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24151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When PIIGS go bankrupt , , , on: February 13, 2010, 08:33:45 PM
Greece as Political Time Bomb
Friday, February 12, 2010, 11:11 AM
David P. Goldman
Although Greece is an EC member, its finances and political system have the character of a banana republic. EC membership, though, enabled Greece to borrow far more money than any banana republic, such that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is about triple that of Argentina just before the latter’s bankruptcy in 2000. And because Greece is an EC member, the size and adumbrations of a bankruptcy would be much, much larger than that of any Latin American country.
 
Earlier I had assumed that we were watching a negotiation: Brussels would shout “Never!,” the Greeks would throw tantrums, and eventually some compromise would be reached and the situation would be stabilized.
 
Closer examination of the political situation in Greece makes me less optimistic. Greece may be suffering from an inoperable cancer, in the form of a degree of corruption that make a resolution without bankruptcy very difficult to implement.
Here are some comments by a political observe in Athens who has written to me privately:
 

Corruption in Greece has been systematically cultivated by all governments and parties. Everyone has relatives living off the public sector in cushy, do-nothing jobs. They get paid through various funding sources that successive governments have created so even though the nominal wage is low the actual take home and all benefits are quite high. Another important dimension to the public participation in corruption is that the rich by and large do not pay any taxes. The only people who pay are those who can’t escape the clutches of the state: pensioners and civil servants i.e., sectors where the salaries can be accounted for. According to the President of the National Bank of Greece, 30% of the budget of the last administration was unaccounted for—yes, just disappeared into the coffers of their families and well-wishers, and I would guess the other 70% was never audited.
 
The common psychological traits of the corruption are what the ancients called alazoneia (brash presumption of knowledge by the ignorant) and anaischuntia (shamelessness). All public institutions have one purpose: Suck money from the EU (or via loans) and redistribute it through an inverted pyramid of chicanery with the the loaf going to the top, the crumbs to the bottom. Most people in their little niches of decay are “expert” at this. They “know” the ropes. As the country psychologically devolves there are no lines demarcating the “good from the “bad”, “responsibility” from irresponsibility”. No one ever goes to jail; no one gets punished.
 
The Europeans know the state of affairs in the country (which they contributed to for a variety of reasons). They know that no Greek government can implement reforms through a political process of consensus. The people are waiting for their doles; the students are waiting for their payback (cushy jobs somewhere), the unions, the coops are all poised to demand their due from the machines that serve them. Meanwhile the rich are sending money out of the country (Switzerland and Cyprus) in the billions out of fear that the government may have no recourse but to grab part of their accounts in the future.
 
Hence it seems to me that the only game in town is to put Greece under complete receivership with all orders coming from abroad for fiscal cutbacks and the like. Since the EU has no machinery for doing this and the Greek government could never have a consensus for such a program, these measures will be accomplished through fear. Greeks will be left dangling at the mercy of speculators and others, yet at the same time tacitly supported, so that with each assault the Greek government will be implementing (in a climate of panic and fear) some new unpopular measure to mollify the rating agencies and bondholders. The Greeks have not yet woken up to this new reality. They still think EU is Santa Claus or that someone will bail them out (maybe the Chinese!). The lollipops are being taken away and whatever sweets are left will probably go to prop up the banks.
 
There are two ways in which this scenario may fail: (1) the growing resentment of the German public especially and their unwillingness to bail out Greece. This raises the possibility that at some critical point the EU (due to populist outrage) may not be able to act decisively to stave off a run on the Greek banks. (2) Slide into anarchy in Greece itself. There is always the possibility that the combustible parts of the corrupt machinery start to ignite patches of fires here and there with hard-to-predict possibilities for touching off more general conflagrations.
 
For now the scenario is working. But nothing really has yet happened in the country. For the man on the street all of this talk about austerity is still just future legislation, measures in the pipeline, at worst manageable cutbacks that reflect the government’s rosy projections.
 
If all goes according to plan Greece will be ruled by the bankers from abroad with successive waves of crises leading to new cutback-measures and “reforms”. The road will be bumpy and the ride dangerous but manageable. But one should not discount the possibility that psychological despair and irrationality (fueled with desires to live the good life on a dole) may not spark suicidal actions along the way. Keep in mind that the youth have been completely alienated (corrupted and ‘consumerized’ by their parents) and their despair adds another factor of instability.
 
The country is sliding into psychological despair within a cocoon of unrequited desires that have been inflamed and legitimized over the years. Anger is rampant. Yesterday on the bus a student gave his ticket to a lady, telling her that she should use his ticket because he was getting off. Someone called out that this was shameful “thievery” to which the youngster responded: “I am stealing 50 cents but the government and the banks have stolen 50 billion!” Many nodded in approval.
 
Prime Minister Papandreou was on television last night, white as a ghost. He was telling the Greek press that he was thankful that the IMF was “offering” their technical expertise (technognosia) to Greece. Yes money is not coming, but how sweet of the IMF to be sending its experts to dictate terms over the next few weeks. It seems that someone in Europe gave him the unexpected news that the party is over. This reality has not yet even remotely begun to set in here. The media are giving the message that “the Europeans can’t afford to let Greece go under….that Europe stands to lose too much….that Merkel and those stuffy Northerners will have to come to Greece’s aid.”
 
When the reality does start seeping in—hold on to your hats….
 
One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front. This too has not seeped in. And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.




 
 

A Greek crisis is coming to America
By Niall Ferguson
Published: February 11 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 11 2010 02:00
 

It began in Athens. It is spreading to Lisbon and Madrid. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding will remain confined to the weaker eurozone economies. For this is more than just a Mediterranean problem with a farmyard acronym . It is a fiscal crisis of the western world. Its ramifications are far more profound than most investors currently appreciate.
 
There is of course a distinctive feature to the eurozone crisis. Because of the way the European Monetary Union was designed, there is in fact no mechanism for a bail-out of the Greek government by the European Union, other member states or the European Central Bank (articles 123 and 125 of the Lisbon treaty). True, Article 122 may be invoked by the European Council to assist a member state that is "seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control", but at this point nobody wants to pretend that Greece's yawning deficit was an act of God. Nor is there a way for Greece to devalue its currency, as it would have done in the pre-EMU days of the drachma. There is not even a mechanism for Greece to leave the eurozone.
 
That leaves just three possibilities: one of the most excruciating fiscal squeezes in modern European history - reducing the deficit from 13 per cent to 3 per cent of gross domestic product within just three years; outright default on all or part of the Greek government's debt; or (most likely, as signalled by German officials yesterday) some kind of bail-out led by Berlin . Because none of these options is very appealing, and because any decision about Greece will have implications for Portugal, Spain and possibly others, it may take much horsetrading before one can be reached.
 
Yet the idiosyncrasies of the eurozone should not distract us from the general nature of the fiscal crisis that is now afflicting most western economies. Call it the fractal geometry of debt: the problem is essentially the same from Iceland to Ireland to Britain to the US. It just comes in widely differing sizes.
 
What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not "save" us half so much as monetary policy - zero interest rates plus quantitative easing - did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed "multiplier") has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped. Second, there is a good deal of "leakage" from open economies in a globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur bills that fall due much sooner than we expect
 
For the world's biggest economy, the US, the day of reckoning still seems reassuringly remote. The worse things get in the eurozone, the more the US dollar rallies as nervous investors park their cash in the "safe haven" of American government debt. This effect may persist for some months, just as the dollar and Treasuries rallied in the depths of the banking panic in late 2008.
 
Yet even a casual look at the fiscal position of the federal government (not to mention the states) makes a nonsense of the phrase "safe haven". US government debt is a safe haven the way Pearl Harbor was a safe haven in 1941.
Even according to the White House's new budget projections, the gross federal debt in public hands will exceed 100 per cent of GDP in just two years' time. This year, like last year, the federal deficit will be around 10 per cent of GDP. The long-run projections of the Congressional Budget Office suggest that the US will never again run a balanced budget. That's right, never.
 
The International Monetary Fund recently published estimates of the fiscal adjustments developed economies would need to make to restore fiscal stability over the decade ahead. Worst were Japan and the UK (a fiscal tightening of 13 per cent of GDP). Then came Ireland, Spain and Greece (9 per cent). And in sixth place? Step forward America, which would need to tighten fiscal policy by 8.8 per cent of GDP to satisfy the IMF.
 
Explosions of public debt hurt economies in the following way, as numerous empirical studies have shown. By raising fears of default and/or currency depreciation ahead of actual inflation, they push up real interest rates. Higher real rates, in turn, act as drag on growth, especially when the private sector is also heavily indebted - as is the case in most western economies, not least the US.
 
Although the US household savings rate has risen since the Great Recession began, it has not risen enough to absorb a trillion dollars of net Treasury issuance a year. Only two things have thus far stood between the US and higher bond yields: purchases of Treasuries (and mortgage-backed securities, which many sellers essentially swapped for Treasuries) by the Federal Reserve and reserve accumulation by the Chinese monetary authorities.
 
But now the Fed is phasing out such purchases and is expected to wind up quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the Chinese have sharply reduced their purchases of Treasuries from around 47 per cent of new issuance in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2008 to an estimated 5 per cent last year. Small wonder Morgan Stanley assumes that 10-year yields will rise from around 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent this year. On a gross federal debt fast approaching $1,500bn, that implies up to $300bn of extra interest payments - and you get up there pretty quickly with the average maturity of the debt now below 50 months.
 
The Obama administration's new budget blithely assumes real GDP growth of 3.6 per cent over the next five years, with inflation averaging 1.4 per cent. But with rising real rates, growth might well be lower. Under those circumstances, interest payments could soar as a share of federal revenue - from a tenth to a fifth to a quarter.
 
Last week Moody's Investors Service warned that the triple A credit rating of the US should not be taken for granted. That warning recalls Larry Summers' killer question (posed before he returned to government): "How long can the world's biggest borrower remain the world's biggest power?"
 
On reflection, it is appropriate that the fiscal crisis of the west has begun in Greece, the birthplace of western civilization. Soon it will cross the channel to Britain. But the key question is when that crisis will reach the last bastion of western power, on the other side of the Atlantic.
The writer is a contributing editor of the FT and author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
24152  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Humor on: February 13, 2010, 07:51:50 PM
Cindy has a nasty case of the cooties caught from Summerlin-- including drooling green snot tongue so that is why she has not promptly handled your re-enlistment.  Let me see what I can do to hurry the process.
24153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JP: War by assassination on: February 13, 2010, 07:46:57 PM
 
Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski 'Israel waging war of assassinations'
BY JPOST.COM STAFF
13/02/2010 19:25


UK paper: Israel targets Hamas, Hizbullah men all across the Middle East.
Talkbacks (49)   
Israel is conducting a “secret war,” assassinating top officials in Hamas and Hizbullah in order to hamper the terror groups’ communications with their backer Iran, the London-based Times reported Saturday.

“There has been growing co-operation between Gaza and Iran. Israel can read the writing on the wall and they know that with the help of Iran, the Hamas government in Gaza will become stronger and will fight better. But Israel is overstepping their boundaries. Other countries don’t want to become a killing field for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the paper quotes an unnamed Palestinian official in Ramallah as saying.

The official was referring to the assassination of Mahmoud el Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official who was liquidated in a Dubai hotel last month. Hamas has accused Israel of killing him.

The paper also cites an incident where a bus carrying Iranian officials and Hamas members exploded near Damascus, an attack on a meeting between Hizbullah and Hamas officials in the Hizbullah-controlled Dahiya district of Beirut and the killing of Hizbullah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh in February 2008.

The Times quotes Arab diplomats saying they are aware that covert Israeli operations had increased. “We watch their comings and goings; we are aware that there is more activity both on our ground and other countries in the region,” an Egyptian diplomat told the paper. “They are trying to embroil us all in their conflict.”


 The incidents are often attributed to the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, which has seen a surge in reputation since Meir Dagan was appointed to lead the agency in 2002 by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Israeli officials never admitted that the Mossad was involved in any of the killings.

Dagan’s tenure has been extended twice by Sharon’s successor Ehud Olmert and again by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Dagan received praise recently from an unexpected source when he was described in an opinion piece in a leading Egyptian daily paper as "the Superman of Israel."
24154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: February 13, 2010, 07:42:46 PM
Anyone care to assess this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvMmPtEt8dc&feature=player_embedded
24155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: February 13, 2010, 04:46:48 PM
A man and a woman who had never met before, but who were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a transcontinental train.  Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly, he in the upper berth and she in the lower. At 1:00 a.m., the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying, "Ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet and get me a second blanket? I'm awfully cold."

"I have a better idea," she replied. "Just for tonight, let's pretend that we're married."

"Wow! That's a great idea!" he exclaimed.

"Good," she replied. "Get your own damn blanket."

After a moment of silence, he farted.

The End
24156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: February 13, 2010, 12:40:11 PM
I have a clear preference for controlling our borders over having employers become responsible (Your papers please! -- like some WW2 movie). 
24157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tea Party Convention on: February 13, 2010, 08:12:29 AM
By GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS
Nashville, Tenn.

There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs.

These weren't the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Angela McGlowan enters the GOP primary to represent Mississippi's First District.
.This response has brought millions of Americans to the streets over the past year, and brought quite a few people to the posh Opryland Resort (with its indoor waterfalls and boat rides, it's like a casino without the gambling) for the convention.

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry—and they are—but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when ne w-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

A year ago, many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama's transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless. That changed when protests, organized by bloggers, met Mr. Obama a year ago in Denver, Colo., Mesa, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's famous on-air rant on Feb. 19, 2009, which gave the tea-party movement its name.

Tea partiers are still angry at federal deficits, at Washington's habit of rewarding failure with handouts and punishing success with taxes and regulation, and the general incompetence that has marked the first year of the Obama presidency. But they're no longer depressed.

Instead, they seem energized. And surprisingly media savvy. William Temple donned colonial dress knowing that it would be an irresistible lure to TV cameras. When the cameras trained on him, he regaled interviewers with well-informed discussion of constitutional history. Other attendees were hawking DVDs, books, and Web sites promoting tea-party ideals, while discussing the use of tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for political organizing.

Press attention focused on Sarah Palin's speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren't looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn't looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.

It's easy to see why. A recent Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll found that three-fourths of independent voters have a favorable opinion of the tea party. This enthusiasm, however, does not translate into an embrace of establishment Republicanism. One of the less-noted aspects of Mrs. Palin's speech was her endorsement of primary challenges for incumbent Republicans, something that is already underway. Tea partiers I talked to hope to replace a lot of entrenched time-servers and to throw a scare into others.

One primary challenger is Les Phillip. He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama's fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year.

"Somebody had to speak," he told me, "so I stepped up." He did well enough that he was invited to speak at another protest in Trussville, Ala., after which things sort of snowballed. Of the tea partiers, he says, "Their values are pretty much mine. I live in a town in North Alabama where there are plenty of blacks driving Mercedes and living in big houses. Only in America can someone come from a little island and live the dream. I've liked it, and that's what I want for my children. [But] I saw the window closing for my own kids."

Mr. Phillip has gotten tea-party endorsements, as well as one from Mike Huckabee. The Republican establishment is siding with Mr. Griffith, who only recently switched from Democrat to Republican. That support is perhaps understandable as realpolitik, but it's not the sort of thing that sits well with tea partiers, who think that too much realpolitik is what rendered the Republican Party corrupt and ossified over the past decade.

Mr. Phillip isn't the only black tea-party candidate in the deep south—Angela McGlowan, who spoke in Nashville, has entered the Republican primary in Mississippi's first district—and primary challenges aren't the only way activists are exerting influence. Cincinnati tea-party activists are running candidates for Republican precinct executive in every precinct in their area—if elected, these candidates will help set policy platforms within the GOP and have sway over which candidates the party endorses. Activists in other states are doing the same. Adam Andrzejewski, who ran in the Republican primary for governor in Illinois, told me he will run candidates in each of Illinois' precincts, and Utah activists are turning that state's convention-based nominating system into a trial for incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennett. Plus, tea-party activists used their convention to launch a political action committee.

If 2009 was the year of taking it to the streets, 2010 is the year of taking it to the polls. With ordinary Americans setting out to reclaim the political process, it's likely to be a bumpy ride for incumbents of both parties. I suspect the Founding Fathers would approve.

Mr. Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. He covered the National Tea Party Convention for PJTV.com, an Internet television network.
24158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: unions on: February 13, 2010, 07:53:59 AM
Private sector membership may have slid, but my understanding is that public sector union membership, especially under SEIU puppet Obama, is growing quite rapidly.
24159  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: February 12, 2010, 03:03:45 PM
Woof All:

Looking forward to being with Rene in Toronto once again.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24160  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 12, 2010, 02:49:23 PM
In a related vein, in DBMA "Kali Tudo" (tm) we integrate certainly wrestling techniques (e.g. the one we call "The Rico" because I learned it from Rico Chiaparelli).   What my interaction with Kenny Johnson has brought to KT is, inter alia, a good efficient MMA based version of a wrestling double leg and single leg, who uses his head in a different way than pure sport wrestling.  We want to have this not only in its own right (for fights wherein we are sure that no weapons are involved) but also to make sure that we are good training partners for our training partners as we work our standing KT striking game.

One of the great temptations for a KT player is to tunnel vision a bit on the structural advantages I believe our there in upper body striking (i.e. kicks present a separate question) and get hit by a good wrestling level change and shoot.  Indeed it was my experience with some of my structures getting hit in this fashion by Kenny that led me to focus on bringing the stake (which really is a version of a bolo bunch done to kali footwork), with the idea that as the third beat of a triplet it would be either hitting (uppercut to chin or shovel hook to body) or nailing the incoming face (think Arlovski flying chin first into Fedor's overhand right) of the shooter.

I would have not known this had I not tested myself against good MMA wrestling skills.

Also from Kenny is a good MMA based sprawl.

The Adventure continues!
24161  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kali Tudo 3 on: February 12, 2010, 02:36:57 PM
Woof all:

The recent camp, plus some other footage wink will become "Kali Tudo 3".  On this project we look to have an unusually quick turnaround time-- about 4-6 weeks.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FBI access to phone records on: February 12, 2010, 02:34:12 PM
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html

Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the "Scarecrow Bandits" that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.

FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.



Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).

Once a Hollywood plot, now 'commonplace'
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. "It's in every pen register order these days."

Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court's jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, "if the privacy groups win, the case won't be over. It will certainly be appealed."

CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.

And a mobile phone's fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.


"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century. If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."
--Kevin Bankston, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.

The Federal Communications Commission's "Enhanced 911" (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone's location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.

T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of "accuracy to under 50 meters" that's available "for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle."

A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: "T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone."

'No reasonable expectation of privacy'
In the case that's before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.

Lenihan's opinion (PDF)--which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges--noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.

In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan's opinion "contains, and relies upon, numerous errors" and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location "records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest."

The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, "did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone" location. That's because Navas only used the cell phone "on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York" and "if Navas intended to keep the cell phone's location private, he simply could have turned it off."

(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)

Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there's no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered--and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.

Verizon Wireless keeps "phone records including cell site location for 12 months," Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps "phone bills without cell site location for seven years," and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.

Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. "Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising," he said.

The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant "before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information." In addition, they say, Americans do not "knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones."

"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."

Update 10:37 a.m. PT: A source inside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the northern district of Texas, which prosecuted the Scarecrow Bandits mentioned in the above article, tells me that this was the first and the only time that the FBI has used the location-data-mining technique to nab bank robbers. It's also worth noting that the leader of this gang, Corey Duffey, was sentenced last month to 354 years (not months, but years) in prison. Another member is facing 140 years in prison.

 Declan McCullagh is a contributor to CNET News and a correspondent for CBSNews.com who has covered the intersection of politics and technology for over a decade. Declan writes a regular feature called Taking Liberties, focused on individual and economic rights; you can bookmark his CBS News Taking Liberties site, or subscribe to the RSS feed. You can e-mail Declan at declan@cbsnews.com.
24163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Airborne laser on: February 12, 2010, 02:22:48 PM
Hat tip to BBG-- pasting this here from the WMD thread.

U.S. successfully tests airborne laser on missile

6:52am EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of a futuristic directed energy weapon, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday.

The agency said in a statement the test took place at 8:44 p.m. PST (11:44 p.m. EST) on Thursday /0444 GMT on Friday) at Point Mugu's Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off Ventura in central California.

"The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile" the agency said.

The high-powered Airborne Laser system is being developed by Boeing Co., the prime contractor, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Boeing produces the airframe, a modified 747 jumbo jet, while Northrop Grumman supplies the higher-energy laser and Lockheed Martin is developing the beam and fire control systems.

"This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform," the agency added.

The airborne laser weapon successfully underwent its first in-flight test against a target missile back in August. During that test, Boeing said the modified 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California.
The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said.
The airborne laser weapon is aimed at deterring enemy missile attacks and providing the U.S. military with the ability to engage all classes of ballistic missiles at the speed of light while they are in the boost phase of flight.
"The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles), and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies," the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.
(Reporting by Jim Wolf and David Alexander, Editing by Sandra Maler)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61B18C20100212?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20reuters%2FtopNews%20%28News%20%2F%20US%20%2F%20Top%20News%29
24164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: unions on: February 12, 2010, 02:19:34 PM
Liberal fascism continues its rampage.  Another attack on our American freedom-- time for some serious DTOM! (Don't tread on me!)
24165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It began here on: February 12, 2010, 10:30:43 AM
"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country." --George Washington, address to the New York legislature, 1775
24166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So, how was your day? on: February 11, 2010, 09:24:17 PM
http://www.military.com/news/article/marine-deaths-underscore-us-struggle.html?ESRC=marine.nl
24167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: February 11, 2010, 05:11:10 PM
Glenn has been on quite a tear this week.


PS: I do wish he would learn to draw the Laffer Curve correctly though
24168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beacon of Liberty? on: February 11, 2010, 02:12:46 PM
Iran, Beacon of Liberty?
 
 
By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Published: February 10, 2010
ON Thursday, the birthday of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will see whether the democratic opposition movement has been driven underground by the increasingly brutal harassment from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian society has become like molten rock under high pressure: more eruptions are inevitable. And if the dissidents can take to the streets, they will.

In any case, the fraudulent June 12 presidential elections and the subsequent internal tumult ought to make us wonder what would happen if Iran actually went democratic. President Obama and his advisers — still devoted to engagement and the hope that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program can be peacefully derailed (despite Tehran’s stepping up of its enrichment program this week), and probably skeptical that Ayatollah Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards Corps could lose power — have likely spent little time envisioning a region where the Islamic Republic as we have known it no longer exists. At least, nobody from the administration’s foreign-policy brain trust has laid out any plans for that contingency.
But given the troubles facing Ayatollah Khamenei, the near certainty that the clerical regime is going to get a lot nastier soon and the momentous possibilities of a democratic Iran, the White House should give it some thought. Mr. Khamenei is confronting a democracy movement that has grown larger despite an almost total lack of organization and charismatic leadership.

Iran’s militarized theocracy will survive or perish depending on the strength of the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorian branch of the military that has become a self-sustaining fundamentalist conglomerate. Yet many guardsmen and their children, like the children of the clerical elite, are graduates of Iran’s best universities. And if there is one factor that has inclined Iranians toward the opposition, it has been higher education — a point the regime has surely noted when it comes to the probable loyalties of the country’s nuclear physicists.

In fact, many rank-and-file guardsmen voted for Mohammad Khatami, the reformist candidate, in the 1997 presidential election, even though their senior officers detested him. It’s likely this schism remains.

The funeral in December of the regime’s bête noire, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, where hundreds of thousands turned out, suggests the regime may also be encountering resistance from the clerical establishment.

The senior clergymen of the holy city of Qum have never had any regard for Ayatollah Khamenei’s religious credentials and political pretensions; their quiescence has been achieved through intimidation by the regime and their inability to see any political alternative. But part of Ayatollah Montazeri’s appealing dissent, which has been echoed by other Shiite clerics since his death, is that the Islamic Republic doesn’t have to change much for the differences to be telling. Just freeing the Parliament from unelected clerical oversight would be a revolutionary step.

We will likely know in the coming months if the opposition can draw into the streets larger numbers of the mostazafan, “the oppressed poor,” who have been the popular bedrock of the regime since the 1979 revolution. The economic “reforms” that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has planned will probably worsen Iran’s already debilitating inflation and unemployment. An opposition combining the young mullahs, college-educated bureaucrats within Iran’s bloated civil service and a significant slice of the urban poor could be too diverse for the guards, a partly conscripted force, to suppress.

The guards rose to prominence defending the homeland against an Iraqi invader; they have not yet shown that they have the fortitude to kill their countrymen like the Russian secret police or the Chinese Red Guards. Note how much time and effort the regime has spent to deflect blame for the killing of one young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, in the post-election rioting last summer. A self-confident regime would have killed unapologetically. Senior guardsmen may want to unleash a bloodbath to preserve the status quo, but Ayatollah Khamenei, who lacks the cold-blooded will of the state’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, doesn’t seem to want to slaughter Iranians or make himself a hostage of his henchmen.

===========

(Page 2 of 2)



When regimes start to crack, the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Ayatollah Khamenei’s supporters could start to wonder whether their influence could survive in a more open political system. Iranian journalists are reporting that former guardsmen who’ve joined the opposition are signaling their one-time brothers that they could have a soft landing in a new order. However much the regime has worked to brainwash its security force (“the bulwark against disbelief”), if more Iranians are killed, rank-and-file guardsmen may suspend their belief and choose not to shoot.

A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A politically freer Iran would bring front and center the great Islamic debate of our times: How can one be both a good Muslim and a democrat? How does one pay homage to Islamic law but give ultimate authority to the people’s elected representatives? How can a Muslim import the best of the West without suffering debilitating guilt?

To an extent seen in no other country, Iran’s intellectuals have battled and evolved over these questions. For a century, the country has been trying to develop constitutional government. For 30 years, dissident clerics and lay intellectuals have struggled to reassert the democratic promise in the revolution.

Especially for religious dissidents, democracy is now seen as a keystone of a more moral order, where the faith can no longer be used to countenance dictatorship. An operating assumption of President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world in Cairo last year is that Washington can work with authoritarian regimes against extremism — that Muslims don’t need to be politically free to tame religious militancy. But the evolution of Christianity, which never had Islam’s deep fusion of church and state, tells us something different: that it has been the West’s political evolution — from autocracy to democracy — which has, more than anything, depoliticized Christianity.

The same process is happening to Islam in Iran, but at a much faster pace than anything seen in the West. As a result, millions of Iranians — the sons and daughters of once faithful revolutionaries — have secularized. Whereas secularizing Westernized autocracies like the shah’s prompted upwellings of religious radicalism, Iran’s religious dictatorship has produced a softening secularization that is likely to last, since both nonreligious and faithful Iranians increasingly see representative government as indispensable to their values.

The impact of all this on Muslims everywhere is likely to be profound. In the Middle East, the Iranian Revolution catapulted Islamic fundamentalism into the foreground. An Iranian democratization couldn’t help but shake Sunni fundamentalists who, too, have wrestled with the tension between the Holy Law and voting. Sunni Arabs often like to pretend that they live in a different world from their Shiite Iranian cousins, but the truth is the opposite: cross-fertilization has been enormous. With Iranian democracy growing, liberal Arabs and Sunni Islamists would become much bolder in their demands.

Iran’s transformation would also remind Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party, whose commitment to democratic values has been increasingly shaky, that an authoritarian path creates revolt. And an Iranian democracy would powerfully affect Iraq, whose elected government has struggled with its own Tehran-backed demons. A democratic Iran would have little sympathy for Iraqis who prefer autocracy and religious militancy.

A democratic Tehran would also likely reduce its aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Baathist dictatorship in Syria. Palestinian fundamentalists who now receive substantial Iranian financing would also likely be a subject of heavy debate in a free Parliament, as would aid to other radical Sunni groups throughout the Middle East and Tehran’s disconcerting contacts with Al Qaeda (which were detailed by the 9/11 commission report). Iran could easily become what Ayatollah Khomeini had wished — the model that transforms the Middle East — albeit not in the manner he hoped for.

Last, a democratic Iran would bring the reopening of the American Embassy, a symbolic measure of the highest significance that has long been popular among ordinary Iranians. The “Great Satan” would be no more.

President Obama has nothing to lose by moving away from engaging Ayatollah Khamenei and toward a vigorous engagement with the Iranian people’s quest for popular sovereignty. Rhetoric, sanctions aimed at cutting off Iran’s gasoline imports and intelligent covert aid to dissidents should be harnessed to the democratic cause. President Obama has an openly willing partner in the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to make Iranian liberté a trans-Atlantic affair.

The administration should have no illusions: Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime is irretrievably paranoid. In its eyes, Western states, which have so far done next to nothing to help the democracy movement, are as culpable as the dissidents for Iran’s troubles. The supreme leader will seek ways to get even. And he isn’t going to give up his nukes. But a democratic Iran probably would.

Without the bogeyman of a Great Satan and the militant dream of regional hegemony, a Persian Parliament, overwhelmed with the people’s demands, would find much better things than enriched uranium to spend the nation’s money on. And if the clerical regime cracks, Mr. Obama will get credit. In no other endeavor, foreign or domestic, is the president likely to earn as much.


Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former Middle Eastern specialist in the C.I.A.’s clandestine service.
24169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter: BO's owned on: February 11, 2010, 11:38:28 AM
Obama's Owned — You Can Bank on It
By Ann Coulter

Don't miss the best conservative columnists on The Patriot's opinion page -- the right opinion with NO advertising or annoying pop-ups.


Wall Street gambled, taxpayers foot the billThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are bristling with the news that Republicans have decided now is the time to suck up to Wall Street. As the saying goes, there is no truer friend than a Wall Street arbitrageur -- they are the salt-of-the-earth, the most loyal men who ever drew a breath!

What are Republicans thinking? While not every money-manipulator on Wall Street deserves to be treated like a heroin dealer, lots do. Could the Republicans be a little more discriminating in picking up the Democrats' old friends?

The Democrats are acting as if they want to punish everyone in the financial services industry, including the innocent, while the Republicans seem to want to protect everyone on Wall Street, including the guilty.

How about just punishing the guilty? The Democrats can't do that because the list of Wall Street's biggest offenders may turn out to be eerily similar to the list of Obama's biggest campaign contributors.

Employees from Goldman Sachs gave more to the Obama campaign than any other organization except the University of California -- with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase quickly following in sixth and seventh place.

Whatever Obama has in mind for punishing the financial industry, I promise you, he won't punish his friends. After JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon took a $17 million bonus this week, and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein got a $9 million bonus, Obama said he didn't begrudge them their bonuses, saying, "I know both those guys."

Obama seems to be hoping that his vague bluster about "obscene profits" will lure Republicans into embracing Wall Street welfare recipients -- thereby losing Americans forever.

Never bet against Republicans being outwitted.

Risk-taking and speculation are good. But the Democrats' crony capitalism is the worst of both worlds: risk-taking without any real risk for the risk-takers. It's like gambling with your rich daddy's money, except we're the rich daddy.

Obama, like the rest of his party, is an ideologue who doesn't understand or particularly like the free market. He fundamentally believes in the efficacy of the welfare state, whether the beneficiary is a layabout single mother or a rich Wall Street banker.

As Peter Schweizer describes in his magnificent book "Architects of Ruin," the Democrats have been bailing out investment houses from their bad bets since the Clinton administration. The bankers got all the profits when their risky bonds were paying -- and then gave massive donations to their Democratic benefactors. But once the bets went bad, it was the taxpayers' problem.

Heavily leveraged securities packages put together by Goldman Sachs and others were the HIV virus that killed the American economy. And the reason investment firms piled leverage on leverage on leverage was that they knew the government would bail them out if their house of cards collapsed.

On one hand, Goldman put together toxic securities packages for their clients, but on the other hand, Goldman knew the mortgage securities being sold on the market were crap, so they also took out lots of insurance with AIG on crappy products being traded on the market.

It would be as if, anticipating a major earthquake, Goldman bought massive insurance policies on every house on the San Andreas fault line.

There's nothing wrong with taking risks and making bets, provided that if you bet wrong or if you bankrupt your betting partner with wild gambles: You lose.

The problem was that Goldman and AIG, among many others, knew they wouldn't lose. Twenty years of Democratic bailouts have led them to understand that when their bets go bad, the taxpayer will save them.

Which is exactly what happened.

When the earthquake hit toxic securities, the insurer, AIG, couldn't pay up. Normally, that would result in the insurer going bankrupt, an orderly proceeding in bankruptcy court to distribute AIG's assets, and Goldman recovering only a portion of the insurance payout on the crappy products.

But instead of AIG going bankrupt and Goldman taking a hit, the U.S. taxpayer made good on AIG's securities insurance. In a deal arranged by former Goldman CEO and current Obama BFF, Hank Paulson, Goldman ended up being paid -- by you -- an astonishing 100 cents on the dollar.

So Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein's boast that his firm didn't want TARP money and has paid it all back is completely irrelevant. Goldman took billions of dollars -- that's millions with a "b" -- of the AIG bailout money. How about paying that back?

It took The New York Times a year and a half to figure out Goldman's jackpot winnings from the AIG bailout -- $12.9 billion, according to the Times -- so the first thing Republicans ought to do is hold hearings to determine who benefited from the Democrats' crony capitalism, and not take their bluster as fact.

The next step should be to get all the bailout money back.

When the government steps in to save the very financial institutions that poisoned the nation's financial system with contaminated securities and derivatives -- all while the bankers get to keep the fees and bonuses on their bad bets -- we are not talking about a free market.

We're talking about regular Americans being forced to foot the bill for the gambling habits of left-wing multimillionaires by buying the malefactors more chips every time they lose.

Republicans should defend any investment houses that never benefited from a government bailout. But anyone who took huge gambles, lost and got bailed out with taxpayer money should be tortured and then shot, miraculously brought back to life, tortured some more, then shot a few more times.

COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL UCLICK
24170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: February 11, 2010, 12:19:42 AM
"What good does a policy I can purchase in Maine do me if I live outside the geographical service area of the network?"

What good would it do the insurance company to have a network outside the State in which it is allowed to operate?
24171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 11, 2010, 12:10:33 AM
That was very interesting.
24172  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 10, 2010, 03:47:30 PM
Very good points.

I posted this article not because I agree with all of it, but to start a conversation. 

For example, how does the (closed) guard game differ when the heel kicks to the kidneys, spine, back of neck, back of head are allowed?  Ask Renzo Gracie how he felt after Frank Shamrock's knee from bottom to the back of his head.
24173  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: February 10, 2010, 03:44:05 PM
I am quite gratified to say that we have received a goodly number of comments to this effect  cool
24174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: February 10, 2010, 02:04:06 PM
The Jihadist CBRN Threat
February 10, 2010
By Scott Stewart

In an interview aired Feb. 7 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she considers weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of an international terrorist group to be the largest threat faced by the United States today, even bigger than the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. “The biggest nightmare that many of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction,” Clinton said. In referring to the al Qaeda network, Clinton noted that it is “unfortunately a very committed, clever, diabolical group of terrorists who are always looking for weaknesses and openings.”

Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a presentation by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In his Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community on Feb. 2, Blair noted that, although counterterrorism actions have dealt a significant blow to al Qaeda’s near-term efforts to develop a sophisticated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attack capability, the U.S. intelligence community judges that the group is still intent on acquiring the capability. Blair also stated the obvious when he said that if al Qaeda were able to develop CBRN weapons and had the operatives to use them it would do so.

All this talk about al Qaeda and WMD has caused a number of STRATFOR clients, readers and even friends and family members to ask for our assessment of this very worrisome issue. So, we thought it would be an opportune time to update our readers on the topic.


Realities Shaping the Playing Field

To begin a discussion of jihadists and WMD, it is first important to briefly re-cap STRATFOR’s assessment of al Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement. It is our assessment that the first layer of the jihadist movement, the al Qaeda core group, has been hit heavily by the efforts of the United States and its allies in the aftermath of 9/11. Due to the military, financial, diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement operations conducted against the core group, it is now a far smaller and more insular organization than it once was and is largely confined geographically to the Afghan-Pakistani border. Having lost much of its operational ability, the al Qaeda core is now involved primarily in the ideological struggle (which it seems to be losing at the present time).

The second layer in the jihadist realm consists of regional terrorist or insurgent groups that have adopted the jihadist ideology. Some of these have taken up the al Qaeda banner, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and we refer to them as al Qaeda franchise groups. Other groups may adopt some or all of al Qaeda’s jihadist ideology and cooperate with the core group, but they will maintain their independence for a variety of reasons. In recent years, these groups have assumed the mantle of leadership for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield.

The third (and broadest) component of the jihadist movement is composed of grassroots jihadists. These are individuals or small groups of people located across the globe who are inspired by the al Qaeda core and the franchise groups but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups. By their very nature, the grassroots jihadists are the hardest of these three components to identify and target and, as a result, are able to move with more freedom than members of the al Qaeda core or the regional franchises.

As long as the ideology of jihadism exists, and jihadists at any of these three layers embrace the philosophy of attacking the “far enemy,” there will be a threat of attacks by jihadists against the United States. The types of attacks they are capable of conducting, however, depend on their intent and capability. Generally speaking, the capability of the operatives associated with the al Qaeda core is the highest and the capability of grassroots operatives is the lowest. Certainly, many grassroots operatives think big and would love to conduct a large, devastating attack, but their grandiose plans often come to naught for lack of experience and terrorist tradecraft.

Although the American public has long anticipated a follow-on attack to 9/11, most of the attacks directed against the United States since 9/11 have failed. In addition to incompetence and poor tradecraft, one of the contributing factors to these failures is the nature of the targets. Many strategic targets are large and well-constructed, and therefore hard to destroy. In other words, just because a strategic target is attacked does not mean the attack has succeeded. Indeed, many such attacks have failed. Even when a plot against a strategic target is successfully executed, it might not produce the desired results and would therefore be considered a failure. For example, the detonation of a massive truck bomb in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in 1993 failed to achieve the jihadists’ aims of toppling the two towers and producing mass casualties, or of causing a major U.S. foreign policy shift.

Many strategic targets, such as embassies, are well protected against conventional attacks. Their large standoff distances and physical security measures (like substantial perimeter walls) protect them from vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), while these and other security measures make it difficult to cause significant damage to them using smaller IEDs or small arms.

To overcome these obstacles, jihadists have been forced to look at alternate means of attack. Al Qaeda’s use of large, fully fueled passenger aircraft as guided missiles is a great example of this, though it must be noted that once that tactic became known, it ceased to be viable (as United Airlines Flight 93 demonstrated). Today, there is little chance that a flight crew and passengers of an aircraft would allow it to be seized by a small group of hijackers.


CBRN

Al Qaeda has long plotted ways to overcome security measures and launch strategic strikes with CBRN weapons. In addition to the many public pronouncements the group has made about its desire to obtain and use such weapons, we know al Qaeda has developed crude methods for producing chemical and biological weapons and included such tactics in its encyclopedia of jihad and terrorist training courses.

However, as STRATFOR has repeatedly pointed out, chemical and biological weapons are expensive and difficult to use and have proved to be largely ineffective in real-world applications. A comparison of the Aum Shinrikyo chemical and biological attacks in Tokyo with the March 2004 jihadist attacks in Madrid clearly demonstrates that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective in killing people. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks also underscores the problem of using improvised chemical weapons. These problems were also apparent to the al Qaeda leadership, which scrapped a plot to use improvised chemical weapons in the New York subway system due to concerns that the weapons would be ineffective. The pressure jihadist groups are under would also make it very difficult for them to develop a chemical or biological weapons facility, even if they possessed the financial and human resources required to launch such a program.

Of course, it is not unimaginable for al Qaeda or other jihadists to think outside the box and attack a chemical storage site or tanker car, or use such bulk chemicals to attack another target — much as the 9/11 hijackers used passenger- and fuel-laden aircraft to attack their targets. However, while an attack using deadly bulk chemicals could kill many people, most would be evacuated before they could receive a lethal dose, as past industrial accidents have demonstrated. Therefore, such an attack would be messy but would be more likely to cause mass panic and evacuations than mass casualties. Still, it would be a far more substantial attack than the previous subway plot using improvised chemical weapons.

A similar case can be made against the effectiveness of an attack involving a radiological dispersion device (RDD), sometimes called a “dirty bomb.” While RDDs are easy to deploy — so simple that we are surprised one has not already been used within the United States — it is very difficult to immediately administer a lethal dose of radiation to victims. Therefore, the “bomb” part of a dirty bomb would likely kill more people than the device’s “dirty,” or radiological, component. However, use of an RDD would result in mass panic and evacuations and could require a lengthy and expensive decontamination process. Because of this, we refer to RDDs as “weapons of mass disruption” rather than weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line is that a nuclear device is the only element of the CBRN threat that can be relied upon to create mass casualties and guarantee the success of a strategic strike. However, a nuclear device is also by far the hardest of the CBRN weapons to obtain or manufacture and therefore the least likely to be used. Given the pressure that al Qaeda and its regional franchise groups are under in the post-9/11 world, it is simply not possible for them to begin a weapons program intended to design and build a nuclear device. Unlike countries such as North Korea and Iran, jihadists simply do not have the resources or the secure territory on which to build such facilities. Even with money and secure facilities, it is still a long and difficult endeavor to create a nuclear weapons program — as is evident in the efforts of North Korea and Iran. This means that jihadists would be forced to obtain an entire nuclear device from a country that did have a nuclear weapons program, or fissile material such as highly enriched uranium (enriched to 80 percent or higher of the fissile isotope U-235) that they could use to build a crude, gun-type nuclear weapon.

Indeed, we know from al Qaeda defectors like Jamal al-Fadl that al Qaeda attempted to obtain fissile material as long ago as 1994. The organization was duped by some of the scammers who were roaming the globe attempting to sell bogus material following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several U.S. government agencies were duped in similar scams.

Black-market sales of military-grade radioactive materials spiked following the collapse of the Soviet Union as criminal elements descended on abandoned Russian nuclear facilities in search of a quick buck. In subsequent years the Russian government, in conjunction with various international agencies and the U.S. government, clamped down on the sale of Soviet-era radioactive materials. U.S. aid to Russia in the form of so-called “nonproliferation assistance” — money paid to destroy or adequately secure such nuclear and radiological material — increased dramatically following 9/11. In 2009, the U.S. Congress authorized around $1.2 billion for U.S. programs that provide nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union. Such programs have resulted in a considerable amount of fissile material being taken off the market and removed from vulnerable storage sites, and have made it far harder to obtain fissile material today than it was in 1990 or even 2000.

Another complication to consider is that jihadists are not the only parties who are in the market for nuclear weapons or fissile material. In addition to counterproliferation programs that offer to pay money for fissile materials, countries like Iran and North Korea would likely be quick to purchase such items, and they have the resources to do so, unlike jihadist groups, which are financially strapped.

Some commentators have said they believe al Qaeda has had nuclear weapons for years but has been waiting to activate them at the “right time.” Others claim these weapons are pre-positioned inside U.S. cities. STRATFOR’s position is that if al Qaeda had such weapons prior to 9/11, it would have used them instead of conducting the airline attack. Even if the group had succeeded in obtaining a nuclear weapon after 9/11, it would have used it by now rather than simply sitting on it and running the risk of it being seized.

There is also the question of state assistance to terrorist groups, but the actions of the jihadist movement since 9/11 have served to steadily turn once quietly supportive (or ambivalent) states against the movement. Saudi Arabia declared war on jihadists in 2003 and countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Indonesia have recently gone on the offensive. Indeed, in his Feb. 2 presentation to the Senate committee, Blair said: “We do not know of any states deliberately providing CBRN assistance to terrorist groups. Although terrorist groups and individuals have sought out scientists with applicable expertise, we have no corroborated reporting that indicates such experts have advanced terrorist CBRN capability.” Blair also noted that, “We and many in the international community are especially concerned about the potential for terrorists to gain access to WMD-related materials or technology.”

Clearly, any state that considered providing WMD to jihadists would have to worry about blow-back from countries that would be targeted by that material (such as the United States and Russia). With jihadists having declared war on the governments of countries in which they operate, officials in a position to provide CBRN to those jihadists would also have ample reason to be concerned about the materials being used against their own governments.

Efforts to counter the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology will certainly continue for the foreseeable future, especially efforts to ensure that governments with nuclear weapons programs do not provide weapons or fissile material to jihadist groups. While the chance of such a terrorist attack is remote, the devastation one could cause means that it must be carefully guarded against.
24175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah withdrawal? on: February 10, 2010, 01:02:02 PM
Yemen: A Hezbollah Withdrawal?
Stratfor Today » February 10, 2010 | 1714 GMT



AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni soldiers in Saada province on Feb. 10According to several STRATFOR sources, Hezbollah, upon orders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, allegedly has withdrawn the remainder of its 400-strong contingent from Yemen. According to one source, the remaining Hezbollah operatives currently are in Khartoum, Sudan, and are awaiting flights to Beirut. They are expected to return to Beirut in small groups on Sudanese airlines.

This information — particularly the claim that Hezbollah had 400 men in Yemen — has not been verified. It must be noted that Iran and Hezbollah have an interest in playing up their involvement in Yemen as a way to amplify Iran’s militant threat against the United States and its Arab allies. STRATFOR therefore is deeply skeptical about the claims that Hezbollah sent 400 fighters to Yemen, where allegedly 70 of its operatives were killed and 90 wounded in Saudi aerial bombardments. The sheer logistical challenge of moving 400 armed men behind enemy lines, supplying them and then dealing with a high number of casualties is highly daunting, especially with U.S. intelligence helping with surveillance in the area.

However, the report of Iran downsizing Hezbollah’s (however limited) presence in Yemen tracks with information STRATFOR has received in recent weeks. The report also follows a decision by Yemen’s al-Houthi leadership to negotiate a cease-fire with Saudi Arabia.

STRATFOR first reported in September 2008 that Hezbollah operatives had perished in fighting alongside al-Houthi rebels in Yemen’s northern mountainous region. The al-Houthi insurgency escalated from a domestic conflict in Yemen to a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2008, when Iran began increasing financial and military support for the rebels as a way to emphasize its possession of another lever that could be used against U.S.-allied Arab Gulf states in the event of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s push to send Hezbollah operatives to Yemen reportedly caused a major split within Hezbollah’s senior ranks over whether the militant group should be expending assets on Iran’s proxy project in the Arabian Peninsula.

Iran had hoped to use its operations in Yemen as additional leverage in its nuclear negotiations, but Washington was careful to avoid being publicly drawn into the fray by acknowledging Iran’s role in the conflict. STRATFOR received indications in January that Iran, frustrated by its inability to exploit the al-Houthi rebellion in its dealings with the United States, had begun selectively supporting elements of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). STRATFOR does not believe such support has reached a significant level, but the AQAP threat is of far greater concern to the United States, particularly following the Christmas Day 2009 failed AQAP attack on a U.S. airliner. If Iran has indeed decided to withdraw its Hezbollah assets from Yemen, particular attention must be paid to Iran’s AQAP connection. Though these links are not yet critical, AQAP is unlikely to turn down support from Iran, even if the group considers Iran an ideological foe.
24176  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Boo Dog on: February 10, 2010, 12:13:50 PM
Boo is at pro level in MMA and spars regularly with UFC fighters out of Gokor's gym.  He is an instructor under Gokor and a professional full time MA instructor-- and a cool guy.
24177  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: February 10, 2010, 12:12:33 PM
It is up to you  grin
24178  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Nat Geo show : Fight Club No Limits on: February 10, 2010, 12:12:00 PM
Good idea Baltic Dog.  Lets use the Fire Hydrant thread for this purpose.
24179  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Is the Guard dead on: February 10, 2010, 12:10:12 PM
From MMATorch.com

Staff Columnists
COLUMN: Death of the Guard - Changes to the MMA game evident at UFC 109, especially in Sonnen vs. Marquardt
By
Feb 8, 2010 - 3:32:20 PM




By Jason Amadi, MMATorch Columnist

In a post-UFC 109 interview done by Mike Straka, Jon Fitch made quite a bold statement. Fitch stated that the closed guard in MMA was "dead." He said that unless you're Shinya Aoki or Demian Maia, if you get taken down by a strong wrestler, you need to get back to feet or suffer a beating.

While that may rattle a few within the jiu jitsu community, he's completely correct. Over the years we've seen MMA evolve many times. While some feel that the sport is largely the same and has been since the institution of the Unified Rules, fans who really look at fights from just a few short years ago, and compare to fights now, will notice quite a few changes.

For one, the mount is no longer the most dominant position to finish a fight. I can't remember the last time a fight was finished with strikes from the mount position. Side control seems to be the preferred position to finish off opponents.

Made famous by Ivan Salavary (as Joe Rogan loves to remind us of this, but I feel Matt Hughes popularized it further), trapping the arms of your opponent in side control, and then raining down blows to the face gives much less space for escape. Even if you don't land significant blows, the referee is forced to stop the fight because you can't escape.

At this point, the mount is fairly low percentage. As we saw with Phil Davis and Brian Stann, the trend these days when mounted is to simply give up your back and hang on to the gloves of your opponent, then hope you can explode over into their guard and reverse momentum that way. Sure, Davis didn't have the best mount, but the survival techniques showed by Stann (guy really needs to practice the hip escape, though) are now likely common practice at all the top teams in MMA.

The guard is in trouble for sure. I agree completely with Fitch, and feel that unless you are a top submission artist, the caliber of Demian Maia, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Shinya Aoki, Dustin Hazelett, or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, having a top wrestler in your guard is death.

At the top level, wrestlers are so good at submission defense, as we saw with Chael Sonnen, they no longer have any fear of the guard. Nate Marquardt is a black belt in jiu jitsu, but could get nothing done against Sonnen from inside his guard and paid the price for it.

Jon Fitch has made a career of being inside a tough BJJ black belt's guard and surviving. Tito Ortiz made a name for himself for punishing guys inside the guard as well, and the list of wrestlers who do so just grows more and more by the day. I don't think I even need to discuss the problems that could arise should you find a monster wrestler like Shane Carwin or Brock Lesnar in your guard (Minotauro Nogueira is a brave, brave man).

But the big story of UFC 109 was Nate Marquardt being battered from inside his guard by Chael Sonnen. I think the next evolution in MMA is the rubber guard becoming common practice for everyone involved. We're still seeing 1997 style guards in 2010. It just doesn't work in MMA anymore.

The rubber guard was designed to control fighters from within your guard, break down their posture, and look for submissions from unusual places using flexibility. Anyone familiar with Shinya Aoki's handiwork has seen him perform breathtaking submissions (literally) from the rubber guard.

The problem is that a lot of fighters, who aren't necessarily raised in the discipline of BJJ from the start, don't necessarily have the flexibility. Dustin Hazelett's submission of Tamdon McCrory at UFC 91 was the last time I saw the rubber guard used effectively in the UFC. Generally, we see fighters feebly attempt to grab their ankles, only after having sustained a beating, and then they realize after a few tries that they haven't practiced this technique nearly enough, so they wind up giving up.

Unless a meteor hits the UFC, and wipes out all its elite wrestlers, we're going to be in for a long reign of terror by wrestlers. Couture vs. Coleman wasn't the only indication that we're back in 1997, folks, because the guard in MMA has been rendered almost completely ineffective at the top level.

[Jon Fitch photo credit Wade Keller (c) MMATorch]

© Copyright by MMATorch.com
24180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Narco State? on: February 09, 2010, 05:54:47 PM
Drug cartels tighten grip; Mexico becoming 'narco-state'
Rising lawlessness echoes state of '90s-era Colombia
by Chris Hawley - Feb. 7, 2010 12:00 AM
Republic Mexico City Bureau .
MEXICO CITY - For months, the leaders of Tancitaro had held firm against the drug lords battling for control of this central Mexican town.

Then one morning, after months of threats and violence from the traffickers, they finally surrendered.


Before dawn, gunmen kidnapped the elderly fathers of the town administrator and the secretary of the City Council. Within hours, both officials resigned along with the mayor, the entire seven-member City Council, two department heads, the police chief and all 60 police officers. Tancitaro had fallen to the enemy.

Across Mexico, the continuing ability of traffickers to topple governments like Tancitaro's, intimidate police and keep drug shipments flowing is raising doubts about the Mexican government's 3-year-old, U.S.-backed war on the drug cartels.

Far from eliminating the gangs, the battle has exposed criminal networks more ingrained than most Americans could imagine: Hidden economies that employ up to one-fifth of the people in some Mexican states. Business empires that include holdings as everyday as gyms and a day-care center.

And the death toll continues to mount: Mexico saw 6,587 drug-related murders in 2009, up from 5,207 in 2008 and 2,275 in 2007, according to an unofficial tally by the respected newspaper Reforma.

Cartels have multiplied, improved their armament and are perfecting simultaneous, terrorist-style attacks.

Some analysts are warning that Mexico is on the verge of becoming a "narco-state" like 1990s-era Colombia.

"We are approaching that red zone," said Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert on organized crime at the Autonomous Technological University of Mexico. "There are pockets of ungovernability in the country, and they will expand."

For the past decade, he said, parts of Mexico have been sliding toward the lawlessness that Colombia experienced, in which traffickers in league with left-wing rebels controlled small towns and large parts of the interior through drug-funded bribery and gun-barrel intimidation.

In the latest sign of the cartels' grip, on Wednesday the National Action Party of President Felipe Calderón announced it was calling off primary elections in the northern state of Tamaulipas because drug traffickers had infiltrated politics.

And in Chihuahua, the government is redeploying troops from the embattled city of Juarez to the countryside because of fears that the cartels are cementing their control in smaller border towns.

Even Calderón, who a year ago angrily rebutted suggestions that Mexico was becoming a "failed state," is now describing his crackdown as a fight for territory and "the very authority of the state."

"The crime has stopped being a low-profile activity and has become defiant . . . . plainly visible and based on co-opting or intimidating the authorities," he told a group of Mexican ambassadors last month. "It's the law of the 'bribe or the bullet.' "


Towns on the ropes

In places like Tancitaro, population 26,000, the battle already may be lost.

In the past year, gunmen killed seven police officers, murdered a top town administrator and kidnapped others, said Martin Urbina, a city official. The reasons were unclear - most of the town leaders are in hiding and could not be reached for comment - but the drug traffickers were apparently demanding the removal of certain police officers, Urbina said.

When the traffickers kidnapped the two officials' fathers on Nov. 30, it was the last straw.

"If someone comes and puts a pistol to your head, what are you going to do?" said Gustavo Sánchez, who was appointed by the Michoacan state governor as interim mayor after the mass resignation. "It's happening in all of the states, not just here."

In Vicente Guerrero, in Durango state, 34 of 38 police resigned after the police chief and four officers were kidnapped. The victims have not been found.

In the border town of Puerto Palomas, the police chief fled to the United States and asked for asylum in March, saying Mexican officials could not protect him. In October, traffickers killed the town administrator in Puerto Palomas.

In the northern town of Namiquipa, traffickers killed the mayor and two top town officials last year. Police there are woefully outgunned, police Chief Jesus Hinojosa said. There are only 15 weapons for 39 police officers.

Often the cartels target city officials they believe are cooperating with federal authorities, said Juan Manuel Bautista, the City Council secretary in the western town of Novolato, where traffickers have killed 25 police, two city councilmen and a town administrator in the past two years.

Other times, they are simply lashing back at the most convenient targets, he said.

"In these small-town governments, everyone knows your business and who you are," Bautista said. "If they want to take revenge on you, it's easy."

Even when governments replace police chiefs, mayors and town councils, it's often only a matter of time before the replacements are bribed, intimidated at the barrel of a gun or killed, and the scenario repeats itself, said Bernardo Gonzalez Arechiga, an expert on crime at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Advanced Studies.

In May, federal officials arrested 10 mayors in Michoacan state on charges of protecting smugglers.

In June, Mauricio Fernández, a mayoral candidate in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, was recorded telling a meeting of supporters that he had negotiated a truce with the Beltrán Leyva gang as a way of guaranteeing security in the town. Fernández later denied any contact with the gang. He easily won the July 2 election.


Financial octopus

The attempt to dismantle the cartels has created a new appreciation for how deep their financial networks go, said Joel Kurtzman, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, an economic think tank in Santa Monica, Calif.

In many towns, smugglers pay for playgrounds and other things the government cannot afford. Bank loans are expensive and hard to get in Mexico, a lingering effect of the country's bank crises during the 1990s, so traffickers have stepped in to provide small-business loans.

"What people did not recognize in Mexico was how deeply ingrained in both the economy and society the drug trade was," Kurtzman said. "So it's not as if the drug traders are unpopular - they're looked at in many cities like Robin Hoods."

Since 2006, the number of Mexican citizens and companies on the U.S. Treasury's blacklist of suspected drug smugglers has nearly doubled, from 188 to 362.

They are as varied as a day-care center in Culiacan, a gym in Hermosillo and an electronics company in Tijuana. There are meat packing plants, horse stables, dairies, hotels, a mining company and gasoline stations.

Dozens of those companies are still operating because Mexican prosecutors lack few legal tools to shut them down, Buscaglia said.

In March, the financial magazine Forbes included Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán in its list of the world's billionaires for the first time. Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, was listed at No. 701 with a net worth of about $1 billion.

In fact, Guzmán's cartel and other gangs probably bring in $3.8 billion just to Sinaloa state alone, said Guillermo Ibarra, an economist who used bank and government statistics to compile an estimate this year.

That is 20 percent of the state's economy, twice as much as all of its factories put together. The drug trade employs about a fifth of the state's 2.6 million population, either directly or indirectly, he said.

"It trickles down to construction, to car sales, you name it," Ibarra said. "Drug money ends up everywhere."

The cartels' criminal activities also are becoming more diverse, Buscaglia said.

La Familia Michoacana, which produces methamphetamine at clandestine laboratories in Michoacan state, has broadened into prostitution, protection rackets and software piracy.

Street vendors in Mexico now sell music CDs and DVDs stamped with "FM," the gang's logo.

Likewise, the Zetas, once the elite hit men of the Gulf Cartel, now run kidnapping-for-ransom rings in Mexico City and steal gasoline from government pipelines. Pemex, the state-run oil company, says it lost $747 million in stolen fuel in 2008.


Gangs going strong

The cartels also have found ways to defend their core drug business by moving marijuana farms to U.S. national parks, finding new smuggling routes through Africa and into Europe, and strengthening their supply lines in Central America.

Drug prices and purity in the United States, the main measure of trafficking, shows the crackdown is having only mixed results.

Cocaine prices in the United States jumped from $132 a gram to $182 a gram from September 2007 to September 2008, the latest date for which the Drug Enforcement Administration has released numbers.

But during the same period, methamphetamine got stronger and cheaper, dropping from $213 per gram to $184 per gram.

To offset tighter border security, Mexican traffickers are setting up marijuana farms on public lands in California, Washington and Oregon, a U.S. Department of Justice report said in July. The number of marijuana plants seized in the United States soared from 3.2 million in 2004 to 8 million in 2008.

Their product is also improving, the report said: Marijuana potency in 2008 was the highest it has ever been.

The cartels also are expanding into new territory.

Since 2008, Mexican drug smugglers have been arrested in Australia, New Zealand and the African nations of Sierra Leone and Togo. U.S. prosecutors say the Gulf Cartel has struck deals with the New York mob and the Ndrangheta Mafia of Italy to smuggle cocaine into Europe.

In the United States, cartel operatives have been detected in 195 cities, as distant as Anchorage, Alaska, and as small as Ponca City, Okla., a report by the U.S. Justice Department said.

In Arizona, the Sinaloa Cartel has operations in Phoenix, Tucson, Douglas, Glendale, Naco, Nogales, Peoria, Sasabe, Sierra Vista and Yuma. The Gulf Cartel also has some operatives in Nogales, and the Juarez Cartel has outposts in Phoenix, Tucson and Douglas, the report said.

Buscaglia said his research has turned up links to Mexican traffickers in 47 countries worldwide.

"Mexico has become an exporter of instability," he said.

At the same time, the cartels are acquiring weapons that are "increasingly more powerful and lethal," the U.S. Government and Accountability Office said in a June report.

Five rocket launchers, 271 grenades, 2,932 assault rifles, a submarine loaded with cocaine, and an anti-aircraft gun complete with blast shield were all seized by Mexican authorities between March 2008 and August 2009.

In September, traffickers fired an anti-tank rocket at soldiers while trying to free a comrade who had been detained.

The gangs also are getting better at carrying out coordinated, military-style operations.

On July 11 and 12, La Familia launched 15 attacks in eight cities on police stations and a police bus, killing 14 officers.

And on May 16, Gulf Cartel gunmen freed 53 prisoners in a commando-style raid on a prison in Zacatecas state.


Prolonged war

Calderón and the Obama administration insist that the Mexican government still has the upper hand against the cartels.

"We have a serious problem, but the good news is that we're confronting it, and better yet, we're making progress," Calderón told the ambassadors last month.

But in the past year, doubts have been growing.

A report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned in January 2009 that Mexico was ripe for a "rapid and sudden collapse" because of the drug cartels. And in a report to the West Point military academy, former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey said the cartels could "overwhelm the institutions of the state and establish de facto control over broad regions of northern Mexico" within eight years.

Former President Ernesto Zedillo, writer Carlos Fuentes, former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda and the former chief of Calderón's National Action Party have publicly questioned the president's strategy.

In Colombia, the government was able to re-establish control in rural areas by eliminating a "demilitarized" zone that had been granted to the leftist guerrillas, renewing attacks on them and spraying coca fields with pesticides. The United States has helped with $5.8 billion in aid since 2000.

But in Mexico, the government needs to focus on the prosecution of crimes instead of flooding the streets with troops, Buscaglia said.

Only about half of detainees are ever convicted, and most are low-level thugs, not the money launderers, accountants and managers who keep the cartels running.

Of the more than 53,000 arrests since the crackdown began, only 941 are in Sinaloa, despite the fact that that state is the heart of one of the biggest smuggling empires, Buscaglia said.

The government also needs laws allowing authorities to shut down suspected money-laundering operations and seize their assets without going through a criminal trial, he said.

Only three things could change the balance, said Ray Walser, an expert on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation: a massive increase in U.S. drug aid, a large addiction-treatment program in the United States or the legalization of drugs in the United States.

None of these measures seems to be on the horizon, Walser said.

"The problem that Calderón has in winning this war will be that he can't offer the citizens courts, mayors and policemen that are safe and honest and not corrupt," Kurtzman said.

"As a result, this is likely to remain a stalemate with a lot of killing on both sides for a long time."
24181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Warning shot across our bow on: February 09, 2010, 05:45:02 PM
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6183KG20100209
24182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fg French on: February 09, 2010, 05:15:54 PM
France has agreed to sell Russia an advanced amphibious warship and is considering a Russian request for three more, French defense officials said Monday. It would be the first major arms deal between Russia and a NATO member.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy approved the sale of one Mistral assault ship after months of discussions, but then Russian naval officials submitted a request for three more, said Jacques de Lajugie, head of international development at the French arms agency DGA.

"We are in the process of examining" this request, de Lajugie said at a news conference, predicting a decision in the coming weeks. He said the new request came not at the "political level" but from the general staff of the Russian Navy.

No details about price were released.

The Mistral can anchor in coastal waters and deploy troops on land, a capacity the Russian navy now lacks. Russia's navy chief said last year that a ship like the Mistral would have allowed the Russian navy to mount a much more efficient action in the Black Sea during the Georgia-Russia war. He said the French ship would take just 40 minutes to do the job that the Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels did in 26 hours.

The deal is richly symbolic for Russia, seeking to modernize an aging navy reliant on Soviet-era technology and to project its power abroad more effectively — and more impressively. The sale has alarmed some of Russia's former Soviet bloc neighbors, including those now in NATO, especially after the Russia-Georgia war in 2008.

Possessing a Mistral, which can carry 16 attack helicopters and dozens of armored vehicles, would significantly increase the Russian military's capability to mount quick offensives. France sent a Mistral, which weighs 23,700 tons and is 980 feet long, to visit St. Petersburg last year in a clear sign of interest in a potential sale.

France's Defense Minister Herve Morin, meeting in Paris with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said Monday that France hopes to contribute to European stability.

"I understand that for some central and eastern European countries, that the wounds are still there. France wants a new relationship and that means it needs to go through new exchanges," he told reporters.

Gates said he and Morin discussed the French warship sale to Russia and had "a good and thorough exchange of views." He would not comment further.

NATO members and Russia have had some small, country-to-country technology deals in the past but this would be the first sale of a major piece of equipment by a NATO nation to Moscow.

"The Mistral is packed with electronics, it also serves as a command ship and a communications hub. That will allow the Russia to obtain modern naval technologies," Alexander Golts, an independent Russian military analyst, said in a telephone interview.

"The Mistral would offer a capability to project power to distant areas, something that both France and Russia like to have," Golts said.

Some other analysts have been skeptical that buying Mistral will help the Russian navy modernize because the ship sold to Russia may be stripped of its most sensitive and valuable systems.

"I believe that it's not a good idea to sell such ship to a country that has occupied another nation's territory," Temur Yakobashvili, a Georgian cabinet minister for reintegration who is in charge of issues related to separatist regions, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after the French announcement.

Russian and NATO officials did not immediately comment Monday on the French announcement.

Among outstanding questions in the deal are where the Mistral would be built, de Lajugie said.

Russian officials have repeatedly said they want the technology, not just the ships. They emphasized that Russia wants to buy the first ship and build more under license, something France has reportedly been hesitant to allow.
24183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, why didn't we think of this before? on: February 09, 2010, 12:23:41 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRgRz3nSG7o&feature=player_embedded#
24184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 09, 2010, 08:03:26 AM
Bolton is right I fear.  I would add that this , , , farce in which we are currently are engaged, what Krauthammer calls a "Kabuki Theater", is designed to pass the time until Iran has nukes.

Our deadline of September and then the "we are really serious this time deadline of 12/31" of have come and gone.

I saw SecDef Gates last night say our really big next move is to get a UN resolution shocked rolleyes cry  as if Iran's violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which it signed were not enough.  PATHETIC.

That said, I certainly am not hearing any eagerness from our military for a military solution and Iran is not an easy nut to crack as those who glibly envision an Osirak 2 seem to think.   Are there non-nuclear solutions?  Anyone?  Anyone here calling for nukes?

It is more than worth noting that this farce began during the Bush administration and of the Euros that the Germans in particular bear the responsibility for the consequences for undercutting the economic pressures on Iran until it is now too late.  Also worth noting is that the Chinese depend on Iran for much of their energy and now that we have given them such huge claims upon us and our resources that we are in no position to  pressure them or blow them off.

24185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: February 09, 2010, 07:52:20 AM
BBG:

Nice find.
24186  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Membership on: February 09, 2010, 07:49:17 AM
Kaju:

I sent word to Pretty Kitty.  She just caught the kooties from our daughter last night, so it may take her a day or three.
24187  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 09, 2010, 07:47:58 AM
Grateful for two days of training this past weekend with Kenny Johnson and a fine group at our Camp.

The Adventure continues!
24188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 08, 2010, 09:01:24 AM
Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan

Sunday , February 07, 2010

American and British forces poised to assault the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, have begun targeting insurgent leaders for assassination, The Sunday Times reported.

Special forces have been infiltrating the town on "kinetic" missions — jargon for armed attacks.

"Special forces guys have been going in on assassination missions with the aim of decapitating the Taliban force," a military source told the Sunday Times.

At U.S. Marine base Camp Leatherneck and the adjoining British base of Camp Bastion, troops and munitions have been airlifted in by night to avoid enemy rockets. In a break from traditional military secrecy, American, British and Afghan commanders have revealed that Marjah, the last town in Helmand under Taliban control, will in fact be the site of fighting in the near future.

Though Operation Moshtarak —Operation Together — has been widely publicized by top military leaders, the timeline for the offensive has not been revealed.

The success of the planned campaign depends on how quickly troops and civilian development workers can get public services up and running once the Taliban have been driven away, the top U.S. and NATO commander said Sunday.

The military has widely publicized the upcoming offensive in Marjah — the biggest Taliban-held community in the south — although the precise date for the attack in Helmand province remains classified.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the element of surprise is not as important as letting Marjah's estimated 80,000 residents know that an Afghan government is on its way to replace Taliban overlords and drug traffickers.

"We're trying to create a situation where we communicate to them that when the government re-establishes security, they'll have choices," McChrystal said.

Establishing functioning government has been messy even in the relatively safe parts of Afghanistan. NATO forces and international diplomats have to balance the need to increase security with the desire to build up Afghan institutions that have too-often been corrupt or ineffective.

24189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm having a hard time understanding this , , , on: February 08, 2010, 08:11:55 AM
and I mean that quite seriously huh

Today's edition of the WSJ reports Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will begin this week to lay out a blueprint for a credit tightening, to be followed once the Fed decides the economy has recovered sufficiently. The centerpiece will be a new tool Congress gave the central bank in October 2008: an interest rate the Fed pays banks on money they leave on reserve at the central bank. Known as "interest on excess reserves," this rate is now 0.25%.


The Fed is still at least several months away from raising interest rates or beginning to drain the flood of money it poured into the financial system in 2008 and 2009. But looking ahead to when the economy is strong enough to warrant tightening credit, officials have been discussing for months which financial levers to pull, when to start and how best to communicate their intent. When the Fed is ready to tap the brakes, it plans to raise the rate paid on excess reserves, according to Fed officials in interviews and recent speeches. The higher rate would entice banks to tie up money they otherwise might lend to customers or other banks. The Fed expects such a maneuver to pull up other key short-term rates, including the federal-funds rate at which banks lend to each other overnight—long the main tool for steering the economy.
24190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Tea Party on: February 08, 2010, 07:34:41 AM

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/THE TEA PARTY
"It's a leaderless movement" former House majority leader Dick Armey

The Tea Party movement in the US is an open source political protest.  It emerged due to a substantial loss of government legitimacy (primarily from the mishandling of the global financial crisis) and continues to percolate as legitimacy continues to drain away from the government (health care, banking reform, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, deficit, etc.).  Here's what open source means in this context:


•Lots of small local groups (and individuals), with a plethora of different motivations for action. 
•No barriers to entry.  Anybody can label themselves or their actions as part of the Tea Party.
•Lots of networked activity and cross movement communication.

As a movement, it is very similar to open source warfare and therefore shares many of the same dynamics.  Here are a few of them: 


•Its main value is systems disruption.  It can slow political processes.  It can say no (the name, "Tea Party" is derived from an act of disruptive, albeit non-violent, domestic terrorism directed at the government).
•There are lots of people trying to control it (grab the baton to lead the parade) and form it into a cohesive whole.  All of these efforts will fail.  Every attempt at control will be attacked and defeated by a majority of Tea Party groups/members.
•Swarms.  Groups will rapidly converge on attractive protest targets (typically signaled by media coverage via stigmergy). 
Traditionally, a failure by the government would result in a gain by the opposition party.  However, the peculiar dynamics of the two party system in the US works against this.  The two parties have converged into a single dominant party with roughly similar agendas.  Further, these parties have rigged the system to prevent third party formation.  As a result, there isn't a structured process to absorb this movement into the political system.  Here are some potential outcomes:


•It will merely damage the political party in power, preventing any action by saying no to everything (regardless of which political party is in power).  A future Republican government presiding over more loses of government legitimacy would yield movement growth and mutation.
•The Republicans will run an open source counter-insurgency against it, co-opting some of its member groups (not all) and using them to fight against the rest.  The result will be dissipation through infighting which will allow the Republicans to pick up former members.
•A new plausible promise emerges that allows it to grow and morph into something else (more of an insurgency than a political protest).  It's unclear if the environment is ripe for this yet.  A second financial crisis or recession downdraft may afford it.  Once it is ripe, all it takes is for one subgroup to demonstrate the plausible promise through action (for example:  a real and not a metaphorical Tea Party).
24191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 08, 2010, 07:33:35 AM




"Your love of liberty -- your respect for the laws -- your habits of industry -- and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness." --George Washington, letter to the residents of Boston, 1789

"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue." --John Witherspoon, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 1776

"It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia Query 19, 1781

"The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men." --Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, 1775

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." --Samuel Adams, essay in The Public Advertiser, 1749

"In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate - look to his character...." --Noah Webster, Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education, 1789

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 1802

"No compact among men ... can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other." --George Washington, draft of first Inaugural Address, 1789
24192  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Venezolano on: February 08, 2010, 07:21:35 AM
Hola Spike:

Tienes email.

Crafty Dog
24193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unsustainable is the new normal on: February 08, 2010, 07:08:12 AM
Unsustainable the New Normal

By Mark Steyn

 

At the National Prayer Breakfast, Barack Obama singled out for praise Navy Corpsman Christian Bouchard. Or, as the president called him, "Corpseman Bouchard." Twice.



Hey, not a big deal. Throughout his life, the commander in chief has had little contact with the military, and less interest. And, when you give as many speeches as this guy does, there's no time to rehearse or read through: You just gotta fire up the prompter and wing it. But it's revealing that nobody around him in the so-called smartest administration of all time thought to spell it out phonetically for him when the speech got typed up and loaded into the machine. Which suggests that either his minders don't know that he doesn't know that kinda stuff, or they don't know it, either. To put it in Rumsfeldian terms, they don't know what they don't know.



Which is embarrassingly true. Hence, the awful flop speeches, from the Copenhagen Olympics to the Berlin Wall anniversary video to the Martha Coakley rally. The palpable whiff given off by the White House inner circle is that they're the last people on the planet still besotted by Barack Obama, and that they're having such a cool time starring in their own reality-show remake of "The West Wing" they can only conceive of the public – and, indeed, the world – as crowd-scene extras in "The Barack Obama Show." They expect you to cheer and wave flags when the floor manager tells you to, but the notion that, in return, he should be able to persuade you of the merits of his policies seems entirely to have eluded them.



But, since Obama's mispronunciation is a pithier summation of the State of the Union than any of the dreary 90-minute sludge he paid his speechwriters for, let us consider it: Is America a Corpseman walking?



Well, we're getting there. National Review's Jim Geraghty sums up Obama's America thus: "Unsustainable is the new normal." Indeed. The other day, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, described current deficits as "unsustainable." So let's make them even more so. The president tells us, with a straight face, that his grossly irresponsible profligate wastrel of a predecessor took the federal budget on an eight-year joyride, so the only way his sober, fiscally prudent successor can get things under control is to grab the throttle and crank it up to what Mel Brooks in "Spaceballs" (which seems the appropriate comparison) called "Ludicrous Speed."\



Obama's spending proposes to take the average Bush deficit for the years 2001-08, and double it, all the way to 2020. To get out of the Bush hole, we need to dig a hole twice as deep for one-and-a-half times as long. And that's according to the official projections of his Economics Czar, Ms. Rose Colored-Glasses. By 2015, the actual hole may be so deep that even if you toss every Obama speech down it on double-spaced paper you still won't be able to fill it up. In the spendthrift Bush days, federal spending as a proportion of GDP averaged 19.6 percent. Obama proposes to crank it up to 25 percent as a permanent feature of life.



But, if they're "unsustainable," what happens when they can no longer be sustained? A failure of bond auctions? A downgraded government debt rating? Reduced GDP growth? Total societal collapse? Mad Max on the New Jersey Turnpike?



Testifying to the House Budget Committee, Director Elmendorf attempted to pull back from the wilder shores of "unsustainable": "I think most observers expect that the government will act, that the unsustainability will be resolved through action, not through witnessing some collapse down the road," he said. "If literally nothing is done, then eventually something very, very bad happens. But I think the widespread view is that you and your colleagues will take action."



Dream on, you kinky fantasist. The one thing that can be guaranteed is that a political class led by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, a handful of reach-across-the-aisle Republican accomodationists and an economically illiterate narcissist in the Oval Office is never going to rein in unsustainable spending in any meaningful sense. That leaves Director Elmendorf's alternative scenario. What was it again? Oh, yeah:



"Some collapse down the road."



Speaking of roads, I see that, according to USA Today, when the economic downturn began the U.S. Department of Transportation had just one employee making over $170,000. A year and a half later, it has 1,690.



Happy days are here again!



Did you get your pay raise this year? What's that, you don't work for the government? Yes, you do, one way or another. Good luck relying on Obama, Pelosi, Frank and the other Emirs of Kleptocristan "taking action" to "resolve" that. In the past month, the cost of insuring Greece's sovereign debt against default has doubled. Spain and Portugal are headed the same way. When you binge-spend at the Greek level in a democratic state, there aren't many easy roads back. The government has introduced an austerity package to rein in spending. In response, Greek tax collectors have walked off the job.



Read that again slowly: To protest government cuts, striking tax collectors are refusing to collect taxes. In a sane world, this would be an hilarious TV comedy sketch. But most of the Western world is no longer sane. It's tough enough to persuade the town drunk to sober up, but when everyone's face down in the moonshine, maybe it's best just to head for the hills. But where to flee? America is choosing to embrace Greece's future when even the Greeks have figured out you can't make it add up. Consider the opening paragraph of Martin Crutsinger, "AP Economics Writer":



"WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.83 trillion budget on Monday that would pour more money into the fight against high unemployment, boost taxes on the wealthy and freeze spending for a wide swath of government programs."



What language is that written in? How can a $3.83 trillion budget "freeze spending"? And where's the president getting all this money to "pour" into his "fight" against high unemployment? Would it perchance be from the same small businesses that might be hiring new workers if the president didn't need so much money to "pour" away? Heigh-ho. Maybe we can all be striking tax collectors. It seems a comfortable life. If unsustainable is the new normal, it should also be the new national anthem. Take it away, Natalie Cole:



"Unsustainable

That's what you are

Unsustainable

Though near or far[/

Like a ton of debt you've dropped on us

How the thought of you has flopped on us

Never before Has someone spent more … ."

It's not the "debt" or the "deficit," it's the spending. And the only way to reduce that is with fewer government agencies, fewer government programs, fewer government employees, lower government salaries.

Instead, all four are rocketing up: We are incentivizing unsustainability, and, when it comes to "some collapse down the road," you'll be surprised how short that road is.
24194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / second post on: February 07, 2010, 09:36:03 PM
The Deadly Gonorrhea Lectim Strain


The United States Center for Contagious Disease Control has issued a level 1 warning about a new virulent strain that has been quickly spreading. The disease is contracted through dangerously high-risk behavior.  The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim, and is pronounced "gonna re-elect them."  Research has confirmed that most victims contracted this dangerous and destructive disease after having been screwed in November 2008.  Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how destructive this disease has become and have further learned that it is easily cured .... by simply voting out all incumbents!  In spite of the perils, Pelosi, Reid and Obama are working in secret legislation to place Gonorrhea Lectim on the endangered species list to assure its survival.
24195  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: February 07, 2010, 09:20:57 PM
INDEED!

I had no hesitation in turning down Salty Dog's invitation in this regard several years ago.

BTW, Tricky has emailed me that he has sustained a serious achilles injury.  More on this shortly.
24196  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: February 07, 2010, 09:19:16 PM
Good times cool cool cool

Outstanding contributions from Kenny Johnson.

Night Owl directed a two camera shoot.  DLO-3 coming  , , , soon!
24197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Italian confession on: February 07, 2010, 09:17:48 PM
*_Italian Confession_*

  An elderly Italian man who lived on the outskirts of Rimini, Italy,
  went to the local church for confession.  When the priest slid open
  the panel in the confessional, the man said:

   "Father.. During World War II, a beautiful Jewish woman from our   neighborhood knocked urgently on my door and asked me to hide her
  from the Nazis.  So I hid her in my attic."

   The priest replied: "That was a wonderful thing you did, and you
  have no need to confess that."

   "There is more to tell, Father.. She started to repay me with
  sexual favors.    This happened several times a week, and sometimes
  twice on Sundays."

   The priest said, "That was a long time ago and by doing what you
  did, you placed the two of you in great danger, but two people under
  those circumstances can easily succumb to the weakness of the
  flesh.  However, if you are truly sorry for your actions, you are
  indeed forgiven."

   "Thank you, Father. That's a great load off my mind.  I do have one
  more question."

   "And what is that?" asked the priest..

   "Should I tell her the war is over?''
24198  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: February 06, 2010, 10:52:09 AM
Door opens 09:30.
24199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 05, 2010, 05:30:21 PM
Tomorrow, Sat the 6th, is President Reagan's 99th birthday.  Happy Birthday President Reagan.  Thank you for everything.
24200  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: February 05, 2010, 04:38:28 PM
Yay!
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