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24351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments and their ilk in Congress on: October 29, 2009, 12:27:06 AM
Some say that Biden was/is life insurance for the President.  cheesy
24352  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The New Kitty Genovese on: October 29, 2009, 12:21:17 AM
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/10/28/california.gang.rape.bystander/index.html

Gang rape raises questions about bystanders' roleBy Stephanie Chen, CNNOctober 28, 2009 5:19 p.m. EDT
 "Genovese syndrome" was coined after dozens watched or heard a killer attack Kitty Genovese and did nothing.STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Psychologists say bystanders in large groups are less likely to take action

Police: As many as 20 people watched gang rape spanning over two hours

Bystanders didn't report assault to police and some participated in the attack

Some experts argue the witnesses may have feared retaliation from the gang(CNN) -- For more than two hours on a dark Saturday night, as many as 20 people watched or took part as a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten outside a high school homecoming dance, authorities said.

As hundreds of students gathered in the school gym, outside in a dimly lit alley where the victim was allegedly raped, police say witnesses took photos. Others laughed.

"As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated," Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department told CNN.

The witnesses failed to report the crime to law enforcement, Gagan said. The victim remained hospitalized in stable condition. Police arrested five suspects and more arrests were expected.

So why didn't anyone come forward?

Criminology and psychology experts say there could be a variety of reasons why the crime wasn't reported. Several pointed to a problematic social phenomenon known as the bystander effect. It's a theory that has played out in lynchings, college riots and white-collar crimes.

Under the bystander effect, experts say that the larger the number of people involved in a situation, the less will get done.



Video: Girl gang-raped for hours

Video: Gang rape outside school dance

Video: Can witnesses be prosecuted? RELATED TOPICS
Sexual Offenses
California
"If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then doing nothing becomes the norm." explains Drew Carberry, a director at the National Council on Crime Prevention.

Carberry said witnesses can be less likely to report a crime because they reinforce each other with the notion that reporting the crime isn't necessary. Or, he says, witnesses may think another person in the crowd already reported the incident. The responsibility among the group becomes diffused.

"Kids learn at a young age when they observe bullying that they would rather not get involved because there is a power structure," Carberry adds.

The phrase bystander effect was coined in the 1960s after people watched or heard a serial killer stalk and stab a woman in two separate attacks in the Queens neighborhood of New York.

Kitty Genovese struggled with the attacker on the street and in her building. She shrieked for help and was raped, robbed and murdered. When witnesses in the building were questioned by police about why they remained silent and failed to act, one man, according to the 1964 New York Times article that broke the story, answered, "I didn't want to be involved."

Though the number of people who saw or heard Genovese struggle was eventually disputed, her case still became symbolic of a kind of crowd apathy that psychologists and social scientists call the "Genovese syndrome."

"I don't propose people get involved by running over and trying to stop it," the 73-year-old brother of Kitty Genovese told CNN, referring to the California gang rape case. Instead, Vincent Genovese advocates a call to 911. "Everyone has a cell phone," he said. "There is no excuse for people not to react to a situation like that."

A similar incident took place at a New Bedford, Massachusetts, bar in 1983. Witnesses said several men threw a woman on a pool table where they raped and performed oral sex on her. Several witnesses failed to call police.

"The people in the bar didn't do anything. They just let it happen," said Richard Felson, a professor of crime, law and justice at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

This detached mentality can be especially pervasive among youth, who are too young to comprehend what victimization means, said Salvatore Didato, an organizational psychologist in New York. When a teenager -- or anyone -- doesn't have a personal bond to the victim, they are less likely to help out.

Experts say sometimes bystanders see the victim as less important than the person committing the crime, who appears to wield power. "The victim to them is a non-person," Didato said.

But in California, it's illegal for a witnessed crime involving children to go unreported. The Sherrice Iverson Child Victim Protection Act passed in 1999 makes it a misdemeanor to fail to report a crime against a child. However, the bill only applies to victims 14 or younger. The victim in the California gang-rape case was 15.

Phil Harris, a criminal justice professor at Temple University, who has studied juveniles and group situations for nearly three decades, offered another hypothesis on why as many as 20 witnesses failed to notify police. He said the witnesses could have been angry themselves -- or had a problem with the victim.

Richmond Police Department officials said some of the witnesses in the California gang rape ended up participating in the sexual assaults.

"A lot of kids don't know how to express anger and they are curious when anger is expressed," Harris said.

Scientific studies over the last decade have shown that adolescent brain development occurs into the 20s, which makes it hard for teens to make decisions, criminologists say. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court took this research into consideration when it ruled that children could not be given the death penalty.

It is still unclear the ages of the male witnesses who gathered around the victim in California and watched.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University criminologist Jack McDevitt says he believes the California gang rape was too violent -- and lasted too long -- to be the result of the bystander effect alone.

McDevitt, who specializes in hate crime research, says the male witnesses may have kept quiet out of fear of retaliation. In his research, witnesses who live in violent communities often fear stepping forward because snitching isn't tolerated.

Snitching could also bring dangerous consequences to their friends and family. "They don't believe the system will protect them from the offender," he said. "They think the offender will find out their name."

That may have been the case in Chicago, Illinois, in September when an honor student was beaten to death by four teenage boys outside a school. Video captured by a bystander showed several students watching the attack, but police have found many of the witnesses tight-lipped in the South side community where violence has been prevalent. Police have charged three suspects with murder.

While information from the Richmond Police Department in the coming weeks may reveal more about the bystanders and attackers, crime experts say one thing is clear: Third parties can affect the outcome of a crime. Witnesses have the power to deter violence -- or stop a crime from going on, experts say.

Bystanders could have prevented the gang rape from lasting more than two hours, if they had reported the crime to authorities sooner.

The victim was found under a bench, semi-conscious.

"This just gets worse and worse the more you dig into it," Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department. "It was like a horror movie. I can't believe not one person felt compelled to help her."

Nick Valencia contributed to this report.
24353  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: October 28, 2009, 09:33:28 PM
Woof Dog Mark et al:

The date is now confirmed as February 6-7.  While the exact location has not been determined, it will be in the South Bay/Hermosa Beach area.

Also I am delighted to confirm that we will have Kenny Johnson joining us as a guest instructor.  I know Kenny via Rigan Machado.  KJ is a world class MMA Wrestling coach.  For example, he was the MMA Wrestling Coach on Team Noguiera on TUF.  He coaches Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Lyoto Machida and others of that ilk.

We got to know each other when I asked him for a lesson to help me with certain wrestling based questions I had (re "the Rico" and my lousy underhooks)  He was very intrigued by what I was doing and we began light sparring and exchanging knowledge.  This has continued.  A month or two ago he came by my Monday Kali Tudo class and we taught together.

TAC!
Guro Crafty
24354  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: October 28, 2009, 03:59:22 PM
Woof All:

With a tentative date of February 6-7, we begin planning a DBMA Training Camp focused on our "Kali Tudo"(tm) subsystem.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
24355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: October 28, 2009, 09:17:08 AM
Fears of a New Chill in Home Sales

By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: October 27, 2009
Even as new figures show house prices have risen for three consecutive months, concerns are growing that the real estate market will be severely tested this winter.

Artificially low interest rates and a government tax credit are luring buyers, but both those inducements are scheduled to end. Defaults and distress sales are rising in the middle and upper price ranges. And millions of people have lost so much equity that they are locked into their homes for years, a modern variation of the Victorian debtor’s prison that is freezing a large swath of the market.

“Plenty of pain yet to come,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist for MFR. He is forecasting an imminent resumption of price declines.

This summer, housing seemed at last to be stabilizing. A flood of last-minute buyers trying to conclude a deal before the tax credit expires Nov. 30 helped push up the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in August, it was announced on Tuesday.

That was the first time since early 2006 that the widely watched measure of 20 metropolitan areas put together three consecutive increases.

While underlining the importance of that long-awaited rise, Maureen Maitland, the S.& P. vice president for index services, warned, “Everything is up for grabs this winter.”

Consumers seem acutely aware of the strains ahead. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell unexpectedly in October, after reaching its high for the year in September, the board announced on Tuesday.

The only hot sector of the real estate market has been foreclosures. Investors and first-time buyers have been competing for these, often creating bidding wars. But with the economy still weak, many analysts expect more foreclosures.

Another factor likely to weigh on home sales in the coming months is a rise in interest rates. As the Federal Reserve ceases its buying of mortgage-backed securities, rates may well drift up to 6 percent, from 5 percent.

Worries about the fragility of the housing market, fanned by the real estate industry, may prompt an extension of the tax credit. The controversial program has spurred as many as 400,000 buyers, including Brenda Colon, a nurse in Las Vegas.

“If you had told me in January that I would be buying a house, I would have laughed,” said Ms. Colon, 48, who lives with her two daughters and granddaughter. “But the tax credit was just the kicker to throw me over.”

Yet despite the tax credit and other local and federal incentives for homebuyers in Las Vegas, prices there are continuing to fall, shedding 0.8 percent in August. The city’s home prices have declined on average more than 55 percent from their peak, more than in any other metropolis.

Whenever the tax credit finally expires, Las Vegas and every other city will have to confront the inevitable question after all such stimulus packages: what will motivate the buyers of tomorrow?

“In my office, people were buying homes left and right because of that tax credit,” said Kitty Berberick, who works for an insurance company in Las Vegas. “That credit was a godsend.”

Ms. Berberick, 62, could not strike a deal in time, and now has signed another lease for her apartment. If the credit is not extended, she said, she is likely to give up the search entirely until the market really crashes.

This, of course, is the sort of fatalistic attitude that relentlessly drove down prices last fall.

“Everyone keeps telling me, it’s going to go down before it goes up,” Ms. Berberick said. “I hope it does, because then I can buy.”

The recovery is both modest and tentative when measured against the preceding plunge. Prices have fallen nearly a third from their peak, and are down 11.4 percent over the last year.

In most major cities, it is as if the housing boom never happened. Prices over all are back to where they were in the fall of 2003. Some cities have been pushed down even more: In Cleveland, prices are at 2001 levels; in Detroit they’re at 1995.

It is the magnitude of this decline that makes Karl E. Case, the Wellesley professor for whom the Case-Shiller index is partly named, an optimist.

While acknowledging “there are a lot of dangers out there,” Mr. Case said “housing is as affordable as it’s been in 20 years. I don’t see a very rapid recovery, but I think we’ve seen the bottom.”

Sixteen of the 20 cities in the index rose in August, including San Francisco, up 2.6 percent, and Minneapolis, which rose 2.3 percent. Besides Las Vegas, three cities fell: Charlotte, Cleveland and Seattle. New York was up 0.3 percent.

The Case-Shiller numbers on prices lag behind the National Association of Realtors’ report on existing-home sales, which has been issued for September. Sales were up 9.4 percent from August, with the tax credit again getting much of the credit.

Critics of the credit argue that the number of those who merely qualify for it — and gladly take it — greatly outnumber those it is precisely intended to assist: people who would not have bought a house otherwise. That means, they argue, that the government is essentially paying more than $40,000 for each purchase that would not have occurred without the credit.

That is an expensive proposition, said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center who has closely followed the issue. “The bigger threat to the housing market is not the reduction in demand from the end of the credit, but the continuing wave of foreclosures we’re likely to see over the next 18 months,” he said.

In California, there is strong evidence that foreclosures are beginning to migrate from the subprime inland areas to the more exclusive coastal region.

According to MDA DataQuick, third-quarter notices of default in Santa Barbara were up 25 percent from 2008; in San Luis Obispo, they rose 46 percent; in Marin County, they were up 66 percent.

Defaults in hard-hit Sacramento, by contrast, were up only 10 percent. In Merced County in the Central Valley, an epicenter of the bust, they actually fell.

While defaults are only the first stage in foreclosure, Mr. Shapiro, the MFR economist, expects many formerly creditworthy homeowners to go under. He says he thinks the recent improvement in Case-Shiller numbers is an aberration rather than the beginning of a long-term improvement, with consequences for the larger economy.

“Another leg down in home prices, even if much more limited than the initial move, would nonetheless weigh on consumer spending,” Mr. Shapiro said, adding that he did not expect a second recession
24356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Biden, Iran, Russia, FSU on: October 28, 2009, 08:52:19 AM
George Friedman and Peter Zeihan | Tuesday, 27 October 2009
tags : Biden, Iran, Obama, Russia, StratforRussia, Iran and the Biden speech
The Obama Administration's aggressive diplomacy in Eastern Europe could sink its hopes for a peaceful resolution of its conflict with Iran.
This article was first published on the Stratfor website. George Friedman, is chairman and CEO of Stratfor. Peter Zeihan is a Stratfor analyst.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

While the Obama administration strongly denied that the decision to halt the BMD deployment and opt for a different BMD system had anything to do with the Russians, the timing raised some questions. Formal talks with Iran on nuclear weapons were a few weeks away, and the only leverage the United States had in those talks aside from war was sanctions. The core of any effective sanctions against Iran would be placing limits on Iran's gasoline imports. By dint of proximity to Iran and massive spare refining capability, the Russians were essential to this effort -- and they were indicating that they wouldn't participate. Coincidence or not, the decision to pull BMD from Poland and the Czech Republic did give the Russians something they had been demanding at a time when they clearly needed to be brought on board.

The Biden Challenge

That's what made Biden's trip interesting. First, just a few weeks after the reversal, he revisited these countries. He reasserted American commitment to their security and promised the delivery of other weapons such as Patriot missile batteries, an impressive piece of hardware that really does enhance regional security (unlike BMD, which would grant only an indirect boost). Then, Biden went even further in Romania, not only extending his guarantees to the rest of Central Europe, but also challenging the Russians directly. He said that the United States regarded spheres of influence as 19th century thinking, thereby driving home that Washington is not prepared to accept Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Most important, he called on the former satellites of the Soviet Union to assist republics in the FSU that are not part of the Russian Federation to overthrow authoritarian systems and preserve their independence.

This was a carefully written and vetted speech: It was not Biden going off on a tangent, but rather an expression of Obama administration policy. And it taps into the prime Russian fear, namely, that the West will eat away at Russia's western periphery -- and at Russia itself -- with color revolutions that result in the installation of pro-Western governments, just as happened in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004-2005. The United States essentially now has pledged itself to do just that, and has asked the rest of Central Europe to join it in creating and strengthening pro-Western governments in the FSU. After doing something Russia wanted the United States to do, Washington now has turned around and announced a policy that directly challenges Russia, and which in some ways represents Russia's worst-case scenario.
What happened between the decision to pull BMD and Biden's Romania speech remains unclear, but there are three possibilities. The first possibility is that the Obama administration decided to shift policy on Russia in disappointment over Moscow's lack of response to the BMD overture. The second possibility is that the Obama administration didn't consider the effects of the BMD reversal. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the one had nothing to do with the other, and it is possible that the Obama administration simply failed to anticipate the firestorm the course reversal would kick off in Central Europe and to anticipate that it would be seen as a conciliatory gesture to the Russians, and then had to scramble to calm the waters and reassert the basic American position on Russia, perhaps more harshly than before. The third possibility, a variation on the second scenario, is that the administration might not yet have a coordinated policy on Russia. Instead, it responds to whatever the most recent pressure happens to be, giving the appearance of lurching policy shifts.

The why of Washington decision-making is always interesting, but the fact of what has now happened is more pertinent. And that is that Washington now has challenged Moscow on the latter's core issues. However things got to that point, they are now there -- and the Russian issue now fully intersects with the Iranian issue. On a deeper level, Russia once again is shaping up to be a major challenge to U.S. national interests. Russia fears (accurately) that a leading goal of American foreign policy is to prevent the return of Russia as a major power. At present, however, the Americans lack the free hand needed to halt Russia's return to prominence as a result of commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Kremlin inner circle understands this divergence between goal and capacity all too well, and has been working to keep the Americans as busy as possible elsewhere.

Distracting Washington While Shoring Up Security

The core of this effort is Russian support for Iran. Moscow has long collaborated with Tehran on Iran's nuclear power generation efforts. Conventional Russian weapon systems are quite popular with the Iranian military. And Iran often makes use of Russian international diplomatic cover, especially at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia wields the all-important veto.

Russian support confounds Washington's ability to counter more direct Iranian action, whether that Iranian action be in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration would prefer to avoid war with Iran, and instead build an international coalition against Iran to force it to back down on any number of issues of which a potential nuclear weapons program is only the most public and obvious. But building that coalition is impossible with a Russia-sized hole right in the center of the system.

The end result is that the Americans have been occupied with the Islamic world for some time now, something that secretly delights the Russians. The Iranian distraction policy has worked fiendishly well: It has allowed the Russians to reshape their own neighborhood in ways that simply would not be possible if the Americans had more diplomatic and military freedom of action. At the beginning of 2009, the Russians saw three potential challenges to their long-term security that they sought to mitigate. As of this writing, they have not only succeeded, they have managed partially to co-opt all three threats.

First, there is Ukraine, which is tightly integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland. A strong Ukrainian-Russian partnership (if not outright control of Ukraine by Russia) is required to maintain even a sliver of Russian security. Five years ago, Western forces managed to short-circuit a Kremlin effort to firm up Russian control of the Ukrainian political system, resulting in the Orange Revolution that saw pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko take office. After five years of serious Russian diplomatic and intelligence work, Moscow has since managed not just to discredit Yushchenko -- he is now less popular in most opinion polls than the margin of error -- but to command the informal loyalty of every other candidate for president in the upcoming January 2010 election. Very soon, Ukraine's Western moment will formally be over.

Russia is also sewing up the Caucasus. The only country that could challenge Russia's southern flank is Turkey, and until now, the best Russian hedge against Turkish power has been an independent (although certainly still a Russian client) Armenia. (Turkish-Armenian relations have been frozen in the post-Cold War era over the contentious issue of the Armenian genocide.) A few months ago, Russia offered the Turks the opportunity to improve relations with Armenia. The Turks are emerging from 90 years of near-comatose international relations, and they jumped at the chance to strengthen their position in the Caucasus. But in the process, Turkey's relationship with its heretofore regional ally, Azerbaijan (Armenia's archfoe), has soured. Terrified that they are about to lose their regional sponsor, the Azerbaijanis have turned to the Russians to counterbalance Armenia, while the Russians still pull all Armenia's strings. The end result is that Turkey's position in the Caucasus is now far weaker than it was a few months ago, and Russia still retains the ability to easily sabotage any Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Even on the North European Plain, Russia has made great strides. The main power on that plain is the recently reunified Germany. Historically, Germany and Russia have been at each other's throats, but only when they have shared a direct border. When an independent Poland separates them, they have a number of opportunities for partnership, and 2009 has seen such opportunities seized. The Russians initially faced a challenge regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel is from the former East Germany, giving her personal reasons to see the Russians as occupiers. Cracking this nut was never going to be easy for Moscow, yet it succeeded. During the 2009 financial crisis, when Russian firms were snapping like twigs, the Russian government still provided bailout money and merger financing to troubled German companies, with a rescue plan for Opel even helping Merkel clinch re-election. With the Kremlin now offering to midwife -- and in many cases directly subsidize -- investment efforts in Russia by German firms such as E.On, Wintershall, Siemens, Volkswagen and ThyssenKrupp, the Kremlin has quite literally purchased German goodwill.

Washington Seeks a Game Changer

With Russia making great strides in Eurasia while simultaneously sabotaging U.S. efforts in the Middle East, the Americans desperately need to change the game. Despite its fiery tone, this desperation was on full display in Biden's speech. Flat-out challenging the Central Europeans to help other FSU countries recreate the revolutions they launched when they broke with the Soviet empire in 1989, specifically calling for such efforts in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, is as bald-faced a challenge as the Americans are currently capable of delivering. And to ensure there was no confusion on the point, Biden also promised -- publicly -- whatever support the Central Europeans might ask for. The Americans have a serious need for the Russians to be on the defensive. Washington wants to force the Russians to focus on their own neighborhood, ideally forgetting about the Iranians in the process. Better yet, Washington would like to force the Russians into a long slog of defensive actions to protect their clients hard up on their own border. The Russians did not repair the damage of the Orange Revolution overnight, so imagine how much time Washington would have if all of the former Soviet satellites started stirring up trouble across Russia's western and southern periphery.

The Central Europeans do not require a great deal of motivation. If the Americans are concerned about a resurgent Russia, then the Central Europeans are absolutely terrified -- and that was before the Russians started courting Germany, the only regional state that could stand up to Russia by itself. Things are even worse for the Central Europeans than they seem, as much of their history has consisted of vainly attempting to outmaneuver Germany and Russia's alternating periods of war and partnership.

The question of why the United States is pushing this hard at the present time remains. Talks with the Iranians are under way; it is difficult to gauge how they are going. The conventional wisdom holds that the Iranians are simply playing for time before allowing the talks to sink. This would mean the Iranians don't feel terribly pressured by the threat of sanctions and don't take threats of attack very seriously. At least with regard to the sanctions, the Russians have everything to do with Iran's blase attitude. The American decision to threaten Russia might simply have been a last-ditch attempt to force Tehran's hand now that conciliation seems to have failed. It isn't likely to work, because for the time being Russia has the upper hand in the former Soviet Union, and the Americans and their allies -- motivated as they may be -- do not have the best cards to play.

The other explanation might be that the White House wanted to let Iran know that the Americans don't need Russia to deal with Iran. The threats to Russia might infuriate it, but the Kremlin is unlikely to feel much in the form of clear and present dangers. On the other hand, blasting the Russians the way Biden did might force the Iranians to reconsider their hand. After all, if the Americans are no longer thinking of the Russians as part of the solution, this indicates that the Americans are about to give up on diplomacy and sanctions. And that means the United States must choose between accepting an Iranian bomb or employing the military option.

And this leaves the international system with two outcomes. First, by publicly ending attempts to secure Russian help, Biden might be trying to get the Iranians to take American threats seriously. And second, by directly challenging the Russians on their home turf, the United States will be making the borderlands between Western Europe and Russia a very exciting place.
24357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 28, 2009, 08:34:18 AM
Continuing our search for truth with the second post of the day-- a cynic might note that this piece takes a position favorable to those who would reject McChrystal's plan and that the author is looking for a job , , ,

WSJ

By DAVID ADAMS AND ANN MARLOWE
From the beginning of 2007 to March 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division's strategy in Khost proved that 250 paratroopers could secure a province of a million people in the Pashtun belt. The key to success in Khost—which shares a 184 kilometer-long border with Pakistan's lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas—was working within the Afghan system. By partnering with closely supervised Afghan National Security Forces and a competent governor and subgovernors, U.S. forces were able to win the support of Khost's 13 tribes.

Today, 2,400 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Khost. But the province is more dangerous.

Mohammed Aiaz, a 32-year-old Khosti advising the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, puts it plainly: "The answer is not more troops, which will put Afghans in more danger." If troops don't understand Afghan culture and fail to work within the tribal system, they will only fuel the insurgency. When we get the tribes on our side, that will change. When a tribe says no, it means no. IEDs will be reported and no insurgent fighters will be allowed to operate in or across their area.

Khost once had security forces with tribal links. Between 1988 and 1991, the Soviet client government in Kabul was able to secure much of eastern and southern Afghanistan by paying the tribal militias. Khost was secured by the 25th Division of the Afghan National Army (ANA), which incorporated militias with more than 400 fighters from five of Khost's 13 major tribes. The mujahedeen were not able to take Khost until internal rifts among Pashtuns in then-President Mohammed Najibullah's government resulted in a loss of support for the militias in Khost and, eventually, the defection of the 25th Division in April 1991.

The mistake the Najibullah government made was not integrating advisers to train the tribal militias and transform them into a permanent part of the government security forces. During the Taliban period between 1996-2001 the 25th Division dispersed amongst the tribes. Many fled to Pakistan.

When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the 25th Division, reformed under the command of Gen. Kilbaz Sherzai, immediately secured Khost. But the division was disbanded by the new Afghan government for fear of warlordism.

Today, some elements of the 25th still work for the Americans as contract security forces. However, the ANA now stationed in Khost is mainly composed of northern, non-Pashtun Dari speakers, and it is regarded as a foreign body. Without local influence and tribal support, the ANA tends to stay on its bases.

Part of this is our fault. We built the ANA in our own Army's image. Its soldiers live on nice bases and see themselves as the protectors of Afghanistan from conventional attacks by Pakistan. But to be effective, the ANA must be structured more like a National Guard, responsible for creating civil authority and training the police.

We saw how this could work in the Tani district of Khost starting in 2007. By assisting an ANA company—with a platoon of American paratroopers, a civil affairs team from the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, the local Afghan National Police, and a determined Afghan subgovernor named Badi Zaman Sabari—we secured the district despite its long border with Pakistan.

Raids by the paratroopers under the leadership of Lt. Col. Scott Custer were extremely rare because the team had such good relations with the tribes that they would generally turn over any suspect. These good tribal relations were strengthened further by meeting the communities' demands for a new paved road, five schools, and a spring water system that supplies 12,000 villagers.

Yet security has deteriorated in Khost, despite increases of U.S. troops in mid-2008. American strategy began to focus more on chasing the insurgents in the mountains instead of securing the towns and villages where most Khostis live.

The insurgents didn't stick around to get shot when they saw the American helicopters coming. But the villagers noticed when the roads weren't built on time and the commanders never visited.

Meanwhile, the increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost's tribal elders. The Afghan National Police in Tani and many other districts of Khost were afraid to patrol in their uniforms and official vehicles lest they be killed by insurgents. The ANA in Tani rarely left the district center, which came to resemble a small fortress. Having lost support of the tribes, Badi Zaman Sabari was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2009, by insurgents led by the longtime mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. They are the main belligerents focused on undermining ISAF's efforts in southeast Afghanistan.

A major reason for our slow progress in Afghanistan is that, because of turnovers in leadership and changes in strategy, we continue to fight one-year wars and forget about the long term. When we become fixated on clearing insurgents, we lose focus on the tribes, which are critical to our success. The proper recipe is not clear, hold and build. As we learned in Khost, it is befriend, secure, build governance—and then hold. Without a consistent strategy of enlisting tribal cooperation, more troops will simply find more trouble in the Pashtun belt.Cmdr. Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. He is now the prospective commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe. Ms. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.

Cmdr. Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. He is now the prospective commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe. Ms. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.

24358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit Captain Peter Lake on: October 28, 2009, 07:43:28 AM
Second post of the morning:

Resistance hero 'told to leave'


 Capt Lake was known by his French field name Jean-Pierre Lenormand

A British officer who trained French Resistance fighters during World War II was told to "go home" by Charles de Gaulle, newly released files show.
Peter Lake was awarded the Military Cross and France's Croix de Guerre for his actions in the run-up to D-Day.
But just three months after the Allied landings, the leader of Free France told him he had "no business" there.
Mr Lake died in June aged 94, but his account of the meeting has been released by the National Archives.
It is contained within his Special Operations Executive personnel file and describes a meeting with Gen de Gaulle in the town of Saintes, south-west France, on 18 September 1944.
Nom de guerre
Mr Lake, then a captain, spoke fluent French and was known by the field name Jean-Pierre Lenormand.
He decided to join a number of French officers who went along to greet the general, but was surprised by the conversation that followed.
 



General de Gaulle: "Jean-Pierre, that's a French name."
Mr Lake: "My nom de guerre, mon general."
Gen de Gaulle: "What are you doing here?"
Mr Lake: "I belong to the Inter-Allied Mission for Dordogne, and I am at the moment with Dordogne troops at Marennes, mon general."
Gen de Gaulle: "But what are you doing here?"
Mr Lake: "I am training certain troops for special operations."
Gen de Gaulle: "Our troops don't need training. You have no business here."
Mr Lake: "I obey the orders of my superiors."
Gen de Gaulle: "You have no business here, I say. You have no right to exercise a command."
Mr Lake: "Mon general, I exercise no command."
Gen de Gaulle: "We don't need you here. It only remains for you to leave. You too must go home. Return, return quickly. Au revoir."
Later, Mr Lake noted: "The whole dialogue passed very quickly and in a tone of voice which there was no mistaking.
"It was so unexpected that I must confess I was far too taken aback to reply intelligently, and I think the majority of those present had similar reactions."
 Capt Lake was parachuted into France in April 1944

Despite the incident, Mr Lake was highly regarded by senior Army commanders and was referred to in an official report as "modest, unassuming, but possessed of considerable authority".
"His dust-up with de Gaulle showed him to be a good diplomat, level-headed and intelligent," the report added.
Mr Lake was parachuted into the Dordogne on the night of 9 April 1944 and immediately began training teams of resistance operatives.
To do this he organised "evening classes" in subjects such as sabotage, but recalled that his first sortie was with fighters who were "armed like pirates, behaved like pirates and expected me to do likewise".
After the D-Day landings on 6 June, Mr Lake said the situation became "very precarious" as the Germans stepped up attacks on the resistance.
Nevertheless, in mid-June he carried out a daring operation to blow up a major railway line.
Mr Lake returned to Britain in October 1944 and went on to have a successful career with the UK consular service.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8328282.stm
24359  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: October 28, 2009, 07:36:31 AM
Woof All:

a) I'm told, but have not yet seen, that there was a Running Dog guard pass in a recent episode.

b) I don't know its provenance for Shogun Rua, but his dramatic KO of Chuck Liddell sure looked like a Zirconia to me

c) Again, I don't know its provenance but I think it was by Josh Neer in this past Saturday's UFC that we saw Figure 8 striking against the guard as I teach in "the Running Dog Game".

TAC,
Guro Crafty
24360  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 28, 2009, 07:23:22 AM
The following effort to drum up business showed up in my email box this AM.  The subject matter is interesting, but I have no idea as to whom these folks are or the veracity of the contents.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Hart, King & Coldren
A Professional Law Firm
Providing Legal Services to the Mixed Martial Arts and Apparel Communities

CAMO Presents Report at California State Athletic Commission Meeting
 
 

As an interested member of the MMA community, I attended the California State Athletic Commission meeting on Monday, October 26, 2009 to monitor the progress of the commission’s delegation of its oversight authority for mixed martial arts to the not-for-profit organization CAMO (California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization).  CAMO presented its first quarterly report to the commission at the meeting.

 

CAMO assured the commission that its website www.camo-mma.org would be up and running about the time of the October 26, 2009 meeting.   CAMO indicated the site would include a full list of rules and regulations, the ability to sign up and get licensed, the ability to search for fighters and promoters who have created a profile, official’s records, and would list official amateur MMA and Pankration fight results and records. As of today, the website is still not fully functional.

 

CAMO told the commission that it's in the process of obtaining official 8 ounce gloves and rash guards to be used in competition by all amateur MMA fighters. The commission granted CAMO’s request to use 7 ounce gloves temporarily, until the 8 ounce gloves are ready.

Finally, CAMO told the commission it should be ready to oversee amateur events in November 2009, and has tentatively set its first Pro-Am event for late November 2009.

We encourage all members of the MMA community to closely watch the newly formed amateur division of the sport which includes not only the participants in the amateur events, but also the promoters, fighters, and others involved in the professional side as well.  The integrity of the sport deserves everyones attention.
                                                                                                                             
Hart, King & Coldren is a law firm dedicated to serving the legal needs of the mixed martial arts inindustry. Our practice focuses on contract disputes, civil litigation, brand and product licensing, intellectual property protection, commercial transactions, and compliance with California licensing and regulatory agencies.  We can help your business resolve legal issues quickly and efficiently. 

 

Please call me at 714-432-8700 or email jmarlo@hkclaw.com for a free initial legal consultation. 

 

Sincerely,

Jock Marlo, Esq.
 
 
24361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barney Frank on: October 28, 2009, 07:19:06 AM


http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2009/10/26/frank_we_are_trying_on_every_front_to_increase_the_role_of_government.html
24362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Navy PO2, EOD2 Mike Monsoor on: October 28, 2009, 07:10:20 AM
I BET YOU DIDN'T SEE THIS IN THE NEWSPAPER OR ON THE 6 O'CLOCK NEWS"

~

The Sailor Pictured Below Is Navy Petty Officer PO2 (Petty Officer, Second Class) EOD2 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Second Class) "MIKE MONSOOR"

April 5th, 1981 ~ September 29th, 2006




Mike Monsoor,

Was Awarded "The Congressional Medal Of Honor" Last Week, For Giving His Life In Iraq , As He Jumped On, And Covered With His Body, A Live Hand Grenade That Was Accidentally Dropped By A Navy Seal Saving The Lives Of A Large Group Of Navy Seals That Was Passing By!

~

During Mike Monsoor's Funeral,

At Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery , In San Diego , California .

 The Six Pallbearers Removed The Rosewood Casket From The Hearse,

And Lined Up On Each Side Of Mike Monsoor's Casket,

 Were His Family Members, Friends, Fellow Sailors, And Well-wishers.

The Column Of People Continued From The Hearse, All The Way To The Grave Site.

What The Group Didn't Know At The Time Was,

Every Navy Seal

(45 To Be Exact)

That Mike Monsoor Saved That Day Was Scattered Throughout The Column!

~

As The Pallbearers Carried The Rosewood Casket

 Down The Column Of People To The Grave Side.

The Column Would Collapse.

Which Formed A Group Of People That Followed Behind.

~

Every Time The Rosewood Casket Passed A Navy Seal,

 He Would Remove His Gold Trident Pin From His Uniform,

And Slap It Down Hard,

Ca us ing The Gold Trident Pin To Embed Itself

Into The Top Of The Wooden Casket!

Then The Navy Seal Would Step Back From The Column, And Salute!

~

Now For Those,

(And Me)

Who Doesn't Know What A Trident Pin Is or What It Looks Like?

Here Is The Definition And Photo!

~

After One Completes The Basic Navy Seals Program Which Lasts For Three Weeks,

 And Is Followed By Seal Qualification Training,

 Which Is 15 More Weeks Of Training,

Necessary To Continue Improving Basic Skills And To Learn New Tactics And Techniques,

 Required For An Assignment To A Navy Seal Platoon.

After successful completion,

Trainees Are Given Their Naval Enlisted Code,

And Are Awarded The Navy Seal Trident Pin.

 With This Gold Pin They Are Now Officially Navy Seals!

It Was Said,

That You Could Hear Each Of The 45 Slaps From Across The Cemetery!

By The Time The Rosewood Casket Reached The Grave Site,

It Looked As Though It Had A Gold Inlay From The 45 Trident Pins That Lined The Top!

 

This Was A Fitting End To An Eternal Send-Off For A Warrior Hero!

This Should Be Front-Page News!

Instead Of The Garbage We Listen To And See Every Day.
 

 

 
24363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 28, 2009, 06:40:36 AM
Harmony is a matter of emphasis:

Let dissonance slip by.

Celebrate beauty.
24364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 28, 2009, 06:38:14 AM
Interesting question there PC.

-----------

Harmony is a matter of emphasis:

Let dissonance slip by.

Celebrate beauty.
24365  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 28, 2009, 12:24:57 AM
Instead of May 1-2, does May 8-9 work?
24366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 28, 2009, 12:16:59 AM
Here in SoCal, a major Dem bastion, I am getting more and more thumbs up to my "Nobama: Keep the change" t-shirt.  I had two cops high five me.
24367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Official resigns in protest on: October 28, 2009, 12:14:55 AM
U.S. Official Matthew Hoh Resigns in Protest of Afghanistan War Policy
Posted:
10/27/09
Filed Under:Foreign Policy, Afghanistan
Matthew Hoh, the senior U.S. civilian in Afghanistan's Zabul province, resigned in protest because he believes the American effort there is simply fueling the insurgency, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain who also served in Iraq, wrote a four-page letter to the State Department's head of personnel in September, and his resignation became official last week.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote in the letter. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

Hoh's letter caused a stir in the Obama administration, and he was hastened to meetings with senior U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington. They praised his record of service and begged him to stay, offering him new positions in both locations. Hoh initially accepted the Washington job, but changed his mind a week later.

Hoh said that his act of protest and decision to speak out were painful, even "nauseating" at times, but he was strongly motivated by the friends he had lost on the battlefield and the mental anguish he has experienced since returning home. "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right,' " he explained, adding that he "is not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love."

Hoh will meet with Joe Biden's foreign policy adviser this week, and will advise a reduction in troops. He said he feels the U.S. "has an obligation for it not to be a bloodbath," but that Afghans are resistant to what they see as a military occupation.
================
A few months ago I had a very interesting conversation here in LA with an Afghani taxi driver who clearly had been no ordinary man back in Afghanistan.  The following tracks very closely with what he told me.  Bottom line for him:  The whole thing was about business.
=====
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tue, October 27, 2009 -- 9:10 PM ET
-----

Brother of Afghan President Is on C.I.A. Payroll, Officials Say

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a
suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium
trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence
Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according
to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, and
those financial ties and the agency's close working
relationship with him raise significant questions about
America's war strategy, which is currently under review at
the White House.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
24368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MA Muslim accused of plot on: October 28, 2009, 12:14:12 AM
Mass man accused of plot to kill U.S politicians

By DENISE LAVOIE, AP Legal Affairs Writer Denise Lavoie, Ap Legal Affairs Writer Wed Oct 21, 7:57 pm ET

BOSTON – A Massachusetts man and two friends tried and failed to get into terrorist training camps and then plotted to kill two prominent U.S. politicians and randomly shoot people at American shopping malls, authorities said Wednesday.

Tarek Mehanna, who recently taught at a Muslim school in Worcester, was arrested early Wednesday at his parents' suburban Boston home.

Mehanna was charged with conspiring with two other men — an American now in Syria and another man who is cooperating with authorities — to provide support to terrorists.

Ultimately, the trio never came close to pulling off an attack. Authorities say they never got the terrorist training they sought — that the men told friends they were turned down because of their nationality, ethnicity or inexperience, or that the people they'd hoped would get them into such camps were either in jail or on a religious pilgrimage.

The men abandoned the mall attack plans after their weapons contact said he could find only handguns, not automatic weapons.

The men used code words such as "peanut butter and jelly" for fighting in Somalia and "culinary school" for terrorist camps, and talked extensively of their desire to "die on the battlefield," according to court documents.
Mehanna, who has taught math and religion at Alhuda Academy, made a defiant court appearance hours after his arrest. He refused to stand to hear the charge against him and finally did — tossing his chair loudly to the floor — only after his father urged him to do so.

"This really, really is a show," his father, Ahmed Mehanna, said as his son was being led away in handcuffs. When asked if he believed the charges against his son, he said, "No, definitely not."

Prosecutors said Mehanna worked with two men from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy that, over time, intended to "kill, kidnap, maim or injure" soldiers and two politicians who were members of the executive branch but are no longer in office. Authorities refused to identify the politicians and said they were never in danger.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks said the men justified the planned attacks on malls because U.S. civilians pay taxes to support the U.S. government and because they are "nonbelievers," Loucks said. He refused to identify the targeted malls.

Mehanna — who received a doctorate in 2008 from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, where his father is a professor — allegedly conspired with Ahmad Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria.

Mehanna, 27, is being held without bail until his next court appearance on Oct. 30.

"I'm confident that the American people will put aside their fears and instead rely on the fairness guaranteed by our Constitution," said his attorney, J.W. Carney Jr. "Mr. Mehanna is entitled to that."
Rola Yaghmour, 20, of Shrewsbury and her family are friends with the Mehannas and she said she couldn't believe the new charges against Mehanna, calling him a "good man."

"He's not going to go crazy in a mall. There's no way he would do something like that," she said. "I read it and I was laughing, and I was like, 'They have to be kidding.' Because there's no way he would do something like that. It makes no sense. I was in shock. That's not like him at all nor his family, nothing of them at all."

Mehanna first was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked the whereabouts of Daniel Maldonado, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for training with al-Qaida to overthrow the Somali government.

Authorities said Wednesday that Mehanna and his conspirators had contacted Maldonado about getting automatic weapons for their planned mall attacks, but he told them he could only get handguns.

Court documents filed by the government say that in 2002, Abousamra became frustrated after repeatedly being rejected to join terror groups in Pakistan — first Lashkar e Tayyiba, then the Taliban.


"Because Abousamra was an Arab (not Pakistani) the LeT camp would not accept him, and because of Abousamra's lack of experience, the Taliban camp would not accept him," Williams wrote in the affidavit.

Mehanna and Abousamra traveled to Yemen in 2004 in an attempt to join a terrorist training camp, according to court documents.

Mehanna allegedly told a friend, the third conspirator who is now cooperating with authorities, that their trip was a failure because they were unable to reach people affiliated with the camps.

Abousamra said he was rejected by a terror group when he sought training in Iraq because he was American, authorities said.
___ Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay, Bob Salsberg and Russell Contreras in Boston, Eric Tucker in Sudbury, Mass., and Devlin Barrett in Washington contributed to this report from Boston.
24369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Watches and Time on: October 27, 2009, 09:12:13 AM
third post of the AM

By JAMES SHINN
Those of us in the Bush administration who were responsible for its "Afghan Strategy Review" kept our mouths shut when we handed over the document to the Obama transition team last fall. We didn't want to box in the new administration.

And when President Barack Obama and his advisers rolled out their own Afghanistan strategy on March 27, I was quietly pleased. It came to basically the same conclusion we had: The paramount goal was to squash terrorism through counterinsurgency and better governance in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs promised the press corps at the time that its strategy would be "fully resourced." Later, in August, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was leaked. It was a road map to implement precisely the Obama strategy that was announced in March.

View Full Image

David Klein
 .But one key element of both the Bush and Obama strategies is getting lost in the debate—that we must apply the military and economic resources for the time required to achieve our goals. As the Obama administration's March 27 White Paper notes, "There are no quick fixes to achieve U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The average counterinsurgency war lasts a decade and a half; the successful British campaign in Malaya in the 1950s, for example, took 12 years. Even if Gen. McChrystal gets the 40,000 additional troops he has requested, there is unlikely to be short-term progress in meeting any of the security "metrics" that opponents of the war in Afghanistan will try to insert into the defense appropriations for carrying out the president's strategy.

What the White House says—or doesn't say—about a long-term commitment is hugely important. Americans are famously impatient, and there is cruel wisdom in the oft-quoted Taliban boast that "NATO has all the watches, but we have all the time." Most Afghans are sitting on the fence, waiting to see who wins. Our allies are nervously looking for the exits, and the Pakistanis and the Iranians are hedging their bets in case the U.S. decides to pull the plug.

Meanwhile, as the Obama national security apparatus publicly wrings its hands over strategy, the media promote half-baked solutions to Afghanistan that further confuse friends and enemies while ignoring the crucial matter of time. Three of the least sensible solutions are "remote control" counterterrorism, a grand regional solution to disputes between neighboring states (including a resolution of the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan), and the negotiation of a peace deal with the Taliban.

Replacing the hard work of counterinsurgency and nation-building with Predator drones and Special Operations defies geography and common sense. A Predator has a range of 400 miles: It is 600 miles from Pakistan's Waziristan region to the Arabian Sea.

From where are you going to fly the drones? What intelligence will be available to guide the drones or special ops if we abandon Kabul and Islamabad to fight on their own?

A "regional" solution that convinces India, Pakistan and Iran (among others) that their interests are better served by a stable Afghanistan than by backing proxy forces there is a laudable undertaking. But it would take years of patient diplomacy, in which the terms and pace of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan will be the central item of negotiation. Fat chance of striking a deal if you're already gone.

As for a deal with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his leadership council, the Quetta Shura, forget about it. They have no incentive to lay down their arms if they still think time is on their side.

The Taliban will eventually come down from the hills, probably in dribs and drabs, when they've been sufficiently pummeled by the combined Afghan National Army and NATO forces, seen their base among the Afghan people undermined by improved governance, and had their sanctuaries in Pakistan squeezed from the East. This is going to take time.

Time was very much on the mind of Afghanistan's Minister of the Interior Hanif Atmar recently, when I visited him in his office in Kabul—shards of glass still on the floor from the suicide bomb attack on the nearby Indian Embassy a few days earlier. "All the Taliban have to do is blow things up," he said. "We have a lot more things to worry about. Despite the deteriorating security situation in parts of the country, we still have a window of time to prevail, if we and our American allies have sufficient resolve."

I also visited Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil on a dusty street in the Karte Char district. A sleepy policeman with an AK-47 outside was the only symbol of his house arrest. He was Mullah Omar's secretary and then both a spokesman and foreign minister for the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan until his capture in 2001. Today he remains an interlocutor between the Karzai government and the Quetta Shura up in the mountains. I thought he'd be a good judge of Taliban resolve.

Time was on his mind, too. He was puzzled by the drawn-out pace of the Obama administration's strategy deliberations. He took care to distance the Quetta Shura's objectives (to govern Afghanistan and remove foreign troops) from the goals of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan across the border (which are close to those of al Qaeda, namely to bring down the government in Islamabad and establish a greater Islamic Caliphate).

In response to my skeptical questions, he also drew a distinction between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. "But the longer this war drags on, the harder it is to separate our interests from theirs," he said.

Mullah Mutawakil's sparse quarters featured a Koran, several volumes of Islamic jurisprudence and a television. "I watch the news, and the Turkish soap operas," he confessed with a smile. He wasn't wearing a watch.

Mr. Shinn was assistant secretary of defense for Asia (2007-2008) and one of the authors of the Bush administration's Afghan Strategy Review. He previously served in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.
24370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The TARP slush fund on: October 27, 2009, 09:08:48 AM
The Troubled Asset Relief Program will expire on December 31, unless Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner exercises his authority to extend it to next October. We hope he doesn't. Historians will debate TARP's role in ending the financial panic of 2008, but today there is little evidence that the government needs or can prudently manage what has evolved into a $700 billion all-purpose political bailout fund.

We supported TARP to deal with toxic bank assets and resolve failing banks as a resolution agency of the kind that worked with savings and loans in the 1980s. Some taxpayer money was needed beyond what the FDIC's shrinking insurance fund had available. But TARP quickly became a Treasury tool to save failing institutions without imposing discipline (Citigroup) and even to force public capital onto banks that didn't need it. This stigmatized all banks as taxpayer supplicants and is now evolving into an excuse for the Federal Reserve to micromanage compensation.

TARP was then redirected well beyond the financial system into $80 billion in "investments" for auto companies. These may never be repaid but served as a lever to abuse creditors and favor auto unions. TARP also bought preferred stock in struggling insurers Lincoln and Hartford, though insurance companies are not subject to bank runs and pose no "systemic risk." They erode slowly as customers stop renewing policies.

TARP also became another fund for Congress to pay off the already heavily subsidized housing industry by financing home mortgage modifications. Not one cent of the $50 billion in TARP funds earmarked to modify home mortgages will be returned to the Treasury, says the Congressional Budget Office.

As of the end of September, Mr. Geithner was sitting on $317 billion of uncommitted TARP funds, thanks in part to bank repayments. But this sum isn't the limit of his check-writing ability. Treasury considers TARP a "revolving fund." If taxpayers are ever paid back by AIG, GM, Chrysler, Citigroup and the rest, Treasury believes it has the authority to spend that returned money on new adventures in housing or other parts of the economy.

A TARP renewal by Mr. Geithner could thus put at risk the entire $700 billion. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) and former SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins sit on TARP's Congressional Oversight Panel. They warn that the entire taxpayer pot could be converted into subsidies. They are especially concerned about expanding the foreclosure prevention programs that have been failing by every measure.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
.TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky agrees that the mortgage modifications "will yield no direct return" and notes charitably that "full recovery is far from certain" on the money sent to AIG and Detroit. Mr. Barofsky also notes that since Washington runs huge deficits, and interest rates are almost sure to rise in coming years, TARP will be increasingly expensive as the government pays more to borrow.

Even with the banks, TARP has been a double-edged sword. While its capital injections saved some banks, its lack of transparency created uncertainty that arguably prolonged the panic. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson recently admitted to Mr. Barofsky what everyone figured at the time of the first capital injections. Although they claimed in October 2008 they were providing capital only to healthy banks, Mr. Bernanke now says some of the firms were under stress. Mr. Paulson now admits that he thought one in particular was in danger of failing. By forcing all nine to take the money, they prevented the weaklings from being stigmatized.

Says Mr. Barofsky, "In addition to the basic transparency concern that this inconsistency raises, by stating expressly that the 'healthy' institutions would be able to increase overall lending, Treasury created unrealistic expectations about the institutions' conditions and their ability to increase lending."

The government also endangered one of the banks that they considered healthy at the time. In December, Mr. Paulson pressured Bank of America to complete its purchase of Merrill Lynch. His position is that a failed deal would have hurt both firms, but this is highly speculative. Mr. Barofsky reports that, according to Fed documents, the government viewed BofA as well-capitalized, but officials believed that its tangible common equity would fall to dangerously low levels if it had to absorb the sinking Merrill.

In other words, by insisting that BofA buy Merrill, Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke were spreading systemic risk by stuffing a failing institution into a relatively sound one. And they were stuffing an investment bank into one of the nation's largest institutions whose deposits were guaranteed by taxpayers. BofA would later need billions of dollars more in TARP cash to survive that forced merger, and when that news became public it helped to extend the overall financial panic.

Treasury and the Fed would prefer to keep TARP as insurance in case the recovery falters and the banking system hits the skids again. But the more transparent way to address this risk is by buttressing the FDIC fund that insures bank deposits and resolves failing banks. The political class has twisted TARP into a fund to finance its pet programs and constituents, and the faster it fades away, the better for taxpayers and the financial system.
24371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 27, 2009, 09:01:22 AM


If Honduras manages to preserve its democracy despite U.S. pressure to abandon it, the tiny Central American country may wind up thanking Nicaragua's Danny Ortega, of all people.

Last week, President Ortega inadvertently provided the best defense yet of the Honduran decision this summer to remove Manuel Zelaya from the presidency. Nicaragua has a one-term limit for presidents, and Mr. Ortega's term expires in 2011. However, the Nicaraguan doesn't want to leave, and so he asked the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional ban on his re-election.

Last week the court's constitutional panel obliged him. The Nicaraguan press reported that the vote was held before three opposition judges could reach the chamber in time for the session. Three alternative judges, all Sandinistas, took their place and the court gave Mr. Ortega the green light. Mr. Ortega has decreed that the ruling cannot be appealed.

This is classic strong-man stuff on Hugo Chávez's Venezuela model. Mr. Ortega's approval rating is in the low-30% range and he'd have a hard time winning a fair election against a united opposition. But he controls the nation's electoral council, and in the 2008 municipal races—the most important elected checks on the president—the council refused to provide a transparent accounting of the vote tally. It also blocked international and local observers, and the vote was marred by claims of widespread fraud. The international community watched all this but did nothing. And now Mr. Ortega is taking the next chavista step toward indefinite rule.

Hondurans deposed Mr. Zelaya because he was showing similar designs on changing their constitution to be able to run again and stay in power. Hondurans have to live in Mr. Ortega's neighborhood, and their action against Mr. Zelaya may well have saved them from Nicaragua's fate.
============
No doubt we can look forward to strong denunciations from our President and our Secretary of State.
24372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams, 1780 on: October 27, 2009, 08:58:45 AM
"Religion in a Family is at once its brightest Ornament & its best Security." --Samuel Adams, letter to Thomas Wells, 1780
24373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 27, 2009, 08:57:42 AM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 4: Surkov Presses Home
October 27, 2009 | 1138 GMT
Summary
Vladislav Surkov, who serves as Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's deputy chief of staff and leads one of the Kremlin's two main political clans, has given his support to a plan to reform the Russian economy. The plan, proposed by a group of liberal-leaning economists called the civiliki, would help Surkov divest Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the rival clan leader, of power. Surkov has a specific list of goals that would help him tip the balance of power in Russia in his favor.

Editor's Note: This is part four in a five-part series examining the Russian political clans and the coming conflict between them.

Since the current recession has exposed the weaknesses in the Russian economy, the reform plans designed by Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and a class of liberal-leaning economists called the civiliki have caught Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's attention. But before Putin could take Kudrin's plan seriously, the civiliki needed support from a major power player in the Kremlin. That man is none other than Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's deputy chief of staff and one of the two major Kremlin clan leaders, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov's motivation for supporting the civiliki plan is not the same as Kudrin's, however; the finance minister seeks a technical overhaul of the system, while Surkov's goal is to further his own political ambitions.

Surkov: The Gray Cardinal
Surkov is a unique player within the Kremlin. Being half Chechen and half Jewish, Surkov has long known that his pedigree would hinder him from ever holding Russia's top offices. Instead, he has positioned himself as the "gray cardinal" -- the one who masterminds power behind the scenes -- for Russia's leaders. Surkov came to this position by methodically climbing up the ranks and leaving a long list of former bosses behind him. Some of the most notable heavyweights Surkov helped bring down are Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev and oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Among his experience is a reportedly long and deep history with the shadowy Russian Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU) in the former Soviet states and Central Europe. He is now the GRU's chief strategist.

Related Links
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series Introduction): The War Begins
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 1: The Crash
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 2: The Combatants
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 3: Rise of the Civiliki
Surkov has diversified his power base inside the Kremlin by securing the loyalty of the civiliki. These economically Western-leaning technocrats -- lawyers, economists and financial experts -- have been a powerful group since the fall of the Soviet Union, but have been leaderless since the 1990s after they were blamed for many of the economic troubles that wracked the country. Surkov recognized the liberal reformers' potential and offered them protection as part of his growing political clan.

The civiliki's loyalty has given Surkov an alternative power base to the GRU-linked bureaucrats and a new group of followers to maneuver into key positions in the Kremlin. A key example is Medvedev -- a civil lawyer by trade -- whom Surkov groomed to succeed Putin as president in 2008 to prevent another security official from taking the position. Not only did Surkov consolidate the liberal economists into one group but also came up with the term "civiliki" as a kind of play on words with the term "siloviki," which is the common name for Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin's clan and those in the FSB. The term civiliki stems from Medvedev's civil law degree and Surkov's desire to mold Russia's civil society.

Surkov has also sought to diversify his power across Russia. He is the chief ideologist behind the spread of nationalism throughout the country. He planted the seeds for a stronger Russia among the upcoming generations by creating the Nashi youth movement, which is reminiscent of the Soviet Komsomol youth. The Nashi -- estimated to number at 600,000 -- are tasked with promoting nationalism and loyalty to the state and helping to rid Russia of its enemies. They are a formidable force in the country and have been known to prevent anti-government rallies, pressure media critical of the Kremlin and make life difficult for foreigners and their businesses in Russia. The Nashi also promote academic achievement and hope to create the next generation of business and government leaders. They are fiercely loyal to Surkov, though he cannot legally be part of the organization because he is a government worker.

While Surkov has expanded his power throughout Russia, his greatest obstacle has been the rival clan led by Igor Sechin, which derives its power from the Federal Security Services (FSB, formerly KGB). It has never been a secret that the GRU and FSB have been adversaries since the creation of Soviet Russia, and it is only natural that Russia's two main clans are based within its two formidable intelligence agencies. Of course, Putin also had a hand in designing the current clan structure, splitting most government, economic and business institutions between the clans in order to balance them and prevent either the GRU or the FSB from becoming dominant.


But Surkov has been working to shift this balance by diversifying his clan away from the GRU and enveloping many different groups throughout Russia.

Tipping the Balance
The civiliki's plan to fix the Russian economy is based partially on purging forces that have placed personal interests above economic soundness. In this, they are mostly targeting members of Sechin's clan -- the siloviki, or "strong men," who are former FSB agents put in positions of financial or business leadership. It is not clear that this is an entirely fair assessment, since so many in Russia were guilty of gorging on cheap credit during the boom years preceding the financial crisis. Regardless, the motivation for the civiliki's desire to purge the siloviki is not political; rather, it is because the reformers see no reason for FSB intelligence operatives to run businesses or financial institutions in Russia because they lack the applicable business skills. Surkov has latched onto this concept as a way to finally eliminate much of the Sechin clan's power.

Typically, the civiliki would be wary of Surkov's politicization of their plan. However, over the summer the gray cardinal approached Kudrin -- the architect of the civiliki plan -- with a deal: Surkov would support the civiliki's reform plan if Kudrin helped Surkov with certain aspects of his plan to purge Sechin's clan from power.

But Surkov's plan is very risky and complicated, and involves infiltrating all the proper channels through which he can pursue his enemies in the Kremlin and its companies and industries. Surkov's plan has two parts -- one that targets the siloviki's economic institutions, and one that targets their positions in the Kremlin.

Part 1: The Witch Hunt
First, Surkov intends to go after the main companies and institutions from which Sechin's clan derives either power or funds. Under the civiliki's plan, companies that have been mismanaged or are financially unsound -- according to their assessments -- would be privatized. Surkov is taking this a step further and wants to launch a series of inquiries and audits targeting very specific state corporations all controlled by the Sechin clan.

In Russia, it is common for companies being targeted by the Kremlin to face audits, tax lawsuits and other legal investigations intended to pressure the companies or lead them to being purged or swallowed up by the state. The problem is that for Surkov to attempt to use such a tactic against either state or pro-Kremlin companies, he would have to go through the Federal Tax Service or Federal Customs Service, which are run by Sechin's people.

But this looks like it could soon change. As part of Surkov's clan, Medvedev has jumped on the civiliki's economic reform bandwagon. Publicly, the president has recently started suggesting that he could begin investigating Russian firms he deems inadequately run. He said on Oct. 23 that there will be changes in how state firms are organized and even hinted that some firms could be shut down if they do not comply. This is occurring because over the summer, Medvedev and Surkov worked on drafting legislation through the Presidential Council on Legal Codification that would allow the government to "eliminate certain state corporations" -- meaning these new maneuvers would not require going through the usual proper channels. All the details on Medvedev and Surkov's ability to target firms are not known, but quite a few details have been leaked to STRATFOR that indicate Surkov's seriousness.

Instead of trying to purge Sechin's control over the Federal Tax Service and Federal Customs Service, Surkov has started to create alternative avenues for investigations into powerful Sechin-linked and state-owned companies by going through the Prosecutor General's office, run by Surkov clan member Yuri Chaika, and Russia's Supreme Arbitrage Court, which was taken over recently by pro-Surkov official Anton Ivanov. Also in recent months, the Prosecutor General's office has bolstered its legal authority to work with the Audit Chamber and Federal Antimonopoly Service -- both run by Surkov loyalists, Sergei Stepashin and Igor Artemev. These bodies are very powerful and important tools necessary to effectively targeting weighty state firms.

According to STRATFOR sources, preparations to start the paperwork on these investigations into certain state and Sechin-linked companies could begin as early as Nov. 10. This will be the test for Surkov to see if he can legally purge Sechin's influence.

The Checklist
Surkov has a very precise list of companies and agencies to investigate.

At the top of the list is Rosoboronexport, the state defense exports, technologies and industrial unit. Rosoboronexport is one of the largest moneymakers for the state after energy, earning $7 billion in foreign arms sales in 2009 with another possible $27 billion in contracted orders. Rosoboronexport is led by one of the larger FSB personalities, Sergei Chemezov, who uses arms sales and production for the FSB's political agenda. However, the agency has been accused of hindering the arms industry's ability to keep up with sales and of making it harder for Russia to gain new military technology. Rosoboronexport has also grown unwieldy in that it also now controls non-defense assets like carmakers and metallurgical companies. Furthermore, Surkov does not like the FSB overseeing an organization that should in theory fall under the GRU, since it is military-related.

Next on the list is Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is considered the rival to the Surkov clan's natural gas giant Gazprom. The two companies have been in competition since an attempted merger between them failed in 2005. The competition heated up when each company crossed into the other's territory, with Gazprom opening an oil subsidiary and Rosneft purchasing natural gas assets. Rosneft would be one of the more difficult companies for Surkov's group to target, since symbolically it is considered one of the state champions. It is also the key moneymaking enterprise for the Sechin clan.

After Rosneft are two government bodies that handle a large percentage of the state's money and are overseen by siloviki or Sechin-linked people. The Housing Maintenance Fund, which handles between $3 billion to $5 billion annually, is facing accusations that no one independent from Sechin has checked on where the funds are being spent and that the fund is simply a front for the FSB's activities in Russia. The second body is the large Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA), which oversees all registrations of deposits into banks in Russia and insures most of the country's banks -- an incredibly powerful tool for the FSB. Kudrin has been so incensed by what he has called the mismanagement and misuse of the DIA that he placed himself on the agency's board over the summer. But now Kudrin and the rest of Surkov's group want to purge the siloviki from these institutions.

Also on Surkov's list are:

State nuclear corporation Rosatom, which controls nuclear power, nuclear weapons companies and other nuclear agencies
Olympstroy, the state corporation responsible for construction for the 2014 Olympics
State-owned Russian Railways, one of the largest railway companies in the world, which is run by Sechin loyalist Vladimir Yakunin
Avtodor, a new state-owned company responsible for revamping Russia's crumbling roads and highways (and therefore slated for vast amounts of investment to flow into its coffers)
Aeroflot, Russia's largest passenger airline, which is chaired by former KGB agent Viktor Ivanov and has been struggling during the financial crisis
It isn't clear what Surkov's ultimate goal is in investigating these companies -- whether he intends to destroy them, dismantle them, bring them under the control of his own clan or just privatize them so they are no longer in Sechin's grasp, or a mixture of these options. It is, however, clear that if he succeeds, Surkov would wipe out the siloviki's economic base and take away many of the tools they now use to operate effectively in the country.

Part 2: Kremlin Power Positions
The second part of the plan has to do with Surkov's goal of purging a few key Kremlin politicians from their positions in order to tip the balance of power in his favor. The positions on this list include the president's chief of staff, the interior minister and Kremlin speechwriters.

Rumors are already beginning to fly around Moscow that Sechin loyalist Sergei Naryshkin, who had until recently been considered a rising star within the Kremlin, will be soon ousted from his place as Medvedev's chief of staff. Surkov sees Naryshkin's placement just under the president and over Surkov as a major infiltration by the Sechin clan into his realm. STRATFOR sources have indicated that Naryshkin will be ousted on the grounds that he never successfully implemented Medvedev's anti-corruption campaign.

Next on the list is the Interior Ministry, led by FSB agent Rashid Nurgaliyev. As interior minister, Nurgaliyev oversees 250,000 troops and his own police units. Recently, certain powerful pieces of the ministry, such as the Ministry for Emergency Situations, have been broken off and are now outside Sechin's control.

Lastly, within the Kremlin, pro-Sechin and FSB-trained speechwriters have been sidelined. These longtime writers, like Dzhakhan Polliyev, are being pushed aside and new Surkov-trained writers like Eva Vasilevskaya and Alexei Chadaev are now writing speeches for Medvedev, Putin and others. This is very important in how the leaders portray the small nuances of power within and beyond Russia.

The point of the governmental changes is for Surkov to get his people into positions of power so that his group can actually change policy and tip the balance of power inside Russia. Surkov is not looking to make Russia more efficient, like the civiliki are -- though it is the civiliki's plans giving Surkov the tools and opportunity to try to achieve his goals.

Surkov has legitimate justification for quite a few of his changes, based on the civiliki's recommendations to fix the economy, but the rest of the changes are an incredibly bold step to tip the balance of power.

Putin has noticed this boldness. Moreover, Putin has noticed a lot of the large changes Surkov has made over the past few years to get more power for himself and his clan and diversify his power base inside Russia.

The issues now are how much further Putin will allow Surkov to go, and what Putin is willing to sacrifice to clip the wings of the gray cardinal.

24374  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan on: October 27, 2009, 08:50:35 AM
Commentary posing as news-- from Pravda on the Hudson?  Shocking!

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Obama administration is putting pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Taliban and Qaeda militants from the country’s tribal areas, but the push is straining the delicate relations between the allies, Pakistani and Western officials say.

The Pakistani military’s recent heavy offensive in South Waziristan has pleased the Americans, but it left large parts of Pakistan under siege, as militants once sequestered in the country’s tribal areas take their war to Pakistan’s cities. Many Pakistanis blame the United States for the country’s rising instability.

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Pakistan this week, as she is scheduled to do, she will find a nuclear-armed state consumed by doubts about the value of the alliance with the United States and resentful of ever-rising American demands to do more, the officials said.

The United States is also struggling to address Pakistan’s concerns over the conditions imposed on a new American aid package of $7.5 billion over five years that the Pakistani military denounced as designed to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

The Obama administration has endorsed the Pakistani Army’s recent offensive in South Waziristan, suggesting it showed overdue resolve. But it has also raised concerns about the Pakistani Army’s long-term objectives. How South Waziristan plays out may prove to be a bellwether for an alliance of increasingly divergent interests.

The special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, said Friday that the Obama administration would be trying to find out whether the army was simply “dispersing” the militants or “destroying” them, as the United States would like.

From the number of troops in South Waziristan, it was not clear that the army wanted to “finish the task,” said a Western military attaché, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to diplomatic protocol.

The army would not take over South Waziristan as it had the Swat Valley, where the military is now an occupying force after conducting a campaign in the spring and summer that pushed the Taliban out, the officials said.

It remains to be seen how the campaign will play out in a region where the army has failed in the past, analysts said. The army has sent about 28,000 soldiers to South Waziristan to take on about 10,000 guerrillas, a relatively low ratio, according to military specialists.

In all, of the roughly 28,000 soldiers, there are probably about 11,000 army infantrymen, said Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier. Instead of a ratio of one to one, he said, the ratio should be at least five to one.

The army appeared to have no plans to occupy South Waziristan, but rather to cut the militants “to size,” said Tariq Fatemi, who served briefly as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States in 1999.

With the uncertainty of American plans in Afghanistan, and the strong sentiment in Pakistan that India was “up to no good” in the restive province of Baluchistan and the tribal areas, Mr. Fatemi said, the army would not abandon the militant groups that it has relied on to fight as proxies in Afghanistan and in Kashmir against India.

The goal in South Waziristan, Mr. Fatemi said, was to eliminate the leadership that had become “too big of their boots” with the attacks on Pakistan’s cities. The army would like to find more pliant replacements as leaders, he said.

The militants’ war against the cities in the past three weeks had produced a wave of fear that shored up support for the army to fight back in South Waziristan, many Pakistanis said.

But the terror has also amplified complaints that the unpopular civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is seen as slavishly pro-American, is unable to cope with the onslaught.

Mr. Zardari, whose relations with the Pakistani military appear increasingly strained, has not addressed the nation since the militants unfurled their attacks or since the army launched the offensive in South Waziristan.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik was pelted with stones last week when he visited the International Islamic University after two suicide bomb attacks on the campus killed six students, including women.

After the attack at the university, the government ordered all schools and universities closed in Punjab, the most populous province, a move that affected Pakistani families like never before.

“The impact is being felt in every home, before it was just the North-West Frontier Province,” said Jahangir Tareen, a member of Parliament and a member of the cabinet under President Pervez Musharraf.

When schools were ordered re-opened Monday, parents were still unhappy.

“The mood is as bleak as I remember,” said a well-to-do parent in Lahore who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The government says the private schools must open, but security is up to the schools. Where is the government?”

The range and different style of attacks in the urban areas, particularly in Islamabad, the capital, and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, surprised Pakistani security officials, said a Western diplomat who is in frequent contact with them.

The Pakistani security services knew that sleeper cells had been put in place in both cities in the past six months, but their strength was unknown, the diplomat said. “These were not your scared suicide bomber boys from the villages, these were well trained commandos,” the diplomat said.

The assassination of an army brigadier as he drove through Islamabad last week further unnerved people, demonstrating that the militants had a cadre of spotters or observers probably marshaled from the increasing number of students attending radical religious schools in the capital, the diplomat said.

Whatever President Obama decides about troop levels in Afghanistan, Pakistan sees the United States and NATO headed for the exits, an outcome that encourages Pakistan to hang onto the militants that it has used as proxies, the Western diplomat said.

The fact that the United States had so far failed to persuade India to restart talks with Pakistan and that it was doing little to curb what Pakistan sees as the undue influence of India in Afghanistan was unsettling for Pakistan, Mr. Fatemi, the former ambassador, said.

On top of everything else, that feeling was driving a surge of anti-American sentiment, even among the elite, some Pakistanis said, increasing the challenges ahead.

“There is a general perception in the educated class that Pakistan is paying a very heavy price for fighting alongside the United States,” said Ashfaq Khan, a prominent economist and dean of the business school at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad.
24375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / While President Hamlet decides on: October 27, 2009, 08:46:00 AM
This from Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector:

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Forced to confront the rising insurgency in once peaceful northern Afghanistan, the German Army is engaged in sustained and bloody ground combat for the first time since World War II.

A German soldier stands guard in a compound in Kunduz Province. Two men from his company were killed in June, among 36 German soldiers who have died in the Afghan war. More Photos »

Soldiers near the northern city of Kunduz have had to strike back against an increasingly fierce campaign by Taliban insurgents, while carrying the burden of being among the first units to break the German taboo against military combat abroad that arose after the Nazi era.

At issue are how long opposition in Germany will allow its troops to stay and fight, and whether they will be given leeway from their strict rules of engagement to pursue the kind of counterinsurgency being advocated by American generals. The question now is whether the Americans will ultimately fight one kind of war and their allies another.

For Germans, the realization that their soldiers are now engaged in ground offensives in an open-ended and escalating war requires a fundamental reconsideration of their principles.

After World War II, German society rejected using military power for anything other than self-defense, and pacifism has been a rallying cry for generations, blocking allied requests for any military support beyond humanitarian assistance.

German leaders have chipped away at the proscriptions in recent years, in particular by participating in airstrikes in the Kosovo war. Still, the legacy of the combat ban remains in the form of strict engagement rules and an ingrained shoot-last mentality that is causing significant tensions with the United States in Afghanistan.

Driven by necessity, some of the 4,250 German soldiers here, the third-largest number of troops in the NATO contingent, have already come a long way. Last Tuesday, they handed out blankets, volleyballs and flashlights as a goodwill gesture to residents of the village of Yanghareq, about 22 miles northwest of Kunduz. Barely an hour later, insurgents with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades ambushed other members of the same company.

The Germans fought back, killing one of the attackers, before the dust and disorder made it impossible to tell fleeing Taliban from civilians.

“They shoot at us and we shoot back,” said Staff Sgt. Erik S., who, according to German military rules, could not be fully identified. “People are going to fall on both sides. It’s as simple as that. It’s war.”

The sergeant added, “The word ‘war’ is growing louder in society, and the politicians can’t keep it secret anymore.”

Indeed, German politicians have refused to utter the word, trying instead to portray the mission in Afghanistan as a mix of peacekeeping and reconstruction in support of the Afghan government. But their line has grown less tenable as the insurgency has expanded rapidly in the west and north of the country, where Germany leads the regional command and provides a majority of the troops.

The Germans may not have gone to war, but now the war has come to them.

In part, NATO and German officials say, that is evidence of the political astuteness of Taliban and Qaeda leaders, who are aware of the opposition in Germany to the war. They hope to exploit it and force the withdrawal of German soldiers — splintering the NATO alliance in the process — through attacks on German personnel in Afghanistan and through video and audio threats of terrorist attacks on the home front before the German elections last month.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander in Afghanistan, is pressing NATO allies to contribute more troops to the war effort, even as countries like the Netherlands and Canada have begun discussing plans to pull out. Germany has held out against pleas for additional troops so far.

Ties between Germany and the United States were strained last month over a German-ordered bombing of two hijacked tanker trucks, which killed civilians as well as Taliban. Many Germans, from top politicians down to enlisted men, thought that General McChrystal was too swift to condemn the strike before a complete investigation.

Germany’s combat troops are caught in the middle. In interviews last week, soldiers from the Third Company, Mechanized Infantry Battalion 391, said they were understaffed for the increasingly complex mission here. Two men from the company were killed in June, among 36 German soldiers who have died in the Afghan war.

The soldiers expressed frustration over the second-guessing of the airstrike not only by allies, but also by their own politicians, and over the absence of support back home.

While the intensity of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan’s south has received most attention, the situation in the Germans’ part of the north has deteriorated rapidly. Soldiers said that just a year ago they could patrol in unarmored vehicles. Now there are places where they cannot move even in armored vehicles without an entire company of soldiers.

American officials have argued that an emphasis on reconstruction, peacekeeping and the avoidance of violence may have given the Taliban a foothold to return to the north.

German officers here said they had adjusted their tactics accordingly, often engaging the Taliban in firefights for hours with close air support. In July, 300 German soldiers joined the Afghan Army and National Police in an operation in Kunduz Province that killed more than 20 Taliban fighters and led to the arrests of half a dozen more.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called the operation “a fundamental transition out of the defensive and into the offensive.”

Germany’s military actions are controlled by a parliamentary mandate, which is up for renewal in December. The German contingent has unarmed drones and Tornado fighter jets, which are restricted to reconnaissance and are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.

German soldiers usually stay in Afghanistan for just four months, which can make it difficult to maintain continuity with their Afghan partners. The mandate also caps the number of troops in the country at 4,500.

A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, called the mandate “a political straitjacket.”

A company of German paratroopers in the district of Chahar Darreh, where insurgent activity is particularly pronounced, fought off a series of attacks and stayed in the area, patrolling on foot and meeting with local elders for eight days and seven nights.

“The longer we were out there, the better the local population responded to us,” said Capt. Thomas K., the company’s commander. Another company relieved them for three days but then abandoned the position, where intelligence said that a bomb was waiting for the next group of German soldiers.

“Since we were there, no other company has been back,” the captain said.

Stefan Pauly contributed reporting from Berlin.
24376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq on: October 27, 2009, 08:39:16 AM
The surge is now history.  It, coupled with other events, was effective.  But it is now history.  Water under the bridge.  Irrelevant to the moment.
 
I believe when the USA leaves for good, the civil war will be on like DonkeyKong.
24377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Support for Israel strong on: October 26, 2009, 11:14:16 PM
Survey: US support for Israel strong
Oct. 26, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

The American people's strong support for Israel remains constant and their support for action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power has substantially increased, according to a new nationwide survey released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday.

The survey's findings demonstrate that Americans recognize Israel as a strong and loyal US ally, are skeptical about "peace dividends" that would be realized by Israel stopping all settlement construction and believe that a Palestinian state must not be established until the Palestinians demonstrate a commitment to end violence and accept Israel's legitimacy.

The 2009 Survey of American Attitudes on Israel, The Palestinians and Prospects for Peace in the Middle East, a national telephone survey of 1,200 American adults, was conducted September 26-October 4, 2009 by Marttila Communications of Washington, D.C. and Boston.

"This latest survey of the American people, coming at a time of a full range of challenging issues facing Israel and the region demonstrates anew the breadth and depth of American public support for Israel from a variety of perspectives," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Americans see Israel as a loyal ally to the US, as being very serious about wanting to achieve peace with the Palestinians and as deserving the sympathy of the American people in the conflict with the Palestinians."

Foxman also noted a changing dynamic regarding Iran and the nuclear issue. "The significant increase in Americans viewing Iran as a threat and supporting, if nothing else works, US or Israeli military options against Iran, reflect a new and needed sense of urgency about the issue in light of Iran's oppressive policies and the discovery of a secret Iranian nuclear plant," he said. "This is the first time a majority of Americans - 54 percent - support such an option for the US"

Some two thirds of Americans consider Israel a strong and loyal US ally, as previous surveys showed. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 64% believe that Israel is serious about achieving peace with the Palestinians, with three-to-one respondents expressing more sympathy with Israel than the Palestinians, when asked to choose a side. Support for US involvement in the peace process rose by nine percentage points to 39% since 2007, but 48% believe the two sides must ultimately solve their own problems.

With recent US efforts to freeze Israeli settlement activity, 53% of those questioned believe that even if Israel halts all construction Arab leaders will continue to refuse Israel's right to exist. Some 61% believe that the conflict will continue for years with 51% claiming that Palestinian divisions are an obstacle to peace and 56% saying no Palestinian state should be established until Palestinians cease violence and accept Israel's legitimacy.

Concerning the question of the Iranian threat, 63% of the respondents consider Iran an immediate or short-term security threat to the Middle East compared to 50% in 2007. There has also been significant gain in those who would support either Israel or the US using military action to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, with 57% of Americans supporting an Israeli hit, up from 42% in 2007, and 54% supporting a US campaign, up from 47% in 2007.
24378  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / One doubts the President would approve , , , on: October 26, 2009, 07:07:39 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO4cw565V98
24379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 26, 2009, 04:12:19 PM
Second post of the day:

The hit parade of charming folks just keeps rolling along:

Bill Wilson: Why did Obama appoint Craig Becker to the NLRB?
By: Bill Wilson
OpEd Contributor
October 22, 2009
Last year, in the midst of campaign season, the Democrats promised the American people a new era of transparency in how the government makes decisions. Based on recent conduct of the U.S. Senate, the public could be forgiven for believing that these promises were never intended to be kept.

This past Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions met in an executive session to consider President Obama's nominees to various positions dealing with labor and employment issues. Among those considered were the nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB).

Rather than hold public hearings on the qualifications of the nominees, the committee barred the public when they cast their votes. No testimony was allowed. Nor was any chance for public cross-examination.

The committee's members just showed up behind closed door for a quick up and down vote. Even worse, two of the three NLRB nominees were approved by the Committee on a voice vote.

The third, Craig Becker, received a roll call vote, but only after Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, demanded a hearing and roll call vote. The request for a hearing was denied.

Unfortunately, in Becker's case, significant issues in his background merit careful inspection. Becker is a longtime union activist who has spent considerable time and energy fighting to reduce union members' rights in order to give union management more control over workers. He has even argued that workers should not have the right to decide to not have a union.

His current employers, two large unions, where he serves as associate general counsel, are engaged in a colossal attempt to strip even more rights away from workers, through their support for the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which would abolish the secret ballot in workplace representation elections.

Becker's strong advocacy against union workers and in favor of imposed unionization raises serious questions as to whether he can be neutral when deciding union cases. Adjudicating these cases comprises a significant part of the NRLB's duties.

Ironically, Becker acknowledged in a 1993 law review article that elections are the best way to handle unionization issues. Yet, outside of academia, he has advocated the opposite.

In that article, Becker stated: "In the face of bitter antagonism to its incipient efforts to impose a system of representation on industry, the Board [NLRB] shifted course and resorted exclusively to the most unimpeachable democratic instrument -- the election."

Elections being the most unimpeachable democratic instrument, then why not continue to use them instead of imposing the card-check system which has the considerable potential for abuse and fraud?

Questions like this demand answers. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats turned their back on transparency and openness, probably because they don't want the hard questions explored.

Some solace can be found knowing that at least one member of the committee tried to bring Becker's background into the light for public inspection. But his nomination was approved by the committee regardless.

Becker is not the type of government leader we need. The issues in his background require serious scrutiny in a full, fair, and open public hearing. Denying the public the opportunity to observe this scrutiny was not the proper course of action. And for that reason among many, Becker's nomination should not be approved should it reach the full Senate.

The Senate should conduct its work in public for all to see and should not resort to executive meetings to move nominees forward behind the public's back. So much for openness in government. So much for campaign promises gone awry.

 

 

 

Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government.
 

 
 
 
 

 
Find this article at:
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/OpEd-Contributor/Why-did-Obama-appoint-Gary-Becker-to-the-NLRB_-8420449-65299607.html 
24380  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 26, 2009, 04:01:44 PM
I'm thinking two days, just like this past April.

Night Owl is on Night Owl time.  wink
24381  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: October 26, 2009, 04:00:04 PM
Good point!

"Squat-sitting" is one of the primal human positions, yet has become completely alien to modern man.  Just watch modern man try to defecate in nature-- let alone hang out in this position the way normal people can and do. 
24382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: October 26, 2009, 03:50:18 PM
Russia, Iran and the Biden Speech
By George Friedman and Peter Zeihan

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

While the Obama administration strongly denied that the decision to halt the BMD deployment and opt for a different BMD system had anything to do with the Russians, the timing raised some questions. Formal talks with Iran on nuclear weapons were a few weeks away, and the only leverage the United States had in those talks aside from war was sanctions. The core of any effective sanctions against Iran would be placing limits on Iran's gasoline imports. By dint of proximity to Iran and massive spare refining capability, the Russians were essential to this effort -- and they were indicating that they wouldn't participate. Coincidence or not, the decision to pull BMD from Poland and the Czech Republic did give the Russians something they had been demanding at a time when they clearly needed to be brought on board.

The Biden Challenge

That's what made Biden's trip interesting. First, just a few weeks after the reversal, he revisited these countries. He reasserted American commitment to their security and promised the delivery of other weapons such as Patriot missile batteries, an impressive piece of hardware that really does enhance regional security (unlike BMD, which would grant only an indirect boost). Then, Biden went even further in Romania, not only extending his guarantees to the rest of Central Europe, but also challenging the Russians directly. He said that the United States regarded spheres of influence as 19th century thinking, thereby driving home that Washington is not prepared to accept Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Most important, he called on the former satellites of the Soviet Union to assist republics in the FSU that are not part of the Russian Federation to overthrow authoritarian systems and preserve their independence.

Related Link
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on America, Central Europe, and Partnership in 21st Century
(STRATFOR is not responsible for content from other Web sites.)
This was a carefully written and vetted speech: It was not Biden going off on a tangent, but rather an expression of Obama administration policy. And it taps into the prime Russian fear, namely, that the West will eat away at Russia's western periphery -- and at Russia itself -- with color revolutions that result in the installation of pro-Western governments, just as happened in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004-2005. The United States essentially now has pledged itself to do just that, and has asked the rest of Central Europe to join it in creating and strengthening pro-Western governments in the FSU. After doing something Russia wanted the United States to do, Washington now has turned around and announced a policy that directly challenges Russia, and which in some ways represents Russia's worst-case scenario.

What happened between the decision to pull BMD and Biden's Romania speech remains unclear, but there are three possibilities. The first possibility is that the Obama administration decided to shift policy on Russia in disappointment over Moscow's lack of response to the BMD overture. The second possibility is that the Obama administration didn't consider the effects of the BMD reversal. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the one had nothing to do with the other, and it is possible that the Obama administration simply failed to anticipate the firestorm the course reversal would kick off in Central Europe and to anticipate that it would be seen as a conciliatory gesture to the Russians, and then had to scramble to calm the waters and reassert the basic American position on Russia, perhaps more harshly than before. The third possibility, a variation on the second scenario, is that the administration might not yet have a coordinated policy on Russia. Instead, it responds to whatever the most recent pressure happens to be, giving the appearance of lurching policy shifts.

The why of Washington decision-making is always interesting, but the fact of what has now happened is more pertinent. And that is that Washington now has challenged Moscow on the latter's core issues. However things got to that point, they are now there -- and the Russian issue now fully intersects with the Iranian issue. On a deeper level, Russia once again is shaping up to be a major challenge to U.S. national interests. Russia fears (accurately) that a leading goal of American foreign policy is to prevent the return of Russia as a major power. At present, however, the Americans lack the free hand needed to halt Russia's return to prominence as a result of commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Kremlin inner circle understands this divergence between goal and capacity all too well, and has been working to keep the Americans as busy as possible elsewhere.

Distracting Washington While Shoring Up Security
The core of this effort is Russian support for Iran. Moscow has long collaborated with Tehran on Iran's nuclear power generation efforts. Conventional Russian weapon systems are quite popular with the Iranian military. And Iran often makes use of Russian international diplomatic cover, especially at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia wields the all-important veto.

Russian support confounds Washington's ability to counter more direct Iranian action, whether that Iranian action be in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration would prefer to avoid war with Iran, and instead build an international coalition against Iran to force it to back down on any number of issues of which a potential nuclear weapons program is only the most public and obvious. But building that coalition is impossible with a Russia-sized hole right in the center of the system.

The end result is that the Americans have been occupied with the Islamic world for some time now, something that secretly delights the Russians. The Iranian distraction policy has worked fiendishly well: It has allowed the Russians to reshape their own neighborhood in ways that simply would not be possible if the Americans had more diplomatic and military freedom of action. At the beginning of 2009, the Russians saw three potential challenges to their long-term security that they sought to mitigate. As of this writing, they have not only succeeded, they have managed partially to co-opt all three threats.

First, there is Ukraine, which is tightly integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland. A strong Ukrainian-Russian partnership (if not outright control of Ukraine by Russia) is required to maintain even a sliver of Russian security. Five years ago, Western forces managed to short-circuit a Kremlin effort to firm up Russian control of the Ukrainian political system, resulting in the Orange Revolution that saw pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko take office. After five years of serious Russian diplomatic and intelligence work, Moscow has since managed not just to discredit Yushchenko -- he is now less popular in most opinion polls than the margin of error -- but to command the informal loyalty of every other candidate for president in the upcoming January 2010 election. Very soon, Ukraine's Western moment will formally be over.

Russia is also sewing up the Caucasus. The only country that could challenge Russia's southern flank is Turkey, and until now, the best Russian hedge against Turkish power has been an independent (although certainly still a Russian client) Armenia. (Turkish-Armenian relations have been frozen in the post-Cold War era over the contentious issue of the Armenian genocide.) A few months ago, Russia offered the Turks the opportunity to improve relations with Armenia. The Turks are emerging from 90 years of near-comatose international relations, and they jumped at the chance to strengthen their position in the Caucasus. But in the process, Turkey's relationship with its heretofore regional ally, Azerbaijan (Armenia's archfoe), has soured. Terrified that they are about to lose their regional sponsor, the Azerbaijanis have turned to the Russians to counterbalance Armenia, while the Russians still pull all Armenia's strings. The end result is that Turkey's position in the Caucasus is now far weaker than it was a few months ago, and Russia still retains the ability to easily sabotage any Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Even on the North European Plain, Russia has made great strides. The main power on that plain is the recently reunified Germany. Historically, Germany and Russia have been at each other's throats, but only when they have shared a direct border. When an independent Poland separates them, they have a number of opportunities for partnership, and 2009 has seen such opportunities seized. The Russians initially faced a challenge regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel is from the former East Germany, giving her personal reasons to see the Russians as occupiers. Cracking this nut was never going to be easy for Moscow, yet it succeeded. During the 2009 financial crisis, when Russian firms were snapping like twigs, the Russian government still provided bailout money and merger financing to troubled German companies, with a rescue plan for Opel even helping Merkel clinch re-election. With the Kremlin now offering to midwife -- and in many cases directly subsidize -- investment efforts in Russia by German firms such as E.On, Wintershall, Siemens, Volkswagen and ThyssenKrupp, the Kremlin has quite literally purchased German goodwill.

Washington Seeks a Game Changer
With Russia making great strides in Eurasia while simultaneously sabotaging U.S. efforts in the Middle East, the Americans desperately need to change the game. Despite its fiery tone, this desperation was on full display in Biden's speech. Flat-out challenging the Central Europeans to help other FSU countries recreate the revolutions they launched when they broke with the Soviet empire in 1989, specifically calling for such efforts in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, is as bald-faced a challenge as the Americans are currently capable of delivering. And to ensure there was no confusion on the point, Biden also promised -- publicly -- whatever support the Central Europeans might ask for. The Americans have a serious need for the Russians to be on the defensive. Washington wants to force the Russians to focus on their own neighborhood, ideally forgetting about the Iranians in the process. Better yet, Washington would like to force the Russians into a long slog of defensive actions to protect their clients hard up on their own border. The Russians did not repair the damage of the Orange Revolution overnight, so imagine how much time Washington would have if all of the former Soviet satellites started stirring up trouble across Russia's western and southern periphery.

The Central Europeans do not require a great deal of motivation. If the Americans are concerned about a resurgent Russia, then the Central Europeans are absolutely terrified -- and that was before the Russians started courting Germany, the only regional state that could stand up to Russia by itself. Things are even worse for the Central Europeans than they seem, as much of their history has consisted of vainly attempting to outmaneuver Germany and Russia's alternating periods of war and partnership.

The question of why the United States is pushing this hard at the present time remains. Talks with the Iranians are under way; it is difficult to gauge how they are going. The conventional wisdom holds that the Iranians are simply playing for time before allowing the talks to sink. This would mean the Iranians don't feel terribly pressured by the threat of sanctions and don't take threats of attack very seriously. At least with regard to the sanctions, the Russians have everything to do with Iran's blase attitude. The American decision to threaten Russia might simply have been a last-ditch attempt to force Tehran's hand now that conciliation seems to have failed. It isn't likely to work, because for the time being Russia has the upper hand in the former Soviet Union, and the Americans and their allies -- motivated as they may be -- do not have the best cards to play.

The other explanation might be that the White House wanted to let Iran know that the Americans don't need Russia to deal with Iran. The threats to Russia might infuriate it, but the Kremlin is unlikely to feel much in the form of clear and present dangers. On the other hand, blasting the Russians the way Biden did might force the Iranians to reconsider their hand. After all, if the Americans are no longer thinking of the Russians as part of the solution, this indicates that the Americans are about to give up on diplomacy and sanctions. And that means the United States must choose between accepting an Iranian bomb or employing the military option.

And this leaves the international system with two outcomes. First, by publicly ending attempts to secure Russian help, Biden might be trying to get the Iranians to take American threats seriously. And second, by directly challenging the Russians on their home turf, the United States will be making the borderlands between Western Europe and Russia a very exciting place.
24383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Volcker "used" on: October 26, 2009, 12:34:35 PM
Volcker: Bernanke Didn't Go Far Enough (chrismartenson)

Volcker wants to keep major commercial banks that enjoy federal-deposit guarantees away from big-time speculative trading. "They shouldn't be doing risky capital-market stuff," Volcker told NEWSWEEK before the Fed announcement. But, he adds, the president "obviously decided not to accept" his recommendations. Volcker says he was used as "some kind of symbol of responsibility and prudence" by the administration during the campaign, and now speaks to Obama only occasionally.
24384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 26, 2009, 10:58:10 AM
The Foundation
"But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever." --John Adams

You can either support Democrat health care or the Constitution ... but not both

"At the heart of the American idea is the deep distrust and suspicion the founders of our nation had for government, distrust and suspicion not shared as much by today's Americans. Some of the founders' distrust is seen in our Constitution's language such as Congress shall not: abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, violate and deny. If the founders did not believe Congress would abuse our God-given rights, they would not have provided those protections. After all, one would not expect to find a Bill of Rights in Heaven; it would be an affront to God. Other founder distrust for government is found in the Constitution's separation of powers, checks and balances and the several anti-majoritarian provisions such as the Electoral College and the requirement that three-quarters of state legislatures ratify changes in the Constitution. The three branches of our federal government are no longer bound by the Constitution as the framers envisioned and what is worse is American ignorance and acceptance of such rogue behavior. Look at the current debate over government involvement in health, business bailouts and stimulus packages. The debate centers around questions as whether such involvement is a good idea or a bad idea and whether one program is more costly than another. Those questions are entirely irrelevant to what should be debated, namely: Is such government involvement in our lives permissible under the U.S. Constitution? That question is not part of the debate. The American people, along with our elected representatives, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, care less about what is and what is not permissible under our Constitution. They think Congress has the right to do anything upon which they can secure a majority vote, whether they have the constitutional or moral authority to do so or not." --George Mason economics professor Walter E. Williams

Liberty
"Can President Barack Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy broccoli? If so, where did they get that authority? What provision in the Constitution empowers the federal government to order an individual to buy a product he does not want? This is not a question about nutrition. It is not a question about whether broccoli is good for you or about the relative merits of broccoli versus other foods. It is a question about the constitutional limits on the power of the federal government. It is a question about freedom. Can President Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy health insurance? They might as well order Americans to buy broccoli. They have no legitimate authority to do either. Yet neither Obama nor the current leadership in Congress seems to care about the constitutional limits on their power. They are now attempting to exert authority over the lives of Americans in a way no president and Congress has done before. ... All versions of the health care bill under consideration in Congress would order Americans to buy health insurance. If any of these bills is enacted, the first thing it would accomplish is the amputation of a vital part of our Constitution, and the death of another measure of our liberty." --columnist Terence Jeffrey

Faith & Family
"Hard work and self-denial were part of our national character -- actually our Christian heritage. In recent years, the 'sound economic values' have eroded. ... But the problem, you see, is that values and the character they produce aren't divisible. People will not exercise restraint in their economic dealings while casting off restraints in their sexual and social ones. ... Or turn on the television. There, people are indulging every sexual desire in the midst of a consumerist paradise -- big homes, expensive cars and fashionable clothes. You can do anything you want. The 'Calvinist restraint' ... didn't preach chastity or thrift; rather it preached chastity and thrift. That's because it saw both as proceeding from a common source: the Christian understanding of man's nature and the purpose for which God created him. If you try to have the one without the other, you will get neither. Far from being obsolete, the old culture war is more relevant than ever. Restoring moral values across the board is essential to rescue a sagging economy as well as renew our nation's spirit." --author Chuck Colson


Culture
"Quick: when I say 'Matthew Shepard,' what do you think? A man killed because he was gay? Or just some poor sap in the wrong place at the wrong time? More on that in a minute. Hate crime legislation aimed at making it a federal crime to assault someone for being a homosexual passed the House last week, and could be on its way to becoming law. It sounds great, doesn't it? Who wouldn't be against a law that would prosecute someone for targeting another person based on bigotry and bias? What could be wrong with this scenario? Plenty. I'm all for prosecuting criminals for their acts, especially violent criminals. I'm pro-death penalty, if truth be told. I figure that if you deliberately take someone else's life, you should pay by forfeiting yours. Not very PC of me, but there you have it. However, it bothers me that individuals may soon be prosecuted for not just the crime, but the 'behind the scenes' thoughts that may have contributed to that crime. ... When we begin to prosecute for the thoughts behind the crime, we open a very wiggly can of worms that can't be shut again. ... Thanks to the pop culture myth that helped perpetrate the false reason for Matthew Shepard's senseless death, we could now all be facing regulations that resemble '1984' more than they do 'Land of the Free.' Is this really the direction in which we want to head?" --columnist Pam Meister

The Gipper
"Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society. Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business ... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite. Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us." --Ronald Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"President Obama keeps roaring out deadlines like a lion -- only later to meow like a little kitty. Remember, for example, how he bellowed to cheering partisan crowds that he would close down the detainment facility at Guantanamo within a year? The clock ticks -- and Guantanamo isn't close to being shut down. It once was easy for candidate Obama to deplore George W. Bush's supposed gulag. Now it proves harder to decide between the bad choice of detaining non-uniformed terrorist combatants and the worse ones of letting them go, giving them civilian trials or deporting them to unwilling hosts. Going back further to September 2007, candidate Obama postured about Iraq that he wanted 'to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year -- now!' That 'now!' sure sounded macho. On Iraq, candidate Obama also railed that 'the American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We've had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet.' Talk about 'unmet' deadlines and 'spin'-- here we are in October 2009, and there are still 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The reason why Obama fudged on his promised deadline is that the surge in 2007 worked. American deaths plummeted. The theater is quiet. Iraqi democracy is still there after six years. Obama cannot quite admit these facts, but on the other hand he does not want to be responsible for undermining them. ... The list of what a melodramatic Obama threatens or promises to do and what he actually does is endless." --Hoover Institution historian Victor Davis Hanson


 

For the Record
"
  • n Thursday, the administration tried to make [the MSM] complicit in an actual boycott of Fox. The Treasury Department made available Ken Feinberg, the executive pay czar, for interviews with the White House 'pool' news organizations -- except Fox. The other networks admirably refused, saying they would not interview Feinberg unless Fox was permitted to as well. The administration backed down. This was an important defeat because there's a principle at stake here. While government can and should debate and criticize opposition voices, the current White House goes beyond that. It wants to delegitimize any significant dissent. The objective is no secret. White House aides openly told Politico that they're engaged in a deliberate campaign to marginalize and ostracize recalcitrants, from Fox to health insurers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There's nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality. We have norms, Madisonian norms. [James] Madison argued that the safety of a great republic, its defense against tyranny, requires the contest between factions or interests. His insight was to understand 'the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties.' They would help guarantee liberty by checking and balancing and restraining each other -- and an otherwise imperious government. Factions should compete, but they should also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian." --columnist Charles Krauthammer
24385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 26, 2009, 10:53:42 AM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 3: Rise of the Civiliki
October 26, 2009 | 1131 GMT
Summary
The global economic crisis has led the Kremlin to examine its decisions about running Russia's economy, financial sectors and businesses. A group of intellectuals including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, called the civiliki, want to use the crisis as an opportunity to reform the Russian economy. The civiliki's plan will lead to increased investment and greater efficiency in the economy, but it will also trigger a fresh round of conflict between the Kremlin's two powerful political clans.

Editor's Note: This is part three in a five-part series examining the Russian political clans and the coming conflict between them.
 
In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has had to step back and examine the Kremlin's decisions on running the country's economy, financial sectors and businesses and the effects of a state-controlled system on investment, growth and the freedom of capital. In response, a group of Russian intellectuals called the civiliki, who are trained in economics, law and finance, have presented proposals on "fixing" the economy. The civiliki (a play on words, since the Federal Security Service and other members of the security class in Russia are called the siloviki) is a new group of economically liberal-minded (by Russian standards) politicians and businessmen. This group includes Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin (who is also a deputy prime minister), Sberbank chief German Gref and many more.

The civiliki are not ideologues like the liberal Russian reformers of the 1990s and understand that the Russian economy and institutions must maintain some sense of balance with national security and national interests. But the civiliki also see how much damage the siloviki's control of key power structures and businesses has done to the Russian economy.

The civiliki's plan has one main goal in mind: to implement real structural reform in Russia's major economic sectors. This will improve competition, attract investment and purge waste and mismanagement. The plan has three parts -- purge the non-business-minded siloviki from positions of economic responsibility, introduce new pro-investment laws and partially liberalize the economy. It is an incredibly ambitious plan that would reverse laws designed by the FSB and Putin over the past six years. But the reforms are being spearheaded by the one man Putin trusts on all finance and economic issues: the civiliki's Kudrin.

Related Links
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series Introduction): The War Begins
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 1: The Crash
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 2: The Combatants
Kudrin is an experienced official, being one of the very few to make the transition from the Yeltsin era to Putin's Russia and having held a prominent position in every one of Putin's governments. The reason for his longevity at the Kremlin is simple: Rather than playing politics (to the extent usually seen in Russia) he is a technocrat who makes decisions based largely on the economic facts. His numbers-oriented mind, apolitical nature and competency as a manager are at least as important to Russia's relative financial stability as the strong energy prices of the past decade. Because of this, Putin values Kudrin's counsel greatly. Kudrin has also been an important buffer between Deputy Chief of Staff and First Aide to Vladimir Putin Vladislav Surkov and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the heads of the Kremlin's opposing clans -- until now.


Kudrin's Plan
Part 1: Purging the Siloviki
The most controversial part of Kudrin's plan is to purge the siloviki from positions of control over businesses and economic institutions. The siloviki clan, run by Sechin, took command of most of the Russian state firms over the past six years, and has -- by Kudrin's technocratic reckoning -- run them poorly. The siloviki run firms including oil giant Rosneft, rail monopoly Russian Railways, Russian airline Aeroflot, nuclear energy company Rosatom and arms exporter Rosoboronexport. The issue is that the siloviki have placed former KGB agents as heads of industry and businesses though many have no expertise as businessmen. According to Kudrin, it was largely Sechin's clan that sought access to international credit before the global economic crisis hit. Some $500 billion flowed into Russia via such connections, flooding the Russian financial sector with foreign capital. Sechin's clan spent the money as if it were free, often on irrational mergers and acquisitions that increased the clan's political power but had little economic purpose.

When the global recession occurred, all those funding sources dried up in a matter of weeks. And as the ruble declined, all of those loans still required repayment -- in the then-appreciated U.S. dollars, euros and Swiss francs. Consequently, the Russian economy suffered a contraction worse than any other major state in the world. The Kremlin was forced to bail out many firms, particularly those linked to Sechin's clan, to prevent a broader collapse. As part of the efforts to contain the crisis, the Kremlin also spent more than $200 billion on slowing the depreciation of the ruble so that the loans taken out by corporations and banks did not appreciate so much that they would not be repayable. From Kudrin's perspective, this was a huge cost to save companies whose managers had no business being in business.

Kudrin's plan is to weed out the security-minded officials now occupying leadership positions in industry and business, leaving only those who can actually run their institutions properly. But in doing this, Kudrin would strip Sechin's clan of massive economic and financial clout --something the siloviki would not stand for.

Part 2: Making Russia Investor-Friendly
Next, Kudrin's plan calls for legal changes that would make Russia more attractive to investors. One of the issues investors have with Russia is that there is very little legal protection, which leaves them highly vulnerable to hostile takeovers and becoming a target for the Kremlin or its power players. Moreover, the few legal authorities that do exist -- like the Federal Tax Service or the Audit Chamber -- often are tools for the Kremlin to help it pressure Russian and foreign firms that the government wants to either destroy or devour. The best-known case of this is the story of Yukos, whose owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky had evolved from businessman to ruler of Russia's vast oil sector and aspiring politician -- much to the Kremlin's ire. In 2004, the government brought the full power of a reinvigorated state to bear against Khodorkovsky and sent him to a Siberian prison. Other examples are of the Kremlin targeting energy assets belonging to foreign firms like BP and Royal Dutch/Shell to give those assets and/or control over projects to state-controlled energy firms.

In theory, the new investors' rights laws would protect businessmen and investors in Russia. The country has never had sound laws protecting investors' rights. However, it is most likely that any new laws will leave the state plenty of wiggle room to ensure that the Kremlin has significant control over investors' actions.

The next step to creating an investor-friendly Russia, according to Kudrin's plan, is to repeal the strict energy cap laws Putin put in place in 2007. These laws affect strategic industries and clarify which assets would be off-limits to foreigners. The sector affected most by these laws was energy. The laws limit foreign firms' ability to own more than 40 percent of a project in the country and forbid foreign firms from owning any projects involving the subsoil. These laws have made Russia an unattractive environment for foreign businesses to maintain or expand investments in energy projects, even though Russia is one of the world's most energy-rich countries.

But Kudrin's plan involves more than repealing the energy laws and allowing foreign firms to rush back in. There is a political side to the plan, masterminded by Surkov. The changes in Russian energy laws will allow foreign companies to own up to a 50 percent stake in projects, but if a foreign firm wants majority control then it must "trade" assets outside of Russia with one of the Russian energy behemoths. In essence, Russia will allow foreign companies to own majority stakes in large projects like the new fields on the Yamal peninsula in exchange for downstream projects in those companies' own countries. The goal is for Russian energy companies to not only move more into the downstream sector, but also have greater access to international markets -- something the Kremlin can use later for political purposes. STRATFOR sources say deals like this are already being negotiated with firms like BP, France's Total and EDF Trading, and U.S.-based ExxonMobil.

Part 3: Reprivatization
The last part of Kudrin's plan is to reprivatize the vast number of companies the Kremlin has taken over in the last few years. Under Putin, the Russian state once again became the main driver of economic activity. Upon becoming leader of Russia in 1999, Putin set a goal to reverse the massive privatization that occurred during the 1990s -- like the housing and voucher privatizations and loans-for-shares schemes -- that, in most Russians' eyes, wrecked the country. Putin wanted to put the Kremlin back in control by consolidating its power over a slew of economic sectors, including energy, banking and defense. As of this year, the Russian state and regional authorities own approximately 50 percent of Russian businesses, according to Kudrin.

In the short term, Russian state control over strategic sectors made sense. It pushed out forces that were not too friendly with the Kremlin, like the oligarchs and foreign groups. But it also allowed the state to marshal its financial resources toward certain key domestic and foreign policy goals. Russian economic consolidation under the state brought about a stability that most Russians had longed for after the 1990s.

However, in the long term, the lack of non-state funding and private capital has become a problem, creating inefficiencies across the board -- particularly in areas where the state does not focus a great deal of its resources. Russia is traditionally capital-poor; therefore, any major economic overhaul needs to include the creation of an investment-friendly climate. The financial crisis made this clear; when the state took on the burdens of the failing private sector, it swallowed more businesses and industries but also took on their debt and need for cash.

Kudrin's plan is for the state to step back and start reprivatizing some 5,500 firms over the next three years -- which would drop state ownership in Russian firms by approximately 20 percent. The goal is to abandon some of the companies currently draining the government's coffers, but this step will also generate cash through the sales needed for the government to plug 2010's estimated budget deficit. Kudrin also believes that once the government starts to reduce its stake in companies, a more competitive environment will form in the Russian economy, allowing it to become more diversified.

Kudrin wants to ensure that the next reprivatization looks nothing like the feeding frenzy of the 1990s. In the minds of the civiliki, the failures of the 1990s were caused not only by investor greed but also by the state's failure to create a rational environment for privatization. The Russian state in 2009 is much stronger than it was in the 1990s, so Kudrin believes that the new round of privatization would be controllable, and the fact that the Kremlin would know who would gain control of each company would keep anyone hostile to Russian (read: Kremlin) interests out. The last thing Kudrin wants is a new generation of oligarchs.

Kudrin's plan would start with selling the state's stakes in companies purchased during the financial crisis, such as telecommunications giant Rostelecom and a series of banks, including Globex, Svyaz and Sobinbank. After that, the civiliki would like to consider companies such as oil giant Rosneft, banking giant Sberbank and railway monopoly Russian Railways for privatization -- a rather bold move since many of these companies are run by the siloviki.

In Putin's mind, the state consolidated the economy during Russia's identity crisis in the 1990s. Certain people, groups, influences and companies needed to be purged, in his opinion. Now that this has been completed, the government can step back and, in a highly controlled manner, start to reprivatize businesses. Putin is starting to believe that this is all just a cycle.

Easier Said Than Done
Kudrin and the other civiliki's plans are a technocratic approach to a crisis that has been long in the making in Russia but was exacerbated by the global financial crisis. The civiliki's plans have very specific economic goals in mind, leaving out power politics. The plan is actually not a new one, but it is one that the siloviki have continually sidelined over the years as they placed national interests above economic reform. The civiliki have also never been powerful enough by themselves (even with one of their own as president of the country) to push through any of their reforms.

What the civiliki needed was for one of the truly powerful clan leaders in Russia to stand behind their reforms. Fortunately for Kudrin and the civiliki, one such leader -- Surkov, who serves as Medvedev's deputy chief of staff and first aide to Putin -- has done just that. However, Surkov is not interested in Kudrin's plan in order to reform the Russian economy. He sees the plan as something that will help him eliminate his rivals and consolidate his power.

24386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: on: October 26, 2009, 10:52:30 AM
The Church of England has survived the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War and Elton John performing “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s Westminster Abbey funeral. So it will probably survive the note the Vatican issued last week, inviting disaffected Anglicans to head Romeward, and offering them an Anglo-Catholic mansion within the walls of the Roman Catholic faith.

But the invitation is a bombshell nonetheless. Pope Benedict XVI’s outreach to Anglicans may produce only a few conversions; it may produce a few million. Either way, it represents an unusual effort at targeted proselytism, remarkable both for its concessions to potential converts — married priests, a self-contained institutional structure, an Anglican rite — and for its indifference to the wishes of the Church of England’s leadership.

This is not the way well-mannered modern churches are supposed to behave. Spurred by the optimism of the early 1960s, the major denominations of Western Christendom have spent half a century being exquisitely polite to one another, setting aside a history of strife in the name of greater Christian unity.

This ecumenical era has borne real theological fruit, especially on issues that divided Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. But what began as a daring experiment has decayed into bureaucratized complacency — a dull round of interdenominational statements on global warming and Third World debt, only tenuously connected to the Gospel.

At the same time, the more ecumenically minded denominations have lost believers to more assertive faiths — Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Mormonism and even Islam — or seen them drift into agnosticism and apathy.

Nobody is more aware of this erosion than Benedict. So the pope is going back to basics — touting the particular witness of Catholicism even when he’s addressing universal subjects, and seeking converts more than common ground.

Along the way, he’s courting both ends of the theological spectrum. In his encyclicals, Benedict has addressed a range of issues — social justice, environmental protection, even erotic love — that are close to the hearts of secular liberals and lukewarm, progressive-minded Christians. But instead of stopping at a place of broad agreement, he has pushed further, trying to persuade his more liberal readers that many of their beliefs actually depend on the West’s Catholic heritage, and make sense only when grounded in a serious religious faith.

At the same time, the pope has systematically lowered the barriers for conservative Christians hovering on the threshold of the church, unsure whether to slip inside. This was the purpose behind his controversial outreach to schismatic Latin Mass Catholics, and it explains the current opening to Anglicans.

Many Anglicans will never become Catholic; their theology is too evangelical, their suspicion of papal authority too ingrained, their objections to the veneration of the Virgin Mary too deeply felt. But for those who could, Benedict is trying to make reunion with Rome a flesh-and-blood possibility, rather than a matter for academic conversation.

The news media have portrayed this rightward outreach largely through the lens of culture-war politics — as an attempt to consolidate, inside the Catholic tent, anyone who joins the Vatican in rejecting female priests and gay marriage.

But in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

This could be the real significance of last week’s invitation. What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.
24387  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 26, 2009, 10:10:14 AM
May 2 is also getting a strong response on the DBMA Assn forum, but it does not work for Guide Dog so lets also think about the last weekend of April.
24388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 26, 2009, 10:08:29 AM
Banks around the world have been battered in the past year, but most have not responded by turning over control of their businesses to their borrowers. Yet this is what creditors at the International Monetary Fund moved closer to doing at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh last month. We understand why fund borrowers want more power, but why would creditor nations, especially Uncle Sam, cede it?

The terms "debtor" and "creditor" may seem foreign to anyone who reads IMF press releases for the first time. The fund prefers the terms "emerging and developing markets" to describe countries that traditionally borrow hard currency, and "advanced countries" to describe those that provide it. But there's no getting around the reality that only a fraction of the IMF's 186 members are long-term creditors.

That became clear earlier this year when the G-20 passed the hat to collect $500 billion for a lending facility known as "new arrangements to borrow." Major emerging countries led by Brazil quickly made clear they would only contribute if the fund issued short-term bonds that could be traded in the secondary market. In other words, no long-term commitments from them.

Creditor countries have always enjoyed more voting power at the fund because without them there would be no reliable pool of money. But several years ago borrower nations, led by members from Asia and Latin America, began clamoring for a greater voice in fund decisions. They argued that since their economies have grown and now represent a larger share of total global GDP, a "democratic" IMF ought to give them a greater share of voting rights.

Creditors might have replied that the fund is not a democracy and that anyone who wants more votes can get them by ponying up more real money. Instead, in 2008 the board approved a 5% shift in voting rights from what it called "over-represented" creditors to "under-represented" countries. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the 2008 change, once it is ratified, will be China, Korea, India, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Singapore and Turkey. The eight biggest losers will be the U.K., France, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Russia, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Now the debtors want still more power, and the creditors, led by the U.S. Treasury, are ready to yield. The Pittsburgh G-20 communique states that there will be another "shift in quota share to dynamic emerging market and developing countries of at least five percent from over-represented to under-represented countries." Why "at least?" Because the likes of Brazil and China are lobbying for a 7% shift in votes. Europe, which has the most to lose, opposes this change.

A spokesman for the fund tells us that the March 2008 voting shift increased the vote share held by emerging and developing countries to 42.1%. That means that if the new 7% solution prevails, emerging countries will have close to a majority. So politicians in Beijing and Brasilia would have more sway over how U.S. taxpayer contributions are spent.

Perhaps only Barney Frank has benefitted more from the financial crisis than the IMF has. Searching for revenue and without a mission in 2008, it has tripled its resources since the panic began and is now bidding to police the world's economic policies. Given its record of recommending tax increases and currency devaluation, this is not a road to prosperity.

At least the IMF of yore could be counted on to support Western geopolitical interests. If the IMF is going to turn into something like a bank for the United Nations, with the debtors running the joint, U.S. taxpayers should stop being asked to pay for it.
24389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams: National Morality on: October 26, 2009, 08:55:05 AM
"The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. ... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?" --John Adams, Diary, 1778
24390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / BO's declaration of emergency on: October 25, 2009, 11:37:32 PM
Obama declares H1N1 national emergency

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

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.

"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."

The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.

Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development." Having trouble finding vaccine? Share your story

Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.

The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.

Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch how to find out if you have H1N1

Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is "extremely unusual."

The CDC said 16.1 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine had been made by Friday -- 2 million more than two days earlier. About 11.3 million of those had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we would be," Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. "As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us."

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months. The vaccine is produced by growing weakened virus in eggs.

----

What does this have to do with firearms politics you ask? well, many in the U.S(mostly conspiracy buffs) believe there are more sinister plans involved.

The first and biggest question being asked is what emergency?

The declaration of this national emergency seems suspicious from the start. Where’s the emergency? The number of people killed by swine flu in the United States is far smaller than the number of people killed each year from seasonal flu, according to CDC statistics. People obviously aren’t dropping dead by the millions from H1N1 influenza. Most people are just getting mild flu symptoms and a few days later they’re fine.

So what does this mean for Americans? The decleration of a national emergency means the government trumphs the bill of rights. They now, by decleration of this emergency, have the power to:

•The power to force mandatory swine flu vaccinations on the entire population.

• The power to arrest, quarantine or “involuntarily transport” anyone who refuses a swine flu vaccination.

• The power to quarantine an entire city and halt all travel in or out of that city.

• The power to enter any home or office without a search warrant and order the destruction of any belongings or structures deemed to be a threat to public health.

• The effective nullification of the Bill of Rights. Your right to due process, to being safe from government search and seizure, and to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination are all null and void under a Presidential declaration of a national emergency.

None of this means that federal agents are going to march door to door arresting people at gunpoint if they refuse the vaccine, but they could if they wanted to. Your rights are no longer recognized under this national emergency declaration.

 
 
 
24391  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: OPERACION PANDEMIA on: October 25, 2009, 11:33:10 PM
Disculpe que lo siguiente sea en ingles:

Obama declares H1N1 national emergency

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

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.

"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."

The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.

Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development." Having trouble finding vaccine? Share your story

Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.

The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.

Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch how to find out if you have H1N1

Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is "extremely unusual."

The CDC said 16.1 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine had been made by Friday -- 2 million more than two days earlier. About 11.3 million of those had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we would be," Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. "As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us."

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months. The vaccine is produced by growing weakened virus in eggs.

----

What does this have to do with firearms politics you ask? well, many in the U.S(mostly conspiracy buffs) believe there are more sinister plans involved.

The first and biggest question being asked is what emergency?

The declaration of this national emergency seems suspicious from the start. Where’s the emergency? The number of people killed by swine flu in the United States is far smaller than the number of people killed each year from seasonal flu, according to CDC statistics. People obviously aren’t dropping dead by the millions from H1N1 influenza. Most people are just getting mild flu symptoms and a few days later they’re fine.

So what does this mean for Americans? The decleration of a national emergency means the government trumphs the bill of rights. They now, by decleration of this emergency, have the power to:

•The power to force mandatory swine flu vaccinations on the entire population.

• The power to arrest, quarantine or “involuntarily transport” anyone who refuses a swine flu vaccination.

• The power to quarantine an entire city and halt all travel in or out of that city.

• The power to enter any home or office without a search warrant and order the destruction of any belongings or structures deemed to be a threat to public health.

• The effective nullification of the Bill of Rights. Your right to due process, to being safe from government search and seizure, and to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination are all null and void under a Presidential declaration of a national emergency.

None of this means that federal agents are going to march door to door arresting people at gunpoint if they refuse the vaccine, but they could if they wanted to. Your rights are no longer recognized under this national emergency declaration.

 
 
 
24392  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Barefooting on: October 25, 2009, 11:28:33 PM
Exactly so.

=====

At the most recent DB Gathering I was very impressed by dramatic improvement in Linda "Bitch" Matsumi's footwork-- particularly so in light of her broken ankle of a year or two ago.   I was intrigued by the "Vibram Five Finger" "barefooting shoes" she was wearing (google them). 

Now of course "barefooting shoes" is an oxymoron, but basically the idea is that the "shoe" is essentially nothing more than an additional layer of skin-- think of the Apaches as great distance runners wearing mocassins and you will have the idea.

As inferred above in my rumination on squatting, I have always intuitively gravitated to the barefooting concept and so inspired by Linda about two to three weeks ago I got my own VFFs (the RSO model) and absolutely love them.  My feet and calves are feeling much stronger, my hips roll much more fluidly, and my back feels better.

Today was the first time I did full bore sprints in them.   The circumstances were ideal for a first time test.  It was a lacrosse field (synthtetic grass over ground up rubber tires) and I was assisting my son's coach with the drills.  The first 30 minutes were working on scooping ground balls on the run catching passes while jogging/running.  Then it was time for some 2 on 2 attack-defense drills.  As the workout wound down I tested myself with a full on sprint the length of the field (a bit longer than a football field if I am not mistaken).    My speed felt both good and effortless.

I really like these VFFs.

PS:  For you single guys: They are outstanding for getting fun conversations started with women.   I have had several women notice the shoes and start animated converstions with me about them.  If I were not a happily married man, it would have been easy to score several phone numbers wink
24393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 25, 2009, 03:18:15 PM
To quote myself  "I sense us drifting off point from the question presented-- the use of lucid views by persons who hold views on other subjects that we consider beyond the pale."

Folks, please let us address this point specifically with specific suggestions. 

24394  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 25, 2009, 03:14:15 PM
Woof All:

First things first, lets choose the date.

How about May 2?  This would return us to the tradition of the first Sunday of May.  Or sometime in April (what we have done the past two years).

"Higher consciousness through harder contact"(c)
Crafty Dog
GF of the DB
24395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 25, 2009, 11:38:54 AM
So, investigative reporters are subject to discovery?!?
24396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: UK Surveillance Society on: October 25, 2009, 09:48:48 AM
Ever-Present Surveillance Rankles the British Public

By SARAH LYALL
Published: October 24, 2009
POOLE, England — It has become commonplace to call Britain a “surveillance society,” a place where security cameras lurk at every corner, giant databases keep track of intimate personal details and the government has extraordinary powers to intrude into citizens’ lives.




A report in 2007 by the lobbying group Privacy International placed Britain in the bottom five countries for its record on privacy and surveillance, on a par with Singapore.
But the intrusions visited on Jenny Paton, a 40-year-old mother of three, were startling just the same. Suspecting Ms. Paton of falsifying her address to get her daughter into the neighborhood school, local officials here began a covert surveillance operation. They obtained her telephone billing records. And for more than three weeks in 2008, an officer from the Poole education department secretly followed her, noting on a log the movements of the “female and three children” and the “target vehicle” (that would be Ms. Paton, her daughters and their car).

It turned out that Ms. Paton had broken no rules. Her daughter was admitted to the school. But she has not let the matter rest. Her case, now scheduled to be heard by a regulatory tribunal, has become emblematic of the struggle between personal privacy and the ever more powerful state here.

The Poole Borough Council, which governs the area of Dorset where Ms. Paton lives with her partner and their children, says it has done nothing wrong.

In a way, that is true: under a law enacted in 2000 to regulate surveillance powers, it is legal for localities to follow residents secretly. Local governments regularly use these surveillance powers — which they “self-authorize,” without oversight from judges or law enforcement officers — to investigate malfeasance like illegally dumping industrial waste, loan-sharking and falsely claiming welfare benefits.

But they also use them to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.

“Does our privacy mean anything?” Ms. Paton said in an interview. “I haven’t had a drink for 20 years, but there is nothing that has brought me closer to drinking than this case.”

The law in question is known as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, or RIPA, and it also gives 474 local governments and 318 agencies — including the Ambulance Service and the Charity Commission — powers once held by only a handful of law enforcement and security service organizations.

Under the law, the localities and agencies can film people with hidden cameras, trawl through communication traffic data like phone calls and Web site visits and enlist undercover “agents” to pose, for example, as teenagers who want to buy alcohol.

In a report this summer, Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, said that local governments conducted nearly 5,000 “directed surveillance missions” in the year ending in March and that other public authorities carried out roughly the same amount.

Local officials say that using covert surveillance is justified. The Poole Borough Council, for example, used it to detect and prosecute illegal fishing in Poole Harbor.

“RIPA is an essential tool for local authority enforcement which we make limited use of in cases where it is proportionate and there are no other means of gathering evidence,” Tim Martin, who is in charge of legal and democratic services for Poole, which is southwest of London, said in a statement.

The fuss over the law comes against a backdrop of widespread public worry about an increasingly intrusive state and the growing circulation of personal details in vast databases compiled by the government and private companies.

“Successive U.K. governments have gradually constructed one of the most extensive and technologically advanced surveillance systems in the world,” the House of Lords Constitution Committee said in a recent report. It continued: “The development of electronic surveillance and the collection and processing of personal information have become pervasive, routine and almost taken for granted.”

The Lords report pointed out that the government enacted the law in the first place to provide a framework for a series of scattershot rules on surveillance. The goal was also to make such regulations compatible with privacy rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

RIPA is a complicated law that also regulates wiretapping and intrusive surveillance carried out by the security services. But faced with rumbles of public discontent about local governments’ behavior, the Home Office announced in the spring that it would review the legislation to make it clearer what localities should be allowed to do.

“The government has absolutely no interest in spying on law-abiding people going about their everyday lives,” Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, said.

One of the biggest criticisms of the law is that the targets of surveillance are usually unaware that they have been spied on.

Indeed, Ms. Paton learned what had happened only later, when officials summoned her to discuss her daughter’s school application. To her shock, they produced the covert surveillance report and the family’s telephone billing records.

====

Page 2 of 2)



“As far as I’m concerned, they’re within their rights to scrutinize all applications, but the way they went about it was totally unwarranted,” Ms. Paton said. “If they’d wanted any information, they could have come and asked.”

She would have explained that her case was complicated. The family was moving from their old house within the school district to a new one just outside it. But they met the residency requirements because they were still living at the old address when school applications closed.

At the meeting, Ms. Paton and her partner, Tim Joyce, pointed out that the surveillance evidence was irrelevant because the surveillance had been carried out after the deadline had passed.

“They promptly ushered us out of the room,” she said. “As I stood outside the door, they said, ‘You go and tell your friends that these are the powers we have.’ ”

Soon afterward, their daughter was admitted to the school. Ms. Paton began pressing local officials on their surveillance tactics.

“I said, ‘I want to come in and talk to you,’ ” she said. “ ‘How many people were in the car? Were they men or women? Did they take any photos? Does this mean I have a criminal record?’ ”

No one would answer her questions, Ms. Paton said.

Mr. Martin said he could not comment on her case because it was under review. But Ms. Paton said the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, which monitors use of the law, found that the Poole council had acted properly. “They said my privacy wasn’t intruded on because the surveillance was covert,” she said.

The case is now before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which looks into complaints about RIPA. It usually meets in secret but has agreed, Ms. Paton said, to have an open hearing at the beginning of November.

The whole process is so shrouded in mystery that few people ever take it this far. “Because no one knows you have a right to know you’re under surveillance,” Ms. Paton said, “nobody ever makes a complaint.”
24397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 25, 2009, 09:42:10 AM
Why?!?

This smells to me like a matter of trying to intimidate those who raise, , , pardon the expression , , , inconvenient questions and facts.  I'm willing to entertain hearing the other POV, but this smells to me like the prosecutors are being bullies.
24398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 25, 2009, 09:38:54 AM
I'm missing the point here about the Not so Right Rev. Wright.   Why are we discussing him at all GM? Has anyone been quoting him? 
Perhaps I am missing the point here, but I sense us drifting off point from the question presented-- the use of lucid views by persons who hold views on other subjects that we consider beyond the pale.

FWIW in my own life I have had to wrestle with this three times.  In no particular order:

a) Jude Wanniski:  Author of the utterly brilliant "The Way the World Works", considered by the WSJ to be "one of the one hundred most important books of the 20th Century", in his later years Jude became quite an anti-semitic crank (e.g. hung out with Farrkhan) and apologist for Saddam Hussein;
b) Carl Jung:  Only after years of random study in admiration of Jung did I discover that, at the least, apparently he had dalliance with the Nazis to the point of attacking Freud for his "Jewish science" or something like that;
c) Konrad Lorenz:  An Austrian scientist whose influence on me is so great that I named my son Conrad after him, apparently had his Nobel Prize removed because of some things he said in the 1930s-40s.  I'm not really clear on what they were or what happened.

In all three cases I have decided to bifurcate the good and the bad.  Where the anti-semitism question arises, I address it openly and when it doesn't, I don't-- though I have prefaced quoting Wanniski by prefacing it by saying something like "Though in his later years JW became quite a crank, including anti-semitism, here I find his thinking quite sound. etc."

In the case of Pat Buchanan, in my opinion he is a anti-Jewish bigot.  He also holds lucid opinions with which I don't agree, and he holds some lucid opinions which I am willing to entertain.   As a Jew, like Rachel, I do tend to wince a bit to see his name pop up, but I am not ready to call for banishing any and all use of his writings.

Perhaps the solution with quoting such person is to note from time to time, the dubious nature of some of this person's views and that quoting them here should not be taken as thinking all his views respectable?
24399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Pak army takes Kotkai on: October 25, 2009, 09:11:28 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After a week of fighting Taliban and Qaeda militants in the mountains of South Waziristan, the Pakistani Army said Saturday that it had captured a town important for both its symbolic and strategic value.

Kotkai, a strategic town, was taken after "intense fighting."

The town, Kotkai, most of whose 5,000 residents had already fled, is the home of the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, and one of the most feared Taliban commanders, Qari Hussain. Mr. Hussain is believed to be the organizer and trainer of the group’s suicide bombing squads.

The army has been struggling in the treacherous terrain in South Waziristan, long a militant sanctuary. Military officials said Saturday that Kotkai had been taken only after “intense fighting.” Four days ago, the militants repulsed the first army attempt to capture the town and killed nine soldiers, according to a military intelligence officer.

It was the first notable sign of progress in what military analysts say will be an arduous slog for the army against a resilient enemy. And it came as Pakistan has been enduring a withering series of terrorist attacks over the past three weeks.

At a military briefing Saturday, the information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, acknowledged that the attacks, which have focused on police and government sites and have killed about 200 people, had taken a serious toll. But he insisted that “the nation will not be terrorized.”

The farther the army tries to penetrate South Waziristan, the harder the fighting will get, as soldiers encounter defensive positions dug into the sides of mountains that the guerrillas will battle hard to keep, military analysts and residents of the area said.

For example, on the southeast axis of the army’s attack into the Taliban stronghold, soldiers will soon encounter the defensive positions leading to Kaniguram, a village about 6,700 feet high that serves as the hide-out of Uzbek fighters, some of the most battle-hardened around, a former resident of the area said.

“The military’s movement is faster than in their previous campaigns,” a former government official from North Waziristan said, referring to three short-lived army campaigns that ended in negotiated settlements with the Taliban. “But the more they get inside the sanctuary, the more they will be bogged down.”

Time may also be working against the army. In past years, many of the Taliban militants fighting American and NATO forces in Afghanistan have come to Waziristan as winter approached to train and prepare for the next year’s fighting.

Although there is evidence that the seasonal fighting in Afghanistan has become a more year-round affair, the concern is that any Taliban fighters who do cross the border into Pakistan could be used against the army in South Waziristan. One militant organizer in the region, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the migration had already started, swelling the number of active militants in the region well beyond the present estimates of 7,000 to 10,000.

Reinforcements for the militants were also coming from other parts of the Pakistani tribal region, the militant organizer said.

Still, Pakistani soldiers are receiving more support than they did in past campaigns, including better winter gear and air support from fighter jets, the former Waziristan official said.

American officials have praised the Waziristan offensive, after months of pressure on Pakistani officials to begin. But at the military briefing, the army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said that the fight was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else.

There have been no reported missile attacks by American drones in South or North Waziristan against Qaeda targets since the beginning of the Pakistani Army offensive a week ago. Both South and North Waziristan have been the focus of the more than 40 drone attacks this year.

Pakistan had asked the United States to refrain from drone attacks while the army operation was under way in South Waziristan, a senior Pakistani government official said Saturday.

Families continued to flee South Waziristan, and Mr. Kaira said the government was granting the refugees a month’s supply of food and a monthly stipend worth about $50.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it still had no access to North or South Waziristan to care for civilians. “We are concerned by the lack of access granted to humanitarian organizations like the I.C.R.C. whose role it is to protect and assist victims of fighting,” the committee said in a statement.

Elsewhere, in the tribal belt in Bajaur, a missile fired from a drone killed 22 people in the town of Damadola on Saturday, two Pakistani officials said.

The strike appeared to be aimed at a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, Faqir Mohammad, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said two relatives of Mr. Mohammad were killed.

Jane Perlez reported from Islamabad, and Pir Zubair Shah from Peshawar, Pakistan.
24400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Prosecutors turn tables on student journalists on: October 25, 2009, 09:02:29 AM
EVANSTON, Ill. — For more than a decade, classes of students at Northwestern University’s journalism school have been scrutinizing the work of prosecutors and the police. The investigations into old crimes, as part of the Medill Innocence Project, have helped lead to the release of 11 inmates, the project’s director says, and an Illinois governor once cited those wrongful convictions as he announced he was commuting the sentences of everyone on death row.

But as the Medill Innocence Project is raising concerns about another case, that of a man convicted in a murder 31 years ago, a hearing has been scheduled next month in Cook County Circuit Court on an unusual request: Local prosecutors have subpoenaed the grades, grading criteria, class syllabus, expense reports and e-mail messages of the journalism students themselves.
The prosecutors, it seems, wish to scrutinize the methods of the students this time. The university is fighting the subpoenas.

Lawyers in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office say that in their quest for justice in the old case, they need every pertinent piece of information about the students’ three-year investigation into Anthony McKinney, who was convicted of fatally shooting a security guard in 1978. Mr. McKinney’s conviction is being reviewed by a judge.

Among the issues the prosecutors need to understand better, a spokeswoman said, is whether students believed they would receive better grades if witnesses they interviewed provided evidence to exonerate Mr. McKinney.

Northwestern University and David Protess, the professor who leads the students and directs the Medill Innocence Project, say the demands are ridiculously overreaching, irrelevant to Mr. McKinney’s case, in violation of the state’s protections for journalists and a breach of federal privacy statutes — not to mention insulting.

John Lavine, the dean of the Medill School of Journalism, said the suggestion that students might have thought their grades were linked to what witnesses said was “astonishing.” He said he believed that federal law barred him from providing the students grades, but that he had no intention of doing so in any case..

A spokeswoman for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, who was elected last fall, said the prosecutors were simply trying to get to the bottom of the McKinney case.

“At the end of the day, all we’re seeking is the same thing these students are: justice and truth,” said Sally Daly, the spokeswoman. She said the prosecutors wished to see all statements the students received from witnesses, whether they supported or contradicted the notion of Mr. McKinney’s innocence.

“We’re not trying to delve into areas of privacy or grades,” Ms. Daly said. “Our position is that they’ve engaged in an investigative process, and without any hostility, we’re seeking to get all of the information they’ve developed, just as detectives and investigators turn over.”

If the courts find that Mr. Protess and the journalism school must turn over the student information, they risk being held in contempt if they refuse, said Dick O’Brien, a lawyer who is representing Northwestern.

But if the school gives in to such a demand, say advocates of the Medill Innocence Project and more than 50 similar projects (most involving law schools and legal clinics), the stakes could be still higher, discouraging students from taking part or forcing groups to devote time and money to legal assistance.

“Every time the government starts attacking the messenger as opposed to the message, it can have a chilling effect,” said Barry C. Scheck, a pioneer of the Innocence Project in New York, who said he had never seen a similar demand from prosecutors.

In October 2003, Mr. Protess’s investigative journalism classes began looking at the case after Mr. McKinney’s brother, Michael, brought it to the attention of the Medill Innocence Project — one of more 15,000 cases the project has been asked to consider investigating over the years.

Mr. Protess, who has been on the faculty at Northwestern since 1981 and began leading his investigative reporting students on such cases in 1991, created the Medill project in 1999, the same year he and his students drew national attention for helping to exonerate and free Anthony Porter, an inmate who had come within two days of execution.

The McKinney case took three years and nine teams of student reporters, all of whom have since graduated from Northwestern. In the end, the teams concluded that Mr. McKinney had been wrongly convicted of killing Donald Lundahl, a security guard, with a shotgun one evening in September 1978 in Harvey, a southern suburb of Chicago.

The students said they had found, among other things, that two eyewitnesses had recanted their testimony against Mr. McKinney and could not have seen him commit the killing because they were watching a boxing championship (Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali). The students collected an affidavit from a gang member who, they say, confirmed Mr. McKinney’s alibi that he was running away from gang members when the shooting took place.

The students have also suggested alternative suspects in the case and offered witnesses who said they had heard the others admit their involvement.

In 2006, the students took their findings to the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern’s law school, and by late last year, the claims were being considered by a Cook County Circuit Court judge and were described in an article in The Chicago Sun-Times and on the Medill Innocence Project Web site.

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The students provided their videotaped interviews of critical witnesses and affidavits to the prosecutors, but in June the prosecutors subpoenaed far more — the students’ investigative memorandums, e-mail messages, notes from multiple interviews with witnesses and class grades.

In their quest, prosecutors have raised a central question about the role of the students — suggesting that they should be viewed as an “investigative agency,” not journalists, whose unpublished materials could, under certain circumstances, be protected under a state statute.

“The school believes it should be exempt from the scrutiny of this honorable court and the justice system, yet it should be deemed a purveyor of its inadequacies to the public,” a legal brief from prosecutors said.

Professional journalism groups have said the students are clearly journalists, and offered support for their wish not to reveal their notes. Beth Konrad, president of the Chicago Headline Club, said the club was seeking a discussion with Ms. Alvarez, the state’s attorney.

“We want to know, what was the decision to overreach on this?” Ms. Konrad said.

Donald M. Craven, the interim executive director of the Illinois Press Association, questioned the prosecutors’ motives. “Taken to its logical conclusion, what they’re trying to do is dismantle the project,” Mr. Craven said.

Mr. Protess said his students most assuredly functioned as journalists and, as such, did not wish to become “an arm of the government” by providing their notes and private exchanges.

“It would destroy our autonomy,” he said. “We function with journalism standards and practices to guide our work.”

The notion that students would have been rewarded with better grades for witnesses who confirmed the thesis that Mr. McKinney was innocent is simply false, he said.

“My students are told to uncover the truth, wherever that leads them,” he said. In the last four years, he said, students had twice concluded that the convicts whose cases they were studying were indeed guilty.

Sarah Forte, one of the students who investigated Mr. McKinney’s case and who graduated in 2006, said she was frustrated that prosecutors were making the requests, even as Mr. McKinney, 49, remained in a prison in downstate Dixon.

“Why are they focusing on these unrelated things?” asked Ms. Forte, a defense investigator at the Southern Center for Human Rights who said she went to Northwestern partly to get involved in Mr. Protess’s project. “I cannot even imagine what they think they are going to find.”
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