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24101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bahrain on: February 17, 2011, 05:32:19 PM
Thread discipline please!  That belongs either in the Egypt thread or the Islam Theocracy thread.

Analyst Kamran Bokhari explains how the sectarian-driven civil unrest in Bahrain could serve as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

After Egypt, Bahrain has become the most significant place where street agitation is taking place in the Middle East. Bahrain is significant because it is the only wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country where we are seeing mass protests and a government crackdown. The country being a proxy battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it even more significant.

Pro-democracy street agitation is not a stranger to Bahrain. There have been such protests, going as far back as the early 1990s, with the opposition forces demanding that the monarchy make room for a more constitutional framework and a much more democratic polity. So, what is happening is not entirely new. What makes this significant — this latest round of unrest — is that it comes in the context of the overall regional unrest that started in Tunisia and moved to Egypt (in both Tunisia and Egypt we saw the fall of the sitting presidents). What makes this even more significant is that in Bahrain you have a sectarian dynamic; the country is ruled by a Sunni monarchy that presides of an overwhelmingly large Shiite population, estimated to be about 70 percent of the country’s total population.

It’s not just the sectarian dynamic that makes the protests significant in Bahrain. There is also a wider geopolitical contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has been going on for several decades and, more recently, since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Since then, Saudi Arabia has been very worried about Iranian attempts to project power across the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Peninsula. And with Bahrain having a heavy Shiite population, this is a cause for concern in Saudi Arabia, as Saudi Arabia is neighbors with Bahrain and has its own 20 percent Shiite population.

From the point of view of the United States, Bahrain is also significant because it is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The 5th Fleet is one of the key levers that serve as a counter to Iran, or any movement on the part of Iran. It is not clear at this point to what degree Iran is involved in the uprising Bahrain. There are linkages, but to what degree Iran is playing those linkages is not clear at this point. Nonetheless, it is one of those flashpoints between Shiite Iran and the largely Sunni Arab world, and Bahrain is going to be very interesting in terms of how both sides battle it out in the form of a proxy contest.

Should Bahrain succumb to unrest and the monarchy has to concede to the demands of the protesters at some point in the future, this becomes a huge concern for the security of countries like Saudi Arabia, particularly where there is a 20 percent Shiite population that has been keeping quiet for the most part, but could be emboldened, based on what they have seen in Egypt and now what they are looking at in terms of Bahrain.

24102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2 on: February 17, 2011, 03:57:42 PM
Bahrain: A Sunni-Shiite Struggle with Geopolitical Implications

Long-running sectarian strife between Bahrain’s Shiite majority and ruling Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy is the driving force behind civil unrest in Bahrain. Bahrain was the first among Persian Gulf countries to witness significant demonstrations, and protesters clashed with riot police early on. After two days of demonstrations led by Shiite opposition groups, a heavy crackdown was launched on Pearl Square in the heart of Manama late Feb. 16 on mostly Shiite protesters who were camping overnight.

Most of the protesters’ demands initially centered on political reform, the demands of some (though not all) gradually escalated to the removal of the prime minister and then the king. Pearl Square, the focal point of the protests, has been cleared and is being held by Bahraini security forces. (Roughly 90 percent of Bahrain’s security apparatus is Sunni.) Even after this show of force, the potential for further sectarian strife between Shiite protesters and security forces remains, especially as funeral processions are likely to add to the current unrest.

The ruling Sunni family may be a minority in the Shiite-majority country, but some 54 percent of the population is made up of foreign guest workers, who are notably not taking part in the demonstrations. Energized by the crackdown, seven opposition groups, including both Shia and Sunnis, reportedly are forming a committee to unify their position with the aim of getting at least 50,000 people to the streets Feb. 19. Young, enraged men may feel the compulsion to face off against security forces again, but they are unlikely to be able to mobilize enough people to overwhelm the security apparatus.

The al-Khalifa family is no stranger to communal strife, and appears capable of putting down the unrest, but the events of the past few days will make the task of managing the tiny country’s demographic imbalance that much more difficult for the regime.

Sectarian tensions in Bahrain bear close watching, as the country is a significant proxy battleground in the broader geopolitical struggle between Saudi Arabia and the United States on one side and Iran on the other. Bahrain is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, while for its part, Saudi Arabia fears that a regime turnover to the Shia in Bahrain would encourage the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province to follow suit. Iranian media and STRATFOR Iranian diplomatic sources appear to be making a concerted effort to spread stories of Saudi special operations forces deploying to Bahrain to help crack down on Shiite protesters. Such stories could enable Iran to justify assistance to the Bahraini Shia, particularly to Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group, turning the country into a more overt proxy battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran may be attempting to amplify the Sunni-Shiite conflict at a time when the United States is already particularly stressed in the region to boost its negotiating position, but Iran is also facing problems of its own at home.

Iran: Standard Operating Procedure

Following the 2009 post-election uprising and subsequent crackdown, Iranian opposition groups are using the unrest in the Arab world to fuel an attempted comeback against the clerical regime. Protests Feb. 14 numbered in the thousands and remained concentrated in Tehran (smaller protests also were reportedly in Esfahan and Shiraz), with embattled opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi encouraging protesters to mobilize. The regime used the deaths of two student protesters to call for the hanging of Mousavi and Karroubi for inciting the unrest that led to the protesters’ deaths. More unrest is expected during the protesters’ funeral processions and on Feb. 18 following Friday prayers, but Iran’s experienced security apparatus and Basij militiamen have resorted to their usual, effective tactics of breaking up the demonstrations and intimidating the opposition.

Poor socio-economic conditions, high youth unemployment (around 26 percent) and disillusionment with the regime are all notable factors in the development of Iran’s opposition movement, but as STRATFOR stressed in 2009, the primarily youth-driven, middle- and upper-class opposition in Tehran is not representative of the wider population, a significant portion of which is supportive of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more apathetic observers have yet to demonstrate a willingness to put their lives and their families’ lives at risk by opposing the government. Rather than posing an existential threat to the Ahmadinejad government, the Iranian opposition largely remains an irritant to the regime.

Libya: Crowd Control, Gadhafi-Style

Demonstrators in Libya planned a “Day of Rage” on Feb. 17 as a rare show of protest against the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Media coverage in Libya is severely limited, but reports and eyewitness videos trickled out showing deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in the cities of Benghazi and Al Bayda. In Tripoli, meanwhile, footage of Gadhafi blowing kisses and towering above a crowd of his supporters dominated Libyan state television. Violent clashes between protesters and police earlier broke out late Feb. 15 in Benghazi, where demonstrators demanded the release of human rights activist and lawyer Fathi Turbil.

Libya’s youth unemployment is the highest in North Africa, averaging somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. This is compounded by the regime’s gross mismanagement of efforts to develop the non-oil sector economy. Calls for jobs, basic access to services, housing and media and political freedoms have been made by fledgling opposition groups with leaders based abroad, groups that have nudged demonstrators on via social media.

Public demonstrations in a police state like Libya are notable, but the Gadhafi regime is also extremely adept at putting down dissent in the sparsely populated desert country. While the regime will rely on its iron fist to contain the unrest, it has also made limited concessions in releasing Turbil while promising further prison releases. Pro-government demonstrators have been unleashed, subsidies are likely to be doled out, and security forces are cracking down hard while Gadhafi is doing an effective job in making a mockery of the unrest by taking part in his own pro-government demonstrations. Most important, the Gadhafi regime has had success in pardoning and re-integrating members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to guard against the Islamist militant threat and has maintained a close relationship between the army and the country’s main tribes.

The civil unrest in Libya is unlikely to pose a meaningful threat to the regime, but it could impact the country’s ongoing power-struggle between Gadhafi’s two sons. The younger and reform-minded son, Seif al Islam (along with his ally, National Oil Corporation chairman Shukri Ghanem), has been put on the defensive of late by his brother, Motasem, who is Libya’s national security adviser and has the support of many within the political and military old guard. Seif al-Islam has sought to distinguish himself from old guard politics and to build his credibility in the country, even going so far as having his charity organization publish a report on Libyan human rights abuses that harshly criticized the regime. The old guard has since pushed back on Seif al-Islam, but the current unrest could strengthen his case that limited reforms to the system are required for the long-term viability of the Gadhafi regime.

Yemen: No Relief for Sanaa

Even before the current spate of opposition unrest, Yemen already faced immense challenges in creating jobs (youth unemployment is roughly 35 percent and unemployment overall is estimated around 16 percent), developing the economy without the petrodollar cushion its neighbors enjoy, containing a secessionist movement in the south and the al-Houthi rebellion in the north, and fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a threat exacerbated by the fact that jihadist sympathizers have penetrated Yemen’s intelligence and security apparatus.

After taking a gamble in recent months in making limited political concessions to the main opposition coalition Joint Meetings Party (JMP) led by the Islamist party Islah, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh now faces daily protests in the capital city of Sanaa and Aden. Over the past month, most of the demonstrations have numbered in the hundreds and on a couple occasions in the low thousands. The protests started out peacefully, but have turned more violent in recent days as protesters and security forces have clashed. (One young protester was reportedly shot dead Feb. 16.)

In attempt to take the steam out of the political opposition, Saleh has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2013, and that he would do away with pending amendments that would have abolished presidential term limits. Those moves helped stymie complaints that Saleh would try to hand the presidency to his eldest son, Ahmed Saleh, who currently commands the Republican Guard, the elite military force that serves as the president’s first line of defense. Saleh has also called on the main opposition parties to form a unity government and has been offering a number of political concessions behind the scenes. Those moves, while making Saleh appear weak and politically vulnerable, appeared to be working Feb. 13, when the JMP announced it would drop out of the demonstrations and resume dialogue with the government. The JMP has since reversed its decision, feeling that there is no better time to pressure Saleh into making concessions than now.

The multitude of threats the Saleh regime faces put Yemen at higher risk than most of the other countries experiencing unrest. Saleh’s ability to survive depends on two key factors: the tribes and the army. Saleh has long been effective at co-opting the country’s main tribes and in keeping the military elite loyal. The army still stands behind the president, but STRATFOR sources in Yemen have indicated that the regime is growing increasingly nervous about tribal loyalties.

The demonstrators on the streets meanwhile remain relatively limited in number. That dynamic could change if the situation further deteriorates and people start recalculating their estimates of Saleh’s ability to survive. Should Saleh become too big of a liability, a contingency plan is in place for Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, who has been the main interlocutor between the regime and the opposition, to take over. Saleh for now has some staying power, but his grip is showing increasingly serious signs of slipping.

Syria: Maintaining the Iron Fist

Soon after the unrest in Egypt broke out, Syrian opposition youth activists (most of whom are based outside the country) attempted to organize their own “Day of Rage” via social media to challenge the al Assad regime. Like Bahrain, Syria’s ruling elite faces a demographic dilemma: It is an Alawite regime in a Sunni-majority country. Fortunately for the regime, the demonstrations scheduled for Feb. 4-5 in the cities of Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Al-Qamishli quickly fell flat. The demonstrations were sorely lacking in numbers and interest. Even the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, likely reflecting on the violent consequences of the 1982 Hama insurrection, stuck to issuing statements with their demands instead of risking participation in the demonstrations. Syrian plainclothes police promptly harassed the dozen or so who did show up.

Nonetheless, the Syrian regime appears to be taking the threat of regional unrest seriously, and has moved quickly to build up its security presence and dole out subsidies to keep a check on further protest attempts. In a rare interview, Syrian President Bashar al Assad indicated to The Wall Street Journal that he also would implement political and media reforms with an aim to hold municipal elections this year. While social media tools like Facebook have been widely celebrated as the catalyst for revolution, the Syrian case illustrates how such tools act as enablers of the regime. Confident in its ability to put down protests, the Syrian government lifted a five-year ban on Facebook and YouTube in February, thereby facilitating its ability to track any opposition plans in the works.

Though Syria got a scare early on in the wave of Mideast unrest, it appears to have all the tools in place to maintain the regime’s grip on power.

Saudi Arabia: House of Saud is Safe, for Now

Virtually any spark of unrest in the Middle East will turn heads toward Saudi Arabia, where the global price of oil hangs precariously on the stability of the House of Saud. Though feeble opposition groups have called for greater political and press freedoms, no demonstrations have erupted in the oil kingdom. Saudi petrodollars continue to go a long way in keeping the population pacified, and the regime under Saudi King Abdullah in particular has spent recent years engaging in various social reforms that, while limited, are highly notable for Saudi Arabia’s religiously conservative society.

Critically, the House of Saud has had success since 9/11, and particularly since 2004, in co-opting the religious establishment, which has enabled the regime to contain dissent while also keeping tabs on AQAP activity bubbling up from Yemen. The main cause for concern in Saudi Arabia is centered on the succession issue, as the kingdom’s aging leadership will eventually give way to a younger and more fractious group of royals. Saudi Arabia will offer assistance where it can to contain unrest in key neighbors like Bahrain and Yemen, but for now is largely immune from the issues afflicting much of the region.

24103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Special Report-1 on: February 17, 2011, 03:45:20 PM
Unrest in the Middle East: A Special Report
February 17, 2011 | 1949 GMT

STRATFORRelated Special Topic Page
The Egypt Unrest: Full Coverage
Footage of self-immolations in Algeria, clashes between police and protesters in Yemen and Bahrain, government reshufflings in Jordan and fledgling street demonstrations in Iran could lead to the impression of a domino effect under way in the Middle East in which aging autocrats are on the verge of being uprooted by Tunisia-inspired revolutionary fervor. A careful review of  unrest in the Middle East and North Africa , however, exposes a very different picture.

Many of the protests sprouting up in these countries have a common thread, and that alone is cause for concern for many of the region’s regimes. High youth unemployment, a lack of political representation, repressive police states, a lack of housing and rising commodity prices are among the more common complaints voiced by protesters across the region. Social media has been used both as an organizing tool for protesters and a surveillance enabler by regimes. More generally, the region is witnessing a broad, public reaction to the layers of corruption that have become entrenched around these regimes over the past several decades.

Regime responses to those complaints also have been relatively consistent, including subsidy handouts; changes to the government, in many cases cosmetic; promises of job growth, electoral reform, and a repeal of emergency rule; and in the case of Egypt, Yemen and Algeria, public dismissal of illegitimate succession plans. Anti-regime protesters in many of these countries have faced off with mostly for-hire pro-regime supporters tasked with breaking up the demonstrations, the camel cavalry in Egypt being the most vivid example of this tactic.

(click here to enlarge image)
While the circumstances at first glance appear dire for most of the regimes, each of these states also has unique circumstances. While Tunisia can be considered a largely organic, successful uprising, for most of these states, the regimes retain the tools to suppress dissent, divide the opposition and maintain power. In others, those engaging in the civil unrest are pawns in behind-the-scenes power struggles. In all, the assumed impenetrability of the internal security apparatus and the loyalties and intentions of the army remain decisive factors in determining the direction of the unrest.

Egypt: The Military’s ‘Revolution’

In the past several days Egypt has not witnessed a popular revolution but a carefully managed succession by the military. The demonstrations, numbering around 200,000 to 300,000 at their peak, were genuinely inspired by the regime turnover in Tunisia, pent-up socio-economic frustrations (youth unemployment in Egypt stands out around 25 percent) and extreme disillusionment with former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

It must be recognized that the succession crisis in Egypt was playing out between the country’s military elite and Mubarak well before protests began in Egypt on Jan. 25. The demonstrators, encouraged by both internal and external pro-democracy groups, were in fact a critical tool the military used to maneuver Mubarak out while preserving the regime. So far, the Egyptian military has maintained the appearance of being receptive to opposition demands. Over time, however, the gap between opposition and military elite interests will grow, as the latter works to maintain its clout in the political affairs of the state while also containing a perceived Islamist threat.

Tunisia: Not Over Yet

Though Tunisia had some domestic pro-democracy groups before unrest began in December 2010, Tunisia saw one of the region’s more organic uprisings. Years of frustration with corruption and the political and business monopoly of former President President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, high youth unemployment (estimated at around 30 percent in the 15-29 age group), and rising commodity prices fueled the unrest. The self-immolation of an educated young man who was trying to sell fruits and vegetables started the unrest, helping break down the fear that Tunisia’s internal security apparatus had maintained for decades.

The ouster of Ben Ali and his family and a reshuffling of the government for now have calmed most of the unrest. A sense of normalcy is gradually returning as Tunisians look ahead to as-yet unscheduled elections due sometime in 2011. Since Tunisia won its independence from France in 1956, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party — which served as Ben Ali’s main political vehicle — has dominated the country. This leaves opposition groups with little to no experience in managing political, much less business affairs. RCD politicians have been quick to seek to disassociate themselves from the Ben Ali name in hopes of retaining their wealth and political clout while the opposition remains unorganized and divided. Unlike Egypt, the Islamist opposition, led by the formerly exiled leadership of the Ennahda party, remains largely marginal. In all likelihood, Tunisia will end up with another government dominated by many of the former Ben Ali elites, albeit with a democratic face.

This creates the potential for another wave of unrest, raising the question of the Tunisian army’s motives. The military dropped its support for Ben Ali less than a month after the uprising began, and only three days after Ben Ali called for the army to maintain order in the streets of the capital. The Tunisian army is likely looking to the Egypt model, in which the military is now standing at the helm and benefiting from a number of political and economic perks as a result. Ultimately, the situation in Tunisia remains in flux, and an army intervention down the line should not be ruled out.

Algeria: The Power Struggle Behind the Protests

Many of the same socioeconomic factors afflicting its North African neighbors like Tunisia and Egypt have fueled Algeria’s protests. (Youth unemployment in Algeria is around 20 percent, and high food prices were causing riots even before the regional unrest began.) Thus far, the major protests have averaged in the hundreds as the internal security apparatus has resorted to increasingly forceful measures to restrict demonstrations in Algiers and to the east in the Kabylie region’s Bejaia province.

Thousands of riot police have been deployed ahead of mass demonstrations planned for Feb. 18 and Feb. 25. The protests are primarily youth-driven, and are being organized through channels like Facebook in defiance of the country’s ban on demonstrations in the capital. The Rally for Culture and Democracy party led by Said Sadi, the National Coordination for Change and Democracy and Algeria’s League for Human Rights have coordinated the protests. Critically, a number of the country’s most powerful trade unions are taking part. The banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has also reportedly called on Algerians to take part in the march to demand “regime change,” prompting Algerian authorities on Feb. 11 to arrest hardliner FIS second-in-command Ali Belhadj.

While the civil unrest will continue to capture the cameras’ attention, the real struggle in Algeria is not playing out in the streets. A power struggle has long been under way between the country’s increasingly embattled president, Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, and the head of the Military Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DRS), Gen. Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene. After ending a bloody civil war with radical Islamists led by the FIS, Bouteflika came to power in 1999 as a civilian leader. He relied on a combination of accommodation and force to stabilize the country. Widely regarded as the chief power broker in Algerian politics, Mediene has held his post since 1990 and consequently lays claim to a wide network of political, security business and trade union connections. Bouteflika relied heavily on Mediene to both contain the Islamist threat and also to reduce the clout of the army in Algerian politics. The president then started running into serious trouble when he attempted to expand his own influence at the expense of Mediene and his allies.

The power struggle between the two has intensified in recent years, with state-owned energy firm Sonatrach even getting caught in the fray. Bouteflika, age 73, won a third term in 2009 after abolishing Algeria’s two-term limit. His current term is set to expire in 2014. Numerous hints have been dropped that the aging president either would hand power to his younger brother or to the prime minister, plans that Mediene strongly opposes.

Not by coincidence, one of the main organizers of the demonstrations, Saeed Saidi (a Berber) is known to be on excellent terms with Mediene, also a Berber. The call for Berber rights — Berbers make up roughly one-third of the Algerian population — has been one of the leading drivers of the demonstrations thus far. A large portion of Algeria’s majority Arab population, however, has yet to show an interest in taking to the streets in protest against the regime. The country’s powerful trade unions, which have strong political connections and a proven ability to twist Bouteflika’s arm through crippling strikes demanding more limits on foreign investment and better wages, are a critical element to the demonstrations.

Overall, while the roots of Algeria’s civil unrest are like those in Tunisia and Egypt, the youth demonstrators are not the decisive factor in determining the course of events in the country. The timing appears ripe for Mediene to lay pressure on Bouteflika to meet his demands on the coming succession. How far Mediene goes in undercutting (and perhaps attempting to remove Bouteflika) remains to be seen.

The Algerian military must also be watched closely in the coming weeks. Bouteflika has a number of close allies in the military elite to counter Mediene, but there are also a number of disaffected soldiers in lower ranks who have seen the military’s profile decline under Bouteflika’s rule. Bouteflika has attempted to pacify the opposition with subsidies (aided by the current high price of oil) a vow to lift emergency rule by the end of February and promises of (limited) political reforms. But the president is likely to rely more heavily on force against protesters and quiet concessions to trade unions while trying to cope with the bigger threat posed by the country’s intelligence chief.

Morocco: Regime Confident Amid the Strife

Morocco has been quiet during the recent wave of unrest. Though it has yet to experience any mass demonstrations, small protests have occurred and at least four cases of self-immolations have been reported since the first incident in Tunisia on Dec. 17, 2010. Now, however, a recently-created Facebook group known as “Moroccans for Change” has called for a nationwide protest Feb. 20, something the government of King Mohammed VI has responded to by meeting with opposition parties and promising to speed up the pace of economic, social and political reforms.

Just as in Egypt, there are many strands in the Moroccan opposition, from secular pro-democracy groups to Islamists. Those planning the Feb. 20 protests are not seen as having much in common with the Islamist Justice and Development Party or the largest opposition force and main Islamist group in the country, the banned Justice and Charity party — which is believed to have a membership of roughly 200,000. Where Morocco differs from Egypt, however, is in the fact that the opposition is not calling for regime change, but rather a greater say in the political system, i.e., from within the constitutional monarchy.

In one of its main demands, the opposition has called for a new constitution that would strip power from the monarchy and from the network of state and business elites known as the Makhzen. Demands for higher wages and state-subsidized housing are also opposition priorities, along with calls for less police brutality, a common source of animosity toward governments in the Arab world.

In a sign of the Moroccan government’s confidence in managing the situation, the government has given its formal approval to the Feb. 20 protest march. Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri has meanwhile expressed fears that Algeria may seek to take advantage of the current state of upheaval in the Arab world to stir up unrest in Western Sahara, a buffer territory bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania held by rebel group opposed to Moroccan control of the region, known as the Polisario Front. The Polisario Front has long been supported by Algeria, Morocco’s neighbor and rival. Raising the threat of Algerian meddling could also be a way for Morocco to justify a strong security presence in containing potential unrest.

In sum, the planned demonstrations in Morocco are illustrations of opportunism as opposed to a serious potential popular uprising — much less regime change.

Jordan: The Accommodationist Approach

The Jordanian opposition, led by the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, was quick to seize on the Tunisian and Egyptian unrest and organize peaceful sit-in demonstrations in their ongoing  push for electoral reform and fresh parliamentary elections . The Hashemite monarchy, however, has had much more experience in accommodating its Islamist opposition. The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is allowed political representation, albeit not at a level they deem sufficient. King Abdullah II acted quickly to pre-empt major civil unrest in the country by handing out millions of dollars in subsidies and by forming a new government.

While making concessions, Abdullah has worked to avoid giving in too much to Islamist demands, making clear that there are limits to what he will do. Former general and now Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit heads the new government. His Cabinet, sworn in Feb. 9, includes some figures with an Islamist background. Even though the IAF announced that it would not participate in the new government and called for fresh elections, it also said it would wait before judging the new government’s sincerity about reform plans, and would continue to hold peaceful demonstrations. In other words, the IAF understands its limits and is not attempting a regime overthrow, meaning the situation is very much contained. Meanwhile, opportunistic tribal leaders, who traditionally support the Jordanian regime, recently decided to voice complaints against regime corruption to extract concessions while the situation was still tense. The Jordanian government quickly dealt with the situation through quiet concessions to the main tribal leaders.

24104  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 17, 2011, 02:43:21 PM
Woof All:

I am looking forward to covering the stickgrappling-- I don't often do it in seminar.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 17, 2011, 02:40:10 PM
Looks like Israel is going to be real sorry it didn't finish the job last time and clear Hezbollah out, all the way through the Bekaa Valley  cry
24106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:32:47 PM
So Media Matters or Race on SCH would be a good place for it smiley
24107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:25:24 PM
Ummm , , , fun story, but what does it have to do with the subject of this thread?  cheesy
24108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 17, 2011, 02:11:55 PM
24109  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 17, 2011, 02:09:06 PM
That's very funny.  Not the most decisive law enforcement I've ever seen  cheesy  Perhaps a Taser which have given the officers some courage, , ,
24110  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: February 17, 2011, 10:10:54 AM

Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny "The Guiding Force", ODB
Eric "Top Dog" Knaus "The Fighting Force", ODB
Arlan "Salty Dog" Sanford "The Silent Force", ODB
Benjamin "Lonely Dog" Rittiner
Mike "Dogzilla" Tibbitts ODB


Alvis "Hound Dog" Solis
Brian "Porn Star Dog" Jungwiwattanattaporn
Bryan "Guide Dog" Stoops
Chris "The Tree That Walks" Poznik
Chris "True Dog" Clifton
Colin "Point Dog" Stewart
Corey "Dog Pound" Davis
Dale "Island Dog" Franks
Dave "Wild Dog" Crosby
Dean "Kaju Dog" Webster
Dennis "Edge Dog" Hall
Ed "Hot Dog" Solomon
Erik "Tennesee Dog" Bryant
Francisco "Frankfurter" Taruc
Fred "Sun Dog" Martinez
Gints "Baltic Dog" Klimanis
Greame "Scotty Dog" Higgins
Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
Gregory "Junkyard Dog" Van Zuyen
Ian "Hair of the Dog" Wilde ODB
Ivan "Kuma Dog" Reboli
Jeff "Sleeping Dog" Inman
John "Underdog" Salter
Lester "Surf Dog" Grifin  ODB
Loki "Tricky Dog" Jorgenson
Marcus "Giri Dog" Schillinger
Mark "Mongrel" Balluf  ODB
Mark "Puppy Dog" Sanden ODB
Mark "Shark Dog" Lawson ODB
Mark "Sheepdog" Scott
Marlon "Red Dog" Hoess-Boettger
Mat "Boo Dog" Booe
Mike "Rain Dog" Florimbi
Mike "Scrappy Dog" De Lio
Mike "War Dog" Barredo
Nick "Pappy Dog" Papadakis
Nick "Raw Dog" Sacoulas
Oskar "Spider Dog" Bernal
Philip "Sled Dog" Gelinas ODB
Roan "Poi Dog" Grimm
Steve "Iron Dog" Shelburn
Stefan "Cro Dog" Kostanjevec
Teddy "Tahiti Dog" Moux
Tim "Scurvy Dog" Ferguson
Tinu "3D Dog" Blatter
"Kahuna Dog"
Tom "Howling Dog" Guthire
Burton "Lucky Dog" Richardson


Abu "C-Desert Dog" Dayyeh
Andreas "C-Flexi Dog" Hommel
Brian "C- Ferox Dog" Alagao
Chris "C-Rogue Dog" Smith
Christian "C- Lefty Dog" Eckert
Daniel "C-Hidden Dog" Budar  (alias, "Dog in sheep's clothing")
Dave "C-StrayDog" Rothburg
Detlef "C-Sinatra Dog" Thiem
Dominic "C-Sleazy Dog" Ischer
Gerald "C-Heretic Dog" Boggs
Gerry "C-Celtic Dog" Casey
Heiko "C-Crossover Dog" Zauske
Hugh "C-Irish Dog" Sargeant
James "C-Mako Dog" Kelly
Jerome "C-Frisbee Dog" Challon
Kai "C-Suicide Dog" Schilling
Mamerto "C-Bull Dog" Estepa
Michael "C-Zen Dog" Blake
Milt "C-Devil Dog" Tinkoff
Oli "C-Ghost Dog" Schaer
Peter "C-Grumpy Dog" Fray
Randall "C-Wolf Dog" Gregory
Renato "C-Cerebus" Judalena
Rene "C-Growling Dog" Cocolo
Riccardo "C-Full Metal Dog" Bassani
Rich "C-Hellhound" Raphael
Richard "C-Seeing Eye Dog" Estepa
Roberto "C-Staffy Dog" Cereda
Roger "C-Space Dog" Tinkoff
Russ "C-Bad Dog" Iger
Ryan "C-Guard Dog" Gruhn
Shaun "C-Sneaky Dog" Owens
Stefan "C-Diligent Dog" Ramsauer
Thomas "C-Sword Dog" Rickert
Tom "C-Howling Dog" Guthire
Tomek "C-Tank Dog" Jurkiewicz
Thorsten "C-Lena Dog" Picker
Torben "C-Old Dog" Lorenian
Tyler "C-Dirty Dog" Morin
Mark "C-Fu Dog" Houston
Mark "C-Beowulf" Houston


"Dog" Andrew Flores
"Dog" Axel Datschun
"Dog" Benjamin Schlieper
"Dog" Bryan Lorentzen
"Dog" Chris Hawker
"Dog" Chris Schultz
"Dog" Chuck Blanchard
"Dog" D.A.
"Dog" Dan Farley
"Dog" Danny Suarez
"Dog" David Lowndes
"Dog" Davide Musi
"Dog" Fabian Tillmanns
"Dog" Federico Corriente
"Dog" Filippo Pani
"Dog" Gabriele Cortonesi
"Dog" Greg Moody
"Dog" Ishmael Solis
"Dog" Ivan Pirozhkov
"Dog" James Macdonald
"Dog" Jay Cosby
"Dog" Jeremy Lowen
"Dog" Jiri Söderblom
"Dog" Kai Schwahn
"Dog" Kai Spintig
"Dog" Kase Wright
"Dog" Kostas Tountas
"Dog" Lars Christie
"Dog" Lorenz Glaza
"Dog" Ludo Bachy
"Dog" Manfred Schilka
"Dog" Mark Smith dec.
"Dog" Matt Tucker
"Dog" Mauricio Sanchez
"Dog" Meynard Ancheta
"Dog" Mick Smith
"Dog" Michele Gemini
"Dog" Miguel DeCoste
"Dog" Miguel Lopez
"Dog" Miguel Velez
"Dog" Mike Norrell
"Dog" Mo Estepa
"Dog" Odin
"Dog" Ole Fredricksen
"Dog" Ole Leinz
"Dog" Oliver Zaum
"Dog" Pawel Imiela
"Dog" Ray Wilson
"Dog" Rodolfo Manzano Diaz
"Dog" Rodney Libramonte
"Dog" Sebastian Ehlen
"Dog" Shanu Singh
"Dog" Sigi Fischer
"Dog" Simon Hehl
"Dog" Simon Godsland
"Dog" Steve Gruhn
"Dog" Thomas Britschgi
"Dog" Tom Perruso
"Dog" Tom Stillman
"Dog" Tony Caruso
"Dog" Tony Fernandez
"Dog" Troy Hodges
"Dog" Vitaliano Sestito
"Dog" Will Dixon
"Dog" Wieslaw Hapke

Cat Sisters

Linda "Black Cat"
Linda "Bitch" Matsumi
Lynn "C-Psycho Bitch" Brown
"Cat" Heather Kerr
24111  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Israel May 6-7 on: February 17, 2011, 08:08:13 AM
TTT-- to provoke Noa into posting more info evil cheesy
24112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2011, 07:51:32 AM
I do too.

So, what do we do?

My starting point is that what we are doing now is utterly incoherent and we need to get WAY out of our current mental boxes.

When blended with Baraq's strategy in the mid-east IMHO we are on the precipice of complete defeat: being run out of the mid-east and Afpakia, Pak's nuke program completely slipping its leash, Iranian nukes, Lebanon being taken over by Heabollah, serious war against Israel, the return of the Taliban to rule in Afg, etc etc etc

I for one remain intrigued by the idea of an alliance with India and dismemberment of Pakistan while cutting a deal giving Pashtunistan to the Pashtuns in return for them being very clear on the concept that we will rain death and destruction on them if they EVER support attacks on the West (and separating the Pashtuns from the rest of Afg might really simplify things for Afg) destroying Pak's nuke program, and related actions. 
24113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:41:45 AM
I get that BUT

a) does that not lead to situations where ultimately such a strategy blows up amidst revolution and/or chaos?
b) does that not lead to a diminishment of our moral power in the world?  (Do you believe in moral power at all?)
c) does that not lead to weak support from the American people?
d) does it bother your sleep at all?

24114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A dilema on: February 17, 2011, 07:22:10 AM
A Dilemma in U.S.-Pakistani Relations

While most of the recent international focus has been on Egypt’s unrest and the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, another key geopolitical crisis has been brewing, this time between the United States and Pakistan. Getting a bit of respite from the situation in Egypt, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on the Pakistani government to release a U.S. security contractor serving at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore. Raymond Davis shot and killed two armed Pakistani nationals on Jan. 27 because he thought they were going to rob him. U.S. Sen. John Kerry arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of an effort to secure the release of Davis, who has been held in a Pakistani prison. Kerry is also attempting to ease tensions between the two sides.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have long been extremely tense over disagreements on how to prosecute the war in Afghanistan. From the American point of view, Pakistan is not taking action against Afghan Taliban forces operating on its soil. Conversely, the Pakistanis feel that the incoherence of the United States’ strategy for Afghanistan threatens Pakistani security.

“Many Pakistanis deeply resent what they see as their leaders’ quick surrender of national rights to appease the Americans.”
This latest crisis, however, has taken the situation to a new level. Washington insists that in keeping with the international conventions of diplomatic immunity, Islamabad needs to release Davis. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been prosecuting Davis in keeping with its laws.

Beyond competing versions about the shooting and how the matter needs to be resolved, this standoff is difficult for both sides. The Obama administration cannot afford to see a foreign country prosecute one of its diplomats. Likewise, neither the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari nor the country’s military establishment can afford to be seen domestically as giving up an American who has admitted to killing two Pakistani nationals, especially in light of strong anti-American sentiment.

The Pakistanis are in a far worse situation than the Americans because of the country’s extremely unstable economic, security and political conditions. As a result, Islamabad is heavily reliant on Washington’s goodwill while dealing with the exceedingly difficult circumstances it faces. And in the interest of sustaining the much-needed relationship with the United States, Pakistan is not in a position to resist pressure from its great power patron.

Succumbing to American pressure, however, can lead to further unrest in Pakistan, where a significant segment of the population feels strongly that Davis should be punished according to the law of the land. Many Pakistanis deeply resent what they see as their leaders’ quick surrender of national rights to appease the Americans. If the Pakistani government handed Davis over to American authorities, there could be further deterioration in political and security conditions — no Pakistani government can afford to be seen as caving into U.S. demands.

In addition to the political backlash, Pakistani Taliban rebels threatened to target all officials responsible for giving in to U.S. demands. This is a problem not just for the Pakistanis, but also for the Americans. The U.S. strategy for Afghanistan depends upon cooperation from Pakistan.

For Pakistan to cooperate with Washington’s efforts to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan, Islamabad needs to be stable. Thus, the Davis case has complicated an already difficult situation. The key challenge for the United States is how to retrieve Davis and not make matters worse for Islamabad so that the two sides can focus on the bigger picture in Afghanistan.

24115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:19:37 AM

That said, there is the stubborn, dilema of this:

"a greater risk in not pushing for changes because Arab leaders would have to resort to ever more brutal methods to keep the lid on dissent."

How do you address this question?

24116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 17, 2011, 07:16:41 AM
Yes they have smiley

Concerning India, the night he was first showing that "worst case scenario" map, I commented to my son that the India assertion was quite dubious IMO.  Last night GB had some comment to the effect that acknowledged the point.

So, anyway, GM, may I ask you to be our intrepid daily reporter of the GB Show? grin
24117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH's Kristoff on Bahrain on: February 17, 2011, 06:50:31 AM

The gleaming banking center of Bahrain, one of those family-run autocratic Arab states that count as American allies, has become the latest reminder that authoritarian regimes are slow learners.

Bahrain is another Middle East domino wobbled by an angry youth — and it has struck back with volleys of tear gas, rubber bullets and even buckshot at completely peaceful protesters. In the early-morning hours on Thursday here in the Bahrain capital, it used deadly force to clear the throngs of pro-democracy protesters who had turned Pearl Square in the center of the city into a local version of Tahrir Square in Cairo. This was the last spasm of brutality from a regime that has handled protests with an exceptionally heavy hand — and like the previous crackdowns, this will further undermine the legitimacy of the government.

“Egypt has infected Bahrain,” a young businessman, Husain, explained to me as he trudged with a protest march snaking through Manama. Husain (I’m omitting some last names to protect those involved) said that Tunisia and Egypt awakened a sense of possibility inside him — and that his resolve only grew when Bahrain’s riot police first attacked completely peaceful protesters.

When protesters held a funeral march for the first man killed by police, the authorities here then opened fire on the mourners, killing another person.

“I was scared to participate,” Husain admitted. But he was so enraged that he decided that he couldn’t stay home any longer. So he became one of the countless thousands of pro-democracy protesters demanding far-reaching change.

At first the protesters just wanted the release of political prisoners, an end to torture and less concentration of power in the al-Khalifa family that controls the country. But, now, after the violence against peaceful protesters, the crowds increasingly are calling for the overthrow of the Khalifa family. Many would accept a British-style constitutional monarchy in which King Hamad, one of the Khalifas, would reign without power. But an increasing number are calling for the ouster of the king himself.

King Hamad gave a speech regretting the deaths of demonstrators, and he temporarily called off the police. By dispatching the riot police early Thursday morning, King Hamad underscored his vulnerability and his moral bankruptcy.

All of this puts the United States in a bind. Bahrain is a critical United States ally because it is home to the American Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Washington has close relations with the Khalifa family. What’s more, in some ways Bahrain was a model for the region. It gives women and minorities a far greater role than Saudi Arabia next door, it has achieved near universal literacy for women as well as men, and it has introduced some genuine democratic reforms. Of the 40 members of the (not powerful) Lower House of Parliament, 18 belong to an opposition party.

Somewhat cruelly, on Wednesday I asked the foreign minister, Sheik Khalid Ahmed al-Khalifa, if he doesn’t owe his position to his family. He acknowledged the point but noted that Bahrain is changing and added that some day the country will have a foreign minister who is not a Khalifa. “It’s an evolving process,” he insisted, and he emphasized that Bahrain should be seen through the prism of its regional peer group. “Bahrain is in the Arabian gulf,” he noted. “It’s not in Lake Erie.”

The problem is that Bahrain has educated its people and created a middle class that isn’t content to settle for crumbs beneath a paternalistic Arab potentate — and this country is inherently unstable as a predominately Shiite country ruled by a Sunni royal family. That’s one reason Bahrain’s upheavals are sending a tremor through other gulf autocracies that oppress Shiites, not least Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s leaders may whisper to American officials that the democracy protesters are fundamentalists inspired by Iran. That’s ridiculous. There’s no anti-Americanism in the protests — and if we favor “people power” in Iran, we should favor it in Bahrain as well.

Walk with protesters here, and their grievances seem eminently reasonable. One woman, Howra, beseeched me to write about her brother, Yasser Khalil, who she said was arrested in September at the age of 15 for vague political offenses. She showed me photos of Yasser injured by what she described as beatings by police.

Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.

America has important interests at stake in Bahrain — and important values. I hope that our cozy relations with those in power won’t dull our appreciation that history is more likely to side with protesters being shot with rubber bullets than with the regimes doing the shooting.

24118  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYTimes: Women's Lacrosse on: February 17, 2011, 06:44:09 AM
Interesting question presented here.  To this article I would also raise the contrast suggested by Rugby's approach and football's approach:

Published: February 16, 2011
Camille Richardson has heard all the arguments, read all the comments, and sees the logic. But as a freshman midfielder for the Columbia women’s lacrosse team who is fully aware of the dangers of head trauma, Richardson makes one thing clear: She has no interest in wearing a helmet, as the men must.

“Wearing a helmet,” Richardson said, “would just bring us closer to football and hockey.”
Although some safety advocates call for head protection in women’s lacrosse, almost everyone involved in the sport has said that its current ban on helmets for everyone but goaltenders is actually the safest approach. Hockey safety experts question if helmets foster more physical play. Football looks back and wonders whether big face masks encouraged a recklessness that can lead to long-term brain damage.

Now at its own crossroad, women’s lacrosse — with 250,000 playing nationwide — wants to take the road less battered. And so begins the second stage of sports’ continuing parry with head injuries — in which the best protection, many experts insist, is no protection at all.

“It’s hard to absolutely prove, but what we’ve seen is that behavior can change when athletes feel more protected, especially when it comes to the head and helmets,” said Dr. Margot Putukian, Princeton’s director of athletic medicine services and chairwoman of the U.S. Lacrosse safety committee. “They tend to put their bodies and heads in danger that they wouldn’t without the protection. And they aren’t as protected as they might think.”

Although boys’ lacrosse rules mandate helmets and face masks at all age levels, girls’ lacrosse, whose season at many schools begins this month, is drastically different. Amy Bokker, Stanford’s women’s coach, only half-jokingly says that it shouldn’t be called lacrosse at all.

Girls at all levels cannot body check; collisions are minimized.

Contact with the head is so off limits that accidental intrusion with stick or body within seven inches of the head — an area known as the halo — is a major foul. Even shooting with a defender in line with the goal is illegal.

Even so, girls’ lacrosse does see its share of concussions, mostly on accidental stick-to-head contact, collisions and falls. According to research by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, not only does the sport have the third-highest rate of concussion among female scholastic sports (behind soccer and basketball), but its in-game rate is only about 15 percent less than the rougher male version.

Research suggests that even though men’s lacrosse helmets are required only to eliminate skull fracture and intracranial bleeding — like football helmets — the headgear is probably decreasing the concussion rate to some extent. Yet as recently as December, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association voted by 9 to 2 to continue banning hard helmets in the women’s game, a stance echoed by U.S. Lacrosse.

Not everyone agrees with that decision.

“Any time we can prevent a concussion, we should try to do it,” said Dr. Brian Rieger, director of the Central New York Sports Concussion Center, who has shared his feelings with U.S. Lacrosse. “Even though it’s usually a short-lived event, there are certain situations, I’ve seen it, where even a kid with one concussion can be out of school for weeks or months, and struggle. When you see a child or parent go through it, it makes me feel we should do anything to prevent it.”

At the annual meeting last month of the National Organizing Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or Nocsae, which sets performance standards for almost all organized sports’ safety gear, one of the most heated exchanges concerned U.S. Lacrosse’s continued ban on hard helmets and face guards. Dr. Jack Ryan, representing the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, complained: “Somebody’s got to stand up and say, What are you doing? This to me is like, come on, you’re not serious. This is 2011.”

Then again, other sports have spent the last several years realizing that safety equipment can bring dangers of its own. Checking in professional hockey became considerably more vicious with the adoption of helmets in the 1970s and ’80s, and football players felt so protected by their helmets and face masks that head-to-head collisions became commonplace at every age level. Scaling back protection now in order to dissuade violent play would be too dangerous, experts say, both physically and legally.

Even though women’s lacrosse rules against contact would be unchanged or even strengthened with the adoption of helmets, the ethos would almost certainly change, more than a dozen coaches, players and officials said in interviews. One of Camille Richardson’s teammates at Columbia, the senior attacker Olivia Mann, said that after the move to make eyewear mandatory for the 2005 season, “It’s subconscious, but you see harder checking, and rougher play.”


Page 2 of 2)

Richardson and Mann gladly demonstrated what they see helmets doing to their sport. As Mann played defense and Richardson cradled the ball with her head up, the women used their feet to grab position and cut.

The term, they explained, was to “wrong-foot” your opponent.
They were then asked to pretend they were wearing helmets. Without knowing it, solely on instinct, Mann violated the halo rule by swinging her stick close to Richardson’s head. This was partly because Richardson, feeling protected, slightly dipped her head and leaned in toward, rather than away, from contact.

“I would be more likely to take risky checks, which would change the nature of defense completely,” Mann said. “Now, trying not to foul her, it’s very much about where I get my hands and body. If she’s wearing a helmet, I don’t have to worry about physically injuring her. I’m more likely to sacrifice my body positioning to get at her stick.”

Another teammate, Kelly Buechel, said, “You want someone to beat you because they’re more skilled than you, not because they’re more brutal than you.”

Mouth guards and eye guards are required in women’s lacrosse. And the rules have for decades allowed soft headgear — usually a headband or a crown of soft padding, borrowed from kickboxing or elsewhere. But these go essentially unused because players consider them either unnecessary or ugly. (Web sites for three women’s lacrosse equipment outlets don’t list any sort of head protection for sale.) The rare women’s player who does wear the soft headgear, experts said, usually has a prior head injury and is feeling more protected than she actually is.

In November, U.S. Lacrosse did accede and approach Nocsae about developing a standard for some form of head protection for women — almost certainly soft — that might protect against some stick-to-head concussions. Nocsae officials at the annual meeting recommended at least hard face masks, if not helmets, and somewhat grudgingly accepted the assignment.

The U.S. Lacrosse president, Steve Stenersen, said that during this age of concussion awareness in youth sports, he opposed any headgear that would, he said, “upset the balance between safety and game integrity, or bring some unintended consequence.”

“Everybody looks at equipment intervention as the end-all, be-all — but it’s not, and the football discussion bears that out,” Stenersen said. He added that U.S. Lacrosse would rather emphasize education and rules enforcement and keep the game unchanged.

“People are less focused on those because they’re less tangible, and the picture of a helmet on a kid makes them feel better,” he said. “But it’s much more complicated than that.”
24119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 17, 2011, 06:34:54 AM
Anyone?  Pretty please?

Last night's show was quite remarkable-- (I think GM would have found it quite congenial). 

It would be really awesome if someone could write up 1-3 paragraphs about it, about each night.  (The night's where he blathers on could be covered with one to two sentences  cheesy )
24120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Secret report for BO on: February 17, 2011, 06:30:34 AM
This Pravda on the Hudson piece I find quite interesting and hope it will excite some comment here.  Combined with some things on Glenn Beck's fascinating show last night, it begins to appear that Baraq & Company have a hand or three in what is going on.


Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings
Published: February 16, 2011
WASHINGTON — President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.

Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, these officials said.
The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.

Administration officials did not say how the report related to intelligence analysis of the Middle East, which the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, acknowledged in testimony before Congress, needed to better identify “triggers” for uprisings in countries like Egypt.

Officials said Mr. Obama’s support for the crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo, even if it followed some mixed signals by his administration, reflected his belief that there was a greater risk in not pushing for changes because Arab leaders would have to resort to ever more brutal methods to keep the lid on dissent.

“There’s no question Egypt was very much on the mind of the president,” said a senior official who helped draft the report and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss its findings. “You had all the unknowns created by Egypt’s succession picture — and Egypt is the anchor of the region.”

At the time, officials said, President Hosni Mubarak appeared to be either digging in or grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him. Parliamentary elections scheduled for November were widely expected to be a sham. Egyptian police were jailing bloggers, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had returned home to lead a nascent opposition movement.

In Yemen, too, officials said Mr. Obama worried that the administration’s intense focus on counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda was ignoring a budding political crisis, as angry young people rebelled against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an autocratic leader of the same vintage as Mr. Mubarak.

“Whether it was Yemen or other countries in the region, you saw a set of trends” — a big youth population, threadbare education systems, stagnant economies and new social network technologies like Facebook and Twitter — that was a “real prescription for trouble,” another official said.

The White House held weekly meetings with experts from the State Department, the C.I.A. and other agencies. The process was led by Dennis B. Ross, the president’s senior adviser on the Middle East; Samantha Power, a senior director at the National Security Council who handles human rights issues; and Gayle Smith, a senior director responsible for global development.

The administration kept the project secret, officials said, because it worried that if word leaked out, Arab allies would pressure the White House, something that happened in the days after protests convulsed Cairo.

Indeed, except for Egypt, the officials refused to discuss countries in detail. The report singles out four for close scrutiny, which an official said ran the gamut: one that is trying to move toward change, another that has resisted any change and two with deep strategic ties to the United States as well as religious tensions. Those characteristics would suggest Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.

By issuing a directive, Mr. Obama was also pulling the topic of political change out of regular meetings on diplomatic, commercial or military relations with Arab states. In those meetings, one official said, the strategic interests loom so large that it is almost impossible to discuss reform efforts.

The study has helped shape other messages, like a speech Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave in Qatar in January, in which she criticized Arab leaders for resisting change.

“We really pushed the question of who was taking the lead in reform,” said an official. “Would pushing reform harm relations with the Egyptian military? Doesn’t the military have an interest in reform?”

Mr. Obama also pressed his advisers to study popular uprisings in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to determine which ones worked and which did not. He is drawn to Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child, which ousted its longtime leader, Suharto, in 1998.

While the report is guiding the administration’s response to events in the Arab world, it has not yet been formally submitted — and given the pace of events in the region, an official said, it is still a work in progress.
24121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / German company in disturbing deal with Russia on: February 16, 2011, 05:26:03 PM

The Russian Defense Ministry made a deal with German private defense company Rheinmetall for the construction of a combat training center for Russian troops. The deal does not necessarily indicate further military cooperation between Germany and Russia, though it does highlight the existing close ties between Berlin and Moscow. Although few concrete details of the deal are known, it is likely to draw close scrutiny from several of Germany’s NATO allies, particularly those that lie between Germany and Russia.

German private defense company Rheinmetall signed a deal Feb. 9 with the Russian Defense Ministry to build a combat training center for the Russian military. The center, which would be built at an existing Russian military installation at Mulino, near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, is designed for the comprehensive training of brigade-size units (thousands of soldiers) and would improve modeling and simulation of tactical combat situations. Russia’s Defense Ministry has also invited Rheinmetall to handle the “support, repair and modernization of military equipment,” and Rheinmetall’s mobile ammunition disposal systems would be available for Russia to buy.

It remains unclear what the exact financial and technical aspects of the deal will be, such as the specific costs of the project or the extent to which German expertise and personnel will be involved in the center’s training functions. However, the agreement reflects the value Russia sees in more closely understanding and potentially learning from Western military training methodologies. Also, the Russian military’s preferring to sign such a deal with a German defense company is another example of increasingly robust ties between Berlin and Moscow. Regardless of the specific details, this agreement will be cause for concern to Germany’s NATO allies, particularly the Central Europeans and the Baltic states.

It is important to note that Rheinmetall is not an arm of the German government; it is a private defense and automotive company. The defense arm of the company is, however, Europe’s top supplier of defense technology and security equipment for ground forces. It specializes in armor, gunnery, propellants and munitions manufacturing but has a fairly broad defense portfolio comprising training and simulation solutions as well as command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, target acquisition and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) — all of which are of particular interest for Moscow. Rheinmetall training systems reportedly are used across the world, with countries like India and Norway employing naval and armored vehicle simulators. Rheinmetall is the first foreign firm to build such a training center in Russia.

From a technical standpoint, a training facility designed and built by Germany could, in and of itself, be an important improvement for Russian ground combat training, simulations and exercises. Also, any additional or more advanced and expanded partnerships with Rheinmetall could be a significant boost to Russia’s ongoing military reform and modernization efforts. While Russia swiftly defeated Georgian forces in the August 2008 war, it did so with notable tactical and operational shortcomings and deficiencies. Improving training regimes and technology, particularly with an emphasis on more modern Western simulators, information technology and updated approaches to training, could be significant in the long run. For the Germans, it is an opportunity to profit from Russia’s modernization drive and to potentially lay the groundwork for further military or political deals.

From a political standpoint, the deal does not necessarily indicate growing military ties between Berlin and Moscow. In order to infuse some fresh thinking, specifically a Western military perspective, into its own armed forces, Russia chose to go with a German company. The choice therefore indicates already close ties. Also, there are other areas in which Russian-German military cooperation is evident; according to STRATFOR sources, the Germans are going to help the Russians train border guards in Tajikistan on the Tajik-Uzbek border.

Furthermore, the Russian military could be using the training center, for which Rhienmetall’s training and simulation expertise will be potentially significant in their own right, both to test-drive broader doctrinal experimentation and integration of foreign concepts and to lay the foundation for future ties and exchanges with the German defense industry. The scope of and intent for the training center remain unclear, as precious few details of the agreement have been announced. It is possible that this is a generic training center through which troops from all over the country will pass, but it is also possible that the center and its training will be tailored for a more specific unit, operating environment or mission.

Either way, this deal is bound to make the states located between Russia and Germany — particularly Poland and the Baltic states — nervous. To these countries, Russian-German military cooperation of any kind will have the undertones of inter-war cooperation between the German Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union, which allowed Germany to secretly build up its military despite limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty. These sort of deals are not forgotten in Central Europe, and any deal — no matter how profit-driven or innocuous it may be — will invite careful scrutiny from Germany’s eastern NATO allies and could further weaken the binds holding the alliance together.

Read more: The Significance of Russia's Deal with Germany's Rheinmetall | STRATFOR
24122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 16, 2011, 05:22:37 PM
Maybe they will be too broke to do anything about it?

Until just a few years ago, Egypt’s ruling military elite was able to “borrow” money from Egyptian banks with no intention of paying it back. President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal changed all that, reforming and privatizing the system in order to build an empire for himself. For the first time in centuries, Egypt’s financial position was not entirely dependent upon outside forces. Now, Mubarak and his reform-minded son are out of the picture and Egypt has a budget deficit and a government debt load that are teetering on the edge of sustainability.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called on the international community Feb. 15 to help speed Egypt’s economic recovery. Such foreign assistance will certainly be essential, but only in part because of the economic disruptions caused by the recent protests. Even more important, the political machinations that led to the protests indicate Egypt’s economic structure is about to revert to a dependence upon outside assistance.

Egypt is one of the most undynamic economies of the world. The Nile River Delta is not navigable at all, and it is crisscrossed by omnipresent irrigation canals in order to make the desert bloom. This imposes massive infrastructure costs upon Egyptian society at the same time as it robs it of the ability to float goods cheaply from place to place. This mix of high capital demands and low capital generation has made Egypt one of the poorest places in the world in per capita terms. There just has not been money available to fund development.

As a result, Egypt lacks a meaningful industrial base and is a major importer of consumer goods, machinery, vehicles, wood products (there are no trees in the desert) and foodstuffs (Egypt imports roughly half of its grain needs). Egypt’s only exports are a moderate amount of natural gas and fertilizer, a bit of oil, cotton products and some basic metals.

The bottom line is that even in the best of times Egypt faces severe financial constraints — its budget deficit is normally in the range of 7 to 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) — and with the recent political instability, these financial pressures are rising.

The protests have presented Egypt with a cash-crunch problem. At $13 billion in annual revenues, tourism is the country’s most important income stream. The recent protests shut down tourism completely — at the height of the tourist season, no less. The Egyptian government estimates the losses to date at about $1.5 billion. Military rule, tentatively expected to last for the next six months, is going to crimp tourism income for the foreseeable future. Simultaneously, the government wants to put together a stimulus package to get things moving again. Details are almost nonexistent at present, but a good rule of thumb for stimulus is that it must be at least 1 percent of GDP — a bill of about $2 billion. So assuming that everything goes back to normal immediately — which is unlikely — the government would have to come up with $3.5 billion from somewhere.

Which brings us to financing the deficit, and here we get into some of the political intrigue that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

One cannot simply walk out of Egypt, so since the time of the pharaohs the Egyptian leadership has commanded a captive labor pool. This phenomenon meant more than simply having access to very cheap labor (free in ancient times); it also meant having access to captive money. Just as the pharaohs exploited the population to build the pyramids, the modern-day elite — the military leadership — exploited the population’s deposits in the banking system. This military elite — or, more accurately, the firms it controlled — took out loans from the country’s banks without any intention of paying them back. This practice enervated the banks in particular and the broader economy in general and contributed to Egypt’s chronic capital shortage. It also forced the government to turn to external sources of financing to operate, in particular the U.S. government, which was happy to play the role of funds provider during the final decade of the Cold War. There were many results, with high inflation, volatile living standards and overall exposure to international financial whims and moods being among the more disruptive.

Over the past 20 years, three things have changed this environment. First, as a reward for Egypt’s participation in the first Gulf War, the United States arranged for the forgiveness of much of Egypt’s outstanding foreign debt. Second, with the Cold War over, the United States steadily dialed back its economic assistance to Egypt. Since its height in 1980, U.S. economic assistance has dwindled by over 80 percent in real terms to under a half-billion dollars annually, forcing Cairo to find other ways to cover the difference (although Egypt is still the second-largest recipient of American military aid). But the final — and most decisive factor — was internal.

Mubarak’s son Gamal sought to change the way Egypt did business in order to build his own corporate empire. One of the many changes he made was empowering the central bank to actually enforce underwriting standards at the banks. The effort began in 2004, and early estimates indicated that as many as one in four outstanding loans had no chance of repayment. By 2010 the system was largely reformed and privatized, and the military elite’s ability to tap the banks for “loans” had largely disappeared. The government was then able to step into that gap and tap the banks’ available capital to fund its budget deficit. In fact, it is this arrangement that allowed Egypt to weather the recent global financial crisis as well as it did. For the first time in centuries, Egypt’s financial position was not entirely dependent upon outside forces. The government’s total debt load remains uncomfortably high at 72 percent of GDP, but its foreign debt load is only 11 percent of GDP. The economy was hardly thriving, but economically, Egypt was certainly a more settled place. For example, Egypt now has a mortgage market, which did not exist a decade ago.

From Gamal Mubarak’s point of view, four problems had been solved. The government had more stable financing capacity, the old military guard had been weakened, the banks were in better shape, and he was able to build his own corporate empire on the redirected financial flows in the process. But these changes and others like them earned the Mubarak family the military’s ire. Mubarak and his reform-minded son are out of the picture now, and the reform effort with them. With the constitution suspended, the parliament dissolved and military rule the order of the day, it stretches the mind to think that the central bank will be the singular institution that will retain any meaningful policy autonomy. If the generals take the banks back for themselves, Egypt will have no choice but to seek international funds to cover its budget shortfalls. Incidentally, we do not find it surprising that now — five days after the protests ended — the banks are still closed by order of the military government.

Yet Egypt cannot simply tap international debt markets like a normal country. While its foreign debt load is small, its total debt levels are very similar to states that have faced default and/or bailout problems in the past. An 8-percent-of-GDP budget deficit and a 72-percent-of-GDP government debt load are teetering on the edge of what is sustainable. As a point of comparison, Argentina defaulted in 2001 with a 60-percent-of-GDP debt load, and it had far more robust income streams. Even if Egypt can find some interested foreign investors, the cost of borrowing will be prohibitively high, and the amounts needed are daunting. Plainly stated, Cairo needed to come up with $16 billion annually just to break even before the crisis and the likely banking changes that will come along with it.

24123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / First rain drops of the coming storm? on: February 16, 2011, 05:14:27 PM
This reads to me as much worse than that:

If attacks from Sinai start hitting Israel, things could get really hairy really quickly.
24124  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: February 16, 2011, 11:45:23 AM
Three U.S. marshals shot in Elkins; assailant killed
By Gary A. HarkiThe Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Three U.S. marshals were shot while trying to serve a warrant in Elkins this morning. The man who shot them was then killed by law enforcement, according to sources close to the investigation.

The marshals and State Police troopers were at the home of Charles Smith at about 8:30 a.m. to serve a warrant on him for failing to appear in court on possession of drugs and firearms charges, according to sources.  After announcing that they were there to serve a warrant, officers breached the door and stepped into the house.

Smith then opened fire with a shotgun, hitting one marshal in the neck, one in his bulletproof vest and one in the arm or hand, according to sources.  A marshal and trooper then fired at Smith, killing him, according to sources. The trooper likely fired the shot that killed him, sources say.

The marshal shot through the neck was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. His condition is unknown.

A statement from the U.S. Marshal's office confirmed that three marshals were shot and that two were taken to a local hospital for treatment and one was transported by helicopter.

State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous could only confirm that there was a shooting incident in Elkins while officers attempted to serve a warrant.
24125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The ICE agents shooting on: February 16, 2011, 11:31:07 AM

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart examines the attack on two Immigration and Custom agents in Mexico on Feb. 15 and explains why the case is not likely to cause a strong response from the U.S. Government.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Here at STRATFOR we’re closely watching an incident that happened on Feb. 15 in which two special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, were shot in an incident in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

The incident occurred yesterday afternoon as the two agents were traveling in a late-model suburban north of Mexico City in the state of San Luis Potosi, very close to the city by that same name. the reports that we’ve received so far indicate that the two agents were stopped at what they thought was a military checkpoint along the road, and as they pulled their armored vehicle over to the side of the road and rolled down their window, one of the gunmen who was manning the checkpoint opened fire on them, killing the driver and wounding the second agent.

Many people and the press are going to make parallels between this case and the case of Kiki Camarena, a DEA agent who was killed back in 1985. However the circumstances surrounding these two incidents are quite different. The Camarena case was very intentional and the bosses of the Guadalajara cartel had Camarena specifically targeted and kidnapped. Once he was kidnapped then they tortured him, revived him using a medical doctor, and tortured him some more in order to try to get information pertaining to the source network he was running in Mexico. The Camarena case was very brutal, very intentional and of course raised a lot of ire on the American side of the border. The DEA launched a huge operation called Operation Leyenda, or legend, to go after the jefes of the Guadalajara cartel.

Now in this current case it appears that what we had, were two ICE agents who were traveling in a vehicle that was very attractive for the cartels. We know really that the vehicles the cartels covet the most for their operations are the large crew cab pickup trucks. Indeed we saw some missionaries attacked a couple weeks ago, as they were traveling on a highway and they tried to escape a carjacking attempt by the cartels who wanted that vehicle.

As we look at the circumstances surrounding this case it really appears that it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the agents and that it was really a case of cartel, low-level cartel gunmen responding to encountering two U.S. law-enforcement agents inside that vehicle when they stopped at the checkpoint. Therefore we don’t think that it was an intentional case planned by high-level cartel planners. Certainly there’s always more that the U.S. government can do in Mexico, but they’re restrained by the sovereignty of Mexico and really the sensibilities of the Mexican people to American incursion, they really see Americans as a threat. So the bottom line is while the U.S. will respond to this case, we really don’t think we will see the urgency and severity of the U.S. response that we did in the Camarena case.

24126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A little help please? on: February 16, 2011, 11:27:07 AM
Glenn is doing some really interesting work.  If I had the time I would love to write up a little (or not so little) summary of each day's show -- but I don't have the time.

Is there someone here willing to step forward on this?
24127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: February 16, 2011, 11:24:45 AM
Industrial production fell 0.1% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/16/2011

Due to a 0.7% decline in mining and a 1.6% drop in utilities, industrial production fell 0.1% in January. Including upward revisions to prior months, production increased 0.2%. The consensus expected a gain of 0.5%. Production is up at a 5.1% annual rate in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was up 0.3% in January (+0.8% including upward revisions to previous months). The gain in January was led by auto production, which increased 3.2%. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.1% and was revised upward for prior months. Auto production is up 5.4% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen up 5.5%.

The production of high-tech equipment was up 1.1% in January, was revised up for prior months, and is up 13.7% versus a year ago.
Overall capacity utilization slipped to 76.1% in January. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 73.7%, the highest since August 2008.
Implications:  Today’s headline decline of 0.1% for industrial production is not something to worry about. The fall was largely due to a decline in mining (which is normally volatile) and utilities (January was not as unusually cold as December). Including revisions to prior months, industrial production was up 0.2%.  Manufacturing is still a bright spot, expanding for the 7th consecutive month at a healthy 0.3% pace in January (+0.8% including upward revisions to prior months). Auto manufacturing surged and should continue to add to production growth in the coming year as autos sales rise. Industrial production is going to continue to move higher and will likely keep being led by business equipment. Corporate profits are approaching a new record high and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies – earning nearly zero percent interest – had already reached a record high. Now, finally, Bloomberg is reporting that S&P 500 companies are starting to reduce their cash hordes and increase capital spending more rapidly. It makes sense that these larger companies take the lead given that they have access to the capital markets (through bond sales) and are better able to get a bank loan when they need one. Commercial and industrial lending is now up three straight months, a far cry from the 20% year-over-year declines of early 2010.
24128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: February 16, 2011, 11:01:26 AM
The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism Strike Again
by Newt Gingrich

In a speech he wrote for Vice President Spiro Agnew, the late William Safire coined a memorable term to describe the Washington press corps. He called them "the nattering nabobs of negativism." This timeless description was on my mind this weekend while reading the mainstream media's coverage of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

During my speech to CPAC, I tried to lay out a substantive and compelling alternative to Obama and the Democrat's left wing governance, focusing on American energy and environmental policies. I proposed an aggressive, all-American energy strategy that would dramatically boost all sources of energy production in our country.

I also proposed replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with a new Environmental Solutions Agency which would focus on technological solutions to our environmental challenges and adopt a collaborative approach with business and local government, instead of the command and control regulatory model of the EPA.

(You can watch my speech at and let me know what you think.)

The record crowd of over 11,000 attendees reacted strongly to this vision for lower energy prices, more jobs, better environmental outcomes and a safer America. It was clear watching the crowd's reaction to my speech and the speeches of others that the conservative movement is energized by the possibility of winning an epic election in 2012. It's also clear they expect real conservative reform from a new conservative president and Congress.

Maybe that optimism and energy made some people nervous.

Before the event was even over, the mainstream media was hard at work trying to pour cold water on the fire that has been lit across this nation.

This article from the Associated Press sums up the doubt and skepticism that so many in our elite media seem intent on sewing amongst the American people.

The not-too-subtle message from these guardians against high expectations is crystal clear: Don't get your hopes up. Real change isn't possible in America. You might as well stay home.  In fact, this piece of conventional wisdom is both historically wrong and insidious.

History shows that real change is possible, but only if the American people are informed and engaged.



Power Resides with the American People, Not in Washington

There are two great examples of successful conservative reform from the past thirty years.

The first was the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. The second was the new Republican majority after the Contract with America campaign of 1994. Both were able to deliver because they understood that real power resides with the American people, not in Washington.

If You Respect the American People, You Can Rely on the American People

Ronald Reagan had a rule of thumb when negotiating with the Democratic Congress.

This rule was described to me by an associate of Reagan's as, "I show the American people the light. They turn up the heat on Congress."

Ronald Reagan was known as the Great Communicator, but he can better be understood as a great educator. He thought that if he could use his platform as a national figure to inform the American people, they would provide the pressure to implement conservative reform.

That's how Ronald Reagan was able to cut taxes, reduce spending, and reform burdensome regulations to revive the American economy despite having to deal with a Democratic Congress that was opposed to his agenda. Reagan understood that the American people would pressure the Congress into doing the right thing. All Reagan had to do was champion policies that reflect American values and treat the American people with respect by being honest and clear about the facts.

Reagan's great foreign policy achievement was defeating the Soviet Union. Here too he relied on the American people for backup. He understood that his vision for victory – as opposed to détente – would be opposed by much of the establishment, within the news media and diplomatic corps, but supported by the American people.

Similarly, when I was Speaker, the Republican Congress was able to achieve its principal goals despite having to work with a liberal Democratic President. We balanced the budget while cutting taxes and increasing military and defense spending. It is a historic fact that Clinton never proposed a balanced budget. It was the Republican House that made it happen. (In this blog post at American Solutions, Peter Ferrara argues that President Obama is stealing a page from Clinton's playbook.)

All this was possible because we understood that President Clinton would eventually yield to the demands of the American people. That's why after twice vetoing another one of our principal goals, welfare reform, Clinton eventually signed it in 1996, before he ran for reelection. He knew he wouldn't be able to stand the heat from the American people if he didn't.

Campaigns on the Issues, Not Personalities
Ronald Reagan and the Republican Congress under my Speakership also delivered on our goals because the preceding election campaigns focused on the issues, not on personalities.

In 1980, Reagan offered a bold, competing vision for America's future that outshone the malaise and weakness of Jimmy Carter. He promised to cut taxes to boost economic growth, to renew America's strength in the world by standing up to the Soviet Union, and to restore America's civic confidence in its founding and unique purpose (American exceptionalism).

With a weak economy and the hostage crisis in Iran in 1980, Reagan could have simply run as "not Carter" and emerged victorious. But then he would not have had a mandate to govern, and would never have been able to achieve his principal goals.

Similarly, in 1994, we explicitly crafted the Contract with America campaign around conservative reforms that we understood had overwhelming support in America (if not in the editorial pages of the NY Times) but had nonetheless been blocked by the Democratic House.

Consequently, despite having a liberal Democrat in the White House, we still managed to achieve a balanced budget, welfare reform, tax cuts, increased military and defense spending, and more.

Perhaps Republicans could have won control of the House in 1994 by simply running against Clinton. However, the Republican landslide would not have been as large, and we certainly would not have had the mandate necessary to enact real change.

Contrast these elections and subsequent real reforms to the 2004 and 2008 elections.

I wrote a white paper in 2004 pointing out that on over 70 key issues, John Kerry was on the wrong side of public opinion by larger than a 70-30 margin. An election campaign run on these issues would put John Kerry at an impossible disadvantage and could have led to a landslide result with a true mandate for President Bush to govern.

However, the choice in the minds of most American voters in the fall of 2004 wasn't over two competing visions for America; it was between forged National Guard papers and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercials. Accordingly, more people turned out to vote against John Kerry than to vote against George W. Bush. With no mandate to govern, is it any wonder that Bush's subsequent attempt to reform social security was dead on arrival?

In 2008, President Obama won an enormous victory. He carried states that had not voted Democrat in a long time. Democratic majorities in the House and Senate were increased. It seemed that he would have free reign to accomplish any number of liberal priorities.

However, because he had run a personality-focused, shallow campaign about "change" without clearly defining what that change meant for the American people, President Obama's political capital quickly ran dry. The only way he was able to pass the stimulus and health care bills was through brute force and political backroom dealing. His signature achievements were passed despite the will of the American people, not because of their support. That's why he was massively rebuked during the 2010 elections and much of his agenda is now being unwound.

A Contract with America in 2012
The lessons from past successes in achieving real change – and past failures – are clear.

Because power ultimately resides in the people, achieving real reform requires the expressed consent and engagement of the American people.

That means if America really is ever going to see that conservative future of freedom, faith and prosperity we heard at CPAC, we will need a campaign in 2012 that is waged on the great issues of the day.

We will need candidates that have a clear and substantive plan to govern and who can explain conservative solutions to the American people in a way that gets them excited and engaged.

We will need a new Contract with America in 2012.

A new Contract with America with specific, substantive, conservative solutions to the great challenges facing our nation is the only way to gain the mandate from the American people needed to bust through all the embedded interests in Washington and the state capitals that will oppose change.

If a new conservative President and Congress develop and win based off of a new Contract with America in 2012, there is nothing that can stand in the way of true conservative reforms that will create jobs, make America safer, and maximize individual freedom and dignity for all Americans.

Not even the nattering nabobs of negativism in the press corps.

Your Friend,
24129  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Lets do lunch on: February 16, 2011, 10:55:04 AM
Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton describes how U.S. operatives are kept safe during meetings with informants, and what happens when things go wrong.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In this week’s “Above the Tearline,” we’re going to discuss how agents or informants are met in hostile countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Russia in response to many questions that have been posed by STRATFOR members.

Informants are met in hostile countries by an officer in a face-to-face meeting most of the time. And if you think about that, it sounds relatively simple, but it’s not. There are a lot of things that take place behind the scenes. Depending upon the city that you’re operating in, your meeting locations can be something as simple as a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or it could be an actual U.S. government safe-house, or a hotel. Large Western hotels are perfect stops for these kinds of meets.

In most cases a two-man security team is deployed (it can be larger), and their job is to do a recon of the location to make sure that the intelligence officer is not being set up by a double agent, or that the informant that’s coming to the meeting is not dragging surveillance to the location, and to make sure that that meeting location is not compromised by host government intelligence or terrorists who may be planning an attack. The security team is a laser focus looking for — for the most part — demeanor. For example they’re looking for individuals that appear out of place, or individuals that are talking on a cell phone when the informant shows up or the actual intelligence officer arrives at the meeting site. They’re looking for operational acts such as video or photography that’s taking place. It’s really a very unique skill set and the individuals that are performing this duty are highly trained and probably some of the most skilled operators we have in our tool kit. The actual intelligence officer that’s going to the meet is going to run what is called a surveillance detection route, or an SDR, to ensure that he is not being followed.

The difficulty with this kind of meeting in a hostile country is that when things go wrong, they really go wrong. Things tend to spiral out of control — you either have some sort of violent action take place, or the people involved with the meeting are arrested by the local authorities. Unlike in the movies, or in shows like “Mission: Impossible,” when these individuals are arrested they typically have diplomatic immunity and the individuals are very quietly whisked out of the country, while the intelligence heads of the U.S. and the local government come to meetings and all agree that this kind of action won’t take place again.

24130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: How Mubarak shut down Egypt's internet on: February 16, 2011, 07:16:12 AM
24131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Disputed islands on: February 16, 2011, 07:06:28 AM
By Yuri Tomikawa
Japan thought it had enough problems with its separate territorial issues with China and Russia. Now, the two countries it was dealing with are blurring lines—and other neighbors may be joining the ruckus too.

According to Japanese media, Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery announced Tuesday that Chinese and Russian fishery companies had reached a basic agreement to farm sea cucumbers in the islands north of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido—islands still claimed by Japan but controlled by Moscow since Soviet troops occupied them in the last days of World War II.

Coming just days after the unfruitful weekend meeting between Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, the announcement wasn’t welcome at all in Japan. Prime Minister Naoto Kan decried the development as “incompatible with our country’s position.” Mr. Maehara said, “If the news is true, we cannot accept it at all,” reiterating Japan’s unchanging position: The islands are Japanese territory.

The tension over the islands had already reached new heights, with Mr. Kan last week condemning as “an unforgivable outrage” the November visit to one of the islands by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a remark Mr. Lavrov declared “undiplomatic.”

And what of China? It did shift to a pro-Russian stand from a neutral position on the islands after last September’s collision between a Japanese and a Chinese boat near another set of disputed islands, claimed by both China (which calls them Diaoyu) and Japan (which calls them Senkaku). But Beijing claims it is not involved in the fisheries agreement and has no knowledge of the venture—a break for Japan, now that metaphorical waters churned up by the September collision are finally calming. It certainly doesn’t want any fresh causes for tension with its neighbor, the No. 2 global economy.

But Beijing’s assurances are not enough to allow Japan to relax. Russia is outlining plans to expand and upgrade military bases and equipment on those northern islands—and inviting not just China, but all regional countries to join in the islands’ development.

“We will be glad to see there both Chinese and Korean investors,” Mr. Lavrov said Friday, according to the Russian information service Interfax. And Alexander Savelyev, a spokesman for Russia’s Federal Fisheries Agency, told Japanese news agency Nikkei that “Korean companies are especially showing interest” already.

24132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Pressure building, additional details on detained US govt employee on: February 16, 2011, 06:58:47 AM
LAHORE, Pakistan—U.S. President Barack Obama called for Pakistan to release a government employee who killed two men last month, as Sen. John Kerry arrived here for talks aimed at ending the diplomatic standoff.

The man, Raymond Davis, has been in custody in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, since the incident on Jan. 27. The U.S. says he is covered by diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Mr. Obama weighed in on the row Tuesday, saying Pakistan must release Mr. Davis under its commitments as a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a pact from the 1960s that guarantees diplomats immunity from prosecution. "If it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places…it means they can't do their job," Mr. Obama told a news conference.

The comments escalated a diplomatic dispute over Mr. Davis's detention. Public anger over the shooting and demands for Mr. Davis's prosecution make it difficult for Pakistan's central government—an ally of the U.S.—to order his release.

A court in Lahore is expected to begin hearing a case Thursday on whether Mr. Davis has immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Kerry, at a news conference in Lahore, promised the U.S. Justice Department would conduct its own "thorough criminal investigation" if Pakistan were to release Mr. Davis.

"It is a strong belief of our government that this case does not belong in the court," Mr. Kerry said Tuesday. "And it does not belong in the court because this man has diplomatic immunity."

Mr. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made four trips to Pakistan in the past two years and was instrumental in co-writing in 2009 a five-year, $7.5 billion civilian aid package, part of a strategy to help counter Islamic radicalism in the country. Despite closer ties, many here remain wary of the U.S., which is viewed as building strategic alliances with Pakistan's traditional rivals, notably India.

Washington, too, has been disappointed with Pakistan for failing to clamp down on Taliban havens on its soil.

The incident involving Mr. Davis has added a further level of mistrust to the relationship.

The U.S. last week canceled a meeting scheduled for late February in Washington, involving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in protest against Mr. Davis's detention. Washington has also scaled back other routine bilateral contacts.

According to the U.S. version of events, Mr. Davis, 36 years old, opened fire on two armed men in self-defense after they attempted to stop his white Honda Civic car at a busy intersection in broad daylight. U.S. officials say the two men, who were on a motorbike, had earlier in the day robbed other people in the area.

The U.S. has said Mr. Davis is a "technical and administrative" staff of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, but hasn't said what his role was or whether he was authorized to carry a weapon. The U.S. confirmed Mr. Davis's identity Friday, two weeks after Pakistani authorities released his name.

Lahore police officers say they recovered a number of effects from Mr. Davis's car after the incident, including two Glock pistols and more than 70 rounds of ammunition. Officials say they also found a metal detector, a latex face mask with a beard and headpiece, and a make-up kit.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on Mr. Davis's effects.

Pakistani officials appear to be angered by what they say was Mr. Davis's covert role in Pakistan. A senior official with Inter-Services Intelligence, the military's spy agency, said the organization was unaware of Mr. Davis. "Apparently he was working behind our backs," the official said.

The U.S. Embassy denied this and said it notified Pakistan's Foreign Ministry of Mr. Davis's arrival in the country in January 2010, which, the U.S. says, means he is covered by diplomatic immunity.

Senior Pakistani officials have made contradictory statements in recent weeks over whether, in their view, Mr. Davis is covered by immunity from prosecution.

Pakistani police investigating the incident have yet to formally charge Mr. Davis, but say they are treating the case as murder. If the high court finds Mr. Davis isn't covered by immunity, state prosecutors must bring his case to court by Feb. 25.

In Lahore's British-era town center, placards put up by an Islamist group show a photo of Mr. Davis's head with a hangman's noose superimposed around it.

Two Lahore police officers involved in the case say the two men who confronted Mr. Davis were likely armed due to a dispute with another family. One of the men's elder brothers had been killed in December in a row over a girl. They denied the men, who resided in Lahore, had earlier robbed others in the area.

Witnesses say the men were circling around Mr. Davis's car, which he was driving himself, according to the police officers.

What happened next is unclear. Mr. Davis fired nine bullets from inside the car, seven of which hit the men in various parts of their bodies. He got out of the car to photograph the dead men on his cellphone and then fled an angry crowd that was forming, the officers said. Police arrested him in his car a few miles from the scene.

Another vehicle from the consulate, which came to rescue Mr. Davis, ran over and killed a bystander. The driver of that car wasn't taken into custody and hasn't been identified.

Authorities had previously detained Mr. Davis for a few hours two years ago, the two police officers said.

In that incident, police stopped the car in which Mr. Davis was traveling in Lahore during a routine check in a posh part of town and found a number of weapons in the car, the officers said. But they let Mr. Davis go after orders from the central government, they added.

The U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said reports about this detention were "unsubstantiated."

—Shahnawaz Khan contributed to this article.
24133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Administration was warned for a year of coming problems on: February 16, 2011, 06:49:04 AM
WASHINGTON—Early last year, a group of U.S.-based human-rights activists, neoconservative policy makers and Mideast experts told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that what passed for calm in Egypt was an illusion.

"If the opportunity to reform is missed, prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt," read their April 2010 letter.

The correspondence was part of a string of warnings passed to the Obama administration arguing that Egypt, heading toward crisis, required a vigorous U.S. response. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's 82-year-old dictator, was moving to rig a string of elections, they said. Egypt's young population was growing more agitated.
The bipartisan body that wrote to Mrs. Clinton, the Egypt Working Group, argued that the administration wasn't fully appraising the warning signs in Egypt. Its members came together in early 2010, concerned that the Arab world's biggest country was headed for transition but that the U.S. and others weren't preparing for a post-Mubarak era.

The Cairo uprising has so far had a more orderly outcome, and one better for U.S. interests, than might have been the case. But the U.S.'s hesitant initial embrace of the revolt could reverberate as a democratic wave surges across the Arab world. The U.S. at first alienated protesters—and then alienated the Mubarak regime, a longtime ally, sparking concern from other regional friends.

U.S. officials say the Obama administration focused from the beginning on promoting democracy in Arab states and was aware of the deep problems in Cairo. The administration generally chose not to deliver its message through tough public rhetoric, contending such language alienates foreign governments.
The administration of George W. Bush, by comparison, at times publicly pressed Mr. Mubarak for political reforms, identifying democracy promotion in the Middle East as a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

Officials said President Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton regularly raised democracy issues with their counterparts in private. Mr. Obama focused during three meetings over 18 months with Mr. Mubarak on ending Egypt's 30-year state of emergency, press freedoms and elections. Mrs. Clinton pushed Egypt and other Arab countries to allow the free flow of information, urging them to lift blocks on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Moreover, Mr. Mubarak had survived challenges before, and few took seriously the idea he could be toppled. "This type of movement simply never happened before in the Middle East," said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator.

"In a complicated situation, we got it about right," Mr. Obama told reporters Tuesday. The U.S. now faces "an opportunity as well as a challenge" in the broader regional movement.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama campaigned against aggressively intervening in the affairs of other states, largely in response to the Iraq war. His State Department cut funding for civil-society support in Egypt to $9.5 million in 2009 from nearly $30 million a year earlier, although this funding line would later rise.

Washington's ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, agreed to an Egyptian demand that all grants to civil-society groups from the U.S. Agency for International Development be distributed only to those registered with the Mubarak government.

When Mr. Obama chose Egypt as the venue for his much-anticipated June 2009 speech to the Muslim world, he refrained from specifically pressing Mr. Mubarak on democracy.

The Obama administration reaped strategic gains from this outreach. Cairo embraced Mr. Obama's initiative to accelerate Arab-Israeli peace talks, hosting meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and attempting to broker a unity government between feuding Palestinian factions.

By early 2010, Mr. Mubarak's government began taking steps widely viewed as aimed at extending his rule or that of his anointed successor. In May, he extended martial law in his country by two years.

The Egypt Working Group sent a letter to the State Department even more alarmist than the one it dispatched in April. "The renewal...heightens our concern that the administration's practice of quiet diplomacy is not bearing fruit," it read.

Following June elections for the lower house of parliament, Egyptian and American nongovernmental organizations reported to State Department contacts a crackdown on anyone seeking to bring transparency to the next set of elections, for Egypt's upper house of parliament, in November. The National Democratic Institute, a U.S. organization that was training Egyptians to be election monitors, saw its Egyptian staff regularly interrogated by Cairo's intelligence services.

"The families of our workers grew terrified about retaliation by the regime," said Les Campbell, who heads NDI's Mideast programs. Mr. Campbell said he held regular meetings with U.S. officials to discuss the problems as the crisis in Egypt worsened.

To try to stop the intimidation tactics, the NDI's chairman—former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright—and Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the International Republican Institute, jointly wrote to Mr. Mubarak in late July asking him to allow international monitors to observe the November vote. They say the Egyptian leader didn't respond.

Sen. McCain sought to pass, with then-Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a Senate resolution formally censuring Egypt's human-rights record. Egypt persuaded the two senators to anonymously place a hold on the resolution, according to congressional officials. Sen. McCain blamed the Obama administration for not publicly backing the bill.

"I was disappointed that we didn't get administration support," Sen. McCain said in an interview. "To think this would have changed things fundamentally at the time in Egypt? I don't know. But we at least should have tried."

Senior U.S. officials said they weren't opposed to Mr. McCain's resolution. They said both the White House and State Department repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness and openness of November elections with their Egyptian counterparts.

For analysts tracking Egypt, the risks inherent in the elections were clear. "If the ruling party plops someone in as president…then you really have the possibility of the lid popping off in Egypt," Robert Kagan, a Working Group member and conservative foreign-policy analyst, said in a November interview. "We're playing this Cold War game of clinging to the dictator for fear of something more radical."

Weeks later, Mrs. Clinton met Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington and didn't mention the need for transparent elections during their public remarks. Instead, she praised Cairo as the "cornerstone" of Middle East stability.

In the late 2010 upper-house election, Mr. Mubarak's party won 93% of the seats. It was widely viewed as the most corrupt in the country's history.

That prompted the Obama administration to take a harder line on Mr. Mubarak and other regional strongmen. Mrs. Clinton, on a swing through Gulf states in early January, echoed the sharp rhetoric of the Bush years by telling a gathering of Arab leaders in Qatar that their countries risked "sinking into the sand" if they didn't change.

But even in the final stages of Egypt's unrest, the U.S. went back and forth. On Jan. 30—days after protests broke out on Egyptian streets—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D., Mass.) called Vice President Joe Biden to say he had written an opinion piece for the New York Times calling on Mr. Mubarak to resign.

Mr. Biden offered encouragement, Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "My instincts and feeling was the thing was broken with Mubarak," he said.

Just a few days later, the administration's chosen envoy, former ambassador Frank Wisner, delivered a much more tepid message to the Egyptian president, according to people familiar with the matter.

In the end, Mr. Obama took increasingly strident tones that all but called for Mr. Mubarak's removal. As protests continue to roil the region, administration officials say they will stick to basic principles: supporting the core rights of people to assemble and protest peacefully.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan on Friday suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" after being separated from her crew in the midst of a crowd in Egypt, the CBS Corp. news unit said Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, Ms. Logan, a veteran war reporter, was covering the celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Ms. Logan was separated from her colleagues by a large "mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy," CBS said.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault" last week while reporting in Cairo's Tahrir Square, CBS said Tuesday. Video courtesy of Fox News and photo courtesy of Associated Press/CBS News.

The separation and assault lasted for roughly 20 to 30 minutes, said a person familiar with the matter, who added that it was "not a rape." A CBS News spokesman declined to comment beyond the statement.

CBS said Ms. Logan was rescued by a group of women and roughly 20 Egyptian soldiers, and reunited with her team. She flew back to the U.S. on the first flight Saturday morning, and is now in the hospital recovering, CBS said.

The assault follows a rash of violence against journalists during the uprising in Egypt. In multiple instances, reporters were detained by security forces, or beaten by angry mobs, often described as supporting now-ousted Mr. Mubarak.

In a Feb. 7 interview on public-affairs talk show "Charlie Rose," while Mr. Mubarak was still in power, Ms. Logan said her team had been "heavily, heavily intimidated" while reporting in Egypt. She said they were detained for 16 hours, and their Egyptian driver was badly beaten.

"It was really the first sign of the strategy of the Mubarak regime. They want the spotlight turned off," she said. "It was an instant crackdown."

It is unclear whether Friday's assault against Ms. Logan had political aims. In its statement, CBS News statement said only that Ms. Logan and her team were "surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration."
24134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 16, 2011, 06:45:17 AM
The Iranian government threatened opposition leaders with execution and made a fresh wave of arrests, a day after the largest protests in a year prompted clashes in which at least two people were killed and dozens injured.

Tehran and other Iranian cities quieted down on Tuesday as the opposition regrouped and assessed the impact of the rallies that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets across the country.

A hard-line group of conservative members of the Iranian parliament, on the podium, called for the execution of opposition leaders on Tuesday, a day after protests across the country.
The protesters, buoyed by activism across the Middle East, were confronted forcefully by police and antiriot forces, which used guns, tear gas and electric prods to disperse them. The demonstrators had called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.

Two college students in their 20s, Sanah Jaleh and Mohamad Mokharti, were killed by gunshots, said the government and opposition. Dozens of people were injured and 1,500 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations, the government and protestors said.

Iranian government warns against U.S. meddling as it tries to quell opposition protests in support of Egypt. Video courtesy of Reuters and photo courtesy of AP.

Mr. Mokharti's last Facebook message on Monday morning, hours before he joined the protests, was "Happy Valentine's Day," next to the green ribbon that symbolizes the opposition.

Antigovernment activists said they planned to attend a funeral procession on Wednesday morning for Mr. Jaleh, who was a student activist as part of the pro-democracy Islamic Student Union and part of the minority Sunni Kurd community, his friends said on the student website Daneshjoo.

The funeral, which will take place in front of Tehran University, could become the next flashpoint between pro-government forces and the opposition. "We will not allow them to kill us and then shamelessly take advantage of our martyrs," said a student activist from Tehran.

Mr. Jaleh's friends said he was shot dead Monday by a member of Basij, a volunteer plainclothes militia. In his honor, students waved green banners at the campus of Tehran University, videos show.

Paradoxically, the government cast Mr. Jaleh as a Basij militiaman. The opposition tried to discredit that claim by circulating on websites and blogs a picture of Mr. Jaleh with the late reformist Islamic cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a spiritual guide for opposition Green Movement.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama spoke on Tuesday in support of the protesters in Iran and condemned the violence.

"I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully," Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference.

But Mr. Obama, whose administration has pushed for economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, said the U.S. "cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran."

It was too early to say whether the protests will gain momentum, analysts said. But Iran's leaders—who claimed they had quashed the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in 2009 and early 2010 to protest what they said was a flawed election that unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office—seemed shaken by the rallies on Monday.

Mr. Ahmadinejad on Tuesday blamed the protests a day earlier on "enemies" of the government.

Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament, on Tuesday accused the U.S. for fomenting the protests and said the legislative body must quickly form a panel "to investigate the antirevolutionary movement" brewing in Iran. The session turned rowdy when a group of hard-line conservatives began pumping their fists in the air and shouting that prominent opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi "must be executed."

The two men have been under house arrest since Friday and were unable to attend the demonstrations, but had called for supporters to take to the streets Monday in solidarity with the movements in Egypt and Tunisia that had deposed their own leaders.

Mousavi adviser Ardeshir Amir Arjemand said the opposition wasn't surprised at the government's reaction to Monday's protests. "Their violence and brutal crackdowns against the public are not up for dispute, these officials have to be held accountable," he said, according to the website Kalame.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

24135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: February 16, 2011, 06:41:57 AM
WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday took up legislation to make unprecedented cuts in federal spending this year, opening a freewheeling debate that will showcase the two parties' views on the size of government in an era of budget deficits.

In early action on the bill, which would cut domestic programs by $61 billion this year, Republicans showed little appetite for making cuts in the Pentagon. The House rejected four amendments to cut defense programs, including one small cut to get rid of some Pentagon advisory commissions.

"If we cannot do this on defense...where can we do it?" asked Rep. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who sponsored the amendment to cut $19 million for commissions.

That was just the beginning of a spending debate that is expected to extend through the week. Lawmakers filed hundreds of amendments seeking even deeper cuts after GOP leaders made an unusual decision to lift restrictions on proposing changes to the legislation.
Most of the amendments would cut domestic programs, but another big defense-spending fight loomed Wednesday, when the House was expected to vote on an amendment to strip from the bill $450 million in funding for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Republican bill would cut spending in domestic non-entitlement programs such as high-speed high-speed rail construction, water projects and job training far more deeply and quickly than President Barack Obama and most Democrats favor. The White House issued a veto threat immediately after the bill came to the House floor.

The debate marks the most serious legislative effort yet by the new Republican majority to make good on its campaign promise to slash government spending. It also tests the commitment of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to allow a more open legislative process than have other House leaders, who in recent years routinely imposed strict limits on amendments to major bills.
Among the amendments were proposals to block the new health care law, clean air regulations, prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay, regulation of the Internet, and on topics that appeared far afield, such as one on the corralling of wild horses and burros.

Mr. Boehner acknowledged that an unpredictable legislative bazaar lay ahead. "We are in some uncharted waters," he said. "I'm ready to expect—whatever."

Mr. Boehner received a quick lesson in the challenges of holding a wide-open floor debate. Faced with the long list of amendments awaiting debate, Democrats systematically delayed a vote on even the first one. For hours, Democrats exercised their right to speak for five minutes each.

The amendment on the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, which was introduced in debate Tuesday night, would hit Mr. Boehner close to home and illustrated the unpredictable nature of leading the conservative freshmen. The alternate engine would be built in part near Mr. Boehner's district at a General Electric Co. plant in the suburbs of Cincinnati.

The Pentagon has opposed the second engine, as have budget watchdogs who call it wasteful. But a similar effort to kill the project was defeated last year by a 231-193 vote.

A government-wide spending bill is needed because federal operations are currently being funded through a short-term measure that expires March. 4. The Democratic-controlled Senate must also act and is expected to push for a compromise that does not cut so deeply.

The bill does not tackle Social Security or Medicare, the fast-growing entitlement programs. Still, the bill's proposal to set 2011 spending at a level $61 billion below 2010 levels marks the biggest cut in discretionary spending Congress has ever made in one piece of legislation, according to House Appropriations Committee staff.

Democrats have said that, faced with a deficit that the White House estimates will grow to $1.6 trillion this year, Congress needs to curb spending. But they say cuts as quick and deep as the Republicans propose would hurt the economy.

"We all understand we have to get spending under control," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington. "When you cut this much spending, you are going to hurt the fragile recovery."

Democrats cited a new report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute that concluded that the spending cuts would result in the loss of 800,000 public and private jobs. They derided a statement by Mr. Boehner seeming to shrug off the prospect of job losses.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Mr. Boehner told reporters. "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it. We're broke."

Mr. Flake's amendment to cut $19 million for Pentagon commissions met with bipartisan opposition from senior members of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense programs. But Mr. Flake, one of the most conservative members of the House, found allies in a parade of liberals.

Other defense-spending cut amendments, which were defeated Tuesday by wider margins, would have cut money for the V-22 Osprey helicopter; for grants to encourage innovation and research by small businesses, and for the Pentagon to develop alternative energy sources.

Democrats have said that, faced with a deficit that the White House estimates will grow to $1.6 trillion this year, Congress needs to curb spending. But they say cuts as quick and deep as the Republicans propose would hurt the economy.

"We all understand we have to get spending under control," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington. "When you cut this much spending, you are going to hurt the fragile recovery."

Democrats cited a new report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute that concluded that the spending cuts would result in the loss of 800,000 public and private jobs. They derided a statement by Mr. Boehner seeming to shrug off the prospect of job losses.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Mr. Boehner told reporters. "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it. We're broke."

Republicans argued that Democrats were exaggerating the impact, noting that the $61 billion is a small part of a $3 trillion federal budget. "Democrats don't like it, but don't call it slashing and burning," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R., Ga.).

——Nathan Hodge, Corey Boles and Naftali Bendavid contributed to this article.
24136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two ICE agents shot on: February 16, 2011, 06:37:26 AM
MEXICO CITY—An agent for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was shot and killed and another agent wounded by unknown gunmen in central Mexico on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials.

The men were driving from Mexico City to Monterrey in the central state of San Luis Potosi when they were attacked.
(Marc: This is the major north-south road of Mexico)  U.S. officials condemned the attack and said they would work with Mexican counterparts to bring the assailants to justice.

"Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel…is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

The wounded agent was shot in the arm and leg and was in stable condition, Ms. Napolitano said. U.S. officials would not speculate about the motive for the attack.

The incident is sure to raise fresh concerns about Mexico's deteriorating security in Washington and elsewhere. Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed at least 34,000 lives in the past four years as rival drug gangs have fought for control of lucrative drug-smuggling routes.

Video Archive: Turmoil in Mexico

Deadly Party in Mexico
Drive-by Killings at Mexico Car Wash
Shootout at Mexico Rehab Center
Police Chief Killed in Mexico
."In terms of the U.S. law enforcement community, this will greatly raise the significance of Mexico," said George Grayson, an expert on Mexico and drug trafficking at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

In a statement, Mexico's foreign ministry said that Mexico's federal police were working with San Luis Potosi state authorities to bring the crime's perpetrators to justice. Mexico "energetically condemns this grave act of violence and expresses its solidarity with the government of the United States and with the families of the attacked persons," the statement said.

Attacks on U.S. officials are rare.

In 1985, the torture-murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique Camarena, strained bilateral ties and ultimately led to the arrest of several high-ranking Mexican drug lords.

More recently, in December, a U.S. border patrol agent was fatally shot just north of the border in Arizona while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants cross the border.

And three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, including a pregnant consular employee, were killed in March, prompting the State Department to tighten security at its diplomatic missions in northern Mexico.

View Full Image

Pulso Newspaper, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Mexican federal police vehicles at the scene where two ICE agents traveling in a car were shot Tuesday.
.The U.S. provides equipment and some training to Mexican security forces under the $1.4 billion Merida Plan, and U.S. intelligence is credited with helping Mexico catch a score of leading drug kingpins in the past two years.

ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, routinely investigates narcotics smuggling as well as money laundering, organized crime and human smuggling.

Violence between organized crime gangs in Mexico is spreading far beyond northern states where most of the killings take place, affecting Mexico's northern business capital of Monterrey, Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, and even into tourist resorts like Acapulco.

San Luis Potosi has also gotten caught up in the violence, with a spate of recent drug-related killings. A shootout in a major supermarket as well as a leading university in the state capital caused panic among residents last week.

Drug gangs have also branched out into activities like human smuggling. Last year, a gang massacred 72 Central and South American migrants who were on their way to the U.S.
24137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya on: February 16, 2011, 06:33:04 AM
WSJ: Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain—Protests in Bahrain entered their third day on Wednesday, as tens of thousands continued to occupy a major intersection in the capital and thousands more marched to mourn a second man killed in Tuesday's clashes with security forces.

A committee set up by seven opposition groups to coordinate the protests called for a massive demonstration on Saturday, forecasting a gathering of at least 50,000 people.

Crowds massed at the hospital morgue, as the body of the man killed on Tuesday was ferried out on top of a land-cruiser in a coffin covered with green satin. Thousands of men followed the coffin, many holding pictures of the deceased, beating their chests and chanting "God is great" and "Death to the Al Khalifa," a reference to the country's ruling family. Security forces remained withdrawn from protest areas, stationed in large battalions around a kilometer away.

At the Pearl roundabout, a central traffic circle in the financial district of the capital which has been claimed by the protesters, more tents and makeshift food stalls sprung up Wednesday, with those who spent the night there in a festive mood. Young men, many carrying Bahraini flags, chanted and danced, while a loudspeaker broadcasted a steady stream of speeches from activists.

The mourners are expected to march to the central roundabout later in the day, further swelling the numbers there.

"It was cold last night, but we'll be here until the government meets our demands or the police come to send us to hell. More people are coming now...All of Bahrain is here," said Jelal Niama, an unemployed university graduate.

WSJ's Charles Levinson and Jerry Seib report on how public protests in Egypt have sparked protests throughout the Middle East, namely Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Iran.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in a rare television address, offered condolences for the two deaths on Tuesday. He promised a probe into the killings and into the security-services' response to the protests, and pledged to make good on previous promises of reforms, including loosening media controls and providing special social-welfare payments.

Seven political opposition groups, including the leading Shiite bloc Al Wafaq, announced Wednesday that they have formed a committee to help coordinate protest activity and unify the demands of the protesters. The committee, which includes Sunni as well as Shiite politicians, will meet at least once a day starting Wednesday.

"We need to unify the demands of the people on the square without telling the protesters what to do...In its objectives this is a national unity movement, we have to convince citizens on the sidelines to join us," said Ebrahim Sharif, a Sunni Muslim and former banker who heads the secularist National Democratic Action society.

On Tuesday, Al Wafaq suspended its participation in Bahrain's parliament, where it holds 18 of the 40 seats, in solidarity with the protesters.

The protests and clashes that erupted on Sunday have turned Bahrain into the latest flashpoint in a wave of Arab rebellion that has already unseated regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and has triggered large protests in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen. It has also raised wider worry about the rapid spread of the unrest, and sharpened the dilemma for the Obama administration as it struggles to shape events in ways that don't harm U.S. interests in the region.

Bahrain is a tiny, island kingdom in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, best known for its banking prowess and bars that cater to nationals from alcohol-free Saudi Arabia next door. While it pumps little crude itself, its neighbors are some of the world's biggest petroleum producers.

Its position straddling the Gulf has made it a longtime, strategic ally of Washington. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, though no American warships are actually home-ported here.

Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers have long faced a restive Shiite population that alleges economic and political discrimination. Shiite leaders have pushed, sometimes violently, for more political rights over the years, though they have stopped short of trying to remove the ruling family from power.

Not all the protesters are unemployed or poor. Some of Bahrain's young professionals have joined the gatherings, vowing to keep numbers high. "I will go to work for a few hours then come back to the roundabout," said Jelal Mohammed, a 25-year-old who works as a banker at the local office of France's BNP Paribas. "We can get our rights."

But some Bahrainis are unnerved by the protests, fearing that instability could lead to economic difficulties and to further violence. "These people want the same as in Egypt. They want to destroy this country," said an elderly lady who declined to be named.

Although the latest protests often have an overtly Shia choreography, with chanting, chest slapping and references to martyrdom, some activists are eager to stress that the movement is not linked to Iran, the most populous Shia nation. "There is no single pro-Iran statement or slogan. This is people from both sects. We want genuine democracy, not clerical," said Abdulnabi Alekry, chairman of Bahrain Transparency Society.
24138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A small moment of civic duty on: February 16, 2011, 06:19:51 AM
Yesterday a special election was held to fill the position of State Senator for our district.  Alerted by an email from the Tea Party Republican candidate for Assembly who just ran a very good but ultimately losing campaign about the vote (which would otherwise have not even crossed my radar screen) Cindy and I formed an opinion about for whom to vote and went to vote.  The poll workers told us that about of about 2,500 potential voters, about 76 had voted.
24139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Silencing the opposition on: February 16, 2011, 06:14:34 AM
Second post of the morning

On Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, the impresario of the ACORN scandal and a growing investigative force in the conservative media, held a press conference at the Conservative Political Action Conference. At that press conference, he laid out evidence of a concerted effort by government officials, race-baiting lawyers and certain black non-farmers to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars by exploiting a legal settlement called Pigford. On Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, Shirley Sherrod, the single largest recipient of cash from the Pigford settlement, filed a lawsuit against Breitbart for defamation.

Sherrod, you may remember, was a ranking Department of Agriculture official in Georgia. Breitbart released a video of Sherrod speaking to the NAACP, where she told a story about discriminating against a white farmer before realizing that such discrimination was wrong. The purpose of releasing the video, as Breitbart clearly stated, was to demonstrate that the same NAACP that labeled the tea party racist tolerated racism within its own ranks. The video accomplished that purpose -- members of the NAACP cheer and laugh as Sherrod describes her past racism in the video.

After the video broke, due to pressure from the Obama administration, Sherrod resigned; the NAACP also condemned her. Shortly thereafter, the NAACP released the full tape, which showed that Sherrod had in fact helped the white farmer at issue. In full attack mode, the leftist media went after Breitbart, accusing him of selectively editing the tape in order to target Sherrod. This despite the fact that Breitbart himself said he cared nothing about Sherrod and that his actual target was the NAACP; this despite the fact that Sherrod herself said the real problem was the Obama administration.

No matter what you think of the original Sherrod incident, Breitbart's commentary falls squarely within the protections of the First Amendment. Freedom of political speech lies at the core of the Constitution; we attack our political officials all the time without fear of reprisal. Sherrod was an outspoken public figure, one that unapologetically stated that she saw the world through the framework of Marxism.

Sherrod had indeed made racist statements in the past. In June 2009, for example, she explained to a group of college students that school integration was one of the "worst things that happened to black people" because integration undermined black self-sufficiency. She was quoted in 1996 as explaining that the federal government's role was "to be a force for keeping blacks on the land." Even in the NAACP speech at issue, she explained, "it is about black and white, but it's not."

Whether Breitbart is wrong isn't the issue here. It's whether Shirley Sherrod and her group of well-funded thug lawyers should be able to silence political opposition. Let's be frank: Sherrod's lawsuit is probably being backed by someone larger than Sherrod. Her lawyers are the famed law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. They wrote a 40-page complaint to lead things off. If Kirkland & Ellis charge Sherrod their usual rates, such a complaint probably would cost a minimum of $40,000 to produce. A full-scale lawsuit would cost Sherrod hundreds of thousands of dollars -- if she were paying.

In all likelihood, she isn't. Kirkland & Ellis just happens to be the second largest donor, through its employees, to President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign committee and leadership political action committee. Its lawyers are committed liberals, and as a Chicago-based firm, it is heavily tied in to the Democratic Party. As Andrew Breitbart drew the left's spotlight in 2009 and 2010 by defending the tea party, intensely pursuing Obama administration corruption and exposing liberal allies from unions to Hollywood, the left took notice. And they went to their favorite firm, Kirkland & Ellis, to deliver the knockout punch.

Unfortunately for the left, the Constitution stands in the way of such efforts. Sherrod's lawsuit is frivolous in the extreme. She can demonstrate no malice, because no malice existed; she can demonstrate no libel, because Breitbart's writings were fair comment on matters of public interest. Further, Sherrod has no damages -- she has been offered a promotion and made a cottage industry out of playing the victim.

The incredible cynicism of this lawsuit is obvious. The real culprits here are the members of the Obama administration who forced Sherrod's resignation -- and Sherrod even acknowledges that inconvenient fact in her lawsuit. Yet nobody in the Obama administration is a named defendant.

Andrew Breitbart has vowed that he will not be silenced. Thank God for the Constitution, which will allow him to continue his work, despite the legal bills he will have to incur. And shame on Shirley Sherrod for allowing herself to be used as a pawn in a chess match designed to shut down conservative criticism of the Obama administration once and for all.
24140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jeffrey on: February 16, 2011, 06:08:47 AM
Anyone who doubts the trend toward socialism is pushing America toward ruin should examine the historical tables President Obama published Monday along with his $3.7 trillion budget.

In fiscal 2011, according to these tables, the Department of Health and Human Services will spend $909.7 billion. In fiscal 1965, the entire federal government spent $118.228 billion.

What about inflation? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, $118.228 billion in 1965 dollars equals $822.6 billion in 2010 dollars. In real terms, the $909.7 billion HHS is spending this year is about $87.1 billion more than the entire federal government spent in 1965.

1965 was a key year in the advancement of socialism in the United States.

From 1776 until 1965, Americans generally did not rely on the federal government for health care unless they served in the military or worked in some other capacity for the federal government.

But in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson and a Democratic Congress enacted two massive federal entitlement programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- that fundamentally altered the relationship between Americans and the federal government by making tens of millions dependent on the government for health care.

Prior to 1937, the Supreme Court correctly understood the Constitution to deny the federal government any power to create and operate social-welfare programs. The Constitution held no such enumerated power, and the 10th Amendment left powers not enumerated to the states and the people.

From George Washington's administration to Franklin Roosevelt's, Americans took care of themselves and their own communities without resorting to federal handouts.

FDR sought to change what he believed was an unrealistic reliance on families in American life.

He used the crisis of the Great Depression to pass the Social Security Act of 1935, compelling Americans to pay a payroll tax in return for the promise of a federal old-age pension. This was blatantly unconstitutional. That same year, in Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton, the Supreme Court had justly slapped down a law mandating what amounted to a Social Security program for the railroad industry alone.

FDR attempted to defend the railroad pension law as a legitimate regulation of interstate commerce, justifiable under the Commerce Clause -- the same argument the Obama administration has used to defend the individual mandate in Obamacare.

The Court scoffed, suggesting that if the federal government could mandate a federal pension for railroad workers, the next thing it would do would be to mandate health care.

"The question at once presents itself whether the fostering of a contented mind on the part of an employee by legislation of this type is, in any just sense, a regulation of interstate transportation," the Court said answering FDR's argument. "If that question be answered in the affirmative, obviously there is no limit to the field of so-called regulation. The catalogue of means and actions which might be imposed upon an employer in any business, tending to the satisfaction and comfort of his employees, seems endless. Provision for free medical attention and nursing, for clothing, for food, for housing, for the education of children, and a hundred other matters, might with equal propriety be proposed as tending to relieve the employee of mental strain and worry."

When Social Security went to the Court in 1937, FDR used a different strategy. He argued that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which gave Congress the power to levy taxes to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States," meant the federal government could do virtually anything it deemed in the "general welfare" of Americans even if it was otherwise outside the scope of the Constitution's other enumerated powers.

FDR's interpretation of the General Welfare Clause effectively rendered the rest of the Constitution meaningless.

To persuade the same court that ruled against him in the railroad case to rule for him in the Social Security case, FDR proposed the Judicial Reorganization Act. This would allow him to pack the court by appointing an additional justice for each sitting justice who had reached age 70 and six months and not retired.

Faced with a potential Democratic takeover of the court, and thus a federal government controlled entirely by FDR's allies, Republican Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts flip-flopped from their position in the railroad case. They quietly voted in favor of Social Security and took the steam off FDR's court-packing plan.

That year, federal spending was 8.6 percent of gross domestic product, according to President Obama's historical tables.

When LBJ enacted Medicare and Medicaid -- and began fulfilling the court's prophecy in the 1935 railroad-pension case -- federal spending was 17.2 percent of GDP.

When George W. Bush expanded Medicare with a prescription drug benefit in 2003, federal spending was 19.7 percent of GDP.

This year, federal spending will be 25.3 percent of GDP.

In 2014, when Obamacare is scheduled to be fully implemented, HHS will become the first $1-trillion-per year federal agency. That year, Medicare and Medicaid will cost $557 billion and $352.1 billion respectively, or a combined $909.1 billion -- about what all of HHS costs this year.

In other words, when Obamacare is just getting started, Medicare and Medicaid will cost more than the $822.6 billion in 2010 dollars than the entire federal government cost in 1965 when LBJ signed Medicare and Medicaid into law.
24141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on: February 16, 2011, 06:05:23 AM
Morris often gets outside of his true lane of expertise, but here he is back in it, dead center:

So what happens if the cuts proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., prove unacceptable to the Senate and the president? What if there is no compromise? What if nobody gives in?

A budget deadlock, played out over months, will doom President Obama and assure his defeat. But an easily won compromise will help him get re-elected.

The central question in Obama's bid for a second term is: Will the issues that doomed his party in 2010 still be the key questions in 2012? If they are, we already know how the election will come out. If they are not, Obama can win.

When the president says he does not "want to re-fight the battles of the past two years," he means that he embraces this reality. He doesn't want Obamacare, high spending, huge deficits, cap and trade, card check and the like to be the items of discussion in the 2012 election.

But he has failed to put forward a compelling agenda for the next two years. That was the essential defect of his State of the Union speech. Nobody is going to storm any barricades for high-speed rail and more R&D spending.

If the Republicans hold firm in demanding huge spending cuts and Obama does not give in, the question of whether or not to cut spending will dominate the nation's political discourse for months on end and will spill over into the 2012 election.

To assure that it will, the Republicans should hold firm to their budget spending cuts without surrender or compromise. If necessary, it is OK to vote a few very short term continuing resolutions to keep the government open for a few weeks at a time, always keeping on the pressure.

hen the debt limit vote comes up, they should refuse to allow an increase without huge cuts in spending. If the debt limit deadline passes, they should force the administration to scramble to cobble together enough money to operate for weeks at a time.

If Obama offers a half a loaf, the GOP should spurn it for weeks and months. Then, rather than actually shut down the government, let them accept some variant of their proposed cuts but only give in return a few more weeks time, at which point the issue will be re-litigated. Don't go for Armageddon. Just keep fighting the battle.

Same with the debt limit. Extend it for a few hundred billion dollars and then go back for more cuts in return for a further extension. Make Obama pay for each continuing resolution and each debt limit hike with more cuts to spending.

Always avoid cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Save those for after 2012. For now, focus on Medicaid block granting and discretionary spending (including some modest cuts in defense).

Like a guerilla army, never go to a shutdown (a general engagement), but keep coming up with cuts, compromising, letting the government stay open for a few more weeks, letting the debt limit rise a few hundred billion, and then come back for more cuts and repeat the cycle.

And don't just demand spending cuts. Go for defunding of Obamacare, blocking the EPA from carbon taxation and regulation, a ban on card check unionization, and constraints on the FCC's regulation of the Internet and talk radio. Put those items on the table each time, each session.

Every time the issues come up, every time the cuts are litigated, Obama's efforts to appear to be a centrist will be frustrated. Time and again, he will have to oppose spending cuts. Over and over, he will come across as the liberal he is, battling for each dime and opposing any defunding.

Obama's campaign strategy has two elements: Change the subject from the 09-10 agenda, and move to the center. A tough, determined Republican budget offensive, embracing all these elements and fought in this guerilla style, will frustrate both and lead to his defeat.
24142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mr. Peabody on: February 16, 2011, 12:43:16 AM
24143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 15, 2011, 04:58:40 PM
Nonetheless, if the accusation is true then Justice Thomas acted inappropriately by failing to disclose.
24144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reagan on: February 15, 2011, 04:55:32 PM
I would add that
a) Reagan understood being in the public eye due to his acting career; and
b) There is perhaps no better preparation for the socializing, schmoozing, politicking, lying, and backstabbing of Washington than being President of the Screen Actors Guild.
24145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Overview on: February 15, 2011, 04:51:53 PM
Analyst Reva Bhalla takes a closer look at the unique factors afflicting each of the Middle Eastern countries currently experiencing unrest.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

With protests breaking out everywhere from Yemen to Bahrain to Algeria to Iran, everyone is asking themselves who’s next in the so-called wave of revolutions. Now while there are some common trends in each of these countries, this can’t be seen as some sort of domino effect where revolutions will spread everywhere in sight. Each of these countries are living in very unique circumstances, and understanding those factors are important in understanding which of these regimes are really at risk.

There are common threads to many of the countries experiencing unrest right now. First, most obviously, you have severe socio-economic conditions where you have high rates of youth unemployment in particular, inflationary pressures driving up the price of food and fuel, lack of basic services. Overall, you see a general reaction to decades of crony capitalism that really built up during the Nasserite era in this region.

Exacerbating matters in places like Algeria and Yemen are these illegitimate succession plans. So for example, in Yemen, the president has already announced that he is not going to run again for president in 2013, nor will his son, and that was designed to appease the political opposition. So far it seems to have worked, and the political opposition has dropped out of the demonstrations, leaving those on the streets more and more divided.

Now, in Algeria, the main concern is not so much the civil unrest in the streets, although that’s notable. The real concern is who is manipulating that unrest behind the scenes. So in Algeria, you have an intense power struggle that’s been playing out between an increasingly embattled president, who has wanted to hand the reins over to his brother, and a powerful intelligence minister, who is hotly opposed to those plans. So as these demonstrations play out, it’s extremely important to take a look at what quiet concessions are being offered behind the scenes as this power struggle plays out.

Another key theme is that many of these countries face the dilemma of how to integrate Islamists in the political system. Now, countries like Jordan have a better relationship with the Islamists in the opposition; there, they actually have the ability to participate in the political system, albeit not to the levels they want. In other countries — like Algeria, Syria and, of course, Egypt — these are the countries that continue to struggle with this Islamist dilemma.

One thing is clear to us: In Egypt, we did not see a popular revolution in the true sense of the word; what we saw was a carefully and thoughtfully managed succession by the military. In Algeria, you’re mostly seeing a power struggle play out. In places like Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain, you’re seeing opposition groups and tribes start to seize the opportunity to press for their demands, but they are still operating under great constraints, and, in many cases, they know their limits.

In other words, while this latest unrest is a wake-up call for many regimes in the region, we are not seeing a wave of revolutions spread throughout the region. And where you do see things flare up, like we might see in Algeria this coming Friday, you have to take a closer look at the political intrigue behind the demonstrations to really understand the true risk to the regime.

24146  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 15, 2011, 01:42:47 PM
For cherries, this is my parable:

Do you remember the first time you had sex?

Were you any good at it?

Have you gotten better since then?

24147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Retail Sales on: February 15, 2011, 10:55:09 AM
Doug:  Interesting circles you travel in!


Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/15/2011

Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January. Both fell slightly short of consensus expectations.

Including revisions to November/December, sales were up 0.2% in January while sales ex-autos were unchanged. Retail sales are up 7.8% versus a year ago; sales ex-autos are up 6.2%.
The increase in retail sales for January was led by grocery stores, gas stations, department stores and warehouse clubs, internet/mail-order, and autos. The weakest category of sales, by far, was building materials.
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.4% in January, but were unchanged including downward revisions for November/December. These sales are up 5.1% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
Implications:  Today’s report on retail sales was lukewarm. Sales increased less than the consensus expected and were revised down slightly for prior months. However, the modest growth in sales in January was primarily due to one category – building materials – which was held down by the unusually harsh winter weather in much of the country. Most major categories of sales increased in January. Despite this, “core” sales, which exclude autos, gas, and building materials (all of which are volatile from month to month) increased a healthy 0.4% and were up for the 15th time in the last 18 months. We expect consumer spending to continue to move higher. Worker earnings are up, consumer debt has stabilized at much lower levels, and consumers’ financial obligations are now the smallest share of income since the mid-1990s. In other news this morning, the Empire State Index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, increased to +15.4 in February from +11.9.  On the inflation front, import prices increased 1.5% in January and are up 5.3% in the past year.  Excluding petroleum, import prices increased 1.1% in January and are up 3.2% versus a year ago.   Export prices rose 1.2% in January and are up 6.8% in the past year.  Excluding farm products, export prices still gained 0.9% in January and are up 5.3% from a year ago.  These widespread gains in trade prices are a leading sign of higher inflation that will ultimately hit the US consumer.
24148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 10:38:49 AM

OTOH the question of how he operates in the civilian political system remains to be seen.  One term in the House of Representatives is a REALLY thin resume in this regard.
24149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 15, 2011, 10:19:55 AM
I wonder if Baraq will support them this time around , , ,
24150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Lost Cause Scenario on: February 15, 2011, 10:14:50 AM
The Lost Cause Scenario Adar I 11, 5771 · February 15, 2011
By Yanki Tauber Print this Page

Much is made of Abraham's valiant efforts to save the wicked city of Sodom. We read how Abraham virtually went to battle with G-d on behalf of these very sinful people, contesting the divine decree that Sodom (and its four sister cities, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar) be destroyed. "It behooves You not to do such," Abraham challenged, "to kill the righteous together with the wicked . . . Shall the Judge of the entire world not do justice?!" "If there be found fifty righteous people in the city," Abraham bargained, "would You not spare the place because of the fifty righteous ones who are in it?" "What if there be five less than fifty?" Abraham persisted. "What if there be forty? . . . Thirty?"

But something about the story doesn't add up. Why should the wicked people be spared "because of the righteous"? If there are some righteous people left in Sodom, G-d obviously doesn't have to "kill the righteous together with the wicked"-He can airlift them outta there before He wrecks the place. Indeed, G-d sent two angels to rescue Lot and his family, the only righteous people in Sodom, before overturning the city. So where's the injustice? What's the logic in Abraham's argument?

Also: every good salesman has more than one pitch up his sleeve; when one line of reasoning fails to elicit the desired response, the seasoned marketer will quickly shift to another tack. Yet Abraham (a pretty good salesman, actually) seems to have only this one argument to make. When it turns out that there's not even ten righteous folk in any of the cities, Abraham drops the case.

One of the explanations offered by the commentaries is that as long as there are righteous people in a place, there remains the possibility and hope that they will have a positive influence on their community. So it makes sense to spare the entire city because of the righteous people in it-it's not a lost cause yet. When Abraham learns, however, that there are no righteous people remaining in Sodom (or not enough righteous people to make a difference), he has nothing further to say on their behalf.

This suggests a deeper meaning to Abraham's argument. When Abraham says to G-d, "Do not destroy the city because of the righteous who are in it," he's not just speaking about Sodom as a city, but also about its individual sinners. The chassidic masters refer to the human being as a "city in miniature": each of us is a virtual metropolis populated by numerous organs and limbs, traits and faculties, drives and desires, thoughts and actions. Even a thoroughly wicked "city" is bound to have a few righteous "inhabitants"-a few remaining enclaves of purity, a few pinpoints of goodness. To destroy a person-even a most wicked person-is also to destroy the latent tzaddik within him, to reject not only his negative actuality but also his positive potential.

The question, however, is: does there remain enough potential goodness to exert a positive influence on the "city" and perhaps effect a transformation? If this were the case, it would indeed be a grave injustice, unbehooving the Judge of the entire world, to "kill the righteous together with the wicked." But what if we are dealing with a "lost cause"? What if we have before us a person or community in which the "tzaddik within" is so completely overwhelmed that one can see no possibility of it ever asserting itself? When there is no salvageable goodness remaining in the person, what can be said to protest the Divine decree?

Abraham, who in the course of his lifetime had converted many thousands to the ethos and morals of monotheism, was quite the expert at identifying and activating the "hidden tzaddik" in the most corrupt environments. But when confronted with an evil as impregnable as Sodom's, even Abraham fell silent.


But Moses did not.

Four hundred years after Abraham approached G-d to plead on behalf of the wicked of Sodom, Moses had a "lost cause scenario" of his own on his hands, when the Children of Israel sinned by worshipping a Golden Calf. What can be said in defense of a people who succumb to idolatry a mere forty days after experiencing the greatest Divine revelation of all time-a revelation bearing the message "I am the L-rd your G-d . . . you shall have no other gods before Me"?

The Divine anger seethed. Like his great-great-great-great-grandfather before him, Moses stepped in to stave off a decree of annihilation.

But Moses took a different approach. He didn't say, "But there are many who didn't sin." He didn't say, "Spare the wicked because of the righteous," or "spare the wicked because of the potential for righteousness within then." Instead he said: "Forgive them, G-d. If you won't, blot me out of your Torah."

Moses demanded an unconditional forgiveness, a forgiveness without a "because." If you are a G-d who forgives without cause, Moses said, I'm prepared to be part of your Story. If not, edit me out; I'll have no part in it.

Abraham was a great lover of humanity. He loved his fellow man because he saw the potential for goodness in him or her, even when the rest of the person didn't look that great. But Moses' love was greater: Moses loved his people regardless of whether he could or could not discern the hidden tzaddik in their city.

And the amazing thing was, in the end Moses did turn his errant people around. In the end, their supposedly irredeemable potential came to glorious light.

For such is the paradox of love. If you care for someone because you see in him a potential for improvement and wish to have a positive influence on him, that's really great of you, but there will be times when you'll find that potential inaccessible and your positive influence rebuffed. But if you care for him irrespective of whether you can see anything good in him, and regardless of whether you can reasonably hope to influence him in any way-if you love him even if he is a "lost cause"-then you will end up having a profound influence on his life.

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