albert Franklin Hill during a home invasion March 12 at the 2,732-square-foot house she shares with her fiance in Tierra Verde, Fla.

Hill barged into the home at around 3 a.m. after Brown responded to a knock at the front door, according to a police report. He allegedly grabbed the 110-pound Brown around her nose and mouth and dragged her to an upstairs bedroom.

The woman’s fiance, Robert Planthaber, said in an interview that he was quickly awakened by the altercation and ran to Brown’s side.

"I attacked him and took a severe beating to the head," Planthaber told FoxNews.com. "But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 special.”

Brown, who reigned as the 2009 Miss Tierra Verde, snatched her gun from a nearby bedroom and shot the suspect several times – hitting him in the chest, groin, thigh and back, her fiance said. Hill was pronounced dead at the scene.

Panthaber, a 42-year-old arborist, said he believes he and his fiancee were targeted because of their wealth. He claimed a pizza delivery man and possible accomplice staked out the home for three months before Hill attempted to burglarize it.

“We live in a very prominent area and my fiancee wears a $60,000 engagement ring,” he said. “The pizza man knew we had money because sometimes we needed change for a $100 bill when he came to deliver pizza.”

Hill had a criminal record stretching back nearly three decades -- including arrests for burglary, battery, drug possession and grand theft. He reportedly served a 13-year prison term in 1987 and was released in September after serving a fourth term behind bars.

Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Robbery/Homicide Unit are still investigating the crime but believe the motive was robbery, according to local press reports. They say they haven’t yet determined the relationship, if any, Hill had with the couple. A police report said the ex-convict demanded money before the altercation between Hill and Panthaber ensued.

Panthaber, meanwhile, said he and his fiancee are lucky to be alive. He said he purchased the pink handgun for Brown last Christmas and that the two had gone to target practice together.

“She was not a good shot at the range,” he quipped.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/22/armed-beauty-queen-fatally-shoots-intruder-florida-home-invasion/#ixzz1HNe89cvH
23954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Chutzpah on: March 22, 2011, 08:22:03 PM
Arab League Redefines Chutzpah
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
ShareThis
Many readers will recall one of the most famous headlines in modern American newspaper history -- the 1975 New York Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead."

Substitute "Arab League" for "Ford" and "America" for "City" and you've got the perfect headline: "Arab League to America: Drop Dead."

I always thought the best illustration of "chutzpah" was that of the boy who kills his parents and then pleads with the court for mercy, on the grounds that he is an orphan.

But given that that is only a hypothetical example, we now have a better illustration of chutzpah because this one is true.

Witnessing the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's large-scale killings of Libyan civilians, the Arab League begged us, the Europeans and the Security Council to militarily intervene on behalf of the Libyan people.

So, despite the fact that America is rather weary of fighting Muslim mass murderers, is militarily overstretched and has a devastating national debt, America said yes. We are the most decent country on Earth, and even a liberal-left Democrat in the White House feels the moral pull of America's legacy, values and unparalleled strength.

But no sooner have America and the Europeans intervened than the Arab League officially protests our intervention on the grounds that Libyan civilians -- 48 claimed, 0 confirmed at the time of the protest -- have been killed by the intervention requested by the Arab League.

What exactly did the Arab League, most of whose dictators have murdered thousands of their own people for political reasons, think would happen once the U.S. and the Europeans intervened militarily? Did they assume not one Libyan civilian would get killed? Has there been a military action in history in which no civilians died?

Amr Moussa, the outgoing secretary general of the Arab League, claimed in his statement that "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."

Perhaps Moussa did not read the Security Council resolution. It does not limit anti-Gadhafi military activity to "imposing a no-fly zone." The resolution authorizes U.N. member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi (italics added)."

Perhaps President Obama should hold a press conference and make this announcement:

"Given the Arab League's protest, we are immediately ending our military involvement in Libya. Apparently, Mr. Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, assumed that military intervention is possible without the killing of a single civilian. He should have told us so. Under that condition, we would never have put our blood and treasure on the line. So now, we are out, and the blood of every Libyan killed and tortured by the Libyan dictator is now on the Arab League's hands. On behalf of the American people, I ask the Arab League, and especially Mr. Moussa, to never again appeal to us to save Arabs from their dictators. Shukran."

(The president likes using Arabic words when he addresses Arab audiences, so his using the Arabic word for "thank you," shukran, would add a nice flourish.)

What does this Arab League protest mean?

It clarifies once again that tribal values outweigh moral values in the Arab world, including among much of its educated elite such as Moussa. In many Arabs' eyes, it is better for an Arab tyrant to slaughter any number of Arabs, and to allow that tyrant to retain power, than for Westerners to kill a dozen Arabs in order save tens of thousands of them trying to topple that tyrant.

In much of the Arab world, saving Arab lives and spreading freedom pale in comparison to two other passions.

One of these is power -- especially despotic power -- as David Pryce-Jones shows in his brilliant book on the Arab world, "The Closed Circle." Strong and cruel Arab leaders -- from Gamal Abdul Nasser to Saddam Hussein to Hamas and Hezbollah -- have been adored by the famed "Arab street."

The other passion is hatred of Israel. That's the one thing that unites nearly all Arabs. They no more love Palestinians than they love Libyans or the tens of thousands of Syrian victims of the two Assad regimes in Damascus. They defend Palestinians because they are necessary for demonizing and ultimately delegitimizing Israel.

And Moussa is among the Israel haters. As The New York Times reported, "Hosni Mubarak removed him (Moussa) as foreign minister after a song called 'I Hate Israel and I Love Amr Moussa' became a pop hit in 2001." To hate Israel is to love Moussa.

It gets worse. Moussa is favored to win the Egyptian presidential election.

But look at the bright side -- thanks to Moussa and the Arab League, we now have a real-life illustration of chutzpah that outdoes the classic fictitious one.
23955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 22, 2011, 08:13:07 PM
Our Community Organizer in Chief organizes the International Community.

What could go wrong?
23956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flotilla Round Two, coming soon on: March 22, 2011, 04:19:19 PM
Turkey: New Gaza Flotilla To Contain 15 Ships
March 22, 2011 0520 GMT
 
About 30 organizers from 15 countries met in the Spanish capital of Madrid early February 2011 to discuss plans by the Turkish organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) and several European groups to send a 15-ship flotilla to the Gaza Strip between May 15 and May 30, the anniversary of 2010's interception, Haaretz reported March 22. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will summon foreign ambassadors to the ministry to help stop the flotilla, which has asked the governments of some nationals planning to join the flotilla to guarantee their safety should Israel attempt to stop the ships again. Israel will launch a public campaign March 22 against the flotilla plan.
23957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Demise of Third Worldism on: March 22, 2011, 10:29:44 AM
y FABIO RAFAEL FIALLO
The globalization of the international economy and this winter's Arab revolts mark the demise, each in a different domain, of an ideological stance that flourished in the third quarter of the previous century. "Third Worldism," which rose out of decolonization and the triumph of Marxist revolutions in developing countries, is the belief or pretense that the economic and political interests of poor nations are in variance and contradiction to those of rich nations—specifically those with Western values and modes of living.

On the economic front, Third Worldism based its rationale on the theory of "unequal exchange," according to which trade between developed and developing nations are detrimental to the latter: Developing countries' exports—which 40 years ago consisted largely of raw materials and other primary commodities—were allegedly underpriced, and foreign investment was deemed a means of exploiting emerging markets' natural endowments and labor markets. Such commercial relationships, Third Worldism further posited, were the main cause of economic backwardness in developing countries. To overcome this state of affairs, Third Worldist "experts" in academic circles and international organizations advised developing countries to foster trade among themselves ("collective self-reliance" was the name given to that endeavor) and to pursue an inward-oriented industrialization through protectionist barriers against imported manufactured goods.

This kind of economic autarky found its counterpart on the political front in the principle of "self-determination." Developing countries, it was argued, were in fundamentally different cultural settings than the countries that had colonized them. They had the right and the need to look for political norms that suited their specific conditions and levels of development, instead of adopting the liberal, multiparty, democratic models that prevailed in the West.

In practice, self-determination soon became an expedient for newly established despots to strengthen and perpetuate their wrongdoings. The world's Maos, Castros, Gadhafis and Mugabes claimed to incarnate the interests of their nations. The citizens under their whips were relegated to the category of "masses," with the duty simply to implement their masters' orders. Whoever attempted to disagree was accused of being a "mercenary" paid by foreign powers. Dissent was tantamount to treason.

This fashionable brand of Third-World "self-determination" left First-World leaders with only one politically correct choice: Sit down, keep quiet and let the dictators—er, "nationalist liberators"—continue to smother free expression and hunt, imprison, torture and murder their opposition. The alternative—to be accused of interfering in the domestic affairs of sovereign developing nations—was just too unpalatable.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Nikita Khrushchev with Fidel Castro at the U.N. General Assembly, 1960.
.Before the turn of the millennium, trade globalization came to disprove the economic foundations of Third Worldism: One after the other, developing countries realized that protectionism had led them only to poverty, and that they had far more to gain from participating fully in international commerce. Many thus decided to overhaul their macroeconomic policies, privatize inefficient state enterprises and open their markets to foreign capital and to the technology that comes with it. Thanks to that change of paradigm, a large number of these countries have become formidable competitors in international markets for manufactured goods.

But the political pillar of Third Worldism remained. Tyrants' abuse of the principle of "self-determination" has been contested since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In international forums, proposals were put forward to institute the "right to interfere," which has since become the "responsibility to protect" populations from flagrant human-rights violations; in June 1990, in the city of La Baule, French President François Mitterrand promised that France would tailor her support for African regimes to their willingness to foster political freedom and economic efficiency. Former U.S. President George W. Bush later pushed his "freedom agenda," which emphasized democracy promotion as an essential ingredient of American foreign policy.

All these initiatives tried to combat the notion that "self-determination" should serve as a subterfuge for unaccountable autocrats to perpetuate their reigns. But Third World despots (and like-minded intellectuals) argued that such initiatives had no roots or legitimacy in developing nations' cultures. The Middle East was their prime example of a region where representative democracy had never prospered and had not even been sought.

Cue this winter's revolts, which have torn this sorry argument to pieces. In the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and practically everywhere else in the region, men and women have risked their lives to show that they are not "masses," but individuals who want and have the right to choose and debate their governance. To my knowledge these protesters have not burned a single effigy of Uncle Sam or Israeli flag as their rulers have intermittently teleprompted them to do over the years. Instead their fury has been directed at those actually responsible for their decades-long suffering. Meanwhile Libyan rebels called on the outside world—and notably the West—for help in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi. And this is not even the first time the people of North Africa or the Middle East have requested our support: In 2009, the streets of Iran rang with protesters' chorus of "Obama! Obama! Are you with them or are you with us?"

Whatever the outcome in Libya, Egypt or Tunisia—or Bahrain or Syria for that matter—don't expect the yearning for true self-determination to subside. These people have now glimpsed freedom, and they aren't likely to forget it and revert to their status quo ante. Fighting for liberty creates an unyielding addiction. Poland's Solidarity was smashed and forced underground in 1981, but eight years later the Berlin Wall fell and by 1990 Lech Walesa was president. North Africa and the Middle East are going through a period not unlike that in Eastern Europe in the 1980s: Sooner or later freedom will have the final say.

But what has been buried in the adventures and misadventures of today's revolts is that whatever legitimacy was left in the ideology of Third Worldism is now gone. Those statesmen and intellectuals who have fought this moment for years will pay dearly before history, but it has now arrived: By refusing to be governed any longer by despots, and showing that they have democratic aspirations similar to the rest of the world's, the Arab people have finally killed Third Worldism.

Mr. Fiallo is a Dominican-born economist, writer and retired U.N. official. His latest publication, "Ternes Eclats" or "Dimmed Lights," (L'Harmattan, 2009) presents a critique of international organizations.

23958  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Nominee for headline of the year on: March 22, 2011, 10:15:26 AM

http://www.wyff4.com/news/27200800/detail.html
23959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Top 10 Rejected Mission Names on: March 22, 2011, 10:11:32 AM
Top 10 Rejected Obama Mission Names
Apparently the White House tossed out a number of perfectly good names before arriving at "Operation Odyssey Dawn":

10.Operation Nine Months In The Senate Didn't Prepare Me For This
9. Operation Organizing for Libya
8. Operation Double Standard
7. Operation FINE! I'll Do Something
6. Operation Enduring Narcissism
5. Operation So That's What the Red Button Does
4. Operation France Backed Me Into A Corner
3. Operation Start Without Me
2. Operation Unlike Bush Wars This One Is Justified Because Hey Look A Squirrel
1. Operation Aimless Fury

23960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Boy and Girl Brains on: March 22, 2011, 09:19:55 AM
By AVERY JOHNSON
Boys' and girls' brains are different—but not always in the ways you might think.

A common stereotype is that boys develop more slowly than girls, putting them at a disadvantage in school where pressure to perform is starting ever younger. Another notion is that puberty is a time when boys' and girls' brains grow more dissimilar, accounting for some of the perceived disparities between the sexes.

 This time-lapse video shows MRIs of a girl and boy brain combined as they age from 9 to 22 and their their gender difference disappear as they age. Video courtesy of NIH.
.Now, some scientists are debunking such thinking. Although boys' and girls' brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar, according to recent government research. And, rather than growing more slowly, boys' brains instead are simply developing differently.

"There's a lot of work right now trying to go beyond sweeping generalizations, like boys aren't as good at reading," says Jay Giedd, chief of Brain Imaging at the National Institute of Mental Health's Child Psychiatry Branch.

The NIMH, as part of a 20-year-old brain-mapping project, has been doing MRI scans of young people's brains, age 9 to 22. By measuring the thickness of the brain's cortex and how it changes over time, scientists have found that boys' and girls' brains, on average, differ significantly at age 9. But by the time the participants reached age 22, the brains of the two sexes grew more alike in many areas critical for learning. In general, most parts of people's brains are fully developed by the age of 25 to 30. The NIMH study, which involved 284 people, was published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

View Full Image

National Institute of Mental Health (3)
 
Scientists combined MRIs of a girl and a boy brain. Blue shows where the two differ most, purple is a little different, and white virtually the same. At age 10, differences dominate. Similarities increase over time. (Click to graphic to enlarge.)
.
Gender Development
Some typical milestones and when boys and girls tend to hit them:

At birth: Girls are a few weeks more mature neurologically and have more advanced hearing. Boys on average weigh half a pound more.

First words: Girls typically utter their first word at 11 or 12 months, one month ahead of boys.

Vocabulary: At 18 months, girls on average know 86.8 words, more than double boys' 41.8 words. By 30 months, boys' and girls' language skills have converged, at about 500 words.

Walking: Caucasian girls and boys tend to walk around 12 months. African-Americans walk sooner, at nine to 10 months.

Potty training: Girls are fully trained by 36 months, according to one study. Boys took a bit longer, training by 38 months.

Onset of puberty: For girls, the process can start at age 9 to 10. For boys, it's closer to 11 to 12.

Source: WSJ research
.Another finding: Young girls' brains tend to mature faster in the front part, which is responsible, among other things, for language learning and controlling aggression and impulsivity. For boys, the fastest development is in the back of the brain, which performs visual-spatial tasks at which males tend to excel such as geometry and puzzle-solving.

The findings come as education experts debate the best ways to approach gender issues in schools. Aspects of the government research appear to support a push for segregated classrooms of boys and girls, especially at younger ages when their brains are the most different. But other educators and scientists cite other parts of the data to reject the idea of single-sex classrooms.

Leonard Sax, an advocate for single-sex classrooms, says, "If you're teaching 9-year-olds you need to understand that what the 9-year-old boy needs in the classroom may be very different than what the 9-year-old girl needs."

Dr. Sax, a physician and author of books on gender differences, worries that in kindergarten many boys aren't ready to learn to read the way it is usually taught—stressing sitting still and being quiet—and therefore may be turned off to school. The nonprofit National Association for Single Sex Public Education says that more than 500 public schools nationwide offer single-sex classrooms, compared with just 11 schools in 2002.

Woodward Avenue Elementary in DeLand, Fla., introduced single-sex classrooms in conjunction with educational experts at nearby Stetson University. Some differences: In the boys' classrooms, activities include tossing balls while reciting math facts, which helps turn boys on to learning, say the Stetson professors, Elizabeth Heins and Kathy Piechura-Couture. Classrooms for girls are conducted in lower tones, on the assumption that girls do better in quieter classrooms.

Torrence Broxton, the school's principal, says students in the single-sex classrooms often outperform their peers in coed rooms. He says parents rarely ask for a child to be switched out of a single-sex class.

Other education experts are concerned that single-sex curricula can reinforce gender stereotypes and don't mirror real-world circumstances. They also say scientific research doesn't support separate classrooms.

"There is much more similarity between the sexes than difference," says Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Chicago's Rosalind Franklin University who has authored a book about brain development in boys and girls. Brain differences, she says, "are real but they are small."

Dr. Eliot cites a neuro-imaging study from last year that showed the female brain has stronger neuronal connections than the male brain in certain areas, and vice versa. But in general, the study found that the male and female brains show more commonality than difference, Dr. Eliot says. The study, which looks at about 1,100 brain scans, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Giedd of the NIMH says his research also showed there are exceptions. In about 10% of the young people studied, boys' and girls' brains were more similar to the brains of the opposite sex than to others' of the same sex. Dr. Giedd says many factors can affect the rate of brain development, including the strength or weakness of testosterone receptors. Testosterone, a hormone usually associated with male traits, is present in both sexes and can help determine how quickly parts of the brain develop that account for typical male-dominated functions.

Dr. Giedd also cautions that even though boys and girls may end up by early adulthood with many parts of the brain's cortex showing similar thickness, that doesn't mean they will necessarily have similar behaviors or ability. Instead, he says other research has shown that the way the cortex develops, and not its thickness, is more important in determining such factors as a person's level of intelligence.

23961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When a Billion Chinese Jump on: March 22, 2011, 09:15:23 AM
When a Billion Chinese Jump
The dark side of China's rapid industrialisation is terrible environmental damage, claims a British journalist.

When a Billion Chinese Jump | by Jonathan Watts | Scribner | 448 pages | 2010 | US$17
ISBN: 141658076X

 The odd title of this book by the Asia environment correspondent for The Guardian, “When a Billion Chinese Jump”, comes from a warning he heard as a child. If everyone in China jumped at the same time, he was told, the shock would knock the earth off its axis and kill everyone on the planet.  You don’t have to read too far into the book before you realize that the world’s second largest economy may be killing all of us in its head-long dash to modernise with scant regard for our planet.

Jonathan Watts argues that Chinese have so deep a cultural prejudice against nature that even the central government’s efforts to protect and improve the environment are ignored.

The book is more a travelogue than a scientific tome. Watts peels the onion of environmental degradation as he journeys across China, from the village in Yunnan (which supposedly is Shangri-la in the novel “The Lost Horizon”) to the more developed and industrialized cities of the coast, to its hinterland, coal fields in Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia and the encroaching desert. He relates the environmental catastrophe through the voices of environmental activists, scientists, government officials and disenfranchised victims suffering disease and indignity.

Consider some of the following environmental crimes:

Since 1949 China has built 87,000 dams – most of them environmental catastrophes. Some Chinese and foreign seismologists have claimed that the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 occurred because one of the dams placed so much weight on a fault line that “had been relatively inactive for thousands of years”.
In 2006 some 8.6 million tonnes of untreated sewage was pumped into the South China Sea by just two provinces – Guangdong and Fujian in the country’s industrialised south.
By 2020 the volume of urban rubbish in China is expected to reach 400 million tonnes – the equivalent of the rest of the world in 1997.
Half the world’s current airborne dust comes from China.
This is scary stuff. China’s voracious appetite threatens the world.

But scarier still is that the people interviewed by Watts on his journey across China speak as though man and nature are disconnected from each other. They tend to believe that nature is something to be conquered and used, rapaciously if we wish. Even Chinese scientists seem to believe this. One of them has suggested using 200 nuclear bombs to blast a hole through the Himalayas to improve wind circulation in China.

Watts attributes this to Confucianism. This ancient philosophy privileges social harmony and the material needs of society over nature. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in 1958 started a mad rush to industrialise that trampled everything in its path and created the world’s worst man-made famine. Although China’s current development spree is by no means so catastrophic, the environment is still being trashed because Chinese are still Confucians at heart. As Watts points out, fixing the environment will require more than legislation and government edicts from Beijing; it will require a deep cultural shift.

In such an impressive book there are some disappointing lapses.

Watts fails to mention China’s belief in its own superiority. This was most evident in imperial times, but it lingers on today. Other nations are regarded as barbarians who should pay homage to China. This seems to explain why China ignores neighbouring countries when disposing of its waste. China currently seeds clouds over Beijing and Inner Mongolia (part of China) with chemicals to force it to rain on its territory, ignoring the desertification of the grasslands of independent Mongolia.

Another fault is that Watt doesn’t look into a crystal ball. For example, what will happen when water becomes even scarcer than it is today? There is already discussion in Chinese scientific and military circles about harnessing the headwaters of the Ganges and diverting them away from India and into China. Forecasting is the real jump that could shake the world to its core, is it not?

Watts sees hope for the future in a myriad of small, community level initiatives throughout the country. But China is vast and each region has gigantic problems. Thinking locally is like sticking your finger in the crack in the dam. There are just too many cracks. What is needed is a concerted effort by the Central Government to coordinate national action.

China needs a cultural shift, not from Communism to capitalism, but from Confucianism back to Taoism – an older Chinese philosophy that taught man to live in harmony with nature. And then it needs to think of itself as a citizen of the world, not as the centre of the world.

Depressingly these changes seem very distant. In the meantime, China, which has the highest per capita rates of cancer and stillborn births in the world, will continue to poison itself -- and perhaps the rest of us as well.

Constance Kong is the pen name of a Shanghai-based business consultant.

This article is published by Constance Kong, and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
23962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Why do we let them dress like that? on: March 22, 2011, 08:16:08 AM
In the pale-turquoise ladies' room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is "skanky," that one is "really cute," and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they've got under the party lights.

But for the most part, there isn't all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.

 Today's teen and preteen girls are bombarded with images and products that tout the benefits of sexual attraction. But must we as parents, give in to their desire to "dress like everyone else?" asks author Jennifer Moses. She talks with WSJ's Kelsey Hubbard.

In a few years, their attention will turn to the annual ritual of shopping for a prom dress, and by then their fashion tastes will have advanced still more. Having done this now for two years with my own daughter, I continue to be amazed by the plunging necklines, built-in push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos. And try finding a pair of sufficiently "prommish" shoes designed with less than a 2-inch heel.

All of which brings me to a question: Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?

I posed this question to a friend whose teenage daughter goes to an all-girls private school in New York. "It isn't that different from when we were kids," she said. "The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They'll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It's almost like they're saying, 'Look how hot my daughter is.'" But why? "I think it's a bonding thing," she said. "It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there."

I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?"

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that's certainly the norm among my peers.

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.

As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they'll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: "What's the big deal?" "But it's the style." "Could you be any more out of it?" What teenage girl doesn't want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?

And what mom doesn't want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.

In recent years, of course, promiscuity has hit new heights (it always does!), with "sexting" among preteens, "hooking up" among teens and college students, and a constant stream of semi-pornography from just about every media outlet. Varied sexual experiences—the more the better—are the current social norm.

I wouldn't want us to return to the age of the corset or even of the double standard, because a double standard that lets the promiscuous male off the hook while condemning his female counterpart is both stupid and destructive. If you're the campus mattress, chances are that you need therapy more than you need condemnation.

But it's easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: "Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!" But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs.

—Jennifer Moses is the author of "Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou" and "Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom."
23963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tipping point in Yemen? on: March 22, 2011, 08:08:50 AM
SAN'A—Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is trying to salvage his 32-year rule by negotiating an exit with the towering array of opponents including key military commanders and tribal leaders demanding that he immediately step down.

Back-channel negotiations between the controversial U.S. ally and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar—a top commander who withdrew his loyalty from the president on Monday—haven't yet yielded a clear transition of power, but the political process so far has succeeded in keeping the power struggle from devolving into military conflict or civil war.

Tanks commanded by Mr. Saleh's son are deployed around the presidential palace in the capital, while tanks manned by forces loyal to Gen. Ahmar have set up nearby, as well near several sensitive government buildings, like the Central Bank, according to residents.

The prognosis of the talks remain unclear, and the threat of military conflict remains a possibility, according to officials in San'a. Saudi Arabia and Yemeni tribal leaders are involved in the negotiations, according to people familiar with the situation, but President Saleh appears to be staking out untenable terms.

His spokesman announced early Tuesday that the leader would agree to step down by the end of the year in favor of a military council taking over. An umbrella group of opposition political parties rejected a similar proposal when the president offered it last month in what appeared to be a bid to end the unceasing street protests against his continued rule.

Now, with the opposition in a stronger bartering position in the wake of the defections of key military leaders, religious figures and tribal elders, opposition leaders say they will accept nothing besides President Saleh's immediate resignation so that the country can start building a new, democratic future.

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.For the U.S., the prospect of an emerging civil war in Yemen and the possibility of losing a controversial but key ally in the war on terror has emerged as a significant national-security concern. Yemen's al Qaeda affiliate has used bases in tribal areas outside of Mr. Saleh's control to launch failed bombing attempts on U.S.-bound planes.

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Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press
 
A protester being carried by other demonstrators flashed the victory sign.
.Washington has encouraged Mr. Saleh to loosen the reins and adopt democratic reforms, while spending tens of millions of dollars to train his forces to aid in counterterrorism operations.

The standoff between Mr. Saleh and his opponents has opened the unsavory possibility that U.S.-trained forces could be unleashed to defend the embattled leader. The White House issued a statement saying violence in Yemen would be "unacceptable."

The Yemeni president dispatched his foreign minister to neighboring Saudi Arabia Monday to discuss the situation with the Saudi king, considered Mr. Saleh's strongest foreign benefactor. Mr. Saleh said "the majority" of the country backed him, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Saleh and Gen. Ahmar, the rebel general, exchanged messages through a mediator in efforts to broker an end to the tension, according to a Yemeni official. The official also confirmed that Saudi Arabia was involved in brokering a peaceful transition of power.

Saudi Arabia has helped prop up President Saleh for much of his three decades in power, primarily as a bulwark against extremist threats aimed at the Saudi royal family.

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Associated Press
 
A Yemeni army officer joined protesters demanding the resignation of Yemeni president Saleh on Monday.
.The Saudis also have been financial patrons for many Yemeni tribal figures, giving them leverage to influence how the situation plays out in San'a, according to people familiar with the situation.

The big U.S. concern about the possible ouster of Mr. Saleh is the disposition of the leader who succeeds him; such concerns have been cited by U.S. and Arab officials in explaining their support for the Yemeni president in recent years.

One scenario, if Mr. Saleh were to be removed from power, is a broken state in which terrorism flourishes; another, a tribal-based government unfriendly to the U.S.

A third outcome would be a military-backed leadership that is friendly to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni opposition activists said they were wary of a wide-ranging Saudi role in Yemen, given the conservative kingdom's own reticence to enact political reform.

Saudi Arabia also stepped in recently, against U.S. wishes, to help the Sunni royal family in Bahrain, sending troops to support the monarchy against majority Shiite protesters. That deployment was followed by an intensified Bahraini crackdown on opposition activists.

 Some members of the military in Yemen throw in their support for anti-government protesters dealing a blow to President Saleh as he clings to power. Video and image courtesy of Reuters.
.In Yemen, forces aligned against President Saleh coalesced rapidly over the past weekend in the wake of a bloody crackdown against demonstrators who had been camped out in San'a for weeks demanding political overhauls and the resignation of the leader.

Plainclothes gunmen set up on rooftops overlooking the plaza filled with protesters shot and killed more than 50 people and wounded dozens more, according to doctors and witnesses.

The attack catalyzed an anemic protest movement led by opposition parties with unproven grass-roots support and youth activists whose reach didn't venture far from the capital.

By the weekend, leaders of the nation's largest tribes, including Mr. Saleh's own, came out against the president.

On Sunday, Mr. Saleh sacked his government in a bid to assuage criticism of his rule, and state television announced that an investigation into Friday's shooting. The government said it had arrested 16 suspected gunmen.

On Monday, many of the country's elite who hadn't yet taken sides in the dispute declared their loyalties in favor of the protest movement.

Gen. Ahmar, the rebel military commander, served with President Saleh for more than 30 years and was considered one of his closest confidantes.

He was joined by at least four other generals, while local media reported the defections of at least one dozen other officers from the standing army as well as at least one governor and one mayor.

"The crisis is getting more complicated and it's pushing the country toward violence and civil war," Gen. Ahmar—who commands an armored infantry division—said in a statement broadcast by al-Jazeera.

Yemen's defense minister, Nasser Ahmed, spoke on state television Monday evening saying the army still supported the president and would defend him against any "coup against democracy."

It is unclear if Gen. Ahmar's military division has received any U.S. military assistance; much of U.S. aid has been channeled to units under the command of Mr. Saleh's son and nephews.

Mr. Saleh, 66 years old, has been an on-and-off ally of the U.S. in the campaign against al Qaeda. U.S. officials have said the political upheaval has made it difficult for the U.S. to resume airstrikes in Yemen, which were halted in May. Pentagon officials said they were closely following events, which U.S. officials described as "fluid."

"No one in their right mind would predict what might happen in a place like Yemen, but it's true that Saleh's political support has eroded in recent weeks, including inside the Yemeni government," a U.S. official said.

A senior U.S. military official said the chance of Mr. Saleh surviving was less than 50%.

23964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT (POTH) Bahrain on: March 22, 2011, 07:59:06 AM
MANAMA, Bahrain — When Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement began its demonstrations in Pearl Square last month, Atif Abdulmalik was supportive. An American-educated investment banker and a member of the Sunni Muslim elite, he favored a constitutional monarchy and increasing opportunities and support for the poorer Shiite majority.

But in the past week or two, the nature of the protest shifted — and so did any hope that demands for change would cross sectarian lines and unite Bahrainis in a cohesive democracy movement. The mainly Shiite demonstrators moved beyond Pearl Square, taking over areas leading to the financial and diplomatic districts of the capital. They closed off streets with makeshift roadblocks and shouted slogans calling for the death of the royal family.
“Twenty-five percent of Bahrain’s G.D.P. comes from banks,” Mr. Abdulmalik said as he sat in the soft Persian Gulf sunshine. “I sympathize with many of the demands of the demonstrators. But no country would allow the takeover of its financial district. The economic future of the country was at stake. What happened this week, as sad as it is, is good.”

To many around the world, the events of the past week — the arrival of 2,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and other neighbors, the declaration of martial law, the forceful clearing out of Pearl Square, the military takeover of the main hospital and then the spiteful tearing down of the Pearl monument itself — seem like the brutal work of a desperate autocracy.

But for Sunnis, who make up about a third of the country’s citizenry but hold the main levers of power, it was the only choice of a country facing a rising tide of chaos that imperiled its livelihood and future.

“How can we have a dialogue when they are threatening us?” Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the foreign minister and a member of the royal family, asked Friday night at a news conference.

On Sunday, Bahrain was returning to a level of normality, with schools restarting, traffic returning and shops reopening. Indeed, in an overnight report posted on the official Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said that a “fomented subversive plot,” brewing for 20 or 30 years, had failed.

But many Shiites stayed home from work in protest of recent events, some checkpoints and curfews remained and a sense of political paralysis prevailed. No political dialogue seemed likely soon.

For government supporters here, it was the way protesters blocked the financial district that was especially worrisome. They say they worry mostly about what happened to Lebanon. Beirut was once the financial capital of the Middle East. Then sectarian tensions among Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze, exacerbated by meddling of foreign powers, broke out in the mid-1970s, leading to civil war.

Not only did the country tear out its own heart, the financial business there pulled out and never returned. Today, much of that business is here in Bahrain. Downtown Manama has mushroomed. Bahrainis worry that if Sunni-Shiite sectarianism grows out of control, the financial business will again pick up stakes and move to the waiting competitors, Dubai and Qatar.

Urgent measures were therefore needed, the government’s defenders say, and they are grateful they were taken. The demonstrators, they argue, had allowed their cause to be taken over by hard-liners inspired by — or linked to — Iran.

No evidence of such links has been presented, and Shiite leaders here deny that they are doing Iran’s bidding. Still, the walls of some Shiite mosques in Bahrain bear portraits of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah spiritual figures, and ties to Iran run deep among many Shiites in the country.

The takeover of Salmaniya Hospital by the military especially shocked the world. But Hala Mohammed is a Sunni doctor at the hospital and said that in recent weeks it had turned into a mini-Pearl Square with tents and radical posters.

“The doctors who supported the protesters were suddenly issuing decrees on behalf of the entire medical community,” she said. “They had politicized a medical institution. The government didn’t occupy it, it freed it and I am grateful.”

Rana Abdulaal said that many Sunnis like herself had felt imprisoned in their homes for the past month. She said she expected the Shiite opposition to accept offers to begin a dialogue with the government, but it instead refused to join one. “If the government had not acted, there would have been a civil war,” she said, with Sunnis marching on Pearl Square.

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What also troubles Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker, is the way in which Bahrain has been grouped recently in discussions abroad with Libya and Yemen. The elite here think of their country as more like the Persian Gulf’s version of Singapore — a liberal, sophisticated place that is culturally far more open than its neighbors.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Abdulmalik led two visitors around Muharraq, the original capital of Bahrain, a warren of lovely alleys and 200-year-old homes being gracefully restored as museums and cultural spaces, because his company supports these projects. By chance, the country’s culture minister, Sheika Mai bint Mohammed al-Khalifa, was at one of the houses.
Ms. Khalifa wears her shoulder-length hair uncovered and was in trousers and sneakers in the Abdullah Al Zayed House, the home of the first newspaper publisher in the gulf, being restored by her foundation.

“Bahrain has always been open, and we don’t want to see it turned into another Iran,” Ms. Khalifa said. In the nearby cultural center her foundation runs, philosophers, poets and thinkers from around the world have taken part in a weekly lecture program. But the program and others like it have ground to a halt because of the recent troubles; a large meeting that Bahrain was planning to host has been suddenly moved to Paris.

Much of the push for democratic reform here, as elsewhere in the region, has come from economic hard times. Bahraini supporters of the government note that in this country there is free education, free medical care, heavily subsidized housing as well as no taxes. Budgetary troubles meant home construction was delayed, pushing some of the poor to join the demonstrations.

“The last few years were very difficult because of the financial crisis,” said Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker. “But that crisis was not so bad because we were dealing with facts. In the last month, we have been dealing with emotions. I told the demonstrators, ‘This country is developing, and you will stifle it.’ Something had to be done, and it was.”
23965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor's Friedman: Libya, the West, and the Narrative of Democracy on: March 22, 2011, 07:50:00 AM
Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy
March 21, 2011


By George Friedman

Forces from the United States and some European countries have intervened in Libya. Under U.N. authorization, they have imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, meaning they will shoot down any Libyan aircraft that attempts to fly within Libya. In addition, they have conducted attacks against aircraft on the ground, airfields, air defenses and the command, control and communication systems of the Libyan government, and French and U.S. aircraft have struck against Libyan armor and ground forces. There also are reports of European and Egyptian special operations forces deploying in eastern Libya, where the opposition to the government is centered, particularly around the city of Benghazi. In effect, the intervention of this alliance has been against the government of Moammar Gadhafi, and by extension, in favor of his opponents in the east.

The alliance’s full intention is not clear, nor is it clear that the allies are of one mind. The U.N. Security Council resolution clearly authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone. By extension, this logically authorizes strikes against airfields and related targets. Very broadly, it also defines the mission of the intervention as protecting civilian lives. As such, it does not specifically prohibit the presence of ground forces, though it does clearly state that no “foreign occupation force” shall be permitted on Libyan soil. It can be assumed they intended that forces could intervene in Libya but could not remain in Libya after the intervention. What this means in practice is less than clear.

There is no question that the intervention is designed to protect Gadhafi’s enemies from his forces. Gadhafi had threatened to attack “without mercy” and had mounted a sustained eastward assault that the rebels proved incapable of slowing. Before the intervention, the vanguard of his forces was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The protection of the eastern rebels from Gadhafi’s vengeance coupled with attacks on facilities under Gadhafi’s control logically leads to the conclusion that the alliance wants regime change, that it wants to replace the Gadhafi government with one led by the rebels.

But that would be too much like the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations and the alliance haven’t gone that far in their rhetoric, regardless of the logic of their actions. Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.


The Regional Context

To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.

Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.

Consider also Bahrain. Clearly, the majority of the population is Shiite, and resentment toward the Sunni government is apparent. It should be assumed that the protesters want to dramatically increase Shiite power, and elections should do the trick. Whether they want to create a liberal democracy fully aligned with the U.N. doctrines on human rights is somewhat more problematic.

Egypt is a complicated country, and any simple statement about what is going on is going to be wrong. Bahrain is somewhat less complex, but the same holds there. The idea that opposition to the government means support for liberal democracy is a tremendous stretch in all cases — and the idea that what the demonstrators say they want on camera is what they actually want is problematic. Even more problematic in many cases is the idea that the demonstrators in the streets simply represent a universal popular will.

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles. Leaving aside whether the narrative is accurate, reconciling these two principles is not easy — but it particularly appeals to Europeans with their ideological preference for “soft power.”

The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue. In the narrative being told, Libya was no longer an isolated tyranny but part of a widespread rising — and the one in which the West’s moral integrity was being tested in the extreme. Now was different from before.

Of course, as with other countries, there was a massive divergence between the narrative and what actually happened. Certainly, that there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt caused opponents of Gadhafi to think about opportunities, and the apparent ease of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings gave them some degree of confidence. But it would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely.


The Libyan Uprising

As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.

According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.

This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.

As Gadhafi closed in on Benghazi, the narrative shifted from the triumph of the democratic masses to the need to protect them from Gadhafi — hence the urgent calls for airstrikes. But this was tempered by reluctance to act decisively by landing troops, engaging the Libyan army and handing power to the rebels: Imperialism had to be avoided by doing the least possible to protect the rebels while arming them to defeat Gadhafi. Armed and trained by the West, provided with command of the air by the foreign air forces — this was the arbitrary line over which the new government keeps from being a Western puppet. It still seems a bit over the line, but that’s how the story goes.

In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues between them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine. They remind me of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, anointed by the Americans, distrusted by much of the country and supported by a fractious coalition.


Other Factors

There are other factors involved, of course. Italy has an interest in Libyan oil, and the United Kingdom was looking for access to the same. But just as Gadhafi was happy to sell the oil, so would any successor regime be; this war was not necessary to guarantee access to oil. NATO politics also played a role. The Germans refused to go with this operation, and that drove the French closer to the Americans and British. There is the Arab League, which supported a no-fly zone (though it did an about-face when it found out that a no-fly zone included bombing things) and offered the opportunity to work with the Arab world.

But it would be a mistake to assume that these passing interests took precedence over the ideological narrative, the genuine belief that it was possible to thread the needle between humanitarianism and imperialism — that it was possible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds without thereby interfering in the internal affairs of the country. The belief that one can take recourse to war to save the lives of the innocent without, in the course of that war, taking even more lives of innocents, also was in play.

The comparison to Iraq is obvious. Both countries had a monstrous dictator. Both were subjected to no-fly zones. The no-fly zones don’t deter the dictator. In due course, this evolves into a massive intervention in which the government is overthrown and the opposition goes into an internal civil war while simultaneously attacking the invaders. Of course, alternatively, this might play out like the Kosovo war, where a few months of bombing saw the government surrender the province. But in that case, only a province was in play. In this case, although focused ostensibly on the east, Gadhafi in effect is being asked to give up everything, and the same with his supporters — a harder business.

In my view, waging war to pursue the national interest is on rare occasion necessary. Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground. In this intervention, the ideology is not crystal clear, torn as it is between the concept of self-determination and the obligation to intervene to protect the favored faction. The reality on the ground is even less clear. The reality of democratic uprisings in the Arab world is much more complicated than the narrative makes it out to be, and the application of the narrative to Libya simply breaks down. There is unrest, but unrest comes in many sizes, democratic being only one.

Whenever you intervene in a country, whatever your intentions, you are intervening on someone’s side. In this case, the United States, France and Britain are intervening in favor of a poorly defined group of mutually hostile and suspicious tribes and factions that have failed to coalesce, at least so far, into a meaningful military force. The intervention may well succeed. The question is whether the outcome will create a morally superior nation. It is said that there can’t be anything worse than Gadhafi. But Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years because he was simply a dictator using force against innocents, but rather because he speaks to a real and powerful dimension of Libya.

23966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 22, 2011, 07:28:11 AM
Thank you.

23967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria on: March 22, 2011, 07:26:30 AM
Every Arab country is unhappy in its own way, and it turns out Syria is no different. A wave of protests the past four days, starting in the city of Deraa on Friday and spreading, makes Iran's chief Arab ally a latecomer to the spring of Muslim discontent.

The unrest has taken Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. foreign policy establishment by surprise. Syria was supposedly immune to Arab contagion. Earlier this month, Foreign Affairs magazine published "The Sturdy House That Assad Built," arguing that the Arab wave would not only "pass Syria by" but see Damascus "relatively strengthened" by the collapse of Egypt and other pro-American regimes. The West, urged German political scientist Michael Bröning, better think of new and better ways to "engage Assad."

The Obama Administration had already embraced this policy. The White House put an ambassador back in Damascus charged with pursuing a new detente. John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi have pushed the same line. The demonstrations and the Assad regime's bloody crackdown ought to give the champions of engagement pause. It turns out Syria's young and underemployed are no less frustrated with corruption and repression than are their peers from Tunis to Tehran.

Syria only looked "sturdy" until its people pushed on the doors of the house of Assad. Trouble started after hundreds of people in Deraa marched peacefully to protest the jailing of 15 schoolchildren who had written antiregime graffiti. Security forces opened fire, killing at least four. Protests continued through the funerals of the men killed. The offices of the ruling Baath Party in Deraa and vehicles were torched. Thousands yesterday marched in the nearby towns of Jasim and Inhkil. Demonstrations have also been reported in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.

Like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Syria's regime isn't squeamish about using force against domestic opponents. Bashar Assad's kinder and gentler father, Hafez, ordered the massacre of 20,000 or so people during the 1982 uprising in the town of Hama. His son's allies in Iran certainly won't complain if Hama rules are applied in Deraa.

The U.S. national interest in this season of Arab uprisings is to have anti-American regimes fall while helping pro-American regimes to reform in a more liberal (in the 19th-century meaning of that word) direction. Rather than waste effort wooing Assad, the U.S. should support his domestic opponents at every opportunity. A weaker Syria might cause less trouble in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah, and be less able to spread weapons and terror throughout the Mideast. Even bloody-minded authoritarians are less sturdy than they look to Westerners who mistake fear and order for consent.

23968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: March 21, 2011, 10:03:18 PM
Woof Sisco:

It would be great to have your there.  cool
23969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq in Brazil on: March 21, 2011, 01:30:59 PM
President Obama's trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador this week, while war rages in Libya, has been sharply criticized as proof of dangerous detachment from a world that badly needs U.S. leadership.

Yet there is a case to be made for going—to Brazil anyway. Arguably Santiago and San Salvador could have been postponed. Chile is already a stable ally and the stop in El Salvador, to mouth platitudes about hemispheric security while Central America is going up in narco-trafficking flames, only highlights the futility of the U.S. war on drugs.

Going to Brasilia to meet with Workers' Party President Dilma Rousseff on Saturday, on the other hand, was important.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama discredited his trip even before it began by peddling it as a trade mission to create jobs and boost the U.S. economy. With those goals in mind, he would have been better off staying home and lobbying Congress to drop the 54 cents per gallon tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol, and to end all U.S. subsidies on cotton, which have been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization in a case brought by Brazil. Or he could have sent the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where they would be easily ratified.

Let's face it: Mr. Obama's reputation as a protectionist precedes him. If he believes otherwise, our silver-tongued president has a tin ear.

As to the good reason for such a trip, consider the shared geopolitical interests between the U.S. and the biggest democracy in Latin America. Although former President Lula da Silva, also from the Workers' Party, did almost nothing to deregulate a mostly unfree economy over his eight years in office, he did manage to respect the central bank reforms carried out by his predecessor, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. As a result, after decades of inflationary chaos caused by central bank financing of government deficits, Brazil has now had vastly improved price stability for more than a decade. Ending the cycle of repeated devaluations is enabling the formation of a substantial middle class, and it is shaping a nation that increasingly wants to be part of the modern, global economy.

Millions of Brazilians climbing out of poverty is something to celebrate. But it is troubling when the leadership of a formerly isolated sleeping giant announces that it seeks alliances with tyrants. That's what was happening during Lula's time in office.

Lula had a thing for thugs. Given his roots in the left-wing labor movement, his soft spot for Cuba's Fidel Castro was understandable. But his decision to act as a flack for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the world stage was not. Fortunately, it was ineffective. On the other hand, his support for Hugo Chávez—who is antidemocratic at home and supports Colombian terrorists beyond his borders—damaged multilateral efforts to contain the Venezuelan menace.

Now Ms. Rousseff wants to shape a new foreign policy that, while far from aligning itself with the U.S., is not so likely to actively pursue dictators and authoritarians. The U.S. should nurture this effort. In the struggle for hemispheric stability, Brazil is a crucial player.

As president, Ms. Rousseff, who was once a member of a Marxist guerrilla group, was expected to be further to the ideological left than her predecessor and just as dangerously populist. But so far she has proven pragmatic. Whereas the charismatic Lula was fond of the limelight, she keeps a low profile. When she does speak, she is serious and measured. Lula complained loudly about media criticism and wanted to clamp down on press freedom. Ms. Rousseff has rejected the idea.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.It is an old Brazilian tradition to reserve the foreign ministry for the country's crackpot left. That and the time-tested Brazilian ambition to defeat U.S. hegemony in the region is one way to explain the support for despots under Lula. Brazil also has valuable commercial contracts in Venezuela. But Ms. Rousseff seems to have decided that Lula's approach was counterproductive, especially to Brazil's goal of winning a permanent seat on the U.N.'s Security Council.

Shortly after she won the election runoff last Oct. 31, she began criticizing the human rights records of Iran and Cuba, something Lula never had the courage to do. Another important, though subtle, signal is the way in which Ms. Rousseff seems to be distancing herself from Mr. Chávez and his cohorts.

If Brazil is seeking rapprochement with the U.S., it is a welcome development for the entire hemisphere. As an ally on the fundamentals, like opposition to torture in Cuban jails, Brazil could be part of a long-awaited regional push to denounce human rights abuses. It might also come in handy next year when Venezuela holds presidential elections. Mr. Chávez has said that even if he loses, he won't step down, and the commander of the army has agreed.

That could make for a situation not unlike what is unfolding in Libya today. If the U.S. and Brazil are singing from the same hymn book, it will help. It's only too bad the commander in chief who was starting a war didn't have the good sense to return home after the meeting in Brasilia.

23970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No doubt our Pat will have a different take on this data ;-) on: March 21, 2011, 01:00:27 PM
Existing home sales fell 9.6% in February To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 3/21/2011


Existing home sales fell 9.6% in February to an annual rate of 4.88 million, well below the consensus expected pace of 5.11 million. Existing home sales are down 2.8% versus a year ago.

Sales in February were down in all major regions of the country. Sales declined for both single-family homes and condos/coops.
 
The median price of an existing home fell to $156,100 in February (not seasonally adjusted), and is down 5.2% versus a year ago. Average prices are down 2.7% versus last year.
 
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) rose to 8.6 from 7.5 in January. The increase in the months’ supply was mostly due to the slower selling pace. Inventories also increased slightly.
 
Implications: Existing home sales pulled back in February, after increasing substantially in the past three months.  Despite overall economic improvement – including higher wages and more private-sector jobs – credit conditions remain a major headwind for home sales. Anyone who has taken out a mortgage lately knows the lending process can be brutal, even for those willing and able to make a down-payment of 20%. By contrast, rental vacancies are falling fast. We are not concerned about the small rise in inventories in February. Inventories normally rise in February, as the spring selling season approaches, and are still down 1.2% compared to a year ago. Although the data will zig and zag from month to month, we expect the sales of existing homes to eventually reach the long-term trend of 5.5 million units annually.  With housing affordability at the highest level in at least 40 years, the market for homes is poised to improve.
23971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Australian Bullying Case on: March 21, 2011, 12:54:27 PM
Here is the original clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa4DxqFMZOM

and here is the follow up

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/contemplated-suicide-casey-the-punisher-tells-his-story-on-australian-tv/
23972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Follow up on bully comeuppance on: March 21, 2011, 12:53:01 PM
Thank you for that.

Very glad to see that young man get the support he deserves!
23973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: War by Committee on: March 21, 2011, 12:46:28 PM


America's founders gave the powers of Commander in Chief to the President because they knew that war had to be prosecuted with determination, discipline and the national interest foremost in mind. By marked contrast, the use of force against Libya looks like the first war by global committee, with all the limitations and greater risk that entails.

We support the military action, even if it is much belated, and the good news is that the first allied salvos from the air seem to have achieved initial success. They have knocked Gadhafi's air force out of the battle and stopped his ground forces from advancing further into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Allied planes have also hit Gadhafi's armor and troop columns, which ought to give his mercenaries in particular reason to ask if the pay is worth the risk.

***
But the war's early prosecution also raises concern about its leadership, its limited means and strategic goals. On none of these have coalition members been clear or unified, starting with President Obama.

It isn't even clear who is commanding operation Odyssey Dawn. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wasn't able to provide a clear answer as he worked the Sunday news circuit. Mr. Obama said on Saturday the U.S. will "contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission"—presumably B-2 bombers and command and control—but he added that the no-fly zone "will be led by our international partners."

Will that be the French, who said yesterday they have a handful of planes flying over Libya? It won't be the Qatar air force, which is chipping in four fighters. It isn't even clear whether the NATO commander will be allowed to lead the mission, though the military alliance is equipped for precisely this kind of effort. The danger here is that if no one is in charge, then no one is accountable for success or failure.

It also isn't clear what the military and strategic goal of this operation really is. Reuters quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying on Friday that the goal was "Number one: Stop the violence, and number two: We do believe that a final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Gadhafi to leave."

Yet President Obama offered only the first aim in his statements on Friday and Saturday: "We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal—specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya." He even suggested that if Gadhafi honors the U.N. demand for a cease fire, then the allies would stop fighting short of ousting him from Tripoli. On Sunday French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe explicitly rejected the goal of ousting Gadhafi.

Gadhafi is weak enough, and Libya is a puny enough military power, that even a limited use of force might lead to his ouster. Perhaps the officers around him will mutiny, though they would also have to defeat the Gadhafi sons who control their own mercenary bands and could be prosecuted for war crimes if they leave Libya.

Certainly Gadhafi showed no sign of retreat Sunday, promising "a long war" and revenge against the U.S., France and the United Kingdom. He already knows, thanks to the limits of U.N. resolution 1973, that he needn't fear any foreign troops parachuting into Tripoli. He received further encouragement from Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who only a day into the allied bombing denounced civilian casualties and claimed this wasn't the kind of no-fly zone the Arabs had in mind. Mr. Moussa is running to be president of Egypt, but U.S. military action should never be hostage to such a fair-weather ally.

The danger for the region, and U.S. interests, will be if Gadhafi can exploit divisions on the global war committee and achieve a military stalemate. He could then remain in control of a rump part of Libya and still create mayhem.

Even Admiral Mullen conceded that the war could end in a stalemate with Gadhafi staying in power. "Certainly, I recognize that's a possibility," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "It's hard to know exactly how this turns out." When America's top uniformed officer says he doesn't know what the goal of a military engagement is, you know he's not getting clear direction from political figures in the U.S., or the global committee, or whoever is really in charge.

Mr. Obama's own chief terrorism adviser, John Brennan, warned late last week that Gadhafi "has the penchant to do things of a very concerning nature," including the possible use of his stockpiles of mustard gas. If Gadhafi poses such a threat, as we agree he does, then it is essential that this war end with a new government in Tripoli.

That means not agreeing to a premature cease fire that treats the opposition as no different from Gadhafi's troops. It means aiding the rebels—with intelligence and other arms in addition to air cover—to rout Gadhafi's forces. At the very least, the U.S. ought to recognize the National Council in Benghazi as a provisional Libyan government, which will enhance its international standing and ability to arm itself. We also see nothing in U.N. Resolution 1973 that would bar the U.S. from assisting the rebels with advisers as we helped Afghans topple the Taliban in 2001.

***
The other problem with war by global committee is that it diminishes the role of the U.S. Congress. As he ran for President in 2008, Mr. Obama made much of his opposition, in contrast to Mrs. Clinton, to the 2002 Iraq war resolution in Congress. Yet so far regarding Libya he has been far more solicitous of the U.N., the Europeans and the Arab League than he has of domestic political consent.

We believe that, as Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama has the authority under the Constitution to order U.S. forces to act as he has in Libya. But as a simple prudential matter, a U.S. President needs to respect and bring along Congressional leaders in support of such action. All the more because members of his own party will be the first to revolt if a stalemate ensues or the TV pictures get ugly. Republicans tend to defer on principle to Presidential war decisions, but Mr. Obama also cannot afford to take them for granted.

The worst offense a Commander in Chief can make is to commit U.S. military force and the credibility that goes with it in half-hearted fashion. Now that he's taken the U.S. to war against Libya, Mr. Obama needs to make American interests his main priority, and that means ensuring that the result includes a rapid end to the long, brutal rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

23974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Special Report on Yemen on: March 21, 2011, 12:18:55 PM
A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner.

The turning point in Yemen occurred March 18 after Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of protestors in the streets calling for Saleh’s ouster came under a heavy crackdown that reportedly left some 46 people dead and hundreds wounded. It is unclear whether the shootings were ordered by Saleh himself, orchestrated by a member of the Yemeni defense establishment to facilitate Saleh’s political exit or simply provoked by tensions in the streets, but it does not really matter. Scores of defections from the ruling party, the prominent Hashid tribe in the north and military old guard followed the March 18 events, both putting Saleh at risk of being removed in a coup and putting the already deeply fractious country at risk of a civil war.


The Army Splits

But the situation in Yemen is also not a replica of the crisis in Egypt, which was not so much a revolution as it was a very carefully managed succession by the country’s armed forces. In Egypt, the armed forces maintained their independence from the unpopular Mubarak regime, thereby providing the armed forces with the unity in command and effort in using the street demonstrations to quietly oust Mubarak. In Yemen, a tribal society at its core, Saleh insured himself by stacking the security apparatus with members of his family and Sanhan tribal village. For example:

Gen. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president’s son, is the commander of the Republican Guard and Yemeni special operations forces. The president originally had planned to have his son succeed him.
Gen. Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Central Security Forces and Counterterrorism Unit, is Saleh’s nephew.
Col. Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Presidential Guard, is Saleh’s nephew.
Col. Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the National Security Bureau, is Saleh’s nephew.
Brig. Gen. Mohamed Saleh al-Ahmar, commander of the air force, is Saleh’s half-brother.
Brig. Gen. Ali Saleh al-Ahmar, chief of staff of the general command, is Saleh’s half-brother.
Brig. Gen. Mehdi Makwala, commander of the southern military zone in Aden, is a Hashid tribesman from Saleh’s village, Sanhan.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Mohsen, commander of the Eastern Military Zone in Hadramawt, is a Hashid tribesman from Sanhan.
However, Saleh cannot rely on the support of all of his relatives. The biggest threat to Saleh within the military apparatus comes from Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Saleh’s half brother, commander of the first armored brigade and commander of the northwestern military zone. Mohsen is an influential member of Yemen’s old guard and initiated a fresh wave of defections when he announced March 21 that he is joining the people’s revolution and deployed an armored formation to protect the protestors. Armored vehicles under Mohsen’s command are now reportedly surrounding the presidential palace, where Republican Guard units under the command of Saleh’s son, Ahmed, have already taken up defensive positions. The potential for clashes between pro and now anti-Saleh security forces is escalating.

Ali Mohsen may be positioning himself for Saleh’s political exit, but he is unlikely to be a welcome replacement from the U.S. point of view. Ali Mohsen is considered a veteran of the Islamist old guard, who earned its claim to fame during the 1994 civil war, when Saleh relied on Islamists to defeat the more secular and formerly Marxist south. The infusion of jihadists and jihadist sympathizers throughout the Yemeni security apparatus — a critical factor that has compounded counterterrorism efforts in the country — is a product of the Ali Mohsen legacy.

Following Mohsen’s defection and a crisis meeting among senior Yemen defense officials March 21, Yemeni Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Nasser Ali asserted that the army would continue to stand behind Saleh and thwart any attempted coups threatening Saleh’s legitimacy. The Yemeni defense minister does not speak for the entire army, however, particularly those forces under the command of Mohsen deploying in the capital city.


Tribal Opportunism

If the army is the first pillar underpinning Saleh’s regime, the second pillar is the tribe. Yemen, much like Libya, is divided among tribal lines, particularly in the north of the country. Though Saleh understands the power of the tribe and has made a concerted effort to maintain his tribal alliances, his biggest threat within Yemen’s tribal landscape comes from Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, one of the sons to the late Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, who ruled the Hashid confederation as the most powerful tribal chieftain in the country. Hamid is a wealthy businessman and a leader of the conservative Islah party that leads the Joint Meetings Party (JMP) opposition coalition. He has obvious political aspirations to become the next leader of Yemen and sees the current uprising as his chance to bring Saleh down. In fact, the first wave of resignations from within the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party could be traced back to the al-Ahmar family tree, as relatives and allies were called on to raise the pressure against Saleh.

Still, there are significant arrestors to Hamid’s political rise. The al-Ahmars, while powerful and wealthy, do not speak for the entire Hashid confederation. Many members of both the Hashid and Bakil tribes have said as much publicly. Tribal sheikhs within the Bakil are especially wary of seeing an archrival Hashid leader assume control of Sanaa. In short, Saleh and his remaining loyalists still have some room to maneuver in playing tribal loyalties off each other to preserve his regime, but that room is narrowing.


The Saudi Vote

Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr. Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi is reportedly en route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deliver a “Presidential Letter” to the Saudi Monarch. In this letter, Saleh is likely asking for Saudi support for his regime, making the case that his downfall will lead to a fracturing of the country and greater instability for the Arabian Peninsula overall. Saudi support for Saleh is nowhere near assured, however.

Yemen has long had to contend with the fact that Saudi Arabia has the money, influence and tribal links to directly shape Yemeni politics according to its interests. The Saudis view Yemen as a subordinate power on the heel of the Arabian Peninsula, one that (if partitioned in a civil war) could potentially provide Riyadh with direct access to the Arabian Sea, but that if left to fragment, could also spread instability into the Saudi kingdom. The Saudis have thus relied primarily on their tribal links in the country to maintain influence and keep a lid on unrest, thereby keeping the central government in Sanaa weak and dependent on Riyadh for most of its policies.

Given Saudi Arabia’s heavy influence in Yemen, the Saudi view on the situation in Yemen serves as a vital indicator of Saleh’s staying power. More specifically, defections or pledges of support by Yemeni tribal leaders on the Saudi payroll can provide clues on the current Saudi mood toward Yemen. The al-Ahmar family, for example, has extremely close ties to the Saudi royals, and Hamid al-Ahmar has made a point in his recent interviews to praise the Saudis and highlight that he has been traveling between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in recent weeks. At the same time, a number of other prominent tribes close to the Saudis continue to stand by Saleh. Throughout much of Yemen’s crisis, the Saudis did not show signs of abandoning Saleh, but they were not fully backing him, either.

This is likely a reflection of internal Saudi differences as well as limited Saudi resources to deal effectively with Yemen at this point in time. The three Saudi royals who deal most closely with Yemen affairs are King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and Interior Minister and second deputy prime minister Prince Naif. Prince Naif and Crown Prince Sultan have had a very rocky relationship with Saleh and would most likely be amenable to his ouster, while King Abdullah (whose clan rivals the Sudeiri clan, to which Crown Prince Sultan and Prince Naif both belong) has maintained a closer relationship with the Yemeni president. The three often disagree on various facets of Saudi Arabia’s policy toward Yemen. At the same time, the Saudi government has its hands full in dealing with Iran, preventing it from devoting considerable attention to Yemen’s political crisis. Using Bahrain as a flashpoint for sectarian unrest, Iran has been fueling a destabilization campaign throughout eastern Arabia designed to undermine its U.S.-allied Sunni Arab rivals.

Yemen, while ranking much lower on a strategic level than Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, also is not immune to Iran’s agenda. In the northern Yemeni province of Saada, the Yemeni state has struggled to suppress a rebellion by al-Houthis of the Zaydi sect, considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam and heretical by Wahhabi standards. Riyadh fears al-Houthi unrest in Yemen’s north will stir unrest in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces of Najran and Jizan, which are home to the Ismailis (also an offshoot of Shiite Islam). Ismaili unrest in the south could then embolden Shia in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, who have already been carrying out demonstrations against the Saudi monarchy with Iranian backing.



(click image to enlarge)
When Saudi Arabia deployed troops in the al-Houthi-Ismaili borderland between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in late 2009, STRATFOR picked up indications that the al-Houthis were receiving some support from Iran, albeit nothing that was considered a game-changer in the rebellion. With unrest spreading throughout eastern Arabia and the Yemeni state falling into a deepening political crisis, the Saudis now have to worry about Iran exploiting a second front through Yemen to threaten the Saudi underbelly. This is in addition to all the other “usual” security issues afflicting Yemen, most notably the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which uses Yemen as a staging ground for attempts at more strategic attacks in the Saudi kingdom.

With distractions mounting in the region and Saleh still counting on a large network of familial and tribal ties to hold on to power, Saudi Arabia does not appear to have formed a coherent policy on its southern neighbor. This likely explains quiet complaints by Yemeni officials that they have been getting mixed signals from the Saudi kingdom in dealing with the current crisis. Now that the situation in Yemen has reached a tipping point, the Saudis will have to make a call on Yemen. Both Mohsen and the Al Ahmar family have a close relationship with the Saudis. The Saudi plan for Yemen is still likely being worked out, but any contingency involving a prominent political space for an Islamist like Mohsen is cause for concern for countries like the United States. Though speculation has arisen over a possible Saudi military intervention in Yemen, the likelihood of such a scenario is low. The Saudi royals are unlikely to fend for Saleh at this stage, and even if they did, they would face enormous difficulty in maintaining lines of supply to its southern neighbor to quell swelling unrest in the country when the army and tribal landscape are already split.

Yemen may border Saudi Arabia, but the geography of this part of the Arabian Peninsula poses logistical challenges far greater than what exists between eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Even if Riyadh decided it wanted to deploy its armed forces to protect Saleh, it would not be as simple as sending troops across a causeway into Sanaa.


Saleh in a Regional Context

Saleh is no doubt a political victim of the current wave of Middle East unrest and faces tougher days ahead in trying to maintain control. But he also finds himself in a very different situation from than Mubarak’s Egypt or Ben Ali’s Tunisia. Both Egypt and Tunisia had institutions, most critically the armed forces, able to stand apart from their unpopular leaders and sacrifice them at the appropriate time. Though Mubarak and Ben Ali had built patronage networks throughout the countries’ ruling parties and business sectors, their family names were not entrenched in the security apparatus, as is Saleh’s.

In some ways, Saleh’s case is more akin to that of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who presides over a tribal society split along an east-west axis like Yemen’s north-south axis. Though Yemen is more advanced politically and institutionally than Libya, both Gadhafi and Saleh have insulated their regimes by deliberately preventing the development of alternative bases of power, relying mostly on complex tribal alliances and militaries commanded by nepotism to rule. Such regimes take decades to build and an iron fist to maintain, making the removal of a single leader typically more trouble than it is worth. Though the system has worked for more than three decades for Saleh, the president’s carefully managed support network is now rapidly eroding. Saudi Arabia is now being force to make a tough call on the future of Yemen at a time when Riyadh cannot afford another crisis in the Persian Gulf region.

23975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq barks in support of Iranian democracy on: March 21, 2011, 12:09:04 PM
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama offered his strongest support to date for Iran's political opposition and youth, a sign of how the U.S. is seeking to use the democratic surge sweeping the Middle East to intensify pressure on Tehran's leadership.

Mr. Obama has addressed the Iranian people annually on the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz. His 2009 address was notable in that he called for political dialogue between the U.S. and Iran's clerical rulers, and referred to their country as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the first time an American president has used this moniker.

Mr. Obama's Nowruz speech this year, however, didn't renew his call for engagement with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and, instead, sharply criticized Tehran's human-rights abuses. Mr. Obama also for the first time personally mentioned the names of dissidents detained in Iranian prisons—seen as increasing the pressure on Tehran not to harm them.

"So far, the Iranian government has responded by demonstrating that it cares more about preserving its own power than respecting the rights of the Iranian people," Mr. Obama said in a video message that was beamed into Iran and translated into Farsi. "These choices do not demonstrate strength, they show fear."

Mr. Obama threw his support behind Iran's protestors and youth population, noting that they will control the future of their country.

The U.S. president was widely criticized in 2009 for not backing more directly the Iranian opposition movement that emerged after disputed presidential elections, drawing hundreds of thousands Iranian protesters onto the streets. Critics said the Obama administration was more focused on securing a diplomatic track to end Iran's nuclear program than to promote democratic change inside Iran.

This year, Mr. Obama offered much stronger rhetorical support, especially for the 60% of Iran's population that was born after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. "Your talent, your hopes and your choices will shape the future of Iran, and help light the world," Mr. Obama said. "And though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you," he added.

"I think the White House appears no longer interested in sending conciliatory overtures to a regime that is unwilling or incapable of reciprocating them," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.

U.S. officials believe the spread of political unrest in the Mideast that has led to the overthrow of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt in recent months provides both opportunities and risks for the West in its conflict with Iran.

The administration has supported the democratic uprisings, up to a point. After the abrupt toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, it has sought to push for change incrementally and from within existing regimes. With violence flaring in Yemen and Bahrain, the limits of that approach are becoming starker.

Iran's leadership has sought to define the protest movements as targeting pro-American governments and as a sign of Washington's waning influence in the region. Tehran has particularly provided moral support for opposition parties in Bahrain—largely Shiite organizations that are challenging the country's Sunni monarch, a close ally of Washington. And the U.S. has worried that Iran could take advantage of political instability as a means to spread its influence, as well the agendas of its chief allies: Syria and the Islamist militias and political parties, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

Still, Iranian protesters have responded to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and taken to the streets in recent weeks to renew their campaign against Mr. Ahmadinejad's government. In recent days, significant protests have emerged against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule, the first significant unrest in that country in decades.

U.S. officials have sought to highlight Iran's human-rights record as political unrest continues to grip the Middle East.

The U.S. Treasury Department for the first time last month imposed sanctions on Iranian officials solely for their alleged role in human-rights abuses and for playing a role in the crackdown on political dissidents. The Obama administration also is pushing to gain backing from the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva to censure Iran for its political crackdown and establish the first U.N. human-rights investigator for the Islamic Republic in a decade.

23976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia and Nat Gas supplies on: March 21, 2011, 12:04:17 PM
By GUY CHAZAN
Russia has assumed an unusually cooperative role in Japan's nuclear crisis, presenting itself as eager to ease strains on global natural gas markets after years of being criticized for using its energy reserves as a political weapon.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia's OAO Gazprom could pipe more natural gas into the European Union to allow EU-bound cargoes of liquefied natural gas to be diverted to Japan, which was forced to shut down a big chunk of its nuclear power capacity after the March 11 earthquake.

But analysts say it's unclear whether European customers actually want more Russian gas, which is linked to the price of oil and is much more expensive than imports of LNG from places like Qatar.

Russia's reputation as a dependable energy exporter was badly tarnished by a series of pricing disputes with Ukraine which led to cut-offs of Russian gas deliveries to Europe in the middle of winter. Moscow was accused at the time of using its natural riches to pressure its neighbors.

But in the wake of the earthquake that damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant and plunged the country into a nuclear crisis, Russia has offered Japanese companies stakes in two big natural gas fields in Siberia, pushed a proposed "energy bridge" that would bring Russian-generated electricity via underwater cable to Japan, and said it was ready to increase gas supplies to Europe in order to free up LNG for Japan. The announcement was part of efforts by Russia to position itself as a kind of Saudi Arabia of natural gas—able to provide swing capacity at short notice to stabilize markets.

Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italian oil and gas company ENI SpA, said the crisis in Japan and the unrest in Libya, which triggered a sharp decline in oil and gas exports from the North African country, would strengthen Russia's position in European markets, as well as that of other big exporters of pipeline gas. Events in Japan and Libya "mean more piped gas coming from the three traditional suppliers into Europe—Algeria, Russia and Norway," he said in an interview.

Italy asked Gazprom late last month to increase deliveries of gas from 30 million cubic meters a day to 48 million cubic meters after ENI shut down a key pipeline bringing natural gas under the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy.

Analysts say the crisis in Japan, which has eroded confidence in nuclear power worldwide, is generally supportive of gas demand globally. China, India and others have said they will need to re-examine their long-term nuclear strategy, and Germany has closed down seven of its oldest nuclear reactors. An analysis by Deutsche Bank found that if just 10% of nuclear power facilities around the world were shut down due to safety concerns, the world would need an additional 7 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas—an increase of 2.3% over 2010 consumption levels. That could lead to upward pressure on spot prices for gas, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, analysts say.

But Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, was skeptical that Europe would want to increase its imports of Russian gas. He said many of Gazprom's biggest customers are taking the minimum set out in their long-term "take-or-pay" contracts with the Russian export monopoly and have little desire to boost those volumes.

"The Russians are desperate to pump more gas into Europe, but they're insisting on an oil-linked price," he said.

A spokesman for Gazprom's export arm declined to comment on how events in Japan and Libya would affect the gas market. But he said they were "clearly positive for all gas producers, including Gazprom of course."

"So far this year, we've supplied less than contracted, so we have the ability to increase supplies to Europe," the spokesman said. But he acknowledged that none of Gazprom's European customers apart from Italy had so far asked for increased deliveries of gas.

23977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Straight Blast on: March 21, 2011, 11:58:50 AM
We are seeing a number of MMA fighters integrating the boxing blast into their repertoire. 

If you find footage of Lyoto's BB I would love to see it.
23978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH op-ed: A very liberal intervention on: March 21, 2011, 11:55:23 AM


A Very Liberal Intervention
By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: March 20, 2011
 
In its month-long crab walk toward a military confrontation with Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Obama administration has delivered a clinic in the liberal way of war.

 
Just a week ago, as the tide began to turn against the anti-Qaddafi rebellion, President Obama seemed determined to keep the United States out of Libya’s civil strife. But it turns out the president was willing to commit America to intervention all along. He just wanted to make sure we were doing it in the most multilateral, least cowboyish fashion imaginable.

That much his administration has achieved. In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

This is an intervention straight from Bill Clinton’s 1990s playbook, in other words, and a stark departure from the Bush administration’s more unilateralist methods. There are no “coalitions of the willing” here, no dismissive references to “Old Europe,” no “you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored.

This way of war has obvious advantages. It spreads the burden of military action, sustains rather than weakens our alliances, and takes the edge off the world’s instinctive anti-Americanism. Best of all, it encourages the European powers to shoulder their share of responsibility for maintaining global order, instead of just carping at the United States from the sidelines.

But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.

These problems dogged American foreign policy throughout the 1990s, the previous high tide of liberal interventionism. In Somalia, the public soured on our humanitarian mission as soon as it became clear that we would be taking casualties as well as dispensing relief supplies. In the former Yugoslavia, NATO imposed a no-flight zone in 1993, but it took two years of hapless peacekeeping and diplomatic wrangling, during which the war proceeded unabated, before American air strikes finally paved the way for a negotiated peace.

Our 1999 intervention in Kosovo offers an even starker cautionary tale. The NATO bombing campaign helped topple Slobodan Milosevic and midwifed an independent Kosovo. But by raising the stakes for both Milosevic and his Kosovo Liberation Army foes, the West’s intervention probably inspired more bloodletting and ethnic cleansing in the short term, exacerbating the very humanitarian crisis it was intended to forestall.

The same kind of difficulties are already bedeviling our Libyan war. Our coalition’s aims are uncertain: President Obama is rhetorically committed to the idea that Qaddafi needs to go, but Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allowed on Sunday that the dictator might ultimately remain in power. Our means are constrained: the U.N. resolution we’re enforcing explicitly rules out ground forces, and President Obama has repeatedly done so as well. And some of our supposed partners don’t seem to have the stomach for a fight: It took about 24 hours for Amr Moussa, recent leader of the Arab League, to suggest that the organization’s endorsement of a no-flight zone didn’t cover bombing missions.

And the time it took to build a multilateral coalition enabled Qaddafi to consolidate his position on the ground, to the point where any cease-fire would leave him in control of most of the country. Hence Admiral Mullen’s admission that our efforts could end in a stalemate, leaving the Libyan dictator entrenched.

The ultimate hope of liberal warfare is to fight as virtuously as possible, and with the minimum of risk. But war and moralism are uneasy bedfellows, and “low risk” conflicts often turn out to be anything but. By committing America to the perils of yet another military intervention, Barack Obama has staked an awful lot on the hope that our Libyan adventure will prove an exception to this rule. 
23979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula on: March 21, 2011, 10:14:45 AM
Pravda on the Beach (the Left Angeles Times) reports this morning the up to 80 protestors have been removed from the hospital by authorities.
23980  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 21, 2011, 10:12:37 AM
Where in southern Mexico?  Back in the spring of 1978 I spend three days in the prison of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas due to a fight between four locals and a friend and me; we were defending the two girls under our protection from being dragged off and when we ran to the police station the only policeman on duty ran away when the four of them arrived.  Funny story in retrospect, but to this day I remain grateful that it ended well. cheesy
23981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 21, 2011, 10:09:15 AM
I gather that Jones has the name of a verse from the Bible as a tatoo.  Does anyone know the verse in question?
23982  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Straight Blast on: March 21, 2011, 10:08:01 AM
When a fighter as fast and powerful as young Belfort brings a then-relatively-unseen technique like the boxing blast, I can understand that Silva would get put on his heels.

As far as the Panther VHS vidoes of Vunak (wherein I appear) go SG, to the best of my knowledge they are no longer available.  With regard to his subsequent videos, I have no idea.
23983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stuxnet on: March 20, 2011, 06:51:15 PM
Haven't read this yet but it comes well-recommended:



http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/04/stuxnet-201104?currentPage=1
23984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / P. Townsend: Who are you? Who? Who? on: March 20, 2011, 06:26:44 PM
Libya's Opposition Leadership Comes into Focus
March 20, 2011 | 2222 GMT

Summary

Libya has descended to a situation tantamount to civil war, with forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in the west pitted against rebels from the east. However, one of the biggest problems faced by Western governments has been in identifying exactly who the rebels are. Many of the rebels, including former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and former Interior Minister Gen. Abdel Fatta Younis, defected early on from the Gadhafi regime and represent what came to be the Transitional National Council (TNC), which promptly lobbied Western government for support after its formation. In light of logistical and maintenance capabilities militarily, further defections would certainly help the rebels achieve victory, though there has been no sign of such defections.

Editor’s note:This analysis was originally published March 8 but has been significantly updated with current, accurate information.

Analysis

Identifying the Opposition

One of the biggest problems Western governments have faced throughout the Libyan crisis has been in identifying who exactly the “eastern rebels” are. Until the uprising began in February, there was thought to be no legitimate opposition to speak of in the country, and thus no contacts between the United States, the United Kingdom, France or others. Many of those who now speak for the rebel movement headquartered in Benghazi. There have been several defections, however, from the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to the eastern rebel leadership, and it is men like these with whom the West is now trying to engage as the possible next generation of leadership in Libya, should its unstated goal of regime change come to fruition.

The structure through which the Libyan opposition is represented is formally known as the Interim Transitional National Council, more commonly referred to as the Transitional National Council (TNC). The first man to announce its creation was former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who defected from the government Feb. 21, and declared the establishment of a “transitional government” Feb. 26. At the time, Abdel-Jalil claimed that it would give way to national elections within three months, though this was clearly never a realistic goal.

One day after Abdel-Jalil’s announcement, a Benghazi-based lawyer named Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga held a news conference to refute his claims. Ghoga pronounced himself to be the spokesman of the new council, and denied that it resembled a transitional government, adding that even if it did, Abdel-Jalil would not be in charge. Ghoga derided the former justice minister as being more influential in the eastern Libyan city of Al Bayda than in Benghazi, which is the heart of the rebel movement.

The personality clash between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga continued on for most of the next week, as each man portended to be running a council that spoke for the eastern rebel movement in its entirety. It was significant only insofar as it provided just a glimpse of the sort of internal rivalries that exist in eastern Libya, known historically as Cyrenaica. Though Cyrenaica has a distinct identity from the western Libyan region historically referred to as Tripolitania, that does not mean that it is completely unified. This will be a problem moving ahead for the coalition carrying out the bombing campaign of Libya, as tribal and personal rivalries in the east will compound with a simple lack of familiarity with who the rebels really are.

The TNC officially came into being March 6, and (for the moment, at least) has settled the personal and regional rivalry between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga, with the former named the TNC head, and the latter its spokesman. Despite the drama that preceded the formal establishment of the council, all members of the opposition have always been unified on a series of goals: They want to mount an armed offensive against the government-controlled areas in the west; they want to overthrow Gadhafi; they seek to unify the country with Tripoli as its capital; and they do not want foreign boots on Libyan soil. The unity of the rebels, in short, is based upon a common desire to oust the longtime Libyan leader.

The TNC asserts that it derives its legitimacy from the series of city councils that have been running the affairs of the east since the February uprising that turned all of eastern Libya into rebel-held territory. This council is, in essence, a conglomeration of localized units of makeshift self-governance. And while it may be centered in the east, the TNC has also gone out of its way to assert that all Libyans who are opposed to Gadhafi’s rule are a part of the movement. This is not a secessionist struggle. A military stalemate with Gadhafi that would lead to the establishment of two Libya’s would not represent an outright success for the rebels, even though it would be preferential to outright defeat. Though it has only released the names of nine of its reported 31 members for security reasons, the TNC has claimed that it has members in several cities that lie beyond the rebel-held territory in the east (including Misurata, Zentan, Zawiya, Zouara, Nalut, Jabal Gharbi, Ghat and Kufra), and promised membership to all Libyans who want to join and asserted that the council is the sole representative of the whole of Libya.

The TNC’s foremost priorities for the past several weeks have been garnering foreign support for airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces and the establishment of a no-fly zone. Absent that, they have long argued, none of their other military objectives stood a chance of being realized.

It was the lobbying for Western support in the establishment of a no-fly zone that led the TNC’s “executive team,” also known as the crisis committee, to go on a tour of European capitals in mid-March designed to shore up support from various governments and international institutions. Mahmoud Jebril, an ally of Abdel-Jalil, and de facto Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, the former Libyan ambassador to India who quit in February when the uprising began, comprise the executive team. The result of this trip was the first recognition of the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, which was provided by France on March 10. France, as we were to see in the following days, was to become the most vociferous advocate of the international community coming to the aid of the TNC through the use of air strikes.


Challenges

Before the decision was made to implement a no fly zone, the Libyan opposition forces collapsed in the face of Ghaddafi’s onslaught, and have shown little sign of coalescing into a meaningful military force. While the loyalist eastward thrust was against a disorganized rebel force, Ghaddafi’s forces have demonstrated that they retain considerable strength and loyalty to the regime. That means that even with coalition airstrikes taking out armor and artillery, there will still be forces loyal to Ghaddafi inside any urban center the rebels might encounter in a westward advance, meaning that the rebels would be forced to fight a dedicated force dug in in built up areas while operating on extended lines, a difficult tactical and operational challenge for even a coherent and proficient military force. So the even though the coalition airstrikes have since shifted the military balance, the fundamental challenges for the rebels to organize and orchestrate a coherent military offensive remain unchanged.

It is important to note that little of the territory that fell into rebel control in the early days of the insurrection was not actually occupied through conquest. Many military and security forces in the east either deserted or defected to the opposition, which brought not only men and arms, but also the territory those troops ostensibly controlled. Most fighting that occurred once the situation transitioned into what is effectively a civil war, particularly in the main population centers along the coastal stretch between Benghazi and Sirte, consisted of relatively small, lightly armed formations conducting raids, rather than either side decisively defeating a major formation and pacifying a town.

Just as the executive team represents the TNC’s foreign affairs unit, the council also has a military division. This was originally headed by Omar El-Hariri, but the overall command of the Libyan rebels has since reportedly been passed to former interior minister Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis. Younis’ name arose early on as the man with whom the British government was engaging as it tried to get a grip on the situation unfolding in rebel-held territory. He was not included in the original TNC membership, however, despite several indications that he did in fact retain widespread support among eastern rebels. This, like the clash between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga, was another indication of the rivalries that exist in eastern Libya, which paint a picture of disunity among the rebels.

Younis, however, now appears to have been officially incorporated into the command structure and is presiding over a TNC “army” that, like the TNC itself, is the sum of its parts. Every population center in eastern Libya has since the uprising began created respective militias, all of which are now, theoretically, to report to Benghazi. Indeed, the most notable of these local militias, created Feb. 28, has been known at times as the Benghazi Military Council, which is linked to the Benghazi city council, the members of which form much of the political core of the new national council. There are other known militias in eastern Libya, however, operating training camps in places like Ajdabiya, Al Bayda and Tobruk, and undoubtedly several other locations as well.

Younis has perhaps the most challenging job of all in eastern Libya: organizing a coherent fighting force that can mount an invasion of the west — something that will be difficult even after an extensive foreign bombing campaign. More defections by the military and security forces in the west, like the earlier defections in Zawiya and Misurata, would perhaps benefit the TNC even more than the bombing campaign under way. There is no sign that immanent defections from the west, however, which will only reinforce the military and geographic challenges the TNC is faced with.

Libyan society is by definition tribal and therefore prone to fractiousness. The Gadhafi era has done nothing to counter this historical legacy, as the Jamihiriya political system promoted local governance more than a truly national system of administration. Ironically, it was this legacy of Gadhafi’s regime that helped the individual eastern cities to rapidly establish local committees that took over administration of their respective areas, but it will create difficulties should they try to truly come together. Rhetoric is far different from tangible displays of unity.

Geography will also continue to be a challenge for the TNC. The Libyan opposition still does not have the basic military proficiencies or know-how to project and sustain an armored assault on Tripoli; if it tried, it would run a serious risk of being neutralized on arrival by prepared defenses. Even Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte — almost certainly a necessary intermediate position to control on any drive to Tripoli — looks to be a logistical stretch for the opposition. An inflow of weapons may help but would not be the complete solution. Just as the primary factor in eastern Libya’s breaking free of the government’s control lay in a series of military defections, the occurrence of the same scenario in significant numbers in the west is what would give the newly created National Libyan Council its best chance of overthrowing Gadhafi.
=========
Speaking of gratitude, here is an oldie but goodie-note date:



Kuwaiti official praises Hurricane Katrina as "Soldier of Allah"
http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtri...183333333.html

Kuwaiti: 'The terrorist Katrina' is a soldier of Allah'

Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Thursday, September 1, 2005
Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowment's
research center, published an article titled "The Terrorist Katrina is One
of the Soldiers of Allah, But Not an Adherent of Al-Qaeda."(1) the Aug. 31
edition of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa. Following are excerpts:

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

"...As I watched the horrible sights of this wondrous storm, I was reminded
of the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah [in the compilations] of Al-Bukhari
and Abu Daoud. The Hadith says: 'The wind is of the wind of Allah, it comes
from mercy or for the sake of torment. When you see it, do not curse it,
[but rather] ask Allah for the good that is in it, and ask Allah for shelter
from its evil.'

"When the satellite channels reported on the scope of the terrifying
destruction in America [caused by] this wind, I was reminded of the words of
[Prophet Muhammad]: 'The wind sends torment to one group of people, and
sends mercy to others.' I do not think — and only Allah [really] knows —
that this wind, which completely wiped out American cities in these days, is
a wind of mercy and blessing. It is almost certain that this is a wind of
torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire.


"But I began to ask myself: Doesn't this country [the U.S.] claim to aspire
to establish justice, freedom, and equality amongst the people? Isn't this
country claiming that everything it did in Afghanistan and Iraq was for
truth and justice? How can it be that these American claims are untrue, when
we see how good prevails in the streets of Afghanistan, and how it became an
oasis of security with America's entrance there? How can these American
claims in the matter of Iraq be untrue, when we see that Iraq has become the
most tranquil and secure country in the world?"

"But how strange it is that after all the tremendous American achievements
for the sake of humanity, these mighty winds come and evilly rip [America's]
cities to shreds? Have the storms joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist
organization?

"How sad I am for America. Here it is, poor thing, trying with all its might
to lower oil prices which have reached heights unprecedented in all history.
Along with America's phenomenal efforts to lower the price of oil in order
to salvage its declining economy and its currency — that is still falling
due to the 'smart' policy America is implementing in the world — comes this
storm, the fruit of Allah's planning, so that [the price of] a barrel of oil
will increase further still. By Allah, this is not schadenfreude.

"Oh honored gentlemen, I began to read about these winds, and I was
surprised to discover that the American websites that are translated [into
Arabic] are talking about the fact that that the storm Katrina is the fifth
equatorial storm to strike Florida this year... and that a large part of the
U.S. is subject every year to many storms that extract [a price of] dead,
and completely destroy property. I said, Allah be praised, until when will
these successive catastrophes strike them?

"But before I went to sleep, I opened the Koran and began to read in Surat
Al-R'ad ['The Thunder' chapter], and stopped at these words [of Allah]: 'The
disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done, or it
will strike areas close to their territory, until the promise of Allah comes
to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise.' [Koran 13:31]."

Endnote: (1) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), August 31, 2005.




23985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / C'l changes approved on: March 20, 2011, 03:08:10 PM
The New York Times
Sun, March 20, 2011 -- 2:03 PM ET
-----

Elections Chief Says Egyptian Constitutional Changes Are Approved, The A.P. Reports

The chief of Egypt's elections commission said that a package
of constitutional amendments was approved with 77 percent of
the vote in favor, The Associated Press reported.

The changes eliminate restrictions on political rights and
open the way for parliamentary and presidential elections
within months. Opponents argued that the timeframe was too
quick for political parties to organize. Egypt's best
organized political forces -- the Muslim Brotherhood and
members of the former ruling party -- campaigned for passage.

The commission chief, Ahmed Attiya, said 41 percent of 45
million eligible voters cast ballots in Saturday's
referendum. More than 14 million -- 77.2 percent -- voted in
favor, with around 4 million -- 22.8 percent -- opposed.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
23986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Extraordinary fotos on: March 20, 2011, 01:15:04 PM


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366395/Japan-tsunami-earthquake-Rescuers-pick-way-apocalypse-wasteland.html
23987  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Palos/Espadas en las carceles de Chile? on: March 20, 2011, 01:10:06 PM
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ8MK6JWIFA&feature=player_embedded#at=115

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0PIcIU1mcg&feature=related
23988  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bones Jones! on: March 20, 2011, 01:03:37 PM
I caught only the Rua-Jones fight last night, but what a fight it was!

Rua is a great fighter and champion, and showed considerable heart (Herb Dean is a very good ref, but I thought he was slow on the stoppage last night) but Jones was just too much.  Very, very impressive!

Interesting the way Rua offered and Jones accepted the hand shake before the fight.

Jones looked a tad gassed coming into the second round, but craftily used tactics that allowed him to continue to score, without putting himself to the test aerobically.
23989  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bones Jones & Friends part of the Unorganized Militia on: March 20, 2011, 12:52:46 PM
http://sports.yahoo.com/mma/blog/cagewriter/post/Hours-before-biggest-fight-of-his-life-Jones-an?urn=mma-wp309

Bad luck for the wannabe car thief! cheesy
23990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and other Arab countries on: March 20, 2011, 12:47:38 PM
That is very big news GM.  Lets take it over to the Saudi/Arabian peninsula thread.

Amen to GM's comments on the costs of having dithered.

For me the larger point is the larger war that is going on.  Is it between Islam and the West, or is it between Barbarism and Civilization?  IMHO this is a choice that has not yet been determined.

(This question is being presented now in the context of moving from a unique unipolar moment in history back to a multi-polar world.  Unlike the militarily bi-polar and economically multi-polar world of the 50s-80s and the unipolar 90s-00s, we are now entering a multi-polar world on both the economic and military fronts.)

OBL and AQ sought an Islamist uprising against the various governments of the Arab/Muslim world.   This has not happened , , , yet something IS happening!

Even allowing for the deceptions of our Pravdas, as best as I can tell, the various uprisings around the Arab world have not had anti-America attitudes and sloganeering taking the lead.  Indeed, there have been calls upon us to support democratic aspirations (and even in some quarters a re-examination of the Iraq War and the neo-con aspects to its motivations!) by defecting Libayn military, diplomats, and officials.

Baraq failed to speak for freedom and democracy in Iraq and bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia; he failed to speak for freedom and democracy when the people of Iran sought to rise up yet spoke up for them against our long time strategic ally Mubarak; he sabotages our free and democractic ally Israel yet weeks went by before he could even speak Kadaffy's name.

IMHO it would have made great sense for him to wish the rebels well from day one, and to have provided humanitarian support (perhaps across the border in Tunisia and/or Egypt)-- (and maybe some ammo too.) and maybe have provided air cover over rebel held cities (which is not the same thing as a NFZ)-- and told the rebels that they would have to win or lose from there.   The Arab/Muslim world would see the US being consistent with its Freedom/Democracy agenda-- and we would not be entangled.

Instead what we have now has many of the ingredients of an incoherent clusterfcuk.  Baraq says Kadaffy has to go but does nothing to make it happen, until, as predicted by Intel Chief Clapper, Kadaffy is about to win.  WTF is our strategy?  Where is our spare bandwidth should anything start happening with Iran, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia?  Or if Iran stirs things up in Iraq? Or , , , ?

As much as we may regret it, Baraq is our Commander in Chief and we must wish for success for America and the good things for which it stands.
23991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and other Arab countries on: March 19, 2011, 10:50:10 PM
But isn't Hillary Commander in Chief now?  evil
23992  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Straight Blast on: March 19, 2011, 10:47:03 PM
Me too. smiley
23993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Libyan War on: March 19, 2011, 07:17:57 PM
By George Friedman

The Libyan war has now begun. It pits a coalition of European powers plus the United States, a handful of Arab states and rebels in Libya against the Libyan government. The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.

The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya.

The question, therefore, is not the mission but the strategy to be pursued. How far is the coalition, or at least some of its members, prepared to go to effect regime change and manage the consequences following regime change? How many resources are they prepared to provide and how long are they prepared to fight? It should be remembered that in Iraq and Afghanistan the occupation became the heart of the war, and regime change was merely the opening act. It is possible that the coalition partners haven’t decided on the strategy yet, or may not be in agreement. Let’s therefore consider the first phases of the war, regardless of how far they are prepared to go in pursuit of the mission.

Like previous wars since 1991, this war began with a very public buildup in which the coalition partners negotiated the basic framework, sought international support and authorization from multinational organizations and mobilized forces. This was done quite publicly because the cost of secrecy (time and possible failure) was not worth what was to be gained: surprise. Surprise matters when the enemy can mobilize resistance. Gadhafi was trapped and has limited military capabilities, so secrecy was unnecessary.

While all this was going on and before final decisions were made, special operations forces were inserted in Libya on two missions. First, to make contact with insurgent forces to prepare them for coming events, create channels of communications and logistics and create a post-war political framework. The second purpose was to identify targets for attack and conduct reconnaissance of those targets that provided as up-to-date information as possible. This, combined with air and space reconnaissance, served as the foundations of the war. We know British SAS operators were in Libya and suspect other countries’ special operations forces and intelligence services were also operating there.

War commences with two sets of attacks. The first attacks are decapitation attacks designed to destroy or isolate the national command structure. These may also include strikes designed to kill leaders such as Gadhafi and his sons or other senior leaders. These attacks depend on specific intelligence on facilities, including communications, planning and so on along with detailed information on the location of the leadership. Attacks on buildings are carried out from the air but not particularly with cruise missile because they are especially accurate if the targets are slow, and buildings aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, aircraft are orbiting out of range of air defenses awaiting information on more mobile targets and if such is forthcoming, they come into range and fire appropriate munitions at the target. The type of aircraft used depends on the robustness of the air defenses, the time available prior to attack and the munitions needed. They can range from conventional fighters or stealth strategic aircraft like the U.S. B-2 bomber (if the United States authorized its use). Special operations forces might be on the ground painting the target for laser-guided munitions, which are highly accurate but require illumination.



(click here to enlarge image)
At the same time these attacks are under way, attacks on airfields, fuel storage depots and the like are being targeted to ground the Libyan air force. Air or cruise missile attacks are also being carried out on radars of large and immobile surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites. Simultaneously, “wild weasel” aircraft — aircraft configured for the suppression of enemy air defenses — will be on patrol for more mobile SAM systems to locate and destroy. This becomes a critical part of the conflict. Being mobile, detecting these weapons systems on the ground is complex. They engage when they want to, depending on visual perception of opportunities. Therefore the total elimination of anti-missile systems is in part up to the Libyans. Between mobile systems and man-portable air-defense missiles, the threat to allied aircraft can persist for quite a while even if Gadhafi’s forces might have difficulty shooting anything down.

This is the part that the United States in particular and the West in general is extremely good at. But it is the beginning of the war. Gadhafi’s primary capabilities are conventional armor and particularly artillery. Destroying his air force and isolating his forces will not by itself win the war. The war is on the ground. The question is the motivation of his troops: If they perceive that surrender is unacceptable or personally catastrophic, they may continue to fight. At that point the coalition must decide if it intends to engage and destroy Gadhafi’s ground forces from the air. This can be done, but it is never a foregone conclusion that it will work. Moreover, this is the phase at which civilian casualties begin to mount. It is a paradox of warfare instigated to end human suffering that the means of achieving this can sometimes impose substantial human suffering itself. This is not merely a theoretical statement. It is at this point at which supporters of the war who want to end suffering may turn on the political leaders for not ending suffering without cost. It should be remembered that Saddam Hussein was loathed universally but those who loathed him were frequently not willing to impose the price of overthrowing him. The Europeans in particular are sensitive to this issue.

The question then becomes the extent to which this remains an air operation, as Kosovo was, or becomes a ground operation. Kosovo is the ideal, but Gadhafi is not Slobodan Milosevic and he may not feel he has anywhere to go if he surrenders. For him the fight may be existential, whereas for Milosevic it was not. He and his followers may resist. This is the great unknown. The choice here is to maintain air operations for an extended period of time without clear results, or invade. This raises the question of whose troops would invade. Egypt appears ready but there is long animosity between the two countries, and its actions might not be viewed as liberation. The Europeans could do so. It is difficult to imagine Obama adopting a third war in Muslim world as his own. This is where the coalition is really tested.

If there is an invasion, it is likely to succeed. The question then becomes whether Gadhafi’s forces move into opposition and insurgency. This again depends on morale but also on behavior. The Americans forced an insurgency in Iraq by putting the Baathists into an untenable position. In Afghanistan the Taliban gave up formal power without having been decisively defeated. They regrouped, reformed and returned. It is not known to us what Gadhafi can do or not do. It is clear that it is the major unknown.

The problem in Iraq was not the special operations forces. It was not in the decapitation strikes or suppression of enemy air defenses. It was not in the defeat of the Iraqi army on the ground. It was in the occupation, when the enemy reformed and imposed an insurgency on the United States that it found extraordinarily difficult to deal with.

Therefore the successes of the coming day will tell us nothing. Even if Gadhafi surrenders or is killed, even if no invasion is necessary save a small occupation force to aid the insurgents, the possibility of an insurgency is there. We will not know if there will be an insurgency until after it begins. Therefore, the only thing that would be surprising about this phase of the operation is if it failed.

The decision has been made that the mission is regime change in Libya. The strategic sequence is the routine buildup to war since 1991, this time with a heavier European component. The early days will go extremely well but will not define whether or not the war is successful. The test will come if a war designed to stop human suffering begins to inflict human suffering. That is when the difficult political decisions have to be made and when we will find out whether the strategy, the mission and the political will fully match up.

23994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Women SD issues on: March 19, 2011, 07:02:30 PM
CCW for women:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogGBPVk5GQk&feature=player_embedded#at=49
23995  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: March 19, 2011, 06:21:01 PM
 grin
23996  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Paul Vunak on the JKD Straight Blast on: March 19, 2011, 06:03:15 PM
I trained with Paul Vunak from 1983-86:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43IPDQkmsxU
23997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Brown shrinks from real reform on: March 19, 2011, 11:31:41 AM
By JOHN FUND Sacramento

California has led the nation in so many ways, so it seems fitting that it is now showing the rest of us what the collapse of an overburdened welfare state looks like.

In January, Democrat Jerry Brown returned to the governor's office he left 28 years ago. He assured voters that as a seasoned government hand he wouldn't repeat the mistakes made by his novice predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Brown had shown a pragmatic, pro-business streak during the two terms he served as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007. Many Californians hoped that at age 72 Mr. Brown would be the first Golden State governor since before Ronald Reagan without his eye on the presidency—and thus could make tough decisions despite the opposition of entrenched special interests.

The state certainly needs bold action: It faces an immediate $26.6 billion deficit. David Crane, a financial expert who worked for Mr. Schwarzenegger, estimates that the state's public- pension obligations could be as high as half a trillion dollars. California's credit rating is the worst in the country, and it's unlikely to return to pre-recession employment levels until the end of this decade.

Mr. Brown has, at best, a mixed record so far. He won points for keeping a campaign promise and refusing to push for tax increases without having them approved by voters. But his plan to close this year's deficit—with a combination of spending restraint and extensions of temporary tax hikes on income, sales and vehicles—has faltered.

It looks as if the special election to pass this plan, currently scheduled for June 7, will either be delayed or not held at all due to inaction by the Democratic legislature. To get his plan on the ballot, Mr. Brown needs the votes of two Republicans in both the state Assembly and the Senate to satisfy the two-thirds requirement for tax increases. He's unlikely to get official cooperation from the GOP unless he gives on something significant, like pension and regulatory reform. Otherwise, he'll have to target individual Republicans with inducements.

Mr. Brown blames the current impasse on "subversive" Republicans who never met taxes they could support. "Some Republicans want government to break down," he told the Los Angeles Times this week. "They want to blow it up. They're radical. They're not in the mainstream."

But Republicans counter that it's California's bloated government that isn't in the mainstream. "We have 12% of the nation's people, but a third of the welfare case load," GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue tells me. "We have the highest taxes in the nation in many categories, and unemployment that's now higher than Michigan's."

Next month, Mr. Logue will hold a hearing in Texas to learn why so many California companies have relocated to the Lone Star State. He says Mr. Brown could be a hero if he breaks with the public-employee unions that helped elect him and forces them to accept structural reforms in exchange for new tax revenue.

The prospects aren't promising. A group of five Senate Republicans has been meeting with Mr. Brown for weeks. They have suggested the state adopt proposals by the Little Hoover Commission, a cost-saving advisory body, that California create a 401(k)-type defined-contribution pension plan to go along with paring back the defined-benefit plan that government workers currently enjoy.

A new statewide Field poll shows that even liberal voters recognize that pensions must be reined in. It found that two-thirds of Democrats want state and local employees to pitch in more toward their retirement, and a full 50% of Democrats back the Little Hoover Commission's proposal. Republican negotiators are also calling for a relaxation of onerous business regulations and a "hard spending cap" that would restrain future spending increases to inflation and population growth.

The talks stalled this week after Mr. Brown told the Republicans that while he might want to do more, public- employee unions and Democrats are adamantly opposed. Democratic Senate President Darrell Steinberg did say he might consider a temporary spending cap, but only one that lasts as long as the five years that any tax hikes are extended.

That would repeat a fatal error in California history. The state once had a hard spending cap, called the Gann Limit, passed by voters in 1979. It kept California's balance sheet stable for over a decade. In 1990, GOP Gov. George Deukmejian teamed up with unions to narrowly pass a measure that rewrote the spending formulas, effectively emasculating the limit. Had a real Gann limit been in place over the past two decades, California's budget would be balanced now.

Public unions seem dug in against fiscal reform, but Mr. Brown might still corral enough stray Republicans to get his budget package before voters this summer. Yet even with the proposed all-mail ballot he wants to use to gin up turnout, its prospects are iffy. In 2009, two-thirds of California voters turned down an extension of tax increases similar to what Mr. Brown is proposing. Last November, despite Democratic victories up and down the ballot, state voters approved a measure requiring a two-thirds majority for increasing fees, and they rejected a repeal of business tax incentives. Voters even turned down an $18 automobile fee to help keep state parks open.

Should tax increases be blocked from the ballot, or if they're rejected by voters, Mr. Brown pledges to pursue an "all-cuts" budget solution that could devastate services without an accompanying restructuring of state government. The unions may respond with an "initiative war" proposing higher taxes on oil companies, tobacco and commercial real estate. Conservatives may counter with a ballot measure curtailing what unions can spend on politics out of member dues. Some moderates want to revive the findings of a 2009 bipartisan commission that concluded the state needs a simpler, less-onerous tax code.

"There are lots of ideas," says urban analyst Joel Kotkin of Chapman University. "But they all must start with ending policies that have California waging war against its own economy." In other words, Mr. Brown must find a way to get serious about tax reform, spending limits and stifling regulations.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.

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23998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mises/Austrian analysis: 3 flawed Fed exit options on: March 19, 2011, 11:26:14 AM
Three Flawed Fed Exit Options
Mises Daily: Monday, March 14, 2011 by Robert P. Murphy

Whether giving public lectures or teaching at theMises Academy, I'm often asked whether Bernanke will be able to "pull this off." Specifically, can the Fed gracefully exit from the huge hole it has dug for itself?

Unfortunately my answer is no. In the present article I'll go over three possible exit options, and explain the flaws in each.

The Problem
Before assessing the chances of escape, let's first review what the problem is:


The monetary base
The monetary base (see here for a breakdown of the various monetary aggregates) has exploded since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008. After a huge initial spurt, the base shot up twice more, in response to the first and second rounds of "quantitative easing."

To get a sense of just how unprecedented and enormous Bernanke's injections have been, look at the relatively insignificant blip back at the start of 2000. To calm the markets heading into the Y2K changeover, Greenspan preemptively flooded the system with liquidity. At the time, many Fed watchers blamed that spike and fall for exacerbating the bubble in the NASDAQ. But in comparison with Bernanke's moves, we can barely find Greenspan's Y2K fiddling on the chart.

Austrian economists know that the Fed's creation of new money can distort markets by pushing interest rates below their natural market level. This is a subtle point that most commentators ignore. Instead, the thing that has more and more people worrying at night is the potential for runaway price inflation.

Specifically, there are currently about $1.2 trillion in "excess reserves" in the banking system. Loosely speaking, the banks have this much money on deposit with the Fed, above and beyond their reserve requirements (needed to "back up" their existing customer checking account balances and the like), and they are free to lend it out to their own customers.

Because of the fractional-reserve banking system, the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves could ultimately translate into almost $11 trillion in new money created by the banks, as they pyramid new loans on top of the base money Bernanke has injected. The M1 measure of the money stock is currently $1.9 trillion, meaning that even if the Fed stopped inflating tomorrow, the banking system would have the potential to increase the money stock by a factor of six. Even if the demand for dollars remained constant in such an environment (which it wouldn't), that could mean oil prices above $600 a barrel.

So far, we haven't seen such massive price inflation, because the banks are reluctant to advance new loans. But at some point — because their balance sheets have sufficiently healed, or because creditworthy borrowers begin offering higher interest rates — the commercial banks will begin taking their excess reserves (currently parked at the Fed) and making new loans to their customers. At that point, the Fed will need to act quickly to prevent a self-perpetuating spiral into price inflation.

Publicly, Bernanke and other Fed officials are confident that they will be able to take the punch bowl away before the guests become too intoxicated. But their rosy predictions simply assume that severe stagflation is not possible. We'll go through three possible options for dealing with the above problem, and show the flaws in each.

Option #1: Pay Higher Interest Rates on Excess Reserves
The option that Bernanke himself frequently mentions is the Fed's ability to offer higher interest rates on excess reserves. Currently, if a commercial bank keeps its excess reserves parked at the Fed, the balance grows at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0.25 percent, or what is called 25 "basis points."

Now suppose (either because of rising price inflation or because of a healthy recovery) that theprime rate — what commercial banks charge their best clients — rises from its current level (3.25 percent) to, say, 10 percent. (This isn't farfetched; the prime rate was higher than 10 percent in the late 1980s.)

Faced with earning a completely safe 0.25 percent by keeping their money parked at the Fed, versus earning a very (but not perfectly) safe 10 percent by lending to their most stable customers, many banks would begin drawing down their excess reserves, thus starting the inflationary spiral. To check this, the Fed could also bump up the yield it pays, to (say) 7.25 percent. By maintaining the spread between the two rates, the Fed could bribe the bankers to keep their money locked up at the Fed.

For one thing, it's important to note that Bernanke, Geithner, and other officials are trying to have it both ways with the public. On the one hand, they pat themselves on the back for saving the financial system and ensuring the smooth functioning of the credit markets so that businesses can continue to make their payroll and so forth. Yet on the other hand, Bernanke implicitly admits that right now banks are not making loans with the more than $1 trillion he's injected into the system, and that if they started to lend out that money, he would offer them even more to stop.

"Taxpayers would ultimately be the ones paying bankers to not give them loans."In any event, Bernanke's favored "tool" of raising the interest rate on excess reserves is the epitome of kicking the can down the road. In the beginning, the higher payments would simply reduce the Fed's net earnings, meaning that it would remit less money to the Treasury. Thus, the federal deficit would grow larger, meaning that taxpayers would ultimately be the ones paying bankers to not give them loans.

But at some point, if the process continued, the Fed would have exhausted its income from other sources. For example, on a balance of $1.2 trillion, if the Fed had to pay 7.5 percent interest, that would translate into $90 billion in annual payments to the banks. (The Fed earned about $81 billion in net income in 2010, of which it remitted $78 billion to the Treasury.)

To be sure, nothing would stop Bernanke from making such payments. He isn't constrained by income statements; Bernanke laughs at the shackles holding back lesser men. He could simply bump up the numbers in the Fed's computers in order to reflect the growing reserves balances of the commercial banks if they kept their funds with the Fed.

But this would hardly "solve" the problem of excess reserves. Rather than facing a $1.2 trillion problem, the next year the Fed would face a $1.21 trillion problem, and so on. The excess reserves would grow exponentially.

Option #2: Pull Reserves Out of the System
The most obvious solution to the problem would be to reverse the operations that got us into the mess. Specifically, the Fed could stop reinvesting the proceeds of its current asset holdings, so that its balance sheet would gradually shrink as its existing Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities matured.[1] If more drastic action were needed, the Fed could begin selling off its assets before maturity. When private-sector institutions wrote checks to purchase them, those reserves would disappear from the system.

Although this approach would work — and it is ultimately what I would recommend as part of the solution, in addition to pegging the dollar back to gold — it would not be painless. Many analysts talk as if the Fed's bloated balance sheet will "naturally unwind," as the economy grows out of the current slump.

But if the Austrian critique of Bernanke is correct, he has not built a solid foundation for recovery. Instead, he has merely pushed back the day of reckoning a few years, in the same way that Alan Greenspan staved off the dot-com crash only to serve up the housing crash.

What happens if producer prices continue rising, squeezing retailers so that eventually even consumer prices begin rising at, say, 8 percent annualized rates? And what if the real-estate market is still a mess, and unemployment is still 9 percent at that point? As yields rise in response to the price inflation, commercial banks won't be content to sit on cash. They will need to "put it to work" to keep up with the declining value of the dollar.

In that environment, if Bernanke started selling off hundreds of billions worth of Fed assets (consisting of Treasury debt, Freddie and Fannie debt, and mortgage-backed securities), it would cause a sharp spike in interest rates, and would devastate the real-estate and financial sectors. Just as Bernanke's original interventions obviously helped the major players in these fields, the reverse of those interventions would obviously hurt them. The enormous federal deficit would no longer seem so innocuous once interest rates on even short-term Treasuries began rising.

In short, shrinking the Fed's balance sheet — and thereby destroying the excess reserves just as magically as Bernanke's purchases originally created them — could "work," but in particular (plausible) scenarios it would plunge the United States back into depression. Bernanke and other optimists have not explained why these scenarios won't occur, besides the obviously false assertion that we can't have rising prices with high unemployment.

To add yet another twist, we should point out that if the price inflation or the financial crashes (or both) were severe enough, the Fed's assets might drop significantly before Bernanke could sell them back to the market. In that case, even if he wanted to, Bernanke couldn't suck out all of the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves, because he would be selling the assets for less than he originally paid to acquire them.

Option #3: Increase Reserve Requirements
Hard-money enthusiasts occasionally ask me, "Couldn't Bernanke just increase the reserve requirements?" For example, what if Bernanke ended the fractional-reserve system, and insisted that commercial banks have $100 set aside in reserves (either as cash in their vaults or as electronic deposits with the Fed) for every $100 in customer deposits?

Like the previous solution, this one too would "work" but it would devastate the financial sector even more. From the commercial banks' viewpoint, such a policy move would effectively steal $1.2 trillion in cash from them.

To see why, consider an analogy: Suppose Bill Smith has a salary of $100,00 per year. Now Smith is a very cautious man, who has carefully saved up $100,000 in his checking account. Smith is very paranoid and doesn't even trust money-market mutual funds; no, he wants his money "in the bank," in an FDIC-insured account.

But now President Obama comes along, and says that Americans ought to be saving more. To encourage this, Obama says that every adult must carry a checking account balance equal to his or her annual income. If anyone lets his checking account balance fall below that amount, he gets fined $10,000 per day.

In such a (ridiculous) scenario, it's obvious that our poor Bill Smith would be devastated. His stockpile of $100,000 — which the day before was a wonderful emergency fund that could weather all sorts of storms — would now be useless, except as a way to fend off huge fines from the government. It would no longer be savings at all. Smith would have to start from scratch, and begin building up savings of $200,000 to get back to his previous level of security.

A similar analysis holds for the commercial banks. Even though many commentators talk as if the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves aren't "real money," because they aren't "in the economy," this isn't accurate. Just ask the bankers if they consider those funds to be real money.


If the Fed were to raise reserve requirements, the money that commercial bankers currently view as a hoard of cash would lose its economic significance. It would be equivalent to the Fed simply seizing the funds. This is why raising the reserve requirements would devastate the banks even more than selling off assets: At least if the Fed destroys reserves by selling assets, the commercial banks voluntarily make the trade, and end up with something valuable.

Conclusion
No one knows the future; I am not certain how things will play out. What alarms me more than the basic facts, however, is that the people telling us we have nothing to worry about typically don't even look two steps ahead in their analysis. Bernanke has effectively gone "all in" with his successive rounds of quantitative easing, and I get the queasy feeling that he's bluffing.
23999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 19, 2011, 10:23:50 AM
Former Muslims Excluded From King Hearings

Posted By Nonie Darwish On March 17, 2011 @ 12:20 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 23 Comments

I have admiration and respect for Congressman Peter King and I salute him for holding hearings on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” However, as a former Muslim I have not seen anyone testifying on our behalf in the hearings. At least one former Muslims should have been there to tell America of our plight. To tell them why we left Islam right here in America. How we had to choose between Islam and loving America. How radicals and jihadists followed us right here after we immigrated to the US to try to force us back into the same old culture of jihad, hatred and anti-Semitism — that we had escaped from in the first place. How radicals who want to deny us our freedom of religion under the US constitution threaten our lives and civil rights daily.

Most former Muslims in the US started by going to mosques but we soon discovered a political and jihadist agenda. In mosques I was told not to assimilate in America, to have more children and to wear Islamic clothes even though I never wore it in the Middle East before coming to the US. We were encouraged to pray wherever we wanted and do that with assertion even if we have to inconvenience others at airports, baseball games or at work. We soon found out that many mosques in America, as they are in the Middle East, are more of a political organization than a place of worship. We noticed that the more pious Muslims in the mosque were the ones seeking confrontation with American culture, such as getting offended if Americans have dogs or alcohol when riding cabs with Muslim taxi drivers.

Muslims are told openly in mosques that they have a mission in America and that is to make Islam the law of the land. Lying to America and getting offended to cover up the jihadist aspiration was encouraged, and became a perfected art and a religious obligation, which further alienated Muslims from American culture.

Many of us former Muslims have left the religion precisely because of the radicalization we confronted in America. But when we dared to stop going to mosques and left Islam altogether our lives turned into a nightmare. Many former Muslims contact me looking for shelter after their lives have been threatened. Just a couple of days ago I was contacted by a young 21 year old Muslim man telling me he left Islam years ago and has to hide the Bible from his family and friends after his own brother told him he was going to kill him if he does not return to Islam.

I receive testimony after testimony of former Muslims, some of whom are American converts who decided to leave Islam and are afraid for their lives. Many of us have to move from one apartment to another so we are not found by those who threaten our lives. Just last year, we all heard of the plight of the 17 year old apostate Rifqa Bary who had to flee her home after her life was threatened by her father and her local mosque. There are many Rifqa Barys in America where radical Islam is working under the radar to silence and force some of us to return to Islam or else.

I am also in contact with apostates in the Middle East. A student from Yemen told me that when he applied for a scholarship to come to the US, financed by Saudi Arabia, his application was rejected because he believes he was not radical in his Islamic views enough. He complained to me that the ones who won the scholarship were extreme Islamists and that tells us something about the kind of people we are giving student visas to.

How can former Muslims live in peace in America when there are Muslim scriptures sold and bought in all mosques telling Muslims that it is OK to kill apostates, meaning those who left Islam? The tragedy of apostasy from Islam has taken the lives of some in the West and caused mental and physical abuse for many and is never documented as a religious hate crime. Part of the jihad doctrine obliges Muslims to do internal jihad, by forcing Sharia on Muslim citizens. Sharia books in mosques across the US tell Muslims they will be forgiven for murder of an apostate and an adulterer, thus making vigilante street justice and honor killing acceptable religiously.
Muslim groups and their American appeasers are up in arms against the King hearings and are claiming that their civil rights are being violated. I wonder whose civil rights are violated in America? Is it Muslims or former Muslims?

Nonie Darwish is the author of “Cruel and Usual Punishment; the Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law” and founder of Former Muslims United.
24000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US politics on: March 19, 2011, 09:12:34 AM
third post

By NEIL KING JR. and NAFTALI BENDAVID
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama has toughened his stance on Libya and threatened military action, but some of his potential Republican 2012 challengers said Friday he had waited too long to confront Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, making it harder to topple him.

The sharp reaction from some 2012 hopefuls contrasted with that of prominent GOP leaders in Congress, who have been more reticent on the administration's response to the conflict in Libya.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers praised the administration for winning what he called "unprecedented" international cooperation in going after Libya. "We're doing it exactly the right way," said the Michigan Republican.

Republicans eyeing a presidential run were much tougher in their response. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is exploring a 2012 run, suggested Friday that the president had spent more time completing his NCAA basketball bracket than on focusing on Libya.

"We posture, we talk, we have diplomatic meetings. …This is very weak," Mr. Gingrich said of the president's approach. Speaking on television Thursday night, he accused Mr. Obama of being "spectator in chief instead of commander in chief."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, another likely GOP contender, said in an interview Friday that Mr. Obama had "played this about as badly as you can. You either stay out and let events move forward as they will, or you get in decisively and lead. Obama has done neither...We have missed our opportunity."

Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney—the former governors of Alaska, Minnesota and Massachusetts, respectively—have also criticized the president for his handling of Middle East crises this year. Nearly all of the potential 2012 challengers have called for a no-flight zone over Libya, and several have singled out what Mr. Santorum called Mr. Obama's "deference to international organizations."

Mr. Obama discussed his administration's actions in public remarks Friday, saying the U.S. had worked with European and Arab partners to increase pressure on the Libyan regime and eventually to craft "a strong international response." He praised Thursday's United Nations resolution, which authorized military action against Libya's security forces.

Not all the potential 2012 contenders have urged quicker or sterner action against Libya. In a speech in Iowa this week, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour essentially sided with Mr. Obama, saying the U.S. had "to be cautious about being quick on the trigger."

GOP congressional leaders have also trodden softly on the subject. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) participated by phone in a White House meeting on Libya that Mr. Obama hosted with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Friday. But he didn't speak during the meeting, people familiar with the events said, and made no statement afterward.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), who also took part by phone, has said several times that foreign policy is the president's responsibility.

Democrats have their own divisions. Lawmakers advocating strong U.S. action in Libya applauded Mr. Obama's statement.

"If Gadhafi does not comply with the requirements of the U.N. resolution, we must be prepared to take robust action with our NATO partners and the Arab League to enforce it," Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after Mr. Obama's Friday appearance.

But the Democratic Party also includes a contingent wary of overseas military entanglements. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) warned that Mr. Obama must get Congress's approval for any military action in Libya.

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