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24351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: July 18, 2008, 08:59:14 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Situation on the Afghan-Pakistani Border
July 17, 2008
Media reports about a Western military buildup in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan have created a considerable stir in the region and beyond about a potential U.S. offensive against jihadists in northwestern Pakistan. This is something we at Stratfor have been predicting for some time. There is definitely a buildup taking place, but we are not quite yet at the point where U.S. forces will be conducting large-scale military operations on Pakistani soil.

Following a large, coordinated Taliban attack on a small military outpost in the eastern province of Nuristan in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. soldiers July 13, reports have been flying of military activity on the border by both sides. Unconfirmed reports (later denied by both Pakistan and NATO) of U.S. armored vehicles, artillery and troops taking up positions along the border further south in Paktika province, opposite North and South Waziristan, emerged July 15. That night, NATO claims the Afghan National Army and U.S. Special Forces killed some 150 fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan and insisted that most were Pakistani. Then, on July 16, Pakistani security forces reportedly engaged Taliban fighters on their side of the border. U.S. forces, meanwhile, abandoned the outpost that was attacked over the weekend, claiming that it was only temporary anyway. The Taliban quickly claimed to have overrun it. A counteroffensive could be in the works.

Though the toll to U.S. forces July 13 was high, much of the subsequent activity — some unconfirmed — is not necessarily out of the ordinary. As Taliban fighters in Afghanistan rest and resupply in Pakistan, NATO and U.S. military activity along the border is hardly abnormal (the United States is heavily involved in the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East, which is responsible for that portion of the border). Furthermore, with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri still at large (likely somewhere in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan), the White House has renewed interest in securing a capture before inauguration day in 2009.

But ultimately, there is no doubt that activity along that part of the border has been on the rise in the past few months, and it is equally clear that both NATO and the United States are publicly emphasizing the problem.

The extent of the problem is difficult to overstate. Top U.S. military commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has been confirmed as the new head of U.S. Central Command, and as we have argued, his tenure is largely about bringing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan under control. His challenge extends across the border into Pakistan. Islamabad has never really been able to control the tribal belt. In 2004, the Pakistani army was unable to impose a military solution when under U.S. pressure it entered the Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); instead, it negotiated several arrangements and left the paramilitary Frontier Corps as a notional presence. However, those arrangements were short-lived, and the situation has deteriorated to the point that Taliban control is not limited to the autonomous tribal belt but has spread to many areas of the NWFP.

For most of the time since the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan fell in late 2001, Taliban activity was concentrated predominantly in the southern provinces, with very little activity in the eastern parts of the country along the border with Pakistan’s tribal belt. In the last year or so, Taliban forces in Pakistan’s Pashtun areas have been able to undermine the writ of the state (which is already weakened by political strife). The deterioration of the situation in FATA and NWFP has affected the areas west of the border — hence the rise in jihadist activities in eastern Afghanistan in recent months.

In turn, this has led to the growing impatience in Washington, Kabul, and New Delhi over the state of affairs in Pakistan, where paralysis has exacerbated the regional security situation. Stratfor has on several prior occasions discussed the growing U.S. assertiveness to deny the Taliban and al Qaeda the sanctuaries they enjoy in Pakistan. But that goal remains elusive because of tactical realities on the ground — insufficient troops, inhospitable terrain, lack of intelligence capabilities and the strong anti-U.S. sentiment among the natives.

This would explain why until fairly recently the United States mostly relied on precision airstrikes using Predator drones and clandestine operations, which have grown more frequent in recent months. The situation created by Islamabad’s engaging in talks with militants from a position of weakness has forced Washington to take a much more aggressive stance — an example of which was the airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers manning an outpost toward the northern rim of the FATA. To a great extent, the increase in pressure from the United States is designed to force Islamabad to adopt a more decisive attitude towards the problem.

The incoherence within Pakistan’s political and military circles, however, prevents any success in this regard. This leaves the United States with no choice but to move ahead on the unilateral front. As cross-border ground operations — such as hot-pursuits, interdiction of militant traffic, or hitting targets of opportunity — become the norm it will create a battlefield that doesn’t recognize the Afghan-Pakistani frontier — at least in the FATA. The jihadists are actually hoping for large-scale U.S. military activity on Pakistani soil because they desperately want to broaden the scope of their insurgency from one currently being waged by a religious ideological minority to one of a nationalistic flavor bringing in participation from more mainstream cross-sections of Pakistan.

In the meantime, Petraeus will be massing troops and formulating a strategy. The Pentagon also announced July 16 the potential for additional troops to be surged to Afghanistan this year. This will take time (and the Afghan winter will soon begin to loom), but the tempo, nature and depth of U.S. operations into Pakistan will play an important role in the way the situation escalates. However, it is the definition of a slippery slope, as the United States has neither the troops nor the legal authority to attempt to command the ground in — much less reconstruct — Pakistani territory. While it would almost certainly limit itself to pointed raids and focus on denying the territory as sanctuary for the Taliban, the consequences in terms of nationalist sentiment in Pakistan will be profound. And ultimately, the Pakistani state has the most to lose from such a scenario, as it will be caught between the United States and its own people.

24352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 18, 2008, 08:49:44 AM

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means
of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or,
perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a
people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves
with the power which knowledge gives."

-- James Madison (letter to W.T. Barry, 4 August 1822)

Reference: Letters and other Writings of James Madison, vol. 3
(276)
==============
“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.” —Samuel Adams

24353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 18, 2008, 08:48:22 AM
Rachel:

I respect you and respect that you have experience in Israel whereas I have none.  That said, this piece strikes me a fairly clueless.  The lesson it thinks is being taught has been taught many, many times before. 

"Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson."

The author is not very smart.

TAC,
Marc
24354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Acquainted with the Night on: July 18, 2008, 08:42:07 AM
Acquainted With the Night
By GEOFFREY NORMAN
July 18, 2008; Page A11

 
Central Park in the Dark
By Marie Winn
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 304 pages; $25)

Urban living does not lend itself to encounters with the wild, and city dwellers might be forgiven for thinking that wildlife consists of rats, pigeons and a few squirrels – that "real nature" exists out beyond the last line of high-rises. Maybe so. But if one lives in America's most razzled urban environment, New York City, and craves the experience of nature, it is right there in the middle of things. In Central Park.

There are birds in the park, as anyone who has walked through it knows. But 244 species? This is the number recorded by one diligent Manhattan birdwatcher. Among the most celebrated birds of recent times are the pair of red-tailed hawks that messily took up residence alongside a high-rise at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street in the early 1990s, eventually causing a controversy among the building's tenants that captured the interest of a lot of other New Yorkers. The hawks were the central figures of Marie Winn's best-selling "Red Tails in Love" (parts of which first appeared in The Wall Street Journal). When the saga ended, Ms. Winn didn't stop observing and recording her encounters with Manhattan wildlife, of course. She simply sought out its nocturnal side.

In its very title "Central Park in the Dark" calls to mind something mysterious and perhaps frightening. Over the years there have been plenty of horror stories, lavishly recorded in the tabloids, to make anyone reluctant to enter Central Park once the sun has gone down. But for Ms. Winn, the darkened park is a place of magic, not menace. Raccoons come out to feed. Owls stir themselves and go on the hunt. Bats take flight. Moths of many types appear in vast numbers. The park comes alive.

"In all the years I've been walking around the park at night, both alone and with friends," Ms. Winn writes, "I've had only two scary experiences." One occurred when she encountered some faux undercover cops – Guardian Angel types with whom she eventually exchanged pleasantries – and the other involving real undercover cops who were less convivial. Otherwise, she says, the prevailing mood has been one of enchantment.

As it turns out, Ms. Winn often makes her nocturnal rounds with other park enthusiasts and lovers of the urban wild. They compose a kind of nightly audience for nature's theater. And there is much to observe – like the emergence of a cicada from its nymph stage: "Suddenly fluid begins to throb through the veins. At first the wings take on a golden, glittery color that sparkles in our flashlight beams. Then, almost immediately, they turn as bright green as the legs. Let there be life! The rapt audience lets out a collective exhalation – ah!"

Ms. Winn's passion for the life of the park extends to all manner of creatures – the large, the small and even the slimy. There is a whole chapter (no kidding) on the sex life of slugs, and while it is not exactly erotic in the most appealing sense of the word – slime has a limiting effect – it is fascinating. "Like our own species," Ms. Winn writes, "slugs prefer to engage in sex under the cover of darkness. Yet people who have managed to observe the arcane rituals of slug sex by lantern or flashlight confirm that what happens when slug embraces slug is ravishingly beautiful."

She is equally lyrical on observing the fly-out of an owl – the occasion when the bird awakens, preens, looks around and in various stages of contemplation decides finally to get up and go to work. Those who gather to watch the fly-out with Ms. Winn are a precise lot, given to recording in their notebooks the exact moment, from night to night, when the owlish event occurs. "Seeing the clock time of an owl's exit change over the months serves a deep purpose: it provides a powerful connection with what Thoreau called 'the steady progress of the universe.' As you stand on terra firma watching the same little drama every day, over time, you begin to absorb the realities of the life on a planet rotating on its axis."

Sample-collecting can be another part of the nightly vigil. At one point Ms. Winn takes some owl pellets that she has gathered – the undigested remains of whatever an owl has killed and consumed and then regurgitated – to the nearby American Museum of Natural History to be analyzed. The pellets are from a barred owl, a species rarely seen in Manhattan. Ms. Winn and her associates are curious about its diet. It turns out that the owl is killing and eating pigeons. This is one version of urban justice.

Among Ms. Winn's nighttime park companions are a group that calls itself the Central Park Mothers. Together they witness the moths that come to an English oak just south of the Boathouse Restaurant, in the middle of the park. The tree gives off a "strong alcoholic smell," suggesting that it is diseased. But the aroma makes the tree attractive to the moths and thus also a gathering place for Ms. Winn and her compatriots. The Central Park Mothers are especially fond of the moths known as "underwings," perhaps because their names are so suggestive: Inconsolable Underwing; Tearful Underwing; Dejected Underwing. Keats might have made something of such melancholy.

Ms. Winn writes as affectionately of her park companions as she does of the wildlife experiences that are their bond. When one of them dies – Charles Kennedy, who "loved Central Park with the passion of the Iowa expatriate that he was" – his friends scatter his ashes near the site where he had seen "his first prothonotary warbler," after a 10-year quest. "We didn't feel sad at all," Ms. Winn writes. "We joked around about Charles's devotion to the stunning warbler. Who else would have chosen such a hard-to-spell name for his e-mail address?"

Mr. Norman, a writer in Vermont, is the author of "Two for the Summit: My Daughter, the Mountains, and Me."

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's Judgment on: July 18, 2008, 08:31:18 AM
Obama's 'Judgment'
July 18, 2008
Barack Obama departs for Iraq as early as this weekend, with a media entourage as large as some of his rallies. He'll no doubt learn a lot, in addition to getting a good photo op. What we'll be waiting to hear is whether the would-be Commander in Chief absorbs enough to admit he was wrong about the troop surge in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has made a central basis of his candidacy the "judgment" he showed in opposing the Iraq war in 2002, even if it was a risk-free position to take as an Illinois state senator. The claim helped him win the Democratic primaries. But the 2007 surge debate is the single most important strategic judgment he has had to make on the more serious stage as a Presidential candidate. He vocally opposed the surge, and events have since vindicated Mr. Bush. Without the surge and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the U.S. would have suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq.

Yet Mr. Obama now wants to ignore that judgment, and earlier this week his campaign erased from its Web site all traces of his surge opposition. Lest media amnesia set in, here is what the Obama site previously said:

"The problem – the Surge: The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war."

Mr. Obama's site now puts a considerably brighter gloss on the surge. Yet the candidate himself shows no signs of rethinking. In a foreign-policy address Tuesday, the Senator described the surge, in effect, as a waste of $200 billion, an intolerable strain on military resources and a distraction from what he sees as a more important battle in Afghanistan. He faulted Iraq's leaders for failing to make "the political progress that was the purpose of the surge." And his 16-month timetable for near-total withdrawal apparently remains firm.

It would be nice if Mr. Obama could at least get his facts straight. Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad reported that the Iraqi government had met 15 of the 18 political benchmarks set for it in 2006. The Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament is returning to the government after a year's absence. Levels of sectarian violence have held steady for months – at zero. (In January 2007, Mr. Obama had predicted on MSNBC that the surge would not only fail to curb sectarian violence, but would "do the reverse.") If this isn't sufficient evidence of "genuine political accommodation," we'd like to know what, in his judgment, is.

The freshman Senator also declared that "true success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future – a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not re-emerge."

Yet the reason Iraq is finally getting that kind of government is precisely because of the surge, which neutralized al Qaeda and gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the running room to confront Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army. And the reason the U.S. can now contemplate more troop withdrawals is because the surge has created the conditions that mean the U.S. would not be leaving a security vacuum. On Wednesday, Mr. Maliki's government assumed security responsibility in yet another province, meaning a majority of provinces are now under full Iraqi control.

Mr. Obama acknowledges none of this. Instead, his rigid timetable for withdrawal offers Iraq's various groups every reason to seek their security in local militias such as the Mahdi Army or even al Qaeda, thereby risking a return to the desperate situation it confronted in late 2006.

The Washington Post has criticized this as obstinate, and Democratic foreign policy analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution reacted this way: "To say you're going to get out on a certain schedule – regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground – is the height of absurdity."

Mr. Obama does promise to "consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government" in implementing his plans. But he would have shown more sincerity on this score had he postponed Tuesday's address until after he visited Iraq and had a chance to speak with those generals and Iraqis. The timing of his speech made it appear not that he is open to what General David Petraeus tells him, but that he wants to limit the General's military options.

Mr. Bush has often been criticized for refusing to admit his Iraq mistakes, but he proved that wrong in ordering the surge that reversed his policy and is finally winning the war. The next President will now take office with the U.S. in a far better security position than 18 months ago. Mr. Obama could help his own claim to be Commander in Chief, and ease doubts about his judgment, if he admits that Mr. Bush was right.
24356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: July 18, 2008, 01:00:51 AM
Yeah, I liked what on saw on it and took a position and got stung.  cry What to do now?  huh

I held WTS a while back and will take another look.
24357  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto, Canada 7/19-20 on: July 18, 2008, 12:57:50 AM
Looking forward to this!
24358  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 18, 2008, 12:56:14 AM
Woof All:

Our man in Mexico City and my friend, Mauricio Sanchez, has been bringing me there for several years now and ably representing us there.  I am delighted and proud to report that he has gotten a visa and an airplane ticket to come fight at the Gathering!!!

The problem is this:  The plan was for him to stay at the hostel in Hermosa Beach and for me to give him a ride on Gatheirng day, but the hostel is full up and now he does not have a place to stay, nor the budget to afford what hotels can cost.  Is there someone who can help out with a sofa or sleeping bag & wrestling mat or something of the sort?  He'll be glad to contribute what he had budgeted for the hostel.  He arrives on the 6th and leaves on the 13th.

He doesn't speak much English, but I am sure he will make a fine guest , , ,

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taiwan on: July 17, 2008, 06:47:31 PM
Arming Taiwan
By ED ROSS
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
July 18, 2008

Among the many challenges facing the United States in an election year is the issue of arms sales to Taiwan. Before he leaves office, President Bush must decide whether or not to approve various major sales to the island, including 60 additional F-16s, Patriot PAC III missiles and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. At present, the Department of State and the National Security Council are holding up these sales. This is an issue which deserves President Bush's immediate attention.

A little history helps illuminate what's going on. In 2001, shortly after President Bush took office, he approved in principle several billion dollars in new arms sales to Taiwan. This decision reflected the President's concern for China's military build-up and a continuing U.S. commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates the U.S. to provide the island with weapons to defend itself.

 
AP 
During the eight-year tenure of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, political infighting between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang stalled the funding for these weapons purchases. At the same time, Mr. Chen's independence-leaning policies angered China's leaders. Washington was displeased by Mr. Chen's inability to push through the arms purchases, and because his actions and outspokenness interfered with improving U.S.-China relations.

The damage those eight years did to U.S.-Taiwan relations was considerable. Taiwan's relative air, missile defense and antisubmarine warfare capabilities fell further behind as important Taiwan military acquisitions were postponed. China, however, purchased advanced weapons from the Soviet Union and increased funding for its own military research and development programs.

Equally important, mutual confidence between Taipei and Washington may have been permanently weakened. U.S. leaders lost confidence in Taiwan's leaders at a time when the U.S. was becoming increasingly dependent on improved U.S.-China relations. In Taiwan, more than ever, domestic political considerations took precedence over national security issues. And although last year the Kuomintang-dominated legislature in Taipei finally passed a defense budget funding many new arms purchases, the damage to U.S.-Taiwan relations already had been done. The U.S. had become increasingly reluctant to take the heat from China over weapons sales it was not confident Taiwan would follow through on.

When Taiwan's current president, Ma Ying-jeou, assumed office in May, he ushered in a policy of Taiwan-China détente and subsequently has expressed his desire for resumed purchases of U.S. arms. Still, the lingering fallout from the previous eight years and President Bush's personal reluctance to anger Beijing continue to hold up various pending arms sales.

Whether or not President Bush approves some or all arms sales after the Beijing Olympics in August -- he will attend the opening ceremony -- remains an open question. High-ranking officials at State and the White House fear major U.S. arms sales, even then, would undermine Taiwan-China détente and do major damage to U.S.-China relations. They also ask why Taiwan needs more weapons packages now. Why not let the next U.S. President address this issue, while the sale of other, less provocative systems, training and spare parts continue?

Herein lies the crux of the problem. How much risk can the U.S. take with Taiwan's security? If it was certain that Taiwan-China détente would go forward without sacrificing Taiwan's young and still fragile democracy, none of this would be of concern.

Beijing has proven all too often, however, that it will demand much and give little and that it sees the use and threat of force as an instrument of diplomacy. Has it demonstrated otherwise? Taiwan democratically elected a president who ran on a platform of détente with China. What has changed on the China side of the equation?

Until Beijing removes short- and medium-range ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan and reduces the number of combat aircraft and troops on its side of the Taiwan Strait, why should the U.S. delay in responding to Taiwan's requests for arms purchases? It will take months for the next administration to sort out its China/Taiwan policies, only delaying important decisions further. In the meantime, China's pressure on the U.S. will only increase as it continues to finance U.S. debt and leaves Washington worried that it won't cooperate with it in the international arena if the U.S. proceeds with major arms sales.

As Taiwan enters this challenging period of détente with China, it needs strong U.S. moral and material support more than ever. By taking action on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan before he leaves office, President Bush would bolster a democratic Taiwan and make it much easier for his successor to withstand pressure from Beijing as arms sales contracts are concluded and weapons systems are delivered. At the same time, President Ma must assure Washington that he is committed to Taiwan's defense and that if Washington approves the sale of F-16s and other major weapons, Taiwan will follow through with signed contracts and adequate funding.

It is time to demonstrate clearly that, while the U.S. supports Taiwan-China détente, it stands firmly behind Taiwan's democracy.

Mr. Ross, a defense consultant, is the former principal director for operations in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. He writes a weekly Internet column at www.EWRoss.com.
24360  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 17, 2008, 02:46:42 PM
Howl of Greeting:
The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Summer Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack". On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. hereby cordially invites all people of good spirit to its "Dog Brothers Summer Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00 AM on Sunday, August 10, 2008.

We thank Original Productions for the use of its warehouse/set for the past two Gatherings, but it is converting the warehouse to offices and thus the space is no longer available.   We are delighted to say that we have found what we believe will be our new home for years to come at:

POWERHOUSE GYM
10950 Sherman Way
Suite 160
Burbank CA 91505

The PG facility has plenty of parking and the basketball court area wherein the Gathering itself will be held has plenty of room.  Bring cushions for your comfort.  For current chatter on what's happening keep track at  http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.0

The Magic Words:

The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way!Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies."

THIS MATTER OF ACCEPTING ALL RISKS APPLIES TO THOSE OF YOU OBSERVING AS WELL!!!

For example, sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the crowd.  Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. If a stick or a fight comes careening your way know that the fight has right of way-- it is on you to get out of the way! If you are sitting in or near the front row, we will not make fun of you if you wear protective headgear!

As always, NO VIDEO CAMERAS and NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS WILL BE ALLOWED. In God we trust, everyone else, NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS. If you see someone cheating, please let us know!!!

We will continue starting the knife fights with a handshake and the knives undrawn and analogous ideas. Concerning the knife fighting, there is a relevant thread at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1296.0  We will have some "Shocknife" knives on hand and so it looks like we will be able to have electric knife vs. electric knife fights (as long as they last!). Perhaps this will help induce more realistic behavior during the knife fights!

Again we encourage you to fight knife versus stick-- the stick versus electric knife is always exciting. Stick vs. knife has been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let's continue the research! Also, please feel free to hide a knife on your person and surprise your opponent with it during the stickfights. Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff fights, the fighters may wear wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks.

As always, there is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they have fought before. WE WILL BE RUTHLESS ON THIS! The Fighter's Registration form can be found on the website and MUST be filled out whether you have fought before or not. For all Fighter Registration matters, please contact Cindy at info@dogbrothers.com 310-540-6853. You are not registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on the website!!!   

Know that recently I signed a contract with a media company with a good track record of sports/reality TV shows to help them develop a show based around stickfighting.  Know that an executive from the company probably will be on hand to scout for prospects.   Also, know that the international news service Reuters will be covering this Gathering.

The Adventure continues!!! "Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact" (c)

Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
President/Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts
24361  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: July 17, 2008, 01:55:55 PM
And here's some more:

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

Thugs committing 350 knife assaults EVERY DAY, as blade menace spreads to rural areas

By Stephen Wright and Nicola Boden
Last updated at 4:56 PM on 17th July 2008

Thugs are committing more than 350 knife assaults every day across England and Wales, latest crime figures reveal.

Results from the British Crime Survey showed nearly 130,000 attacks took place last year - a figure which does not include those against under-16s.  Separate figures recorded by police forces reveal 22,000 serious knife assaults including 231 attempted murders, almost 14,000 robberies and more than 8,000 woundings.  Ministers welcomed the annual figures which showed a nine per cent drop in overall crime last year, and claimed the steady downward trend in recent years was the most impressive in modern times - including a 12 per cent fall in all violent crime last year.  But they acknowledged serious public concerns over knife crime, following a spate of horrific murders in recent months, many involving young victims in inner city areas. Firearms offences recorded by police rose 2 per cent last year to reach a total of 9,803, while homicides were up three per cent to 784. 

The latest figures show how the shadow of 'Blade Britain' has spread from urban areas to the shires.  Hundreds of knife offences are being committed in county force areas including Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Northumbria.

Crime statistics released by the Government today show the overall crime rate has fallen nine per cent, but for the first time the number of serious violent offences involving blades is broken down. What emerges is a national map of knife crime across England and Wales which demonstrates how provincial areas are being hit by the problem.  As first revealed by the Daily Mail this morning, 22,151 serious crimes involved knives and sharp instruments in the financial year to March 2008.  This figure, equivalent to 60 offences a day, does not include an estimated 250 fatal stabbings, which are counted separately by the Home Office.  There were 231 attempted murders, 13,887 robberies and 8,000 woundings where the offenders used blades to some degree.

Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: 'The public needs to understand this is not just a London or inner-city problem. It is a serious problem all over the country.

'While we welcome many of the initiatives which have been announced, they are mainly for the medium or long term.

'There is now a need for radical, short-term solutions. Serious consideration should be given to the idea of introducing a minimum prison sentence for carrying a knife. I believe this would have a dramatic impact.  We must get back to the time when members of the public accept that even if they have done nothing wrong, and are not carrying a knife, they must not object to a police officer questioning them and in some cases searching them,' he said.  'The police need the public support from all communities to do that.'

Recorded crime figures show firearms offences increased two per cent to 9,803, drugs offences rose 18 per cent and murders rose three per cent to 784.

But overall, the survey shows crime has fallen leaving people two per cent less likely to be a victim of crime - now at 22 per cent.
This is the lowest level recorded since the British Crime Survey began in 1981, according to the Home Office. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was 'extremely pleased' with the figures and that the Government's priority was to build on it for the future.  But the reduction belies people's fears of knife crime after a spate of stabbings across Britain since the start of the year.

Roughly a third of non-fatal knife offences, 7,409, were committed in London, which has recently been hit by a series of horrific stab murders involving teenagers. Greater Manchester (2,294) and West Midlands (2,303) have the next biggest knife crime figures. 

But of particular concern to detectives, politicians and parents is the extent of Britain's knife problem in provincial forces. For the first time, the Home Office has collated data on categories of violent crime where a knife has been used, including attempted murder, wounding with intent, grievous bodily harm and robbery.

Of the 22,151 knife crimes in England and Wales last year, 231 related to attempted murders; 5,248 were cases of wounding with intent; 2,785 were cases of grievous bodily harm; 2,359 related to robbery of business property and a further 11,528 were connected to the robbery of personal property.

Devon and Cornwall Constabulary recorded 288 offences where a blade or sharp instrument was used to stab, to cut or in threat.
Avon and Somerset had 360 such offences last year, Kent 327, Hampshire 388, Staffordshire 219, Cheshire 224 and Northumbria 351.
Dorset, with just 43 knife crime offences, had the lowest figures for a provincial force.  Although the statistics cover only England and Wales, they are mirrored by a similar pattern in Scotland, where knife crime has spread beyond major cities such as Glasgow.

Officers have become increasingly concerned about the way blades have become a weapon of choice for a new generation of teenage thugs. Casualty doctors believe knife crime is far more widespread in the country than official figures suggest because scores of victims who seek treatment in hospitals leave without making a formal complaint to police.

Knife attacks ended six lives in 24 hours in London last week, leading to an unprecedented statement from Scotland Yard aimed at reassuring the public.

As part of a crackdown on knife crime, Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock has been appointed national knife crime czar to oversee police efforts in eight 'hotspots'. In an exclusive interview with the Mail on Monday, Mr Hitchcock called for cross-party efforts to find a long-term solution.

'We've seen the problem of violence among young people getting worse,' he said. 'But it's not just knife crime. Knife crime is just symptomatic of larger issues.  Of course we in the police are doing what we can to crack down - but policing cannot be the whole answer. After all, if we were able to stop and search every youngster estimated to be carrying a knife today, and they were all to be sent to prison, we'd be talking of tens of thousands.'

Gordon Brown called Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to Chequers on Saturday for urgent talks about the knife epidemic.   The Prime Minister urged him to make full use of new police powers to make pubs and clubs search customers for knives and guns. Dominic Grieve, Tory Shadow Home Secretary, said the figures proved that knife crime affects the whole country and that targeting hotspots was inadequate. Detectives expect the murder figures to be similar to 2006/2007, when a sharp instrument was used in 258 of the 734 unlawful killings recorded by police.


Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ral-areas.html
24362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: July 17, 2008, 09:49:28 AM
From The Man himself:

We have won the war in Iraq.  By "we" I mean the Coalition and the Iraqis.  Unless there is some unexpected reversal, what lays ahead is the challenge of building a better Iraq.  There is still violence.  We have lost four soldiers to combat this month, but there were times when we lost that many on an average day.  There still are attacks, though we have finally reached the point where all that's left are truly "dead-enders."  Al Qaeda is still a problem, but their numbers are decreasing in Iraq.  The Iraqi people are sick of the violence.  The Iraqi Army is filled with courageous soldiers who can fight.  It is possible that by the end of the year we can really say, "Mission Accomplished," except for the continued support that Iraq will need.
 
Personally, my optimism has never been higher for Iraq.
 
Please click for some statistics.
 
Very Respectfully,
 
Michael Yon
24363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: July 17, 2008, 09:42:50 AM
Voters Want Economic Leadership
By KARL ROVE
July 17, 2008; Page A13

Elections are often reshaped by unexpected and fast-moving events, and when this happens a candidate who quickly takes the lead on the new issue can bolster his chances to win. There is such an opportunity now for Barack Obama and John McCain with the crisis facing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The mortgage giants touch tens of millions of people because their core business is to buy, insure and securitize home loans. But they act like huge hedge funds with their portfolios worth hundreds of billions. As government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), they have an implicit federal guarantee that allows them to borrow money more cheaply than competitors. They have used that advantage to make ever-larger bets in their portfolios, generating big profits when home prices were rising, but big losses when housing weakened.

 
Corbis 
Congress ignored an early warning sign when Fannie and Freddie failed to produce accurate accounting statements in 2002. That should have spurred Congress to pass reforms proposed by the administration the next year to clean up the GSEs. It didn't.

Now with Fannie and Freddie at greater risk, Messrs. McCain and Obama need to think like would-be presidents instead of senators. That starts with ignoring former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines, who says reform isn't needed – this from a CEO who couldn't produce accurate accounting statements. The goal has to be to force the GSEs into a position where they can no longer put taxpayer dollars at risk.

Serious reforms must include immediate measures to prevent Fannie and Freddie from collapsing, and long-term changes to protect taxpayers. That means jettisoning the implied federal financial backstop and shrinking Fannie and Freddie.

The candidate who makes such proposals will likely gain on the issue of "who's better to handle the economy." Mr. Obama leads on this in the latest Time magazine poll, at 44%-37%. But Republicans often win if they are within six points on this issue. The economy is still a jump ball.

That makes reining in the cost of a bailout that much more important. Making the stockholders and creditors of the GSEs bear most of the financial burden will appeal to voters suspicious of government getting too cozy with business.

A wag once said that Fannie and Freddie were political organizations masquerading as mortgage providers. They donate heavily to politicians who can shield them from regulation. This election the GSEs have given more than $800,000 to congressmen and senators who oversee legislation that affects them. They have also snapped up dozens of retiring lawmakers and staff as lobbyists and pay them lucrative salaries. Not bad for part-time, indoor work.

Over the past decade, the GSEs spent at least $171 million on lobbying, which combined would make Fannie and Freddie the third-biggest lobby. This has fostered a network of co-conspirators, including the liberal low-income advocacy group Acorn, big-city mayors and some lenders. Any reform must avoid creating more slush funds for the GSEs to reward political allies at taxpayer expense, and prevent them from investing in "jumbo" mortgages on expensive houses. After all, these GSEs were created to help lower- and middle-income homebuyers, not the rich and famous.

Leading on the economy's biggest problems – housing and the credit crisis – would allow Messrs. McCain or Obama to run as an outside-the-Beltway reformer, willing to take on insider deals that Middle America hates and add to (or foster) a reputation for decisive action. It would also help in battleground states. Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Miami metro areas are all in the top 10 in foreclosure rates.

Both candidates have challenges in taking up this cause. Each has received money from Fannie and Freddie employees this election: $82,299 to Mr. Obama and $14,400 to Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain isn't as strong in talking about the economy as he is about national security. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is steeped in the Fannie/Freddie culture. He briefly tapped a former Fannie CEO to head his vice presidential search and he once worked for Acorn. And his campaign depends on Acorn's activists for voter registration drives. He may be too obligated to act against their allies.

But both candidates should remember past elections. For example, Republican William McKinley won in 1896 in part by embracing hard money after William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech at the Democratic convention. And in 1992, Bill Clinton won in part by promising tax cuts for the middle class to deal with a slowing economy. In both elections, nimbleness helped bring victory. What worked before can work today. An opportunity awaits Messrs. McCain and Obama. Will either man seize it?

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 17, 2008, 09:29:38 AM
Ron Paul Won't Be Home Alone

Last July, Paul Broun shocked Georgia pundits when the poorly funded physician narrowly defeated a longtime legislative leader in a GOP primary for a special election in an overwhelmingly Republican U.S. House seat. Party grandees were convinced Dr. Broun's victory was a fluke and this year backed a challenge from state Rep. Barry Fleming, who hails from the district's population center of Augusta. Mr. Fleming promptly raised nearly $1 million and proceeded to throw the kitchen sink at Dr. Broun, including mailers claiming he was soft on Internet perverts and chiding him for failing to bring home earmarks for the district.

Well, Dr. Broun will be going back to Washington next year, having won 71% in last night's primary to defeat the GOP establishment's consensus choice in his district for the second time in a year. Mr. Broun says his victory demonstrates that a Member of Congress can prosper politically even when he votes against any federal program that isn't explicitly authorized by the Constitution.

Dr. Broun was outspent again this time, but raised about $760,000 to put out his message that he was a different kind of Congressman. He touted endorsements from the free-market Club for Growth and social conservative leader Paul Weyrich. But the centerpiece of his campaign was a pledge to continue applying a four-way test before voting on any bill: Is it constitutional and a proper function of government? Is it morally correct? Is it something we really need? Is it something we can afford? Like libertarian congressman and fellow physician Ron Paul of Texas, he always carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket and consults it before voting. "Today's federal government is too big, too powerful, and too expensive because it is doing things beyond the scope of what our Founders envisioned the national government should be doing," he told constituents. "This is foolish and it is dangerous."

Dr. Broun will once again do battle with more liberal Members of Congress, many of whom no doubt view him as foolish or dangerous. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that someone in Congress who votes against federal spending that isn't in accord with the original conception of the Constitution will have trouble getting re-elected. Dr. Broun has just won an overwhelming endorsement from his constituents, despite being outspent and shunned by his party's establishment. Maybe there's a lesson there for other Members.

-- John Fund

Gone in 60 Seconds

A symbol of California's car culture is now picking up and moving a big chunk of its operations out-of-state. Yesterday, the California State Automobile Association, an affiliate of the national AAA, announced it is closing all three of its call centers in the state at a loss of 900 jobs. Spokeswoman Cynthia Harris was quite blunt about the reason: "It costs more to do business in California than other states." Her group will now will be answering calls from California motorists from new centers in lower-cost Arizona and Oklahoma.

Few entities in California are better known than the California State Automobile Association, which for decades has provided the car-happy state with auto insurance, towing services and travel planning. Its departure is one more sign that California's current tax and regulatory climate is driving jobs away. California's liberals seem oblivious to such developments. One seventh of California's pending $101 billion state budget is red ink, the result of the state's leadership once again failing to rein in spending and develop a less volatile tax base. The Democratic legislature has proposed over $8 billion in higher taxes to plug part of the gap, but for the last month there has been a budget stalemate as the GOP minority refuses to consider higher taxes and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dances between the two sides.

The state's Democrats not only insist on higher taxes, but are blocking a proposal from Governor Schwarzenegger to limit future spending increases to the growth of the state's population and inflation in an attempt to cushion the impact of future economic downturns. "I think that we have to be very, very careful about tying the hands of future governors and future legislatures," says Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones. Apparently, he and his colleagues prefer tying the hands of California businesses so they feel compelled to flee the state.

-- John Fund

Freak Show II

New York City always gets interesting in September, when world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly. Two years ago, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez brandished a Noam Chomsky tome from the rostrum and told the Assembly that George Bush is "the devil" and reeks of sulfur. Last year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped by Columbia University to explain to students that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country."

Now it turns out Mr. Ahmadinejad will be returning to New York for this fall’s UN meetings, though no word was given on whether he will repeat his attempt to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, which he explained last time by saying, "We obviously are very much against any terrorist action and any killing." In proof that all politics really is ultra local, however, New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog seized on the news to propose that downtown's New York University steal a little notoriety from its uptown rival. "Now's your chance NYU: Invite him onstage and get him to pretend there are no women in Iran, and you'll be able to totally rub it in Columbia's face."

The possibilities are rich. Columbia hosted Mr. Ahmadinejad at a student center named for Alfred Lerner, a Jewish banking magnate and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. NYU is located near Washington Square Park, marked by grand marble arches honoring George Washington. In Iran, of course, such public squares are used for stoning adulterers and other undesirables . . . on second thought, let's not give Mr. Ahmadinejad's event planners any ideas.

-- David Feith

Sofia Goes Flat

Last week I interviewed the instigator of the world's lowest flat tax, Svetla Kostidinova, director of the Institute for Market Economics located in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ms. Kostidinova insists that the most amazing part of her story is that the Bulgarian government is still overtly socialist. Nonetheless, she and her colleagues managed to persuade politicians that replacing the existing tax system with a 10% flat tax would increase revenues and give the government extra money to finance social programs and unfunded pensions. If only Nancy Pelosi were as amenable to economic logic and the lessons of the real world.

Ms. Kostidinova, who speaks English with a thick Eastern European accent, tells me: "The situation was getting desperate in Bulgaria. We were losing our population and our best workers. They were leaving for Western Europe to find jobs and the No.1 form of foreign capital came from remittances." All that began to change when the corporate tax was cut to 10% in 2007 and the personal income tax to 10% in January of this year. "We told the politicians that it was symbolically important for Bulgaria to have the lowest flat tax. We were surrounded by flat tax countries, we wanted to be the nation most friendly to capital and business."

Result: A country that ten years ago had a 12% unemployment rate now has a 6% jobless rate. Instead of people leaving Bulgaria to find jobs, "now it is the reverse. Western Europeans now come to Bulgaria for jobs. We're gaining population now," she says.

Bulgaria is one of 24 nations, most of them in Eastern Europe, that have adopted the flat tax. A unique feature of the Bulgarian system is an absence of exemptions -- everyone pays the 10% tax regardless of income. Because the rate is so low, Ms. Kostidinova says, the plan's promoters figured that everyone could afford to pay. But don't lefties insist that the rich should pay more? "Of course, many do, and they want to raise the rates, but most understand that the flat tax gives us more jobs and more revenues."

If avowed socialist politicians in East Europe are open to new ideas about how to make their tax systems more growth-oriented, why aren't Republicans or Democrats in Washington? Says Richard Rahn, former chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and now an economic consultant in Eastern Europe: "These countries understand that the flat tax is the key to their prosperity -- even the former communists." Only stultified political tactics -- certainly not clear thinking -- explains why somebody like Barack Obama could be running on a platform of making America's tax rates among the highest in the world when other nations are proving the competitive advantages of flatter tax systems.

24365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: July 17, 2008, 09:19:56 AM
July 16, 2008
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

At the stroke of midnight July 8, the Denver Water Board closed the road over Dillon Dam in Summit County, Colorado, citing security concerns. The board’s decision, which was implemented without advance notice to local governments and citizens, has not been well-received. It has sparked protests by enraged residents and has even prompted officials from Summit County, three affected towns nearby and the local fire and rescue department to file suit in state district court in a bid to force Denver Water to reopen the road.

The road is one of only a few traversing Summit County, so residents are understandably upset at the inconvenience caused by the closure. Local fire and rescue departments also say closing the road negatively affects emergency response times. This not the first time the road has been closed, however. The road was shut down for a week in January after a report of suspicious activity in the area — activity investigated by authorities and found to be nothing more than two men from Denver filming a music video. The Water Board has spent several million dollars to improve security for the mile-long dam road, and in May it even hired a private security company to conduct 24-hour armed patrols of the dam.

Denver Water has said the decision to close the road was not made in response to a specific threat, and we tend to believe this. With the heat they’ve received over the issue, they surely would have cited evidence of a specific threat to assuage public anger if there had been such information.

But the ruckus raised over the closure of the Dillon Dam road provides a prime opportunity to re-examine the ability of jihadist militants to operate inside the United States, and to look at the types of targets militants might be most likely to select for an attack.

Assessing the Militant Threat
To assess a threat against a potential target like the Dillon Dam, several important tactical realities must be considered. The first is that as long as the ideology of jihadism exists and at least some jihadist militants embrace the philosophy of attacking the “far enemy” — aka the United States — there will be some threat of attacks against targets on U.S. soil. Indeed, there has not been a time since 1990 when some group of jihadists somewhere was not plotting such an attack.

A second tactical reality is that the U.S. government and the American people simply cannot protect every potential target. There are simply far too many of them. While insights gained from al Qaeda’s targeting criteria can help authorities protect select high-value targets, there are just too many potential targets to protect them all. The federal government might instruct state and local authorities to protect every dam, bridge, power plant and mass-transit system in their respective jurisdictions, but the reality on the ground is that there are not nearly enough resources to protect all of these, much less to protect the far more plentiful array of potential soft targets.

Another tactical reality is that simple attacks against soft targets are very easy to conduct and very difficult to detect in advance and thwart. As an attack plan becomes larger and more complex, however, it requires more individuals, more materials and more infrastructure. This means that the bigger the attack plan is, the more difficult it is to conduct and the greater the chances it will be discovered and thwarted.

That said, just because attacks are possible — and indeed likely — and because there are a large number of vulnerable targets does not mean that all the vulnerable targets will be attacked. The capabilities and targeting criteria of militants also must be considered.

Capability
Let’s begin with the capability question first. When considering the capability of militants to strike in the United States, one must recognize that with regard to militant jihadists there are generally three different levels of actors to consider. First, there is the core al Qaeda organization; this is the small vanguard of jihadists led by Osama bin Laden attempting to lead a global rising of the Muslim masses. Second, there are al Qaeda’s regional franchises (such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which are local or regional jihadist groups that have aligned themselves with al Qaeda, hoping to capitalize on the group’s popular brand name. And third, there are the local, self-motivated grassroots jihadists who think globally and act locally.

All three of these actors have different target selection criteria and different levels of capability. There is currently no al Qaeda franchise in the United States or even in the Western Hemisphere. This means that the main threat of an attack against a target in the United States will come from either the core al Qaeda group, a grassroots organization or a combination of the two, so we will focus our attention on those two actors.

Grassroots actors lack sophisticated terrorist tradecraft in crucial areas like preoperational planning and bomb making. Recent cases such as the July 7, 2005, attacks in London, the failed July 21, 2005, attacks in London, and the June 2007 attacks in London and Glasgow demonstrate the limited abilities of grassroots militants. They can sometimes kill people, but they do not have the ability to conduct large, strategic strikes.

Because of this, grassroots militants will often attempt to reach out for assistance if they desire to undertake a major attack. This is exactly what we saw in the early 1990s in New York. Grassroots operatives there were able to pull off a simple attack like the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, but they needed assistance for their bigger, more complex plans. In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the local cell received assistance in the form of Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef), who helped them organize, plan their attack and construct a large truck-borne explosive device. In the second 1993 case, the local cell turned to an FBI informant for bomb-making expertise and were apprehended before they could strike.
The 2006 plot to bomb a series of airliners in the United Kingdom was likewise a case where a local grassroots cell received assistance from an al Qaeda operational commander but was thwarted before it could carry out its attack — mainly due to the complexity of the plan and the number of people involved.

Thus, without assistance the odds of a successful attack by a grassroots group against a target like a dam are low. Perhaps the greatest threat posed by a grassroots group is that one of its operatives could gain employment as an engineer at a dam — therefore gaining the opportunity to sabotage the equipment controlling the dam from the inside and turning the dam into a weapon against itself. This is similar to the threat posed by insiders at chemical plants. There have also been concerns previously that a savvy cyber-jihadist could assume control of the dam’s equipment via gaps in the information security of the entity running the dam.

As for the al Qaeda core, while the group may theoretically have personnel with the expertise to undertake such an attack, they have been extremely limited in their operational ability since the U.S. response to 9/11. We came under widespread criticism last July when we wrote that the al Qaeda core was a spent force that did not pose a strategic threat to the U.S. homeland, but our assessment holds one year on. Indeed, the vast majority of attacks attributed to the al Qaeda brand name since September 2001 have been conducted by regional franchises like Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, not core al Qaeda. In our assessment, the al Qaeda core might have some ability to attack, but it no longer has the ability to conduct a devastating strategic attack such as 9/11.

The Dam as a Target
It is possible to destroy a dam. Indeed, the British Royal Air Force destroyed German dams during World War II, and aircraft from the United States and its U.N. allies destroyed a North Korean hydroelectric dam during the Korean War. In general, however, dams are very large structures designed and built to withstand powerful forces such as floods and earthquakes. Because of this, it would be very difficult to destroy one with an improvised explosive device, unless the attacker could strike at a strategic location that would cause a leak in the structure (as the British did in their attacks on German dams) or at a location that would allow the water to overtop the dam and erode it — in either case, using the power of the water behind the dam to cause the structure to fail catastrophically.

Even with massive resources, however, it is not easy to destroy a large dam made of earth and rock. For proof, one need only to look at the massive efforts of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China to unblock the Qingjiang River after it was dammed up by debris following the powerful May 12 earthquake. The PLA has used heavy machinery and massive amounts of explosives in their efforts. One July 2 blast on the Shibangou section of the river reportedly involved 6 tons of strategically placed explosives alone. It is very unlikely that militants would have the ability to carefully place that quantity of explosives on a dam in the United States without being detected.

Obtaining explosives in Western countries is also becoming more difficult in the post-9/11 era. Even the 2006 airliner plot involved small amounts of improvised explosives rather than an attack with a huge device, and the 9/11 attacks involved no explosives at all. The grassroots militants involved in the London and Glasgow attacks in the summer of 2007 also had problems obtaining explosives, and they instead chose to try using improvised (and ill-designed) fuel-air explosive devices in those incidents.

If a militant group planned properly and somehow amassed a sufficient quantity of explosives, it would be possible for it to destroy a dam. But that does not mean a group like al Qaeda would target a dam. Even if the group had the ability to conduct such an attack, it probably would choose to use such a large quantity of explosives to attack a far more symbolic target than a dam in rural Colorado.

While al Qaeda’s Taliban cousins have conducted several unsuccessful attacks against dams in southern Afghanistan, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is far different than that in the United States. The Taliban in Afghanistan are a large, well-supplied insurgent force that regularly strikes at infrastructure such as roads, bridges and even schools.

Conversely, there is no large jihadist element in the United States. There are only scattered grassroots operatives and perhaps a few transnational al Qaeda-types available to conduct attacks. To our mind, that means that these operatives will want to maximize their efforts and undertake the most meaningful and symbolic attacks possible. Rather than choosing targets based on military utility (like the Taliban in Afghanistan), al Qaeda generally chooses targets in the United States for their potential symbolic value so as to elicit the greatest political or psychological impact, which they then hope will translate into economic impact.

This is not intended as an insult to the people of Colorado, but the Dillon Dam simply does not strike us as the kind of target that will carry the type of symbolic or economic impact al Qaeda would seek in an U.S. attack. Symbolic targets need to be readily recognizable not only by the people who live close to them, but also by people looking at a photo in a Pakistani newspaper. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, the United Nations, or even the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the strip in Las Vegas or the Space Needle in Seattle are highly symbolic targets that would meet these requirements. The Dillon Dam does not. In fact, we are Americans and had not even heard of this specific dam until the reports of the controversy over the road closure emerged.

Does this mean that jihadists will never strike in Denver? Not at all. Lone wolf or grassroots operatives could very well strike there. As seen in past cases in New Jersey, Florida and California, such people normally seek to strike in familiar territory close to where they live, and there might well be jihadists residing in Denver. But again, such a strike by grassroots operatives or lone wolves would likely be a smaller attack aimed at a soft target. We remain skeptical of the idea of al Qaeda dispatching a team from their headquarters in Pakistan to travel to the United States to destroy the Dillon Dam. The Democratic National Convention in Denver, maybe — but not the Dillon Dam.
24366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Asia Times: AQ/Taliban prepare for borderless war on: July 17, 2008, 08:56:25 AM
From asia times..
 
Militants ready for a war without borders
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - From thinly disguised insinuations against Pakistan following the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul this month to outright accusations against Islamabad by the Afghan government over the unrelenting Taliban-led insurgency, the blame game has entered a critical time: a major regional battle could erupt in a matter of days.

Last week, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen paid a sudden visit to Pakistan during which he revealed to Pakistani leaders and military officials the possibility of surgical strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda networks operating in the border regions and that coalition forces in Afghanistan would not hesitate
to conduct hot-pursuit raids into Pakistan.

Mullen urged Pakistani leaders to play their part from their side. He pin-pointed the North and South Waziristan tribal areas as a focal point, along with the areas of Razmak, Shawal, Ghulam Khan and Angor Ada along the border with Afghanistan. Across the divide, Khost province is considered a likely target for carpet bombing and an offensive by the Afghan National Army.

Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani was quick to call in senior strategic analysts, who pointed out that the military would only follow the directions of the civilian government. Yet just days earlier, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani had announced that all decisions concerning military operations would be decided by the army chief. This does not bode well for Pakistan's whole-hearted cooperation.

But regardless of how sincerely the Pakistani army fights against the Taliban, the fact is that the Taliban have already staged a virtual coup in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan.

They have established a reign of terror against which the state writ is powerless. In all districts, the Taliban have taken security officials hostage to press their demands that a strict Islamic code be enforced. Many officials have been killed when the Taliban's wishes have not been granted.

As a result, the middle and lower members of the security forces are effectively non-functional and answer to the Taliban's call across NWFP.

This has left the secular and relatively liberal government of the province, led by the Awami National Party, with no choice but to form "defense committees" at the district level to organize civilians against a complete Taliban take-over.

Across the border, a similar situation exists in Ghazni province, close to the capital Kabul, where, apart from the provincial headquarters, the Taliban call the shots in all districts once dusk descends - the district administrations and the police simply give up control, giving the Taliban freedom of movement.

In Kunar and Nooristan provinces, the Taliban are fighting for similar dominance and already most security checkpoints have been abandoned out of fear of the Taliban.

On Monday, a high-level al-Qaeda shura (council) concluded in Miramshah in North Waziristan with instructions to all members with families to retreat to safe locations in expectation of the Afghan war spreading into Pakistan's tribal areas.

Not that this alarms al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. They reason that should coalition forces seriously enter into Pakistan (they have in the past sent unmanned Predator drones on raids into Pakistan), the reaction in Pakistan, even among liberals, would be so fierce that the Pakistani army would not dare to follow up with action of its own. This would leave the militants with a free hand to launch operations inside Afghanistan.

The shura also noted that militant ranks in the region had received their biggest boost since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, including growing numbers from Muslim countries.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
24367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lyme disease on: July 17, 2008, 08:42:52 AM
Second post of the morning

A Threat in a Grassy Stroll: Lyme Disease


By JANE E. BRODY
Published: July 15, 2008
My friend Anne and her husband, Richard, spend summers at a resort in Westchester County that has a swimming lake, tennis courts, gardens and beautiful grounds surrounded by woods. But Anne never sets foot on the grass.

The reason is Lyme disease. Anne says just about everyone she knows who partakes of the greenery and gardens outside the cabins has contracted the disease. So not only is she cautious about venturing out, but she and her husband also check each other daily from head to toe for the much-feared deer tick, which can transmit the disease when it attaches to skin and feeds on blood.

This tick, which is the size of a pinhead when it starts searching for a bloody meal, is responsible for about 20,000 reported cases of Lyme disease each year in the United States (the actual number is believed to be 10 times that) and 60,000 reported cases in Europe. Cases have been reported in every state, with residents of the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, northwestern Washington and parts of California the most frequent victims.

In some areas, as many as half of the deer ticks are infected with Borrelia, the Lyme disease bacteria. The disease got its name in 1975 from the first identified cluster of cases, among children in Lyme, Conn., who had rheumatoid-like symptoms of swollen, painful joints.

The white-tailed deer and white-footed mouse are the tick’s most frequent hosts, but it also feeds on birds, dogs and other rodents, including squirrels. The tiny nymphal form that emerges in spring and early summer presents the greatest hazard to humans. It is also the hardest to spot, especially on body parts covered with hair.

People usually acquire the tick while walking through grassy or wooded areas. Sometimes pet dogs are the source: in Minnesota one summer, our dog got more than 30 deer ticks on his face, apparently from sticking his nose into a fresh carcass. Unlike the common dog tick, which is round and very dark, the deer tick is elongated and brownish.

A Challenging Diagnosis

The disease can be maddeningly difficult to diagnose. Only 50 to 70 percent of patients recall being bitten by a tick. Ordinary laboratory tests are rarely helpful. Tests for antibodies to the bacterium or for its genetic footprints result in many false-negative and false-positive findings.

Rather, according to Dr. Robert L. Bratton and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., who reviewed the recent literature on Lyme disease in the May issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, most cases are best diagnosed and treated based on patients’ symptoms. Thus, doctors everywhere must be alert when dealing with patients who live or travel in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, and they must be willing to use appropriate antibiotics based on a clinical assessment rather than laboratory findings.

Since signs and symptoms vary and often do not appear until one to four weeks — or even months — after exposure, anyone bitten by a deer tick may be wise to obtain preventive treatment with an antibiotic, according to Lyme disease experts consulted by Constance A. Bean, the author with Dr. Lesley Ann Fein of the new book “Beating Lyme” (Amacom Books).

The most common sign is a reddish rash called erythema migrans that often resembles a spreading bull’s-eye, though up to 20 percent of patients never develop it. Common sites of the rash are the thigh, groin, buttock and underarm. It may be accompanied by flulike symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, headache and fatigue.

If untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can cause severe migrating joint pain and swelling, most often in the knees, weeks or months later. In addition, several weeks, months or even years after an untreated infection, the bacterium can cause meningitis, temporary facial paralysis, numbness or weakness of the arms and legs, memory and concentration difficulties and changes in mood, personality or sleep habits. Some untreated patients develop temporary heart rhythm abnormalities, eye inflammation or hepatitis.

Controversial Guidelines

Antibiotics for early Lyme disease should be taken for at least two to three weeks. The treatments recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America include doxycycline for nonpregnant patients and children 9 and older, or amoxicillin for pregnant women and younger children. Other options include cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin) and erythromycin.

But these guidelines are controversial. They have been challenged by a nonprofit medical group, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, which says they are inadequate to combat the infection in a significant number of patients, who go on to develop debilitating chronic symptoms.

In May, the Infectious Diseases Society agreed to review its guidelines as a result of an antitrust lawsuit by the Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, who said some of the society’s experts had financial interests that could bias their judgment. (The society denied that accusation.)

Although I cannot state with authority which side is correct, I have encountered enough previously healthy people who have suffered for months or years after initial treatment to suggest that there is often more to this disease than “official” diagnostic and treatment guidelines suggest.

Pamela Weintraub, a senior editor at Discover magazine, has produced a thoroughly researched and well-written account of the disease’s controversial history in her new book “Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic” (St. Martin’s Press).

Treatment and Prevention

The Mayo doctors concluded that patients who developed arthritis related to Lyme disease should be treated for one to two months and that those with late or severe disease, including neurological and cardiac symptoms, required intravenous antibiotics. Although two studies, neither of which was long-term, found that repeated antibiotic treatment did not reverse the pain and altered cognition associated with Lyme disease, the experience of thousands of patients, including Ms. Bean, contradict these findings.

There are no vaccines to prevent Lyme disease; an early attempt was taken off the market in 2002 because of side effects and limited effectiveness. Those who will not or cannot avoid grassy and wooded areas should wear long sleeves and long pants with legs tucked into socks, and spray exposed skin and clothing with tick repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET. Repellents should not be used on children under 2.

Since the tick must usually feed for 24 hours to transmit significant amounts of bacteria, daily body checks and showering with a washcloth can help prevent infection. Clothing should be washed and dried in a dryer. Additional preventive actions are described in “Beating Lyme.”

If a tick is attached to skin, it should be removed with tweezers, not fingers. Press into the skin, grasp the front of the tick’s head and pull at right angles to the skin. Place the tick in a sealed plastic bag for later identification. Then wash the area and your hands thoroughly.

More Articles in Health »
========================================
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/lyme-disease/overview.html
Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease spread through a tick bite.

This article offers a general overview on Lyme disease. For specific information see:

Stage 1 Lyme disease
Stage 2 Lyme disease
Stage 3 Lyme disease
See All » News & Features
A Threat in a Grassy Stroll: Lyme Disease
Prognosis: Prolonged Use of Antibiotics After Lyme May Not Help
Reference from A.D.A.M.
Back to TopAlternative Names
Borreliosis

Back to TopCauses
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Certain ticks carry the bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with Lyme disease. You can get the disease if you are bitten by an infected tick.

Lyme disease was first reported in the United States in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975. Cases have now been reported in most parts of the United States. Most occur in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and along the Pacific coast. Lyme disease is usually seen during the late spring, summer, and early fall.

There are three stages of Lyme disease.

Stage 1 is called primary Lyme disease.
Stage 2 is called secondary Lyme disease.
Stage 3 is called tertiary Lyme disease.
Risk factors for Lyme disease include walking in high grasses, taking place in activities that increase tick exposure, and having a pet that may carry ticks home.

Back to TopSymptoms »
Not everyone infected with the bacteria gets ill. If a person does become ill, the first symptoms resemble the flu and include fever, headache, chills, muscle pain, and lethargy.

There may be a "bulls-eye" rash, a flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of the tick bite often with a clear area in the center. This lesion can be larger than 1 to 3 inches wide.

Stiff neck, joint inflammation, body-wide itching, unusual or strange behavior, and other symptoms may be seen in persons with later stages of the disease.

Note: Deer ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Therefore, many people with Lyme disease never even saw a tick. These people are more likely to develop symptoms because the tick remained on their body longer.

In-Depth Symptoms »
Back to TopExams and Tests »
A blood test can be done to check for antibodies to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The most common one used is the ELISA for Lyme disease test. A western blot test is done to confirm ELISA results.

A physical exam may reveal signs of joint, heart, or brain problems in persons with advanced Lyme disease.

In-Depth Diagnosis »
Back to TopTreatment »
Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. The specific antibiotic used depends on the stage of the disease and your symptoms.

Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are sometimes prescribed to relieve joint stiffness.

In-Depth Treatment »
Back to TopOutlook (Prognosis)
If diagnosed in the early stages, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. Without treatment, complications involving joints, the heart, and the nervous system can occur.

Back to TopPossible Complications
Advanced stages of Lyme disease can cause long-term joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis) and heart rhythm problems. Neurological problems are also possible, and may include:

Decreased concentration
Memory disorders
Nerve damage
Numbness
Pain
Paralysis of the facial muscles
Sleep disorders
Visual disturbances
Back to TopWhen to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if symptoms of Lyme disease develop.

Back to TopPrevention »
When walking or hiking in wooded or grassy areas, tuck long pants into socks to protect the legs, and wear shoes and light-colored, long-sleeved shirts. Ticks show up better on white or light colored-clothing than dark items. Spray your clothes with insect repellant.

Check yourself and your pets frequently. If you find ticks, remove them immediately by using tweezers, pulling carefully and steadily.

Ticks that carry Lyme disease are usually so small that they are almost impossible to see. After returning home, remove your clothes and thoroughly inspect all skin surface areas, including your scalp.

In-Depth Prevention »
More Information on This Topic
Background
Symptoms
Risk Factors
Complications
Diseases With Similar Symptoms
Diagnosis
Treatment
Prevention
Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA)
Babesiosis
References
News & Features
24368  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / UK on: July 17, 2008, 08:28:16 AM
This article can be read on many levels-- including as a reflection upon the wisdom of the UK's unilateral disarmament of its citizens of their guns , , ,
==================
LONDON — Every day, it seems, there are more victims. Shakilus Townsend, 16, stabbed to death by a masked gang. Ben Kinsella, also 16, fatally stabbed during an argument outside a pub. Victims in Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. Four people fatally stabbed in London in one 24-hour period alone last week.

Skip to next paragraph
 
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Imagse
Jimmy Mizen, 16, was stabbed in London. His brothers carried his coffin in June.
In a country where few people have guns or access to them, a spate of knife attacks, many involving teenagers, has forced the issue to the top of the domestic agenda. The Metropolitan Police are so concerned, they said recently, they have made knife crime their top priority, along with terrorism. Government and law enforcement officials are scrambling to produce plans to allay public fears.

On Monday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a series of measures that he said would make it “completely unacceptable to carry a knife.” The plan includes automatic prosecution for anyone over the age of 16 caught with a knife and doubling the maximum sentence for knife possession, to four years. It also sets up a $6 million advertising campaign to discourage young people from committing crimes with knives and a program to force perpetrators to confront their actions by, for instance, attending courses that describe what happens to stabbing victims.

The prime minister also said the government would intervene directly with as many as 20,000 families whose children were considered at risk of turning to violence because “the mother or father have lost control of their children and their whole life is actually in difficulty.” Parents who refused to accept the government intervention, he said, would be threatened with eviction from their homes.

“Too many people, young and old, do not feel safe in the streets, and sometimes even in their homes,” he said, speaking at his monthly news conference.

But opponents of the government complained that the plans were merely warmed-over versions of past initiatives.

“Jacqui Smith is coming up with the same half-baked ideas because the government has been in denial about the scale of the knife crime problem,” Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party, said, referring to the home secretary, who has offered a number of proposals recently.

Knife crime, most often involving weapons like simple kitchen knives, has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, with reports of fresh cases every day. But statistically, the picture is more murky. Violent crime over all has actually decreased by 41 percent from a peak in 1995, according to the British Crime Survey, in which citizens report their exposure to crime.

Yet the survey accounts only for people 16 and older, and evidence suggests that young people in poorer areas are increasingly likely to carry knives, and increasingly likely to use them. The Daily Telegraph, which examined data from three-fourths of the police forces in England and Wales, reported recently that nearly 21,000 people had been stabbed or mugged at knifepoint so far this year.

Doctors in busy emergency rooms say they are seeing a steep increase in patients admitted with injuries caused by violence, often involving sharp objects like glass bottles or kitchen knives. A recent study by the Center for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University found that the number of people admitted to hospitals after arriving in the emergency rooms with injuries caused by violence had increased by 30 percent across England in the last four years.

According to the study, rates of admission as a result of violence were six times higher in the poorest fifth of the country than in its most affluent areas. “The difference between the experience of violence between the wealthier and poorer communities is quite dramatic, even for children as young as 14,” said Mark Bellis, director of the center and an author of the study.

The government’s plans, part of a $200 million program to combat youth crime, are the latest in a series of measures meant to address the country’s problem with knife crimes.

In May, Ms. Smith, the home secretary, announced a $10 million knife-crime-reduction program in problem cities.

In London, where 20 teenagers have been killed with knives so far this year, the police embarked on a six-week blitz in May. About 27,000 people were searched, 1,200 were arrested and 500 knives were seized, the authorities said.

The Conservative Party said the government’s plans did not go far enough and called for steeper penalties. The party’s leader, David Cameron, told reporters: “If you are carrying a knife and you are caught, you should expect to go to prison. Plain, simple, clear.”

But Mr. Huhne of the Liberal Democrats said that approach was the wrong one. Young people in Britain — who regularly score at the bottom of charts that measure relative deprivation, poverty, educational attainment, health and general well-being in Europe — have been subject to “mass criminalization,” he said.

“By dragging more and more young people through the criminal justice system, they have reduced the fear of a criminal record and contributed to the problem,” he said.

Roger Grimshaw, research director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, said little was known about how many people carry knives and under what circumstances. “We need to look at the violence itself instead of focusing on the instrument, because clearly knives are very available,” he said.

“Many of these people come from disadvantaged districts in which there is a buildup of fear,” he said. “We have to think about the circumstances in which young people are tempted to use violence, where they have few resources and a law-abiding lifestyle is not a rewarding one.”

Professor Bellis of the Center for Public Health said that the authorities should be “intervening far earlier, before violence erupts” in problem areas.

“For certain communities, violence dominates,” he said. “We have to provide education and support for those families that need additional support, and we have to tackle inequalities. Many people are growing up in environments where they feel they have very little to lose.”
24369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US troops in Georgia on: July 17, 2008, 08:08:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Multiple Messages Of Military Movement In Georgia
July 16, 2008
The United States has begun joint military maneuvers with Georgia. About 1,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Georgia to train with Georgian troops. They will be based near Tbilisi, the capital. There will also be small contingents from other regional countries participating. Russia has also launched military exercises involving 8,000 troops in the North Caucasus region bordering on Georgia. The Americans have said that these maneuvers were scheduled months ago and the Russians said that their own exercises have nothing to do with what is going on in Georgia. The Georgians also announced Tuesday that they have approved a 5,000-troop increase in their military as well as a 27 percent increase in their defense budget.

It is certainly true that the American exercises were planned a while ago. But that does not change the fact that the decision to conduct the exercises was going to be seen by the Russians as a challenge, and that the Americans knew that and intended it as such. The Russians have been busy trying to re-assert their sphere of influence in the region, and have seen Georgia as particularly troublesome, in part because it is seeking membership in NATO and in part because the Russians have viewed them in the past as supporting anti-Russian groups in the region. Moreover, the Russians have viewed the United States as deliberately encouraging Georgian aspirations for NATO, and therefore deliberately challenging Russian interests. Whatever their claims, the Americans knew that the Russians would be upset at the maneuvers and that is clearly why the Americans did what they did.

The United States has a credibility problem in the former Soviet Union — Washington is not seen as being particularly effective in protecting its interests or the interests of its allies in the region. The Russians appear to be on the ascendancy and the Americans seem content to let them ascend. This is affecting the behavior of nations around Russia, who seeing U.S. inattentiveness or weakness, find themselves with few options in the face of Russian assertiveness.

The reason, of course, is that the United States is indeed, for the moment, weak. It is absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has no meaningful reserves. It cannot promise military support to allies like Georgia, because it in fact has very few assets with which to support them. The decision to hold this maneuver with 1,000 troops is a symbolic gesture of commitment to an ally. But the Russians deliberately deployed a much larger number to make several points. They wanted to show the Georgians that they have many more troops available than the Americans, are much nearer, and are more able to mobilize that force quickly while the Americans took months to schedule their undertaking.

The Russian lesson to the Georgians is clear. The Americans can make a symbolic gesture, but symbols are not very important. What matters is, as the Russians say, the correlation of forces. The United States might well be a global power, but at this place and at this time, the Russians are much stronger — and they don’t have to travel very far to get there.

During a period of time when the Russians are in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, breakaway regions of Georgia, they are trying to demonstrate that the American maneuvers should be read as a sign of weakness, rather than demonstration of commitment. The troops the United States committed to this exercise were far too few and came from too far away to make much of a difference.

That is why the Georgian decision to increase its own defense budget and army is more significant than the exercise. But even that isn’t significant. No matter how much the Georgians do, they cannot counter-balance the Russians. Russia is not looking to invade Georgia, but it is trying to show that invasion is its decision to make, and not one that will be influenced by U.S. troops or Georgian budgets. The lesson is intended to be read not only by the Georgians, but other countries in the former Soviet Union.

Russia is saying that the United States is going to have to do a lot better than this if it is to be considered a credible player in the region and that the Americans can’t do much better than what they have already done. Ultimately, the Russians are working to reshape perceptions of American power in the former Soviet Union in order to dispel what they claim is the illusion that Americans are a shield to nations acting in opposition to Russian interests.
24370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 17, 2008, 07:57:18 AM
"Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom;
and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech."

-- Benjamin Franklin (writing as Silence Dogood, No. 8, 9 July
1722)

Reference: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Labaree, ed., vol. 1
(27)
24371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: July 17, 2008, 07:46:39 AM
Study: Low-Carb Diet Best for Weight, Cholesterol

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ATLANTA —
The Atkins diet may have proved itself after all: A low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style regimen helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet in one of the longest and largest studies to compare the dueling weight-loss techniques.


A bigger surprise: The low-carb diet improved cholesterol more than the other two. Some critics had predicted the opposite.

"It is a vindication," said Abby Bloch of the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation, a philanthropy group that honors the Atkins' diet's creator and was the study's main funder.

However, all three approaches — the low-carb diet, a low-fat diet and a so-called Mediterranean diet — achieved weight loss and improved cholesterol.


The study is remarkable not only because it lasted two years, much longer than most, but also because of the huge proportion of people who stuck with the diets — 85 percent.

Researchers approached the Atkins Foundation with the idea for the study. But the foundation played no role in the study's design or reporting of the results, said the lead author, Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Other experts said the study — being published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine — was highly credible.

"This is a very good group of researchers," said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

The research was done in a controlled environment — an isolated nuclear research facility in Israel. The 322 participants got their main meal of the day, lunch, at a central cafeteria.

"The workers can't easily just go out to lunch at a nearby Subway or McDonald's," said Dr. Meir Stampfer, the study's senior author and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In the cafeteria, the appropriate foods for each diet were identified with colored dots, using red for low-fat, green for Mediterranean and blue for low-carb.

As for breakfast and dinner, the dieters were counseled on how to stick to their eating plans and were asked to fill out questionnaires on what they ate, Stampfer said.

The low-fat diet — no more than 30 percent of calories from fat — restricted calories and cholesterol and focused on low-fat grains, vegetables and fruits as options. The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie, fat and cholesterol restrictions, emphasizing poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts.

The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates, but none for calories or fat. It urged dieters to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.
"So not a lot of butter and eggs and cream," said Madelyn Fernstrom, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center weight management expert who reviewed the study but was not involved in it.

Most of the participants were men; all men and women in the study got roughly equal amounts of exercise, the study's authors said.

Average weight loss for those in the low-carb group was 10.3 pounds after two years. Those in the Mediterranean diet lost 10 pounds, and those on the low-fat regimen dropped 6.5.

More surprising were the measures of cholesterol. Critics have long acknowledged that an Atkins-style diet could help people lose weight but feared that over the long term, it may drive up cholesterol because it allows more fat.

But the low-carb approach seemed to trigger the most improvement in several cholesterol measures, including the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, the "good" cholesterol. For example, someone with total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL of 50 would have a ratio of 4 to 1. The optimum ratio is 3.5 to 1, according to the American Heart Association.

Doctors see that ratio as a sign of a patient's risk for hardening of the arteries. "You want that low," Stampfer said.

The ratio declined by 20 percent in people on the low-carb diet, compared to 16 percent in those on the Mediterranean and 12 percent in low-fat dieters.

The study is not the first to offer a favorable comparison of an Atkins-like diet. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year found overweight women on the Atkins plan had slightly better blood pressure and cholesterol readings than those on the low-carb Zone diet, the low-fat Ornish diet and a low-fat diet that followed U.S. government guidelines.

The heart association has long recommended low-fat diets to reduce heart risks, but some of its leaders have noted the Mediterranean diet has also proven safe and effective.

The heart association recommends a low-fat diet even more restrictive than the one in the study, said Dr. Robert Eckel, the association's past president who is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado-Denver.

It does not recommend the Atkins diet. However, a low-carb approach is consistent with heart association guidelines so long as there are limitations on the kinds of saturated fats often consumed by people on the Atkins diet, Eckel said.

The new study's results favored the Atkins-like approach less when subgroups such as diabetics and women were examined.
Among the 36 diabetics, only those on the Mediterranean diet lowered blood sugar levels. Among the 45 women, those on the Mediterranean diet lost the most weight.

"I think these data suggest that men may be much more responsive to a diet in which there are clear limits on what foods can be consumed," such as an Atkins-like diet, said Dr. William Dietz, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It suggests that because women have had more experience dieting or losing weight, they're more capable of implementing a more complicated diet," said Dietz, who heads CDC's nutrition unit.
24372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 17, 2008, 12:29:37 AM
Great post Rachel.
24373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: July 16, 2008, 07:23:18 PM
"I posted the article about the Yemeni girls because I thought they were inspiring not necessary as criticism to  Islam. Sadly getting married at 8 is not the wost thing that could happen to a girl/woman  in an Islamic country.  I can move it if you want."

Actually I was making a rhetorical point as I sometimes am known to do  grin   

"Marriage has been changed before  by allowing for  divorce and the  change in the status of woman going from property to a more or less equal partner that seems to me to be at least as big a change as allowing for  two men or two woman to get married. , , ,"

I guessing that these changes were not held to constitutionally compelled. smiley
   
" I will probably take a break from the gay marriage  topic for a little bit.  I feel like we are starting to go in circles and no matter how many times you explain it to me I don't think I will see the light. Please have the last word."

Both wise and gracious of you-- thank you.  I restate what I (and GM) have already said  cheesy

I will have a real humdinger for this thread next week, , ,   
24374  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 16, 2008, 07:12:22 PM
1) Powerhouse Gym is confirmed!!!  cool

2) The Reuters News Service will be covering the event.  I know, I know, Reuters has engaged in some seriously dishonest reporting about America, but the fellow with whom I spoke seemed nice-- still, be alert.

3) Either tomorrow or next week I hope to be able to report about a potentially huge development , , ,
24375  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: July 16, 2008, 07:05:23 PM
Well, pigs fly!!!  cheesy

'Have-a-go heroes' get legal right to defend themselves

By Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent and Chris Hope, Home Affairs Correspondent

Last updated: 6:54 AM BST 16/07/2008

Home owners and “have-a go-heroes” have for the first time been given the legal right to defend themselves against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.

They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that "heat of the moment” misjudgements could see them brought before the courts.

Under new laws police and prosecutors will have to assess a person’s actions based on the person’s situation "as they saw it at the time” even if in hindsight it could be seen as unreasonable.

For example, homeowners would be able stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrive. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street or have their own weapons used against them.

However, attacking a fleeing criminal with a weapon is not permitted nor is lying in wait to ambush them.

The new laws follow a growing public campaign for people to be given the right to defend themselves and their own homes in the wake of a number of high profile cases.

In 2000, Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer, was sent to prison for manslaughter for shooting an intruder in his home.

Earlier this year, Tony Singh, a shopkeeper, found himself facing a murder charge after he defended himself against an armed robber who tried to steal his takings. During the struggle the robber received a single fatal stab wound to the heart with his own knife.

The Crown Prosecution Service eventually decided Mr Singh should not be charged.

Until now people have had to prove in court that they acted in self defence but the changes mean police and the Crown Prosecution Service will decide on cases before this stage.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that people would be protected legally if they defend themselves "instinctively”; they fear for their own safety or that of others; and the level of force used is not excessive or disproportionate.

He added the changes in law were designed to ensure the criminal justice system was weighted in favour of the victim.

Mr Straw – and other Labour ministers – have previously repeatedly blocked attempts by opposition MPs to give greater protection to householders.

In 2004 Tony Blair promised to review the existing legislation after he admitted there was "genuine public concern” about the issue.

But his pledge was dropped weeks later after the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke concluded that the current law was "sound”.

Two Private Member’s Bills on the issue were tabled by the Tories around the time of the 2005 general election, but both were sunk by the Government.

In 2004, a Tory Bill designed to give the public the right to forcibly tackle burglars was also rejected.

The new self defence law, which came into force yesterday, is contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and was announced by Mr Straw last September.

He is understood to have decided new laws were necessary after he was involved in four "have-a go’’ incidents, which included chasing and restraining muggers near his south London home.

Opposition leaders said it offered nothing new and was merely the latest policy designed to appeal to core Tory voters.

In practice, householders are seldom prosecuted if they harm or even kill an intruder but the Act will give them greater legal protection.

Nick Herbert, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said: "This is a typical Labour con – it will give no greater protection to householders confronted by burglars because it’s nothing more than a re-statement of the existing case law.”

Mr Straw said: "The justice system must not only work on the side of people who do the right thing as good citizens, but also be seen to work on their side.

"The Government strongly supports the right of law abiding people to defend themselves, their families and their property with reasonable force. This law will help to make sure that that right is upheld and that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim.

"Dealing with crime is not just the responsibility of the police, courts and prisons; it’s the responsibility of all of us. Communities with the lowest crime and the greatest safety are the ones with the most active citizens with a greater sense of shared values, inspired by a sense of belonging and duty to others, who are empowered by the state and are also supported by it – in other words, making a reality of justice.

"These changes in the law will make clear – victims of crime, and those who intervene to prevent crime, should be treated with respect by the justice system. We do not want to encourage vigilantism, but there can be no justice in a system which makes the victim the criminal."

It came as it emerged that homeowners could have to wait up to three days after reporting a crime to see a police officer, according to a leaked draft of the Policing Green Paper.

It sets out new national standards for local policing for all 43 forces cross England and Wales.

Callers to the police will be given set times within which officers will attend an incident.

The paper says that this will be "within three hours it if requires policing intervention or three days if there is less immediate need for a police presence."

However, the Home Office would not comment on the plans.

Have Your Say: Should have-a-go heroes get protection?
Story from Telegraph News:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...hemselves.html
24376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A big catch-up post on: July 16, 2008, 08:22:04 AM
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams

“Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens.” —James Madison

“And as to the Cares, they are chiefly what attend the bringing up of Children; and I would ask any Man who has experienced it, if they are not the most delightful Cares in the World.” —Benjamin Franklin


"The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an
eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may
be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some
instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes.  Should,
hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by
the Supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the
known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable
rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact
among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in
its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting an inviolable,
and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no
mound of parchm[en]t can be so formed as to stand against the
sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the
sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."

-- George Washington (fragments of the Draft First Inaugural
Address, April 1789)

“Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors.” —Joseph Story



"The pyramid of government-and a republican government may
well receive that beautiful and solid form-should be raised to
a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence,
be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and
the affections of the people at large are the only foundation,
on which a superstructure proposed to be at once durable and
magnificent, can be rationally erected."

-- James Wilson ()

Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., 403.


“How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?” —James Madison



"Remember, my Eliza, you are a Christian."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speaking to his grieving wife, 7/12/1804)
Reference: Facts and Documments..., Editor of the Evening Post,
ed. (23); original letter from David Hosack, August 17, 1804



“National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.” —John Adams



"The Alien bill proposed in the Senate is a monster that must
forever disgrace its parents."

-- James Madison (letter to Thomas Jefferson, 20 May 1798)

Reference: James Madison, Letters and Other Writings, Fendall,
ed., vol. 2 (142)



“I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward.” —Nathan Hale, who was hanged for his service to his country



"Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition
of good government. It is essential to the protection of the
community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential
to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of
property against those irregular and high-handed combinations
which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to
the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of
ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 69, 14 March 1788)

Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 69.




"[W]e are confirmed in the opinion, that the present age would be
deficient in their duty to God, their posterity and themselves,
if they do not establish an American republic.  This is the
only form of government we wish to see established; for we can
never be willingly subject to any other King than He who, being
possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and rectitude, is alone
fit to possess unlimited power."

Instructions of Malden, Massachusetts for a Declaration of
Independence, 27 May 1776

Reference: Documents of American Histroy, Commager, vol. 1 (97)

24377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Iraq to Afg. on: July 16, 2008, 01:02:56 AM
Second piece tonight from Stratfor:

Now for the Hard Part: From Iraq to Afghanistan
July 15, 2008




Related Special Topic Page
U.S. Military Involvement in Iraq
By George Friedman

The Bush administration let it be known last week that it is prepared to start reducing the number of troops in Iraq, indicating that three brigades out of 15 might be withdrawn before Inauguration Day in 2009. There are many dimensions to the announcements, some political and some strategic. But perhaps the single most important aspect of the development was the fairly casual way the report was greeted. It was neither praised nor derided. Instead, it was noted and ignored as the public focused on more immediate issues.

In the public mind, Iraq is clearly no longer an immediate issue. The troops remain there, still fighting and taking casualties, and there is deep division over the wisdom of the invasion in the first place. But the urgency of the issue has passed. This doesn’t mean the issue isn’t urgent. It simply means the American public — and indeed most of the world — have moved on to other obsessions, as is their eccentric wont. The shift nevertheless warrants careful consideration.

Obviously, there is a significant political dimension to the announcement. It occurred shortly after Sen. Barack Obama began to shift his position on Iraq from what appeared to be a demand for a rapid withdrawal to a more cautious, nuanced position. As we have pointed out on several occasions, while Obama’s public posture was for withdrawal with all due haste, his actual position as represented in his position papers was always more complex and ambiguous. He was for a withdrawal by the summer of 2010 unless circumstances dictated otherwise. Rhetorically, Obama aligned himself with the left wing of the Democratic Party, but his position on the record was actually much closer to Sen. John McCain’s than he would admit prior to his nomination. Therefore, his recent statements were not inconsistent with items written on his behalf before the nomination — they merely appeared so.

The Bush administration was undoubtedly delighted to take advantage of Obama’s apparent shift by flanking him. Consideration of the troop withdrawal has been under way for some time, but the timing of the leak to The New York Times detailing it must have been driven by Obama’s shift. As Obama became more cautious, the administration became more optimistic and less intransigent. The intent was clearly to cause disruption in Obama’s base. If so, it failed precisely because the public took the administration’s announcement so casually. To the extent that the announcement was political, it failed because even the Democratic left is now less concerned about the war in Iraq. Politically speaking, the move was a maneuver into a vacuum.

But the announcement was still significant in other, more important ways. Politics aside, the administration is planning withdrawals because the time has come. First, the politico-military situation on the ground in Iraq has stabilized dramatically. The reason for this is the troop surge — although not in the way it is normally thought of. It was not the military consequences of an additional 30,000 troops that made the difference, although the addition and changes in tactics undoubtedly made an impact.

What was important about the surge is that it happened at all. In the fall of 2006, when the Democrats won both houses of Congress, it appeared a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was inevitable. If Bush wouldn’t order it, Congress would force it. All of the factions in Iraq, as well as in neighboring states, calculated that the U.S. presence in Iraq would shortly start to decline and in due course disappear. Bush’s order to increase U.S. forces stunned all the regional players and forced a fundamental recalculation. The assumption had been that Bush’s hands were tied and that the United States was no longer a factor. What Bush did — and this was more important than numbers or tactics — was demonstrate that his hands were not tied and that the United States could not be discounted.

The realization that the Americans were not going anywhere caused the Sunnis, for example, to reconsider their position. Trapped between foreign jihadists and the Shia, the Americans suddenly appeared to be a stable and long-term ally. The Sunni leadership turned on the jihadists and aligned with the United States, breaking the jihadists’ backs. Suddenly facing a U.S.-Sunni-Kurdish alliance, the Shia lashed out, hoping to break the alliance. But they also split between their own factions, with some afraid of being trapped as Iranian satellites and others viewing the Iranians as the solution to their problem. The result was a civil war not between the Sunnis and Shia, but among the Shia themselves.

Tehran performed the most important recalculation. The Iranians’ expectation had been that the United States would withdraw from Iraq unilaterally, and that when it did, Iran would fill the vacuum it left. This would lead to the creation of an Iranian-dominated Iraqi Shiite government that would suppress the Sunnis and Kurds, allowing Iran to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region. It was a heady vision, and not an unreasonable one — if the United States had begun to withdraw in the winter of 2006-2007.

When the surge made it clear that the Americans weren’t leaving, the Iranians also recalculated. They understood that they were no longer going to be able to create a puppet government in Iraq, and the danger now was that the United States would somehow create a viable puppet government of its own. The Iranians understood that continued resistance, if it failed, might lead to this outcome. They lowered their sights from dominating Iraq to creating a neutral buffer state in which they had influence. As a result, Tehran acted to restrain the Shiite militias, focusing instead on maximizing its influence with the Shia participating in the Iraqi government, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A space was created between the Americans and Iranians, and al-Maliki filled it. He is not simply a pawn of Iran — and he uses the Americans to prevent himself from being reduced to that — but neither is he a pawn of the Americans. Recent negotiations between the United States and the al-Maliki government on the status of U.S. forces have demonstrated this. In some sense, the United States has created what it said it wanted: a strong Iraqi government. But it has not achieved what it really wanted, which was a strong, pro-American Iraqi government. Like Iran, the United States has been forced to settle for less than it originally aimed for, but more than most expected it could achieve in 2006.

This still leaves the question of what exactly the invasion of Iraq achieved. When the Americans invaded, they occupied what was clearly the most strategic country in the Middle East, bordering Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Without resistance, the occupation would have provided the United States with a geopolitical platform from which to pressure and influence the region. The fact that there was resistance absorbed the United States, therefore negating the advantage. The United States was so busy hanging on in Iraq that it had no opportunity to take advantage of the terrain.

That is why the critical question for the United States is how many troops it can retain in Iraq, for how long and in what locations. This is a complex issue. From the Sunni standpoint, a continued U.S. presence is essential to protect Sunnis from the Shia. From the Shiite standpoint, the U.S. presence is needed to prevent Iran from overwhelming the Shia. From the standpoint of the Kurds, a U.S. presence guarantees Kurdish safety from everyone else. It is an oddity of history that no major faction in Iraq now wants a precipitous U.S. withdrawal — and some don’t want a withdrawal at all.

For the United States, the historical moment for its geopolitical coup seems to have passed. Had there been no resistance after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the U.S. occupation of Iraq would have made Washington a colossus astride the region. But after five years of fighting, the United States is exhausted and has little appetite for power projection in the region. For all its bravado against Iran, no one has ever suggested an invasion, only airstrikes. Therefore, the continued occupation of Iraq simply doesn’t have the same effect as it did in 2003.

But the United States can’t simply leave. The Iraqi government is not all that stable, and other regional powers, particularly the Saudis, don’t want to see a U.S. withdrawal. The reason is simple: If the United States withdraws before the Baghdad government is cohesive enough, strong enough and inclined enough to balance Iranian power, Iran could still fill the partial vacuum of Iraq, thereby posing a threat to Saudi Arabia. With oil at more than $140 a barrel, this is not something the Saudis want to see, nor something the United States wants to see.

Internal Iraqi factions want the Americans to stay, and regional powers want the Americans to stay. The Iranians and pro-Iranian Iraqis are resigned to an ongoing presence, but they ultimately want the Americans to leave, sooner rather than later. Thus, the Americans won’t leave. The question now under negotiation is simply how many U.S. troops will remain, how long they will stay, where they will be based and what their mission will be. Given where the United States was in 2006, this is a remarkable evolution. The Americans have pulled something from the jaws of defeat, but what that something is and what they plan to do with it is not altogether clear.

The United States obviously does not want to leave a massive force in Iraq. First, its more ambitious mission has evaporated; that moment is gone. Second, the U.S. Army and Marines are exhausted from five years of multidivisional warfare with a force not substantially increased from peacetime status. The Bush administration’s decision not to dramatically increase the Army was rooted in a fundamental error: namely, the administration did not think the insurgency would be so sustained and effective. They kept believing the United States would turn a corner. The result is that Washington simply can’t maintain the current force in Iraq under any circumstances, and to do so would be strategically dangerous. The United States has no strategic ground reserve at present, opening itself to dangers outside of Iraq. Therefore, if the United States is not going to get to play colossus of the Middle East, it needs to reduce its forces dramatically to recreate a strategic reserve. Its interests, the interests of the al-Maliki government — and interestingly, Iran’s interests — are not wildly out of sync. Washington wants to rapidly trim down to a residual force of a few brigades, and the other two players want that as well.

The United States has another pressing reason to do this: It has another major war under way in Afghanistan, and it is not winning there. It remains unclear if the United States can win that war, with the Taliban operating widely in Afghanistan and controlling a great deal of the countryside. The Taliban are increasingly aggressive against a NATO force substantially smaller than the conceivable minimum needed to pacify Afghanistan. We know the Soviets couldn’t do it with nearly 120,000 troops. And we know the United States and NATO don’t have as many troops to deploy in Afghanistan as the Soviets did. It is also clear that, at the moment, there is no exit strategy. Forces in Iraq must be transferred to Afghanistan to stabilize the U.S. position while the new head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus — the architect of the political and military strategy in Iraq — figures out what, if anything, is going to change.

Interestingly, the Iranians want the Americans in Afghanistan. They supported the invasion in 2001 for the simple reason that they do not want to see an Afghanistan united under the Taliban. The Iranians almost went to war with Afghanistan in 1998 and were delighted to see the United States force the Taliban from the cities. The specter of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan unnerves the Iranians. Rhetoric aside, a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and a transfer to Afghanistan is what the Iranians would like to see.

To complicate matters, the Taliban situation is not simply an Afghan issue — it is also a Pakistani issue. The Taliban draw supplies, recruits and support from Pakistan, where Taliban support stretches into the army and the intelligence service, which helped create the group in the 1990s while working with the Americans. There is no conceivable solution to the Taliban problem without a willing and effective government in Pakistan participating in the war, and that sort of government simply is not there. Indeed, the economic and security situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate.

Therefore, the Bush administration’s desire to withdraw troops from Iraq makes sense on every level. It is a necessary and logical step. But it does not address what should now become the burning issue: What exactly is the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan? As in Iraq before the surge, the current strategy appears to be to hang on and hope for the best. Petraeus’ job is to craft a new strategy. But in Iraq, for better or worse, the United States faced an apparently implacable enemy — Iran — which in fact pursued a shrewd, rational and manageable policy. In Afghanistan, the United States is facing a state that appears friendly — Pakistan — but is actually confused, divided and unmanageable by itself or others.

Petraeus’ success in Iraq had a great deal to do with Tehran’s calculations of its self-interest. In Pakistan, by contrast, it is unclear at the moment whether anyone is in a position to even define the national self-interest, let alone pursue it. And this means that every additional U.S. soldier sent to Afghanistan raises the stakes in Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how Afghanistan and Pakistan play out in the U.S. presidential election. This is not a theater of operations that lends itself to political soundbites.
24378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: July 16, 2008, 12:51:57 AM
Part Two

Iran has achieved four of the five basic goals. It has created secure frontiers and is in control of the population inside the country. The greatest threat against Iran is the one it has faced since Alexander the Great — that posed by major powers outside the region. Historically, before deep-water navigation, Iran was the direct path to India for any Western power. In modern times, the Zagros remain the eastern anchor of Turkish power. Northern Iran blocks Russian expansion. And, of course, Iranian oil reserves make Iran attractive to contemporary great powers.

There are two traditional paths into Iran. The northeastern region is vulnerable to Central Asian powers while the western approach is the most-often used (or attempted). A direct assault through the Zagros Mountains is not feasible, as Saddam Hussein discovered in 1980. However, manipulating the ethnic groups inside Iran is possible. The British, for example, based in Iraq, were able to manipulate internal political divisions in Iran, as did the Soviets, to the point that Iran virtually lost its national sovereignty during World War II.

The greatest threat to Iran in recent centuries has been a foreign power dominating Iraq —Ottoman or British — and extending its power eastward not through main force but through subversion and political manipulation. The view of the contemporary Iranian government toward the United States is that, during the 1950s, it assumed Britain’s role of using its position in Iraq to manipulate Iranian politics and elevate the shah to power.

The 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq was a terrific collision of two states, causing several million casualties on both sides. It also demonstrated two realities. The first is that a determined, well-funded, no-holds-barred assault from Mesopotamia against the Zagros Mountains will fail (albeit at an atrocious cost to the defender). The second is that, in the nation-state era, with fixed borders and standing armies, the logistical challenges posed by the Zagros make a major attack from Iran into Iraq equally impossible. There is a stalemate on that front. Nevertheless, from the Iranian point of view, the primary danger of Iraq is not direct attack but subversion. It is not only Iraq that worries them. Historically, Iranians also have been concerned about Russian manipulation and manipulation by the British and Russians through Afghanistan.

The Current Situation
For the Iranians, the current situation has posed a dangerous scenario similar to what they faced from the British early in the 20th century. The United States has occupied, or at least placed substantial forces, to the east and the west of Iran, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran is not concerned about these troops invading Iran. That is not a military possibility. Iran’s concern is that the United States will use these positions as platforms to foment ethnic dissent in Iran.

Indeed, the United States has tried to do this in several regions. In the southeast, in Balochistan, the Americans have supported separatist movements. It has also done this among the Arabs of Khuzestan, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. And it has tried to manipulate the Kurds in northwestern Iran. (There is some evidence to suggest that the United States has used Azerbaijan as a launchpad to foment dissent among the Iranian Azeris in the northwestern part of the country.)

The Iranian counter to all this has several dimensions:

1. Maintain an extremely powerful and repressive security capability to counter these moves. In particular, focus on deflecting any intrusions in the Khuzestan region, which is not only the most physically vulnerable part of Iran but also where much of Iran’s oil reserves are located. This explains clashes such as the seizure of British sailors and constant reports of U.S. special operations teams in the region.

2. Manipulate ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine the American positions there and divert American attention to defensive rather than offensive goals.

3. Maintain a military force capable of protecting the surrounding mountains so that major American forces cannot penetrate.

4. Move to create a nuclear force, very publicly, in order to deter attack in the long run and to give Iran a bargaining chip for negotiations in the short term.

The heart of Iranian strategy is as it has always been, to use the mountains as a fortress. So long as it is anchored in those mountains, it cannot be invaded. Alexander succeeded and the Ottomans had limited success (little more than breaching the Zagros), but even the Romans and British did not go so far as to try to use main force in the region. Invading and occupying Iran is not an option.

For Iran, its ultimate problem is internal tensions. But even these are under control, primarily because of Iran’s security system. Ever since the founding of the Persian Empire, the one thing that Iranians have been superb at is creating systems that both benefit other ethnic groups and punish them if they stray. That same mindset functions in Iran today in the powerful Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (The Iranian military is configured mainly as an infantry force, with the regular army and IRGC ground forces together totaling about 450,000 troops, larger than all other service branches combined.)

Iran is, therefore, a self-contained entity. It is relatively poor, but it has superbly defensible borders and a disciplined central government with an excellent intelligence and internal security apparatus. Iran uses these same strengths to destabilize the American position (or that of any extraregional power) around it. Indeed, Iran is sufficiently secure that the positions of surrounding countries are more precarious than that of Iran. Iran is superb at low-cost, low-risk power projection using its covert capabilities. It is even better at blocking those of others. So long as the mountains are in Iranian hands, and the internal situation is controlled, Iran is a stable state, but one able to pose only a limited external threat.

The creation of an Iranian nuclear program serves two functions. First, if successful, it further deters external threats. Second, simply having the program enhances Iranian power. Since the consequences of a strike against these facilities are uncertain and raise the possibility of Iranian attempts at interdiction of oil from the Persian Gulf, the strategic risk to the attacker’s economy discourages attack. The diplomatic route of trading the program for regional safety and power becomes more attractive than an attack against a potential threat in a country with a potent potential counter.

Iran is secure from conceivable invasion. It enhances this security by using two tactics. First, it creates uncertainty as to whether it has an offensive nuclear capability. Second, it projects a carefully honed image of ideological extremism that makes it appear unpredictable. It makes itself appear threatening and unstable. Paradoxically, this increases the caution used in dealing with it because the main option, an air attack, has historically been ineffective without a follow-on ground attack. If just nuclear facilities are attacked and the attack fails, Iranian reaction is unpredictable and potentially disproportionate. Iranian posturing enhances the uncertainty. The threat of an air attack is deterred by Iran’s threat of an attack against sea-lanes. Such attacks would not be effective, but even a low-probability disruption of the world’s oil supply is a risk not worth taking.

As always, the Persians face a major power prowling at the edges of their mountains. The mountains will protect them from main force but not from the threat of destabilization. Therefore, the Persians bind their nation together through a combination of political accommodation and repression. The major power will eventually leave. Persia will remain so long as its mountains stand.
24379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Geopolitics of Iran on: July 16, 2008, 12:51:09 AM
The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress
Stratfor Today » July 14, 2008 | 1007 GMT

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of monographs by Stratfor founder George Friedman on the geopolitics of countries that are currently critical in world affairs. Click here for a printable PDF of the monograph in its entirety.

By George Friedman

To understand Iran, you must begin by understanding how large it is. Iran is the 17th largest country in world. It measures 1,684,000 square kilometers. That means that its territory is larger than the combined territories of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal — Western Europe. Iran is the 16th most populous country in the world, with about 70 million people. Its population is larger than the populations of either France or the United Kingdom.

Under the current circumstances, it might be useful to benchmark Iran against Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraq is 433,000 square kilometers, with about 25 million people, so Iran is roughly four times as large and three times as populous. Afghanistan is about 652,000 square kilometers, with a population of about 30 million. One way to look at it is that Iran is 68 percent larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, with 40 percent more population.

More important are its topographical barriers. Iran is defined, above all, by its mountains, which form its frontiers, enfold its cities and describe its historical heartland. To understand Iran, you must understand not only how large it is but also how mountainous it is.

Iran’s most important mountains are the Zagros. They are a southern extension of the Caucasus, running about 900 miles from the northwestern border of Iran, which adjoins Turkey and Armenia, southeast toward Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. The first 150 miles of Iran’s western border is shared with Turkey. It is intensely mountainous on both sides. South of Turkey, the mountains on the western side of the border begin to diminish until they disappear altogether on the Iraqi side. From this point onward, south of the Kurdish regions, the land on the Iraqi side is increasingly flat, part of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The Iranian side of the border is mountainous, beginning just a few miles east of the border. Iran has a mountainous border with Turkey, but mountains face a flat plain along the Iraq border. This is the historical frontier between Persia — the name of Iran until the early 20th century — and Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”), as southern Iraq is called.

The one region of the western border that does not adhere to this model is in the extreme south, in the swamps where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway. There the Zagros swing southeast, and the southern border between Iran and Iraq zigzags south to the Shatt al-Arab, which flows south 125 miles through flat terrain to the Persian Gulf. To the east is the Iranian province of Khuzestan, populated by ethnic Arabs, not Persians. Given the swampy nature of the ground, it can be easily defended and gives Iran a buffer against any force from the west seeking to move along the coastal plain of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

Running east along the Caspian Sea are the Elburz Mountains, which serve as a mountain bridge between the Caucasus-Zagros range and Afghan mountains that eventually culminate in the Hindu Kush. The Elburz run along the southern coast of the Caspian to the Afghan border, buffering the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. Mountains of lesser elevations then swing down along the Afghan and Pakistani borders, almost to the Arabian Sea.

Iran has about 800 miles of coastline, roughly half along the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, the rest along the Gulf of Oman. Its most important port, Bandar Abbas, is located on the Strait of Hormuz. There are no equivalent ports along the Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz is extremely vulnerable to interdiction. Therefore, Iran is not a major maritime or naval power. It is and always has been a land power.

The center of Iran consists of two desert plateaus that are virtually uninhabited and uninhabitable. These are the Dasht-e Kavir, which stretches from Qom in the northwest nearly to the Afghan border, and the Dasht-e Lut, which extends south to Balochistan. The Dasht-e Kavir consists of a layer of salt covering thick mud, and it is easy to break through the salt layer and drown in the mud. It is one of the most miserable places on earth.

Iran’s population is concentrated in its mountains, not in its lowlands, as with other countries. That’s because its lowlands, with the exception of the southwest and the southeast (regions populated by non-Persians), are uninhabitable. Iran is a nation of 70 million mountain dwellers. Even its biggest city, Tehran, is in the foothills of towering mountains. Its population is in a belt stretching through the Zagros and Elbroz mountains on a line running from the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Strait of Hormuz. There is a secondary concentration of people to the northeast, centered on Mashhad. The rest of the country is lightly inhabited and almost impassable because of the salt-mud flats.

If you look carefully at a map of Iran, you can see that the western part of the
country — the Zagros Mountains — is actually a land bridge for southern Asia. It is the only path between the Persian Gulf in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran is the route connecting the Indian subcontinent to the Mediterranean Sea. But because of its size and geography, Iran is not a country that can be easily traversed, much less conquered.

The location of Iran’s oil fields is critical here, since oil remains its most important and most strategic export. Oil is to be found in three locations: The southwest is the major region, with lesser deposits along the Iraqi border in the north and one near Qom. The southwestern oil fields are an extension of the geological formation that created the oil fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hence, the region east of the Shatt al-Arab is of critical importance to Iran. Iran has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the world’s fourth largest producer. Therefore, one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It isn’t.

Iran has the 28th largest economy in the world but ranks only 71st in per capita gross domestic product (as expressed in purchasing power). It ranks with countries like Belarus or Panama. Part of the reason is inefficiencies in the Iranian oil industry, the result of government policies. But there is a deeper geographic problem. Iran has a huge population mostly located in rugged mountains. Mountainous regions are rarely prosperous. The cost of transportation makes the development of industry difficult. Sparsely populated mountain regions are generally poor. Heavily populated mountain regions, when they exist, are much poorer.

Iran’s geography and large population make substantial improvements in its economic life difficult. Unlike underpopulated and less geographically challenged countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran cannot enjoy any shift in the underlying weakness of its economy brought on by higher oil prices and more production. The absence of inhabitable plains means that any industrial plant must develop in regions where the cost of infrastructure tends to undermine the benefits. Oil keeps Iran from sinking even deeper, but it alone cannot catapult Iran out of its condition.

The Broad Outline
Iran is a fortress. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the ocean, with a wasteland at its center, Iran is extremely difficult to conquer. This was achieved once by the Mongols, who entered the country from the northeast. The Ottomans penetrated the Zagros Mountains and went northeast as far as the Caspian but made no attempt to move into the Persian heartland.

Iran is a mountainous country looking for inhabitable plains. There are none to the north, only more mountains and desert, or to the east, where Afghanistan’s infrastructure is no more inviting. To the south there is only ocean. What plains there are in the region lie to the west, in modern-day Iraq and historical Mesopotamia and Babylon. If Iran could dominate these plains, and combine them with its own population, they would be the foundation of Iranian power.

Indeed, these plains were the foundation of the Persian Empire. The Persians originated in the Zagros Mountains as a warrior people. They built an empire by conquering the plains in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. They did this slowly, over an extended period at a time when there were no demarcated borders and they faced little resistance to the west. While it was difficult for a lowland people to attack through mountains, it was easier for a mountain-based people to descend to the plains. This combination of population and fertile plains allowed the Persians to expand.

Iran’s attacking north or northwest into the Caucasus is impossible in force. The Russians, Turks and Iranians all ground to a halt along the current line in the 19th century; the country is so rugged that movement could be measured in yards rather than miles. Iran could attack northeast into Turkmenistan, but the land there is flat and brutal desert. The Iranians could move east into Afghanistan, but this would involve more mountain fighting for land of equally questionable value. Attacking west, into the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, and then moving to the Mediterranean, would seem doable. This was the path the Persians took when they created their empire and pushed all the way to Greece and Egypt.

In terms of expansion, the problem for Iran is its mountains. They are as effective a container as they are a defensive bulwark. Supporting an attacking force requires logistics, and pushing supplies through the Zagros in any great numbers is impossible. Unless the Persians can occupy and exploit Iraq, further expansion is impossible. In order to exploit Iraq, Iran needs a high degree of active cooperation from Iraqis. Otherwise, rather than converting Iraq’s wealth into political and military power, the Iranians would succeed only in being bogged down in pacifying the Iraqis.

In order to move west, Iran would require the active cooperation of conquered nations. Any offensive will break down because of the challenges posed by the mountains in moving supplies. This is why the Persians created the type of empire they did. They allowed conquered nations a great deal of autonomy, respected their culture and made certain that these nations benefited from the Persian imperial system. Once they left the Zagros, the Persians could not afford to pacify an empire. They needed the wealth at minimal cost. And this has been the limit on Persian/Iranian power ever since. Recreating a relationship with the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates basin — today’s Iraq — is enormously difficult. Indeed, throughout most of history, the domination of the plains by Iran has been impossible. Other imperial powers — Alexandrian Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Ottomans, British and Americans — have either seized the plains themselves or used them as a neutral buffer against the Persians.

Underlying the external problems of Iran is a severe internal problem. Mountains allow nations to protect themselves. Completely eradicating a culture is difficult. Therefore, most mountain regions of the world contain large numbers of national and ethnic groups that retain their own characteristics. This is commonplace in all mountainous regions. These groups resist absorption and annihilation. Although a Muslim state with a population that is 55 to 60 percent ethnically Persian, Iran is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. It is also divided between the vastly dominant Shia and the minority Sunnis, who are clustered in three areas of the country — the northeast, the northwest and the southeast. Any foreign power interested in Iran will use these ethnoreligious groups to create allies in Iran to undermine the power of the central government.

Thus, any Persian or Iranian government has as its first and primary strategic interest maintaining the internal integrity of the country against separatist groups. It is inevitable, therefore, for Iran to have a highly centralized government with an extremely strong security apparatus. For many countries, holding together its ethnic groups is important. For Iran it is essential because it has no room to retreat from its current lines and instability could undermine its entire security structure. Therefore, the Iranian central government will always face the problem of internal cohesion and will use its army and security forces for that purpose before any other.

Geopolitical Imperatives
For most countries, the first geographical imperative is to maintain internal cohesion. For Iran, it is to maintain secure borders, then secure the country internally. Without secure borders, Iran would be vulnerable to foreign powers that would continually try to manipulate its internal dynamics, destabilize its ruling regime and then exploit the resulting openings. Iran must first define the container and then control what it contains. Therefore, Iran’s geopolitical imperatives:

1. Control the Zagros and Elburz mountains. These constitute the Iranian heartland and the buffers against attacks from the west and north.

2. Control the mountains to the east of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, from Mashhad to Zahedan to the Makran coast, protecting Iran’s eastern frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maintain a line as deep and as far north and west as possible in the Caucasus to limit Turkish and Russian threats. These are the secondary lines.

3. Secure a line on the Shatt al-Arab in order to protect the western coast of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

4. Control the divergent ethnic and religious elements in this box.

5. Protect the frontiers against potential threats, particularly major powers from outside the region.

24380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Appearance vs. Reality on: July 16, 2008, 12:39:01 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Appearance vs. Reality and Israeli-Syrian Progress
Stratfor
July 14, 2008
On the surface, the July 14 Mediterranean Union summit appears to have been somewhat of a bust with respect to Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Despite sitting at the same round table, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not give the cameras the pleasure of shaking hands, much less make eye contact with one another. Al Assad even made a big display of leaving the room 20 minutes prior to Olmert’s speech during the summit. In fact, the Syrian delegation was so particular about the details of the protocol measures that according to a CBS report citing Paris-based diplomats, the Syrians even made sure both leaders would enter the room from different doors to ensure the two didn’t have an “accidental encounter.”

Underneath al Assad’s hard exterior, however, a complex strategy is in motion for Israel and Syria to bury the hatchet diplomatically after 60 years of hostile relations.

It must be remembered that al Assad is in a unique position. He is an Alawite leader of an overwhelmingly Sunni country long viewed by its neighbors as a geopolitical runt that can be flattened by Israeli F-16s at a moment’s notice. It is now up to him to navigate Syria toward international esteem, relying primarily on his government’s links with militant proxies to get him there. To maintain control over the state while he pursues these peace talks, al Assad must show he is negotiating from a position of strength. He can do so by driving a hard bargain publicly with the Israelis and the Americans while delivering on key concessions behind the scenes.

This strategy has already made itself apparent. Al Assad has made a point of telling reporters he is no rush for a peace deal with the Israelis, saying that direct negotiations would simply have to wait for the inauguration of a new U.S. president in January. His actions at the Mediterranean Union summit underlined how Syria does not feel it is under pressure to negotiate or make any grand diplomatic gestures while Olmert remains on shaky political ground at home. At the same time, The Jerusalem Post published a report citing diplomatic sources as saying Olmert had delivered a message to al Assad through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The message reportedly said it would be a mistake for al Assad to wait for a new U.S. president to engage in direct talks, and urged him to commit to direct talks in the near future.

Syria quite shrewdly has turned the tables on Israel, at least in the public arena. While in the past it was always the Syrians begging for talks with the Jewish state, al Assad has now created the perception of an Israel pushing Syria to negotiate — something that scores him major points at home.

More important, the Syrians appear to be making some big moves behind the scenes to push the talks forward. According to a Stratfor source in Lebanon, a Syrian security officer has recently provided U.S. intelligence officers in Istanbul with key information on Hezbollah activities and military capabilities. The Syrian officer also provided his U.S. counterpart with information on al Qaeda and al-Sadrite forces in Iraq. Washington has made clear to the Syrians that before the United States can publicly jump on board with the Syrian-Israeli peace process it will have to see some serious intelligence cooperation regarding Hezbollah and Iraq. If the source’s information is accurate, it appears the Syrians are providing that intelligence.

The Lebanese also formed a government July 14, something that would have been impossible without Syrian cooperation. Syria has a close relationship with Michel Suleiman, the former commander of the Lebanese army and the newly elected president of Lebanon. According to another Stratfor source in Lebanon, al Assad and Suleiman worked out a strategy to clamp down on some of the Islamist militant camps in Lebanon, which have always been an expendable resource for the Syrians. To this end, the Syrian state-run National News Agency reported July 8 that the group Fatah al-Intifada evacuated a military base in al Balayit village in Rashaya province along the Lebanese-Syrian border, allowing Lebanese troops to reoccupy the base. The source also claimed that Syria has agreed to help Lebanese troops close down two major bases operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command, namely the Qusaya and Nama bases. Qusaya is the larger of the two bases, and enjoys a commanding position overlooking the Lebanese airbase in Riyaq and Ablah army base. Nama controls traffic along the Beirut-southern Lebanon highway, as well as the Beirut airport. It also controls Lebanese army movement to and from southern Lebanon, which is key to its defense against Hezbollah.

Stratfor is wary of falling in love with its forecast of a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, and we are making an honest effort to disprove our assumptions. But the trajectory of events — from the September 2007 Israeli airstrike in Syria to the February assassination of Hezbollah’s top commander in Damascus, from the public launch of peace talks to the developments on the ground Monday — all point toward a comprehensive deal in the making. National security interests are pushing both sides toward a political accommodation that neither side can deny will grant them overwhelming benefits as long as each delivers on its end of the agreement. We can’t help but notice that sources from across the spectrum are reporting information that all points in the same direction — namely, toward progress. As in all complex diplomatic negotiations, what you see in the headlines is not necessarily what you get.
24381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: July 16, 2008, 12:21:05 AM
In that the justification for the pedophilia is that Mohammed did it, I'm thinking that article about the brave little Yemeni girl belongs on one of the threads about Islam.

Concerning the gay marriage issue:

Marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman.  The laws that banned interracial marriage violated the equal protection clause of the US Constitution-- a black man could not marry a woman that a white man could and vice versa-- and as such were properly struck down.   

Marriage has never been between two men or two women by definition.  Furthermore the people of Califormia specifically voted to that effect.  The CA Supreme Court simply imposed the personal political beliefs of a majority of its members.  The initiative that presumably that will be on the ballot this fall will be to repeal this piece of judicial imperialism.
24382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Down the memory hole on: July 15, 2008, 11:41:44 PM

Barack Obama purges Web site critique of surge in Iraq

BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Monday, July 14th 2008, 8:10 PM
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned.
The presumed Democratic nominee replaced his Iraq issue Web page, which had described the surge as a "problem" that had barely reduced violence.
"The surge is not working," Obama's old plan stated, citing a lack of Iraqi political cooperation but crediting Sunni sheiks - not U.S. military muscle - for quelling violence in Anbar Province.
The News reported Sunday that insurgent attacks have fallen to the fewest since March 2004.
Obama's campaign posted a new Iraq plan Sunday night, which cites an "improved security situation" paid for with the blood of U.S. troops since the surge began in February 2007.
It praises G.I.s' "hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics and enormous sacrifice."
Campaign aide Wendy Morigi said Obama is "not softening his criticism of the surge. We regularly update the Web site to reflect changes in current events."
GOP rival John McCain zinged Obama as a flip-flopper. "The major point here is that Sen. Obama refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong," said McCain, adding that Obama "refuses to acknowledge that it [the surge] is succeeding."jmeek@nydailynews.com
24383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 15, 2008, 09:21:07 AM
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: A RUMOR OF WITHDRAWAL

The New York Times and other media are reporting that the United States is
considering withdrawing troops from Iraq this year. The Bush administration is
thinking about withdrawing as few as one and as many as three of 15 combat brigades
now operating in Iraq by inauguration day in January 2009. That would not be a
stunning reduction, but it would be a substantial one. The leak to the Times is
obviously designed to prepare public opinion and see how various constituencies
respond. The administration leaks these things after it has decided to do something
but wants to retain options. So we take the report seriously.

There are three audiences for this report. The first, obviously, is the U.S. public.
This is an election year, and there is little doubt that George W. Bush would like
to see John McCain succeed him, as partial vindication of his presidency. This was
the week in which Barack Obama shifted his public posture on Iraq, indicating
greater flexibility than he had signaled during the primaries. In fact, as we have
said, Obama's position does not differ much from McCain's, save in rhetoric. Obama
knew that he had to run to the center during the general election and had prepared
for the shift in various position papers no one read during the primaries. When
Obama went to the center, backing away from his automatic withdrawal plan to a more
nuanced one, the administration responded by indicating that withdrawals were indeed
possible. They tried to catch Obama off-balance. It was a clever move, but it's not
clear that it will have any impact.

The second audience is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There are negotiations
under way over the status of U.S. troops in Iraq. Al-Maliki is demanding a timetable
for withdrawal, shifting away from his prior position that U.S. troops will be
needed in Iraq to stabilize the regime to a new view that U.S. withdrawal is needed.
The United States has, in a way, been the victim of its own success. Having created
a much stronger Iraqi government than most thought possible, it now sees that
government becoming demanding. If the United States ignores al-Maliki, it will
undermine its own credibility. So, whatever is actually negotiated, the United
States has little choice but to follow al-Maliki's wishes.

The third audience is Iran. The weird combination of apocalyptic threat coupled with
diplomacy continues. While the obsession has been nuclear weapons, the real issue
has always been Iraq. The United States is trying to give Iran every reason to stop
enriching uranium. One recent offer was to begin talks without requiring a halt in
enrichment ("pre-negotiations," it was called, as opposed to negotiations). Leaving
diplomatic hair-splitting aside, the demonstration of a U.S. willingness to withdraw
from Iraq is a critical issue to the Iranians. They have more than 140,000 U.S.
troops on their border. Progress on nukes in Iran is much more likely with a
reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Audiences aside, of course, there is another looming issue: Afghanistan. That war
continues to rage, with nine American soldiers killed over the weekend. Gen. David
Petraeus, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as CENTCOM commander July 11, now is
responsible for Afghanistan as well as Iraq. In looking at his board, he clearly
sees the need for more troops in Afghanistan and feels he can cut troop levels in
Iraq. Indeed, Iraq is the only place where he can find more troops. The Afghanistan
issue is coupled with a clear deterioration of the situation in Pakistan and a
looming crisis between Pakistan and India over the bombing of the Indian Embassy in
Kabul. Iraq is stable and happy compared to the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.

But three U.S. brigades, added to the 52,000 NATO troops currently operating in
Afghanistan, are not going to make a difference in a country where nearly 120,000
Russians with much looser rules of engagement couldn't make a difference. So the
most important aspect of the troop reduction in Iraq will be the unfolding of
Petraeus' Afghanistan strategy. It is not clear to us what he has in mind, but it
would appear that the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq is something not
only Obama, al-Maliki and Tehran want to see. Petraeus might want to see it, too.

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
24384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 15, 2008, 08:39:26 AM
Which is why the Founding Fathers founded us as a REPUBLIC, NOT a DEMOCRACY.
24385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 15, 2008, 08:38:21 AM
We seem to be circling the vortex of genocidal logic here  cry cry cry
24386  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 15, 2008, 08:29:26 AM
I am grateful for a fine day of training yesterday, a good night's sleep, and that I will be home with my family this evening.
24387  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times at it again on: July 14, 2008, 10:05:30 PM
Terrorist Telephone
By JAMES TARANTO
July 14, 2008
WSJ

An article in Friday's New York Times drew lots of attention from those who like to wring their hands about U.S. "torture" of terrorists, but to our mind it's awfully thin:

Red Cross investigators concluded last year in a secret report that the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes, according to a new book. . . .
The book, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," by Jane Mayer, who writes about counterterrorism for The New Yorker, offers new details of the agency's secret detention program. . . .
Citing unnamed "sources familiar with the report," Ms. Mayer wrote that the Red Cross document "warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted." Red Cross representatives were not permitted access to the secret prisons where the C.I.A. conducted interrogations, but were permitted to interview Abu Zubaydah and other high-level detainees in late 2006, after they were moved to the military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. . . .
The book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he had been waterboarded at least 10 times in a single week and as many as three times in a day.
The book also reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, told the Red Cross that he had been kept naked for more than a month and claimed that he had been "kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room."
To sum up: The New York Times reports that a new book reports that unnamed sources reported to the author that a report exists that says terrorists reported being tortured.

That is, not only are we being asked to take the word of terrorists--whose training material instructs them to claim they have been tortured--but we are being asked to trust terrorists' claims that are reaching us fifth-hand (or fourth-hand if you spend $27.50 for the book). It's a big game of telephone.

And we thought the New York Times was against listening to terrorists' phone conversations.
24388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tony Snow on: July 14, 2008, 10:00:16 PM
Notable & Quotable
July 15, 2008
Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.
24389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton on: July 14, 2008, 09:54:44 PM
Good logic there SB.

Here's this from John Bolton in the WSJ:

Israel, Iran and the Bomb
By JOHN R. BOLTON
July 15, 2008

Iran's test salvo of ballistic missiles last week together with recent threatening rhetoric by commanders of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards emphasizes how close the Middle East is to a fundamental, in fact an irreversible, turning point.

Tehran's efforts to intimidate the United States and Israel from using military force against its nuclear program, combined with yet another diplomatic charm offensive with the Europeans, are two sides of the same policy coin. The regime is buying the short additional period of time it needs to produce deliverable nuclear weapons, the strategic objective it has been pursuing clandestinely for 20 years.

Between Iran and its long-sought objective, however, a shadow may fall: targeted military action, either Israeli or American. Yes, Iran cannot deliver a nuclear weapon on target today, and perhaps not for several years. Estimates vary widely, and no one knows for sure when it will have a deliverable weapon except the mullahs, and they're not telling. But that is not the key date. Rather, the crucial turning point is when Iran masters all the capabilities to weaponize without further external possibility of stopping it. Then the decision to weaponize, and its timing, is Tehran's alone. We do not know if Iran is at this point, or very near to it. All we do know is that, after five years of failed diplomacy by the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany), Iran is simply five years closer to nuclear weapons.

And yet, true to form, State Department comments to Congress last week – even as Iran's missiles were ascending – downplayed Iran's nuclear progress, ignoring the cost of failed diplomacy. But the confident assumption that we have years to deal with the problem is high-stakes gambling on a policy that cannot be reversed if it fails. If Iran reaches weaponization before State's jaunty prediction, the Middle East, and indeed global, balance of power changes in potentially catastrophic ways.

And consider what comes next for the U.S.: the Bush administration's last six months pursuing its limp diplomatic efforts, plus six months of a new president getting his national security team and policies together. In other words, one more year for Tehran to proceed unhindered to "the point of no return."

We have almost certainly lost the race between giving "strong incentives" for Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and its scientific and technological efforts to do just that. Swift, sweeping, effectively enforced sanctions might have made a difference five years ago. No longer. Existing sanctions have doubtless caused some pain, but Iran's real economic woes stem from nearly 30 years of mismanagement by the Islamic Revolution.

More sanctions today (even assuming, heroically, support from Russia and China) will simply be too little, too late. While regime change in Tehran would be the preferable solution, there is almost no possibility of dislodging the mullahs in time. Had we done more in the past five years to support the discontented – the young, the non-Persian minorities and the economically disaffected – things might be different. Regime change, however, cannot be turned on and off like a light switch, although the difficulty of effecting it is no excuse not to do more now.

That is why Israel is now at an urgent decision point: whether to use targeted military force to break Iran's indigenous control over the nuclear fuel cycle at one or more critical points. If successful, such highly risky and deeply unattractive air strikes or sabotage will not resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis. But they have the potential to buy considerable time, thereby putting that critical asset back on our side of the ledger rather than on Iran's.

With whatever time is bought, we may be able to effect regime change in Tehran, or at least get the process underway. The alternative is Iran with nuclear weapons, the most deeply unattractive alternative of all.

But the urgency of the situation has not impressed Barack Obama or the EU-3. Remarkably, on July 9, Sen. Obama, as if stumbling on a new idea, said Iran "must suffer threats of economic sanctions" and that we needed "direct diplomacy . . . so we avoid provocation" and "give strong incentives . . . to change their behavior." Javier Solana, chief EU negotiator, was at the time busy fixing a meeting with the Iranians to continue five years of doing exactly what Mr. Obama was proclaiming, without results.

John McCain responded to Iran's missile salvo by stressing again the need for a workable missile defense system to defend the U.S. against attacks by rogue states like Iran and North Korea. He is undoubtedly correct, highlighting yet another reason why November's election is so critical, given the unceasing complaints about missile defense from most Democrats.

Important as missile defense is, however, it is only a component of a postfailure policy on Iran's nuclear-weapons capacity. In whatever limited amount of time before then, we must face a very hard issue: What will the U.S. do if Israel decides to initiate military action? There was a time when the Bush administration might itself have seriously considered using force, but all public signs are that such a moment has passed.

Israel sees clearly what the next 12 months will bring, which is why ongoing U.S.-Israeli consultations could be dispositive. Israel told the Bush administration it would destroy North Korea's reactor in Syria in spring, 2007, and said it would not wait past summer's end to take action. And take action it did, seeing a Syrian nuclear capability, for all practical purposes Iran's agent on its northern border, as an existential threat. When the real source of the threat, not just a surrogate, nears the capacity for nuclear Holocaust, can anyone seriously doubt Israel's propensities, whatever the impact on gasoline prices?

Thus, instead of debating how much longer to continue five years of failed diplomacy, we should be intensively considering what cooperation the U.S. will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran. We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible. At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's path, and facilitate its efforts where we can.

These subjects are decidedly unpleasant. A nuclear Iran is more so.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
24390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 14, 2008, 07:03:26 AM
I find myself noticing a tremendous disparity in media attention given to BO and McC., even on FOX.   Even Sean Hannity, whose show I only watch when Newt Gingrich is on, can only talk about BO and how he's shifting positions. 

WHERE THE FCUK IS McCAIN? 
24391  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Canton OH 7/12-13 on: July 14, 2008, 06:28:50 AM
Woof Dog Ryan and the DBMAA members who came:

Ryanb, thanks for making the long drive to be there, and sorry we didn't have time to do any drumming.  Terry, I'm honored you made all the way from Illinois for just the one day that you could come.  Good to see you Tiffany and Gary!

All:

Thanks to my host Officer Dave Clouse for bringing me in.  It was a fine group, and the FOF training on Sunday afternoon was very good.  Profound condolences for the two officers who were murdered (one retired, one on duty) while I was there.

Teaching is always a learning experience and working with LEOs particularly so.  Thanks to all.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
24392  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 14, 2008, 06:22:37 AM
I just finished a seminar this weekend at the Canton OH Police Department training facility.  During my three days there, the PD had a well-loved retired officer with a courageous career murdered and another officer murdered during a traffice stop.  I am grateful for the men and those women who put on the badge and go forth every day.
24393  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Super Cop hero on: July 14, 2008, 06:19:30 AM
Off-duty Ohio 'supercop' kills robber


By Sarena McRae and Patrick O'Donnell
The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A 35-year veteran Cleveland police officer known by neighbors as Supercop shot and killed a man suspected of robbing a KeyBank on Wednesday afternoon on the city's near West Side.
The officer, James Simone, 60, was off-duty when he happened upon the robbery, chased the suspect and shot him as he attempted to escape.

This image, supplied by the Cleveland Poilice Department, shows a Dec. 12, 2001, mugshot of Robert Hackworth, 35, who was shot and killed Wednesday, July 9 in Cleveland by a 35-year police veteran James Simone, 60, known as "Supercop."
(AP Photo/Cleveland Police)
The 35-year-old suspect, Robert Hackworth, who lived on a nearby street, died at the scene.
"I don't know what the officer saw, what the officer was confronted with," police spokesman Thomas Stacho said. "Certainly, he felt the need to use deadly force. He acted heroically. This was an officer off-duty by himself who confronted a male who had just robbed a bank."
Simone has been involved in at least 10 shootings in his years on the force, has been shot himself and has been injured when his cruiser was hit during a stop.
He has been named patrolman of the year and awarded a medal of valor, in addition to being honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for issuing dozens of citations.
Simone, who is known around the neighborhood, had walked into the bank in a strip mall on Fulton Road at Memphis Avenue about 3:30 p.m. to cash his paycheck when bank staff informed him they had just been robbed.
After seeing a man running from the bank, Simone chased him on foot as he headed south on West 52nd Street.
A woman driving by volunteered to drive Simone as he chased after Hackworth. Steve Loomis, head of Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said a dye pack in the $2,000 Hackworth stole had exploded, making it clear he was fleeing a robbery.
According to Stacho, Hackworth ran a few houses up the block when the car with Simone in it pulled up. Stacho said Simone got out of the car, confronted Hackworth and shot him in his side. Hackworth then drove away in a truck he had waiting. Simone stayed in close pursuit.
Mary Jean Zenda was in her driveway just a few doors down from the shooting. She said Simone pulled up in the car and yelled at the fleeing man.
"He said, 'This is an officer, freeze,' " she said. "He shot while the guy was trying to get in his truck."
Hackworth drove the truck south on West 52nd Street and attempted to turn at the Woburn Avenue intersection, but crashed into a telephone pole. Simone, who was following in the car, stopped and removed him from the truck. Hackworth died at the scene.
The suspect had taken the truck from a local car dealership for a test drive and parked it on West 52nd Street before he went into the bank. It was not severely damaged in the crash.
Police have not recovered a weapon from Hackworth nor the truck, Stacho said. Loomis said the suspect did not show a gun in the bank but threatened that he had one.
Stacho said police believe the suspect was acting alone.
After walking through the chase scene with investigators, Simone left with Loomis and declined to comment.
Loomis said Simone was upset about the shooting, but called it justified because Hackworth was reaching inside the truck. Though a gun was not visible, he said, Simone had no idea what he was reaching for.




http://www.policeone.com/police-hero...-kills-robber/
24394  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 13, 2008, 06:56:50 PM
Welcome home Rachel.

Where is Nazareth?  In my ignorance, your final sentence leaves me confused.  embarassed
24395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 13, 2008, 06:54:40 PM
CCP:

Concerning BO and personal responsibility for kids in his 2004 speech, what about this passage?

"Go in -- Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn; they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things."



24396  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Self-Defense Law in the UK on: July 13, 2008, 06:49:02 PM
The mind boggles at the situation in the UK:

http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v26n2/cpr-26n2-1.pdf

 cry cry angry
24397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK Pensioner on: July 13, 2008, 06:30:36 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...ith-plank.html

A pensioner who used a piece of wood to chase away a gang of teenagers who had been throwing stones at his home is facing a jail term after being arrested and charged with possessing an offensive weapon.

Sydney Davis, 65, a father-of-two, dialled 999 when his home in the Pinehurst area of Swindon, Wilts, came under attack.

But when police failed to turn up over the next two hours he decided to take action himself.

He grabbed a section of wood from a broken-up sofa lying in his front garden and chased the youths down the street - just as police officers finally arrived.

Mr Davis, a retired builder, was astonished when police arrested him while allowing the gang to run to safety.

The householder now faces a court appearance and a potential prison term of six months if convicted.

Mr Davis, whose windows have been smashed five times in the last eight months, branded the law "a colossal ass".

He went on: "This is Britain gone mad. Just what in the world is this country coming to when the police arrest people like me for protecting their own property?

"The police say they want to reduce crime, yet they let evil little toe-rags like this off. Then they prosecute hard-working, upstanding residents like me.

"There is simply no way we can shake off this problem of 'Yob Britain' if the legal system fails to protect the everyday person".

Mr Davis' difficulties began on July 2 when a gang started throwing stones, stick, mud and eggs at a number of homes.

His wife, Pauline, 42, and their sons, Peter, seven, and James, five, cowered behind the sofa as the windows were hit by a flurry of missiles.

"My wife called the police at 6pm, but they just kept on throwing stones through my back gate.

"I left the back door open to stop them smashing it. Suddenly a really big rock came crashing into the kitchen. I just grabbed the wood, which was the nearest thing I could find, and chased them off.

"The police turned up just as I was chasing them. As a result I was arrested, but they didn't arrest any of them."

Mr Davis was handcuffed, taken to a local police station and later charged.

Wiltshire Police confirmed both the charge against him and the fact that no one else had been arrested in connection with the incident.

The householder is expected to appear before local magistrates later in the month.
24398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Combat Barbie on: July 13, 2008, 05:54:15 AM
I don't know how to post the fotos, but she definitely is an attractive woman. smiley

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7503061.stm



Katrina Hodge is a part-time model and a soldier in the British Army
A female soldier who once fought off a suspected Iraqi insurgent has won a place in the final of Miss England.
Katrina Hodge, 21, will participate in the contest in July, having already won the Miss Tunbridge Wells crown.
L/Cpl Hodge was nicknamed Combat Barbie in 2005 after being given a bravery commendation for saving the lives of members of her regiment in Iraq.
They were held at gunpoint when their vehicle overturned but L/Cpl Hodge punched the gunman and took his rifles.
She said: "I was in complete shock at first. The force of the accident caused our vehicle to roll over three times and threw us off guard.
"As I came round, the Iraqi suspect was standing over us with the rifles. I knew if I didn't act fast then our lives would be in danger.
"I punched him and the force startled him enough for me to retrieve the rifles from him."
Miss Hodge, a military clerk with The Adjutant General's Corps, will go on to appear at Miss World 2008 if she wins the English title.
"I was delighted to have been selected for the Miss England final and it is a great honour," she added.
"Being a part-time model and a serving soldier is certainly a world apart. I want to use this competition to highlight the work that the Army are doing and what they have done for this country."
She is currently serving at Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley and will take part in the Miss England national finals on Friday.
=============
Here is the original article describing what happened:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4525552.stm

Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 15:52 GMT 
Female soldier's bravery honour

 Pte Hodge's battalion is now back in the UK after serving in Iraq

A female soldier has been honoured after risking her life to disarm an Iraqi prisoner.
Pte Katrina Hodge, 18, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, carried out her act of bravery while serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment.

She managed to restrain and disarm an Iraqi man who had got hold of two weapons after being detained in Basra.

Ms Hodge's instinctive actions have led to a commendation from the commanding officer of her unit.
Her bravery is even more remarkable because she had just been involved in a road crash.

'Adrenaline rush'
"We detained an Iraqi suspect and on the way back to our base our vehicle was in a road traffic accident and it rolled over three times," she said.

"When it came to a halt I suddenly realised that the suspect had my weapon and the other soldier's weapon.
"I just looked at him and in that split second I thought 'oh my God, he's going to kill me'.

"But my instinct came in and I thought 'I'll just whack him'. "It was just a big adrenaline rush and I had to do something."

Ms Hodge has been dubbed Combat Barbie by her colleagues ever since turning up for her army basic training with "two pink suitcases, a pair of pink kitten heels, a pink coat and blonde hair".

24399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Opportunity in America on: July 12, 2008, 09:12:26 PM
Elaine L. Chao
'I See Opportunities in This Country a Little Differently'
By BRENDAN MINITER
July 12, 2008; Page A9

Washington

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao immigrated to the United States on a cargo ship in 1961, when she was 8 years old. The trip from Taiwan took a month. It was no easy passage.

"My sister fell ill during the ocean journey," she told me on a recent afternoon in her spacious office, a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. "Seventeen hundred nautical miles, there were no doctors on board and my mother sat up for three nights and three days, just continuously soaking my sister's body, little body, with cold water" to break her fever.

 
Zina Saunders 
"So I see opportunities in this country, perhaps, in a slightly different way. . . . America really is unique," she says. "It's really a land of meritocracy, where it doesn't matter where you were born, who you know. If a person works hard, most of the time . . ."

On this last point, Ms. Chao's words trail off, as the current state of the economy seems to be weighing on her mind. There is widespread speculation that the economy could soon slip into recession as the country sheds jobs and faces a slumping housing market. Still, Ms. Chao points out that the national unemployment rate remains below where it averaged in the 1990s (5.5% today versus 5.7% last decade). "People forget that," she says.

Yet Ms. Chao seems most concerned with the long-term trends that affect the workforce. The old economy that relied heavily on domestic manufacturing and production is giving way to a modern economy based on technology and instant communications. This change is empowering workers, allowing them to work more flexible schedules and boost their productivity. At the same time, it is also changing the criteria required to get ahead -- and forcing a decline in union membership.

In 1979, 24.1% of American workers belonged to a union. Today only 12.1% do, and the number falls to 7.5% for those who do not work for the government. Whether a worker has a college or even a high-school diploma is now much more important for lifetime earnings and employment than whether they have a union card.

Numbers tell the story. Workers with a bachelor's degree earn, on average, more than $1,400 a week and have an unemployment rate of just 2.2%. High-school dropouts, by contrast, average just $528 a week for full-time work and their unemployment rate is 8.3%. "We have a skills gap in this country," Ms. Chao said.

Ms. Chao seems to be concerned that the country could cease to be the land of opportunity that drew her parents decades ago. Congress appears eager to impose restrictive regulations that could hurt the economy in the name of helping those who don't have the skills to compete. If these regulations are enacted, Ms. Chao fears the "Europeanization" of the American economy.

"I have a whole list here," she says, of what Congress could do to hobble economic growth, and it includes legislation that is gaining traction on Capitol Hill. Every measure would make it more expensive to employ people in America, or would make it easier for unions to capture a larger slice of the workforce.

On the list is "card check" -- legislation that would allow union leaders to dispense with secret ballot elections in unionizing a company's workforce. Instead, union officials would be allowed to get the union certified once a majority of employees in a workplace merely signed a union card. This measure -- the most radical change in labor relations since the New Deal -- passed the House last year, but was stopped in the Senate. Ms. Chao is happy it was. "The right to a private ballot election is a fundamental right in our American democracy and it should not be legislated away at the behest of special interest groups," she says.

Other items on her list include bills that would expand the Family Medical Leave Act, force some employers to give 90 days' notice before laying off workers (up from 60 days now), and mandate minimum paid sick leave. There's also "comparable worth," a bill being pushed by Sen. Hillary Clinton and others that would force employers to pay the same wages for different occupations. Employers would have to pay nursing aides (mostly female), for example, the same wages they offer janitors (mostly male), if the bureaucracy deemed these occupations were of comparable value.

If these regulations become law next year, she believes it would make it more difficult for employers to adapt their workforce to a changing economy. "The flexibility of our workforce is one of the reasons for our great economic success," she says. "Only with our flexibility will there be continued dynamism, vibrancy and opportunities. We had young people in France rioting at the age of 24 because they fear that if they do not find a job by the age of 24 that they will never find a job for the rest of their lives. That is so foreign to what the American experience is all about."

"The Eurozone countries and Japan have not created as many jobs as America has in the last seven years," she adds. "And their unemployment rate is double, if not sometimes triple, that of the United States. So the best way to help a worker get a job . . . is to help them get reconnected to the workforce as quickly as possible because the longer they stay out, the more things will change at the workplace and the harder it will be for them to re-enter the workforce."

"Some in Washington want to increase benefits, regulations and mandates and that's the European model. That is not the path we want to follow long term."

Ms. Chao says that when she attends meetings with other labor ministers from around the world, "they may not agree totally with our point of view, but they all want to learn about how America creates opportunities and jobs and how the dynamism of our economy, the flexibility of our economy creates opportunities."

What does she tell them?

"That freedom works. It is universally accepted that there needs to be open markets, transparency, low tax rates, less regulation and the rule of law . . . in a world-wide economy if there is not transparency, if there is greater taxation, if there is greater regulation, capital and labor will move."

Ms. Chao is in charge of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the federal government. She's also amassed a record conservatives applaud -- for example in year seven of her tenure, her department's budget is slightly smaller than it was on year one, even as workplace injuries have fallen to all time lows.

When I ask her what role a labor secretary should play now, her answer can be summed up in two words: job training.

"We should really be called the department of job training," she says. After all, the labor department spends more than 90% of its $50 billion entitlement budget on it. The problem is that much of this never reaches workers. Instead, it's wasted on overhead or spent on courses workers don't want to take.

So in her last months in office Ms. Chao is pushing for more flexibility in how job training funds can be used. "Would it not make more sense if we allowed . . . the worker to take that money and register at a community college . . . choose a course of their own liking, preference?"

An even more important issue is transparency. One of Ms. Chao's early initiatives was to clean up decades-old regulations that mired even good employers in costly litigation because the rules were written for occupations that no longer exist. "Straw boss" and "key punch" are two that Ms. Chao rattled off. "We in government have a responsibility for ensuring that the regulations that we issue are clear and understandable."

Another of Ms. Chao's transparency initiatives involved union financial disclosure. Federal union disclosure rules have been on the books since at least 1959. But when Ms. Chao came into office in 2001, many unions gave such vague descriptions of their expenses that it was impossible to track where they spent their money. One, for example, listed more than $3.9 million of expenditures as "sundry expenses."

Ms. Chao tightened the disclosure rules and then spent years fighting union objections in court. In the end she won. Today unions have to itemize expenses greater than $5,000. This has made it easier for rank-and-file members to keep tabs on their own union officials. It has also led to more than a little embarrassment, such as when a disclosure form filed by the New York City Ironworkers Local 40 in 2006 drew media attention because it revealed that the union spent $52,879 at a Cadillac dealer for a "retirement gift."

But when I ask what she thinks about being called a foe of unionized labor, she stops me before I can finish the question. "I just enforce the law." There are approximately 180 laws that the labor department is charged with administering. Her success has come by quietly enforcing all of them.

This no-nonsense approach to her job and her faith in the flexibility of America's labor markets stems from Ms. Chao's immigrants roots.

Her parents fled the communist revolution in China in 1949 and settled in Taiwan. As a sea captain nearly a decade later, her father had few economic opportunities. So he took the National Maritime Master's Special Qualification Examination and scored so well that the Taiwanese government sponsored him to study in the U.S. But there was a catch: The offer was for him alone. He would have to leave his two children and wife behind.

"They never hesitated," she said, adding that "my mother didn't try to persuade my father not to go. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

"He came and landed the day after Christmas. He was alone for three years . . . before he was finally able to bring us over."

"How they knew what America stood for, or where America was, is pretty impressive to me -- that this young couple with no connections, no financial resources to speak of, would dare to audaciously dream that they could come to America."

Mr. Miniter is an assistant features editor at The Wall Street Journal.
24400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obama's Shock Troops on: July 12, 2008, 09:07:53 PM
Obama's Liberal Shock Troops
By JOHN FUND
July 12, 2008; Page A11

Denver

While he is a skilled candidate, Barack Obama's ability to surprise, stun and sweep over the vaunted Clinton Machine to capture the Democratic nomination was rooted in his background as a community organizer. He's now turning those skills to the general election.

But liberals aren't just on the march on the presidential level. This year, liberal activists are spending parts of the fortunes of their wealthy donors to transform politics at the state and local level.

 
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato 
Marchers organized by Acorn rally for a higher minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio, July 10, 2006.
In 2005, billionaire investor George Soros convened a group of 70 super-rich liberal donors in Phoenix to evaluate why their efforts to defeat President Bush had failed. One conclusion was that they needed to step up their long-term efforts to dominate key battleground states. The donors formed a group called Democracy Alliance to make grants in four areas: media, ideas, leadership and civic engagement. Since then, Democracy Alliance partners have donated over $100 million to key progressive organizations.

Take Colorado, which has voted Republican for president in nine of the last 10 presidential elections. But in 2006, Colorado elected a Democratic governor and legislature for the first time in over 30 years. Denver will be the site for the party's 2008 presidential convention. Polls show Barack Obama would carry the state today. This hasn't happened by chance. The Democracy Alliance poured money into Colorado to make it a proving ground for how progressives can take over a state.

Offshoots of leading liberal national groups were set up including Colorado Media Matters in 2006, to correct "conservative misinformation" in the media. Ethics Watch, a group modeled after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was started and proceeded to file a flurry of complaints over alleged campaign finance violations -- while refusing to name its own donors.

Western Progress, a think tank to advance "progressive solutions," opened its doors as did the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, one of 29 such groups around the country. Then there's Colorado Confidential, a project of The Center for Independent Media, which subsidized liberal bloggers. CIM has set up similar ventures in Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, with funding from groups such as the Service Employees International Union, and George Soros's Open Society Institute.

On the electoral front, Progressive Majority Colorado has set up seven offices with the goal of "recruiting progressive leaders" as candidates. America Votes-Colorado promises to coordinate the largest voter mobilization effort in the state's history. "All of this activity has flown under the radar," says Ed Morrissey of the conservative blog Captain's Quarters. "But efforts to change the political ground game may have real long-term consequences."

More audaciously, in Michigan, signatures have been filed to put a sweeping reorganization of state government on this November's ballot. The measure, pushed by a group called "Reform Michigan Government Now," contains at least 36 distinct provisions that take up a dozen pages of fine type. "It's a Trojan Horse dressed up as My Friend Flicka," says Lawrence Reed, president of the conservative Mackinac Center.

In a recession-wracked state seething with public anger at elected officials, the measure hits populist notes by cutting the size of the legislature and reducing the salaries of top officeholders. But on voting, it would mandate no-excuse-needed absentee voting -- despite a long history of vote-fraud scandals involving absentee votes in Detroit and other cities. A redistricting commission would be set up to reshape political boundaries, but state courts would be barred from reviewing any plans it draws up. (Only federal courts could review the boundaries.) Voters would also be barred from rejecting or amending the commission's work by initiative.

There is also a direct attack on the judiciary. The initiative reduces the state's Supreme Court to five members, down from seven, and the state's Court of Appeals to 20 judges, down from 28. Saving money appears not to be the motive: Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm could appoint 10 newly created circuit court judges. The net result would be that conservatives would lose control of the state Supreme Court, because the two justices who would be removed would be the last two appointed by GOP Gov. John Engler. Of the eight appeals court judgeships that would be eliminated, six are now held by people with GOP backgrounds.

"It's a strange reform that benefits one political party exclusively at all three levels of the judiciary," observes Mr. Reed. "Is the intent that the judiciary become just another arm of one of the political parties?"

The financing for the initiative is mysterious and will not be publicly revealed until campaign finance reports are due in late September or early October. But the measure appears to be a Democratic effort. The campaign is being quarterbacked by a former Democratic state legislative leader, and Mark Brewer, the state's Democratic Party chair, says his party supports the measure.

Should Mr. Obama be elected, he would become not just the head of the Democratic Party but also the inspiration for a large number of liberal groups. Some of them would no doubt lobby him to hand out taxpayer grants and contracts for their nonpolitical "community" efforts.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has extensive connections with the granddaddy of activist groups, Acorn (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has gotten millions in government grants for its low-income housing programs. In 1992, Acorn hired Mr. Obama to run a voter registration effort. He later became a trainer for the group, as well as its lawyer in election law cases.

Acorn's political arm has endorsed Mr. Obama while its "voter education" arm has pledged to spend $35 million to register people this fall -- despite a history of vote fraud scandals that have led to guilty pleas by many Acorn employees.

The housing bill now before Congress would set up a slush fund for community organizations such as Acorn. But Acorn has gone quiet in its lobbying for the bill this week with the news that one of its employees -- the brother of Acorn founder Wade Rathke -- had stolen nearly $1 million from the group. Mr. Rathke decided not to alert law enforcement or the organization's board, and kept his brother employed at Acorn until last month. "Is this the kind of group we want getting taxpayer money?" asks Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.)

But Acorn may play, along with other liberal groups, a leading role in electing Mr. Obama. Such groups deserve a closer look now, before their influence and possibly their clout grow dramatically after the November election.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.
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