Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 29, 2015, 01:24:07 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
86360 Posts in 2276 Topics by 1069 Members
Latest Member: ctelerant
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 487 488 [489] 490 491 ... 666
24401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 21, 2009, 10:30:19 AM
Now that he is President, I've deleted the word "Coming" from the title of this thread.

The Lord helps those who help themselves.  Time to man up and do what we can to protect America from the Keynesian clusterfcuk that I fear cometh and so much more.



24402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine on: January 21, 2009, 10:14:25 AM
I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death." --Thomas Paine
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 21, 2009, 12:07:21 AM
The House made its first down payment on President Obama's health-care plans last week, passing 289-139 a major expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The Senate is scheduled to take it up soon and pass it easily as well. These days tens of billions in new spending is a mere pittance, but Schip is also the Democratic model for a quantum jump in government health care down the line.

The bill became a liberal Pequot after President Bush repeatedly vetoed it in 2007 (while supporting a modest expansion). The GOP has no hope of stopping it now, so Schip will more than double in size with $73.3 billion in new spending over the next decade -- not counting a budget gimmick that hides the true cost. The program is supposed to help children from working-poor families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but since it was created in 1997 Democrats have used it as a ratchet to grow the federal taxpayer share of health-care coverage.

With the new bill, Schip will be open to everyone up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $63,081 for a family of four. In other words, a program supposedly targeted at low-income families has an eligibility ceiling higher than the U.S. median household income, which according to the Census Bureau is $50,233. Even the 300% figure isn't really a ceiling, given that states can get a government waiver to go even higher. Tom Daschle's folks at Health and Human Services will barely read the state paperwork before rubberstamping these expansions.

The political purpose behind Schip has always been to capture the middle class. Every time the program grows, it displaces private insurance. Even before Democrats struck down rules limiting crowd out, research indicated that for every 100 children signed up -- now more than 7.1 million -- there is a reduction in private coverage for 25 to 50 kids. Exactly the same thing will happen if Messrs. Obama and Daschle end up introducing a "public option," a government insurance program modeled after Medicare but open to anyone of any income. As with Schip, any net increase in insurance coverage will come by having taxpayers gradually supplant the private system.

Schip money is delivered as a block grant, which states are supposed to match, though national taxpayers end up paying 65% to 83% of the total cost. When states make health-care promises they can't afford -- such as New York, which expanded the program to 400% of poverty -- the feds always step in with, yes, a bailout. The House bill creates a "contingency fund" precisely for that purpose, and also allots bonus payments to states that boost Schip enrollment, so Governors will be further rewarded for overspending. All this is propped up by a permanent increase in the tobacco tax, which will rise to $1 a pack from the current 39 cents -- thus financing a permanent and growing entitlement with a declining corps of smokers.

Lately Mr. Obama has been making noises about the necessity of entitlement reform. This is no way to start.
24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 20, 2009, 09:22:36 PM
Would you please post that on the "We the well armed people" thread?

I am thinking it is time to bring this thread to a close now that BO is President.
24405  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Round 2 with Crafty in Toronto on: January 20, 2009, 08:51:36 PM
This is good news indeed!
24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan on: January 20, 2009, 12:28:58 PM
 Is GOP Still a National Party?
by  Patrick J. Buchanan

01/20/2009  Print This
   
As President Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address to a nation filled with anticipation and hope, the vital signs of the loyal opposition appear worse than worrisome.

The new majority of 49 states and 60 percent of the nation Nixon cobbled together in 1972, that became the Reagan coalition of 49 states and 60 percent of the nation in 1984, is a faded memory. Demographically, philosophically and culturally, the party base has been shrinking since Bush I won his 40-state triumph over Michael Dukakis. Indeed, the Republican base is rapidly becoming a redoubt, a Fort Apache in Indian country.

In the National Journal, Ron Brownstein renders a grim prognosis of the party's chances of recapturing the White House. Consider:

In the five successive presidential elections, beginning with Clinton's victory in 1992 and ending with Obama's in 2008, 18 states and the District of Columbia, with 248 electoral votes among them, voted for the Democratic ticket all five times. John McCain did not come within 10 points of Obama in any of the 18, and he lost D.C. 92-8.

The 18 cover all of New England, save New Hampshire; New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland; four of the major states in the Midwest -- Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the Pacific Coast states of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

Three other states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico -- have gone Democratic in four of the past five presidential contests. And Virginia and Colorado have ceased to be reliably red.

Not only are the 18 hostile terrain for any GOP presidential ticket, Republicans hold only three of their 36 Senate seats and fewer than 1 in 3 of their House seats. "Democrats also control two-thirds of these 18 governorships, every state House chamber, and all but two of the state Senates," writes Brownstein.

In many of the 18, the GOP has ceased to be competitive. In the New England states, for example, there is not a single Republican congressman. In New York, there are only three.

"State by state, election by election," says Brownstein, "Democrats since 1992 have constructed the party's largest and most durable Electoral College base in more than half a century. Call it the blue wall."

While that Democratic base is not yet as decisive as the Nixon-Reagan base in the South, and the Plains and Mountain States, it is becoming so solidified it may block any Republican from regaining the White House, in the absence of a catastrophically failed Democratic president.

What does the Republican base look like?

In the same five presidential contests, from 1992 to 2008, Republicans won 13 states all five times. But the red 13 have but 93 electoral votes, fewer than a third of the number in "the blue wall."

What has been happening to the GOP? Three fatal contractions.

Demographically, the GOP is a party of white Americans, who in 1972 were perhaps 90 percent of the national vote. Nixon and Reagan rolled up almost two-thirds of that vote in 1972 and 1984. But because of abortion and aging, the white vote is shrinking as a share of the national vote and the population.

The minorities that are growing most rapidly, Hispanics and Asians, cast 60 to 70 percent of their presidential votes for the Democratic Party. Black Americans vote 9-1 for national Democrats. In 2008, they went 30-1.

Put succinctly, the red pool of voters is aging, shrinking and dying, while the blue pool, fed by high immigration and a high birth rate among immigrants, is steadily expanding.

Philosophically, too, the country is turning away from the GOP creed of small government and low taxes. Why?

Nearly 90 percent of immigrants, legal and illegal, are Third World poor or working-class and believe in and rely on government for help with health and housing, education and welfare. Second, tax cuts have dropped nearly 40 percent of wage earners from the tax rolls.

If one pays no federal income tax but reaps a cornucopia of benefits, it makes no sense to vote for the party of less government.

The GOP is overrepresented among the taxpaying class, while the Democratic Party is overrepresented among tax consumers. And the latter are growing at a faster rate than the former.

Lastly, Democrats are capturing a rising share of the young and college-educated, who are emerging from schools and colleges where the values of the counterculture on issues from abortion to same-sex marriage to affirmative action have become the new orthodoxy.

The Republican "lock" on the presidency, crafted by Nixon, and patented by Reagan, has been picked. The only lingering question is whether an era of inexorable Republican decline has set in.

24407  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: January 20, 2009, 10:30:26 AM
El Vigilante potencial Violencia en el Estado de chihuahua

Un email empezó circular alrededor de estado de chihuahua esto semana pasada escribió supuestamente por un grupo que llama a los Ciudadanos de Juarez Ordena (CCJ). El grupo, cuál reclamos para ser apoyados por negocios locales afectados por la subida aguda en la violencia en Ciudad Juarez, prometieron matar un criminal para terminar cada 24 horas la anarquía en la ciudad. El email también indicó que dentro de varios días el CCJ distribuiría un manifiesto que visita a todos ciudadanos hartos de la violencia para unir la causa. Una fuente de Stratfor en el gobierno mexicano las autoridades que informado que mexicanas tienen razón para creer que el email no es una trampa, y que ellos exploran dos teorías con respecto a que lo enviaron. Uno mantiene que un pequeño grupo de propietarios de ciudadanos y negocio enviaron el mensaje, mientras la teoría más creíble mantiene que un grupo criminal que proponiéndose utilizar el email como cobertura para la acción envió el mensaje.

De un solo sentido para medir si el CCJ representa un grupo verdadero de vigilante será de examinar las asociaciones criminales de sus víctimas, asumir, por supuesto, ellos atacan realmente a criminales. Si las víctimas del CCJ todo es asociado con un sindicado criminal, será difícil de creer que no es simplemente un existir el grupo criminal que utiliza el CCJ como cobertura. Pero si el CCJ está en tomar medidas de hecho será extraordinariamente difícil de determinar en una ciudad como Ciudad Juarez, donde más de 1.700 personas se murieron en 2008. Dada la violencia regular de criminales que matan a criminales en la ciudad, el significado del CCJ tiene mas ser determinado.

Si el email marca realmente el fundador de un nuevo grupo de vigilante en Juarez, esto no sería primer cepillo de México con la vigilancia callejera de endrogar violencia. La organización de La Familia en el estado de Michoacan empezó como una respuesta local de vigilante para endrogar trafico de drogas en el estado. Varios años después de su fundador, sin embargo, el grupo ha evolucionado en uno del estado la mayoría del notorio grupos de secuestro y droga-traficando con drogas, y de uno de sus facciones fue implicado aún en el septiembre. 15 ataque de la granada contra civiles en Morelia. El ejemplo de La Familia destaca las implicaciones de la seguridad de violencia de vigilante, donde organizó como violencia criminal continúa girar fuera de control, un grupo de ciudadanos armados que une el combate sólo complicará asuntos.

El Robo aumentado, el Robo De Negocios de Acapulco

El líder de una organización del negocio en Acapulco, estado de Guerrero, soltó una declaración esto semana pasada que describe un aumento en robos y robos en el último año. Según los registros de la organización, cierre al 100 por ciento de negocios locales había sufrido pérdidas de grupos criminales. El agregó que tres distribuidores locales de productos lácteos habían experimentado sólo 2.000 tales incidentes en la ciudad durante 2008, ascendiendo a una pérdida colectiva de fin a $1 millón. La mayoría de robos parece estar ocurriendo en áreas suburbanas de la ciudad, donde armó las pandillas asaltan camiones de distribución como ellos hacen entregas, aunque robos desarmados en almacenes y oficinas también parecen haber ocurrido.

Este informe es el último ejemplo de cómo situación de seguridad de México que empeora afecta operaciones de negocio. Cuando Stratfor ha observado en el último año, el desplome en el orden público en mucho del país ha significado que otro criminal agrupa no implicado en el comercio de droga pueden operar con la impunidad. Verdaderamente, la organización del negocio de Acapulco observó que la mayoría de los crímenes contra negocios van impune, y eso cuando sus conclusiones fueron informadas a los funcionarios de la policía, ellos fueron desconcertados por el número asombrosamente alto de crímenes contra negocios. Los costos crecientes de la seguridad y pérdidas más altas debido a actividad criminal exacerban un ya empeorando situación económica en México, y lo hará más difícil para negocios para recuperar una vez la situación económica general comienza a mejorar.

Mientras las instalaciónes portuarias de Acapulco han hecho históricamente la ciudad un punto importante de toma para embarques sudamericano-Producidos de droga, la ciudad ha experimentado niveles relativamente bajos de actividad cártel-relacionado sobre el por delante de seis meses. Y los negocios en una ciudad relativamente tranquila como Acapulco que experimentan tales índices de criminalidad altos hacen no esperó el momento oportuno bien para negocios en situaciones críticas de cártel como Tijuana y en Ciudad Juarez.

La Infracción de la seguridad en un Ambiente Objetivo-Rico

La policía en Morelia, estado de Michoacan, detuvo a un hombre armado con una pistola esto semana pasada dentro del edificio legislativo de estado durante un acontecimiento donde indica Gov. Leonel Godoy hablaba. El hombre fue detenido después de que alguien en la multitud accidentalmente lo chocara contra, sentía el fusil ocultado bajo su ropa, y bajo el personal puesto sobre aviso de la seguridad, que retuvo al hombre sin incidente. Junto con Godoy, el presidente de la corte suprema del estado, la cabeza del poder legislativo del estado y 40 legisladores también fue presente. El hombre armado fue identificado teniendo como un antecedentes penales, y es acusado de asesinar a un abogado en Monterrey en 1986.

Las autoridades soltaron finalmente al hombre después de que encontrar no evidencia que él pensara atacar nadie en el acontecimiento. Incluso si este incidente no fuera una tentativa de asesinato, una infracción de la seguridad como esto destacan la vulnerabilidad de muchos funcionarios en México. Que un hombre armado fue permitido entrar un acontecimiento con Godoy — quién ha sido amenazado supuestamente antes — En un ambiente controlado subraya los problemas con la seguridad ejecutiva en México. Mientras Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon y algunos funcionarios federales de alto rango ciertamente tienen programas protectores más robustos de seguridad, los niveles relativamente bajos de la seguridad alrededor, por ejemplo, los congresistas del país y gobernadores, no son mucho de un freno a un ataque en ellos ni en sus familias. Así que debe organizaciones criminales en México escogen agravarse su combate contra el gobierno, ellos encontrarán a sí mismo en un ambiente objetivo-rico.




Enero. 12
•   El estado de Hidalgo la oficina que pública de la seguridad anunció que planes para empezar equipando sus policías con armas de grande-calibre y posiblemente aún granadas para ayudarlos confrontan los grupos criminales.
•   Authorities En Torreon, estado de Coahuila, encontró el cuerpo de un hombre con los ojos vendados no identificado con un escopetazo a la cabeza y otro al cuello.
•   Officials En La Huerta, estado de Jalisco, informó la muerte de jefe de la policía del pueblo. Tres hombres tuvieron disparo él como él se fue de casa la noche antes.
•   The El cuerpo de un hombre no identificado fue encontrado en un terreno vacío en Los Mochis, estado de Sinaloa, soportando signos de tormento en su cuerpo. La policía cree que él había sido estrangulado.
•   Mexican El ejército fuerza invadió una casa en Tijuana, estado de Baja California, agarrando más de $1 millón, así como unas 100 libras de metanfetaminas, la cocaína y la heroína.


Enero. 13
•   La policía federal en Acapulco, estado de Guerrero, estableció una serie de puntos de revisión de carretera en varias partes de la ciudad. Los funcionarios dijeron que los puntos de revisión fueron diseñados para buscar vehículos robados, pero que inspecciones que buscan drogas y armas también serían realizadas.
•   Police En Tijuana, estado de Baja California, encontró el cuerpo que arde de una mujer quemó más allá de reconocimiento. En otra parte en la ciudad, la policía encontró el cuerpo de un hombre no identificado envuelto en una manta.


Enero. 15
•   La policía federal en Veracruz, estado de Veracruz, informó descubriendo el cuerpo de un hombre no identificado con por lo menos un escopetazo a la cabeza.
•   Armed Los hombres que viajan en un disparo de vehículo y mataron a un hombre no identificado después de que primero lo persiguiendo por las calles de Ciudad Juarez, estado de chihuahua. Los pistoleros lo dispararon muchas veces después de que él perdiera control de su coche y chocara.
•   Mexican La marina fuerza captó un pequeño barco en el Mar de Cortez a varios millas la costa de estado de Sinaloa con huellas de marihuana a bordo.

Enero. 16
•   Las autoridades en Oaxaca, estado de Oaxaca, anunció que la captura de tres miembros de una pandilla asociada con Zetas de Los acusadas de habiendo tomado parte en por lo menos cinco secuestros en el estado.
•   A El policía anterior del estado de chihuahua se murió después de que sea muchas veces de disparo al conducir por Ciudad Juarez.
•   Some 100 policías federales llegaron en Matamoros, estado de Coahuila, para apoyar los esfuerzos progresivos contra grupos organizados de criminal en el estado.
•   Authorities En el del de Playa Carmen, estado de Quintana Roo, encontró seis granadas de fragmentación dentro de una furgoneta abandonada por una carretera.
•   A Custodie a comandante en Pihuamo, estado de Jalisco, se murió cuando él fue muchas veces de disparo al conducir. Su hijo fue herido en el ataque.

Enero. 18
•   Un policía en Sonoyta, estado de Sonora, se murió después de que un hombre armado lo se acercara y lo disparara dos veces en la cabeza de cerca antes de huir en un vehículo que espera.
•   Five Las personas se murieron durante un tiroteo que arrojó durante una celebración de la boda Acapulco cercano, estado de Guerrero. Las autoridades dijeron que el motivo se queda poco claro.
Tell Stratfor What You Think

24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 20, 2009, 10:26:25 AM
Potential Vigilante Violence in Chihuahua State

An e-mail began circulating around Chihuahua state this past week purportedly authored by a group calling itself the Juarez Citizens Command (CCJ). The group, which claims to be supported by local businesses affected by the sharp rise in violence in Ciudad Juarez, vowed to kill one criminal every 24 hours to end the lawlessness in the city. The e-mail also stated that within several days the CCJ would distribute a manifesto calling on all citizens fed up with the violence to join the cause. A Stratfor source in the Mexican government reported that Mexican authorities have reason to believe the e-mail is not a hoax, and that they are exploring two theories regarding who sent it. One maintains that a small group of citizens and business owners sent the message, while the more credible theory maintains that a criminal group aiming to use the e-mail as cover for action sent the message.

One way to measure whether the CCJ represents a true vigilante group will be to examine the criminal associations of their victims, assuming, of course, they actually attack criminals. If the CCJ’s victims are all associated with one criminal syndicate, it will be hard to believe that it is not simply an existing criminal group using the CCJ as cover. But whether the CCJ is in fact taking action will be extraordinarily difficult to determine in a city like Ciudad Juarez, where more than 1,700 people died in 2008. Given the regular violence of criminals killing criminals in the city, the significance of the CCJ has yet to be determined.

If the e-mail actually marks the founding of a new vigilante group in Juarez, this would not be Mexico’s first brush with vigilantism in response to drug violence. La Familia organization in Michoacan state began as a local vigilante response to drug trafficking in the state. Several years after its founding, however, the group has evolved into one of the state’s most notorious kidnapping and drug-trafficking groups, and one of its factions was even implicated in the Sept. 15 grenade attack against civilians in Morelia. The example of La Familia highlights the security implications of vigilante violence, where as organized criminal violence continues to spin out of control, a group of armed citizens joining the fray will only complicate matters.

Increased Robbery, Theft From Acapulco Businesses

The leader of a business organization in Acapulco, Guerrero state, released a statement this past week describing an increase in robberies and thefts over the past year. According to the organization’s records, close to 100 percent of local businesses had suffered losses from criminal groups. He added that three local distributors of dairy products alone had experienced 2,000 such incidents in the city during 2008, amounting to a collective loss of close to $1 million. The majority of robberies appear to be occurring in suburban areas of the city, where armed gangs assault distribution trucks as they make deliveries, though unarmed thefts at warehouses and offices also appear to have been occurring.

This report is the latest example of how Mexico’s deteriorating security situation is affecting business operations. As Stratfor has observed over the past year, the collapse in law and order in much of the country has meant that other criminal groups not involved in the drug trade are able to operate with impunity. Indeed, the Acapulco business organization observed that most crimes against businesses go unpunished, and that when its findings were reported to the police officials, they were taken aback by the staggeringly high number of crimes against businesses. The rising costs of higher security and losses due to criminal activity exacerbate an already deteriorating economic situation in Mexico, and will make it more difficult for businesses to recover once the overall economic situation begins to improve.

While Acapulco’s port facilities historically have made the city an important intake point for South American-produced drug shipments, the city has experienced relatively low levels of cartel-related activity over the past six months. And businesses in a relatively calm city such as Acapulco experiencing such high crime rates does not bode well for businesses in cartel hotspots such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Security Breach in a Target-Rich Environment

Police in Morelia, Michoacan state, arrested a man armed with a handgun this past week inside the state’s legislative building during an event where state Gov. Leonel Godoy was speaking. The man was arrested after someone in the crowd accidentally bumped into him, felt the gun concealed under his clothes, and alerted security personnel, who detained the man without incident. Along with Godoy, the state’s chief justice, the head of the state legislature and 40 legislators also were present. The armed man was identified as having a criminal record, and is accused of murdering an attorney in Monterrey in 1986.

Authorities eventually released the man after finding no evidence he intended to attack anyone at the event. Even if this incident was not an assassination attempt, a security breach such as this highlights the vulnerability of many officials in Mexico. That an armed man was allowed to enter an event with Godoy — who reportedly has been threatened before — in a controlled environment underscores the problems with executive security in Mexico. While Mexican President Felipe Calderon and some high-ranking federal officials certainly have more robust protective security programs, the relatively low levels of security around, for example, the country’s congressmen and governors, is not much of a deterrent to an attack on them or their families. So should criminal organizations in Mexico choose to escalate their fight against the government, they will find themselves in a target-rich environment.



Jan. 12

The Hidalgo state public security office announced plans to begin equipping its police officers with large-caliber weapons and possibly even grenades to help them confront criminal groups.
Authorities in Torreon, Coahuila state, found the body of an unidentified blindfolded man with one gunshot wound to the head and another to the neck.
Officials in La Huerta, Jalisco state, reported the death of the town’s police chief. Three men had shot him as he left home the night before.
The body of an unidentified man was found in a vacant lot in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, bearing signs of torture on his body. Police believe he had been strangled.
Mexican army forces raided a house in Tijuana, Baja California state, seizing more than $1 million, as well as some 100 pounds of methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

Jan. 13
Federal police in Acapulco, Guerrero state, established a series of highway checkpoints in various parts of the city. Officials said the checkpoints were designed to look for stolen vehicles, but that inspections looking for drugs and weapons would also be conducted.
Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, found the smoldering body of a woman burned beyond recognition. Elsewhere in the city, police found the body of an unidentified man wrapped in a blanket.

Jan. 15
Federal police in Veracruz, Veracruz state, reported discovering the body of an unidentified man with at least one gunshot wound to the head.
Armed men traveling in a vehicle shot and killed an unidentified man after first chasing him through the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The gunmen shot him multiple times after he lost control of his car and crashed.
Mexican navy forces captured a small boat in the Sea of Cortez several miles off the coast of Sinaloa state with traces of marijuana on board.

Jan. 16
Authorities in Oaxaca, Oaxaca state, announced the capture of three members of a gang associated with Los Zetas accused of having participated in at least five kidnappings in the state.
A former Chihuahua state police officer died after being shot multiple times while driving through Ciudad Juarez.
Some 100 federal police officers arrived in Matamoros, Coahuila state, to support ongoing efforts against organized criminal groups in the state.
Authorities in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo state, found six fragmentation grenades inside an abandoned pickup truck along a highway.
A police commander in Pihuamo, Jalisco state, died when he was shot multiple times while driving. His son was wounded in the attack.

Jan. 18
A police officer in Sonoyta, Sonora state, died after an armed man approached him and shot him twice in the head at close range before fleeing in a waiting vehicle.
Five people died during a firefight that erupted during a wedding celebration near Acapulco, Guerrero state. Authorities said the motive remains unclear.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 20, 2009, 10:19:51 AM
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office released a letter Monday revealing Russia’s readiness to provide “broad” military assistance to Afghanistan. The letter, written by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, was Moscow’s response to a request for aid that Karzai had reportedly made in November 2008.

Medvedev’s letter was intentionally vague, simply stating that defense cooperation between Moscow and Kabul would be “effective for both countries” and “for establishing peace in the region.” The letter also calls for Moscow and Kabul to specify the grounds for cooperation moving forward. Though the letter itself didn’t say much, the timing of its release is absolutely critical.

Russia was sending a very deliberate message to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on the eve of his inauguration. The top issues on Obama’s foreign policy agenda will involve turning the war around in Afghanistan and dealing with a resurgent Russia. The Russians are essentially signaling to Obama that if he expects any progress on the former, he is going to have to concede quite a lot on the latter.

Whether Russia is working to tear down a pro-Western government in Ukraine or sabotage Europe’s alternative energy projects, trying to reduce the United States’ military presence in Central Asia or finding new ways to damage NATO’s credibility, Moscow would much rather Washington stay out of its way — or better yet, facilitate Moscow’s moves — as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin methodically works to tighten the Kremlin’s grip on the former Soviet sphere of influence. The Russians recognize that the war in Afghanistan is not going well for the Americans, and that the United States is prepared to invest considerable time and resources for a revised military campaign led by Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus. If the Russians can insert themselves into the Afghanistan equation, where U.S. military interests are currently concentrated, the more leverage Moscow will gain relative to the United States on issues deemed vital to Moscow’s interests.

The Russians already have a number of options in Afghanistan. For a variety of reasons, Pakistan has become more and more difficult for the United States to rely on as a military supply route into Afghanistan. Consequently, the U.S. military has little choice but to develop an alternative. While there are several variations on the theme, the alternative route likely would traverse Central Asian territory that is under Moscow’s control — if not Russian territory itself. Petraeus is currently on a tour through Central Asia to work out details on this alternate supply line, but if the White House wants Petraeus’ Afghanistan strategy to bear fruit, it will need Russian cooperation, which will not come for free.

But Putin isn’t stopping at the Afghan border. Afghanistan is familiar territory for the Russians – territory that they have viewed as part of their geopolitical cordon. Even after Russia fought its own bloody war with the Afghans, Moscow developed close ties with members of the Northern Alliance — an ethnic Tajik-dominated coalition that Russia and Iran have supported against the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. The Russians, who have a strong interest in containing the Taliban and preventing the spread of radical Islamist doctrine into the Muslim-populated regions of Russia, relied heavily on the Northern Alliance to retain a foothold in this region while the Taliban was still in power. Moreover, Russia has expanded its influence in Afghanistan to include links to some Pashtun tribes between Kabul and Kandahar that belonged to the secular Communist movement, which ruled Afghanistan for 14 years before Islamist forces took over in 1992.

It was not too long ago that the United States was forced to recognize Russian influence in Afghanistan. During preparations for the U.S. invasion in 2001, Washington relied on Moscow and the Russian-supported Northern Alliance to facilitate the invasion and topple the Taliban. But at that time, Putin’s resurgence strategy was still in its infancy. More importantly, Putin believed that the Americans would turn a blind eye to Moscow’s strategy in the former Soviet Union in return for its help in Afghanistan. Eight years later, Russia is more unified, stronger, determined and better positioned to demand much more from the Americans in return for its cooperation.

Through Medvedev’s letter to Karzai — which, not by coincidence, comes as the United States and NATO are publicly criticizing Karzai for not doing enough to support the war effort against the Taliban — Russia is showcasing its influence in Afghanistan, as well as its goal of increasing cooperation with a regime in Kabul that is on shaky ground with the West. Russia has enough of a foothold in Afghanistan to make things difficult for Washington should the need arise. And the last thing the United States needs is for a hostile power like Russia, upon which it must rely for supply lines into Afghanistan, to cause more friction in a critical region at a time when Washington is desperately trying to reduce friction.

Russia has issued a veiled threat for Obama to ponder in the early days of his presidency. It is a threat that deliberately lacks details about what the Russians can or plan to do in Afghanistan, but it will make Washington think twice about moves that would impede Moscow’s resurgent path. For the moment, that is probably enough for Moscow to make its point in Washington.
24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 20, 2009, 09:43:22 AM
In a few hours, George W. Bush will walk out of the Oval Office for the last time as president. As he leaves, he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation's capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on.

 
APHere's a hint: It's not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush's disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.

Here in the afterglow of the turnaround led by Gen. David Petraeus, it's easy to forget what the smart set was saying two years ago -- and how categorical they all were in their certainty. The president was a simpleton, it was agreed. Didn't he know that Iraq was a civil war, and the only answer was to get out as fast as we could?

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- the man who will be sworn in as vice president today -- didn't limit himself to his own opinion. Days before the president announced the surge, Joe Biden suggested to the Washington Post he knew the president's people had also concluded the war was lost. They were, he said, just trying to "keep it from totally collapsing" until they could "hand it off to the next guy."

The Opinion Journal Widget
Download Opinion Journal's widget and link to the most important editorials and op-eds of the day from your blog or Web page.
For his part, on the night Mr. Bush announced the surge, Barack Obama said he was "not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Three months after that, before the surge had even started, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronounced the war in Iraq "lost." These and similar comments, moreover, were amplified by a media echo chamber even more absolute in its sense of hopelessness about Iraq and its contempt for the president.

For many of these critics, the template for understanding Iraq was Vietnam -- especially after things started to get tough. In terms of the wars themselves, of course, there is almost no parallel between Vietnam and Iraq: The enemies are different, the fighting on the ground is different, the involvement of other powers is different, and so on.

Still, the operating metaphor of Vietnam has never been military. For the most part, it is political. And in this realm, we saw history repeat itself: a failure of nerve among the same class that endorsed the original action.

As with Vietnam, with Iraq the failure of nerve was most clear in Congress. For example, of the five active Democratic senators who sought the nomination, four voted in favor of the Iraqi intervention before discovering their antiwar selves.

As in Vietnam too, rather than finding their judgment questioned, those who flip-flopped on the war were held up as voices of reason. In a memorable editorial advocating a pullout, the New York Times gave voice to the chilling possibilities that this new realism was willing to accept in the name of bringing our soldiers home.

"Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave," read the editorial. "There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide." Even genocide. With no hint of irony, the Times nevertheless went on to conclude that it would be even worse if we stayed.

This is Vietnam thinking. And the president never accepted it. That was why his critics went ape when, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he touched on the killing fields and exodus of boat people that followed America's humiliating exit off an embassy rooftop. As the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti noted, Mr. Bush had appropriated one of their most cherished analogies -- only he drew very different lessons from it.

Mr. Bush's success in Iraq is equally infuriating, because it showed he was right and they wrong. Many in Washington have not yet admitted that, even to themselves. Mr. Obama has. We know he has because he has elected to keep Mr. Bush's secretary of defense -- not something you do with a failure.

Mr. Obama seems aware that, at the end of the day, he will not be judged by his predecessor's approval ratings. Instead, he will soon find himself under pressure to measure up to two Bush achievements: a strategic victory in Iraq, and the prevention of another attack on America's home soil. As he rises to this challenge, our new president will learn that when you make a mistake, the keepers of the Beltway's received orthodoxies will make you pay dearly.

But it will not even be close to the price you pay for ignoring their advice and succeeding.
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 20, 2009, 09:04:41 AM
"There exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

--George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789
24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Science vs. God on: January 19, 2009, 10:08:25 PM
"For me, the more I know of science, the more I see the hand of god."

Exactly so.
24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Science vs. God on: January 19, 2009, 08:12:04 PM
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126911.300-our-world-may-be-a-giant-hologram.html?full=true
========================

DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

The "holographic principle" challenges our sensibilities. It seems hard to believe that you woke up, brushed your teeth and are reading this article because of something happening on the boundary of the universe. No one knows what it would mean for us if we really do live in a hologram, yet theorists have good reasons to believe that many aspects of the holographic principle are true.

Susskind and 't Hooft's remarkable idea was motivated by ground-breaking work on black holes by Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge. In the mid-1970s, Hawking showed that black holes are in fact not entirely "black" but instead slowly emit radiation, which causes them to evaporate and eventually disappear. This poses a puzzle, because Hawking radiation does not convey any information about the interior of a black hole. When the black hole has gone, all the information about the star that collapsed to form the black hole has vanished, which contradicts the widely affirmed principle that information cannot be destroyed. This is known as the black hole information paradox.

Bekenstein's work provided an important clue in resolving the paradox. He discovered that a black hole's entropy - which is synonymous with its information content - is proportional to the surface area of its event horizon. This is the theoretical surface that cloaks the black hole and marks the point of no return for infalling matter or light. Theorists have since shown that microscopic quantum ripples at the event horizon can encode the information inside the black hole, so there is no mysterious information loss as the black hole evaporates.

Crucially, this provides a deep physical insight: the 3D information about a precursor star can be completely encoded in the 2D horizon of the subsequent black hole - not unlike the 3D image of an object being encoded in a 2D hologram. Susskind and 't Hooft extended the insight to the universe as a whole on the basis that the cosmos has a horizon too - the boundary from beyond which light has not had time to reach us in the 13.7-billion-year lifespan of the universe. What's more, work by several string theorists, most notably Juan Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has confirmed that the idea is on the right track. He showed that the physics inside a hypothetical universe with five dimensions and shaped like a Pringle is the same as the physics taking place on the four-dimensional boundary.

According to Hogan, the holographic principle radically changes our picture of space-time. Theoretical physicists have long believed that quantum effects will cause space-time to convulse wildly on the tiniest scales. At this magnification, the fabric of space-time becomes grainy and is ultimately made of tiny units rather like pixels, but a hundred billion billion times smaller than a proton. This distance is known as the Planck length, a mere 10-35 metres. The Planck length is far beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment, so nobody dared dream that the graininess of space-time might be discernable.

That is, not until Hogan realised that the holographic principle changes everything. If space-time is a grainy hologram, then you can think of the universe as a sphere whose outer surface is papered in Planck length-sized squares, each containing one bit of information. The holographic principle says that the amount of information papering the outside must match the number of bits contained inside the volume of the universe.

Since the volume of the spherical universe is much bigger than its outer surface, how could this be true? Hogan realised that in order to have the same number of bits inside the universe as on the boundary, the world inside must be made up of grains bigger than the Planck length. "Or, to put it another way, a holographic universe is blurry," says Hogan.

This is good news for anyone trying to probe the smallest unit of space-time. "Contrary to all expectations, it brings its microscopic quantum structure within reach of current experiments," says Hogan. So while the Planck length is too small for experiments to detect, the holographic "projection" of that graininess could be much, much larger, at around 10-16 metres. "If you lived inside a hologram, you could tell by measuring the blurring," he says.

When Hogan first realised this, he wondered if any experiment might be able to detect the holographic blurriness of space-time. That's where GEO600 comes in.

Gravitational wave detectors like GEO600 are essentially fantastically sensitive rulers. The idea is that if a gravitational wave passes through GEO600, it will alternately stretch space in one direction and squeeze it in another. To measure this, the GEO600 team fires a single laser through a half-silvered mirror called a beam splitter. This divides the light into two beams, which pass down the instrument's 600-metre perpendicular arms and bounce back again. The returning light beams merge together at the beam splitter and create an interference pattern of light and dark regions where the light waves either cancel out or reinforce each other. Any shift in the position of those regions tells you that the relative lengths of the arms has changed.

"The key thing is that such experiments are sensitive to changes in the length of the rulers that are far smaller than the diameter of a proton," says Hogan.

So would they be able to detect a holographic projection of grainy space-time? Of the five gravitational wave detectors around the world, Hogan realised that the Anglo-German GEO600 experiment ought to be the most sensitive to what he had in mind. He predicted that if the experiment's beam splitter is buffeted by the quantum convulsions of space-time, this will show up in its measurements (Physical Review D, vol 77, p 104031). "This random jitter would cause noise in the laser light signal," says Hogan.

In June he sent his prediction to the GEO600 team. "Incredibly, I discovered that the experiment was picking up unexpected noise," says Hogan. GEO600's principal investigator Karsten Danzmann of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, and also the University of Hanover, admits that the excess noise, with frequencies of between 300 and 1500 hertz, had been bothering the team for a long time. He replied to Hogan and sent him a plot of the noise. "It looked exactly the same as my prediction," says Hogan. "It was as if the beam splitter had an extra sideways jitter."

Incredibly, the experiment was picking up unexpected noise - as if quantum convulsions were causing an extra sideways jitter
No one - including Hogan - is yet claiming that GEO600 has found evidence that we live in a holographic universe. It is far too soon to say. "There could still be a mundane source of the noise," Hogan admits.

Gravitational-wave detectors are extremely sensitive, so those who operate them have to work harder than most to rule out noise. They have to take into account passing clouds, distant traffic, seismological rumbles and many, many other sources that could mask a real signal. "The daily business of improving the sensitivity of these experiments always throws up some excess noise," says Danzmann. "We work to identify its cause, get rid of it and tackle the next source of excess noise." At present there are no clear candidate sources for the noise GEO600 is experiencing. "In this respect I would consider the present situation unpleasant, but not really worrying."

For a while, the GEO600 team thought the noise Hogan was interested in was caused by fluctuations in temperature across the beam splitter. However, the team worked out that this could account for only one-third of the noise at most.

Danzmann says several planned upgrades should improve the sensitivity of GEO600 and eliminate some possible experimental sources of excess noise. "If the noise remains where it is now after these measures, then we have to think again," he says.

If GEO600 really has discovered holographic noise from quantum convulsions of space-time, then it presents a double-edged sword for gravitational wave researchers. One on hand, the noise will handicap their attempts to detect gravitational waves. On the other, it could represent an even more fundamental discovery.

Such a situation would not be unprecedented in physics. Giant detectors built to look for a hypothetical form of radioactivity in which protons decay never found such a thing. Instead, they discovered that neutrinos can change from one type into another - arguably more important because it could tell us how the universe came to be filled with matter and not antimatter (New Scientist, 12 April 2008, p 26).

It would be ironic if an instrument built to detect something as vast as astrophysical sources of gravitational waves inadvertently detected the minuscule graininess of space-time. "Speaking as a fundamental physicist, I see discovering holographic noise as far more interesting," says Hogan.

Small price to pay

Despite the fact that if Hogan is right, and holographic noise will spoil GEO600's ability to detect gravitational waves, Danzmann is upbeat. "Even if it limits GEO600's sensitivity in some frequency range, it would be a price we would be happy to pay in return for the first detection of the graininess of space-time." he says. "You bet we would be pleased. It would be one of the most remarkable discoveries in a long time."

However Danzmann is cautious about Hogan's proposal and believes more theoretical work needs to be done. "It's intriguing," he says. "But it's not really a theory yet, more just an idea." Like many others, Danzmann agrees it is too early to make any definitive claims. "Let's wait and see," he says. "We think it's at least a year too early to get excited."

The longer the puzzle remains, however, the stronger the motivation becomes to build a dedicated instrument to probe holographic noise. John Cramer of the University of Washington in Seattle agrees. It was a "lucky accident" that Hogan's predictions could be connected to the GEO600 experiment, he says. "It seems clear that much better experimental investigations could be mounted if they were focused specifically on the measurement and characterisation of holographic noise and related phenomena."

One possibility, according to Hogan, would be to use a device called an atom interferometer. These operate using the same principle as laser-based detectors but use beams made of ultracold atoms rather than laser light. Because atoms can behave as waves with a much smaller wavelength than light, atom interferometers are significantly smaller and therefore cheaper to build than their gravitational-wave-detector counterparts.

So what would it mean it if holographic noise has been found? Cramer likens it to the discovery of unexpected noise by an antenna at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1964. That noise turned out to be the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of the big bang fireball. "Not only did it earn Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson a Nobel prize, but it confirmed the big bang and opened up a whole field of cosmology," says Cramer.

Hogan is more specific. "Forget Quantum of Solace, we would have directly observed the quantum of time," says Hogan. "It's the smallest possible interval of time - the Planck length divided by the speed of light."

More importantly, confirming the holographic principle would be a big help to researchers trying to unite quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity. Today the most popular approach to quantum gravity is string theory, which researchers hope could describe happenings in the universe at the most fundamental level. But it is not the only show in town. "Holographic space-time is used in certain approaches to quantising gravity that have a strong connection to string theory," says Cramer. "Consequently, some quantum gravity theories might be falsified and others reinforced."

Hogan agrees that if the holographic principle is confirmed, it rules out all approaches to quantum gravity that do not incorporate the holographic principle. Conversely, it would be a boost for those that do - including some derived from string theory and something called matrix theory. "Ultimately, we may have our first indication of how space-time emerges out of quantum theory." As serendipitous discoveries go, it's hard to get more ground-breaking than that.

Check out other weird cosmology features from New Scientist

Marcus Chown is the author of Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You (Faber, 2008)
24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Big Game on: January 19, 2009, 05:02:16 PM
By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
The 2008 U.S. Presidential Race

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in on Tuesday as president of the United States. Candidate Obama said much about what he would do as president; now we will see what President Obama actually does. The most important issue Obama will face will be the economy, something he did not anticipate through most of his campaign. The first hundred days of his presidency thus will revolve around getting a stimulus package passed. But Obama also is now in the great game of global competition — and in that game, presidents rarely get to set the agenda.

The major challenge he faces is not Gaza; the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not one any U.S. president intervenes in unless he wants to experience pain. As we have explained, that is an intractable conflict to which there is no real solution. Certainly, Obama will fight being drawn into mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his first hundred days in office. He undoubtedly will send the obligatory Middle East envoy, who will spend time with all the parties, make suitable speeches and extract meaningless concessions from all sides. This envoy will establish some sort of process to which everyone will cynically commit, knowing it will go nowhere. Such a mission is not involvement — it is the alternative to involvement, and the reason presidents appoint Middle East envoys. Obama can avoid the Gaza crisis, and he will do so.

Obama’s Two Unavoidable Crises

The two crises that cannot be avoided are Afghanistan and Russia. First, the situation in Afghanistan is tenuous for a number of reasons, and it is not a crisis that Obama can avoid decisions on. Obama has said publicly that he will decrease his commitments in Iraq and increase them in Afghanistan. He thus will have more troops fighting in Afghanistan. The second crisis emerged from a decision by Russia to cut off natural gas to Ukraine, and the resulting decline in natural gas deliveries to Europe. This one obviously does not affect the United States directly, but even after flows are restored, it affects the Europeans greatly. Obama therefore comes into office with three interlocking issues: Afghanistan, Russia and Europe. In one sense, this is a single issue — and it is not one that will wait.

Obama clearly intends to follow Gen. David Petraeus’ lead in Afghanistan. The intention is to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, thereby intensifying pressure on the Taliban and opening the door for negotiations with the militant group or one of its factions. Ultimately, this would see the inclusion of the Taliban or Taliban elements in a coalition government. Petraeus pursued this strategy in Iraq with Sunni insurgents, and it is the likely strategy in Afghanistan.

But the situation in Afghanistan has been complicated by the situation in Pakistan. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. and NATO supplies bound for Afghanistan are delivered to the Pakistani port of Karachi and trucked over the border to Afghanistan. Most fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan is refined in Pakistan and delivered via the same route. There are two crossing points, one near Afghanistan’s Kandahar province at Chaman, Pakistan, and the other through the Khyber Pass. The Taliban have attacked Western supply depots and convoys, and Pakistan itself closed the routes for several days, citing government operations against radical Islamist forces.

Meanwhile, the situation in Pakistan has been complicated by tensions with India. The Indians have said that the individuals who carried out the Nov. 26 Mumbai attack were Pakistanis supported by elements in the Pakistani government. After Mumbai, India made demands of the Pakistanis. While the situation appears to have calmed, the future of Indo-Pakistani relations remains far from clear; anything from a change of policy in New Delhi to new terrorist attacks could see the situation escalate. The Pakistanis have made it clear that a heightened threat from India requires them to shift troops away from the Afghan border and toward the east; a small number of troops already has been shifted.

Apart from the direct impact this kind of Pakistani troop withdrawal would have on cross-border operations by the Taliban, such a move also would dramatically increase the vulnerability of NATO supply lines through Pakistan. Some supplies could be shipped in by aircraft, but the vast bulk of supplies — petroleum, ammunition, etc. — must come in via surface transit, either by truck, rail or ship. Western operations in Afghanistan simply cannot be supplied from the air alone. A cutoff of the supply lines across Pakistan would thus leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan in crisis. Because Washington can’t predict or control the future actions of Pakistan, of India or of terrorists, the United States must find an alternative to the routes through Pakistan.

When we look at a map, the two routes through Pakistan from Karachi are clearly the most logical to use. If those were closed — or even meaningfully degraded — the only other viable routes would be through the former Soviet Union.

One route, along which a light load of fuel is currently transported, crosses the Caspian Sea. Fuel refined in Armenia is ferried across the Caspian to Turkmenistan (where a small amount of fuel is also refined), then shipped across Turkmenistan directly to Afghanistan and through a small spit of land in Uzbekistan. This route could be expanded to reach either the Black Sea through Georgia or the Mediterranean through Georgia and Turkey (though the additional use of Turkey would require a rail gauge switch). It is also not clear that transports native to the Caspian have sufficient capacity for this.
Another route sidesteps the issues of both transport across the Caspian and the sensitivity of Georgia by crossing Russian territory above the Caspian. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (and likely at least a small corner of Turkmenistan) would connect the route to Afghanistan. There are options of connecting to the Black Sea or transiting to Europe through either Ukraine or Belarus.
Iran could provide a potential alternative, but relations between Tehran and Washington would have to improve dramatically before such discussions could even begin — and time is short.
Many of the details still need to be worked out. But they are largely variations on the two main themes of either crossing the Caspian or transiting Russian territory above it.

Though the first route is already partially established for fuel, it is not clear how much additional capacity exists. To complicate matters further, Turkmen acquiescence is unlikely without Russian authorization, and Armenia remains strongly loyal to Moscow as well. While the current Georgian government might leap at the chance, the issue is obviously an extremely sensitive one for Moscow. (And with Russian forces positioned in Azerbaijan and the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow has troops looming over both sides of the vulnerable route across Georgia.) The second option would require crossing Russian territory itself, with a number of options — from connecting to the Black Sea to transiting either Ukraine or Belarus to Europe, or connecting to the Baltic states.


Both routes involve countries of importance to Russia where Moscow has influence, regardless of whether those countries are friendly to it. This would give Russia ample opportunity to scuttle any such supply line at multiple points for reasons wholly unrelated to Afghanistan.

If the West were to opt for the first route, the Russians almost certainly would pressure Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan not to cooperate, and Turkey would find itself in a position it doesn’t want to be in — namely, caught between the United States and Russia. The diplomatic complexities of developing these routes not only involve the individual countries included, they also inevitably lead to the question of U.S.-Russian relations.

Even without crossing Russia, both of these two main options require Russian cooperation. The United States must develop the option of an alternative supply route to Pakistan, and in doing so, it must define its relationship with Russia. Seeking to work without Russian approval of a route crossing its “near abroad” will represent a challenge to Russia. But getting Russian approval will require a U.S. accommodation with the country.

The Russian Natural Gas Connection

One of Obama’s core arguments against the Bush administration was that it acted unilaterally rather than with allies. Specifically, Obama meant that the Bush administration alienated the Europeans, therefore failing to build a sustainable coalition for the war. By this logic, it follows that one of Obama’s first steps should be to reach out to Europe to help influence or pressure the Russians, given that NATO has troops in Afghanistan and Obama has said he intends to ask the Europeans for more help there.

The problem with this is that the Europeans are passing through a serious crisis with Russia, and that Germany in particular is involved in trying to manage that crisis. This problem relates to natural gas. Ukraine is dependent on Russia for about two-thirds of the natural gas it uses. The Russians traditionally have provided natural gas at a deep discount to former Soviet republics, primarily those countries Russia sees as allies, such as Belarus or Armenia. Ukraine had received discounted natural gas, too, until the 2004 Orange Revolution, when a pro-Western government came to power in Kiev. At that point, the Russians began demanding full payment. Given the subsequent rises in global energy prices, that left Ukraine in a terrible situation — which of course is exactly where Moscow wanted it.

The Russians cut off natural gas to Ukraine for a short period in January 2006, and for three weeks in 2009. Apart from leaving Ukraine desperate, the cutoff immediately affected the rest of Europe, because the natural gas that goes to Europe flows through Ukraine. This put the rest of Europe in a dangerous position, particularly in the face of bitterly cold weather in 2008-2009.

The Russians achieved several goals with this. First, they pressured Ukraine directly. Second, they forced many European states to deal with Moscow directly rather than through the European Union. Third, they created a situation in which European countries had to choose between supporting Ukraine and heating their own homes. And last, they drew Berlin in particular — since Germany is the most dependent of the major European states on Russian natural gas — into the position of working with the Russians to get Ukraine to agree to their terms. (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Germany last week to discuss this directly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.)

The Germans already have made clear their opposition to expanding NATO to Ukraine and Georgia. Given their dependency on the Russians, the Germans are not going to be supporting the United States if Washington decides to challenge Russia over the supply route issue. In fact, the Germans — and many of the Europeans — are in no position to challenge Russia on anything, least of all on Afghanistan. Overall, the Europeans see themselves as having limited interests in the Afghan war, and many already are planning to reduce or withdraw troops for budgetary reasons.

It is therefore very difficult to see Obama recruiting the Europeans in any useful manner for a confrontation with Russia over access for American supplies to Afghanistan. Yet this is an issue he will have to address immediately.

The Price of Russian Cooperation

The Russians are prepared to help the Americans, however — and it is clear what they will want in return.

At minimum, Moscow will want a declaration that Washington will not press for the expansion of NATO to Georgia or Ukraine, or for the deployment of military forces in non-NATO states on the Russian periphery — specifically, Ukraine and Georgia. At this point, such a declaration would be symbolic, since Germany and other European countries would block expansion anyway.

The Russians might also demand some sort of guarantee that NATO and the United States not place any large military formations or build any major military facilities in the former Soviet republics (now NATO member states) of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (A small rotating squadron of NATO fighters already patrols the skies over the Baltic states.) Given that there were intense anti-government riots in Latvia and Lithuania last week, the stability of these countries is in question. The Russians would certainly want to topple the pro-Western Baltic governments. And anything approaching a formal agreement between Russia and the United States on the matter could quickly destabilize the Baltics, in addition to very much weakening the NATO alliance.

Another demand the Russians probably will make — because they have in the past — is that the United States guarantee eventual withdrawal from any bases in Central Asia in return for Russian support for using those bases for the current Afghan campaign. (At present, the United States runs air logistics operations out of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.) The Russians do not want to see Central Asia become a U.S. sphere of influence as the result of an American military presence.

Other demands might relate to the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense installations in the Czech Republic and Poland.

We expect the Russians to make variations on all these demands in exchange for cooperation in creating a supply line to Afghanistan. Simply put, the Russians will demand that the United States acknowledge a Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. The Americans will not want to concede this — or at least will want to make it implicit rather than explicit. But the Russians will want this explicit, because an explicit guarantee will create a crisis of confidence over U.S. guarantees in the countries that emerged from the Soviet Union, serving as a lever to draw these countries into the Russian orbit. U.S. acquiescence on the point potentially would have ripple effects in the rest of Europe, too.

Therefore, regardless of the global financial crisis, Obama has an immediate problem on his hands in Afghanistan. He has troops fighting there, and they must be supplied. The Pakistani supply line is no longer a sure thing. The only other options either directly challenge Russia (and ineffectively at that) or require Russian help. Russia’s price will be high, particularly because Washington’s European allies will not back a challenge to Russia in Georgia, and all options require Russian cooperation anyway. Obama’s plan to recruit the Europeans on behalf of American initiatives won’t work in this case. Obama does not want to start his administration with making a massive concession to Russia, but he cannot afford to leave U.S. forces in Afghanistan without supplies. He can hope that nothing happens in Pakistan, but that is up to the Taliban and other Islamist groups more than anyone else — and betting on their goodwill is not a good idea.

Whatever Obama is planning to do, he will have to deal with this problem fast, before Afghanistan becomes a crisis. And there are no good solutions. But unlike with the Israelis and Palestinians, Obama can’t solve this by sending a special envoy who appears to be doing something. He will have to make a very tough decision. Between the economy and this crisis, we will find out what kind of president Obama is.

And we will find out very soon.
24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ramos and Compean on: January 19, 2009, 12:40:10 PM

Bush commutes sentences of former US border agents

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann, Associated Press Writer 10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush on Monday commuted the prison sentences of two former
U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited fierce debate about illegal immigration.
Bush's decision to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who tried to cover up the shooting, was welcomed by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. They had long argued that the agents were merely doing their jobs, defending the American border against criminals. They also maintained that the more than 10-year prison sentences the pair was given were too harsh.

Rancor over their convictions, sentencing and firings has simmered ever since the shooting occurred in 2005.

Ramos and Compean became a rallying point among conservatives and on talk shows where their supporters called them heroes. Nearly the entire bipartisan congressional delegation from Texas and other lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle pleaded with Bush to grant them clemency.

Bush didn't pardon the men for their crimes, but decided instead to commute their prison sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations, a senior administration official said.

The action by the president, who believes the border agents received fair trials and that the verdicts were just, does not diminish the seriousness of their crimes, the official said.

Compean and Ramos, who have served about two years of their sentences, are expected to be released from prison within the next two months.

They were convicted of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks as he fled across the Rio Grande, away from an abandoned van load of marijuana. The border agents argued during their trials that they believed the smuggler was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van of marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings.

The agents were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and with serious bodily injury, violation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. All their convictions, except obstruction of justice, were upheld on appeal.
With the new acts of clemency, Bush has granted a total of 189 pardons and 11 commutations.

That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan issued during their two-term tenures. Bush technically has until noon on Tuesday when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office to exercise his executive pardon authority, but presidential advisers said no more were forthcoming.

The president had made most of his pardon decisions on low-profile cases, but his batch in December created controversy.
Isaac Robert Toussie of Brooklyn, N.Y, convicted of making false statements to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and of mail fraud, was among 19 people Bush pardoned just before Christmas. But after learning in news reports that Toussie's father had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party a few months ago, as well as other information, the president reversed his decision on Toussie's case.

The White House said the decision to revoke the pardon — a step unheard of in recent memory — was based on information about the extent and nature of Toussie's prior criminal offenses, and that neither the White House counsel's office nor the president had been aware of a political contribution by Toussie's father and wanted to avoid creating an appearance of impropriety.

In an earlier high-profile official act of forgiveness, Bush saved Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, from serving prison time in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Bush could still grant him a full pardon, although Libby has not applied for one.

Bush's batches of pardons, however, have never included any well-known convicts like junk bond dealer Michael Milken, who sought a pardon on securities fraud charges, or two politicians convicted of public corruption — former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards — who wanted Bush to shorten their prison terms.

Clinton issued a total of 457 in eight years in office. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, issued 77 in four years. Reagan issued 406 in eight years, and President Carter issued 563 in four years. Since World War II, the largest number of pardons and commutations — 2,031 — came from President Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years.
__________________
24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan's inaugural address on: January 19, 2009, 10:15:06 AM
"To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle. ... The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. ... It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people. ... But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals. You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we're not bound by that same limitation? ... In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." --Ronald Reagan, first Inaugural Address (20 January 1981)
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Prayer unheard on: January 19, 2009, 09:48:53 AM
"I Pray Heaven to Bestow The Best of Blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on ALL that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof!"

--John Adams, letter to his wife Abigail, 2 November 1800
24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / My wife kicks movie theater's butt! on: January 18, 2009, 11:47:52 PM
Woof All:

I am so proud of my wife.

She took our children, a friend, and four other children to see the "Dog Hotel" movie.  (Ages of the six children were from three to nine) Reviews had said very "family friendly". 

Then the previews began with the horror flick "Friday, chapter 93".  Cindy instantly got up and got the manager.  SHE WAS STEAMED!!!  Turns out the projectionist was standing standing next to the manager.  He SPRINTS to the projection room and stops the previews on the spot.  The theater screen is left dark for about 1o minutes.  The theater comped my wife 8 tickets, and comped everyone in the theater too!!!

Very proud!
Marc


24419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Son of Hamas founder denounces Islam and converts to Christianity!!! on: January 18, 2009, 11:04:47 PM

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/mosab.htm

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/yt1.asp

et seq!
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: January 18, 2009, 09:03:32 PM
Help the families of fallen Spec Ops Warriors
http://www.specialops.org
24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 18, 2009, 08:52:45 PM
MLK's Letter from Jail:

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 18, 2009, 07:21:10 PM
I like the literary quality of the allusion/analogy there.  Nice piece.

Returning to the gas find, a clever friend writes:
================

Google search yields interesting results.  Very early days yet. 

 

“Early indications are that the resources identified are very substantial, at least equal to our pre-drill estimated gross mean resources of over three trillion cubic feet. Subject to the collection of additional data, the resource estimate for Tamar could further increase.”

 

Three TCF is significant, but far from “huge.”

 

Here is the data on Russian gas production:

 

  “According to the Oil and Gas Journal’s 2008 survey, Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, with 1,680 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), which is nearly twice the reserves in the next largest country, Iran. In 2006 Russia was the world’s largest natural gas producer (23.2 Tcf), as well as the world’s largest exporter (6.6 Tcf). According to official Russian statistics, production during 2007 totaled around 23.1 Tcf, of which 85 percent (19.4 Tcf) was produced by Gazprom. Russian government forecasts expects gas production to total 31.1 Tcf by 2030.”

 

So to put it in perspective, the Tamar find is currently estimated to be equal to about 6 months of exports from Russia, highly significant for Israel, but not for Europe.

Alas.
Fred
24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 18, 2009, 04:08:25 PM
"My only point in my previous post was that both the Koran AND the Old Testament of the Bible have a dark side."

Ummm, was this ever really an issue?

Or given your belief that " Judaism and Christianity have moved on and now refute barbarism.  Islam , , , seem(s) to want to return humanity to the dark age.  That is a huge irreconcilable difference"--- what on earth was the relevance of these repeated references to the rejected negatives of the Old Testament?
24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huge Gas Reserves discovered? on: January 18, 2009, 01:58:32 PM
Huge gas reserves discovered off Haifa

Jan. 18, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Three massive gas reservoirs have been discovered 80 kilometers off the Haifa coast, at the Tamar prospect, Noble Energy Inc. announced on Sunday.

The Tamar-1 well, located in approximately 5,500 feet of water, was drilled to a total depth of 16,076 feet. The thickness and quality of the reservoirs found were greater than anticipated at the location.

Charles D. Davidson, Noble Energy's chairman, president and CEO, said in an announcement that his company was "extremely excited by the results. This is one of the most significant prospects that we have ever tested and appears to be the largest discovery in the company's history."

Speaking on Army Radio Sunday morning, an exhilarated Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of the Delek Group Ltd, one of the owners of the well, called the discovery "one of the biggest in the world," promising that the find would present a historic land mark in the economic independence of Israel.

"I have no doubt that this is a holiday for the State of Israel. We will no longer be dependent [on foreign sources] for our gas, and will even export. We are dealing with inconceivably huge quantities; Israel now has a solution for the future generations," Tshuva added.

An ecstatic Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said before the weekly cabinet meeting that the discovery was a "historic" one and could "change the face of Israeli industry."

In a statement released following the discovery, the Meimad-Green Movement party also praised the "historic discovery," and called to put plans to erect the coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon on hold.

"Until now, the central argument in favor of building the coal plant was that strategically, we cannot depend on clean natural gas, since its reservoirs are located in hostile countries," said Meimad chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior in the statement.

"Now, with the discovery of the huge reservoirs, the plans to construct the coal plant should be shelved, as it will cause severe health damage to the region's residents," said Melchior.

"Instead, we should build a plant powered by natural gas instead, Israeli and [environmentally friendly], which will have minimal health repercussions and aid Israel's economy," he added.

Production testing at Tamar will be performed after the well is completed. Noble Energy and its partners may keep the rig to drill up to two additional wells in the basin. Pending positive test results, one well could be an appraisal at Tamar.

Noble Energy operates the well with a 36 percent working interest. Other interest owners in the well are Israeli companies Isramco Negev 2, Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Dor Gas Exploration.

Following the announcement of the discover, shares of Delek Drilling jumped up 80%, while shares of Isramco Negev 2 skyrocketed by an unprecedented 120 percent. The rest of the Tel Aviv stock market also saw huge gains, with the TA-Index 100 climbing nearly 4 percent.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1232265973374&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
24425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Study: Gun and grenade fight on: January 18, 2009, 12:54:38 PM
Odd, I thought this one would trigger many comments , , ,
24426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 18, 2009, 10:37:25 AM
I'm not much of a scholar in these things, so please help me out.

Exactly where does the old Testament advocate/grant the right to rape? etc?

And exactly where do we find any Jews advocating this today because God says so?
24427  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: CRISIS ECONOMICA MUNDIAL on: January 18, 2009, 10:29:58 AM
Por favor siempre ponga la razon que este's posting un articulo.

Gracias
24428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Bush Presidency on: January 17, 2009, 11:23:49 PM
President Bush is leaving office amid the worst recession in 25 years, and naturally his economic policies are getting the blame. But before we move on to the era of Obamanomics, it's important to understand what really happened during the Bush years -- not least so we don't repeat the same mistakes.

 
APMr. Bush has tried to explain events with one of his populist aphorisms: "Wall Street got drunk and we got a hangover." The remark is ruefully amusing and has an element of truth. But it also reveals how little the President comprehends about the source of his Administration's economic undoing. To extend his metaphor, Who does Mr. Bush think was serving the liquor?

Democrats like to claim the 1990s were a golden age while the Bush years have been disastrous. But as the nearby chart shows, Mr. Bush inherited a recession. The dot-com bubble had burst in 2000, and the economy was sinking even before the shock of 9/11, the corporate scandals and Sarbanes-Oxley. Mr. Bush's original tax-cut proposal was designed in part as insurance against such a downturn.

 However, to win over Senate Democrats, Mr. Bush both phased in the tax rate reductions and settled for politically popular but economically feckless tax rebate checks. Those checks provided a short-term lift to consumer spending but no real boost to risk-taking or business investment, which was still recovering from the tech implosion. By late 2002, the economy was struggling again -- which is when Mr. Bush proposed his second round of tax cuts.

This time the tax rate reductions were immediate, and they included cuts in capital gains and dividends designed to spur business incentives. As the tax cuts became law in late May 2003, the recovery began in earnest. Growth averaged nearly 4% over the next three years, the jobless rate fell from 6.3% in June 2003 to 4.4% in October 2006, and real wages began to grow despite rising food and energy prices. The 2003 tax cut was the high point of Bush economic policy.

Mr. Bush's spending record is less admirable, especially during his first term. He indulged the majority Republicans on Capitol Hill, refusing to veto overspending and giving in to their demand that the Medicare prescription drug benefit include only modest market reforms. Even those reforms have helped to restrain drug costs, but now Democrats are set to repeal them and the main Bush legacy will be the new taxpayer liabilities.


Nonetheless, the budget deficit did fall mid-decade, as tax revenues soared with the expansion. In fiscal 2007, the deficit hit $161 billion, or an economically trivial 1.2% of GDP. That seems like a distant memory after the bailout blowout of the last few months, but the point is that the Bush tax cuts aren't responsible for the deficits. Before the recession hit, federal tax revenues had climbed above their postwar average of 18.3% of GDP.

Which brings us back to Mr. Bush's "hangover." While his Administration was handling the fiscal levers, the Federal Reserve was pushing the monetary accelerator to the floor. In reaction to the dot-com implosion and the collapse in business investment, Alan Greenspan rapidly cut interest rates to spur housing and consumer spending. In June 2003, even as the tax cuts were passing and the economy took off, he cut the fed funds rate to 1% and kept it there for a year.

His stimulus worked -- far too well. The money boom created a commodity price spike as well as a subsidy for credit across the economy. Economist John Taylor of Stanford has analyzed the magnitude of this monetary mistake in a new paper that assesses government's contribution to the financial panic. The second chart compares the actual fed funds rate this decade with what it would have been had the Fed stayed within the policy lanes of the previous 20 years.

 "This extra easy policy was responsible for accelerating the housing boom and thereby ultimately leading to the housing bust," writes Mr. Taylor, who worked in the first-term Bush Treasury, though not on monetary affairs, and is known for the "Taylor rule" for determining how central banks should adjust interest rates.

By pushing all of this excess credit into the economy, the Fed created a housing and mortgage mania that Wall Street was only too happy to be part of. Yes, many on the Street abandoned their normal risk standards. But they were goaded by an enormous subsidy for debt. Wall Street did get "drunk" but Washington had set up the open bar.

For that matter, most everyone else was also drinking the free booze: from homebuyers who put nothing down for a loan, to a White House that bragged about record home ownership, to the Democrats who promoted and protected Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Those two companies helped turbocharge the mania by using a taxpayer subsidy to attract trillions of dollars of foreign capital into U.S. housing.) No one wanted the party to end, though sooner or later it had to.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Mugging Bank of America 
TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Declarations: Suspend Your Disbelief
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Meet Obama's Loyal Opposition
– Kimberley A. Strassel

COMMENTARY

The Weekend Interview: Jim Cooper
– Collin LevyEngaging North Korea Didn't Work for Japan
– Melanie KirkpatrickLeave the New Deal in the History Books
– Mark LeveyLet's Renew America Together
– Colin PowellCross Country: Sports Mania Is a Poor Substitute for Economic Success
– Jerry BowyerWhile the Fed is most to blame, the Administration encouraged the credit excesses. It populated the Fed Board of Governors with Mr. Greenspan's protégés, notably Ben Bernanke and Donald Kohn, who helped to create the mania and even now deny all responsibility. Meantime, Mr. Bush's three Treasury Secretaries knew little about the subject, and if anything were inclined to support easier money and a weaker dollar in the name of reducing the trade deficit. We know because numerous Bush officials sneered at the monetary warnings in these columns going back to 2003.

When the bust finally arrived with a vengeance in 2007, the political timing couldn't have been worse. Mr. Bush tried to rally with one more fiscal "stimulus," but he repeated his 2001 mistake and agreed to another round of tax rebates. They did little good. The Administration might have prevented the worst of the panic had it sought some sort of TARP-like financing for the banking system months or a year earlier than it did last autumn. But neither the Treasury nor the FDIC seemed to appreciate how big the banking system's problems were. Their financial triage was well meaning but came too late and in a frenzy that invited mistakes.

This history is crucial to understand, both for the Democrats who now assume the levers of power and for Republicans who will want to return to power some day. Mr. Bush and his team did many things right after inheriting one bubble. They were ruined by monetary excess that created a second, more dangerous credit mania. They forgot one of the main lessons of Reaganomics, which is the importance of stable money.

 
24429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas linked speaker at inaugeral event on: January 17, 2009, 09:04:03 PM
WASHINGTON -- A Muslim scholar chosen to speak at President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural prayer service Wednesday is the leader of a group that federal prosecutors say has ties to terrorists.

Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is one of many religious leaders scheduled to speak at the prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral.

Mattson has been the guest of honor at State Department dinners and has met with senior Pentagon officials during the Bush administration. She also spoke at a prayer service at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Mattson, who was elected president of the society in 2006, is a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn.

But in 2007 and as recently as last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Plainfield, Ind.-based Islamic society to the group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

Neither Mattson nor her organization have been charged. But prosecutors wrote in July that they had "a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking" the group to Hamas and other radical groups.

Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama's inaugural committee, would not discuss the case or say whether the committee knew about it.

"She has a stellar reputation in the faith community," Douglass said Saturday night.

The existence of the court documents was first reported by Politico.

The Islamic Society of North America, which describes itself as "the nation's largest mainstream Muslim community-based organization," is fighting its inclusion on a list of coconspirators in the Dallas terrorism case against the Holy Land Foundation. In court documents, Mattson's group says it does not condone terrorism.

The court documents represent a complicated picture of the group.

Law enforcement agencies have used the organization's annual convention as part of its outreach to the Muslim community. The group has provided religious training to the FBI, according to court documents. Karen Hughes, a former Bush confidant and under secretary of state, called Mattson "a wonderful leader and role model for many, many people."

All this was going on while officials in the law enforcement and intelligence community apparently had evidence that the Islamic Society of North America had ties to terrorists and to the Holy Land Foundation. That foundation and five of its former leaders were convicted at a retrial in November of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.

Mark Pelavin, director of inter-religious affairs for the Union for Reform Judaism - another organization participating in the prayer service - called Mattson "a really important voice denouncing terrorism."

"Clearly, Dr. Mattson has been welcome throughout the government," he said. "I haven't found anyone anywhere who's found anything Dr. Mattson has said that's anything other than clearly denouncing terrorism in quite explicit Islamic terms."

Pelavin's group has a partnership with the Islamic Society to encourage members of mosques and synagogues to build ties nationwide.

Attorneys for Mattson's group wrote in court documents that it is not a subject or target of the Holy Land investigation. The group has worked with the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, according to court documents.

According to e-mails filed in the court case, one of the prosecutors seemed willing to ask the judge to remove the group from the list.

"I am sorry for the problems for your clients," Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks wrote in July 2007. "I hope to get something to you or file something with the court as soon as possible."

The Islamic Society helps certify Muslim chaplains for federal prisons. Mattson leads a program at the Hartford Seminary that trains Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military.

Mattson was one of about three dozen leaders, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and two former Republican congressmen, Vin Weber and Steve Bartlett, who developed a report released last fall on how the U.S. can fight extremism in the Muslim world.

AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report
24430  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LEO defends gun with knife on: January 17, 2009, 03:21:27 PM
Deputy Stabs Suspect During Fight
After Vehicle Stop
On January 15, 2009, at 10:50 p.m., a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle in the area of 44th Street and Perry Avenue. The deputy approached the vehicle, which was occupied by a 58-year-old male driver and two female passengers (53- and 41-years-old respectively). He asked the driver to step out of the vehicle so he could speak to him behind the car. As the deputy and driver were standing behind the car, the driver attacked the deputy. During the ensuing struggle, the deputy felt the suspect grab his handgun in an attempt to remove it from its holster. As he fought with the suspect to maintain control of his gun with one hand, and believing he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury, the deputy drew a knife from his duty belt with his free hand and stabbed the suspect in the upper body. The suspect stopped fighting at that point and was handcuffed by the deputy. Paramedics transported the suspect to a local hospital where he is being treated for his wounds. He is expected to survive. The two female passengers were detained for questioning.
In accordance with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s policies and procedures, the 27-year-old male deputy (a six-year veteran of the department) will be placed on paid administrative leave. Sheriff’s patrol deputies are authorized by the department to carry a knife during the performance of their duties. The circumstances surrounding this incident will be investigated by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Unit, Internal Affairs Unit, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
After he is deemed to be fit for incarceration, the suspect will be booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail. His name and booking photo will be released at that time.
Sergeant Tim Curran,
Sheriff's Spokesman
24431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 17, 2009, 03:14:49 PM
May I suggest we return to the coming 8.3+% of GDP deficit spending? And the near complete absence of free market response to it? WTF!?! Even guys like Martin Feldstein are caving in!
24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / IP, Patents, etc on: January 17, 2009, 10:20:54 AM
A lot of compliments for the book from the author of this piece, but I would like to see more discussison of the actual issues.  If the author of this piece blogs the book chapter by chapter and actually enters into discussion on the merits, that I would be curious to see.
24433  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: January 17, 2009, 10:12:33 AM
Subing Subing is AWESOME!!!
24434  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Should officers see vids of their encounters? on: January 17, 2009, 10:01:36 AM
   
I. Should officers see video of their encounters? Force Science states its case

Some months ago, officers responded to a single-car accident on a freeway in a major midwestern city. As they tried to tend to and question the driver, he became unruly and earned himself a Tasering. Later, he died. As customary in that jurisdiction, a state investigative agency took over the death investigation.

And that surfaced a nettlesome conflict.

As part of the report-writing process, the officers' department traditionally permits its personnel to view video from arrest scenes, and it saw no reason that the officers involved shouldn't see recordings of the Tasering before they were interviewed, to stimulate their memories of what occurred. The investigating agency, however, felt strongly that the videos from dash-cams and the Taser should not be seen prior to the officers giving their official statements, lest the viewing color their recollections.

Reports of the controversy motivated a consortium of agencies in Minnesota to probe more deeply into the question that departments large and small throughout the country potentially face: In a major use-of-force situation, which position best contributes to a fair, impartial, and comprehensive investigation?

To see what science might say, the group turned to Dr. Bill Lewinski, director of the Force Science Institute, parent entity of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

In a first-of-its-kind presentation earlier this month [1/09] in St. Paul, Lewinski spent more than 2 hours exploring the pros and cons of the subject, culminating in recommendations that agencies confronting the dilemma may find useful. In the audience were representatives of 9 of Minnesota's largest law enforcement organizations.

MEMORY REALITIES

In St. Paul, Lewinski first reviewed some realities of human memory, as determined by scientific research, including experiments conducted with LEOs by FSRC.

"After a high-stress experience, such as a major force confrontation, an officer's memory of what happened is likely to be fragmentary at best," he explained. "An incident is never completely recorded in memory."

At various times during an incident, the focus of an officer's attention may shift between internal thoughts and concerns to external stimuli, and where his focus is at any given moment will unavoidably influence what he remembers.

"A person's attention is an extremely significant factor in determining what that person perceives and then remembers," Lewinski said. "It would be extremely rare, if not impossible, for an officer involved in a fluid, complex, dynamic, and life-threatening encounter to remember peripheral details beyond that on which he or she was focused.

"The average person will actually miss a large amount of what happened in a stressful event and, of course, will be completely unaware of what they did not pay attention to and commit to memory."

Compounding the problem, a participant or witness "may unintentionally add information in their report that was not actually part of the original incident," Lewinski explained--not in a plot to deceive, necessarily, but in a humanly instinctive effort to fill in frustrating memory gaps.

"Memory is not neatly stored in a single compact file in our brain but is stored in chunks in a variety of neural networks," Lewinski said. "Given this, a variety of stimuli may be necessary to mine the fragments thoroughly."

Cognitive interviewing, which encourages an officer to relive an event with all his senses, can be a highly effective tool. So can a walk-through at the scene and/or review of a video of the action, because these "place the officer back within the context of the incident and thus stimulate his 'recognition recall.'

"An officer's version of an incident will vary, depending on whether his statement is taken before, after, or without a walk-through or a viewing of a videotape of the incident."

Even with the help of stimulation strategies, Lewinski cautioned, there will still be inevitable memory errors, particularly when an officer attempts to recall "information that was on the periphery of his attention during the incident, even if that information later turns out to be very important."

VIDEO LIMITATIONS

Seeing on-scene video, while usually helpful in stimulating an officer's memory, is no panacea, Lewinski stressed.

"A video recording is often considered a thorough and accurate record of the incident because it is rich with information, objective, and unbiased. However, video recordings, regardless of how good the lighting and quality of filming, are never a completely accurate reproduction of any incident."

Among the limitations Lewinski cited:


• "Video cameras generally record only a portion of an incident and are bereft of the context of the event";
• "Video is a 2-dimensional representation of an incident from a particular perspective and tends to distort distance and other associated with depth of field";

• "Generally video does not faithfully record light levels and does not represent what a human being in the incident would perceive";

• "A video does not present the incident as viewed through the officer's eyes";

• "Video cameras recording at less than 10 frames per second can leave out significant aspects of an incident that occur at speeds faster than that."

Despite these limitations, in Lewinski's view, an officer seeing any available video recordings is vital in many cases, if a comprehensive mining of the officer's memory is the goal.

TIMING

A debatable factor is timing.

A "raw" statement taken from an officer without his viewing any video of the incident or experiencing other memory enhancers (like a walk-through) "may be a good record of his 'state of mind' before, during, and after the confrontation," Lewinski said, "but it may not be a thorough, factual representation of what happened."

Indeed, it could be "viewed more as a memory test with potential disciplinary and criminal consequences than a pursuit of the facts of the incident," he said. "Internal Affairs investigators, criminal prosecutors, and plaintiffs' attorneys exploit discrepancies in reports between participants and witnesses, and they can do the same when there is a discrepancy between the officer's report and a videotape.

"The most enriched, complete, and factually accurate version of a high-stress encounter is most likely to occur after a walk-through and/or after the officer has had at least one opportunity to view an available video of the incident."

Ideally, Lewinski believes, a video review should be permitted before an involved officer gives his official statement.

Currently, however, some departments and prosecutors are insistent on obtaining a "pure" statement to document an officer's state of mind regarding the encounter as it evolved, before other stimuli, particularly a video review, are introduced.

Consequently, Lewinski proposed a compromise "middle-of-the-road" position, which at least assures that a video review becomes part of any force investigation early in the game.

COMPROMISE RECOMMENDATION

If an agency is adamant about not showing an officer video prior to a statement being taken, Lewinski suggested that a video review be allowed soon after the interview and that the officer then be re-interviewed or given a chance to write an additional report at that time.

"This offers the officer a chance to comment on what he now understands about the incident compared to what he may have said in his original statement," Lewinski told Force Science News. "This is not perfect, but it does offer a chance for additional mining of the officer's memory and it is far better than having the officer 'ambushed' with the video much later, not having seen it at all.

"Where discrepancies exist, investigators need to be knowledgeable and sensitive enough, in the absence of other incriminating evidence, to explain to the officer, the administration, and the public how an officer's perception of an incident can be vastly different from what's seen on a video recording and still be legitimate."

Whether the video is shown before or after the statement, it is important to "caution the officer on the limited accuracy of video recordings," Lewinski told the group. "An officer who is unaware of the limitations and uncertain about the accuracy of his own memory may be influenced to change an otherwise accurate report."

Lewinski also warned that "officers who have been through an extremely emotionally distressing incident may find a walk-through, a viewing of the video, and the giving of a statement to be too difficult to handle unless they have had some time to decompress." (In previous transmissions, experts quoted in Force Science News have recommended that officers be allowed to rest for up to 48 hours after a critical incident before submitting to extensive interviewing.)

Lewinski told FSN that the representatives at the St. Paul meeting do not intend to formulate a joint policy on the video issue. Rather, they planned to individually evaluate their department's position in light of his information and to help in spreading the word to other agencies.

As a part of his presentation, Lewinski included film clips and other materials from the Institute's popular certification course on Force Science Analysis. During this unique 5-day training program, investigators learn how to assess controversial force encounters with scientific principles of biology, physiology, and psychology in mind, to gain a more accurate picture of the dynamics involved.
 
24435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Demography on: January 17, 2009, 09:55:08 AM
From an email letter/site which I recently have started receiving:
========================================

January 17, 2009

Hi there,

One overlooked feature the current conflict in Gaza is demography. Of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, about half are under 15. In most Western countries, the birth rate is between 1.3 and 1.9, while there it is about 5.2. Israel is losing the battle of the birth rates, for its overall birth rate is about 2.9, although this includes a 4.0 birth rate for its Muslim citizens. The Israeli group with the highest birth rates, however, is the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi, with about 9.0.

What does this mean for the future? It's hard to tell. History is not made by numbers alone. However, it suggests that militants in Gaza will have an unending supply of recruits and that more and more Israelis will be Muslim. There will also be more ultra-Orthodox in years to come. At the moment, most ultra-Orthodox men are excused from military service, but they tend to take a hard line in politics, so Israel may become even less inclined to favour compromise. Who knows?

But whatever the future holds, population will be an important element. And not only in the Middle East, but everywhere else as well. That's why MercatorNet will be launching a blog, "Demography is Destiny", later in the year. At the moment we are designing it and contacting writers (volunteers welcome). Stay tuned.

Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor
24436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free Speech in China?!? on: January 17, 2009, 12:21:49 AM
   
Geopolitical Diary: Freedom of Speech and Beijing's 'Test'
January 16, 2009
An article promoting freedom of speech in China — published on Wednesday in the Beijing Daily News, a periodical affiliated with the Beijing committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) — was being circulated and discussed in China on Thursday. The piece, titled “Truth Cannot Be Pursued Without Freedom of Speech; ‘Authoritative Determination of Nature’ Should Be Avoided By All Means” and published in the paper’s “Theory Weekly” column, criticizes authorities who try to act as a “judge of truth” and stifle dissenting opinions. Written by Shen Minte, a professor at the Communication University of China, the article delivers a subtle warning to officials not to quiet alternative voices hastily; it also suggests, however, that tolerance for alternative voices does not justify alternative actions — only ideas.

The article notes that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, and cautions that one cannot determine whether speech is absurd, progressive or reactionary if it is never allowed to be vocalized. Shen links his call for freedom of speech to Mao Zedong’s support for “a hundred schools of thought contending” — though in this, Chen appears to be subtly criticizing the ultimate outcome of the ensuing “hundred flowers blooming” movement, in which open debate was finally crushed once it became too critical of the CPC.

Shen says it is only in the open, and through the lens of history, that alternative ideas can be judged. He warns that the biggest threat comes when some “authority” declares itself the “judge of truth” and the masses follow blindly, endorsing or condemning the ideas based solely on the judgment of vocal authorities rather than judging the truth themselves. He raises as examples Ma Yinchu and Zhang Zhixin, two early Party members who raised ideas fundamentally contrary to conventional wisdom or the actions of the Party. Ma warned of the dangers of excessive population growth, and Zhang criticized the Cultural Revolution. Both were criticized, quieted and punished — in Zhang’s case, executed — but years later were proven correct in their assessments and were rehabilitated.

In essence, Shen, in a Party-sanctioned paper, is calling for freedom of speech and debate inside the Party, along with a greater responsibility for the citizens of China to test what their officials say, and for those officials to listen more to the people. Shen makes it clear that he is not advocating freedom of action, but only of speech and debate. But his article is a strong criticism of the way some Chinese officials have acted in the past.

It is also a critique of China’s culture of official corruption. The article was published the same day the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) called for greater efforts to crack down on corruption in 2009 and reported that nearly 5,000 officials above the county-head level had been investigated and penalized in the year ending in November 2008. Then on Thursday, Prim Minister Wen Jiabao, speaking to a conference of central and state agencies of the CPC, warned that China and the Party face a “test” in 2009 amid the global economic crisis. He called on Party members and government officials to be models of proper behavior and not to abuse their power or positions for personal gain, and to work together for economic growth.

For China’s central leadership, Shen’s message is both welcome and dangerous. Encouraging greater citizen oversight and more input is seen as a necessary tool to help rein in corruption and rebuild trust in the Party and government. In addition, the central government has been seeking a wider variety of inputs in policy-making from academia, research institutes and government think-tanks. At the same time, one of the government’s biggest fears is losing control of its citizens: of social unrest and organized opposition rising up and bringing down the Party.

As with the Beijing Daily News’ October 2006 publication of Yu Keping’s influential and controversial article, “Democracy Is A Good Thing,” Shen’s article is designed to stimulate debate, but keep things within manageable parameters. Both Shen and Yu made it a point in their articles to avoid overstating the case. Neither promotes the end of the Party or even radical reform — just gradual change within limits — and both caution that their ideas should not be taken too far. Yu praises democracy but also explains its shortfalls, while Shen warns that freedom of speech goes both ways, arguing that both sides need space to express themselves and that neither side should take action based solely on its own ideas.

The publication of articles such as these sheds light on the way the CPC is trying to cope with its role in a changing China. The CPC, to some extent, has outlived itself. Economic reforms and the social and political changes that go along with them are outpacing the Party. The CPC is no longer at the forefront of the ideology as it once was; it is no longer able simply to promise people economic improvement, as it did through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Instead, the Party is struggling for relevance at the center of a changed China. It has recognized the need to change, but many Party functionaries have devolved from the leaders of the people into a group of individuals who are stuck in a bureaucracy or living in a system of collusion, self-aggrandizement and personal power relationships.

This has left the CPC weak and unable to function as a unit. It also has reduced the stature of the Party as a whole in the eyes of the populace. The people may not be actively trying to overthrow the government, but neither do they have respect for it. When they are not allowed to express their opinions, their frustrations and tensions may explode into protest and violence. Yet when they are allowed to express themselves, that too can become a threat to the Party itself.

This is Beijing’s dilemma. The Party cannot allow open opposition — but neither can it retain the loyalty of the people, and its own authority, if it does not allow the people to keep the officials honest.

Articles like Shen’s are exposing the failures and weaknesses of the Party, and are calling for gradual change (at least in mindset). However, they also are being used to try to revive the Party, and to try to help it adapt to a changed China. Beijing’s hope is to build some sense of public oversight to hold the Party officials accountable, but without actually allowing the people to challenge the authority of the CPC.

It is not an easy balance to strike, and in the end it may not work. But there are those in the CPC who know that if the Party does not change and adapt, it will die.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
 
24437  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / No class tomorrow on: January 16, 2009, 10:40:12 PM
No class tomorrow due to the Francis Fong seminar
24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 16, 2009, 09:04:01 PM
Actually this is a real opportunity for a teaching moment.

If our liberal and Democratic friends start from the proposition that BO is an honorable man, then what lesson are they to draw from the fact that BO has spoken respectfully about VP Cheney's advice in this regard?  What lesson are they to draw from this decision of his?

I might also note that it reflects favorably on His Glibness that he could man up and speak well of Cheney on precisely this point and take the action that he is.
24439  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: January 16, 2009, 03:39:39 PM
?Nadie?

?O eso?

El Paso Times
Jan 15, 2009
Daniel Borunda
http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_11463340

A group calling itself the Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, or the Juárez Citizens Command, is claiming it will kill a criminal every 24 hours to bring order to the violent crime-plagued city.  The announcement of the supposed group was the first known case of possible organized vigilantism in Juárez as police and the military have been apparently unable to stop a plague of killings and other crimes.

"Better the death of a bad person than that they continue to contaminating our region," the news release stated in Spanish.

The supposed group issued a news release via e-mail stating it is nonpartisan and funded by businessmen fed up with crime.  The group, also calling itself the CCJ, said it would issue a manifesto in the coming days and would set up a system where residents can electronically send information about criminals.

"Our mission is to terminate the life of a criminal every 24 hours ... The hour has come to stop this disorder in Juárez," the CCJ stated.

The announcement comes as Juárez struggles with a wave of homicides, extortions, carjackings, robberies and other crimes that began last year. Business people, teachers, medical professionals and others were targeted by extortionists in the last year as crime surged due in a part to a war between drug cartels. There were more than 1,600 homicides in Juárez last year. There have been more than 40 homicides already this year, including 10 on Wednesday.
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Charles Bronson comes to Mexico on: January 16, 2009, 03:17:46 PM
El Paso Times
Jan 15, 2009
Daniel Borunda
http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_11463340

A group calling itself the Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, or the Juárez Citizens Command, is claiming it will kill a criminal every 24 hours to bring order to the violent crime-plagued city.

The announcement of the supposed group was the first known case of possible organized vigilantism in Juárez as police and the military have been apparently unable to stop a plague of killings and other crimes.

"Better the death of a bad person than that they continue to contaminating our region," the news release stated in Spanish.

The supposed group issued a news release via e-mail stating it is nonpartisan and funded by businessmen fed up with crime. The group, also calling itself the CCJ, said it would issue a manifesto in the coming days and would set up a system where residents can electronically send information about criminals.

"Our mission is to terminate the life of a criminal every 24 hours ... The hour has come to stop this disorder in Juárez," the CCJ stated.

The announcement comes as Juárez struggles with a wave of homicides, extortions, carjackings, robberies and other crimes that began last year. Business people, teachers, medical professionals and others were targeted by extortionists in the last year as crime surged due in a part to a war between drug cartels. There were more than 1,600 homicides in Juárez last year.  There have been more than 40 homicides already this year, including 10 on Wednesday.
24441  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: January 16, 2009, 02:59:56 PM
Outstanding!!!

Anything you ever would like to share with us is greatly appreciated!
24442  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering on: January 16, 2009, 02:58:39 PM
The date is April 4-5.

I have tentative approval from my brother for use of his place, but he needs to confirm it with his partner in the property.

Acu Canyon does not work on Sat-Sun because there is a soccer league that uses the field on those days.
24443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 16, 2009, 02:24:26 PM
"Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson" (me, I think)

We are so fcuked! Take a look at what the Committee on Appropriations envisions for the United States: http://www.obey.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=678&Itemid=194
 
Looks like a Soviet Ten Year Plan, quickly cobbled together.
 
24444  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / September 20, 2009 Gathering on: January 16, 2009, 10:58:23 AM
A Howl of Greeting to All:

Subject to confirmation from Powerhouse Gym of its availability, we are looking for our next Open Gathering to be held September 20, 2009.

"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact (c)"
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: January 16, 2009, 10:37:09 AM
http://www.fightforthetroops.com - Make your donation here (Spike and UFC)
http://www.fallenheroesfund.org/
24446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: FISA court speaks on: January 16, 2009, 08:55:27 AM
Ever since the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program was exposed in 2005, critics have denounced it as illegal and unconstitutional. Those allegations rested solely on the fact that the Administration did not first get permission from the special court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Well, as it happens, the same FISA court would beg to differ.

In a major August 2008 decision released yesterday in redacted form, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, the FISA appellate panel, affirmed the government's Constitutional authority to collect national-security intelligence without judicial approval. The case was not made public before yesterday, and its details remain classified. An unnamed telecom company refused to comply with the National Security Agency's monitoring requests and claimed the program violated the Fourth Amendment's restrictions on search and seizure.

But the Constitution bans only "unreasonable" search and seizure, not all searches and seizures, and the Fourth Amendment allows for exceptions such as those under a President's Article II war powers. The courts have been explicit on this point. In 1980, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Truong that "the Executive need not always obtain a warrant for foreign intelligence surveillance." The FISA appeals court said in its 2002 opinion In re Sealed Case that the President has "inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information" and took "for granted" that "FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

FISA established a process by which certain domestic wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps were ever allowed. Though the decision applies only to the stopgap FISA measure in place between 2007 and 2008, it sets a precedent.

For all the political hysteria and media dishonesty about George W. Bush "spying on Americans," this fight was never about anything other than staging an ideological raid on the President's war powers. Barack Obama ought to be thankful that the FISA court has knocked the bottom out of this gambit, just in time for him to take office.
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 16, 2009, 08:53:23 AM
 PETER WEHNER and PAUL RYAN
For most of our nation's history, our approach to economics has favored enterprise, self-reliance and the free market. While the American economy has never been entirely laissez-faire, we have historically cared more about equality of opportunity than equality of results. And while Americans have embraced elements of the New Deal, the Great Society and progressive taxation, we have traditionally viewed welfare as a way to help those in dire need, not as a way of life for the middle class. We have grasped, perhaps more than any other nation, that there is a long-run cost to dependency on the state, including an aversion to risk that eventually enervates the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for innovation and prosperity.

 
Chad CroweThis outlook, once assumed, is now under attack due to a recent series of political and economic events.

The first is the unprecedented intervention by the federal government, in the form of a $700 billion relief package intended for our financial institutions after the credit crisis last September. This was followed by extending billions of dollars of federal assistance to America's auto makers in order to prevent their imminent bankruptcy -- the first emergency bailout that went to companies outside the financial sector. We understand why the federal government did this, and even supported legislation that, while hardly perfect, prevented an economic meltdown.

Nonetheless, the consequences of this undertaking are enormous. Not only has the size of the expenditures been staggering -- there is talk of another stimulus package worth an estimated $825 billion -- but we are witnessing a fundamental transformation of government's relationship with the polity and the economy.

The last several months are a foreshadowing of a new era of government activism, rather than an unfortunate but necessary (and anomalous) emergency action. We will soon shift from a market-based economy to a political one in which the government picks winners and losers and extends its reach and power in unprecedented ways.

The Opinion Journal Widget
Download Opinion Journal's widget and link to the most important editorials and op-eds of the day from your blog or Web page.
This shift is exemplified by the desire of President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress to push us toward government-run health care.

For all his talk of allowing consumers to select their own health-care coverage, Mr. Obama's proposal, as he laid it out in his campaign, will provide strong financial incentives for employers and individuals to sign up with a new, Medicare-style government plan for working-age people and their families. This plan will almost certainly use a price-control system similar to the one in place for Medicare, allowing it to charge artificially low premiums by paying fees well below private rates. These low premiums will serve as a magnet for enrollment and will devastate the private companies trying to compete in the health-insurance market. The result will be the nationalization of the health-care sector, which today accounts for 16% of U.S. gross domestic product.

Nationalizing health care will be profoundly detrimental to the quality of American medicine. In the name of cost control, the government would make private investment in medical innovation far riskier, and thus delay the development of potentially lifesaving treatments.

It will also put America on a glide path toward European-style socialism. We need only look to Great Britain and elsewhere to see the effects of socialized health care on the broader economy. Once a large number of citizens get their health care from the state, it dramatically alters their attachment to government. Every time a tax cut is proposed, the guardians of the new medical-welfare state will argue that tax cuts would come at the expense of health care -- an argument that would resonate with middle-class families entirely dependent on the government for access to doctors and hospitals.

Of course, this health-care plan is occurring against our particular fiscal backdrop: Without major reform, our federal entitlement programs will soon double the size of government. The result will be a crushing burden of debt and taxes.

In short, we may be approaching a tipping point for democratic capitalism.

While the scope of the challenge should not be underestimated, those of us worried about this fundamental reorientation of politics and economics have several things working in our favor. Among them is that a public accustomed to iTunes, Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon and WebMD is not clamoring for centralized, bureaucratic government. The strong American instinct for individual initiative and entrepreneurship remains intact.

In addition, confidence in government -- from Congress to those responsible for oversight of the financial system -- is quite low.

Our sense is that at the moment, the public is not thinking in terms of "big government" or "small government." Instead, Americans want efficient government -- one that is modern, responsive and adaptive. People want government to act as a fair referee, providing guardrails that allow individuals to rise without intrusively dictating individual decisions.

If conservatives hope to win converts to our cause, we need to understand this new moment and put forward an agenda that reforms key institutions in a way that advances individual freedom, without creating an unacceptable level of insecurity.

This is no easy task, and it must begin with providing a compelling alternative to what contemporary liberalism and Mr. Obama are about to offer. This especially includes health care, where we must start by recalling that our current health-insurance system was designed to meet the needs of a 20th century economy and World War II-era employment laws. It is hopelessly outdated, yet the Obama plan would make the system even more sclerotic.

The core of our message needs to be a commitment to creating a health-care plan that meets the demands of the modern economy. We need to convince concerned citizens that we can help the uninsured find coverage in the private sector and use market incentives to contain costs. The result will be a system that makes it possible for everyone to afford health insurance, including those with pre-existing conditions.

Tax credits, high-risk pools, insurance choice and regulatory reform can form the basis of a transformation from today's enormously costly and inefficient third-party system into one driven by ownership, choice and competition. And at the nucleus of this redesigned system will be the patient-doctor relationship.

If we hope to succeed in making our case, it will require a concerted education campaign that relies on hard data and facts, rigorous and accessible public arguments, and persuasive public advocates.

This is quite a tall order. But if we do not succeed in resisting greater state involvement in the economy -- and health care is meant to be the beachhead of this effort -- we will move from a limited welfare state into a full-blown one. This will reshape, in deep and enduring ways, our nation's historic sensibilities. It will lead here, as it has elsewhere, to passivity and dependence on the state. Such habits, once acquired, are hard to shake.

Between now and the end of this decade may be one of those rare moments in which among other things will turn decisively one way or the other. The stakes could hardly be higher for our way of life.

Mr. Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is a member of the Budget Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.

 
24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story on: January 16, 2009, 08:36:31 AM
"No man can well doubt the propriety of placing a president of the United States under the most solemn obligations to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution. It is a suitable pledge of his fidelity and responsibility to his country; and creates upon his conscience a deep sense of duty, by an appeal, at once in the presence of God and man, to the most sacred and solemn sanctions, which can operate upon the human mind."

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: January 16, 2009, 08:30:33 AM
THE DEMONS OF GAZA
By RALPH PETERS

January 10, 2009 --
Israel hasn't killed a single civilian in the Gaza Strip. Over a hundred civilians have died, and Israeli bombs or shells may have ended their lives. But Israel didn't kill them.

Hamas did.

It's time to smash the lies. The lies of Hamas. The UN lies. And the save-the-terrorists lies of the global media.  There is no moral equivalence between Hamas terrorists and Israeli soldiers. There is no gray area. There is no point in negotiations.  Hamas is a Jew-killing machine. It exists to destroy Israel. What is there to negotiate? 

When Hamas can't kill Jews, it's perfectly willing to drive Palestinian civilians into the line of fire - old men, women and children. Hamas herds the innocent into "shelters," then draws Israeli fire on them. And the headline-greedy media cheer them on.

Hamas isn't fighting for political goals. "Brokered agreements" are purely means to an end. And the envisioned end is the complete destruction of Israel in the name of a terrorist god. Safe in hidden bunkers or in Damascus, the Hamas leadership is willing to watch an unlimited number of civilians and even street-level terrorists die.

Lives, too, are nothing but means to an end. And dead kids are the coins that keep the propaganda meter ticking.

All Hamas had to do to prevent Israel's act of self-defense was to leave Israel unmolested by terror rockets. All Hamas needs to do now to stop this conflict and spare the Palestinian people it pretends to champion is to stop trying to kill Israelis and agree to let Israel exist in peace.

Hamas didn't, and Hamas won't.

Now Israel has to continue its attack, to wreak all the havoc it can on Hamas before a new American president starts meddling. If Israel stops now, Hamas can declare victory just for surviving - despite its crippling losses. While it's impossible to fully eliminate extremism, killing every terrorist leader hiding in a Gaza bunker is the only hope of achieving even a temporary, imperfect peace. The chance may not come again.

And don't worry about "creating a power vacuum." Let the Palestinians pick up their own pieces. Even anarchy in Gaza is better for Israel than Hamas.

Israelis, Americans and Westerners overall share a tragic intellectual blind spot: We're caught in yesterday's model of terrorism, that of Arafat's PLO, of the IRA, the Red Brigades or the Weather Underground. But, as brutal as those organizations could be, they never believed they were on a mission from God.

Yesteryear's terrorists wanted to change the world. They were willing to shed blood and, in extreme cases, to give their own blood to their causes. But they didn't seek death. They preferred to live to see their "better world."  Now our civilization faces terrorists who regard death as a promotion. They believe that any action can be excused because they're serving their god. And their core belief is that you and I, as stubborn unbelievers, deserve death.

Their grisly god knows no compromise. To give an inch is to betray their god's trust entirely. Yet we - and even some Israelis - believe it's possible to cut deals with them.

In search of peace, Israel handed Gaza to the Palestinians, a people who had never had a state of their own. As thanks, Israel received terror rockets. And the Palestinian people got a gang war.

Peace is the last thing Hamas terrorists and gangsters want. Peace means the game is up. Peace means they've disappointed their god. Peace means no more excuses. They couldn't bear peace for six months.

This is a war to the bitter end. And we're afraid to admit what it's about.

It's not about American sins or Israeli intransigence. It's about a sickness in the soul of a civilization - of Middle-Eastern Islam - that can only be cured from within. Until Arabs or Iranians decide to cure themselves, we'll have to fight.

Instead, we want to talk. We convince ourselves, against all evidence, that our enemies really want to talk, too, that they just need "incentives" (the diplomat's term for bribes). The apparent belief of our president-elect that it's possible to negotiate with faith-fueled fanatics is so naive it's terrifying.

Yet, it's understandable. Barack Obama's entire career has been built on words, not deeds, on his power to persuade, not his power to deliver. But all the caucuses, debates, neighborhood meetings and backroom deal-making sessions in his past haven't prepared him to "negotiate" with men whose single-minded goal is Israel's destruction - and ours.

If Obama repeats the same "peace-process" folly as his predecessors, from Jimmy have-you-hugged-your-terrorist-today? Carter through Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he'll be devoured before he knows he's been bitten.

How many administrations have to repeat the identical error of believing that, deep down inside, terrorists, gunmen and warlords really want peace every bit as much as we do? Israel's enemies aren't just looking to cut a sharp deal. They want to destroy Israel.

Which part of what they shout in our faces is so hard to understand? Israel's foes have been preaching Jew-hatred for so long that even the "moderates" can't turn back now.

And why does the global left hate Israel so? Why would they pull out the stops to rescue Hamas?

Because Israel exposed the lie that a suffering people can't lift itself up through hard work, education and discipline. Israel didn't need the help of a hundred condescending NGOs and their misery junkies.

Because the Holocaust is a permanent embarrassment to Europeans. They need to believe that Israelis are kosher Nazis.

Because, from the safety of cafes and campuses, it's cool to call terrorists "freedom fighters." It makes you feel less guilty when you hit up daddy (or the state) for money. I mean, dude, it's not like you have to, like, live with them or anything, you know?



Because, above all, the most-destructive racists in the world today are mainstream leftists. Want the truth? The Left codes Israel as white and, therefore, inherently an oppressor. Israel is held to the highest standard of our civilization and our legal codes - and denied the right to self-defense.

But the Left tacitly believes that people with darker skins are inferior and can't be expected to behave at a civilized level. Leftists expect terrorist movements or African dictators to behave horribly. It's the post-modern, latte-sucking version of the "little brown brother" mentality.

The worst enemies of developing societies have been leftists who refuse to hold them to fundamental standards of governance and decency. But, then, the Left needs developing societies to fail to prove that the system's hopelessly stacked against them.

A battered, impoverished, butchered people built a thriving Western democracy in an Eastern wasteland. Israel can never be forgiven for its success.

In this six-decade-old conflict that Israel's intractable neighbors continue to force upon it, there not only are no good solutions, but, thanks to the zero-sum mentality of Islamist terrorists, there aren't even any bad solutions - short of nuclear genocide - that would bring an enduring peace to the Middle East.

And even the elimination of Israel wouldn't be enough. The terrorists would fight among themselves, while warring upon less-devout fellow Muslims.

All Israel can do is to fight for time and buy intervals of relative calm with the blood of its sons and daughters. By demanding premature cease-fires and insisting that we can find a diplomatic solution, we strengthen monsters and undercut our defenders.

And don't believe the propaganda about this conflict rallying Gaza's Palestinians behind Hamas. That's more little-brown-brother condescension, assuming all Arabs are so stupid they don't know who started this and who's dragging it out at their expense.

Gaza's people may not care much for Israelis, but they rue the day they cast their votes for Hamas. Hamas is killing them.

Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and the author of "Looking For Trouble."
24450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / United Nations: Don' on: January 16, 2009, 08:16:20 AM

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/...N-UN-Islam.php

GENEVA: Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion — a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The statement proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference addressed what it called a "campaign" against Muslim minorities and the Islamic religion around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The resolution, which was opposed by European and a number of other non-Muslim countries, "expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations."

It makes no mention of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or any other religion besides Islam, but urges countries "to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence."

Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," belongs to the 57-member Islamic conference.

The resolution was adopted by a 24-14 vote with nine abstentions. Canada, Japan and South Korea joined European countries in opposition, primarily citing its excessive focus on Islam and incompatibility with fundamental rights such as the freedoms of speech and thought.
"The problem of religious intolerance is worldwide and not limited to certain religions," said Brigitta Maria Siefker-Eberle of Germany," speaking on behalf of the 27-nation European Union. Ghana, India, Nigeria, Zambia and some of the council's Latin American countries abstained.

There are 17 Muslim countries in the 47-nation human rights council. Their alliance with China, Cuba, Russia and most of the African members means they can almost always achieve a majority.

Human Rights Watch said the resolution could endanger the basic rights of individuals. The document "focuses on protection of religions themselves, particularly Islam, rather than the rights of individuals, including members of religious minorities," the New York-based rights group said in a statement. The resolution says freedom of expression "may ... be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others ... or morals and respect for religions and beliefs."
The council, which last year replaced the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, has no power beyond drawing international attention to rights issues and scrutiny of abuses in certain countries.

The move at the council was initiated last year after protests across the Islamic world drew attention to caricatures of Muhammad first printed in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. One of the drawings showed Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban. Islamic law is often interpreted to forbid any depiction of the prophet for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Pages: 1 ... 487 488 [489] 490 491 ... 666
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!