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24401  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: August 14, 2008, 04:22:27 PM
Hi Marc

Here what I had in mind considering the September Gathering in Switzerland.

Friday 26. September: “Tribal” Gathering, the Fighters will meet in
Stettlen 3 pm. From there we will transfer to a secret place… after the
fighting we will do at the same place also the fighters dinner. This
time we will have a live band and an (hopefully) an other surprise…

Saturday 27. September: “Open” Gathering in Stettlen, start 4 pm

Sunday 28. September: The Seminar with you, start 12:00

Wuff
Benjamin
=================

A heartly wuff to all fighters

I send this e-mail to invite you and also to give some information's
about the upcoming:

*European "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" 2008*

*Schedule:*
Saturday 27. September / 16.00 -- 19.00
(like last year there will be a seminar with Guro "Crafty Dog" on
Sunday 28.Sept. / 11.00 -- 18.00)

*Location:*
Turnhalle Bleichestrasse / Stettlen, Switzerland

*Costs:*
The Gathering is for free.
(The Seminar with Guro "Crafty Dog" will be Fr. 100.- (70 Euro) )

*Registration:*
It's IMPORTANT that you register until 5. September! Only those who
are pre-registered are allowed to fight. So please fill out the form
and send to:

Kampfkunst Schule Bern
Benjamin Rittiner
Waisenhausplatz 21
3011 Bern
Switzerland

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to write me an e-mail.
========

I've asked our webmaster to post the registration form here on our site and hope to have it up , , , very soon.
> I'm looking forward to have one more time a "DB Gathering of the Pack"
> in Europe! And would be glad to see many of you again.
>
> Wuff
> Guro Benjamin "Lonely Dog"
>
24402  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 14, 2008, 04:19:44 PM
Here is what we think is a final draft of what will be going out in the e-newsletter:

Woof All:

As discussed at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1577.0  the
rhythm of the seasons of our Dog Brothers Gatherings is now as follows:

There are three Gatherings every year.

In early April we have "The Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering".  For these
there is only the fighters.  There is no audience.  These Gatherings are for
members of the Tribe.  The first one was held this year and in re-enactment
of the Creation Mythos of the Dog Brothers Tribe 20 years ago, once again
the fights were for three days.  The first of the days was in the Acu
Canyon Park in San Juan Capistrano where it all began what seems like only
yesterday so long ago.  Days two and three were in a horse corral on a
hillside in Temecula.  All three days were filmed by a 5 camera crew with
such films to its credit as the Grateful Dead movie and will figure
prominently in the Dog Brothers movie currently completing production.  The
basic concept of the movie is "Pumping Iron meets Tao of the Dog" wherein
the three days of fights serve the same function in the story arc as the
contest in South Africa did for "Pumping Iron".

Future Tribal Gatherings will be for two days.

In August we have "The Dog Brothers Open Gathering".  We chose August
because that is the big month for vacations in Europe and thus it is
easiest for our Euro brothers to come play.  This year, as will be described
more
fully in a moment, it took place on Sunday August 10th in Burbank,
California.

In late September or early October in Bern Switzerland we have "The Euro
Gathering".  This year it will be September 27th. Contact Guro Benjamin
"Lonely Dog" Rittiner at lonelydog@dogbrothers.ch

With the new overall rhythm of the seasons established, it is time to turn
to the events of this past Sunday.

After the decade in the Hermosa Park we spend several agreeable years at
the RAW Gym in El Segundo.  Then we held the Gathering at what was Original
Productions soundstage for the TV show "Monster Garage" for the Gathering
that was the focus of the National Geographic documentary "Fight Club"
(hideous name I know, I know, but my objections were overruled).  OP kindly
let us do another Gathering there, but with their renovation of the space
into offices, this option no longer was available.

The search for a new space was on.  This is not an easy matter.  Indeed,
finding a place for a Dog Brothers Gathering is a really good trick.  Not
only do we need a distinctive type of space, but our budget is limited, and
most places will freak out when they are given to understand the nature of
the event.  As detailed in the saga on the thread at
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.0 we were coming scarily
close to Gathering day without a place being lined up.  Fortunately Pappy
Dog put his nose to the ground and via his friend Eric Fleischman sniffed
out the Powerhouse Gym of Burbank, CA.  Eric, a long time fan of the DBs,
is held in good repute at Powerhouse and put in the word on our behalf with
the owner Tisto Chapman and conversations came to a fruitful conclusion.

Thus it came to pass that this past Sunday, at 11:00 on August 10th we held
our annual "Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack" at the Powerhouse Gym
of Burbank, California.

The space in question is a large basketball court with a rubberized floor
and padding on the walls behind the baskets.  The fight area consisted of a
30x30 area of puzzle type mats kindly provided by Pappy Dog, which were set
so that a padded wall comprised one of the four sides of the fight area to
enable crashing the fights into the wall.  Eric and Pappy also managed to
line up a goodly number of folding chairs so that most of the audience was
able to sit.  Those of you who remember the days at RAW will appreciate
this detail!  Speaking of the audience, at about 220 it was the biggest one
we
have had since we left the Hermosa Park.  In the past we have had to keep
things down a bit out of concern for the limitations of the facility, but
with Powerhouse we have plenty of room to grow.  Also a big plus is the
sturdy air conditioning system!

At forty one fighters this was one of the largest Gatherings on record
(fifty fighters were registered, but apparently at the last minute there
was a bit of a vaginitis virus going around , , ,).

As those of you who have followed us for some time know, we begin the day
with knife fighting-- sometimes playfully called "sport knife dueling".  As
discussed at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=376.0 the
problem is that when the knives are not real, typically neither is the
behavior--
with of course much room for difference of opinion as to what constitutes
realistic behavior; after all when two hostile people have knives, we are
told that the likeliest outcome is that one of them runs away LOL.

Whatever the case, the problem is that of what is often called "knife
boxing" wherein the two men merrily pummel each other away.  Mockery by me
directed to the crowd such as "You're both dead!" usually gets a smile and
near zero change in behavior.  Even aluminum trainers, which facilitate the
imposition of more pain, have made little difference.  The past couple of
years we have gone to the "Shocknives" (see our video clip endorsing them
at http://shocknife.com/video.html )  I like the Shocknives-- they DO make a
difference!  There are some limitations though:  a) Even though we get ours
for free, for most people even with the newer models which cost less, they
cost a lot. b) with the Neanderthals that we tend to attract, we have still
have people who ignore them c) they burn through batteries really fast.

With the April Tribal Gathering and this Gathering we think we may have
finally come up with a solution:  aluminum trainers that size of a small
(or not so small) bowie knife.  Whatever the shape/design of the blade, the
heft of the aluminum bar makes not only substantial pain but also for the
risk
of broken bones, especially in the hand, wrist and forearm-- which leads to
more realistic behavior.

The fights with the big aluminum trainers as well as some of the Shocknife
fights at this Gathering really stepped up to the level that we have been
looking for.  Also exciting was the one 2x2 fight.  Newcomer Mauricio
Sanchez of Mexico City, Mexico showed outstanding situational awareness by
breaking off from his opponent several times to ambush the man fighting his
partner from behind.  In the chaos of the fight it was hard to tell if
anyone actually "lived", but both the crowd and the fighters had a fine
time.  With several of the fights I started the fighters with the knives
"hidden" (typically tucked in the waistband somewhere) and shaking hands.
When I released their clasped hands, the fight was on.  I encouraged each
to attack the other before drawing his knife, but this occurred only one
time-- with great success I might add!

With the knife fights over, it was time for stick.  In that I have not yet
received the actual footage from cameraman Night Owl, I will mostly have to
go with general impressions.

First:   The level of aggression and courage was very high, even amongst
the many newcomers and less experienced fighters.  Even with this level of
aggression, the consciousness of the Dog Brothers code was consistently
present.

Second:  I was quite pleased to see many fighters embracing drawing hidden
knives and putting them into play when fights went to clinch.  This is
something I have been pushing for for several years now, and it is very
satisfying to see this finally take root.  A Dog Brothers Gathering is not
really about young male ritual hierarchical combat.  For most there it is
about preparing, to borrow the DBMA mission statement, "to walk as a
warrior for all your days".  What we install in the depth of the adrenal
state is,
for better or worse, perhaps the deepest of all learnings.  In my opinion,
it is vital to transcend the mind of the BJJ mat and the MMA cage to train
ourselves in this state to always be monitoring the hands for movements
that can serve to access weapons!!!

This also includes the matter of accessing one's own weapons.  At present
this mostly consists of sticking an aluminum trainer at 4:00-6:00, or under
the shirt at 2:00 (reverse the numbers for lefties).   With a glove on
(more on the gloves shortly) this can be a good trick-- so particular kudos
to
the man who wore pants so that he had pockets into which to put his actual
folding trainer so that he could actually work what he would actually have
to access in the real world.  Important data was acquired when the handle
of the knife actually broke upon impact shocked !

Third:  Although it is quite common for many fighters to fight only 1-3
fights, in this Gathering we had many fighters who fought many fights.
Not only is this an impressive display of fighting spirit, but also of
conditioning-- one notes that the latter tends to support the former!

Fourth:  The trend to ultralight gloves continues.  Many fighters are
wearing
gloves that serve only to protect from gratering on the fencing masks, but
offer  little to no protection from impact.  A hearty woof of respect!

Fifth: As a fan of double stick I would have liked to have seen more
double stick fights, but the ones that were had were very good.  C-Straw
Dog and Mauricio Sanchez had one that caught my eye.

Sixth:  Some random impressions:

Able to easily pace lesser opponents and step up as necessary with the more
challenging one, Pappy Dog showed understated polish and skill in his
fights.  On his 50th birthday "Dog Pound" at a svelte 265 (down from 305)
had a rocking fight with Lorenz Glaza.  War Dog returned to the DB wars
after a couple of years of MIA due to getting started as a LEO and looked
as
good as ever.  Guide Dog, off a tremendous showing in Temecula and a broken
foot since then, was able to do quite well anyway.  C-Straw Dog continues
as
one of the fighters who shows strong stick skills.  Dog Tom represented us
old folks quite well.  Dog Dean showed both skill and an extra measure of
warrior spirit by fighting with a knee that was already scheduled for
surgery.  Dog Mat showed that the growth from the Temecula Gathering is
yielding strong fruit.  First timer Rene Cocolo of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
had an excellent cherry performance, including one fight with strong boxing
blast type punches that drove his opponent across the fight area.  Fellow
old-timer Steve Gruhn as usual dove in with gusto until what may be a torn
hamstring laid him low. Canadian Phil Hurcum showed several nice roof to
belly thrusts in one of his many fights as well as considerable joie de
combat.  As usual Mark Mosquiera was in the mix, and first timer Mauricio
Sanchez of Mexico showed excellent double stick in his fight with C-Straw
Dog.  Dog Eric Bryant continues to bring scary kicking skill to his stick
skills-- he's the kind of man who can easily kick someone in the head
before they see it coming-- and so he does.

New djembe drummer "Yumi" (christened "Yumi the Yummy" by one wag in
attendance) did a fine job of providing pulse to the proceedings without
drowning out the action.  Part way through the day she was assisted
spontaneously and quite capably by a man whose name I don't remember
without reviewing the video.  Our usual Master of Arms and Timekeeper
James Stacey was otherwise engaged but his students Mike and Brian stepped
in nicely. Of particular importance was Dog Dean Webster who not only was
quite busy as a fighter, but also served as EMT.  Ascensions to and within
the
Dog Brothers Tribe can be found at
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=784.50

Both Powerhouse and we were very happy with each other and look forward to
a long-term relationship.

In closing, as we return to our semi-normal lives I would like to quote
Phil Hurcum at
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.150 (where you can find
comments from other fighters as well)

"ha, i am a pretty emotional guy i guess, i look at the photos and i want
to be there again.  i should smile.

"i came home and i could hardly talk more than a whisper, thanks big steve
and tom g for leaning on my throat!

"i lay in bed last night and every time i swallowed my adams apple would
move up and down and click, it s true, scared me for a bit but hey if i
gotta go out this is better than diapers ;]  .

" , , , i wish i was there still. i have a pretty good life here, family
and friends even, but damn i had more hugs than fights, wtf am i supposed
to do now? watch golf? go back to my cubicle and pretend thats important?

"After this weekend, everything else is slow, which helps my painting, but
seriously now.

"i would like to thank all the people who talked to me, put up with me, and
even those who ignored me, this is my second gathering, and hopefully one
more of many, and this was a life goal for me.

"i cant do this without you, an we cant do this without each other, thanks
for allowing me to be a part of a bigger picture which means something.

"i am rambling a bit so i will leave off fore i wax maudlin, as if i
already haven't.

"gonna finish my glass of fighting cock bourbon, true, and start training
tonight for next year, not true.

"guro crafty, thanks for the time and effort you put into this, you have
changed the lives of four Canadians.

"mabuhay ng escrima!! mabuhay ng familia, personal and martial!

"( i reread this twice and i dont want to post it really but i am hitting
the button anyway)

"~phil hurcum"
abbotsford bc
stickfighter


To my eye, the seemingly unpolished writing speaks eloquently of the
altered state that comes from this experience.

As the saying goes, "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget
a lesson".  Carry the lessons of this experience forward with you and
walk as a warrior for all your days.  No judges!  What others think of
you is none of your business.  No referees!  Even in the aggressive
adrenal state you are responsible for what you do.  No trophies!  This
is not for the roar or the adulation of others.  This is for the you who
you are in the silence of a stick buzzing by your head-- in the moment
you decide just which self it is you wish to defend.

"The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation.  Higher
consciousness through harder contact" (c)

As the Adventure continues, I am
The Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers

PS: Lurking silently is my Pretty Kitty, "In Charge of Reality."  I am
simply in charge of everything else.
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD on: August 14, 2008, 06:22:15 AM
The Iran Effect
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Nuclear Terror: Saudi Arabia and the United Nations' nuclear "watchdog" have agreed on a "nonproliferation" pact — the prelude to a Saudi nuclear energy program. Can nuclear weapons be far behind?

As the Islamofascist regime in Iran refuses to abandon its uranium enrichment program in spite of international condemnation and economic sanctions, the Saudi kingdom's Arab News newspaper reported this week approval of an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding application of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Saudi move comes amid an explosion in interest in Mideast nuclear activities. In 2006 and 2007, at least 13 Mideast countries announced the launch or renewal of planned nuclear programs — widely viewed as easily convertible to weapons production.

Saudi Arabia has pledged in writing not to pursue enrichment or reprocessing technologies, but its past behavior strongly suggests that its royal family has long coveted nuclear weapons.

Richard L. Russell, who teaches security studies at the National Defense University and at Georgetown, has noted Saudi's secret purchase from Communist China in the 1980s of long-range CSS-2 missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

In 1999, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz visited Pakistan's uranium enrichment and missile assembly factory in Kahuta, where he was reportedly briefed by black market nuclear arms dealer Dr. AQ Khan.

According to Akaki Dvali, a proliferation expert at the Center for Social Sciences in Tbilisi, Georgia, and senior adviser to the Georgian presidency, "it is reasonable to suspect that Khan developed ties with Riyadh, which would have been capable of paying for all kinds of nuclear-related services."

Saudi defector Mohammed al-Khilewi, who was a high-ranking official in the Saudi mission to the United Nations, charges that the Saudi royal family has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1975.

He has produced documents suggesting that the Saudi government paid as much as $5 billion during the 1970s and 1980s to the late Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear weapon, with the condition that the Saudis get some of the devices.

There are few prospects more frightening than a nuclear Middle East. For years now, the free world has neglected the sure way of nipping it in the bud: Make a top priority of uniting to do whatever it takes to stop Iran.

24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Restraint on House of Reps on: August 14, 2008, 05:37:44 AM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily

"If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives
from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and
a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the
whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and
above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people
of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is
nourished by it."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 57, 19 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 57.

=============

By the way, a quick personal note:

When I first started this thread the ratio of reads to posts was rather low.  It warms my spirit to see the ration now around 45:1.

TAC,
Marc
24405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: August 14, 2008, 02:07:58 AM
 

Hospital Infections:
Preventable and Unacceptable
By BETSY MCCAUGHEY
August 14, 2008; Page A11

On July 30, a jury awarded over $2.5 million to James Klotz and his wife Mary in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a heart surgeon, his group practice and St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo. In 2004 Mr. Klotz, now 69, was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and a pacemaker was surgically implanted. He developed a drug-resistant staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It was so severe that he underwent 15 additional operations, spent 84 days in the hospital and lost his right leg, part of his left foot, a kidney and most of his hearing.

This verdict should send a warning to physicians, hospitals and hospital board members. Until recently, infection was considered an unavoidable risk. But now there is proof that nearly all hospital infections are avoidable when doctors and staff clean their hands and rigorously practice proper hygiene and other preventive measures.

Hospital infections will cause the next wave of class-action lawsuits, bigger than the litigation over asbestos. The germ that Mr. Klotz contracted, hospital-acquired MRSA, infects about 880,000 patients a year and accounts for only 8% of all hospital infections. Hospital infections caused by all kinds of bacteria sicken millions.

The Klotz verdict is not the first sign that hospitals are in a new legal environment. In 2004, Tenet Healthcare Corporation agreed to pay $31 million to settle 106 lawsuits by patients who contracted infections after heart surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida. Since then, numerous lawsuits have been filed against hospitals in Florida, Kentucky and elsewhere by infected patients. Hospitals being sued are saying that their infection rates are within national norms. But for most infections, the only acceptable rate is zero.

Medicare calls certain device-related bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections and surgical infections after orthopedic and heart surgery "never events." Starting in October, Medicare will stop reimbursing hospitals for treatment of these infections. Hospitals will be barred from billing patients for what Medicare doesn't pay, forcing them to take a loss. Next year Medicare will add other types of infections to the list of "never events."

The evidence justifying Medicare's new policy is compelling. Central line bloodstream infections, caused by the contamination of certain devices, are preventable. Hospital patients in intensive care are commonly medicated through a tube inserted into a vein. The risk is that bacteria will invade the tube and enter the bloodstream. Rigorous hygiene, including clean hands, sterile drapes, and careful cleaning of the insertion site with chlorhexidine soap, can keep bacteria away from the tube.

Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City reports that it hasn't had a central line bloodstream infection in the cardiac intensive care unit in over 1,000 days. Dr. Brian Koll, chief of infection control there, explains that the key is using a checklist that doctors and nurses must follow. Implementing the checklist cost $30,000 and saved $1.5 million in treatment costs. Lives saved: priceless.

Other hospitals -- from Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore to Sutter Roseville Medical Center in Sacramento -- have reached the goal of zero central line bloodstream infections. No wonder Medicare calls these infections "never events." Why should jurors reach a different conclusion in a lawsuit?

We have the knowledge to prevent infections. What has been lacking is the will. A recent survey from the patient-safety organization Leapfrog found that 87% of hospitals fail to consistently practice infection prevention measures. Insurance companies that sell liability coverage to hospitals could change that by offering lower premiums to hospitals that rigorously follow infection-prevention protocols.

To be sure, lawsuits are not the best way to improve patient care. Many verdicts are unjustified, and few truly injured patients find a lawyer to take their case. Still, the coming wave of lawsuits, as well as financial incentives from Medicare and insurers, will fight complacency about hospital hygiene.

Ms. McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York State, is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
 
24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: August 14, 2008, 02:04:30 AM
I See Four
Key Battleground States
By KARL ROVE
August 14, 2008; Page A11

Presidential campaigns ultimately come down to who can win 270 Electoral College votes. With most states favoring one candidate or the other, this year's contest could come down to a few battleground states.

Based on visits this past week with party leaders and old pros, it's clear that Barack Obama will focus on Colorado and Virginia. Both have large concentrations of white, college-educated voters with whom Mr. Obama is popular. And both have seen Democrats surge recently.

Of the two, Mr. Obama is best positioned to pick up Colorado's nine electoral votes. Denver hosts the Democratic convention at the end of this month. And a quartet of local millionaires (mini-George Soroses) have spent lavishly to boost Democrats. They have succeeded at shrinking the Republican advantage among registered voters. The GOP now has just 68,507 more voters on the rolls in Colorado than Democrats, down from a 176,572 edge four years ago.

Democrats win the state when they hold down GOP margins in rural districts, and appeal to swing women voters in Larimer County and the Denver suburbs. Mr. Obama lacks rural credentials, but he might make inroads in the suburbs.

Sen. McCain's independence will help him in Colorado. Also, there will be two anti-union initiatives on the ballot this fall that could energize conservatives. But he needs to run up votes in the GOP strongholds of El Paso (Colorado Springs), Douglas (south of Denver), Weld (Eastern Plains) and Mesa (Western Slope) counties, while appealing to Democratic and independent Hispanics and Catholics.

The last time Virginia (13 electoral votes) went for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964. In 2004, the GOP's margin was eight points. That makes Virginia an uphill climb for Mr. Obama, but not out of reach. He's focused on increasing African-American voters in Hampton Roads (in the southeastern corner of the state), Richmond and Petersburg, and on deepening his strength in Northern Virginia, where Fairfax was one of only 60 counties in America to flip from Republican in '00 to Democrat in '04.

But Mr. McCain's maverick image allows him to compete in Northern Virginia, where he's buying expensive D.C. TV ads. He also needs to do well in rural Virginia and the Richmond suburbs. Hampton Roads is home to nearly twice as many veterans as the national average, so Mr. McCain should be able to do well there.

If Mr. McCain lost Colorado and Virginia, he would likely have 264 electoral votes (assuming he carried the other states President Bush won in 2004). To win, he would have to pick up a state Democrats are counting on winning, such as Michigan.

With 17 electoral votes, Michigan is an attractive target. But it is also a complicated state. The Democratic machine is in near meltdown in Detroit, where the city's mayor is fighting felony charges stemming from an alleged cover-up of a sex scandal (he recently spent a night in jail). The party is also hurt by adverse reactions to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's $1.5 billion tax increase last year, which dampened economic growth.

Mr. McCain needs Reagan Democrats and independents in eastern Michigan. These working class, culturally conservative, mostly Catholic voters are how the GOP elected an attorney general, a secretary of state and a state Senate majority. These voters care about jobs and know manufacturing runs on affordable energy. They will respond to Mr. McCain's call for domestic drilling and expanded nuclear power.

Mr. McCain also needs to focus on "soft" Republicans, particularly in the Detroit suburbs. His renegade reputation will help him with socially liberal independents and Republicans. But Mr. Obama's change message will help him in western Michigan where the socially conscious, historically Republican Dutch voters have antiwar tendencies.

Then there is Ohio. Ground zero in '04, its 20 electoral votes will be hotly contested again this year. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.

How can Mr. McCain take Ohio? He can appeal to swing voters in the northeastern part of the state. Cuyahoga, Summit and Lucas counties and the Mahoning Valley are full of culturally conservative, working-class voters. In addition, Mr. Obama was wiped out in the primary among the blue-collar Reagan Democrats of southeastern Ohio. Outside of the university town of Athens, he won less than 30% of the vote in southeastern Ohio. This Appalachian region remains bad turf for him.

Mr. McCain will need to do well with suburban independents in the counties surrounding Columbus to balance heavy African-American turnout. He will also need to run strong in the Cincinnati suburbs in the southwest, and in rural and small-town counties.

Other states will see serious competition, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Missouri and Wisconsin. But Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and Ohio are likely to be the center of the action. To win, Mr. Obama needs to pick up 18 electoral votes more than John Kerry received, meaning Mr. Obama must carry Colorado or Virginia and add another small state to his column. If Mr. McCain carries Michigan as well as Ohio, it would make Mr. Obama's Electoral College math very difficult. And if Mr. McCain can limit GOP losses to one or two small states from those won by the GOP in 2004, he'll be America's 44th president.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
24407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We are all Georgians on: August 14, 2008, 02:00:58 AM
We Are All Georgians
By JOHN MCCAIN
August 14, 2008; Page A13

For anyone who thought that stark international aggression was a thing of the past, the last week must have come as a startling wake-up call. After clashes in the Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia invaded its neighbor, launching attacks that threaten its very existence. Some Americans may wonder why events in this part of the world are any concern of ours. After all, Georgia is a small, remote and obscure place. But history is often made in remote, obscure places.

As Russian tanks and troops moved through the Roki Tunnel and across the internationally recognized border into Georgia, the Russian government stated that it was acting only to protect Ossetians. Yet regime change in Georgia appears to be the true Russian objective.

Two years ago, I traveled to South Ossetia. As soon as we arrived at its self-proclaimed capital -- now occupied by Russian troops -- I saw an enormous billboard that read, "Vladimir Putin, Our President." This was on sovereign Georgian territory.

Russian claims of humanitarian motives were further belied by a bombing campaign that encompassed the whole of Georgia, destroying military bases, apartment buildings and other infrastructure, and leaving innocent civilians wounded and killed. As the Russian Black Sea Fleet began concentrating off of the Georgian coast and Russian troops advanced on one city after another, there could be no doubt about the nature of their aggression.

Despite a French-brokered cease-fire -- which worryingly does not refer to Georgia's territorial integrity -- Russian attacks have continued. There are credible reports of civilian killings and even ethnic cleansing as Russian troops move deeper into Georgian territory.

Moscow's foreign minister revealed at least part of his government's aim when he stated that "Mr. Saakashvili" -- the democratically elected president of Georgia -- "can no longer be our partner. It would be better if he went." Russia thereby demonstrated why its neighbors so ardently seek NATO membership.

In the wake of this crisis, there are the stirrings of a new trans-Atlantic consensus about the way we should approach Russia and its neighbors. The leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia flew to Tbilisi to demonstrate their support for Georgia, and to condemn Russian aggression. The French president traveled to Moscow in an attempt to end the fighting. The British foreign minister hinted of a G-8 without Russia, and the British opposition leader explicitly called for Russia to be suspended from the grouping.

The world has learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. A cease-fire that holds is a vital first step, but only one. With our allies, we now must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to end violence permanently and withdraw its troops from Georgia. International monitors must gain immediate access to war-torn areas in order to avert an even greater humanitarian disaster, and we should ensure that emergency aid lifted by air and sea is delivered.

We should work toward the establishment of an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their country back together. This will entail reviewing anew our relations with both Georgia and Russia. As the NATO secretary general has said, Georgia remains in line for alliance membership, and I hope NATO will move ahead with a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine.

At the same time, we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world. The U.S. has cancelled a planned joint military exercise with Russia, an important step in this direction.

The Georgian people have suffered before, and they suffer today. We must help them through this tragedy, and they should know that the thoughts, prayers and support of the American people are with them. This small democracy, far away from our shores, is an inspiration to all those who cherish our deepest ideals. As I told President Saakashvili on the day the cease-fire was declared, today we are all Georgians. We mustn't forget it.

Mr. McCain is the Republican nominee for president.

24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medved on: August 14, 2008, 01:54:07 AM
Woof all,

    I always hear people posing the question "What would the Founding Fathers do in this day and age, especially in concern with the War on Terror?"  I came across this article where someone actually took the time for formulate some kind of a cohesive answer.....

Foreign Policy Lessons From Fighting Muslim Pirates
Michael Medved
Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Most Americans remain utterly ignorant of this nation’s first foreign war but that exotic, long-ago struggle set the pattern for nearly all the many distant conflicts that followed. Refusal to confront the lessons of the First Barbary War (1801-1805) has led to some of the silliest arguments concerning Iraq and Afghanistan, and any effort to apply traditional American values to our future foreign policy requires an understanding of this all-but-forgotten episode from our past.

The war against the Barbary States of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli—today’s Libya) involved commitment and sacrifice far from home and in no way involved a defense of our native soil. For centuries, the Islamic states at the southern rim of the Mediterranean relied upon piracy to feed the coffers of their corrupt rulers. The state sponsored terrorists of that era (who claimed the romantic designation, “corsairs”) seized western shipping and sold their crews into unimaginably brutal slavery. By the mid-eighteenth century, European powers learned to save themselves a great deal of trouble and wealth by bribing the local authorities with “tribute,” in return for which the pirates left their shipping alone. Until independence, British bribes protected American merchant ships in the Mediterranean since they traveled under His Majesty’s flag; after 1783, the new government faced a series of crises as Barbary pirates seized scores of civilian craft (with eleven captured in 1793 alone). Intermittently, the United States government paid tribute to escape these depredations: eventually providing a bribe worth more than $1,000,000—a staggering one-sixth of the total federal budget of the time – to the Dey of Algiers alone.

When Jefferson became president in 1801, he resolved to take a hard line against the terrorists and their sponsors. “I know that nothing will stop the eternal increase of demands from these pirates but the presence of an armed force, and it will be more economical & more honorable to use the same means at once for suppressing their insolencies,” he wrote.

The president dispatched nearly all ships of the fledgling American navy to sail thousands of miles across the Atlantic and through the straits of Gibraltar to do battle with the North African thugs. After a few initial reverses, daring raids on sea and land (by the new Marine Corps, earning the phrase in their hymn “….to the shores of Tripoli”) won sweeping victory. A decade later, with the U.S. distracted by the frustrating and inconclusive War of 1812 against Great Britain, the Barbary states again challenged American power, and President Madison sent ten new ships to restore order with another decisive campaign (known as “The Second Barbary War, 1815).

The records of these dramatic, all-but-forgotten conflicts convey several important messages for the present day:

1. The U.S. often goes to war when it is not directly attacked. One of the dumbest lines about the Iraq War claims that “this was the first time we ever attacked a nation that hadn’t attacked us.” Obviously, Barbary raids against private shipping hardly constituted a direct invasion of the American homeland, but founding fathers Jefferson and Madison nonetheless felt the need to strike back. Of more than 140 conflicts in which American troops have fought on foreign soil, only one (World War II, obviously) represented a response to an unambiguous attack on America itself. Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a long-standing tradition of fighting for U.S. interests, and not just to defend the homeland.

2. Most conflicts unfold without a Declaration of War. Jefferson informed Congress of his determination to hit back against the North African sponsors of terrorism (piracy), but during four years of fighting never sought a declaration of war. In fact, only five times in American history did Congress actually declare war – the War of 1812, the Mexican War, The Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. None of the 135 other struggles in which U.S. troops fought in the far corners of the earth saw Congress formally declare war—and these undeclared conflicts (including Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War, and many more) involved a total of millions of troops and more than a hundred thousand total battlefield deaths.

3. Islamic enmity toward the US is rooted in the Muslim religion, not recent American policy. In 1786, America’s Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, joined our Ambassador in London, John Adams, to negotiate with the Ambassador from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. The Americans asked their counterpart why the North African nations made war against the United States, a power “who had done them no injury", and according the report filed by Jefferson and Adams the Tripolitan diplomat replied: “It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

4. Cruel Treatment of enemies by Muslim extremists is a long-standing tradition. In 1793, Algerian pirates captured the merchant brig Polly and paraded the enslaved crewmen through jeering crowds in the streets of Algiers. Dey Hassan Pasha, the local ruler, bellowed triumphantly: “Now I have got you, you Christian dogs, you shall eat stones.” American slaves indeed spent their years of captivity breaking rocks. According to Max Boot in his fine book The Savage Wars of Peace: “A slave who spoke disrespectfully to a Muslim could be roasted alive, crucified, or impaled (a stake was driven through the arms until it came out at the back of the neck). A special agony was reserved for a slave who killed a Muslim – he would be cast over the city walls and left to dangle on giant iron hooks for days before expiring of his wounds.”

5. There’s nothing new in far-flung American wars to defend U.S. economic interests. Every war in American history involved an economic motivation – at least in part, and nearly all of our great leaders saw nothing disgraceful in going to battle to defend the commercial vitality of the country. Jefferson and Madison felt no shame in mobilizing – and sacrificing – ships and ground forces to protect the integrity of commercial shipping interests in the distant Mediterranean.

Fortunately for them, they never had to contend with demonstrators who shouted “No blood for shipping!”

6. Even leaders who have worried about the growth of the U.S. military establishment came to see the necessity of robust and formidable armed forces. Jefferson and Madison both wanted to shrink and restrain the standing army and initially opposed the determination by President Adams to build an expensive new American Navy. When Jefferson succeeded Adams as president, however, he quickly and gratefully used the ships his predecessor built. The Barbary Wars taught the nation that there is no real substitute for military power, and professional forces that stand ready for anything.

7. America has always played “the cop of the world.” In part, Jefferson and Madison justified the sacrifices of the Barbary Wars as a defense of civilization, not just the protection of U.S. interests – and the European powers granted new respect to the upstart nation that finally tamed the North African pirates. Jefferson and Madison may not have fought for a New World Order but they most certainly sought a more orderly world. Many American conflicts over the last 200 years have involved an effort to enfort to enforce international rules and norms as much as to advance national interests. Wide-ranging and occasionally bloody expeditions throughout Central America, China, the Philippines, Africa and even Russia after the Revolution used American forces to prevent internal and international chaos.

The Barbary Wars cost limited casualties for the United States (only 35 sailors and marines killed in action) but required the expenditure of many millions of dollars – a significant burden for the young and struggling Republic. Most importantly, these difficult battles established a long, honorable tradition of American power projected many thousands of miles beyond our shores. Those who claim that our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan represent some shameful, radical departure from an old tradition of pacifism and isolation should look closely at the reality of our very first foreign war—and all the other conflicts in the intervening 200 years.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved
24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 14, 2008, 01:35:34 AM
A Georgian-Russian Peace Deal and the French Connection
August 13, 2008
According to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, an agreement has been crafted that would end the war between Russia and Georgia and creating a framework for implementing a peace plan. According to Russian media, Russia has agreed to a cease-fire and a withdrawal from Georgian territory. Russian troops would continue to be based in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Georgia would agree not to use force and would permit humanitarian aid into areas of conflict. Georgia would also agree to the start of international talks on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia has not agreed to this yet, but Sarkozy’s next stop is Tbilisi where he will put the proposal in front of the Georgian government.

The proposal boils down to this. Militarily, both sides will return to the status quo ante. However, now there will be Georgian and international recognition of the right of Russian troops, called peacekeepers, to be stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Most important, Georgia will agree to formal discussions on the status of these two regions. That means that Georgia acknowledges that their status is not settled but is subject to negotiation. Implicitly that recognizes that Georgian claims to the two regions as integral parts of Georgia are suspended pending negotiation. Georgia, in effect, would formally give up the right to unilaterally decide the future of regions inside its own borders.

The Georgians now have a problem. If they accept these terms, they are in practice accepting the redrawing of Georgia’s borders. In any negotiation involving the Ossetians, Abkhazians or Russians, no one will agree to return these regions to Georgian control. Given the military reality of the presence of Russian troops, Georgia’s wishes will be irrelevant. On one hand, all this does is continue the de facto situation of the last 16 years. On the other, it forces the Georgians to cross a psychological and political line, similar to what Serbia faced with the independence of Kosovo. This is the Russian intent.

However, if the Georgians reject the plan outright, they appear to be intransigent in the face of hard reality. If they put Sarkozy in the position of having to return to Moscow without a Georgian agreement, they have no assurance of continued mediation — let alone protection against the Russians, who are still on Georgian soil and who hold the upper hand militarily. Without a long-term cease-fire, the Russians are free to resume combat operations, this time with the excuse that Georgia has rejected their attempts to offer peace terms that seemed reasonable to the president of France and the European Union. The Georgians might make a counteroffer, but it is unlikely that Sarkozy wants to play shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Tbilisi, and it is unlikely that the Georgians are going to get a better deal.

They face a stark choice: accept the idea that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not return to Georgian rule, or resume fighting — only this time they will also appear to have torpedoed a chance for peace rather than accept the status quo that existed before. It will be hard for the Georgians to accept this arrangement, but it will be impossible for them to refuse. This will create a political crisis in Georgia that will focus on the judgments made by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The Russian desire to see him replaced might come true democratically, as the romance of resistance fades into the bitterness of defeat.

The United States has expressed satisfaction with the evolution of events in Georgia. Having made suitable gestures of disapproval, the United States is quite happy to see the crisis ended. This will of course generate major repercussions in the region — a crisis of confidence in guarantees from the West in general and from Washington in particular. This will be particularly intense in Ukraine, which sees itself as an American ally, and in the Baltics, which are members of NATO. All are under Russian pressure to some extent and all are questioning the value of Western guarantees.

In some ways, the willingness of Sarkozy to negotiate a settlement and deliver it to the Georgians makes the situation worse. It is clear that France, the United States and the rest of the Western alliance have no appetite for confronting Russia over Georgia. Sarkozy’s eagerness to put an end to the conflict without protecting Georgia’s territorial claims makes perfect sense under the circumstances, but it can also be seen as an eagerness to end the war and return relations with Russia to their prior state.

There are some extreme measures NATO could take, from forward-deploying substantial forces in the Baltics to announcing the admission of Ukraine and even Georgia into NATO or at the least deploying some troops to Georgia. The agreement does not seem to preclude the latter. So the United States might deploy a small number of troops to Georgia to guarantee its future security against Russia. The problem with this is that it comes after the crisis, not during, and that Russia doesn’t seem to be easily impressed these days.
24410  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 13, 2008, 11:15:23 PM
As usual, GM is logical.

Where I still am left with doubt is that the reasonableness of the existing standard was developed in the context AND LIMITATIONS of the then existant technology.  As technological capabilities evolve ever more rapidly, are we headed towards a situation where everyone can be monitored all the time?
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 13, 2008, 03:20:15 PM
Bush and Georgia
August 13, 2008; Page A16
On June 13, 1948, the day after the Soviet Union took the first step in its blockade of Berlin, U.S. General Lucius Clay sent a cable to Washington making the case for standing up to the Soviets. "We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent." The Berlin Airlift began 13 days later.

Sixty years on, U.S. credibility is again on the line as the Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia. So far the Administration has been missing in action, to put it mildly. The strategic objective is twofold: to prevent Moscow from going further to topple Georgia's democratic government in the coming days, and to deter future Russian aggression.

* * *
President Bush finally condemned Russia's actions on Monday after a weekend of Olympics tourism in Beijing while Georgia burned. Meanwhile, the State Department dispatched a mid-level official to Tbilisi, and unnamed Administration officials carped to the press that Washington had warned Georgia not to provoke Moscow. That's hardly a show of solidarity with a Eurasian democracy that has supported the U.S. in Iraq with 2,000 troops.

Compared to this August U.S. lethargy, the French look like Winston Churchill. In Moscow yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting as president of the European Union, got Russia to agree to a provisional cease-fire that could return both parties' troops to their positions before the conflict started. His next stop was Tbilisi, on the heels of a visit from Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

If both sides agree to a cease-fire, Mr. Sarkozy promises that Europe will consider sending peacekeepers to enforce it. We trust he will find volunteers from the former Soviet republics, which see the writing on the wall if Russian aggression in Georgia is left unchallenged. The leaders of Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia flew to Tbilisi this week in a show of solidarity.

NATO also met yesterday and denounced the invasion, while stopping short of promising military aid to Georgia. Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the allies "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force," and demanded a return to the status quo ante.

The NATO leader also said Georgia's potential membership remains "very much alive" and that it would be a member of NATO one day. Georgia and Ukraine's applications come up again in December, and perhaps even Germany, which blocked their membership bids earlier this year, will now rethink its objections given that its refusal may have encouraged Russia to assume it could reassert control over its "near abroad."

Much as it respects and owes Georgia, the U.S. is not going to war with Russia over a non-NATO ally. But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one. Barring Russia's long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren't off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy. A country that starts a war on the weekend the Beijing Olympics began doesn't deserve such an honor.

The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. One way to demonstrate that would be a "Tbilisi airlift," ferrying military and humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. Secretary of State Rice or Defense Secretary Robert Gates should be in one of the first planes. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort. And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Valdimir Putin's hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili's fault.

Reshaping U.S. policy toward Russia will take longer than the months between now and January 20, when a new President takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction that his successor would have to deal with. If that successor is Barack Obama, this is an opportunity to shape a crucial foreign policy issue for a novice who could very well go in the wrong direction.

* * *
The alternative is ending Mr. Bush's tenure on a Carter-esque note of weakness. To paraphrase General Clay: Whether for good or bad, how the U.S. responds to Russia's aggression in Georgia has become a symbol of American credibility. By trying to Finlandize if not destroy Georgia, Moscow is sending a message that, in its part of the world, being close to Washington can be fatal. If Mr. Bush doesn't revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his Presidency.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Welcome back to the Great Game on: August 13, 2008, 11:55:26 AM
Welcome Back
To the Great Game
By MELIK KAYLAN
August 13, 2008; Page A17



Last year, President Mikheil Saakashvili invited me along on a helicopter flight to see Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, from the air. We viewed it at some distance to avoid Russian antiaircraft missiles manned by Russian personnel.

He pointed out a lone hilltop sprinkled with houses some 10 miles inside Georgian territory -- scarcely even a town. Much of the population, namely the Georgians, had long ago been purged by Russian-backed militias, leaving behind a rump population of Ossetian farmers and Russian security forces posing as Ossetians. "We have offered them everything," he said, "language rights, land rights, guaranteed power in parliament, anything they want, and they would take it, if the Kremlin would let them."

 
AP 
Russian armed vehicles en route to Tskhinvali, Aug. 9, 2008.
Moscow's thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group provided just enough cover for Georgia's timorous friends in the West to ignore increasing Russian provocations over the past few years. Moscow, it now seems, intends to "protect" large numbers of Georgians too -- by occupying and killing them if that's what it takes -- and prevent them from building their own history and pursuing their democratic destiny, as it has for almost two centuries.

As we worry about another Russian imperialist adventure in Georgia, we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture either: To wit, Moscow has always had a clear strategic use for the Caucasus, one that concerns the U.S. today more than ever.

Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since. Already, a great deal has been said about the implications of Russia's invasion for Ukraine, the Baltic States and Europe generally. But few have noticed the direct strategic threat of Moscow's action to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kremlin is not about to reignite the Cold War for the love of a few thousand Ossetians or even for its animosity toward five million Georgians. This is calculated strategic maneuvering. And make no mistake, it's about countering U.S. power at its furthest stretch with Moscow's power very close to home.

 
The pivotal geography of the Caucasus offers the Kremlin just such an opportunity. Look at a map, and the East-meets-West, North-meets-South vector lines of the region illustrate all too clearly how the drama now unfolding in the Caucasus casts Moscow's shadow all across Central Asia and down into the Middle East. In effect, we in the West are being challenged by Russian actions in Georgia to show that we have the nerve and the stamina to secure the gains not just of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but of the entire collapse of Soviet power.

Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil -- namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. This is important not just because of the actual oil being delivered free of interference from Russia and Iran and the Middle East, but also for symbolic reasons. It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West directly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right. According to Georgian authorities, Russian warplanes have tried to demolish the Georgian leg of that pipeline several times in the last days. Their message cannot be clearer.

Besides their own pipeline, Georgia and Azerbaijan offer a fragile strategic conduit between the West and the "stans" of Central Asia -- including Afghanistan -- an area that the Soviets once controlled in toto. We should remember that an isolated Central Asia means an isolated Afghanistan. Look at the countries surrounding Afghanistan -- all former Soviet colonies, then Iran, then Pakistan.

The natural resources of Central Asia, from Turkmenistan's natural gas to Kazakhstan's abundant oil, cannot reach the West free of Russia and Iran except through that narrow conduit in the Caucasus. Moscow's former colonies in Central Asia are Afghanistan's most desirable trading partners. They are watching the strife in Georgia closely. It will tell them whether or not they will enter the world's free markets without a Russian chokehold on their future -- or, whether they, and their economies, are doomed for the foreseeable future to remain colonies in all but name. And it won't be long before Moscow dictates to them exactly how to isolate Kabul. Moscow is perfectly aware, even if we are not, that choking off the bottleneck in the Caucasus gives Iran and Russia much say over our efforts in Afghanistan.

In Iraq too, the Kremlin's projection of power down through Georgia will soon be felt. Take another look at the map. If Russia is allowed to extend its reach southwards, as in Soviet times, down the Caucasus to Iran's borders, Moscow can support Iran in any showdown with the West. Iran, thus emboldened, will likely attempt to reassert itself in Iraq, Syria and, via Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

We could walk away from this challenge, hoping for things to cool off, and let the Russians impose sway over the lower Caucasus for now. But no one will fail to notice our weakness. If we don't draw the line here, it doesn't get easier down the road with any other border or country. We would be risking the future of Afghanistan, and the stability of Iraq, on the good will of Moscow and the mullahs in Tehran. This is how the game of grand strategy is played, whether we like it or not.

Mr. Kaylan is a New York-based writer who has reported often from Georgia.
24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 13, 2008, 11:49:09 AM
'I Owe My Soul to the Obama Company Store'

Now we may know why Barack Obama's campaign decided to move his acceptance speech to Denver's 75,000-seat Invesco Field -- the better to extort hours of volunteer campaign labor out of thousands of people clamoring for tickets to the big event.

Denver media outlets were full of complaints yesterday from people who had entered a lottery for tickets but were told reservations for the event would come with a catch -- they must contribute six hours of volunteer labor for the campaign no later than this coming Friday in order to secure a coveted seat.

"I got a call that if I want the tickets, I have to volunteer two shifts of three hours apiece -- for one ticket. If I want two tickets, then it's four shifts of two hours apiece," Berenice Christensen told Denver's ABC-TV affiliate. Ms. Christensen says she still wants the tickets, but feels victimized by the bait-and-switch. "I mean, they made it seem like any Coloradoan could go, and now you have to work for your ticket."

The Obama campaign says it's all a big misunderstanding and nobody has to work in order to get a ticket. People who were asked to volunteer were only those who had checked a box on a Web site saying they were willing to work on the campaign thus becoming eligible for "All Star" tickets closer to the stage, says Stephanie Mueller, a campaign spokeswoman.

But several people who've been asked to volunteer insist they made no such pledge.

"Absolutely not," Heather Kreider of Centennial told the Rocky Mountain News, denying she had offered to volunteer when seeking a ticket. Another man, who declined to give his name, said he received a message informing him that he had to perform 12 hours of phone calling or precinct work for two tickets. He called the campaign's tactics "blackmail."

Naturally, the Obama campaign is free to set any conditions it wants for seats to their man's acceptance speech. But the tactics reported by the Denver media yesterday seem to reek of the "old politics" the campaign says it wants to transcend. It reminds me more of the Daley machine in Chicago than the "politics of hope."

-- John Fund

Can McCain Surf a Stronger Dollar?

All sorts of economic models scour the data and seek to forecast who will win the presidential race. But such models are generally poor predictors in close races -- which explains why Al Gore isn't sitting in the White House today.

One of the best economic predictors of election outcomes turns out to be the dollar. A strong dollar is good for the incumbent party. A weak dollar usually means voters are receptive to an Obama-style chant of "change." John Tammy of RealClearMarkets.com looked at the numbers and found a clear pattern of voter behavior. "Weak dollars mean weak presidents," he says.

Using the price of gold as a proxy for dollar strength, he found that Presidents Reagan and Clinton rallied the dollar and were rewarded at the polls -- gold fell 28% during the Gipper's administration and 19% during Mr. Clinton's. In contrast, Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter all pursued weak dollar strategies. During the Nixon/Ford years, the price of gold was up 276% and during the Carter years it was up 316%. The dollar also weakened against gold during George H. W. Bush's presidency, though only by 4%, but his tax hikes and a recession also saddled him with a reputation as a bad economic manager by time Election Day rolled around.

Pundits today blame George W. Bush's lousy poll numbers on the War in Iraq, but the dollar collapse, rising gas prices and loss of economic confidence hit closer to home for most voters. The dollar price of gold is up 236% since Mr. Bush entered office, rising from $300 to nearly $1000 earlier this year.

All of this may mean, however, that the recent dollar rally is good news for John McCain -- if it hasn't come too late. As one McCain adviser recently put it: "Go greenback."

-- Stephen Moore

Quote of the Day I

"The massive leak of inside dope on the [Hillary] Clinton primary campaign is remarkable in the annals of presidential election history. . . . What does it say about Sen. Clinton that so many aides were willing to share private matters publicly? Clearly, many are eager to shift blame to her and away from themselves. That is not particularly new for losing bids. But giving so many campaign documents to the press? That suggests a certain hostility between candidate and underlings that should give pause to those who believed that Clinton was ready 'on day one' to take command of the White House. Beyond this mutiny, the behind-the-scenes paperwork shows how Clinton horribly mismanaged her own people. Postponing critical decisions until the roof caved in, and then forcing her staff to manage the damage control" -- Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford on a flood of Clinton campaign memos reported in The Atlantic Monthly and elsewhere.

Quote of the Day II

"If we could get a firm commitment to expanded supply of oil on the market three and a half years from now, that would change spot market prices three and half years from now, that would change futures prices today and that would translate into pressure on prices instantaneously. You know, Mr. Krugman's a good economist; he can go back and read his finance text" -- McCain economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, quoted by the National Journal responding to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's criticism of John McCain's pro-drilling stance.

Obama's Weird Abortion Vote

Barack Obama's carefully sculpted image as a moderate may be showing some cracks.

It turns out that while in the Illinois legislature ,he voted against a bill that would have defined a fully born baby who survived an abortion as a "person." The concept isn't that controversial even among liberal Democrats. Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the Senate's leading pro-choice champion, urged her fellow Democrats to vote for a federal version of the same concept back in 2001, saying such a provision did not impinge on the rights enshrined in the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The Born Alive Infants bill eventually passed the U.S. Senate by 98 to 0.

But in the Illinois Senate, when Mr. Obama chaired the Health and Human Services Committee, records show a bill consisting of exactly the same language two years later was voted down by six to four. Mr. Obama was one of the legislators opposing it.

Mr. Obama has consistently denied the two bills were identical. During his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, he responded to a question about the Born Alive Infants bill, saying: "At the federal level there was a similar bill that passed because it had an amendment saying this does not encroach on Roe v. Wade. I would have voted for that bill."

But documents recovered from the Illinois Senate archives contradict his statement. "In essence, Obama voted to successfully amend the bill in a way Obama has said would have enabled him to support it, before he voted against it," says columnist Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com. The National Right to Life Committee's Legislative Counsel Susan Muskett calls the documents a "smoking gun" that finally resolve the Obama abortion vote controversy.

The Obama campaign has strenuously attacked critics who bring up the "Born Alive" bill. Last June 30, Team Obama issued a statement accusing talk show host Bill Bennett of "outright false statements" for contending that Mr. Obama wouldn't support a bill that even leading pro-choice groups declined to oppose. Here's hoping journalists try to pin Mr. Obama down on just why he appears to be to the left of his own party on abortion.

-- John Fund



24414  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GPS used to tail/monitor on: August 13, 2008, 10:04:25 AM
Police turn to secret weapon: GPS device

Privacy advocates say electronic tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights

By Ben Hubbard

updated 11:40 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2008

Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.

David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz's van, which allowed them to track his movements.

Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church. After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.

"We don't really want to give any info on how we use it as an investigative tool to help the bad guys," said Officer Shelley Broderick, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. "It is an investigative tool for us, and it is a very new investigative tool."

Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators and killers, often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell's Big Brother society. Law enforcement officials, when they discuss the issue at all, said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate. Most of the time, as was done in the Foltz case, judges have sided with police.

With the courts' blessing, and the ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS as an effective tool in investigations and that the public will hear little about it.

Last year, FBI agents used a GPS device while investigating an embezzlement scheme to steal from District taxpayers, attaching one to a suspect's Jaguar.
"I've seen them in cases from New York City to small towns -- whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car," said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "And of course, it's easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time."

Most police departments in the Washington region resist disclosing whether they use GPS to track suspects. D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said D.C. police do not use the technique. Police departments in Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties and Alexandria declined to discuss the issue.

Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George's County police spokesman, said his department does use the technique. "But I don't think that's something [detectives] would be too happy to put out there like that," Copeland said. "They do have different techniques they like to use on suspects, but they don't really want people to know."

Details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court. Such cases have revealed how police in Washington state arrested a man for killing his 9-year-old daughter: the GPS device attached to his truck led them to where he had buried her.

Cases have shown how detectives in New York caught a drug-runner after monitoring his car as he bought and sold methamphetamine. In Wisconsin, police tracked two suspected burglars by attaching a GPS device to their car and apprehending them after burglarizing a house.

The Foltz case offers a rare glimpse into how a Washington area police department uses GPS. Foltz's attorney, Chris Leibig, challenged police in court last week and tried to have the GPS evidence thrown out. He argued at a hearing at Arlington County General District Court that police needed a warrant since the device tracked Foltz's vehicle on private and public land. The judge disagreed, and the evidence will be used at Foltz's trial, which will begin Oct. 6. Foltz was charged in the Feb. 6 attack, but not in the others.

Without obtaining a warrant, Jack Kirk, a detective from the Fairfax police department's electronic-surveillance section, placed a GPS device on Foltz's van while it was parked in front of his house, Kirk testified. He said it took three seconds. Another vehicle was not targeted because it was on private property, he said.

Detectives began actively monitoring the van four days later, when it appeared to be moving slowly through neighborhoods, Kirk said. Foltz was caught the next day.

In preparing to defend Foltz, Leibig filed Freedom of Information Act requests with every police department in Virginia, asking about their use of unwarranted GPS tracking. Most departments said they had never used the device. About two dozen refused to respond, including Loudoun and Prince William counties, Alexandria and the Virginia State Police.

Arlington police said they have used GPS devices 70 times in the last three years, mostly to catch car thieves, but also in homicide, robbery and narcotics investigations.

Fairfax police used the technology as early as 2003 and have used it many times since, according to year-end reports Leibig received. Police used GPS devices 61 times in 2005, 52 times in 2006 and 46 times in 2007.
Five other Virginia departments reported using GPS once for specific investigations.

GPS advocates said police do not need a warrant to track suspects electronically on public streets because the device provides the same information as physical tracking.

"A police officer could do the same thing with his or her own eyes," said Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden. "It helps to cut down on the number of police officers who would have to be out tracking particular cars."

Leibig said GPS should be held to a different standard because it provides greater detail. "While it may be true that police can conduct surveillance of people on a public street without violating their rights, tracking a person everywhere they go and keeping a computer record of it for days and days without that person knowing is a completely different type of intrusion," he said.

GPS devices receive signals from a network of satellites, then use the information to calculate their precise location. By taking readings at different times, they can also calculate speed and direction.

The Defense Department operates the system, which was made available for civilian use in 1996. The technology's price has dropped since then, with new dashboard models available for less than $200. Some cellphone models are equipped with GPS, and many companies and local governments rely on GPS to track vehicle fleets.

Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, considers GPS monitoring, along with license plate readers, toll transponders and video cameras with face-recognition technology, part of the same trend toward "an always-on, surveillance society."

"Things that would have seemed fantastic 15 years ago are now routine," he said. "We have to rethink what is a reasonable expectation of privacy."
So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not weighed in on unwarranted GPS tracking, but supporters point to a 1983 case that said police do not need a warrant to track a car on a public street with a beeper, which relays the car's location to police.

Lower courts that have addressed the issue have not all agreed. The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that police must obtain a warrant to use the device in that manner, but courts in New York, Wisconsin and Maryland, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, have held that a warrant is not necessary.

Craig Fraser, director of management services for the Police Executive Research Forum, said tracking technology's new capabilities might eventually require legal adjustments.
"The issue is whether the more sophisticated tools are doing the same things we used to do or are creating a different set of legal circumstances," he said.

Paul Marcus, a law professor at Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, said the debate will only grow stronger as more departments substitute old-fashioned manpower for better and cheaper electronics.
"It is going to happen more and more," he said. "No question about it."
24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / loyal dog on: August 13, 2008, 09:55:18 AM
Dog guarded owner's body for weeks after death

German shepherd protected body for up to six weeks, investigators say

updated 6:37 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2008

GREELEY, Colorado - A dog stood guard over her owner's body for up to six weeks after the man committed suicide on the remote northeastern Colorado plains, authorities said.

The body of 25-year-old Jake Baysinger was found Sunday on the Pawnee National Grasslands about 75 miles northeast of Denver. Cash, his German shepherd, was found beside him, thin and dehydrated but still alive. The dog had apparently survived by eating mice and rabbits, authorities said.

The Weld County coroner ruled Baysinger's death a suicide. The cause of death wasn't immediately determined but authorities found a gun nearby, the coroner's office said Tuesday.  Baysinger was reported missing June 28. An extensive search failed to locate him, but a rancher saw Cash last weekend, went to investigate and discovered Baysinger's body and his pickup.

"At least we know it's over now," said Baysinger's wife, Sara. "We'd been looking for my husband for six weeks, and this isn't how we wanted it to end. At least we can close this."

Cash has been reunited with her and her 2-year-old son, Lane. She said her little boy is "very close to that dog" and happy to see her again.

Investigators said the dog probably kept coyotes away from the body.
__________________
24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprise, surprise , , , on: August 13, 2008, 09:03:06 AM
Mega liberal Maureen Dowd of the NY Times:

Yes, She Can
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: August 12, 2008
WASHINGTON

While Obama was spending three hours watching “The Dark Knight” five time zones away, and going to a fund-raiser featuring “Aloha attire” and Hawaiian pupus, Hillary was busy planning her convention.

You can almost hear her mind whirring: She’s amazed at how easy it was to snatch Denver away from the Obama saps. Like taking candy from a baby, except Beanpole Guy doesn’t eat candy. In just a couple of weeks, Bill and Hill were able to drag No Drama Obama into a swamp of Clinton drama.

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior.

Her former aide Howard Wolfson fanned the divisive flames Monday on ABC News, arguing that Hillary would have beaten Obama in Iowa and become the nominee if John Edwards’s affair had come out last year — an assertion contradicted by a University of Iowa survey showing that far more Edwards supporters had Obama as their second choice.

Hillary feels no guilt about encouraging her supporters to mess up Obama’s big moment, thus undermining his odds of beating John McCain and improving her odds of being the nominee in 2012.

She’s obviously relishing Hillaryworld’s plans to have multiple rallies in Denver, to take out TV and print ads and to hold up signs in the hall that read “Denounce Nobama’s Coronation.”

In a video of a closed California fund-raiser on July 31 that surfaced on YouTube, Hillary was clearly receptive to having her name put in nomination and a roll-call vote.

She said she thought it would be good for party unity if her gals felt “that their voices are heard.” But that’s disingenuous. Hillary was the one who raised the roll-call idea at the end of May with Democrats, who were urging her to face the math. She said she wanted it for Chelsea, oblivious to how such a vote would dim Obama’s star turn. Ever since she stepped aside in June, she’s been telling people privately that there might have to be “a catharsis” at the convention, signaling she wants a Clinton crescendo.

Bill continues to howl at the moon — and any reporters in the vicinity — about Obama; he’s starting to make King Lear look like Ryan Seacrest.

The way the Clintons see it, there’s nothing wrong with a couple making plans for their future, is there? That’s the American way and, as their pal Mark Penn pointed out, they have American roots while Obama “is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”

The Clintons know that a lot of Democrats are muttering that their solipsistic behavior is “disgusting.” But they’re too filled with delicious schadenfreude at the wave of buyer’s remorse that has swept the Democratic Party; many Democrats are questioning whether Obama is fighting back hard enough against McCain, and many are wondering, given his inability to open up a lead in a country fed up with Republicans, if race will be an insurmountable factor.

Some Democrats wish that Obama had told the Clintons to “get in the box” or get lost if they can’t show more loyalty, rather than giving them back-to-back, prime-time speaking gigs at the convention on Tuesday and Wednesday. Al Gore clipped their wings in 2000, triggering their wrath by squeezing both the president and New York Senate candidate into speaking slots the first night and then ushering them out of L.A.

Wednesday will be all Bill. The networks will rerun his churlish comments from Africa about Obama’s readiness to lead and his South Carolina meltdowns. TV will have more interest in a volcanic ex-president than a genteel veep choice.

Obama also allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that “demeaning portrayals of women ... dampen the dreams of our daughters.” This, even though postmortems, including the new raft of campaign memos leaked by Clintonistas to The Atlantic — another move that undercuts Obama — finger Hillary’s horrendous management skills.

Besides the crashing egos and screeching factions working at cross purposes, Joshua Green writes in the magazine, Hillary’s “hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”

It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Taxes on: August 13, 2008, 08:56:52 AM
"Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reeactments,
because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of
the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest
government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted,
to be free."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813)

Reference: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Library of Congress,
American Memory Collection
24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 12, 2008, 05:42:14 PM
I hope I do not overload, but here is another-- this one forwarded to me by a friend in Germany.  He comments that he disagrees with the idea that Merkel is friendly to Putin, but on the whole thinks the piece sound.
==========

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4488503.ece
August 9, 2008
How Georgia fell into its enemies' trap
The fighting in the Caucasus should be a deafening wake-up call to the West
Edward Lucas
When is a victory not a victory? When it dents your country's image, scares your allies and gets you into an unwinnable war with a hugely stronger opponent.

That is the bleak outlook for Georgia this weekend, after what initially looked like a quick military win against the separatist regime in South Ossetia. Georgia's attack followed weeks of escalating provocations, including hours of heavy shelling by the Russian-backed breakaway province and signs of large-scale Russian reinforcement.

Thanks to American military aid, Georgia's 18,000-strong armed forces are the best-trained and equipped fighting force in the Caucasus. But it is one thing for them to defeat the raggle-taggle militia of a tinpot place like South Ossetia (population 70,000). It is another for a country of less than five million people to take on Russia (population 142 million). Now the Kremlin is reacting strongly. Russian warplanes are reportedly striking targets in Georgia. Reinforcements are pouring in. And the Kremlin's mighty propaganda machine is lumbering into action while a cyber-attack appears to have crippled Georgia's websites.

For it is the information war, not what happens on the ground, that will determine the victor of this conflict. Russia is portraying Georgia as the aggressor, an intransigent and unpredictable country determined to restore its supremacy over an unwilling province by means of military force and “ethnic cleansing”. Such a country, clearly, would be unfit to receive Western support.

Background
Russia and Georgia on brink of war
Georgia pounds Russian-backed rebels
Tensions for Nato over Georgia and Ukraine
Analysis: global energy threatened by conflict
That seems to be working. European leaders have long been dubious about Mikhail Saakashvili, a charismatic US-educated lawyer who stormed to power in the Rose Revolution of 2005. Where the fans of the Georgian President see charm and brains, his critics - such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel - see a dangerously headstrong and erratic leader. A crackdown on the Opposition in November, bullying of the media and instances of abuse of power among senior officials have allowed detractors to draw uncomfortable parallels between Georgia and Vladimir Putin's Russia.

These are misplaced: Georgia is not perfect, but it is not a dictatorship. Its leadership does not peddle a phoney ideology, such as the Kremlin's mishmash of Soviet nostalgia and tsarist-era chauvinism. It has a thriving civil society, vocal opposition and ardently wants to be in the EU and Nato. Moral grounds alone would be enough reason for supporting it against Russian aggression.

But on top of that is a vital Western interest. The biggest threat Russia poses to Europe is the Kremlin's monopoly on energy export routes to the West from the former Soviet Union. The one breach in that is the oil and gas pipeline that leads from energy-rich Azerbaijan to Turkey, across Georgia. If Georgia falls, Europe's hopes of energy independence from Russia fall too.

Yet the West is both divided and distracted. America will be furious if reports turn out to be true that Russian warplanes bombed an airfield where Pentagon military advisers are based. But a lame-duck president is not going to risk World War Three for Georgia. In Europe, Georgia's allies are mostly small ex-communist states such as Lithuania; heavily outnumbered by those such as Germany that prize their relations with Russia, seemingly, above all else. It seems Russia is ready to hit back hard, in the hope of squashing the West's pestilential protégé.

In short, it looks more and more as though Georgia has fallen in to its enemies' trap. The script went like this: first mount unbearable provocations, then wait for a response, and finally reply with overwhelming military force and diplomatic humiliation. The idea that Georgia sought this war is nonsense. Recovering control of South Ossetia from its Russian-backed rulers has been a top priority for the Georgian authorities for years. But nobody thought it would come by military means. The Georgian strategy had been to use soft power, underlining its prosperity and the corruption-

busting successes of Mr Saakashvili's rule. That contrasted sharply with the isolation and cronyism of South Ossetia, which survives only on smuggling and Russian subsidies.

Now that strategy is in ruins. As things stand, Georgia will be fighting not to regain South Ossetia or even to deter aggression, but to survive. It is hard to see any good outcome. Georgia has failed to win a quick victory: crucially, it failed to block the Roki tunnel under the Caucasus mountains, normally used as a smugglers' highway, but now the route for Russian heavy weapons that Georgia cannot counter for long. Worse, the authorities in Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, may mount an attack, either on its own or with Russian help.

The fighting should be a deafening wake-up call to the West. Our fatal mistake was made at the Nato summit in Bucharest in April, when Georgia's attempt to get a clear path to membership of the alliance was rebuffed. Mr Saakashvili warned us then that Russia would take advantage of any display of Western weakness or indecision. And it has.

Edward Lucas is the author of The New Cold War (Bloomsbury)
24419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: August 12, 2008, 05:38:50 PM
Woof All:

I suppose there are other threads where the following WSJ piece could have been placed, but I feel like putting it here.  God bless our troops and our profound gratitude for what they have done for us.

Marc
=================


The War in Iraq Is Over.
What Next?
By BING WEST
August 12, 2008; Page A21

Iraq

The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over. In July, there were five American fatalities in Iraq, the lowest since the war began in March 2003. In Mosul recently, I chatted with shopkeepers on the same corner where last January a Humvee was blown apart in front of me. In the Baghdad district of Ghazilia -- where last January snipers controlled streets awash in human waste -- I saw clean streets and soccer games. In Basra, the local British colonel was dining at a restaurant in the center of the bustling city.

For the first time in 15 trips across the country, I didn't hear one shot or a single blast from a roadside bomb. In Anbar Province, scene of the fiercest fighting during the war, the tribal sheiks insisted to Barack Obama on his recent visit that the U.S. Marines had to stay because they were the most trusted force.

The war turned around in late 2006 because American troops partnered with Iraqi forces and tribal auxiliaries to protect the population. Feeling safe, the population informed on the militias and terrorists living among them. Then, in the spring of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked the Mahdi militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that controlled Basra and half of Baghdad. The militia crumbled under pressure from Iraqi soldiers backed by coalition intelligence and air assets.

The threat in Iraq has changed from a full-scale insurgency into an antiterror campaign. Al Qaeda in Iraq is entrenched in northern Mosul, where it may take 18 months to completely defeat them. By employing what he calls his "Anaconda Strategy," Gen. David Petraeus is squeezing the life out of al Qaeda in Iraq. The mafia-style militia of Sadr has been splintered.

The competition among Iraqi politicians has shifted from violence to politics, albeit yielding a track record as poor as that of our own Congress. After failing for two years to deliver basic services, both Shiite and Sunni politicians are stalling on legislation to hold provincial elections because many of them will be defeated. While irritating, these political games have not blocked U.S. gains.

Americans should praise rather than slight our military's achievements. Civil war has been averted. The Iraqi army has thrown the militia out of the port of Um Qasar, thus ensuring stable oil exports. Al Qaeda fought to make Iraq its base in the Arab Middle East. Instead, it is being hunted down.

Iran has emerged as the major threat to stability in Iraq. While its goal was to control a weak Iraq after the American army was driven out, Tehran overplayed its hand. Iran supplied the rockets to attack Iraqi politicians in Baghdad in April and supported Sadr's militia. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites died fighting Iranians in the '80s, and those memories are still fresh. In southern Maysan Province, American and Iraqi units are waiting to hunt down terrorists returning from Iranian training camps. Iraq, backed by some American forces in remote desert bases, is poised to emerge as a regional counterweight to Iran.

Yet the progress in Iraq is most threatened by a political promise in the U.S. to remove all American combat brigades, against the advice of our military commanders. Iraqi volunteers working for a nonsectarian political party in Baghdad asked me, "Is America giving up its goals?" It's an unsettling question.

With victory in sight, why would we quit? The steady -- but not total -- withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is freeing up forces to fight in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is not the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda is hiding in Pakistan, a nation we are not going to invade.

The Iraqis aren't yet confident enough to stand entirely on their own; al Qaeda's savagery still imposes too much fear, while Iran is training terrorists next door. In counterinsurgency, the people must know they are protected. Gen. Petraeus has proven that intimidation can be defeated by placing American soldiers among the population. Wars are won by confidence, but also by procedures that take time to mature; and the Iraqi offensive against Sadr's militia in Basra last April revealed an atrocious Iraqi command and control system.

We are withdrawing as conditions permit. For instance, in the infamous Triangle of Death south of Baghdad, Col. Dominic Caraccilo has spread his rifle companies across 22 police precincts. Over the next year, he plans to pull out two of every three companies, leaving the population protected by Iraqi forces, backed by a thin screen of American soldiers.

If implemented on a countrywide scale, this model would reduce the American presence from 15 to five brigades over the next few years. They can be comprised of artillerymen, motor transport and civil affairs as well as infantrymen. By calling these residual forces "Transition Teams," we can remove the political argument in the U.S. about the exact number of combat brigades, and allow our commanders flexibility in adjusting force levels. This change of names rather than of missions is a way to save face and bring Americans closer together.

The problem is not American force levels in Iraq. It is divisiveness at home. While our military has adapted, our society has disconnected from its martial values. I was standing beside an Iraqi colonel one day in war-torn Fallujah when a tough Marine patrol walked by. "You Americans," he said, "are the strongest tribe."

But we cast aspersions on ourselves. The success of our military should not be begrudged to gain transitory political advantage.

In 1991, our nation held a parade after our military liberated Kuwait. Over the course of more than five hard years, our troops have brought stability and freedom to 25 million Iraqis, while crushing al Qaeda in Iraq. Regardless of disagreement about initiating the war back in 2003, Americans should unite to applaud the success of our troops in 2008.

A stable Iraq keeps faith with the million American soldiers who fought there, sets back Iran's aggression, and makes our enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere fear us. It's time we stopped debating about yesterday and displayed national pride in our soldiers.

Mr. West is a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine. His third book on the Iraq war, "The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq," is out today from Random House.
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 12, 2008, 05:32:39 PM
How the West Can Stand Up to Russia
By GARY SCHMITT and MAURO DE LORENZO
August 12, 2008; Page A21

Given the cutthroat politics Moscow has practiced at home and abroad in recent years -- with only the softest protests from the U.S. and its allies -- no one should be surprised by Russia's decision to conquer the two breakaway regions of Georgia. Nevertheless, it should once and for all disabuse policy makers in Washington and Brussels of hopes that Russia intends to become part of the post-Cold War condominium of democratic peace in Europe. The point of the Kremlin's invasion of Georgia, which now threatens the capital city of Tbilisi, is to demonstrate to the world how impotent that security order has become.

For Moscow, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's mistake in finally taking the bait of Russian provocations and ordering his troops in South Ossetia last week was the opening they sought -- and for which they had been planning for some time.

 
David Gothard 
South Ossetia is not, as some have suggested, tit-for-tat payback for American and European recognition, over Russian objections, of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Russia has been "at war" with democratic Georgia for some time. Driven to distraction by Mr. Saakashvili's assertiveness and Georgia's desire to join NATO, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first tried to bring the country to its knees through economic warfare beginning in 2005. He cut off access to Russian markets, expelled Georgians from Russia, quadrupled the price of Russian energy to Georgia, and severed transport links.

Georgia failed to collapse. To the contrary, it has flourished: After the Rose Revolution of 2003 ended the corrupt reign of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, Georgia instituted far-reaching reforms to its governing structures, cleaned up the endemic corruption that infected every facet of pre-Rose Revolution life, and found new markets for its products in Turkey and Europe. It persevered with some of the most profound and thorough economic and pro-business reforms ever undertaken by a developing country -- slashing taxes and government regulations, and privatizing state-owned enterprises. All of which is reflected in Georgia's meteoric rise on the World Bank's Doing Business indicators. The irrelevance of Russian economic sanctions to Georgia made the ideological challenge that the Rose Revolution posed to Putin's vision of Russia even more profound.

 
Unable to bend Tbilisi to its will, the Kremlin in recent months ratcheted up the pressure and provocations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- reinforcing Russian forces and Russian-backed paramilitaries, violating Georgian air space with Russian jets, shelling Georgian villages and outposts, and passing a resolution to treat the two provinces administratively as part of Russia. Starting in 2004, Russia began issuing passports to the residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a fact that today serves as one of the main pretexts for the ferocity of Moscow's military campaign.

However, Georgia's "impertinence" in seeking NATO membership and building close ties with Europe does not fully explain Moscow's blatant display of brute power. In a speech before the Munich Conference on Security Policy in February last year, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia would no longer accept the rules of the international road as set by the democratic West. It was an in-your-face challenge to the U.S. and Europe, and we blinked. With the exception of John McCain, who warned against "needless confrontation" on the part of Moscow, no American or European official at the conference made any attempt to push back. Ever since, Moscow's contempt for NATO, the European Union and Washington has only grown.

Reversing this course will not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. At stake are international law, energy security, NATO's future, and American credibility when it comes to supporting new democracies. It is also about resisting Russia's openly hegemonic designs on its neighbors -- including Ukraine, which Mr. Putin reportedly described as "not a real nation" to President Bush at their meeting in Sochi earlier this year.

What can the West do? The first step is for the U.S. and its allies to rush military and medical supplies to Tbilisi. If we want democracy to survive there, Georgians have to believe that we have their backs. At the moment, the tepidness of the Western response has given them serious cause for doubt. In addition, Washington should lead the effort to devise a list of economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia that impose real costs for what Moscow has done. Russia should know that the West has a greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War than Russia, with its petroleum-dependent economy, does.

Next, the West should make use of Russia's claim that its role in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is driven by the need to protect the populations there. If so, Moscow should have no objections to U.N.-sanctioned peacekeepers and observers moving into those two regions to replace the jerry-rigged system of "peacekeepers" that, until the war broke out, consisted of Russian troops, local separatist militaries and Georgian forces. If nothing else, the goal should be to put Mr. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, on their back foot diplomatically.

Over the longer term, it is essential that Russia's stranglehold on Europe's energy supplies be broken. The EU's failure to get its house in order by diversifying energy supplies and insisting that Russia, in turn, open up its own market, has created a situation in which Moscow rightly believes it has significant leverage over the policy positions of key countries such as Germany.

It was Germany that led the opposition at the most recent NATO summit in April against a Membership Action Plan for Georgia, emphasizing that a country that has unresolved conflicts should not be allowed to enter NATO. We presumably won't know for some time what the precise calculations were inside the Kremlin when it came to the decision to send troops into Georgia, but one can surely assume that the German position did nothing to discourage Russia's plans.

The real payback for Moscow's decision to invade Georgia should be the sweet revenge of a strong, prosperous and fully independent Georgia. Building on the strides Georgia has already made, Brussels and Washington should give Tbilisi a clear road to NATO and EU membership.

Mr. Schmitt is director of the American Enterprise Institute's program on advanced strategic studies. Mr. De Lorenzo is an AEI resident fellow.
24421  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: August 12, 2008, 05:23:43 PM
Confirmed  cool

Also, Dog Steve Gruhn.    Dog Ryan, would you send me your dad's phone number please?  I want to ask him how he is doing.
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 12, 2008, 05:17:23 PM
I agree completely that China must be getting ideas.

Here's a bigger thought piece from Stratfor:

The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.

Let’s begin simply by reviewing the last few days.

On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.

On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.





(click image to enlarge)
On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.

The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.

The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?

It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.

If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.

The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.

That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.

The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.

The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.

From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.

Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.

Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.

By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.

The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.

Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).

In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.
24423  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Real contact stickfighting, injuries and recovery on: August 12, 2008, 10:33:15 AM
What is the Dan Severn?
24424  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with stalkers/creeps... on: August 12, 2008, 10:25:31 AM
Whoa  cry
24425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: August 12, 2008, 10:24:17 AM
Eric "C-Tennessee Dog" Bryant it is-- quite right!
24426  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 12, 2008, 10:23:20 AM
Dog Ryan and Arkangel Phil:

I think there may be a Training injuries thread (or something like that) and if there isn't there should be.  Would you please post about the Severn RNC, what happened, and what was the aftermath?

TIA,
CD
24427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 12, 2008, 10:18:00 AM
And one more, this from the ever thoughtful Stratfor:

The war between Georgia and Russia appears to be drawing to a close. There were Russian air attacks on Georgia on Sunday and some fighting in South Ossetia, and the Russians sank a Georgian missile boat. But as the day ended the Russians declared themselves ready to make peace with Georgia, and U.N. officials said the Georgians were ready to complete the withdrawal of their forces from South Ossetia.

At this point, the Russians have achieved what they wanted to achieve, quite apart from assuring South Ossetia’s autonomy. First, they have driven home the fact that in the end, they are the dominant power not only in the Caucasus but also around their entire periphery. Alliance with the United States or training with foreign advisers ultimately means little; it is not even clear what the United States or NATO would have been able to do if Georgia had been a member of the alliance. That lesson is not for the benefit of Georgia, but for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and even Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians have made it clear that, at least at this moment in history, they can operate on their periphery effectively and therefore their neighbors should not be indifferent to Russian wishes.

The second lesson was for the Americans and Europeans to consider. The Russians had asked that Kosovo not be granted independence. The Russians were prepared to accept autonomy but they did not want the map of Europe to be redrawn; they made it clear that once that starts, not only will it not end, but the Russians would feel free to redraw the map themselves. The Americans and Europeans went forward anyway, making the assumption that the Russians would have no choice but to live with that decision. The Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia drives home the point that the Russians are again a force to be reckoned with.

There has been sharp rhetoric from American and European officials, but that rhetoric can’t be matched with military action. The Europeans are too militarily weak to have any options, and the Americans have quite enough on their plates without getting involved in a war in Georgia. In some ways the rhetoric makes the Russians look even stronger than they actually are. The intensity of the rhetoric contrasted with the paucity of action is striking.

The Americans in particular have another problem. Iran is infinitely more important to them than Georgia, and they need Russian help in Iran. Specifically, they need the Russians not to sell the Iranians weapons. In particular, they do not want the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles delivered to the Iranians. In addition, they want the Russians to join in possible sanctions against Iran. Russia has a number of ways to thwart U.S. policy not only in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Syria. These are areas of fundamental concern to the United States, and confronting the Russians on Georgia is a risky business. The Russians can counter in ways that are extremely painful to the United States.

There is talk that the Russians might want a new government in Georgia. That is probably so, but the Russians have already achieved their most important goals. They have made it clear to their neighbors that a relationship with the West does not provide security if Russia’s interests are threatened. They have made it clear to the West that ignoring Russian wishes carries a price. And finally, they have made it clear to everyone that the Russian military, which was in catastrophic shape five years ago, is sufficiently healed to carry out a complex combined-arms operation including land, air and naval components. Granted it was against a small country, but there were many ways in which the operation could have been bungled. It wasn’t. Russia is not a superpower, but it is certainly no longer a military cripple. Delivering that message, in the end, might have been the most important to Russia.
24428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 12, 2008, 10:12:59 AM
@GM: That was a very interesting piece, wasn't it?

@Rachel:  We appreciate your posts from Israeli sources.

From a very different POV, here's the WSJ:
=============
Vladimir Bonaparte
August 12, 2008; Page A20
The farther Russia's tanks roll into Georgia, the more the world is beginning to see the reality of Vladimir Putin's Napoleonic ambitions. Having consolidated his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead President, Mr. Putin is now pushing to reassert Russian dominance in Eurasia. Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Baltic states could be threatened if he's allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.

No matter who fired the first shot last week in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, Moscow is using the separatist issue as an excuse to demolish Georgia's military and, if possible, depose its democratically elected government. Russian forces moved ever deeper into Georgia proper Monday. They launched a second front in the west from another breakaway province, Abkhazia, and took the central city of Gori, which lies 40 miles from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. These moves slice the country in half and isolate its ports, most of which Russia has bombed or blockaded. Moscow dismissed a cease-fire drawn up by European nations and signed by Georgia.

Russian bombers have also hit residential and industrial areas, making a mockery of Moscow's charge that Georgia is the party indiscriminately killing civilians. Russian claims of Georgian ethnic cleansing now look like well-rehearsed propaganda lines to justify a well-prepared invasion. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks, ships and warplanes were waiting for Mr. Putin's command.

While the rape of Chechnya was brutal, this is the most brazen act of Mr. Putin's reign, the first military offensive outside Russia's borders since Soviet rule ended. Yet it also fits a pattern of other threats and affronts to Russia's neighbors: turning off the oil or natural-gas taps to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and even to NATO-member Lithuania; launching a cyberassault on Estonia; opposing two antimissile sites in NATO members in Eastern Europe that couldn't begin to neutralize Russia's offensive capabilities.

Our emphasis on NATO here is no coincidence. The Georgia invasion is a direct slap at the Western alliance. Tbilisi, like Kiev, has been pushing for NATO membership. Mr. Putin decided to act while some alliance members, led by Germany, dallied over their applications. Georgia was first. Ukraine, which has been pushing Russia to move its Black Sea fleet's headquarters out of the Crimea, could be next.

The alliance needs to respond forcefully, and it can start today. NATO officials have granted Russia a special meeting before deciding what to do about Georgia -- though we don't recall Russia briefing NATO about its plans in the Caucasus. The meeting is an opportunity to relay to Moscow that Georgian and Ukrainian membership is back on the table and that the alliance is considering all options for Georgia, from a humanitarian airlift to military aid, if Russia doesn't withdraw immediately.

Mr. Putin is betting that the West needs him for oil and deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions more than he needs the West. He's wrong -- not least since his "cooperation" on Iran consists of helping Tehran stall for time and selling the mullahs advanced antiaircraft missiles. Russia also needs the West's capital and especially its expertise in developing its oil and gas fields at least as much as the West needs Russian energy supplies.

The U.S. and Europe need to make all of that clear. Forcing Russia to veto a strong condemnation of its own actions at the U.N. Security Council would be one way to turn the pressure up. And speaking of pressure, where are all the peace protesters during this war? They can't all be in China.

As for the U.S., this is perhaps the last chance for President Bush to salvage any kind of positive legacy toward Russia, amid what is a useful record elsewhere in Eurasia. While Mr. Bush has championed the region's fledgling democracies, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin. Now would be a good moment for Mr. Bush to publicly acknowledge his misjudgment and rally the West's response.

John McCain had the Russian leader pegged better, which speaks well of his foreign-policy instincts. The Republican Presidential candidate has long said that Russia should be booted from the G-8 and yesterday he outlined a forceful Western strategy on Russia that stops short of military action. Barack Obama has in the past indicated support for the Georgia and Ukraine NATO bids, but the Democratic candidate has yet to explain in any detail how he would respond to the current conflict.

There's one other way the U.S. could hit Russia where it hurts: by strengthening the dollar. The greenback's weakness has contributed greatly to the record oil prices that have in turn made Russia flush with petrodollars and fueled Mr. Putin's expansionist ambitions. Crude prices continued to fall yesterday, below $115 a barrel, and further deflating that bubble would do more to sober up an oil-drunk Kremlin than would any kind of economic sanctions.

* * *
Vladimir Putin's Russia isn't the former Soviet Union, bent on ideological confrontation around the world. But it is a Bonapartist power intent on dominating its neighbors and restoring its clout on the world stage. Unless Russians see that there are costs for their Napoleon's expansionism, Georgia isn't likely to be his last stop.
24429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Work on: August 12, 2008, 10:09:20 AM
"This gave me occasion to observe, that when Men are employ'd
they are best contented. For on the Days they work'd they were
good-natur'd and chearful; and with the consciousness of having
done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the
idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with
their Pork, the Bread, and in continual ill-humour."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Autobiography, 1771)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, ed., Library of America
(1447)
24430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting Read on: August 12, 2008, 12:04:58 AM
Monday, August 11, 2008

The Trouble with Georgia

Ryan suggested that I weigh in on the current conflict in South Ossetia and in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which I mention in passing in my book as one of the bigger post-Soviet political fiascos.

It turns out that I am somewhat qualified to write on the subject: when I was in grad school (linguistics) I studied Abkhaz, the curious language spoken by the indigenous population of the separatist republic of Abkhazia. (Abkhazia is involved in the current conflict, working to flush Georgian forces out of the Kodor gorge, which is the one piece of their territory that remains under nominal Georgian control, as well as providing volunteers to help the South Ossetian side.) Later, finding that the Abkhaz side was woefully underrepresented, I started a web site, Apsny.org ("Apsny" being the Abkhaz word for Abkhazia), where, with help from Prof. Hewitt of the School of Oriental and African Languages in London, Prof. Chirikba, an Abkhaz linguist, and many others, I tried to present facts uncurried by extreme nationalist sentiments. At that time, the internet was dominated by the Georgian side, which was eager to accuse the Abkhaz of atrocities while discounting their own role in the bloody and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to regain control of the breakaway republic, in which some ten thousand people had died and many more had been displaced. For my diligent service, which spanned more than a decade, I received voluminous hate mail and many death threats from the Georgian side, as well as official expressions of gratitude from the Abkhaz side. Be that as it may, I find both the Georgians and the Abkhaz quite amazing, I am sure that the world would be much poorer without them, and I wish they would leave each other in peace, so that I can go and visit either place as I wish.

For obvious reasons, my view of the Caucasus region has always been colored by my interest in linguistics. While the Caucasus mountains are certainly some of the highest and most impressive in the world, it is also a mountain of exotic and often unrelated languages. While Abkhaz, Chechen, and some others form a single North Caucasian family of languages, Georgian (Kartvelian) is only vaguely related to Basque, spoken in France and in Spain, while Ossetian is distantly related to Persian. For thousands of years, the region has been a mosaic made up of fiercely independent tribes, of which Georgians (Kartvelians) were only one of the largest. This made them more capable of forming a viable political entity (a kingdom, initially), but never could they aspire to dominating their neighbors, to whom they were not even vaguely related, either ethnically or linguistically. And language did play a big role: although bilingualism and even multilingualism were by no means rare, none of the tribes were too eager to learn the language of any other tribe en masse. For instance, prior to their being conquered and absorbed into the Russian Empire, the Chechens were a trilingual society, using Arabic in the mosque, Turkish in the market, and one of the "home languages" in the home village. After the Russian conquest, which was very bloody and resulted in the annihilation of several smaller tribes, among them the Ubykh, who simply would not surrender, the Russian language became the lingua franca of the entire region.

To the conquering Russians, Georgia represented the rich, creamy heart of the incredibly tough nut of the Caucasus region. In contrast to the many small and taciturn mountain tribes, many of them either Moslem or animist, here was an Orthodox Christian nation with great traditions of art, music, architecture, poetry, an unparalleled joie de vivre, and a delicious national cuisine. Georgians easily secured for themselves a pleasant role within the empire. Leaving administrative chores to the Russians and commerce and the trades to the Armenians, they were free to indulge in more pleasant pursuits, such as feasting, falconry, and entertaining foreign visitors. This trend had carried over into Soviet times, making Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic a favored tourist destination, a prosperous place complete with amusing wines, delicious food, an exuberantly friendly population that spoke your language, and majestic mountains for a backdrop. In the interest of maintaining public order, the Russians tried to be even-handed in their treatment of the non-Georgian tribes. Knowing full well just how much trouble they can be, they administered their territories as autonomous units within Georgia. One of the more glaring exceptions to this was the arbitrary administrative inclusion of Abkhazia within Georgia, which was done by Joseph Stalin (Dzhugashvili), who was a Georgian, and which in many ways laid the ground for the current conflict.

Their being so well coddled within the fold of the great empire cultivated in the Georgians a sense of exceptionalism and entitlement vis à vis their smaller and poorer neighbors, which, once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russians departed, gave rise to a particularly rabid, venomous, and ultimately self-destructive brand of nationalism. The first post-independence Georgian leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was killed rather quickly. Part of his nationalist rhetoric involved labeling other tribes, such as the Abkhaz and the Ossetians, as newcomers and gypsies, who are only welcome as "guests" on Georgian soil. Next up was Eduard Shevardnadze, who was Foreign Minister of the USSR under Gorbachev, and who was more or less handed Georgia as his personal fiefdom by the West, as his reward for idly standing by and smiling pleasantly while the Berlin wall was being torn down. He was given UN recognition and foreign aid, and told to go ahead and try to preserve "Georgia's territorial integrity." At this he failed miserably, causing a senseless bloodbath and a flood of refugees. Shevardnadze slowly sank into a morass of corruption and national decay, until finally even the West decided that he smelled bad and unceremoniously replaced him with a shiny new face: the American-educated Mikhail Saakashvili. And this brings us to the current conflict, which he started. It is unclear why he decided to start it, but then his American education might offer a clue: the US doesn't seem to need good reasons to start wars either.

It may be difficult for some people to grasp why it is that the Abkhaz or the Ossetians do not much fancy suddenly becoming Georgian, so let me offer you a precise analogy. Suppose Los Angeles, California, were to collapse as the USSR once did, and East L.A. quickly moved to declare its independence. Suppose, further, that the 88% of its population that is Hispanic/Latino voted that the other 12% were free to stay on as "guests," provided they only spoke Spanish. The teaching of English were to be forbidden. After some bloody skirmishes, East L.A. split up into ethnic enclaves. Then some foreign government (say, Russian, or Chinese) stepped in and started shipping in weapons and providing training to the Latino faction, in support of their efforts to restore East L.A.'s "territorial integrity." As a non-Hispanic resident of East L.A., would you then (1) run and hide, (2) stay and fight, or (3) pick up a copy of "Spanish for Dummies" and start cramming?
 
 
 
========
 
The Abkhaz and the South Ossetians have made their preference very clear by applying for and being issued with a Russian passport. That's right, the majority of the present native population of these two "separatist enclaves" are bona fide citizens of the Russian Federation with all the privileges appertaining thereto. Lacking any other options, they are happy to accept protection from Russia, use Russian as their lingua franca, and fight for their right to be rid of Georgians once and for all. One of the privileges of being a Russian citizen at this stage, when Russia has recovered from its political and economic woes following the Soviet collapse, is that if some foreign entity comes and shells a settlement full of Russian citizens, you can be sure that Russia will open one amazingly huge can of whoop-ass on whoever it feels is responsible. Add to that the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Georgian forces, such as finishing off wounded Russian peacekeepers, and you can see why the normally shy and reticent Russian army might get behind the idea of making sure Georgia no longer poses a military threat to anyone. The Georgians have really done it to themselves this time, and we should all feel very sorry for them. They are not evil people, just incredibly misguided by their horrible national politicians. The West, and the US in particular, bear responsibility for enabling this bloodbath by providing them with arms, training, and encouraging them to fight for their "territorial integrity."

This, it will no doubt turn out, was the wrong thing to do. The term "Georgia's territorial integrity" has been bantered about and proffered lamely as an excuse for an untenable status quo for almost two decades now, with poor results. In the meantime, the territorial integrity of another semi-defunct state, Serbia has been sacrificed on the altar of geopolitics. Kosovo, which is Serbia's historical homeland, has been cleansed of Serbians, and alienated from Serbia proper. For those who are vague on the details of that conflict, here is a summary. Kosovo became majority-Albanian due to Albanians' higher birth rate. The Albanians then formed Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought Serbians for independence and lost. Albanians then fled en masse to Albania. The US and NATO then intervened, bombed Kosovo and Serbia, repatriated the refugees, and turned Kosovo into a UN protectorate. The next step from the West's point of view is to recognize Kosovo's independence, taking it away from Serbia forever.

If Kosovo is to Serbia as Abkhazia and South Ossetia are to Georgia, what, you might ask, is the key difference that mandates a different outcome for the latter? Well, there are quite a few (neither is Georgia's historical homeland, both fought for independence and won, both are populated by indigenous tribes rather than newcomers from across the border), but the most salient seems to be this one: Serbia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia are all BAD (aligned with Moscow) while Georgia is GOOD (aligned with the West and US, and wants to join NATO). Morality, which, I am sure, underpins Western and US foreign policy, dictates that the bad be punished, and the good rewarded. I submit to you that such self-serving logic is a political dead end, and that if senseless bloodshed is to be stopped and peace is to be restored to the Caucasus, Western and US leaders will have to activate several additional brain cells, and stop mindlessly repeating the meaningless phrase "Georgia's territorial integrity."

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/
24431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More pre-emptive dhimmitude on: August 11, 2008, 08:30:56 PM
CNN Avoids Mentioning Islam in Segment on 'Honor Killings'

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

CNN Avoids Mentioning Islam in Segment on 'Honor Killings'
By Mark Finkelstein (Bio | Archive)
August 11, 2008 - 15:12 ET

Quite a feat: CNN has pulled off the MSM equivalent of describing a spiral staircase without using one's hands. It has managed to produce a segment on "honor killings" and related violence in the UK . . . without using the word "Muslim" or "Islam." CNN Newsroom anchor Don Lemon introduced the segment this afternoon at 1:37 PM EDT.


DON LEMON: Women forced into marriages, or killed for having the wrong boyfriend. So-called "honor crimes" are often committed by fathers or brothers when daughters do something that supposedly brings shame on the family. It's on the rise in Britain, and authorities, they are very worried about it. Our Paula Newton reports.

View video here.




Honor crimes are "often committed" by father and brothers? And the crimes are "on the rise" in Britain? Now why would that be? Newton did little to elucidate. She told the story of Banaz Mahmod [seen here]: kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered at the order of her father, Mahmod Mahmod, for "bringing shame" on her family. Newton never mentioned that Mahmod was a Muslim, an Iraqi Kurd. According to Diana Nammi with the London-based Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organization, "we're seeing an increase around the world, due in part to the rise in Islamic fundamentalism."

Instead of identifying the root of the problem, Newton said only that British authorities have instituted public awareness campaigns in "the few communities" where they've seen problems. She cited a figure of 17,000 honor crimes or forced marriages as possibly being only the tip of the iceberg in the UK. A British police official is then seen decrying the fact that "the perceived honor of the family is seen as more important than the life of a child." In which families? The policeman never said and CNN never explained.

The closest the segment came to revealing the truth of the matter was during an interview with a woman living in hiding for fear of her life for having converted to Christianity and refused an arranged marriage. She mentions that her family has justified killing her for her failure to obey Koran and Allah. And at another point in the segment, brief images of women in black burquas appear.

But the words "Muslim" or "Islam" are never heard during the segment. Newton again elliptically speaks only of "communities" where "young women still live in fear." Which communities might those be? CNN doesn't say.

The network deserves some credit, I suppose, for airing the subject at all. But CNN's failure to mention by name the religion that lies at the root of the problem constitutes a particularly craven political correctness.


http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mark-fi...honor-killings
24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 11, 2008, 08:02:44 PM
I know, I know. I'm venting.

But another lesson of Life is not to get sucked into endless quagmires-- which in the absence of a coherent strategy, may well be where we are headed.
24433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 07:59:56 PM
We don't even have enough troops for both Afg/Pak and Iraq-- let alone to keep pressure on Iran and you think we can take on the Russkis on their own border?

I agree about the consequences throughout the momentarily free FSU. 

Once again (NK, Syria, Iran, etc) the Bushies have barked without bite and yet again have gotten caught at it.  Good job getting Ukraine into the orbit of the free.  Good job getting Poland and ______ to take the Star Wars missiles to defend Europe from Iranian missiles.  STUPID to push the Russkis by backing the separation of Kosovo-- and the same logic we used there, they use now in Georgia.  STUPID to push for Georgia into NATO.  5-10 years ago it may have made sense to diminish Russia while it was down, but with the oil revenues, the fact that our forces are at full capacity and our "allies" are weenies, and Putin having re-established the strong Russian state wiser hands would not have pushed it so far so fast so overextended.

BTW a friend with contacts in Russia told me of a phone conversation he had yesterday.  He said his Russian friend was VERY guarded on the phone, but did mention a book which is going round called "The Northern Alliance" wherein the Russians ally with Iran.  For the Iranians the motive is to bring down Israel and for the Russians its to drive the US out of the MidEast.
24434  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 11, 2008, 03:26:21 PM
I am grateful today to listen to the silence that comes after a Gathering  cool
24435  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: August 11, 2008, 03:23:49 PM
Whoops!  embarassed  Sorry Straw Dog
24436  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 11, 2008, 03:22:08 PM
Nah, this one is too skinny  cheesy  BTW, it was Pound Dog's 50th birthday yesterday.

Folks, would you please send your fotos to info@dogbrothers.com so that we can post them in our gallery too?
24437  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: August 11, 2008, 01:59:05 PM
"CD what do you think of that straight right?"

I thought it extremely telegraphed.  cheesy  Watch it in slo-mo.  His hand virtually dropped to his hip before throwing.
24438  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with creeps... on: August 11, 2008, 01:54:52 PM
Dog Dan:

I'm with GM and Peregrine on this.
24439  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: August 11, 2008, 01:51:00 PM
Let the Howl go forth!

On behalf of the Council of Elders

Dean "C-Kaju Dog" Webster
Eric "C-I forget at the moment  embarassed Dog" Bryant
Matt "C-Boo Dog" Booe

"Dog Maynard" Ancheta
"Dog SB" Mig

If I have gotten your name wrong or forgotten anyone else, please let me know.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact!" (c)
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force
Council of Elders
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 11, 2008, 01:46:22 PM
So why don't we:

a) Do an Osirak on their nuke capabilities, and

b) burn all the opium fields in Afg

c) leave them to stew in their own mess?
24441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 01:44:14 PM
And now it serves their interest to help Iran with Anti aircraft missiles and nixing economic pressure via the UN.

You're a bright and unusually well informed man GM.  Specifically what do you suggest we do?
24442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 11, 2008, 12:15:32 PM

"Pakistan's neighbors India and Afghanistan, and its strategic ally America, cannot be too sanguine about this continuing political instability. Their core interests require Pakistan's civilian leadership to lean on the Pakistan army to rein in and retool the ISI, support the war on terror in Afghanistan, and refrain from refueling Islamist jihad in India-administered Kashmir. But with the army sulking politically and licking its wounds militarily, the Zardari government looks unlikely to deliver on these fronts -- with or without a President Musharraf"

If we have a coherent strategy for Pak-Afg, I'm not seeing it.
24443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 12:02:34 PM
GM:

Question:  So what do we do about the leverage the Russians have with regard to Iran?

=============
All:

Here's these from the NYTimes.  Caveat lector:
----

 
By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ELLEN BARRY
Published: August 10, 2008
GORI, Georgia — In retreat, the Georgian soldiers were so tired they could not keep from stumbling. Their arms were loaded with rucksacks and ammunition boxes; they had dark circles under their eyes. Officers ran up and down the line, barking for them to go faster.

Weary residents heading south said they were beginning to feel betrayed by the United States, an ally of Georgia, as diplomacy had fallen short of expectations.

All along the road was grief. Old men pushed wheelbarrows loaded with bags or led cows by tethers. They drove tractors and rickety Ladas packed with suitcases and televisions. As a column of soldiers passed through Gori, a black-robed priest came out of his church and made the sign of the cross again and again. One soldier, his face a mask of exhaustion, cradled a Kalashnikov.

“We killed as many of them as we could,” he said. “But where are our friends?”

It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?

Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.

Even in the hinterlands, at kebab stands and in farming villages, people fleeing South Ossetia saw themselves as trapped between great powers. Ossetian refugees heading north to Russia gushed their gratitude to Dmitri A. Medvedev and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian leaders. Georgians around Gori spoke of America plaintively, uncertainly. They were beginning to feel betrayed.

“Tell your government,” said a man named Truber, fresh from the side of the Tbilisi hospital bed where his son was being treated for combat injuries. “If you had said something stronger, we would not be in this.”

He had not slept for three days, and he was angry — at himself, at Georgia, but mainly at the United States. “If you want to help, you have to help the end,” he said.

Meanwhile, the influx of Ossetians into southern Russia continued Sunday, as the police escorted convoys of minibuses up the Zaramakh highway and through the mountain tunnel that is the only route into Russia. The Russian authorities estimated that 34,000 refugees had crossed the border, and 3,000 more evacuations were planned for Monday. The Ossetians emerged onto a four-lane highway whose edges had been chopped to pieces by columns of Russian armor. Around them were mountains shrouded by fog.  Tatiana Gobozoyeva was riding in a van with 20 other refugees, many of whom had spent four days huddled in dirty basements. She said she considered the United States responsible for the Georgian aggression.

Pyotr Bezhov, who fled the violence with his daughter Oksana on Sunday, stood by a dusty dirt road.

“The biggest problem here is you, your country,” he said. “You said that the Soviets were an evil empire, but it’s you that are the empire.

“Not you personally, of course,” he added. “But your government.”

On the other side of the line of battle, Georgians had begun to question the strength of their alliance with the United States.

In recent years, Mr. Bush has lavished praise on Georgia — and the so-called Rose Revolution that brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power — as a model of democracy-building. The feeling was mutual: when Mr. Bush visited Tbilisi in 2005, the authorities estimated that 150,000 people showed up to see him. He famously climbed up on a platform and wiggled his hips to loud Georgian folk music.

Those exuberant days seemed very distant around Gori on Sunday, as people fled, leaving behind corn fields and apple orchards. A group of men tried mightily to push a truck with a blown-out tire, but it got stuck on the road, and they finally abandoned it.

Gato Tkviavi lingered in Tirzini, a village of one-story houses where cows were wandering through the streets.  Asked where the border with South Ossetia was, he pointed at his feet. “The border is where the Russians say it is,” he said. “It could be here, or it could be Gori.”

The grimmest among the Georgians were the soldiers, haggard, unshaven and swinging their Kalashnikovs. A group of them had piled onto a flatbed truck, crowding on in such numbers that some were sitting on the roof, their feet dangling over the windshield.

One, who gave his name as Major Georgi, spoke with anger. “Write exactly what I say,” he said. “Over the past few years, I lived in a democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Gori and Ellen Barry from Moscow. Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Matt Siegel from Vladikavkaz, Russia.

==========
By C. J. CHIVERS
Published: August 10, 2008
As the bloody military mismatch between Russia and Georgia unfolded over the past three days, even the main players were surprised by how quickly small border skirmishes slipped into a conflict that threatened the Georgian government and perhaps the country itself.

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Justyna Mielnikiewicz for The New York Times
A bombed apartment in Gori, Georgia, with posters of Georgia’s president and President Bush. There was no sign over the weekend that the Kremlin was willing to negotiate with Georgia.

Multimedia
Graphic
A History of Enmity
Related
Russians Push Past Separatist Area to Assault Central Georgia (August 11, 2008)
On Slog to Safety, Seething at West (August 11, 2008)
In Brooklyn, Georgians Pray and Frantically Call Families (August 11, 2008) Several American and Georgian officials said that unlike when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, a move in which Soviet forces were massed before the attack, the nation had not appeared poised for an invasion last week. As late as Wednesday, they said, Russian diplomats had been pressing for negotiations between Georgia and South Ossetia, the breakaway region where the combat flared and then escalated into full-scale war.

“It doesn’t look like this was premeditated, with a massive staging of equipment,” one senior American official said. “Until the night before the fighting, Russia seemed to be playing a constructive role.”

But while the immediate causes and the intensity of the Russian invasion had caught Georgia and the Western foreign policy establishment by surprise, there had been signs for years that Georgia and Russia had methodically, if quietly, prepared for conflict.

Several other long-term factors had also contributed to the possibility of war. They included the Kremlin’s military successes in Chechnya, which gave Russia the latitude and sense of internal security it needed to free up troops to cross its borders, and the exuberant support of the United States for President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, a figure loathed by the Kremlin on both personal and political terms.

Moreover, by preparing Georgian soldiers for duty in Iraq, the United States appeared to have helped embolden Georgia, if inadvertently, to enter a fight it could not win.

American officials and a military officer who have dealt with Georgia said privately that as a result, the war risked becoming a foreign policy catastrophe for the United States, whose image and authority in the region were in question after it had proven unable to assist Georgia or to restrain the Kremlin while the Russian Army pressed its attack.

Russia’s bureaucratic and military groundwork was laid even before Mr. Saakashvili came to power in 2004 and positioned himself as one of the world’s most strident critics of the Kremlin.

Under the presidency of Vladimir V. Putin, Russia had already been granting citizenship and distributing passports to virtually all of the adult residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the much larger separatist region where Russia had also massed troops over the weekend. The West had been skeptical of the validity of Russia’s handing out passports by the thousands to citizens of another nation.

“Having a document does not make you a Russian citizen,” one American diplomat said in 2004, as Russia expanded the program.

But whatever the legal merits, the Kremlin had laid the foundation for one of its public relations arguments for invading: its army was coming to the aid of Russian citizens under foreign attack.

In the ensuing years, even as Russia issued warnings, Mr. Saakashvili grew bolder. There were four regions out of Georgian control when he took office in 2004, but he restored two smaller regions, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori Gorge in 2006, with few deaths.

The victories gave him a sense of momentum. He kept national reintegration as a central plank of his platform.

Russia, however, began retaliating against Georgia in many ways. It cut off air service and mail between the countries, closed the border and refused Georgian exports. And by the time the Kodori Gorge was back in Georgian control, Russia had also consolidated its hold over Chechnya, which is now largely managed by a local leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his Kremlin-backed Chechen forces.

Chechnya had for years been the preoccupation of Russian ground forces. But Mr. Kadyrov’s strength had enabled Russian to garrison many of its forces and turn its attention elsewhere.

Simultaneously, as the contest of wills between Georgia and Russia intensified, the strong support of the United States for Mr. Saakashvili created tensions within the foreign policy establishment in Washington and created rival views.

Some diplomats considered Mr. Saakashvili a politician of unusual promise, someone who could reorder Georgia along the lines of a Western democracy and become a symbol of change in the politically moribund post-Soviet states. Mr. Saakashvili encouraged this view, framing himself as a visionary who was leading a column of regional democracy movements.

Other diplomats worried that both Mr. Saakashvili’s persona and his platforms presented an implicit challenge to the Kremlin, and that Mr. Saakashvili made himself a symbol of something else: Russia’s suspicion about American intentions in the Kremlin’s old empire. They worried that he would draw the United States and Russia into arguments that the United States did not want.
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This feeling was especially true among Russian specialists, who said that, whatever the merits of Mr. Saakashvili’s positions, his impulsiveness and nationalism sometimes outstripped his common sense.

The risks were intensified by the fact that the United States did not merely encourage Georgia’s young democracy, it helped militarize the weak Georgian state.  In his wooing of Washington as he came to power, Mr. Saakashvili firmly embraced the missions of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. At first he had almost nothing practical to offer. Georgia’s military was small, poorly led, ill-equipped and weak.  But Mr. Saakashvili’s rise coincided neatly with a swelling American need for political support and foreign soldiers in Iraq. His offer of troops was matched with a Pentagon effort to overhaul Georgia’s forces from bottom to top.  At senior levels, the United States helped rewrite Georgian military doctrine and train its commanders and staff officers. At the squad level, American marines and soldiers trained Georgian soldiers in the fundamentals of battle.  Georgia, meanwhile, began re-equipping its forces with Israeli and American firearms, reconnaissance drones, communications and battlefield-management equipment, new convoys of vehicles and stockpiles of ammunition.

The public goal was to nudge Georgia toward NATO military standards. Privately, Georgian officials welcomed the martial coaching and buildup, and they made clear that they considered participation in Iraq as a sure way to prepare the Georgian military for “national reunification” — the local euphemism of choice for restoring Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian control.

All of these policies collided late last week. One American official who covers Georgian affairs, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the United States formulates its next public response, said that everything had gone wrong.  Mr. Saakashvili had acted rashly, he said, and had given Russia the grounds to invade. The invasion, he said, was chilling, disproportionate and brutal, and it was grounds for a strong censure. But the immediate question was how far Russia would go in putting Georgia back into what it sees as Georgia’s place.  There was no sign throughout the weekend of Kremlin willingness to negotiate. A national humiliation was under way.

“The Georgians have lost almost everything,” the official said. “We always told them, ‘Don’t do this because the Russians do not have limited aims.’ ”

24444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 11, 2008, 11:50:08 AM
Some House Democrats are privately fuming at the pickle Speaker Nancy Pelosi put them in when she turned off the lights in the House chamber and breezed out of Washington for the summer recess without addressing voter concerns about high gas prices. By denying Republicans a chance to make floor speeches about the gas crisis on the day Congress was set to adjourn, she set off an ongoing protest on the House floor that has garnered much publicity.

The Republican floor protest was a completely spontaneous reaction against her heavy-handed tactics. Since then, many Democratic Members have been pressed by voters at town hall meetings and radio call-in shows about why they won't allow a vote on the GOP proposal for more domestic oil production.

"It's annoying," one Democratic House Member admitted to me. "We don't go back in session until September 8 and this leaves us hanging out there the whole time."

Even more annoying to some Democrats is that Speaker Pelosi's rush to adjourn and leave town seems to have been motivated in part by her desire to start a book tour promoting her new memoir "Know Your Power."

-- John Fund

Nonperson

To anyone around in the 1970s, the late Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a larger-than-life, even inspirational figure. For those who've come of age in the years since his 1974 expulsion from the Soviet Union and the 1989 collapse of Communism, apparently, he's been airbrushed out of the cultural narrative.

A 20-something clerk in Borders' Lower Manhattan store drew a complete blank last week when I asked her for a copy of "The Gulag Archipelago." She'd never heard of the book, couldn't spell the words in the title to search the store's database, was unfamiliar with the author and, therefore, was unaware that he'd recently died.

Given Solzhenitsyn's sometimes acerbic comments about Western culture and values, I doubt he would have been surprised. On the bright side, when I checked both the Literature and Russian History sections, the noticeable gaps indicated that they'd been cleaned out of Solzhenitsyn's works, so at least the ignorance isn't universal. Generation Y may not be reading him on its Kindles on the subway, but someone apparently recognized his death for the historic passing it was.

-- Eric Gibson

Playing All the Veep Angles

Most speculation about whom Barack Obama and John McCain might pick as their vice-presidential running-mates ignores a key consideration. While presidential nominees are free to ask anyone to join them, they almost never pick someone holding a statewide office whose elevation would allow the opposition party to capture a governorship or Senate seat. After all, especially this year, Democrats are keen on getting as close as possible to the 60 seats in the U.S. Senate they would need to overcome GOP filibusters.

With the exception of Al Gore's choice of Senator Joe Lieberman in 2000 (which would have allowed a Republican governor to appoint his successor), you have to go back many decades to find examples of a presidential nominee putting a Senate seat or governor's mansion at risk in choosing a Veep nominee. Indeed, historian and radio talk-show host John Batchelor reminds me that a key element in Dwight Eisenhower's decision to pick Richard Nixon as his running-mate in 1952 was that Nixon's Senate seat would be turned over to another Republican if the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket were to be elected.

How might this factor influence the current crop of front-runners for each party's VP nomination? Joe Biden would be a safe choice for Barack Obama because his Delaware Senate seat would be filled by a Democratic governor. But Mr. Obama might look askance at picking Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine because a vacancy in that job would be filled by a Republican Lt. Governor. Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed would have to step down as senator in order to become vice president -- and his seat would be filled by a GOP governor. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is a special case. His state's governor is Republican Mitch Daniels, who is up for re-election this year. Should Democratic candidate Jill Long Thompson defeat Mr. Daniels, she would appoint someone to fill the vacancy. But if Mr. Daniels wins, he would deny the Democrats a key Senate seat they might have a hard time winning back in a GOP-leaning state like Indiana.

On the Republican side, Mr. McCain's choice is made easier because his short list is light on statewide officeholders. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty represents no problem because he would be succeeded by GOP Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau. Similarly, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour would be succeeded by his lieutenant governor, Phil Bryant. If Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas were tapped as vice president, her seat would be filled by a special election but GOP Governor Rick Perry would be allowed to appoint an interim successor.

No one should assume that concerns about losing a Senate seat or gubernatorial office will be an overriding consideration in the political calculus either Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain will make. But it would be foolish to believe it will play no role at all.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"The country's still pretty divided. . . . People may want a divided government. They want change but I'm not sure that the Democratic agenda has the support of a majority of Americans" -- former Nebraska Senator and 1992 Democratic presidential candidate Bob Kerrey, speaking to Politico.com on how John McCain could argue against turning the government entirely over to the Democratic triumvirate of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Electric Al

Al Gore wasn't too happy with a PD update a few weeks ago on his energy consumption habits at his Nashville palace. His environmental adviser, Kalee Kreider, contacted us to clarify a few things about the former vice president's carbon footprint.

For one thing, she says Mr. Gore now buys his power through Nashville Electric's "Green Powerswitch" program, which -- like similar programs offered by other utilities around the country -- allows customers to pay extra and receive assurances that their power nominally comes from a solar or wind facility. (However, for the record, Nashville Electric purchases all its power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which says the "backbone of the system" is its eleven coal-burning plants. They account for 60% of its power; nuclear for 30%.)

Ms. Kreider also says the "Inconvenient Truth" impresario has installed solar panels, feeding electricity back to the local grid. She says this power is metered separately, so wasn't deducted from the embarrassing figures about Mr. Gore's energy consumption reported by the Tennessee Center for Public Policy. Finally, she says the Gores have installed a geothermal system for heat and hot water -- an unspecified "problem" with which even prompted a visit from the fire department last year.

The effect of these improvements and modifications, Ms. Kreider says, has been to reduce the Gore household's net energy use by 40% since the Tennessee Center's Drew Johnson first publicized Mr. Gore's energy bills last year.

Hooray! The Gores still spend more in a month than most households do in a year. Nor have they released the cost of all these retrofits, which only seem to prove that you can spend a fortune on green indulgences and still maintain a sizeable carbon footprint. But it would be nice to have some cost figures -- if only to know what Mr. Gore would have in store for the rest of us. The former vice president has lately become a partner in a Silicon Valley firm positioning itself to profit from "green energy" mandates that would be imposed by law.

-- Brian M. Carney



24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 11, 2008, 11:46:01 AM
James:

A pleasant surprise that you are willing to entertain military action against Iran.

If I understand correctly GM was mocking the liberal left with his use of "brown people", not advocating it as his own preferred term.

Tail wags for the kind words on my drumming-- I was worse than usual yesterday, my efforts at groove disrupted by trying to get the "chain of challenge" going.  I wish you had introduced yourself personally so that I would have a face to put with our conversation here.

Marc
24446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 11:22:43 AM
August 11, 2008 | 0151 GMT
The war between Georgia and Russia appears to be drawing to a close. There were Russian air attacks on Georgia on Sunday and some fighting in South Ossetia, and the Russians sank a Georgian missile boat. But as the day ended the Russians declared themselves ready to make peace with Georgia, and U.N. officials said the Georgians were ready to complete the withdrawal of their forces from South Ossetia.

At this point, the Russians have achieved what they wanted to achieve, quite apart from assuring South Ossetia’s autonomy. First, they have driven home the fact that in the end, they are the dominant power not only in the Caucasus but also around their entire periphery. Alliance with the United States or training with foreign advisers ultimately means little; it is not even clear what the United States or NATO would have been able to do if Georgia had been a member of the alliance. That lesson is not for the benefit of Georgia, but for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and even Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians have made it clear that, at least at this moment in history, they can operate on their periphery effectively and therefore their neighbors should not be indifferent to Russian wishes.

The second lesson was for the Americans and Europeans to consider. The Russians had asked that Kosovo not be granted independence. The Russians were prepared to accept autonomy but they did not want the map of Europe to be redrawn; they made it clear that once that starts, not only will it not end, but the Russians would feel free to redraw the map themselves. The Americans and Europeans went forward anyway, making the assumption that the Russians would have no choice but to live with that decision. The Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia drives home the point that the Russians are again a force to be reckoned with.

There has been sharp rhetoric from American and European officials, but that rhetoric can’t be matched with military action. The Europeans are too militarily weak to have any options, and the Americans have quite enough on their plates without getting involved in a war in Georgia. In some ways the rhetoric makes the Russians look even stronger than they actually are. The intensity of the rhetoric contrasted with the paucity of action is striking.

The Americans in particular have another problem. Iran is infinitely more important to them than Georgia, and they need Russian help in Iran. Specifically, they need the Russians not to sell the Iranians weapons. In particular, they do not want the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles delivered to the Iranians. In addition, they want the Russians to join in possible sanctions against Iran. Russia has a number of ways to thwart U.S. policy not only in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Syria. These are areas of fundamental concern to the United States, and confronting the Russians on Georgia is a risky business. The Russians can counter in ways that are extremely painful to the United States.

There is talk that the Russians might want a new government in Georgia. That is probably so, but the Russians have already achieved their most important goals. They have made it clear to their neighbors that a relationship with the West does not provide security if Russia’s interests are threatened. They have made it clear to the West that ignoring Russian wishes carries a price. And finally, they have made it clear to everyone that the Russian military, which was in catastrophic shape five years ago, is sufficiently healed to carry out a complex combined-arms operation including land, air and naval components. Granted it was against a small country, but there were many ways in which the operation could have been bungled. It wasn’t. Russia is not a superpower, but it is certainly no longer a military cripple. Delivering that message, in the end, might have been the most important to Russia.
============
The conflict in the small former Soviet state of Georgia has taken a new twist.

So far, apart from Russian airstrikes, most of the combat has been limited to the north-central Georgian secessionist province of South Ossetia. But on Aug. 11, Russia beefed up its 2,500-strong peacekeeping force in Abkhazia — a secessionist region in northwestern Georgia — to more than 9,000 troops. And now the Russian Defense Ministry has announced — and the Georgian Interior Ministry has confirmed — that Russian forces have advanced up to the western Georgian city of Senaki.

The presence of Russian troops in Senaki has a number of important implications.

First, the Russian forces used in the operation approached from Abkhazia. There has been a U.N. buffer force between Abkhaz- and Georgian-controlled territory, so for Russian forces to be near Senaki, the Russians would have had to move through — and ultimately beyond — that buffer. Georgia’s best troops are also typically kept near Abkhazia, suggesting that those forces have been either bypassed or destroyed. Several reports indicate the Georgians are engaged in combat with Abkhaz forces in the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge, so it seems likely they were bypassed.

Second, Senaki sits astride a railroad juncture that links the rest of the country not only to Abkhazia, but to Georgia’s largest port: Poti. The Russians have already bombed Poti several times, but taking Senaki completely removes the port from the equation.

Third, another Georgian city — Samtredia — is only an hour’s march from Senaki. Samtredia sits astride the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa oil pipeline, transit fees from which are a major portion of Georgia’s economic wherewithal. But its military significance for Georgia cannot be overstated.

Samtredia is where Georgia’s transport links to its only other ports, Supsa and Batumi, merge with its link to Poti. (Technically, Sukumi is also a Georgian port, but the Abkhaz have controlled it since achieving de facto independence in 1993.) Should Samtredia fall, Russia will have, in effect, enacted a naval blockade of Georgia without using its navy. The city is also the only land link of any meaningful size to Turkey. While Turkey — along with the rest of the world — does not want to get involved in the conflict, the capture of Samtredia effectively blocks any potential land-based reinforcements from reaching Georgia via Turkey.

Furthermore, there is only one road and rail line that leads east from Samtredia to the rest of the country. This transport corridor is, in essence, the backbone of the entire country. Should Samtredia fall, there is really nothing that can be done — by Georgia or anyone else — to stop the Russians from taking over Georgia outright, one piece at a time, at their leisure.

In essence, the Russians are a heartbeat away from being able to dictate terms to the Georgians without even glancing in the direction of Tbilisi.
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 09:16:59 AM
War in the Caucasus
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
August 11, 2008

"War has started," Vladimir Putin said Friday as Georgian and Russian forces fought over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Since then, the Prime Minister has personally overseen an escalation of hostilities that suggests Russia's true aim is demolishing Georgia's fledgling democracy.

Regardless of who fired the first shots late last week -- each side blames the other -- it became clear over the weekend that Russia intended from the start to turn that small battle into a broader assault. As Georgian troops withdrew from South Ossetia yesterday in hopes of negotiating a cease-fire, thousands of Russian soldiers reportedly were unloading from warships in the Black Sea into another separatist Georgian area, Abkhazia, to create a second front. Russian warplanes bombed cities well inside Georgia, including military bases and the civilian airport near the capital Tbilisi. Moscow has long since gone beyond merely pushing back on Georgia.

On Saturday Mr. Putin explicitly rejected "a return to the status quo" of just a few days ago, when rebels and Russian "peacekeepers" controlled the breakaway regions. Mr. Putin was meeting with generals near the Russia-Georgia border after flying home from the Beijing Olympics, leaving no doubt who was in charge of a war that the Kremlin has long sought (hint: not President Dmitry Medvedev).

Western leaders should have seen this coming. Russia has baited the hot-tempered Georgian leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, with trade and travel embargoes as well as saber-rattling. Georgia has had to tolerate a few thousand Russian troops on its soil. And in April, Russia downed a Georgian drone over Abkhaz -- that is, Georgian -- air space. Russia in recent years has also granted citizenship to the separatists. That looks like premeditation now. President Medvedev pledged Friday to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, no matter where they are located."

Despite this aggression, the West has proved unwilling to push back against Moscow in the Caucasus. When the U.S. proposed NATO "membership action plans" for Georgia and Ukraine at an April summit in Bucharest, Germany vetoed the move. Berlin didn't want to anger Moscow, a fact that the Russians surely noticed as they contemplated when, or if, to move against the government of Mr. Saakashvili, whom they have long despised as a reformer outside of the Kremlin's orbit. (Mr. Saakashvili writes about the war on a nearby page.)

Europe depends on Russian energy supplies and is loath to stand up to Moscow to help Georgia, which is seen to have made trouble for itself. But this is a crucial moment in the West's relationship with Russia. The rest of the Caucasus, home of other imperfect democracies and critical partners in the Continent's bid for energy security, will take its future cues from how Europe and the U.S. do or don't support Tbilisi.

Now it's up to NATO and especially the U.S. to persuade Moscow to stand down. Washington has publicly described the weekend's events as a "disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side" and warned of a "significant, long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

Everyone acknowledges that Russia is back as a world power. But it has no right to use its renewed strength to punish democratic neighbors and prevent them from choosing their own futures. Mr. Putin needs to hear that using Ossetia as a pretext for imperialism will have consequences for Russia's relationship with the West.

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24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Curtains for Musharraf on: August 11, 2008, 08:59:48 AM
It's Curtains for Musharraf
By NAJAM SETHI
August 11, 2008; Page A13

After months of prevarication, the Pakistani government, led by Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, has finally decided to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. Although a fighting man, Mr. Musharraf is expected to quit within the week. He doesn't have enough parliamentary backing to thwart the move, and the army and America, his main sources of support, have abandoned him in the face of popular pressure.

 
Ken Fallin 
The government has been mulling this move for months. Mr. Zardari, of the People's Party of Pakistan (PPP), and Mr. Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), both hate the president for political and personal reasons.

Mr. Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif from power in 1999, exiled him to Saudi Arabia, and only allowed him to return last year to contest the February elections because of Saudi pressure. Mr. Zardari was imprisoned for six years, then permitted to leave the country to join his wife Benazir Bhutto in exile in Dubai. Thanks to American pressure, she was allowed to return last October to contest the elections, and he only returned after she was assassinated in December.

The popular Bhutto accused Mr. Musharraf of an assassination attempt last October. When she was killed two months later, many Pakistanis remembered that accusation.

The Zardari-Sharif cooperation has been driven by political missteps on all sides. Mr. Zardari's decision to work with Mr. Musharraf -- under American urging -- alienated the PPP's rank and file, which has been historically antiarmy and anti-American. At the same time, Mr. Sharif took an anti-Musharraf and anti-America stance, boosting his popularity. Mr. Musharraf didn't help matters when he tried to oppose Mr. Zardari's prime minister pick. Later, he also criticized the new government's "dysfunctionality" in the face of an "impending economic meltdown."

Mr. Musharraf's biggest mistake was to lose focus on the war on terror, alienating his Washington backers without winning domestic public support. For months now, the U.S. has been upset at Pakistan's lackluster cooperation with coalition forces in the war on terror in Pakistan's tribal areas. Washington also accused Pakistan's powerful Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency, which is associated with Mr. Musharraf, of complicity in the Taliban attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last month. On the eve of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's state visit to Washington last month, the government decreed the ISI would henceforth be answerable to the home ministry, instead of to the army chief or President Musharraf.

Mr. Musharraf couldn't countenance this loss of power. He accused the government of trying to "politicize the ISI and undermine national security" at America's prodding, forcing it to backtrack clumsily and lose face. To stave off a possible sacking at Mr. Musharraf's hands, Mr. Zardari joined hands with Mr. Sharif to impeach the president.

Washington, which had not so long ago advocated "working relations" between Mr. Zardari and Mr. Musharraf -- and later shifted its stance to a "dignified exit" for Mr. Musharraf -- responded with a studied silence. "The impeachment of President Musharraf is an internal matter for Pakistan that must be resolved in accordance with the law and constitution," said a White House spokesman on Aug. 7, the day the impeachment decision was announced.

In other words, "go Musharraf go." The U.S. realizes that Mr. Musharraf is extremely unpopular at home, and has concluded that the army is not prepared to risk propping him up any longer. So he is no longer useful. A working relationship with the new civilian order is a better bet.

The Pakistan army is the key to what happens next. Formally, the impeachment of Mr. Musharraf is a numbers game. The ruling coalition needs 295 votes out of 442 in a joint sitting of both houses of parliament to clinch it. They claim the motion will sail through.

But the result will critically depend on about 27 independent members of parliament, and members from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. If the ISI chooses to support Mr. Musharraf, it could probably manage to sway the tribal votes for the president. But it would need the green light from the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, before doing this.

It's unlikely Gen. Kayani will dive into this fray. The army is hugely unpopular at home for fighting "America's war on terror." It is dispirited because it is being criticized by its American ally not just for not doing enough, but for complicity in harboring and protecting the Afghan Taliban. It is demoralized, having lost over 2,000 men fighting terrorists in the tribal areas without sufficient training or motivation. The army remains the prime target of suicide bombers in the urban areas of the country, so much so that its officers no longer go about town in uniform.

Gen. Kayani successfully salvaged some public respect by refusing to tilt the February election results in favor of Mr. Musharraf's party. Therefore, while the officers abhor the "corrupt and bungling civilians," the grudging view is that any overt or covert military backing for Mr. Musharraf would be hugely unpopular, and any formal intervention untenable in the difficult economic and political environment facing the country.

If Mr. Musharraf throws in the towel this week, the current political paralysis might end, but the instability will remain. Mr. Sharif will play to public opinion and press Mr. Zardari to punish Mr. Musharraf for treason. He wants the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and his erstwhile colleagues restored with full powers.

Mr. Zardari, for his part, may heed advice from the army and Washington and facilitate a safe exit for the president. He will, in all likelihood, refuse to reinstate the chief justice for fear that a reinvigorated judiciary will hold every Musharraf action to date as illegal, including the amnesty from corruption charges granted to him in November. Mr. Zardari also wants to become president himself, a prospect Mr. Sharif cannot stomach.

Pakistan's neighbors India and Afghanistan, and its strategic ally America, cannot be too sanguine about this continuing political instability. Their core interests require Pakistan's civilian leadership to lean on the Pakistan army to rein in and retool the ISI, support the war on terror in Afghanistan, and refrain from refueling Islamist jihad in India-administered Kashmir. But with the army sulking politically and licking its wounds militarily, the Zardari government looks unlikely to deliver on these fronts -- with or without a President Musharraf.

Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus, Central Asia on: August 11, 2008, 08:55:31 AM
Woof All:

It looks like the situation in Georgia requires its own thread.

I begin with the observation that it looks like Stratfor's predictions in the wake of our support of Kosovo's independence are being born out.

Anyway, here's the appeal of the president of Georgia in today's WSJ to kick things off.

Marc
==============================

The War in Georgia
Is a War for the West
By MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI
August 11, 2008; Page A15

Tbilisi, Georgia

As I write, Russia is waging war on my country.

On Friday, hundreds of Russian tanks crossed into Georgian territory, and Russian air force jets bombed Georgian airports, bases, ports and public markets. Many are dead, many more wounded. This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in 1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the international security system.

 
AP  
An apartment building, damaged by a Russian air strike, in the northern Georgian town of Gori, Saturday, Aug. 9.
Why this war? This is the question my people are asking. This war is not of Georgia's making, nor is it Georgia's choice.

The Kremlin designed this war. Earlier this year, Russia tried to provoke Georgia by effectively annexing another of our separatist territories, Abkhazia. When we responded with restraint, Moscow brought the fight to South Ossetia.

Ostensibly, this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war over the kind of Europe our children will live in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.

No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

This conflict is therefore about our common trans-Atlantic values of liberty and democracy. It is about the right of small nations to live freely and determine their own future. It is about the great power struggles for influence of the 20th century, versus the path of integration and unity defined by the European Union of the 21st. Georgia has made its choice.

When my government was swept into power by a peaceful revolution in 2004, we inherited a dysfunctional state plagued by two unresolved conflicts dating to the early 1990s. I pledged to reunify my country -- not by the force of arms, but by making Georgia a pole of attraction. I wanted the people living in the conflict zones to share in the prosperous, democratic country that Georgia could -- and has -- become.

In a similar spirit, we sought friendly relations with Russia, which is and always will be Georgia's neighbor. We sought deep ties built on mutual respect for each other's independence and interests. While we heeded Russia's interests, we also made it clear that our independence and sovereignty were not negotiable. As such, we felt we could freely pursue the sovereign choice of the Georgian nation -- to seek deeper integration into European economic and security institutions.

We have worked hard to peacefully bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the Georgian fold, on terms that would fully protect the rights and interests of the residents of these territories. For years, we have offered direct talks with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so that we could discuss our plan to grant them the broadest possible autonomy within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.

But Russia, which effectively controls the separatists, responded to our efforts with a policy of outright annexation. While we appealed to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with our vision of a common future, Moscow increasingly took control of the separatist regimes. The Kremlin even appointed Russian security officers to arm and administer the self-styled separatist governments.

Under any circumstances, Russia's meddling in our domestic affairs would have constituted a gross violation of international norms. But its actions were made more egregious by the fact that Russia, since the 1990s, has been entrusted with the responsibility of peacekeeping and mediating in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Rather than serve as honest broker, Russia became a direct party to the conflicts, and now an open aggressor.

As Europe expanded its security institutions to the Black Sea, my government appealed to the Western community of nations -- particularly European governments and institutions -- to play a leading role in resolving our separatist conflicts. The key to any resolution was to replace the outdated peacekeeping and negotiating structures created almost two decades ago, and dominated by Russia, with a genuine international effort.

But Europe kept its distance and, predictably, Russia escalated its provocations. Our friends in Europe counseled restraint, arguing that diplomacy would take its course. We followed their advice and took it one step further, by constantly proposing new ideas to resolve the conflicts. Just this past spring, we offered the separatist leaders sweeping autonomy, international guarantees and broad representation in our government.

Our offers of peace were rejected. Moscow sought war. In April, Russia began treating the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Russian provinces. Again, our friends in the West asked us to show restraint, and we did. But under the guise of peacekeeping, Russia sent paratroopers and heavy artillery into Abkhazia. Repeated provocations were designed to bring Georgia to the brink of war.

When this failed, the Kremlin turned its attention to South Ossetia, ordering its proxies there to escalate attacks on Georgian positions. My government answered with a unilateral cease-fire; the separatists began attacking civilians and Russian tanks pierced the Georgian border. We had no choice but to protect our civilians and restore our constitutional order. Moscow then used this as pretext for a full-scale military invasion of Georgia.

Over the past days, Russia has waged an all-out attack on Georgia. Its tanks have been pouring into South Ossetia. Its jets have bombed not only Georgian military bases, but also civilian and economic infrastructure, including demolishing the port of Poti on the Black Sea coast. Its Black Sea fleet is now massing on our shores and an attack is under way in Abkhazia.

What is at stake in this war?

Most obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice: They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January, three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO. These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic ambitions.

Second, Russia's future is at stake. Can a Russia that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe? It is clear that Russia's current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the entire space once governed by Moscow.

If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states -- whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia -- will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.

Mr. Saakashvili is president of Georgia.

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24450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kremlin Capers on: August 11, 2008, 08:42:58 AM
Kremlin Capers
August 11, 2008
Grim news continued to flow from Georgia yesterday. The Georgians said Russia had bombed the civilian airport in Tbilisi, while Russian warships off the coast began an economic embargo. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin left the Beijing Olympics and flew to Russian North Ossetia, where he revealingly criticized "Georgia's aspiration to join NATO."

Not least among the geopolitical realities coming to the surface at the moment is that of just who's top dog in the Kremlin. While it's widely thought Mr. Putin's power trumps that of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an interesting wrinkle has emerged elsewhere in the new Russia that has modern-day Kremlinologists wondering whether the president might yet become more his own man.

The story revolves around Russian coal and steel company Mechel, which is publicly listed on the New York Stock exchange. On Friday the firm said it was going to postpone a preferred share placement in the wake of a battering its shares took from the volatile Mr. Putin.

Late last month, Mr. Putin accused the company of price gouging and tax evasion and warned of investigations to follow. He also got personal after Mechel CEO Igor Zyuzin failed to show up to a meeting the prime minister was holding with business leaders. "The director has been invited, and he suddenly became ill," said Mr. Putin, according to the Moscow Times. "I think he should get well as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will have to send him a doctor and clean up all the problems." Mr. Zyuzin had been hospitalized a day earlier with heart problems.

Coming from Mr. Putin, such talk is nothing short of terrifying: Consider the fate of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now in jail in Siberia while Yukos's assets were gobbled up by state-owned oil company Rosneft. Investors swiftly took note: Mechel's stock dropped by more than 33% in a day, while the Russian exchange fell by 9%.

The Mechel play springs from a familiar game plan, in which accusations of tax or regulatory problems become the alibis by which the Kremlin and its cronies seize the assets of unwanted competitors. "It is a strictly commercial operation in the framework of Kremlin Inc. Tribute is no longer enough for them; they want to take everything into ownership," speculates Russian analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky. A similar scenario has played out with British Petroleum's BP-TNK venture in Russia, in which the Russian partners used visa "issues" to force CEO Robert Dudley out of the country.

The surprise in all this is that President Medvedev has decided to protest. "We need to create a normal investment climate in our country," the President said, without mentioning Mr. Putin. "Our law-enforcement agencies and government authorities should stop causing nightmares for business." A Medvedev adviser added that "it is not correct to destroy your own stock market . . . and wipe off $60 billion." The Russian stock market is trading at a 22-month low.

The question for Kremlinologists is whether Mr. Medvedev's comments are evidence of some independence on his part and perhaps a looming power struggle, or merely amount to a good cop, bad cop routine. It would be heartening to think it's the former, and that Russia's leaders are beginning to realize there are costs to their habits of confiscation. But with foreign investors still looking to make a fast killing in Russian markets (foreign direct investment jumped by some 60% between 2006 and 2007), those costs apparently won't be paid for some time. Meanwhile, for anyone thinking of putting money into Russia, the message should be caveat investor.

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