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24401  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Texas is not Mexico on: May 19, 2011, 12:37:59 PM

By Scott Stewart

As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies.

However, when we look at the dynamics of the narcotics trade, there are other political entities, ones located to Mexico’s north, that find themselves caught in the same geographic and economic position as Mexico and points south. As borderlands, these entities — referred to as states in the U.S. political system — find themselves caught between the supply of drugs flowing from the south and the large narcotics markets to their north. The geographic location of these states results in large quantities of narcotics flowing northward through their territory and large amounts of cash likewise flowing southward. Indeed, this illicit flow has brought with it corruption and violence, but when we look at these U.S. states, their security environments are starkly different from those of Mexican states on the other side of the border.

One implicit reality that flows from the geopolitical concept of borderlands is that while political borders are clearly delineated, the cultural and economic borders surrounding them are frequently less clear and more dynamic. The borderlands on each side of the thin, artificially imposed line we call a border are remarkably similar in geographic and demographic terms (indeed, inhabitants of such areas are often related). In the larger picture, both sides of the border often face the same set of geopolitical realities and challenges. Certainly the border between the United States and Mexico was artificially imposed by the annexation of Texas following its anti-Mexico revolution as well as the U.S. annexation of what is now much of the U.S. West, including the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico, following the Mexican-American War. While the desert regions along the border do provide a bit of a buffer between the two countries — and between the Mexican core and its northern territories — there is no geological obstacle separating the two countries. Even the Rio Grande is not so grand, as the constant flow of illicit goods over it testifies. In many places, like Juarez and El Paso, the U.S.-Mexico border serves to cut cities in half, much like the Berlin Wall used to do.

Yet as one crosses over that artificial line one senses huge differences between the cultural, economic and security environments north and south. In spite of the geopolitical and economic realities confronting both sides of this borderland, Texas is not Mexico. The differences run deep, and we thought it worthwhile this week to examine how and why.


Same Problems, Different Scope

First, it must be understood that this examination does not mean to assert that the illicit narcotics market in the United States has no effect on Mexico (or Central America, for that matter). The flow of narcotics, money and guns, and the organizations that participate in this illicit trade, does have a clear and demonstrable impact on Mexico. But — and this very significant — that impact does not stop at the border. This illicit commerce also impacts the U.S. states north of the border.

Certainly the U.S. side of the border has seen corruption of public officials, cartel-related violence and, of course, drug trafficking. But these phenomena have manifested themselves differently on the U.S. side of the border.

In the United States there have been local cops, sheriffs, customs inspectors and even FBI agents arrested and convicted for corruption. However, the problem is far worse on the Mexican side, where entire police forces have been relieved of their duties due to their cooperation with the drug cartels and where systematic corruption has been traced all the way from the municipal mayoral level to the Presidential Guard, and even to the country’s drug czar. There have even been groups of police officers and military units arrested while actively protecting shipments of drugs in Mexico — something that simply does not occur in the United States. And while Mexican officials are frequently forced to choose between “plata o plomo” (Spanish for “silver or lead,” a direct threat of violence meaning “take the bribe or we will kill you”), that type of threat is extremely rare in the United States. It is also very rare to see politicians, police chiefs and judges killed in the United States — a common occurrence in Mexico.

That said, there certainly has been cartel-related violence on the U.S. side of the border with organizations such as Los Zetas conducting assassinations in places like Houston and Dallas. The claim by some U.S. politicians that there is no spillover violence is patently false. However, the use of violence on the U.S. side has tended to be far more discreet on the part of the cartels (and the U.S. street gangs they are allied with) than in Mexico, where the cartels are frequently quite flagrant. The cartels kill people in the United States but they tend to avoid the gruesome theatrics associated with many drug-related murders in Mexico, where it has become commonplace to see victims beheaded, dismembered or hung from pedestrian walkways over major thoroughfares.

Likewise, the large firefights frequently observed in Mexico involving dozens of armed men on each side using military weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades have come within feet of the border (sometimes with stray rounds crossing over onto the U.S. side), but these types of events have remained on the south side of that invisible line. Mexican cartel gunmen have used dozens of trucks and other large vehicles to set up roadblocks in Matamoros, but they have not followed suit in Brownsville. Cities on the U.S. side of the border are seen as markets, logistics hubs and places of refuge for cartel figures, not battlefields.

Even when we consider drug production, it is important to recognize that the first “super labs” for methamphetamine production were developed in California’s Central Valley, not in Mexico. It was only pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies that forced the relocation of these laboratories south of the border. Certainly, meth production is still going on in many parts of the United States, but the production is being conducted in mom-and-pop operations that can produce only relatively small amounts of the drug, usually of varying quality. By contrast, Mexican super labs can produce tons of meth that is of very high (almost pharmacological) quality. Additionally, while Mexican cartels (and other producers) have long grown marijuana inside the United States in clandestine plots of land, the quantity of marijuana the cartels grow inside the United States is far eclipsed by the industrial marijuana production operations conducted in Mexico.

Even the size of narcotics shipments changes at the border. The huge shipments of drugs that are shipped within Mexico are broken down into smaller lots at stash houses on the Mexican side of the border to be smuggled into the United States. Then they are frequently broken down again in stash houses on the U.S. side of the border. The trafficking of drugs in the United States tends to be far more decentralized and diffuse than it is on the Mexican side, again in response to U.S. law enforcement pressure. Smaller shipments allow drug traffickers to limit their losses if a shipment is seized, and using a decentralized distribution network allows them to be less dependent on any one link in the chain. If one distribution channel is rolled up by the authorities, traffickers can shift their product into another sales channel.


Not Just an Institutional Problem

Above we noted that the same dynamics exist on both sides of the border, and the same cartel groups also operate on both sides. However, we also noted the consistent theme of the Mexican cartels being forced to behave differently on the U.S. side. The organizations are no different, but the environment in which they operate is very different. The corruption, poverty, diminished rule of law and lack of territorial control (particularly in the border-adjacent hinterlands) that is endemic to the Mexican system greatly empowers and emboldens the cartels in Mexico. The operating environment inside the United States is quite different, forcing the cartels to behave differently. Mexican cartels and drug trafficking are problems in the United States, but they are problems that can be controlled by U.S. law enforcement. The environment does not permit the cartels to threaten the U.S. government’s ability to govern.

A geopolitical monograph explaining the forces that have shaped Mexico can be found here. Understanding the geopolitics of Mexico is very helpful to understanding the challenges Mexico faces and why it has become what it is today. This broader understanding is also the key to understanding why the Mexican police simply can’t be reformed to solve the problems of violence and corruption. Certainly, the Mexican government has aggressively pursued police reform for many years now, with very little success. Indeed, it was the lack of a trustworthy law enforcement apparatus that led the Calderon government to turn to the military to counter the power of the Mexican cartels. This lack of reliable law enforcement has also led Calderon to aggressively pursue police reform. This reform effort has included unifying the federal police agencies and consolidating municipal police departments (which have arguably been the most corrupt institutions in Mexico) into unified state police commands, under which officers are subjected to better screening, oversight and accountability. Already, however, there have been numerous instances of these “new and improved” federal- and state-level police officers being arrested for corruption.

This illustrates the fact that Mexico’s ills go far deeper than just corrupt institutions. Because of this, revamping the institutions will not result in any meaningful change, and the revamped institutions will soon be corrupted like the ones they replaced. This fact should have been readily apparent; the institutional approach has been tried in the region before and has failed.

Perhaps the best example of this failure was the “untouchable and incorruptible” Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations, known by its Spanish acronym DOAN, which was created in Guatemala in the mid-1990s. The DOAN was almost purely a creation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The concept behind the creation of the DOAN was that corruption existed within the Guatemalan police institutions because the police were undertrained, underpaid and underequipped. It was believed that if police recruits were carefully screened, properly trained, well paid and adequately equipped, they would not be susceptible to the corruption that plagued the other police institutions in the country. So the U.S. government hand-picked the recruits, thoroughly trained them, paid them generously and provided them with brand-new uniforms and equipment. However, the result was not what the U.S. government expected. By 2002, the “untouchable” DOAN had to be disbanded because it had essentially become a drug trafficking organization itself and was involved in torturing and killing competitors and stealing their shipments of narcotics.

The example of the Guatemalan DOAN (and of more recent Mexican police reform efforts) demonstrates that even a competent, well-paid and well-equipped police institution cannot stand alone within a culture that is not prepared to support it and keep it clean. In other words, over time, an institution will take on the characteristics of, and essentially reflect, the environment surrounding it. Therefore, significant reform in Mexico requires a holistic approach that reaches far beyond the institutions to address the profound economic, sociological and cultural problems that are affecting the country today. Indeed, given how deeply rooted and pervasive these problems are and the geopolitical hand the country was dealt, Mexico has done quite well. But holistic change will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a great deal of time, treasure, leadership and effort. In view of this reality, we can see why it would be more politically expedient simply to blame the Americans.



Read more: Corruption: Why Texas is Not Mexico | STRATFOR
24402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: May 19, 2011, 12:34:17 PM



By Scott Stewart

As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies.

However, when we look at the dynamics of the narcotics trade, there are other political entities, ones located to Mexico’s north, that find themselves caught in the same geographic and economic position as Mexico and points south. As borderlands, these entities — referred to as states in the U.S. political system — find themselves caught between the supply of drugs flowing from the south and the large narcotics markets to their north. The geographic location of these states results in large quantities of narcotics flowing northward through their territory and large amounts of cash likewise flowing southward. Indeed, this illicit flow has brought with it corruption and violence, but when we look at these U.S. states, their security environments are starkly different from those of Mexican states on the other side of the border.

One implicit reality that flows from the geopolitical concept of borderlands is that while political borders are clearly delineated, the cultural and economic borders surrounding them are frequently less clear and more dynamic. The borderlands on each side of the thin, artificially imposed line we call a border are remarkably similar in geographic and demographic terms (indeed, inhabitants of such areas are often related). In the larger picture, both sides of the border often face the same set of geopolitical realities and challenges. Certainly the border between the United States and Mexico was artificially imposed by the annexation of Texas following its anti-Mexico revolution as well as the U.S. annexation of what is now much of the U.S. West, including the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico, following the Mexican-American War. While the desert regions along the border do provide a bit of a buffer between the two countries — and between the Mexican core and its northern territories — there is no geological obstacle separating the two countries. Even the Rio Grande is not so grand, as the constant flow of illicit goods over it testifies. In many places, like Juarez and El Paso, the U.S.-Mexico border serves to cut cities in half, much like the Berlin Wall used to do.

Yet as one crosses over that artificial line one senses huge differences between the cultural, economic and security environments north and south. In spite of the geopolitical and economic realities confronting both sides of this borderland, Texas is not Mexico. The differences run deep, and we thought it worthwhile this week to examine how and why.


Same Problems, Different Scope

First, it must be understood that this examination does not mean to assert that the illicit narcotics market in the United States has no effect on Mexico (or Central America, for that matter). The flow of narcotics, money and guns, and the organizations that participate in this illicit trade, does have a clear and demonstrable impact on Mexico. But — and this very significant — that impact does not stop at the border. This illicit commerce also impacts the U.S. states north of the border.

Certainly the U.S. side of the border has seen corruption of public officials, cartel-related violence and, of course, drug trafficking. But these phenomena have manifested themselves differently on the U.S. side of the border.

In the United States there have been local cops, sheriffs, customs inspectors and even FBI agents arrested and convicted for corruption. However, the problem is far worse on the Mexican side, where entire police forces have been relieved of their duties due to their cooperation with the drug cartels and where systematic corruption has been traced all the way from the municipal mayoral level to the Presidential Guard, and even to the country’s drug czar. There have even been groups of police officers and military units arrested while actively protecting shipments of drugs in Mexico — something that simply does not occur in the United States. And while Mexican officials are frequently forced to choose between “plata o plomo” (Spanish for “silver or lead,” a direct threat of violence meaning “take the bribe or we will kill you”), that type of threat is extremely rare in the United States. It is also very rare to see politicians, police chiefs and judges killed in the United States — a common occurrence in Mexico.

That said, there certainly has been cartel-related violence on the U.S. side of the border with organizations such as Los Zetas conducting assassinations in places like Houston and Dallas. The claim by some U.S. politicians that there is no spillover violence is patently false. However, the use of violence on the U.S. side has tended to be far more discreet on the part of the cartels (and the U.S. street gangs they are allied with) than in Mexico, where the cartels are frequently quite flagrant. The cartels kill people in the United States but they tend to avoid the gruesome theatrics associated with many drug-related murders in Mexico, where it has become commonplace to see victims beheaded, dismembered or hung from pedestrian walkways over major thoroughfares.

Likewise, the large firefights frequently observed in Mexico involving dozens of armed men on each side using military weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades have come within feet of the border (sometimes with stray rounds crossing over onto the U.S. side), but these types of events have remained on the south side of that invisible line. Mexican cartel gunmen have used dozens of trucks and other large vehicles to set up roadblocks in Matamoros, but they have not followed suit in Brownsville. Cities on the U.S. side of the border are seen as markets, logistics hubs and places of refuge for cartel figures, not battlefields.

Even when we consider drug production, it is important to recognize that the first “super labs” for methamphetamine production were developed in California’s Central Valley, not in Mexico. It was only pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies that forced the relocation of these laboratories south of the border. Certainly, meth production is still going on in many parts of the United States, but the production is being conducted in mom-and-pop operations that can produce only relatively small amounts of the drug, usually of varying quality. By contrast, Mexican super labs can produce tons of meth that is of very high (almost pharmacological) quality. Additionally, while Mexican cartels (and other producers) have long grown marijuana inside the United States in clandestine plots of land, the quantity of marijuana the cartels grow inside the United States is far eclipsed by the industrial marijuana production operations conducted in Mexico.

Even the size of narcotics shipments changes at the border. The huge shipments of drugs that are shipped within Mexico are broken down into smaller lots at stash houses on the Mexican side of the border to be smuggled into the United States. Then they are frequently broken down again in stash houses on the U.S. side of the border. The trafficking of drugs in the United States tends to be far more decentralized and diffuse than it is on the Mexican side, again in response to U.S. law enforcement pressure. Smaller shipments allow drug traffickers to limit their losses if a shipment is seized, and using a decentralized distribution network allows them to be less dependent on any one link in the chain. If one distribution channel is rolled up by the authorities, traffickers can shift their product into another sales channel.


Not Just an Institutional Problem

Above we noted that the same dynamics exist on both sides of the border, and the same cartel groups also operate on both sides. However, we also noted the consistent theme of the Mexican cartels being forced to behave differently on the U.S. side. The organizations are no different, but the environment in which they operate is very different. The corruption, poverty, diminished rule of law and lack of territorial control (particularly in the border-adjacent hinterlands) that is endemic to the Mexican system greatly empowers and emboldens the cartels in Mexico. The operating environment inside the United States is quite different, forcing the cartels to behave differently. Mexican cartels and drug trafficking are problems in the United States, but they are problems that can be controlled by U.S. law enforcement. The environment does not permit the cartels to threaten the U.S. government’s ability to govern.

A geopolitical monograph explaining the forces that have shaped Mexico can be found here. Understanding the geopolitics of Mexico is very helpful to understanding the challenges Mexico faces and why it has become what it is today. This broader understanding is also the key to understanding why the Mexican police simply can’t be reformed to solve the problems of violence and corruption. Certainly, the Mexican government has aggressively pursued police reform for many years now, with very little success. Indeed, it was the lack of a trustworthy law enforcement apparatus that led the Calderon government to turn to the military to counter the power of the Mexican cartels. This lack of reliable law enforcement has also led Calderon to aggressively pursue police reform. This reform effort has included unifying the federal police agencies and consolidating municipal police departments (which have arguably been the most corrupt institutions in Mexico) into unified state police commands, under which officers are subjected to better screening, oversight and accountability. Already, however, there have been numerous instances of these “new and improved” federal- and state-level police officers being arrested for corruption.

This illustrates the fact that Mexico’s ills go far deeper than just corrupt institutions. Because of this, revamping the institutions will not result in any meaningful change, and the revamped institutions will soon be corrupted like the ones they replaced. This fact should have been readily apparent; the institutional approach has been tried in the region before and has failed.

Perhaps the best example of this failure was the “untouchable and incorruptible” Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations, known by its Spanish acronym DOAN, which was created in Guatemala in the mid-1990s. The DOAN was almost purely a creation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The concept behind the creation of the DOAN was that corruption existed within the Guatemalan police institutions because the police were undertrained, underpaid and underequipped. It was believed that if police recruits were carefully screened, properly trained, well paid and adequately equipped, they would not be susceptible to the corruption that plagued the other police institutions in the country. So the U.S. government hand-picked the recruits, thoroughly trained them, paid them generously and provided them with brand-new uniforms and equipment. However, the result was not what the U.S. government expected. By 2002, the “untouchable” DOAN had to be disbanded because it had essentially become a drug trafficking organization itself and was involved in torturing and killing competitors and stealing their shipments of narcotics.

The example of the Guatemalan DOAN (and of more recent Mexican police reform efforts) demonstrates that even a competent, well-paid and well-equipped police institution cannot stand alone within a culture that is not prepared to support it and keep it clean. In other words, over time, an institution will take on the characteristics of, and essentially reflect, the environment surrounding it. Therefore, significant reform in Mexico requires a holistic approach that reaches far beyond the institutions to address the profound economic, sociological and cultural problems that are affecting the country today. Indeed, given how deeply rooted and pervasive these problems are and the geopolitical hand the country was dealt, Mexico has done quite well. But holistic change will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a great deal of time, treasure, leadership and effort. In view of this reality, we can see why it would be more politically expedient simply to blame the Americans.



Read more: Corruption: Why Texas is Not Mexico | STRATFOR
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Repoart from the Libyan-Tunisia Border-2 on: May 19, 2011, 12:17:15 PM
second post of the morning

Report from the Libyan-Tunisian Border, Part II
May 19, 2011 | 1219 GMT
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BORNI HICHEM/AFP/Getty Images
Libyan rebels inspect a vehicle in the border city of Wazin on April 23The following is the second and final installment of a field report written by a STRATFOR source who recently visited the Libyan-Tunisian border. While Libyan rebels in the coastal town of Misurata have made significant gains in recent weeks against the Libyan army, the other remaining outpost of rebellion in western Libya — mainly ethnic Berbers holding out in the Nafusa Mountains — has seen no significant change in the tactical situation since rebels seized the Wazin-Dehiba border crossing April 21.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi launch Grad rockets and other forms of artillery at the string of rebel-held towns along the mountain range on a daily basis, but they have been unable to retake the elevated positions, which give the rebels access to a strategic redoubt in neighboring Tunisia. Control of the border crossing — one of only two official outposts between the two countries, and the only one in the vicinity of the Nafusa Mountains (also known as the Western Mountains) — affords the rebels the luxury of an unimpeded supply line from Tunisia. Were the rebels to lose control of the border post, they would be forced to smuggle materiel through the mountains. Though local tribes know the terrain well and are used to smuggling subsidized gasoline from Libya into Tunisia during the days before the Libyan conflict broke out, this is still a less-secure proposition than simply driving across the border on the main road and would make it more difficult for the rebels to sustain their guerrilla fight against Gadhafi.



(click here to enlarge image)
The fighting between the Libyan army and the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains has caused strains recently between the governments of Tunisia and Libya. Reports of stray Libyan artillery rockets landing on Tunisian soil are frequent, and though the damage has been minimal — a few injuries, but no deaths — there have also been instances in which Libyan soldiers fled into Tunisia during firefights with rebel forces, which Tunisia sees as a violation of its sovereignty. At the time STRATFOR’s source was leaving Dehiba, dozens of artillery rockets allegedly fell in the vicinity of the town once again, prompting the Tunisian government to issue a communique in which it threatened to report Libya to the U.N. Security Council for “committing acts of an enemy.”

Editor’s Note: What follows is a field report from a STRATFOR source in the region.

“I crossed onto the Libyan side again May 16 and talked to a bunch of traders from Zentan who sell sheep in Tunisia and bring gasoline back to Zentan the next day. They told me Zentan is being hit by an average of 20 artillery rockets — considered by everyone to be 122 mm Grads — each day, sometimes as many as 100. Only four struck on May 15, and there were none during the two or three previous days. I tend to consider the numbers rhetorical exaggerations on their part, but then again I heard heavy machine gun fire and at least 15 artillery rockets target the mountains during the two nights I was in Dehiba. As far as the military situation in and around Zentan is concerned, there seems to basically have been no significant change over the last three months, of course with the exception of the border post having been taken and its effect on the rebel supply lines. Before, everything had to go through the smuggling routes in the mountains — actually more like big hills, but pretty steep.

Both on the Tunisian and Libyan side, everyone was smuggling even before the war. Dehiba is a sort of bay surrounded on two sides by the mountains behind which lies Libya. Before the unrest, people were bringing gasoline from Libya into Tunisia because it was so much cheaper. Now the direction of the traffic has changed but the intensity only has picked up. There are rundown pickup trucks all over the place that have no license plates and are only used to cross the mountains. The soldiers and border control guards know this, of course; they can actually see it because the main point of commerce to trade sheep brought in from Libya is just behind the border post. This makes the whole situation kind of odd as cars going through the post are subject to a close scrutiny. But at the same time, everyone knows you can just go around. I guess the idea is that only locals can avoid the posts because they know the routes you have to take, while foreigners from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — who are the ones people are worried about, especially since the arrests in recent weeks — have to go through the controls.

In Zentan, the rebels hold the city center and families and old men are in the outskirts or accompanying villages. These men claimed that only 25 percent of residents had left, and after seeing the relatively low amount of refugees on the Tunisian side of the border I would believe that. Gadhafi’s troops shell downtown Zentan from down the mountain, though there does not seem to be much of a discernable pattern to their targeting. The rebels there claim to have killed 200 soldiers and imprisoned 250. At the same time, they claim there are only 500 soldiers encircling Zentan. Among the prisoners, according to the two supply runners I spoke to, there are mercenaries from Mali, Chad, Algeria and Sudan. Also, the families of local officers on Gadhafi’s side supposedly are being held hostage in Tripoli in order to ensure the officers’ obeisance.

I believe most of what those two told me, except some of the figures. They were guests of the man with whom I was staying. We ate, had tea and smoked together. This kind of stuff means everything down there. I had previously tried to talk to people from Zentan in a refugee camp while with an American working for an international nongovernmental organization and no one wanted to talk to us. The local who introduced me changed everything in that sense.

On the Libyan side of the border, I ventured into the first rebel-held town, Wazin. I was unable to go farther, as I had no one to translate for me and was worried about not getting back to Tunisia before nightfall (when the shelling usually starts). I talked to a group of young men from Jadu there. There were maybe seven or eight of them hanging out at a bombed-out gas station where they also sleep. The rebels have formed troops by locality of about 20 men each. They take shifts up on the mountains in three units — two days up there defending their front, one day in the valley to relax. Underequipped, they are forced to hand off their arms to the ones coming up when they switch. They claim they have taken all their weapons from Gadhafi’s soldiers.

All the rebels I met were former students or university graduates with low-paying jobs, one truck driver with a geology degree, for example, who had never fought before. I doubt very much their claim that the rebels are composed of about 40-50 percent former professional soldiers. I didn’t see nor talk to a single rebel who fit this description.

One of my new friends, a youngster living in Dehiba, called me when I was on my way back to Tunis and told me Gadhafi’s forces had started shelling more intensely, including during the day, which didn’t happen when I was there. It seems they also targeted Wazin, which also hadn’t been happening. The rebels on the mountain road they are holding seem to have moved back their positions some. Maybe that rumor that Gadhafi’s troops had received reinforcements a few days ago was true after all. The new rumor (as of May 17) is that Gadhafi has given his troops 48 hours to take the border post again, but then again, we’ve seen self-imposed deadlines like this from Gadhafi before in other theaters of the war, and they typically don’t mean much.”

24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The TNC on: May 19, 2011, 12:07:46 PM
By JUDITH MILLER
Washington

Mahmoud Jibril, the interim prime minister of the Libyan opposition government, is a desperate man with a fondness for medical metaphors. "If you're bleeding to death, you need a tourniquet, not another diagnosis," he told the diplomats, lobbyists and pro-democracy activists invited to a reception at the Libyan ambassador's elegant house in Washington, D.C., last Thursday.

This was the first official visit by Mr. Jibril and other representatives of the Transitional National Council (TNC) who are struggling to manage Libya's transition from 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship to a democratic future. The delegation left Washington over the weekend with lots of goodwill but without the "tourniquet" Mr. Jibril was seeking—access to $3 billion of the $32 billion in Libyan assets that the U.S. froze in February.

After almost two days of nonstop meetings between the Libyans and members of Congress, officials at the State Department and the Pentagon, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the White House issued a terse statement calling Mr. Jibril and the TNC he co-chairs "credible and legitimate." Privately, the White House also pledged to help speed legislation suggested by Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), and supported by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), to give the rebels access to some $180 million of Libyan funds.

But legislation takes time. And Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's reluctance to get more deeply involved in Libya—the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not attend Friday's meeting with the Libyans—does not bode well for quick action. Time is an all-too-precious commodity for the rebels, who say they are running out of money.

Ali Tarhouni, the interim government's finance minister, said that even if Mr. Kerry's relief package were approved, the money only would cover the cost of feeding and providing power to Libya's liberated areas for 10-12 days. "We really appreciate everything the U.S. is doing," Mr. Tarhouni told me. "But it doesn't solve my problem. I'm basically trying to run a war economy without resources. We're not asking for American taxpayer money," he said, "just access to our own frozen funds, or loans using them as collateral."

Mr. Tarhouni said he hoped that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would provide some more interim relief. Support from both countries—which along with France, Italy and a few African states have recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government and sent fuel to the rebels—has been "outstanding," he said.

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Associated Press
 
Mahmoud Jibril
.Although the delegation left Washington empty-handed, it made some progress, according to Libyan and American sources. The delegation's visit reminded America that while Washington dithers, Libyans continue to die. Mr. Jibril told me that, based on hospital estimates, more than 11,000 Libyans have already been killed in the 12 weeks of fighting. The United Nations says that more than 800,000 people have fled Libya and that 1.6 million inside the country need assistance.

The visit has also allayed some concern that the rebel leadership is infiltrated and unduly influenced by al Qaeda or its longtime affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) —a standard theme of Gadhafi's narrative about the TNC.

Messrs. Jibril and Tarhouni acknowledge there are LIFG members and some other militants' voices represented in the council. Since the TNC represents all anti-Gadhafi elements of the country, "they are included," Mr. Jibril says. But he insists they are not in leadership positions and will not determine foreign or domestic policy if and when Gadhafi is overthrown, if the TNC survives.

Mr. Jibril got his masters and a doctorate in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985. Though he served from 2007-09 as the chair of the Gadhafi's National Economic Development Board and led the Libyan National Planning Council, Libya experts never considered him part of the dictator's inner circle.

Mr. Tarhouni's democratic credentials are more impressive. He was a university student in Libya decades ago when his antiregime activities landed him on a Gadhafi hit list and forced him to flee. An economics professor at the University of Washington, he abruptly left his family and students to join the Libyan uprising, apologizing to his students for his departure. "I told them I had been waiting 40 years for this moment. In fact, I had almost lost hope that I would ever live to see it," he said.

Both men express gratitude toward the U.S.—as well as their growing frustration—in vivid, colloquial English. Mr. Jibril, for instance, explaining why the rebels have been unwilling to declare themselves Libya's government, articulated his dilemma this way: If the TNC took such action, Gadhafi would accuse them of being a separatist movement. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution on Thursday.

It is this legalistic never-never land that has complicated the TNC's effort to secure more concrete support from Washington. But that alone does not fully explain Washington's hesitation. Some in Congress and within the White House continue to warn of "mission creep" in Libya. What began, belatedly, as an effort to protect the population of Benghazi in eastern Libya has become a grueling stalemate. With no obvious vital strategic interests at stake in the vast, oil-rich land of 6.5 million, and with two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some American analysts warn ominously about the dangers of "imperial overreach."

The Obama administration has repeatedly called for Gadhafi to relinquish power, and it has been quietly searching for a country that will host him. The State Department has not permitted Gadhafi to replace his ambassadors in Washington and at the United Nations. Both have defected to the rebels. But the U.S. has not recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government either.

After their meetings in Washington, neither Mahmoud Jibril nor Ali Tarhouni seemed worried about tomorrow's War Powers Act deadline—which requires President Obama to end the use of force absent a Congressional decision to keep going. "The message we got is that this is not going to be a problem," Mr. Tarhouni said.

The administration "is not going to pull the plug on this engagement," says Dirk Vandewalle, a Libya expert and professor of government at Dartmouth. "We may not know who will lead Libya after Gadhafi falls," he added, "but the TNC has emerged as a coherent force that is reaching out to a wide range of Libyans and thinking seriously about the future."

Ms. Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a commentator for Fox News.

24405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What BO should say on: May 19, 2011, 12:04:35 PM


By JAMES K. GLASSMAN
AND JUAN ZARATE
The twin events of the Arab Spring and the death of Osama bin Laden provide President Obama with an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the distorted narrative that the West is at war with Islam. His speech today, addressed mainly to the world's one and a half billion Muslims, is a perfect moment to establish a clear new story line—one that puts Muslims, and not the U.S., at the center of events in the Middle East and South Asia.

During our time in government, we put heavy emphasis on pushing back against the pernicious ideology of America's enemies. We believed that to make America safe we had to prevail in a war of ideas. But we also learned quickly that it was ineffective simply to say: "You're wrong when you accuse us of trying to destroy your religion. It's clear that we are good, tolerant people."

Despite the declining popularity of al Qaeda over the past few years and the change in American administrations, the prevailing and persistent narrative among Muslim communities is that the U.S. and the West in general are trying to destroy Islam and humiliate and marginalize Muslims. Once someone believes this narrative, he interprets events in any way necessary to fit into that framework.

Thus the American intervention to save Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s is ignored or explained away. Or, when the U.S. sends troops to Indonesia on a humanitarian mission to distribute food after a devastating tsunami, rumors sweep the country that the true objective is to lay the groundwork for conquering the nation in the name of Christianity.

The only way to answer a false narrative is to develop a true one, to promote it heavily, and to wait until events make the alternate narrative so broadly self-evident that it supplants the old one. In this case, the true narrative is that there is an epochal conflict occurring. It is not a "clash of civilizations," as Samuel Huntington described the confrontation between Islam and the West, but rather a "clash within a civilization"—that is, within Muslim communities themselves.

This narrative properly removes the U.S. from center-stage, and it allows Muslims to assume responsibility for critical events unfolding in their countries rather than feeling like impotent bystanders.

There are two conflicts that make up this clash within a civilization and both have become much clearer in the wake of the Arab Spring. The first is between believers in the great religion of Islam and violent Islamist extremists. The second struggle is between Muslims and others in the Middle East striving for freedom against autocratic rulers. When justice in this long battle finally prevails—when al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups are defeated and when freedom and democracy triumph—the victory will be justifiably a source of Muslim pride and renewal.

Though neither of these conflicts is about the U.S. directly, both affect us, as we learned on 9/11. For moral and national security reasons, we must be involved by supporting those fighting ideological oppression. Yet in the end, the conflicts have to be resolved by Muslims themselves.

The message that Americans will continue to help the forces of pluralism and moderation should have been the focus of President Obama's Cairo speech two years ago. Unfortunately, the president played into the prevailing narrative, apologizing for past American action in sweeping terms.

Worse, the resulting policy of engagement with autocratic regimes in the Middle East sacrificed our principles for the false hope of diplomatic breakthroughs. For instance, America tried actively to engage with repressive rulers in Iran, Syria and elsewhere; we reduced financial backing for civil society advocates in Egypt; and we failed to provide vigorous moral and material support to pro-democracy dissidents in Iran before they were crushed.

The good news is that the groundwork that had been laid previously (in large part during the Bush administration) and, more important, the will of Muslims themselves, have begun to pay off. The new narrative of a conflict within a civilization has emerged without any apparent assistance from U.S. strategic communicators. One handmade protest sign in Egypt summed it up: "Why enslave people? We're born free."

Meanwhile, the dramatic events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere show that President George W. Bush was right when he said that "freedom is universal" and that the "untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world." Muslims desire and deserve freedom as much as everyone else. (A new Pew poll finds that vast majorities in Jordan, Egypt and other Muslim nations believe that democracy is better than any other kind of government.) Muslims aren't condemned to being permanent democratic outliers. The battle for freedom is far from over, but the path is now clear.

President Obama should use his speech to shape this narrative. The story is not about us. It's about brave Muslims fighting for freedom, who, in the end, will triumph.

Mr. Glassman served as under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the George W. Bush administration and is now executive director of the Bush Institute in Dallas. Mr. Zarate was deputy national security advisor for Counter-Terrorism and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alexcander: The Directorate of Indoctrination on: May 19, 2011, 11:56:35 AM
The Directorate of Indoctrination
Leftist Academic Apparatchiks
"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington from his Farewell Address, 1796
It's the end of the school year, so Barack Hussein Obama is including commencement speech whistle stops on his 2012 campaign itinerary.

In Memphis, where Obama delivered one such speech to budding sycophants at Booker T. Washington high school, he asserted, "My administration has been working hard to make sure that we ... encourage the kind of change that's led not by Washington, DC, but by teachers and principals and parents..." (Notice the order in which he lists the agents of change: "teachers and principals and parents.")

Of course, "the kind of change" led by socialist unions in government schools across the nation is already in lock step with what "Washington, DC" dictates. They're both bent upon churning out legions of useful idiots necessary to ensure incremental implementation of Democratic Socialism. Of incremental implementation, Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev once said, "We can't expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have communism."

I must note here that there are thousands of outstanding teachers who do not subscribe to Leftist efforts to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" via student indoctrination, partisan and sectarian curricula, and a liberal worldview. However, I must also note that, unfortunately, these brave souls are the rare exception to what was once the rule.

Prior to latter-20th century, outstanding teachers dominated public schools.

Historically, establishment of most private and public academic institutions for the young was, first and foremost, for the purpose of reading the Bible. Indeed, most Christian denominations established schools, colleges and universities to train clergy.

The nation's oldest academic institution, Harvard University, was established in 1636 and named for Puritan minister John Harvard. A 1643 college brochure identified Harvard's purpose: "To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." Harvard alumnus John Adams (class of 1755) wrote in 1776, "It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe." In his Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, Adams wrote, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers."

Yale, the nation's third oldest academic institution, was established in 1701 by royal charter "wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." Yale alumnus Noah Webster (class of 1778), wrote in the forward of his 1828 Webster's American Dictionary, "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. ... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."

Princeton was founded by "New Light" Presbyterians of the Great Awakening for the purpose of training their ministers. Jonathan Dickinson, a Presbyterian minister and leader of the Great Awakening of the 1730s, was the school's co-founder and first president. Princeton alumnus James Madison (class of 1771) observed, "The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it."

Virginia's College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, was Anglican. Baptists founded Rhode Island College, now Brown University, in 1764. Congregationalists established Dartmouth College in 1769 to extend Christianity to native populations.

Founder Benjamin Rush wrote, "[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

But teaching reliance upon Essential Liberty as "endowed by our Creator," in support of Rule of Law as affirmed by "the Law of Nature and nature's God" and as outlined in our Declaration of Independence, is in direct opposition to those who would advocate for tyrannical rule of men.

Benjamin Franklin asserted, "A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

The importance of government education as a tool for denying Rule of Law has been advocated by generations of tyrants. In order to achieve totalitarianism, they must undertake to expel God from the academy.

Karl Marx wrote, "The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense." His student Vladimir Ilyich Lenin concurred, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." As Josef Stalin understood, "Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

Leftists also understand that the earlier socialist indoctrination is applied, the greater its force, and the greater the likelihood it will stick.

Obama promised in his inaugural speech that he would "transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age." It was a promise that he'd previously fleshed out in "The Audacity of Hope," the second of his self-congratulatory autobiographies: "It's time to redesign our schools -- not just for the sake of working parents, but also to help prepare our children for a more competitive world. Countless studies confirm the educational benefits of strong preschool programs, which is why even families which have a parent at home often seek them out."

Likewise, its sunrise-to-sunset year-round application could provide further assurance of successful indoctrination. "The same goes for longer school days, summer school, and after school programs," writes Obama.

To that end, according to the Communist Party Education Workers Congress, "We must create out of the younger generation a generation of Communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good Communists. ... We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children's nurseries and schools. There they will grow up to be real Communists."

Of course, the Left's indoctrination agenda has been subject to exposure since its inception.

Benjamin Disraeli, the conservative 19th-century British prime minister, noted, "Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery." His contemporary, John Stuart Mill, warned, "A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body."

The great 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke observed, "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." Indeed, that delusion is dependent on erasing the knowledge of the past, as 20th-century philosopher George Santayana concluded, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Caveat emptor, my fellow Patriots! The ultimate objective of Leftist Apparatchiks in the Democrats' dumbed-down Directorate of Indoctrination is to disenfranchise Liberty.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

24407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CA bill respects authority of parents on: May 19, 2011, 11:51:49 AM
I have to confess my initial reaction to the headline was to roll my eyes in contempt for yet another government entity that I assumed was trying to legislate good parenting. After all, it’s a trend that has gained traction of late.
Some states are mandating the content of school lunches. Others have laws about how old kids must be to baby-sit. All states now have rules about bicycle helmets and federal law dictates when parents can take the booster seat out of the minivan and put it in a garage sale.

In fact, there are even laws about what sorts of toys and child gear can be sold at a garage sale. (Short answer: pretty much nothing unless you have it tested for lead.)

Given the propensity for governments to take it upon themselves to “assist” parents in the upbringing of our children on the assumption that we obviously don’t know what we’re doing, I figured a proposed California statute was just more of the same.

Turns out I’m in agreement with the legislation introduced by the Golden State’s Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, a Democrat. Not only is her bill an effort to empower users of social networking sites and protect their privacy when creating user profiles, but more importantly, Mrs. Corbett’s bill would restore parental authority over the online activities of minor children.

Currently, sites such as Facebook have default settings for new users. When you sign up for a Facebook account, your profile automatically is set to allow “Everyone” to see your information. You then must change to more restrictive settings if you want your profile viewed only by “Friends” or “Friends of friends.”

The California bill would demand that social networking sites do exactly the opposite - default to a restrictive setting that shows only your name and city. You then could open the door to your public profile, rather than close it after the fact.

More importantly to parents, this bill would allow Californians to demand that sites like Facebook take down within 48 hours information about their minor children when parents request it.

Like me, your reaction might have been, I already have the right to demand this, I’m the parent. Unfortunately, according to Facebook’s “frequently asked questions,” you don’t have that right at all.

Facebook didn’t get to be the world’s largest social networking site by catering to concerned parents, after all.

The company prohibits users younger than 13 and cooperates with parents or others who report underage users by deleting their accounts, though if you want to see the information a child posted on Facebook, you “may” be able to do so. It’s not an easy process. (There’s notaries, forms, conforming to applicable laws, etc., to deal with.)

But users ages 13 to 18 are guaranteed privacy by Facebook. Parental authority essentially is meaningless when your child becomes an “authorized” user of Facebook. Rather, the company simply encourages parents to talk with their kids about the best ways to use the site.

We send some strange and conflicting messages to our teenagers. On one hand, we practically encourage their ongoing adolescence with rules that regulate whether they can ride a bike to school, much less get a job or drive a car.

Then again, we let them roam the Internet, facilitating and respecting their privacy without the means to assert our proper protection and judgment over their virtual activities.

There probably are a host of unintended consequences with this bill, but there’s also a germ of respect for parents in it that ought to be upheld more broadly.

Solid parenting usually will alleviate the need to go around a teen and demand that information be removed from his or her Facebook page.

Still, a law that reminds social networking companies of the primacy of parents in the lives of their minor children is a good thing.
24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Colbert's unfreedom of speech on: May 19, 2011, 11:47:30 AM
Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites "unlimited corporate money" to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke's been on him.

The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.

Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn't set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert's on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal "in-kind" contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert's PAC.

All was not lost, however. As Mr. Potter explained, the comedian might still be able to set up a "Super PAC," a group that can raise unlimited sums of money as long as it spends it only on independent ads, without donating at all to candidates. Super PACs exist because of another case that proponents of campaign-finance law despise, SpeechNow.org v. FEC.

So the newly dubbed "Colbert Super PAC" was off to the races. Mr. Colbert could finally show us how amusing it is to raise unlimited corporate dollars and spend them on political ads.

View Full Image

Getty Images/FilmMagic
 
Stephen Colbert in Washington, D.C., last year.
.Or so it seemed. On May 11, Mr. Potter returned with more bad news: Viacom didn't like Mr. Colbert's plan because his on-air commentary might still amount to a contribution from Viacom to his Super PAC. It's difficult to place a dollar value on airtime, so a reporting mistake could put both Viacom and Mr. Colbert in legal hot water. Isn't campaign-finance law funny?

"Why does it get so complicated to do this? I mean, this is page after page of legalese," Mr. Colbert lamented. "All I'm trying to do is affect the 2012 election. It's not like I'm trying to install iTunes."

Well, that's pretty much what the nonprofit group Citizens United said to the Supreme Court in the case that Mr. Colbert is trying so hard to lampoon.

Campaign-finance laws are so complicated that few can navigate them successfully and speak during elections—which is what the First Amendment is supposed to protect. As the Supreme Court noted in Citizens United, federal laws have created "71 distinct entities" that "are subject to different rules for 33 different types of political speech." The FEC has adopted 568 pages of regulations and thousands of pages of explanations and opinions on what the laws mean. "Legalese" doesn't begin to describe this mess.

So what is someone who wants to speak during elections to do? If you're Stephen Colbert, the answer is to instruct high-priced attorneys to plead your case with the FEC: Last Friday, he filed a formal request with the FEC for a "media exemption" that would allow him to publicize his Super PAC on air without creating legal headaches for Viacom.

How's that for a punch line? Rich and successful television personality needs powerful corporate lawyers to convince the FEC to allow him to continue making fun of the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

Of course, there's nothing new about the argument Mr. Colbert's lawyers are making to the FEC. Media companies' exemption from campaign-finance laws has existed for decades. That was part of the Supreme Court's point in Citizens United: Media corporations are allowed to spend lots of money on campaign speech, so why not other corporations?

Whether Mr. Colbert understands that he has made the Supreme Court's point is anyone's guess. But there's nothing funny about what he has had to go through to set up a PAC, because real people who want to speak out during elections face these confounding laws all the time. And as his attempt at humor ironically demonstrates, the laws remain byzantine and often impossible to navigate, even after Citizens United.

There's a joke in here somewhere, but it isn't on the Supreme Court.

Messrs. Simpson and Sherman are attorneys at the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs in SpeechNow.org v. FEC.

24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: May 19, 2011, 11:35:15 AM
By JAY SOLOMON And ADAM ENTOUS
WASHINGTON—When President Barack Obama lays out his vision for the Middle East in a speech Thursday, he will also be tacitly drawing attention to another upheaval: Tumult in the Arab world has accelerated a shift in the standing of Washington's foreign-policy power players.

The Obama White House has moved to exert greater civilian control over the military, challenging the views of the top brass in some areas, officials say. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's State Department, together with a more assertive White House National Security Council, has taken a lead in crafting America's response to the greatest geopolitical challenge since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Underscoring this shift is Mr. Obama's choice of venue to deliver the address: the State Department. The address Thursday morning—which is late afternoon, Cairo time—will be the president's first major policy address from the home base of U.S. foreign diplomacy.

The military's standing in the White House reflects lingering tensions with some of Mr. Obama's civilian advisers that grew out of a 2009 debate over escalating the war in Afghanistan, according to senior U.S. officials and foreign diplomats.

When popular revolutions began sweeping the Arab world, many in the military, which has been generally cautious about intervention, were reluctant to see longstanding Arab allies, such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, pushed out.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and many military leaders were also particularly cautious about military action in Libya. Some have taken to calling the Libya campaign the "estrogen war" in an implicit critique of Mrs. Clinton and other female administration officials who backed it.

Mrs. Clinton was also an early voice of caution when it came to Egypt. But she moved more quickly to break with autocrats in Yemen and Libya and push for democratic change in Bahrain, while managing to maintain relationships with unhappy Arab allies, U.S. officials say.

Officials in the State Department and the White House, especially those who backed the use of force in Libya, dismiss the estrogen comment as the sexist grousing of military men who lost the argument.

===================
Managing the Turmoil | Some U.S. responses to Arab uprisings
Egypt State Department and Pentagon joined in urging caution about pushing for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. On peace with Israel, counterterrorism and hostility to Iran, he was a vital U.S. ally. Having invested decades in building ties to the Egyptian army, Pentagon veterans shared Mrs. Clinton's view.

Bahrain The popular uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom concerned U.S. military officials, who were fearful of losing their base for the Pentagon's Fifth Fleet, which polices the Gulf, and worried about what might happen if the regime fell. Mrs. Clinton pushed Bahrain to make political changes, chilling relations with Arab states.

Yemen Mrs. Clinton angered President Ali Abdullah Saleh in January by demanding a meeting with activists. In March, Defense Secretary Gates said the Yemeni leader's fate was 'too soon to call,' and praised his government as an ally against al Qaeda. The White House is now pushing Mr. Saleh to resign sooner rather than later.
======================

Libya Mr. Gates, urged caution when considering military intervention. Pentagon officials worried about the department being overstretched. 'This is not a question of whether we or our allies can do this. We can,' Mr. Gates said. 'The question is whether this is a wise thing to do.' The White House chose to proceed.
."Secretary Clinton has become one of the most forceful officials working on the world stage," says Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Her influence with the president has been enhanced by her stature."

The next test is Syria, where officials across the administration worry the fall of President Bashar al-Assad could unleash sectarian violence. Some aides to Mrs. Clinton, however, see the unrest as an unrivaled opportunity to diminish the power of Syria's ally, Iran, and rewrite the politics of the region.

Mr. Obama is expected to argue Thursday that the death of Osama bin Laden, paired with the popular uprisings, signals the possibility of a new, open and democratic opportunity for a region that is largely the province of entrenched autocrats.

Mr. Obama will also announce an economic aid plan focused on Egypt and Tunisia, according to senior administration officials, including $1 billion in debt relief and $1 billion in loan guarantees for Egypt, the creation of an Egyptian-American enterprise fund to help promote private investment, and a framework for strengthening trade.

Mr. Obama will speak from the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room. White House officials say the setting embodies the policy shift the president is trying to achieve.

Even as the U.S. pursues "principally military and intelligence efforts" to fight terrorism and build toward an exit from Afghanistan, "the longer future in the Middle East we believe will have a huge diplomatic component to it," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

That puts the military in a bind. Many in the Pentagon ascribe to what Washington policy wonks call the "realist" theory of foreign policy, which believes in narrowly defined international goals, not reshaping the world. "We take countries as they are, not as we might wish they could be," said a senior military officer working on the Middle East.

Mrs. Clinton is no idealist, but she has sought to build the State Department into a powerful base, and in recent months has made common cause with a younger group of more idealistic White House officials, according to U.S. officials. Senior U.S. officials say the eruption of political revolts across the Middle East at the beginning of 2011 blindsided the administration.

Mrs. Clinton was forced to fashion the administration's first response to the crisis literally on the fly as she toured Persian Gulf states. In a speech in Qatar, she stunned Arab leaders by saying they risked "sinking into the sand" if they didn't change course.

During the first act of the Arab Spring, however, the State Department and Pentagon joined in pressing caution, especially with Egypt, a vital U.S. ally.

For Mrs. Clinton, a turning point came with the uprising in Bahrain, home to the Pentagon's Fifth Fleet, which polices the oil-rich Gulf. The Pentagon was fearful of losing its basing rights and worried about what might happen if the regime fell.

Mrs. Clinton pushed Bahrain for political change. That chilled relations to the point that neither Bahrain nor Saudi Arabia directly notified the White House in March before deploying thousands of Saudi and Emirati troops to shore up its ruling family, according to the U.S.

The State Department believed it was within hours of a breakthrough that could have pushed Bahrain closer to a deal with the political opposition. Mrs. Clinton was livid.

It was the decision to attack Libya that laid bare the new dynamic most starkly. Pentagon officials worried out loud that France and Britain were playing down the difficulty of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. They were outspoken about the limited effectiveness of a no-fly zone and skeptical about the impact of financial sanctions.

The White House and State Department, however, were under pressure from European and Arab allies. The U.S. put forth to allied countries and Arab states preconditions to military action that included a United Nations resolution, Arab participation and drawing up a plan that went beyond a no-fly zone.

Some officials worried Col. Gadhafi's troops would slaughter rebel forces, an echo of the violence in Rwanda and Srebrenica that occurred on President Bill Clinton's watch. "Senior officials all agreed to the pillars of our Libya policy," said a senior aide to Mrs. Clinton. "If all of these became available to us, could we really stand aside?"

24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, The Study of Law, 1790 on: May 19, 2011, 11:09:50 AM
"Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge." --James Wilson, Of the Study of the Law in the United States, 1790
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: May 19, 2011, 11:02:29 AM
"Gaffney's argument boils down to this: Devout Muslims want to live under Sharia, the religious legal code that governs in Saudi Arabia and other traditional Islamic societies. But Sharia, which treats women as unequal, is incompatible with U.S. law. So organized Islam, Gaffney charges, is conspiring to supplant American law with Muslim law — and that, he says, is sedition."



24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 19, 2011, 10:54:35 AM
The way I remember it the Gingrich Congres exercised control over Clinton spending, cornered him into a major welfare reform, cut the capital gains tax rate, and ran a budget surplus , , ,
24413  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 19, 2011, 10:48:32 AM
Forgive the moment of advertising, but  , , , ahem , , , there is training available in the Hermosa Beach area too  grin
24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 19, 2011, 12:52:26 AM
"I can't for the life of me think of a good reason to take away a right to protect oneself against an unlawful entry, no matter who is doing the entering."

24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 19, 2011, 12:44:20 AM
Well, to be precise, it did rather well for a while in the mid-90s , , , thanks to Newt and the "Contract with America".
24416  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Head injury/brain damage/concussion in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: May 18, 2011, 08:53:29 PM
Thank you very much for the info Doug!
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 18, 2011, 08:48:17 PM
", , , freeloaders who are both rich AND poor. , , , We need a level playing field.  One in which we don't get people cheating from whatever socioeconomic class they are from."

Quite right, and quite right that the Reps don't get it.

24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 18, 2011, 10:16:47 AM
This could also belong in the Budget thread.

Maybe I am missing something, but IIRC all spending bills must originate in the House of Representataives-- which is controlled by the Republicans.  So why don't they just pass spending bills as they see fit and leave it to the Senate and BO to take the blame for not passisng it?

24419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 18, 2011, 10:11:42 AM
This seems to me to be a very pertinent and troubling question.
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt tries walking it back on: May 18, 2011, 10:10:19 AM
May 18 , 2011· Vol. 6, No.20   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
I Signed the Pledge To Repeal Obamacare,
Have You?

by Newt Gingrich

Yesterday in Mason City, Iowa, I signed the Obamacare Repeal Pledge, sponsored by the Independent Women’s Voice and American Majority Action.  Obamacare is such a massive and complex power grab of a law that there are countless specific reasons to oppose the law.

But as I was signing the repeal pledge, I reflected upon three big reasons that Obamacare must be repealed:

It’s Unconstitutional.  Period. As Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has argued, if the federal government has the power to force you to purchase a product or service, there is no end to its power. 

As I argue in my forthcoming book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters and show in Callista's and my documentary, A City Upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism, Obamacare’s mandate to purchase health insurance is an assault on our country’s founding principles of limited, clearly delineated federal powers and an erosion of the rule of law.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly spells out the powers of the federal government.  When the Democratic Congress passed Obamacare, the bill’s supporters argued that the individual mandate was constitutionally justified under the Commerce Clause, a provision that gives Congress the power to “regulate Commerce…among the several States.”

This is a gross misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause.  The Founders designed this clause to prevent American states from imposing tariffs on each other or engaging in other restrictive trade practices that would hamper the economy.  But in the last century, big government advocates have misused this stipulation to justify federal regulation of energy, trucking, financial services, and other assorted activities. 

Obamacare takes this overly-broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause to an absurd extreme.  If the federal government can force us to buy health insurance, what is stopping it from forcing us to buy other products? 

This is why dozens of state attorneys general have filed suit against Obamacare, charging that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

A Corrupt, Bureaucratic Power Grab

Aside from this mammoth expansion of federal power, Obamacare also violates the rule of law by granting vast discretion to administrative agencies.  In fact, Obamacare grants 1,968 new powers to government agencies and bureaucrats, most of them to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who administers Obamacare.  You can see all these powers spelled out on a massive wall chart at healthtransformation.net.

 

This discretionary power wielded by unelected bureaucrats presents an enormous danger for corruption.  Indeed, we have already seen how they can be abused.

Obamacare empowers the Secretary of HHS to issue waivers that exempt companies and organizations from the law’s many expensive and onerous requirements.  To date, HHS has issued over a thousand waivers, including ones to Big Labor and other powerful supporters of the Democratic Party.  This is all profoundly unfair to the millions of small businesses who lack the money and resources to influence Washington.

Yesterday, a report emerged that showed nearly 20% of the new waivers issued by HHS are in Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

This arbitrary “rule by waiver” is a fundamental violation of the rule of law. In fact, it absolutely negates the rule of law, replacing it with the rule of HHS Secretary Sebelius, Obama, and the Democratic Party.

The Wrong Model

Finally, Obamacare’s big government model, with its mandates, new bureaucracies and regulations, is simply the wrong way to lower costs and achieve better health outcomes.  It is Washington centered instead of individually centered.

The current market for health care is broken because consumers do not shop based on price and quality.  We have to redesign the system into one that responds to these downward cost pressures, like every other functioning market does. 

We can’t do that by empowering bureaucrats and lawyers.  Instead, you need to empower patients with access to quality information, including the real costs of the care they receive and give them the freedom to choose their providers based on that knowledge. 

This will create a true healthcare marketplace where providers compete to provide the best care at the lowest cost.  In this free market model, the 71 million baby boomers entering retirement would represent a boom, not bust, for healthcare.

Will You Sign the Pledge? 

The Obamacare Repeal Pledge is not just for lawmakers and candidates. 

There is a space for citizens to sign as well to show support for repealing Obamacare.

So will you sign the pledge?  Click here to sign.

Your Friend,

 

Newt
24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: May 18, 2011, 10:02:40 AM
Dang JDN, you sure ate your Wheaties this morning! grin
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Security for AF bomber program on: May 17, 2011, 01:27:25 PM


Interesting blog post on the security costs for the $50B Air Force
bomber program -- estimated to be $8B.  This isn't all computer
security, but the original article specifically calls out Chinese
computer espionage as a primary threat.
http://taosecurity.blogspot.com/2011/04/apt-drives-up-bomber-cost.html
24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chinese hacking; chains of evidence on: May 17, 2011, 01:26:02 PM


WikiLeaks cable about Chinese hacking of U.S. networks:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/04/wikileaks_cable.html

Increasingly, chains of evidence include software steps.  It's not just
the RIAA suing people -- and getting it wrong -- based on automatic
systems to detect and identify file sharers.  It's forensic programs
used to collect and analyze data from computers and smart phones.  It's
audit logs saved and stored by ISPs and websites.  It's location data
from cell phones.  It's e-mails and IMs and comments posted to social
networking sites.  It's tallies from digital voting machines.  It's
images and meta-data from surveillance cameras.  The list goes on and
on.  We in the security field know the risks associated with trusting
digital data, but this evidence is routinely assumed by courts to be
accurate.  Sergey Bratus is starting to look at this problem.  His
paper, written with Ashlyn Lembree and Anna Shubina, is "Software on the
Witness Stand: What Should it Take for Us to Trust it?."
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/04/software_as_evi.html
24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 17, 2011, 01:22:55 PM
Hmmm , , , lets see.  I am on the can and someone knocks on the door shouting "Police!".  I flush the toilet to go answer the door, but whoops! no need!  They have kicked in the door and are in my house.  For the sake of argument, lets say they are undercover.  What could go wrong here?  What remedy?  Apparently my flushing the toilet is now  , , , probable cause?  Indeed any hurried noises (e.g. a naked woman looking to clother herself quickly) are now probable cause?

Call 911 to verify that the folks on the other side of the door are police.  Is this really a serious suggestion?  Have you ever tried calling 911?  I did once to report some bangers breaking into a car.  By the time the brain dead moron answering the phone allowed me to give the facts, the bangers were gone.  Here, just how long is it going to take the person answering the call to confirm or deny those guys at my door. Somehow I seriously doubt it will be timely enough so as to be meaningful , , ,
24425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dishonest Minority on: May 17, 2011, 01:08:55 PM

      Status Report: "The Dishonest Minority"



Three months ago, I announced that I was writing a book on why security
exists in human societies.  This is basically the book's thesis statement:

     All complex systems contain parasites.  In any system of
     cooperative behavior, an uncooperative strategy will be effective
     -- and the system will tolerate the uncooperatives -- as long as
     they're not too numerous or too effective. Thus, as a species
     evolves cooperative behavior, it also evolves a dishonest minority
     that takes advantage of the honest majority.  If individuals
     within a species have the ability to switch strategies, the
     dishonest minority will never be reduced to zero.  As a result,
     the species simultaneously evolves two things: 1) security systems
     to protect itself from this dishonest minority, and 2) deception
     systems to successfully be parasitic.

     Humans evolved along this path.  The basic mechanism can be
     modeled simply.  It is in our collective group interest for
     everyone to cooperate. It is in any given individual's short-term
     self-interest not to cooperate: to defect, in game theory terms.
     But if everyone defects, society falls apart.  To ensure
     widespread cooperation and minimal defection, we collectively
     implement a variety of societal security systems.

     Two of these systems evolved in prehistory: morals and reputation.
     Two others evolved as our social groups became larger and more
     formal: laws and technical security systems.  What these security
     systems do, effectively, is give individuals incentives to act in
     the group interest.  But none of these systems, with the possible
     exception of some fanciful science-fiction technologies, can ever
     bring that dishonest minority down to zero.

     In complex modern societies, many complications intrude on this
     simple model of societal security. Decisions to cooperate or
     defect are often made by groups of people -- governments,
     corporations, and so on -- and there are important differences
     because of dynamics inside and outside the groups. Much of our
     societal security is delegated -- to the police, for example --
     and becomes institutionalized; the dynamics of this are also
     important.

     Power struggles over who controls the mechanisms of societal
     security are inherent: "group interest" rapidly devolves to "the
     king's interest."  Societal security can become a tool for those
     in power to remain in power, with the definition of "honest
     majority" being simply the people who follow the rules.

     The term "dishonest minority" is not a moral judgment; it simply
     describes the minority who does not follow societal norm.  Since
     many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest
     minority serves as a catalyst for social change.  Societies
     without a reservoir of people who don't follow the rules lack an
     important mechanism for societal evolution.  Vibrant societies
     need a dishonest minority; if society makes its dishonest minority
     too small, it stifles dissent as well as common crime.

At this point, I have most of a first draft: 75,000 words.  The
tentative title is still "The Dishonest Minority: Security and its Role
in Modern Society."  I have signed a contract with Wiley to deliver a
final manuscript in November for February 2012 publication.  Writing a
book is a process of exploration for me, and the final book will
certainly be a little different -- and maybe even very different -- from
what I wrote above.  But that's where I am today.

And it's why my other writings -- and the issues of Crypto-Gram --
continue to be sparse.

Lots of comments -- over 200 -- to the blog post.  Please comment there;
I want the feedback.
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/02/societal_securi.html
24426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Things seem to have changed a bit , , , on: May 17, 2011, 12:33:50 PM


"[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791


24427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Industrial Production on: May 17, 2011, 11:50:53 AM
Industrial production was unchanged in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/17/2011


Industrial production was unchanged in April, coming in below the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Including revisions to prior months, production declined 0.5%. Production is up 5.0% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was down 0.4% in April. Including downward revisions to prior months, manufacturing fell 1.1%. The decline in April was due to auto production, which dropped 8.9%. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.2%. Auto production is up 8.3% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen 4.5%.
 
The production of high-tech equipment increased 2.3% in April and is up 13.6% versus a year ago.
 
Overall capacity utilization declined slightly to 76.9% in April. Manufacturing capacity use declined to 74.4%.
 
Implications:  Industrial production took a breather in April coming in unchanged, which was below the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. While mining and utility production both increased for the second straight month, manufacturing declined 0.4%. However, all of the drop in manufacturing was due to a 8.9% decline in auto production.  Given temporary shortages of parts related to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear/electricity problems in Japan, some US automakers are shifting their traditional summer shutdowns into the spring. As a result, auto production will slip in Q2 and then surge sharply again in Q3. So for the next few months, we will continue to focus on manufacturing excluding autos in order to figure out the underlying trend.   This measure of output was up 0.2% in April and is up 4.5% versus last year, so no problems there. High tech equipment continues to grow, up 2.3% in April and, despite downward revisions for prior months, up at a 23.1% annual rate in the past six months.  Production is going to continue to move higher and will likely keep being led by business equipment.  Inventories are low, corporate profits are at a record high and so is cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies.  In other recent news on the manufacturing sector, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, declined to a still solid +11.9 in May from +19.6 in April, suggesting continued growth in the factory sector, but not quite as quickly as earlier this spring.
24428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Housing starts drop-- due to tornadoes? on: May 17, 2011, 11:43:24 AM
Housing starts dropped 10.6% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/17/2011


Housing starts dropped 10.6% in April to 523,000 units at an annual rate. They were also revised up by 6.6% in March, but are still down 23.9% versus a year ago.

The drop in April was mostly due to a 24.7% fall in multi-family starts (which are very volatile from month to month). Still, multi-family starts are 6.6% higher than a year ago. Single-family starts fell 5.1% in April and are down 30.4% versus a year ago.
 
Starts plummeted in the South, declined in the Northeast, but were up in the Midwest and West.
 
New building permits fell 4.0% in April to a 551,000 annual rate and were revised down by 3.3% in March.  Permits are down 12.8% versus a year ago with permits for single-family units down 18.6%.
 
Implications:  Housing starts fell 10.6% in April, coming in well below consensus expectations.  The number of homes under construction also fell to the lowest level on record (dating back to 1970). However, it appears the drop in starts in April was primarily due to an unusually violent tornado season. On net, all of the drop happened in the South. Outside that one region, starts were up 5.5%. In addition, two-thirds of the decline in starts was in multi-family units, which are volatile from month to month. In other words, with the drop in starts in April concentrated in one weather-ravaged region and primarily due to the more volatile component of home building, today’s report does not signal a future downward trend. Instead, we anticipate a significant rebound sometime in the next couple of months. Multi-family building has been generally moving up since late 2009 and, with the ongoing shift toward renting over owning, that trend should re-assert itself. Meanwhile, the South is still suffering, now with floods. But the impact of these disasters should clear by June. Also, not every aspect of home building is suffering. Completions increased 4.1% in April and yet are still at a low enough level so that builders can continue to work off the large excess inventory of homes. In fact, the pace of home building is still so low that inventory reduction will continue at a robust pace even as home building begins its long-term recovery later this year.
24429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / fed court ruling on claim to CCW right; George MAson, co-author of the 2d Amndmt on: May 17, 2011, 10:36:02 AM

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/05/16/federal-judge-rules-calif-gun-advocates/?test=latestnews

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

I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them. -- George Mason, coauthor of the 2nd Amendment.
24430  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: May 17, 2011, 10:08:15 AM
Woof C-Mighty Dog:

Very helpful- thank you!  

I've moved things around a bit.

Crafty Dog
GF

DOG BROTHERS:

Randall "Wolf Dog" Gregory
Mark "Beowolf" Houston
Rene "Growling Dog" Cocolo
Tyler "Dirty Dog" Morin
Heiko "Crossover Dog" Zauske
Detlef "Sinatra Dog" Theim

CANDIDATE DOG BROTHERS:

Chris "C-Lazy Dog" Goard
Patrick "C-Green Mountain Dog" Gagnon
Shawn "C- (TBA) Dog" Zirger
Thomas "C-Gong Fu Dog" Holtmann
Yutthana Toki  C-"Mighty Dog" Tokijkla

DOGS:

"Dog" Roy Starr
"Dog" Don Rammel
"Dog" Terry Crutcher
24431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1790 on: May 17, 2011, 09:58:26 AM
"Nothing is so contagious as opinion, especially on questions which, being susceptible of very different glosses, beget in the mind a distrust of itself." --James Madison, letter to Benjamin Rush, 1790

"[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791




24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: May 16, 2011, 09:03:18 PM
I'm rich!!! My truck is 21 years old!!!
24433  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: May 16, 2011, 08:15:21 PM
Randall "Wolf Dog" Gregory
24434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 16, 2011, 12:47:46 PM
Although I certainly agree with the point about the hypocrisy of POTH (Pravda on the Hudson) I will say that I am troubled by the holding of
"AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion", but that is a subject for the legal issues thread.
24435  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 16, 2011, 12:40:03 PM
Thank you.

Right now, I think we are all deep in the Altered Space that cames after such experiences.

The Adventure continues!
24436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Alexander's Patriot Post on: May 16, 2011, 12:36:40 PM
The Foundation
"Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules." --Thomas Jefferson

Political Futures

Obama thinks immigration policy is a laughing matter"
  • bama's most recent invitation to civil discourse -- on immigration -- came just 11 minutes after he accused opponents of moving the goal posts on border enforcement. 'Maybe they'll need a moat,' he said sarcastically. 'Maybe they want alligators in the moat.' Nice touch. Looks like the Tucson truce -- no demonization, no cross-hairs metaphors -- is officially over. After all, the Republicans want to kill off the elderly, throw the disabled in the snow and watch alligators lunch on illegal immigrants. The El Paso speech is notable not for breaking any new ground on immigration, but for perfectly illustrating Obama's political style: the professorial, almost therapeutic, invitation to civil discourse, wrapped around the basest of rhetorical devices -- charges of malice compounded with accusations of bad faith. 'They'll never be satisfied,' said Obama about border control. 'And I understand that. That's politics.' ... There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012. ... [F]or Obama, immigration reform is not about legislation, it's about re-election. If I may quote the president: I understand that. That's politics." --columnist Charles Krauthammer

Government
"[T]he federal government expects to collect $2.2 trillion in revenue this year. The problem is that it wants to spend $3.8 trillion. You can do a lot with $2.2 trillion. You can fund Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, debt service, unemployment, welfare, and national defense at their 2008 levels. My recollection of 2008 is that it was not exactly a time of Spartan fiscal discipline. Funding the majority of the federal government at 2008 levels is not 'default.' It's not anything like default. It's not in the same category of things, events, or concepts as default. ... We like to think that the American people are on our side when it comes to the size and scope of government, but they aren't. Reforming entitlements is still going to be hard. Even reforming stupid spending is going to be hard: We all had a good laugh at Harry Reid's federally subsidized cowboy poetry festival, but there are a million morsels of pork just like it, not to mention big non-pork spending that has to be addressed, too. And now, with a weak economy and a gloomy near-term outlook, conservatives are stuck doing the job we really should have done back in 1994-2000. But it's not going to get any easier. But on the debt ceiling? Let them sweat." --columnist Kevin D. Williamson


Liberty
"One of the shameful hallmarks of a dictatorship is the restriction of movement -- telling citizens or groups they cannot travel or relocate freely. We are now witnessing a shocking example of that dictatorial practice at the hands of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is insisting that a major U.S. employer may not move some of its operations from one state to another because to do so might somehow violate workers' rights. The case in point involves famed aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, which is building a second assembly line for its new 787 jetliners in South Carolina. That's a no-no, says the NLRB. ... The NLRB has filed a complaint against Boeing, a firm headquartered in Chicago, for daring to choose where they may locate one of their plants. In this case, Boeing is being told it cannot make the move on the specious grounds that the move constitutes an unfair labor practice. The unfair labor practice? South Carolina has a state right-to-work law, which ensures employees the right to either join a union or not to join a union as they see fit. Imagine that, a law that allows a worker to choose whether or not to join a union! ... When a federal agency takes it into its grubby hands to dictate where a firm may locate some of its facilities America stands at the dividing line between freedom and tyranny." --columnist Michael Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"[T]he Obama administration is gutsily punishing right-to-work states -- even states that merely require secret ballots in order to obviate coercion by union thugs. What are Americans supposed to do to earn money? Obama doesn't care: Ordinary Americans are irrelevant to the Democrats' electoral ambitions -- they exist only to justify the hiring of more government workers. The Democrats have now officially abandoned working-class Americans. Obama is doing what's in his and his party's self-interest, rather than concerning himself with the mass of American citizens. He is using his executive authority to reward gays, illegal aliens, do-nothing government employees, far-left union bosses, abortion industry executives and global warming kooks. Are you on that list of Obama's friends? Democrats blithely act as if big labor, pro-illegal-immigration, pro-government union policies combined with massive government red tape and huge socialist programs will have no effect on jobs. They incessantly repeat 'gutsy call' for 'you'd have to have been brain-dead not to make the call to kill bin Laden,' hoping the Democratic Party will suddenly seem macho. Then, after a few weeks of robotically chanting 'gutsy call,' they can get back to their true passion -- destroying jobs -- at which point they will robotically chant Bush's name to explain why millions of Americans have lost their jobs under Obama. How gutsy." --columnist Ann Coulter

The Gipper
"Without timely expression and emphatic endorsement, our own belief in the principles of human freedom and representative government must eventually atrophy and wither." --Ronald Reagan

Re: The Left
"For a week people have been asking, 'Why won't the president release Osama bin Laden's photo?' That's the wrong question. We should be asking, 'Why was Barack Obama in such a hurry to tell us bin Laden was dead?' The White House says the information in bin Laden's compound is the equivalent of a 'small college library,' potentially containing incalculably valuable and unique data on al-Qaeda operations, personnel and methods. ... I'm no expert on such matters -- though I've talked to several about this -- but even a casual World War II buff can understand that the shelf life of actionable intelligence would be extended if we hadn't told the whole world, and al-Qaeda in particular, that we had it. It's a bit like racing to the microphones to announce you've stolen the other team's playbook even before you've had a chance to use the information in the big game. But that's exactly what President Obama did. ... t seems that the White House planned to crow as soon as possible. Why? Nobody I've talked to can think of a reason that doesn't have to do with politics or hubris." --columnist Jonah Goldberg


 

For the Record
"When you look at other countries and the history of the world in general, we are all just amazingly, unbelievably wealthy in this country. We have technology and opportunities that are insane; we can't even comprehend how well off we are compared to people who used to have to live in huts and fight for every meal. When you look at it objectively, every one of us in this country is a billionaire. And what did we do to earn all this incredible wealth? For most of us, the answer is: absolutely nothing. We were just born with it. So we take it for granted. And we demand even more. There is another type of rich person, though -- the working rich. The people who create. These are the people who made all the benefits we enjoy in society today. Thanks to their creativity and initiative, we have all the technological marvels we enjoy today. Because of their hard work, we have all these companies that give us cushy 9-to-5 jobs where we earn sums of money most of the world couldn't even imagine possessing. And are we thankful? Do we say, 'Thank you, rich people, for making all these things so we can benefit from them. I can't even believe how simple and easy my life is because of you'? No, we demand more from them, because we're the idle rich, and we think the working rich owe us everything." --columnist Frank J. Fleming

Faith & Family
"Robert Woodson would probably wince if you called him a 'community organizer.' That's because for the last 30 years as president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, he has not spent time organizing the poor around ineffective government programs and other addictions; he has been helping them become self-sufficient. 'You can't learn anything by studying failure,' he says. 'If you want to learn anything, you must study the successful.' ... Woodson, who is African-American, as were all of those I met, tells me 'Every black community going back to 1784 had welfare based on morals.' The last 40 years, he says, have transformed the way we look at poverty: 'Until 1965, 80 percent of black families had two parents in the home. The '60s destroyed all that.' ... He is emphatic about what he says and he produces success when so many other programs fail: 'Faith in God transforms the inside and that faith transforms the outside.' ... Republicans could win over the votes of many of the poor who think their future lies with Democrats. It doesn't, not if Democrats continue to spend money on failed programs that have no power to change lives. This will require Republicans getting out of their comfort zones and hanging out with people who not only have found hope, but who can communicate hope to others." --columnist Cal Thomas

24437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis & Brian Wesbury on: May 16, 2011, 11:56:26 AM
As always, and as a balance to the doom and gloom tendencies around here, Scott Grannis is always a worthy read:

http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/
===========================

Public Policy Looking Better To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/16/2011


We think there are five (5) reasons to be bullish about the US economy. First, monetary policy is loose and likely to remain so. Second, the financial panic is over, thanks to the end of overly-strict mark-to-market accounting rules. Third, technological advances continue to boost productivity growth. Fourth, our free market economy is incredibly resilient, much more so than the pessimists believe. And fifth, the policy environment is improving.

Despite what Ben Bernanke might say (that quantitative easing lifted stock prices), we think the 15% total return in the S&P 500 since late last year has more to do with a positive shift in government policy. Not only were the lower Bush-era tax rates extended for two years, but lawmakers are becoming even more serious about cutting spending.
 
The debate over the 2011 budget, which resulted in some very slight reductions in spending, is over. But now a more serious fight about the “debt ceiling” is taking shape. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves; after all we are dealing with politicians here. But, it appears that we can expect some modest, but noticeable, reductions in the size of government in the years ahead.
 
Our “most likely” outcome (about 50%) from this political wrangling expects the path of discretionary spending to be lowered and that entitlements would be tinkered with. We would be moving in the right direction, but the Congress would “kick the can” of major entitlement reform down the road for another time. This would be good for markets, but it would not be a watershed moment.
 
The next most likely outcome (about 30%) would be “market neutral.” In this scenario, Congress caves on the debt ceiling and we see little more than token measures to improve the long-term fiscal outlook. In this scenario, the stock market treads water.
 
There is obviously a small chance (make it 5%) that the Congress goes back on a spending binge and doesn’t cut spending at all. It seems impossible, but it is Congress.
 
The final option, and the one that intrigues us most, is the still small, but growing, possibility of a major breakthrough – a watershed moment – on the US’s long-term entitlement problems. To be careful, we would put relatively low odds (say 15%) on this scenario. But if it does happen the positive effect on the stock market could be huge, rivaling the impact on the markets of the change in policy direction that resulted from the 1994 election.
 
One reason we are intrigued by this option is how fast the political landscape has changed. On April 21, 2011, when Brian Wesbury wrote this very short piece for National Review Online (link here), he was among a small minority who thought using the “debt ceiling” as a political tool to force spending cuts was a wise, or even doable, thing. Even last Monday morning, when Brian participated in this press conference (see C-Span coverage here), the  conventional wisdom, even among those who advocate for smaller government, was that the debt limit would have to be raised regardless of whether significant policy improvements could be achieved.
 
Congressional leaders were scared about using the debt ceiling as a political tool and many of them were angry with members of the Tea Party and other members of Congress who stood firm.   But in just a few short days, many of these same congressional leaders are saying they won’t support lifting the debt limit unless trillions are cut from the budget. In other words, the odds of some very significant cuts in government spending are growing.
 
The political battles of the next decade are going to be fierce. And the outcomes of those battles will have major implications for the long-term growth path of the economy and financial markets. The sooner and more favorably those battles get resolved the longer and stronger the current bull market will be.
24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Remembering Ramadi on: May 16, 2011, 11:37:24 AM
By LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN
Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

When death came to Ramadi, it came, as any unwanted guest, to stay. It took a bleached, sand-blown landscape and flooded it red. It seized one Army brigade after another, gutting the ranks so deeply that, between my embeds with the First Armored Division's First Brigade Combat Team (1/1) in Iraq, it carved in granite a quarter of the names in my email inbox. It claimed so many lives and mangled so many others that, even now, on what ought to be the eve of the team's fifth anniversary reunion, the brigade's commander, then-Col. Sean MacFarland, cannot tote them up.

So, no, Brig. Gen. MacFarland's decision to call off the reunion celebration did not astound me. With nearly 100 of his soldiers killed and 500 wounded in eight months, I didn't know how many would (or could) summon the will for a jamboree to cast a glance backward. Instead, from his living room on the bank of the Missouri River, Brig. Gen. MacFarland and I—soldier and civilian, the neatly-ordered student of logic and the disheveled embodiment of what he defends—hold a micro-reunion.

Vacations, kids, work: Brig Gen. MacFarland credits his bare list of RSVPs to the routines that saddle us all. I pin the blame on what is being celebrated. That is, we pick up our argument where we left it five years ago. Not even the 7,000 miles that separate America and Iraq can measure the distance between us, or between the officer corps and the country it serves. In Iraq, the U.S. mission entailed complex operational schemes and thorny moral dilemmas. In the journalist's notebook, the U.S. mission required easy certainties and narrative simplicity.

Where I saw only mayhem in Ramadi, Col. MacFarland saw method and a path forward. One day, as we visited a local sheikh, the sheikh's radio crackled with panicked tribesmen under siege. "We'll bring in air," Col. MacFarland assured the sheikh, who was so busy shouting and being shouted at that it wasn't clear he actually heard the lanky, soft-spoken colonel. "So, um, get your men inside."

Antennae relayed a flurry of coordinates; one of the F-18s on station above Ramadi banked toward the insurgents. Problem solved. Later that day, Col. MacFarland told me he viewed the battle in the way of a mathematical equation: "Within its chaos there can be order," the historian Clayton Newell writes of the paradox of war. And, indeed, by "flipping" Ramadi's tribes, erecting small combat outposts, and otherwise anticipating the tenets of counterinsurgency that Gen. David Petraeus would later enshrine in official policy, 1/1 transformed a blasted shell into a place that bustled with the everyday vibrancy of a living community.

To assert that the outstanding officer can mitigate the chaos of war, however, is not to assert that he can mitigate its horror. Instead, Ramadi's horrors multiplied in direct proportion to the clarity of 1/1's advance.

On my first day back in Iraq, 1/1's public affairs officer and a young captain I admired were killed by a fuel-enhanced IED. Every day supplied a new variation—a marine shot in the neck, a soldier burned alive in his tank, a pilot disemboweled and set alight. Yet even as he devised tomorrow's plans on his color-coded tribal map, Col. MacFarland banished from brigade headquarters photos of yesterday's dead.

Serene in the conviction that Col. MacFarland cared more about victory than about its cost, I soon learned that my biases had things backward. At the landing zone where he loaded body-bags onto helicopters, the colonel was spotted one night behind a stack of medical kits, sobbing into his shirt sleeve. Toward the end of the deployment, one of the brigade's officers told me, he sensed that Col. MacFarland wanted to climb into a body bag.

At his promotion ceremony years later, it became clear what a steep price had been exacted by the tension between battlefield gain and human loss, between his steely command persona and his genuinely warm persona. Quietly and haltingly, Col. MacFarland confessed to the audience that "the many shattered bodies and shattered lives that made victory in Ramadi possible" had led him to ask himself if he was worthy of this honor. "I am not."

Back in Kansas, Brig. Gen. MacFarland says that, with the brigade's achievement now well-chronicled, the unpleasant images have become cloudy and flickering. "I have to believe all of it meant something," he says. "When my son-in-law, serving in southern Iraq, tells me he's bored, that means something."

And the reunion he put so much effort into assembling? The notion that the exquisite sensitivities of men who paint skulls on their tank turrets keep them home-bound seems far-fetched: Soldiers regard themselves as agents, not victims. So, yes, they're busy making other plans, mapping the routes to amusement parks and camp sites. Like Sean MacFarland, I have to believe this. And that, on this reunion day, even the dead have plans.

Mr. Kaplan is a contributing editor at the New Republic and a visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College.

24439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 16, 2011, 11:17:26 AM
Bush 1 lost because of Perot.
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 16, 2011, 11:09:17 AM
My strong support of Newt in 2008 is of record around here, as are my increasing expressions of doubt this time around.  THIS I think is a fatal blow to any remaining willingness on my part to consider him seriously.
24441  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dog Brothers 2011 Tribal Gathering on: May 16, 2011, 10:13:23 AM
Given two days of outstanding fighting it is no surprise that there were several ascensions, indeed more names than I can remember.  Here are the few that I do remember off the top of my head.  If I failed to mention you, please email me and I will put things right

New Dog Brothers:

Mark "Beowulf" Houston
Rene "Growling Dog" Houston
Tyler "Dirty Dog" Morin

New Candidate Dog Brothers

Thomas "C-Gong Fu" Holtman

24442  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 15, 2011, 09:51:08 PM
Leaving now for the Pier.  Cell is 310-738-1044.
24443  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 15, 2011, 09:32:45 PM
And thank you for your outstanding expression today; a true pleasure to watch.
24444  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 15, 2011, 09:16:13 PM
OK, just stay there.

Everyone else, meet at the Hermosa Beach pier at 20:00 and we can walk over to La Playita from there.
24445  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 15, 2011, 06:55:09 PM
Dinner at 20:00.

Location will be announced here, but first I have to confer with Pretty Kitty who is out at the moment.
24446  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: May 15, 2011, 12:20:04 PM
Yes.

Of course the practical course of action will often be exactly as you describe, but the conceptual foundations must be those of a free people.  So, the question remains:  Do you recognize the RIGHT to self-defense against authority?
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 15, 2011, 12:17:17 PM
In the big picture and Cain's capable hands I think this sort of hateful nonsense will help the cause of Freedom.
24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAE building private army with Blackwater on: May 15, 2011, 11:04:41 AM


The complete article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print

May 14, 2011
Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
By MARK MAZZETTI and EMILY B. HAGER

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure.

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

The contract includes a one-paragraph legal and ethics policy noting that R2 should institute accountability and disciplinary procedures. “The overall goal,” the contract states, “is to ensure that the team members supporting this effort continuously cast the program in a professional and moral light that will hold up to a level of media scrutiny.”

But former employees said that R2’s leaders never directly grappled with some fundamental questions about the operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: The ten year saga of the hunt for OBL on: May 15, 2011, 10:54:06 AM
A friend forwards to me:

"I don't agree with all of the spin, but this is a very interesting 
account of how the ten year hunt was conducted. Too long to attach 
the full text, unfortunately."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/projects/osama-hunt/index.html
24450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 15, 2011, 10:50:37 AM
JDN raises a fair point here, though he substantially understates Cain's track record as Doug points out.

I certainly have had nowhere near the exposure to Cain necessary for me to form any sort of opinion of substance, but I do admit to being chuckled at the idea of two black men running for the Presidency with one of them apparently a genuine sincere man of Tea Party proclivities.    What a great way to neuter Democratoc race-baiting!!! afro
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