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24401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Today's GB show: The plan is to dump Israel? on: March 24, 2011, 09:10:43 PM
Intriguing and scary show from GB today; like all of us, he is trying to make sense of a world that is no longer making sense.

He made a very plausible case that the secret plan is to dump Israel as an ally.  He went into this at length.  I suspect if someone were to search function here for Cass Sunstein's wife and BO Israel-Palestine advisor Samantha Powers you would see what she was saying before plucked into the inner circle by Baraq.  The gist of it is that we need to ignore certain powerful domestic constituencies, stop supporting Israel, and use the money to build up Palestine.

Not sure if I will get this right, but the same basis "the duty to prevent harm to civilians" for the intervention in Libya will be used against Israel to keep it from hurting the Palestinians-- GB named a WH aide to Baraq who is already making this case.  Egypt's army in alliance with Muslim Brotherhood, now that Baraq has eased Murbarak out the door, will be ready to assist.

Of course it is a coincidence that Jordan Air's map now shows Jordan including where Israel now is and that Turkey is planning anohter flotilla to break the Gaza embargo.

Separately he discussed Baraq's trip to Brazil, the US helping fund Petrobras's deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while Cass Sunstein denies US companies permits to do the same thing with their money.  Of course it is just a coincidence that this comes after Soros has been trading in Petrobas.
24402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: March 24, 2011, 08:57:41 PM
"However I just don't know that Iraq 2 will benefit this country in the long run.  I guess no one can know at this time."

1) My point is not that how it turned out was/is a good thing, but that it would have/could have been a good thing but for progressive perfidy; and

2) Thought exercise:  What would things look like now if we had NOT gone in?  What would SH be up to?  Would our troops still be in Saudi Arabia?  Where would Kadaffy be with his nuke program? etc etc etc

24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 24, 2011, 06:03:10 PM
A mystery to me why the market is going up , , ,  huh huh huh
24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: March 24, 2011, 05:58:04 PM
I stand by Iraq 2.  After some very poor leadership by Bush-Rumbo, we finally got it together only to have the constant drumbeat of defeatism, cowardice, anti-Americanism, and occasional treason of the American Left (progressives, liberals, dems, socialists, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Kerry, Gore, NY Times-LA Times-and-the-other-Pravdas et al) sabotage us from within and abroad.  I AM NOT saying that many good patriotic Americans were not opposed!  I AM saying that many others crossed the line many times and sometimes crossed it very far.

It we had lost our will after the Surge worked, the whole dynamic we are looking at now would have an entirely different hue.

Instead the accumulating clusterfcuk headed our way began with going limp in Iraq, then Baraq's performancin in Afpakia, and the accumulating momentum of @$%#%^#%& since then.
24405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 24, 2011, 05:48:30 PM

I agree on points both small (e.g. Hannity is an ass) and large ("Parroting the Bush-haters, everything is an opportunity to attack Obama.  These candidates become the guests on these shows doing much of the same.  US policy and involvement in the Middle East and North Africa is more important than that.  A serious candidate needs to instead lay out a serious case for what criteria goes into all these questions,  who leads the coalition, whenr to go to congress, how to communicate what we are doing to the American people and what we want to communicate to others who will read something into our actions, such as the tyrants and rebels in other countries.")

EXACTLY SO.  Let this sentiment guide all of us here! 
24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: March 24, 2011, 05:43:09 PM
JDN: IMHO it is well worth the time.

CCP: It may get lively by the time I am scheduled to be in Israel!  cheesy
24407  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ta da! The DBMA SP site is up! on: March 24, 2011, 12:07:39 PM
24408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Implications on: March 24, 2011, 11:30:31 AM
Dispatch: Implications of the Attacks in Israel
March 23, 2011 | 2013 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Reva Bhalla explains the regional consequences of the escalating violence in Israel and what this means for Iran and Egypt.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

A bombing struck a bus station in central Jerusalem on Tuesday wounding 34 people and killing one other. This apparent escalation by at least some Palestinian factions raises the potential for another military campaign by Israel in the Palestinian territories. This not only could produce another crisis for Egypt, but could also play to Iranian interests in the region.

This quite rare Jerusalem attack comes on the heels of a barrage of rocket attacks coming from Gaza Strip into population centers in southern Israel and the Negev Desert. It also comes a little less than two weeks after a particularly gruesome attack on a family in the West Bank in the Itamar settlement. We are clearly seeing an escalation by at least some Palestinian factions against Israel. Now who is actually behind the attacks is much less clear. Often you will find that a lot of groups will use contradicting claims and denials and new names to deliberately confuse the Israel security intelligence apparatus. Some of the more recent rocket attacks from Gaza were claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which out of all the Palestinian militant groups is the closest to Iran.

We therefore need to put this latest attack in regional context. The killings in the West Bank were intentionally designed to provoke the Israelis. The Israelis, however, refused to be provoked. Then we saw a barrage of rocket attacks coming from Gaza now coordinated with an attack on a bus station in central Jerusalem.

This now could produce an enormous crisis for Egypt. The Egyptian government, now led by the military, is in a very delicate position in trying to manage this political transition at home while now also trying to deal with a war next door in Libya. On top of that, we’re seeing an escalation in the Palestinian territories, and whenever you have an Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip, which now seems very possible, you have an influx of refugees from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula. That creates a security crisis on the Egyptians and the Egyptians often have to clamp down on the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai.

This could allow Hamas in the Gaza Strip and, crucially, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is the main opposition group in Egypt, to condemn the Egyptian military-led government and escalate anti-Israeli sentiment. That in turn could endanger the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and this is a dynamic that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood couldn’t really capitalize on during the recent crisis, but it could do so now, especially if you have an Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip under the current circumstances.

When going beyond the Palestinian territories, we have a situation where the Iranians are pursuing a covert destabilization campaign in the Persian Gulf region, using Shia unrest to destabilize the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in particular. When looking at the unrest overall in the region, the one key ingredient that was missing was Israel. Israel is often the single unifying call for many on the Arab streets, and that is certainly something that a lot of Palestinian factions will be paying attention to right now. Watch for groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and others in the region to escalate attacks in an effort to provoke a military confrontation with Israeli forces, create a crisis for Egypt through the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and threaten Israel on multiple fronts. This is something that could well play to the Iranian agenda and escalate the regional unrest overall.

24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Kadaffy's terrorism options on: March 24, 2011, 10:49:42 AM
Libya's Terrorism Option
March 23, 2011

By Scott Stewart

On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians and “civilian-populated areas under threat of attack.” Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country’s ability to interfere with the no-fly zone — and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels — it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.

Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries’ access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya’s past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi’s threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi’s use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.

History of Libyan Reactions

Throughout the early 1980s, the U.S. Navy contested Libya’s claim to the Gulf of Sidra and said the gulf was international water. This resulted in several minor skirmishes, such as the incident in August 1981 when U.S. Navy fighters downed two Libyan aircraft. Perhaps the most costly of these skirmishes for Libya occurred in March 1986, when a U.S. task force sank two Libyan ships and attacked a number of Libyan surface-to-air missile sites that had launched missiles at U.S. warplanes.

The Libyans were enraged by the 1986 incident, but as the incident highlighted, they lacked the means to respond militarily due to the overwhelming superiority of U.S. forces. This prompted the Libyans to employ other means to seek revenge. Gadhafi had long seen himself as the successor to Gamal Abdel Nasser as the leader of Arab nationalism and sought to assert himself in a number of ways. Lacking the population and military of Egypt, or the finances of Saudi Arabia, he began to use terrorism and the support of terrorist groups as a way to undermine his rivals for power in the Arab world. Later, when he had been soundly rejected by the Arab world, he began to turn his attention to Africa, where he employed these same tools. They could also be used against what Gadhafi viewed as imperial powers.

On April 2, 1986, a bomb tore a hole in the side of TWA Flight 840 as it was flying from Rome to Athens. The explosion killed four American passengers and injured several others. The attack was claimed by the Arab Revolutionary Cells but is believed to have been carried out by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), one of the Marxist terrorist groups heavily sponsored by Libya.

On the evening of April 5, 1986, a bomb detonated in the La Belle disco in Berlin. Two U.S. soldiers and one civilian were killed in the blast and some 200 others were injured. Communications between Tripoli and the Libyan People’s Bureau (its embassy) in East Berlin were intercepted by the United States, which, armed with this smoking gun tying Libya to the La Belle attack, launched a retaliatory attack on Libya the night of April 15, 1986, that included a strike against Gadhafi’s residential compound and military headquarters at Bab Al Azizia, south of Tripoli. The strike narrowly missed killing Gadhafi, who had been warned of the impending attack. The warning was reportedly provided by either a Maltese or Italian politician, depending on which version of the story one hears.

The Libyan government later claimed that the attack killed Gadhafi’s young daughter, but this was pure propaganda. It did, however, anger and humiliate Gadhafi, though he lacked the ability to respond militarily. In the wake of the attack on his compound, Gadhafi feared additional reprisals and began to exercise his terrorist hand far more carefully and in a manner to provide at least some degree of deniability. One way he did this was by using proxy groups to conduct his strikes, such as the ANO and the Japanese Red Army (JRA). It did not take Gadhafi’s forces long to respond. On the very night of the April 15 U.S. attack, U.S. Embassy communications officer William Calkins was shot and critically wounded in Khartoum, Sudan, by a Libyan revolutionary surrogates in Sudan. On April 25, Arthur Pollock, a communicator at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, was also shot and seriously wounded by an ANO gunman.

In May 1986, the JRA attacked the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, with an improvised mortar that caused little damage, and the JRA conducted similar ineffective attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Madrid in February and April of 1987. In June 1987, JRA operatives attacked the U.S. Embassy in Rome using vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and an improvised mortar. In April 1988, the group attacked the USO club in Naples. JRA bombmaker Yu Kikumura was arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike in April 1988 while en route to New York City to conduct a bombing attack there. The use of ANO and JRA surrogates provided Gadhafi with some plausible deniability for these attacks, but there is little doubt that he was behind them. Then on Dec. 21, 1988, Libyan agents operating in Malta succeeded in placing a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed in the air over Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew members aboard that flight died, as did 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, the town where the remnants of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet fell. Had the jet exploded over the North Atlantic as intended instead of over Scotland, the evidence that implicated Libya in the attack most likely never would have been found.

But the United States has not been the only target of Libyan terrorism. While the Libyans were busy claiming the Gulf of Sidra during the 1980s, they were also quite involved in propagating a number of coups and civil wars in Africa. One civil war in which they became quite involved was in neighboring Chad. During their military intervention there, the Libyans suffered heavy losses and eventually defeat due to French intervention on the side of the Chadian government. Not having the military might to respond to France militarily, Gadhafi once again chose the veiled terrorist hand. On Sept. 19, 1989, UTA Flight 772 exploded shortly after taking off from N’Djamena, Chad, en route to Paris. All 156 passengers and 14 crew members were killed by the explosion. The French government investigation into the crash found that the aircraft went down as a result of a bombing and that the bomb had been placed aboard the aircraft in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo, by Congolese rebels working with the Libyan People’s Bureau there. Six Libyans were tried in absentia and convicted for their part in the attack.

The Current Situation

Today Libya finds itself once again being attacked by an opponent with an overwhelmingly powerful military that Gadhafi’s forces cannot stand up to. While Gadhafi did take responsibility for some of Libya’s past terrorist attacks and publicly renounced terrorism in 2003, this step was a purely pragmatic move on his part. It was not the result of some ideological epiphany that suddenly caused Gadhafi to become a kinder and gentler guy. From the late 1980s to the renunciation of terrorism in 2003, Gadhafi retained the capability to continue using terrorism as a foreign policy tool but simply chose not to. And this capability remains in his tool box.

Unlike his views of past crises, Gadhafi sees the current attacks against him as being far more dangerous to the survival of his regime than the Gulf of Sidra skirmishes or the French military operations in Chad. Gadhafi has always been quite cold and calculating. He has not hesitated to use violence against those who have affronted him, even his own people. Now he is cornered and fearful for his very survival. Because of this, there is a very real possibility that the Libyans will employ terrorism against the members of the coalition now implementing and enforcing the no-fly zone.

Gadhafi has a long history of using diplomatic staff, which the Libyans refer to as “revolutionary committees,” to conduct all sorts of skullduggery, from planning terrorist attacks to fomenting coups. Indeed, these diplomats have often served as agents for spreading Gadhafi’s revolutionary principles elsewhere. Because of this history, coalition members will almost certainly be  carefully monitoring the activities of Libyan diplomats within their countries — and elsewhere.

As illustrated by most of the above-mentioned terrorist attacks launched or commissioned by the Libyans, they have frequently conducted attacks against their targeted country in a third country. This process of monitoring Libyan diplomats will be greatly aided by the defection of a large number of diplomats in a variety of countries who undoubtedly have been thoroughly debriefed by security agencies looking for any hints that Gadhafi is looking to resume his practice of terrorism. These defectors will also prove helpful in identifying intelligence officers still loyal to Gadhafi and perhaps even in locating Libyan intelligence officers working under non-official cover.

But diplomats are not the only source Gadhafi can tap for assistance. As noted above, Gadhafi has a long history of using proxies to conduct terrorist attacks. Using a proxy provides Gadhafi with the plausible deniability he requires to continue to spin his story to the world that he is an innocent victim of senseless aggression. Perhaps more important, hiding his hand can also help prevent reprisal attacks. While most of the 1980s-era Marxist proxy groups the Libyans worked with are defunct, Gadhafi does have other options.

One option is to reach out to regional jihadist groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while another is to cultivate already improving relationships with jihadists groups in Libya such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Indeed, Gadhafi has released hundreds of LFIG members from prison, a process that continued even after the unrest began in February. It is doubtful that the LIFG really feels any affinity for Gadhafi — the group launched an insurgency against his regime in the mid-1990s and actually tried to assassinate him — but it could be used to funnel funds and weapons to regional groups like AQIM. Such groups certainly have no love for the French, Americans or British and might be willing to conduct attacks against their interests in exchange for weapons and funding from Libya. AQIM is desperate for resources and has been involved in kidnapping for ransom and drug smuggling to raise funds to continue its struggle. This need might help it overcome its disdain for Gadhafi.

In the long run groups like AQIM and LIFG certainly would pose a threat to Gadhafi, but facing the very real existential threat from the overwhelming military force now being arrayed against him, Gadhafi may view the jihadist threat as far less pressing and severe.

Other potential agents for Libyan terrorist attacks are the various African rebel and revolutionary groups Gadhafi has maintained contact with and even supported over the years. Many of the mercenaries that have reportedly fought on the side of the Libyan loyalist forces have come from such groups. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Gadhafi could call upon such allies to attack French, British, Italian or American interests in his allies’ respective countries. Such actors would have ready access to weapons (likely furnished by Libya to begin with), and the capabilities of host-country security services are quite limited in many African states. This would make them ideal places to conduct terrorist attacks. However, due to the limited capabilities exhibited by such groups, they would likely require direct Libyan oversight and guidance (the kind of direct Libyan guidance for African rebels demonstrated in the UTA Flight 772 bombing) if they were to conduct attacks against hardened targets in Africa such as foreign embassies.

Also, as seen in the wake of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Christmas Day bomb plot in 2009, which originated in Ghana, passenger and cargo screening at African airports is not as stringent as it is elsewhere. When combined with Libya’s history of attacking aircraft, and placing bombs aboard foreign aircraft in third countries, the possibility of such an attack must surely be of grave concern for Western security officials.

Terrorism, however, has its limitations, as shown by Gadhafi’s activities in the 1980s. While the Libyans were able to launch several successful terrorist strikes, kill hundreds of people and traumatize many more through terror multipliers like the media, they were not able to cause any sort of lasting impact on the foreign policies of the United States or France. The attacks only served to harden the resolve of those countries to impose their will on Gadhafi, and he eventually capitulated and renounced terrorism. Those Libyan-sponsored attacks in the 1980s are also an important factor governing the way the world views Gadhafi — and today they may be playing a large part in the decision made by countries like France that Gadhafi must go. Of course, it is also this attitude — that Gadhafi must be forced out — that could lead him to believe he has nothing to lose by playing the terrorism card once again.

24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt, Barbor on: March 24, 2011, 10:41:58 AM
a) I saw that Newt apparently was for an invasion of Libya a few weeks ago, until now he was against it.

b) Pravda on the Beach (Left Angeles Times) reports this morning that Haley Barbor has been caught in a fib about not representing the Mexican govt as a lobbyist in its efforts to secure amnesty for its citizens here illegally or something like that.
24411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 24, 2011, 08:30:41 AM
The quality of your commentary is appreciated BD.
24412  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Straight Blast on: March 24, 2011, 08:22:21 AM
FWIW, here is how I organize it

a) Wing Chun/early Jun Fan Straight Blast:  Done with shuffle footwork.  2-3 strikes per step. When the range is already closed and an opening is created by a hit, it can be very effective.  Potential drawbacks:  forward pressure may not be enough in many situations, temptation to start it from too far away/without a prior hit.  Given the great exposure of the jaw to a counter hook, Plan A had better work.

b) Later Jun Fan/JKD Straight Blast see e.g. Paul Vunak:  The difference here is that the footwork is a natural sprint, so forward pressure is far greater.  This is a good thing. Again 2-3 strikes per step.  Again Plan A had better work or a counter hook can be very bad.  Again the temptation to start from too far away/without a prior hit.  The temptation can be all the greater because it can often work without a prior hit.  Against an opponent who moves his head well, weave and shoot becomes a risk in addition to the hook.

c) The Boxing Blast: see e.g Vitor Belfort vs. Vanderlei Silva or the footage in this thread of Lyoto Machida or various current MMA fighters :  Same footwork/forward pressure as the JKD Straight Blast, but only one strike per step, but because the punch is a boxing type punch instead of a vertical punch, the shoulders naturally cover the jaw or more readily can flinch to cover the jaw.  see e.g. the Lyoto clip in this thread.

d) Recently I have developed what I call "the Rabid Blast".  Like the WC/JF and the JKD Straight Blasts it seeks to impose neurological overload by punching three strikes per step (well two strikes and a sector framing strike to be specific smiley ).  Like the JKD SB and the Boxing Blast it seeks to impose strong forward pressure, though the footwork prefers to zig zag ("sawtooth" in our terminology) unless the opponent is so on his heels that a straight line is required to keep up with him.  Like the Boxing Blast is seeks to keep the jaw protected; though in my opinion it does so to a greater degree.  Ideally weave and shoot counters are partially dealt with by using the angle created by the sawtooth footwork, often in conjunction with what we call a "silat gator roll".  Because of our concerns about striking the skull with our fists, the strikes are heel palm.  The nature of the strikes overlaps with old school boxing, but is neither vertical fist nor boxing.
The chambers from which they initiate are different (think the double stick chamber we call the Arf-arful Dodger) and rhythmically they are a bit different too;  I may be mistaken but at the moment I think the rhythm is in 6/8.
24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Stability Dilema on: March 24, 2011, 07:34:37 AM
'Stability" was the watchword of virtually all Middle East policy as far back as anyone can remember. Whether for purposes of avoiding war with Israel, protecting a primary source of world energy, or securing intelligence-sharing relationships to fight al Qaeda, stability had its reasons in the Middle East.

That model of stability ended its long run with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor in December. It's not coming back.

The future holds three alternative models of stability: The first is Gadhafism, the stability of the fist; the second is the enforcements of Islam; and the last—and most desirable—is economic modernity.

Some in the anti-Gadhafi coalition from Europe and the U.S seem willing to accept an endgame in which Gadhafi retains power. Unrestrained Gadhafism will follow: The stability that the psychopathic colonel imposes after the coalition goes home will make previous repressions look like kindergarten exercises.

This may be an acceptable price to some realists in the Pentagon and Europe and to reluctant soldiers in the White House. The problem is that variants of Gadhafist stability, without the evil clown, are likely to be the new norm among the Middle East's surviving autocrats. This degree of repression is already standard in Iran, which hangs opponents with metronomic regularity.

This week, protests of almost unbelievable pluck and courage emerged in Syria of all places. But the Assad family, back to the Hama massacre of 1982, has a dishonorable tradition of stability through murder and imprisonment. With Saudi assistance, Bahrain's opposition is getting hammered hard.

One might even argue that Mubarak blinked. If Mubarak had known how tough it would be for the West to oppose Gadhafi's bombing of his own people, he might have loosed his army on the Cairo protesters and survived, once past a spate of pro-forma international denunciation. Yemen's President Saleh won't blink.

If Gadhafism survives and spreads, with the West's assent, its tens of millions of victims will have a more rational reason than "oil" to blame the West for their condition. They may go looking for targets.

Pre-modern Islam is eager to impose another form of stability. The snap referendum on constitutional amendments in Egypt showed that the Muslim Brotherhood is building a modus vivendi with the military. Egypt's brass are uncomfortable with the youth movement, whose complaints are mostly economic and thereby a threat to the military's cash flow from crony capitalism.

Associated Press
Moammar Gadhafi
.Some say that the Islamic nations of southeast Asia or even Turkey prove Middle Eastern Islam can co-exist with the world economy. But there is scant evidence. Read the translated sermons of the Brotherhood's current chairman, Mohammed Badie (at for a sense of his millennial obsessions.

Gadhafism or ascendant Islam make it likely that the U.S. military will have to return to the region on a large scale—either after another massively homicidal terrorist attack on a Western urban center or a bad miscalculation over Israel. Or when the next street vendor reignites the region.

For reasons of self-protection and self-respect, we need an alternative to the fake stability of Gadhafism or militant Islam. Why not economic modernity?

The protests in these nations are political and economic, but I think they are mostly economic. In a column last month, "Is Egypt Hopeless?" I argued that the autocrats' decades-old model of using public-sector jobs to placate their populations' economic aspirations was falling apart. More recently for National Review, Daniel Doron wrote a more complete summary (which our Pentagon brass should read) of how these nations have stumbled through Cold War socialism, nationalizations, the corruption of their elites, and the destruction of their middle classes to arrive at this year's multi-nation eruption of refusal.

The latest nerve-wracking basket-case is Yemen. Its unemployment rate the past 10 years has been about 35%. For Yemenis under 26, the current rate is 53%. Yemen produces about 300,000 mostly unemployable college graduates annually. No wonder the American-born Anwar al- Awlaki headed to Yemen to recruit.

The outside world has a self-interest in pushing the Middle East's economies toward the 21st century. Without economic upgrades, the underemployment bomb will tick and re-explode—there or here.

Rebuilding from economic failure isn't easy, but it isn't rocket science. One good, achievable idea suggested recently has been a free trade agreement between Egypt and the U.S. and Europe. But if the Obama team won't complete a free trade deal with Colombia, a friend and ally, then Egypt and the rest really are hopeless. Barack Obama's union base is looking like a national security issue.

Many people in U.S. public life don't want to get involved with this Middle East tangle. Alas, the gods do not ordain a timeline for crises. These insurrections—now spread across 11 separate nations—are a big, historic moment, similar in some ways to what happened around Eastern Europe before the Berlin Wall fell. The U.S. didn't blow that one. What's needed now is an equivalent level of leadership and strategic thinking to ensure we don't fall on the wrong side of this one.

Write to

24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NPR on: March 24, 2011, 07:27:05 AM
We search for Truth around here.  Does anyone have anything on the assertion here about The Blaze's saying that O'keefe misled?

On the day NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller lost her job, I was reporting from Egypt. That evening, I had dinner with employees from NPR's Cairo bureau. I wasn't eager to talk shop, but I didn't have to. The conversation barely touched on news from home.

Instead we spoke of Egypt's revolution. And we talked over the logistics of supplying our colleagues in nearby Libya with body armor.

When I had time to think about it, I noticed a contrast between the news that NPR reports from the Arab world and the news NPR has lately made at home. Each news story revealed the values of the people reporting it.

Here the story was reality TV. A video editor created a faux organization, set up a meeting, and secretly recorded the bone-headed remarks of an NPR executive. The editor, activist James O'Keefe, spliced together clips to suggest that NPR was prepared to take money from an Islamist group allegedly founded by members of the "Muslim Brotherhood in America."

Emails show that NPR refused the money, and the conservative website The Blaze discovered that the executive's remarks were repeatedly lifted out of context. Nevertheless, the executive and his CEO were dismissed.

I congratulate Mr. O'Keefe for upholding his values: faith in the power of video to mislead. As columnist Michael Gerson noted in the Washington Post, by selectively misquoting the executive's words, rearranging events, and other devices, Mr. O'Keefe made him sound sympathetic to Islamic radicals and unfairly tarnished NPR with "an elaborate, alluring lie."

At the same time, my NPR colleagues in the Arab world were reporting on the actual Muslim Brotherhood and many other players involved in the uprisings. My colleagues' reporting technique demonstrates their values. Suppose you're NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, one of the first reporters into Libya after its rebellion began. You need to know if the rebels are advancing. The only way to find out is to drive toward the front lines until the artillery shells exploding around you make it clear that they're not. Next, you figure out how to get back alive. Then you try to rest, because you'll do it again tomorrow.

With those values in mind, let's consider the fundamental question: the accusation of "liberal bias" at NPR, which drives many critics calling to eliminate its federal funding. It's not my job as a reporter to address the funding question. But I can point out that the recent tempests over "perceived bias" have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air.

The facts show that NPR attracts a politically diverse audience of 33.7 million weekly listeners to its member stations on-air. In surveys by GfK MRI, most listeners consistently identify themselves as "middle of the road" or "conservative." Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.

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 .I've met an incredible variety of listeners in my travels. The audience includes students, peace activists, and American soldiers I met in Iraq. They're among many people in the military who rely on NPR's international coverage. When I was NPR's Pentagon correspondent, I discovered that it's a prize beat, because on every base you meet people who already know who you are. Many other Americans are listening in places like Indiana, my home state, or Kentucky, where I first worked in public radio. Not much of the media pays attention to the middle of the country, but NPR and its local stations do. Many NPR stations have added news staff as local newspapers have declined.

Members of Congress listen too: A few months ago I was interviewing a Republican lawmaker who quoted an NPR story he'd heard that morning. And there are people like the woman I met at a Sarah Palin debate party in 2008, in rural western Virginia. She said she listened during long drives required by her job with a railroad. The same programs she hears in Virginia have also reached an audience abroad. In Egypt last week, a young man told me he so admires the quirky reporting of my colleague Robert Krulwich that he plans to translate it into Arabic.

Conservatives in our diverse audience let us know when they disagree with our coverage—as do liberals, who've sent notes for years to advise me that I am conservative. Most listeners understand that we're all figuring out the world together, calmly and honestly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

NPR's audience keeps expanding because Americans want more than toxic political attacks. They want news. Think again of my colleagues in Libya, going forward to bear witness amid exploding shells. Is that liberal or conservative? Maybe it's neither. It's an honest and honorable effort to keep Americans informed.

Mr. Inskeep is co-host of NPR's "Morning Edition."

24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: An AF General's analysis on: March 24, 2011, 07:21:43 AM
The military operations against the Gadhafi regime in Libya appear to be going well. But going where? To succeed, military leaders need clearly defined goals that can be achieved by the use of force. You need to know what you are tasked to accomplish, and then you can evaluate pertinent factors such as friendly and enemy capabilities, terrain and weather to define a strategy.

In 1990-91, coalition forces confronting Iraq had two objectives: to protect the Gulf Cooperation Council nations from Iraqi attacks, and to liberate occupied Kuwait. Some argue that these objectives were too narrow to do such things as topple Saddam's regime or bring representative government to Iraq, both desirable goals from a coalition standpoint. Regardless, we knew we could achieve the goals set forth by our political leadership with military force, and we went on to prove it during Operation Desert Storm.

The air strikes in Libya are aimed at the objective of "protecting civilians," but the U.S. has not defined whether the rebel forces are civilian, military or both. If they go on the offensive, do they deserve our protection (and inherent support)? Furthermore, our political leaders have stated that "Gadhafi must go," but they altered their pronouncements upon recognizing that ousting Gadhafi might not be achievable under the use-of-force rules set by the United Nations Security Council resolution.

Other unstated coalition goals likely relate to the fact that it is in the national interests of Britain and France to have continued access to Libyan oil. Disruption of the status quo in the Arab world may also work for or against the interests of Israel. So one's view of the desired outcome in Libya can hinge on factors independent of the best interests of the Libyan rebels. Failure to precisely define the objectives of military operations can lead to confusion regarding the best ways and means to achieve them.

Fortunately, because of the relative strength of the competing militaries, it may be possible to live with the current lack of focused political leadership.

The forces supporting Gadhafi are vulnerable to coalition air operations due to their weaknesses, the terrain and the weather. This was evident from the ease with which the coalition seized control of the air. While the coalition leaders announced that they will not provide air support to rebel ground forces, they have already done so during very effective operations at Ajdabiya. Finally, the command of air operations is coordinated but diffused, a situation that could not be tolerated if confronted by a more capable opponent.

U.N., NATO, European, Arab League and U.S. leaders may yet come to agreement on the objectives of our military operations in Libya. They are likely to include the need to protect civilians, replace the Gadhafi regime, and be willing to accept the uncertain end state that will come about.

In Afghanistan, we demonstrated that an inferior indigenous ground force can prevail if supported by modern air power. In Kosovo, we saw an undefeated Serbian army depart because of effective air power alone.

Air power in support of rebel ground forces can defeat Gadhafi's fielded forces. This will require putting tactical air-control parties on the ground to advise the rebel forces and control air strikes. This will also result in civilian casualties, an unfortunate side effect of any armed conflict. It may also result in an end state that we may come to regret. At a minimum, failure to define the operational objectives could result in the protracted conflict Gadhafi promised.

But the shooting has started, and now we must seek a strategy to end it. The Libyan army relies more on artillery and armor than on air power. The "no-fly zone" concept of operations deceptively promised to end civilian suffering but did not provide the range of options needed for coalition forces to do it. Apparently, the rebel forces are not capable of defeating the forces loyal to Gadhafi in the absence of overwhelming air support. It may not be sporting to take out tanks with precision munitions dropped from a stealth bomber above 25,000 feet, but it is effective.

Failure to fully unleash air power will allow Gadhafi to play for time, exploit tribal loyalties, and otherwise frustrate the coalition's attempts to protect Libyan civilians. The actions to date against Gadhafi have failed to bring about the desired end state. The start of this war was characterized by half-measures, ill-defined thinking, and conflicting political objectives. Now, to end it, we need to build on our remaining strengths.

Gen. Horner (Air Force, ret.) commanded coalition air forces during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and flew F-16 sorties in the southern no-fly zone over Iraq.

24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fake digi certificates on: March 24, 2011, 07:14:27 AM

An Internet-security company said it was tricked into trying to lure Iranian users to fake versions of major websites, a sophisticated hack it suspects the Iranian government carried out.

Comodo Group Inc., a Jersey City, N.J., company that issues digital certificates to assure Internet users of websites' authenticity, said Wednesday it had issued nine such certificates to what turned out to be fraudulent websites set up in Iran.

The March 15 attack involved certificates for fake versions of Google Inc.'s Gmail site, Yahoo Inc.'s login page and websites run by Microsoft Corp., Firefox browser maker Mozilla Corp. and Internet telephone company Skype.

In theory, an Iranian attempting to log into his Yahoo account, for example, could have been misdirected to a fake site. That would allow the perpetrators to obtain a host of online information including contents of email, passwords and usernames, while monitoring activity on the dummy sites.

Since the targeted sites offer communication services, not financial transactions, Comodo said it seemed clear the hackers sought information, not money.

It wasn't clear whether anyone fell for the ruse. Comodo said it didn't know how many of the nine certificates were received by the attacker.

Iran's mission to the U.N. didn't reply to an emailed request for comment after business hours. Iran has said it is trying to combat Western culture and influence entering Iran via the Internet, a virtual clash it has called the "soft war."

The attack comes amid popular uprisings across the Middle East, where the Internet has played a critical role—not just in activists' efforts to stage protests, but also in state censorship and repression.

If Iran was involved, it suggests the government has stepped up electronic-monitoring efforts of its citizens, Internet security experts said. Iranian authorities got an early look at the power of social media during the mass protests following allegations of rigged elections in June 2009. It has since formed a "cyber army" to gain the upper hand over the Internet in Iran, which has more than 20 million users.

"This is a nightmare scenario," said Mikko Hypponen, head of research at F-Secure, a Helsinki, Finland-based Internet security firm. "You have to trust the companies selling these certificates and if we can't, then all bets are off."

Comodo said it traced the attack to an Internet service provider in Iran and concluded in an online post that the act was likely "state-funded" because the attacker would have needed access to critical Web infrastructure in the country.

While the company acknowledged the attacker could have been laying a false trail, it said the likely aim was to get online information about Iranian citizens.

"It does not escape notice that the domains targeted would be of greatest use to a government attempting surveillance of Internet use by dissident groups," the company said in the post.

Comodo said the attacker gained entry to its system by obtaining the password and username of a European affiliate. Once inside, it issued the certificates for the phony sites. Comodo said it detected the breach within hours of the attack and revoked the certificates immediately.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company issued an upgraded security patch to help protect against fraudulent digital certificates. Mozilla declined to comment. Skype said it was monitoring the situation but didn't expect any impact. Google said it took steps to protect its users, but didn't specify them. Yahoo also said it was monitoring the situation.

"This is not a random hacker tinkering around," said Mr. Hypponen of the Finnish security firm. "You have to plan it beforehand and know what you're doing."

Austin Heap, a San Franciso-based Internet activist who has developed anti-censoring tools for use in Iran, said the development seems to suggest the Iranian government is becoming more professional and organized in online repression.

"It shows they have a plan," he said. "They are getting to the point where China is, where they can exert total control."

Write to Christopher Rhoads at

Read more:
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq trims Miranda on: March 24, 2011, 07:05:34 AM
New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades.

The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. And it potentially opens a new political tussle over national security policy, as the administration marks another step back from pre-election criticism of unorthodox counterterror methods.

The Supreme Court's 1966 Miranda ruling obligates law-enforcement officials to advise suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning. A 1984 decision amended that by allowing the questioning of suspects for a limited time before issuing the warning in cases where public safety was at issue.

That exception was seen as a limited device to be used only in cases of an imminent safety threat, but the new rules give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the policy applies to "exceptional cases" where investigators "conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat." Such action would need prior approval from FBI supervisors and Justice Department lawyers, according to the memo, which was issued in December but not made public.

A Process for Questioning Detainees
From Miranda v. Arizona ruling: "Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently."

—Chief Justice Earl Warren, 1966

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

Landmark ruling, citing the Fifth Amendment, says suspects must be reminded of their right to avoid self incrimination.

Rhode Island v. Innis (1980)

Police can't perform questioning or its "functional equivalent" if a suspect requests an attorney.

New York v. Quarles (1984)

Police don't have to read Miranda rights if there are "overriding considerations of public safety."

Dickerson v. United States (2000)

Congress can't void Miranda rights through law.

Missouri v. Seibert (2004)

Police can't obtain a confession without a Miranda warning, then provide one and immediately obtain a second confession.

Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010)

Suspects don't have to explicitly waive their Miranda rights for a confession to be admissible.
.Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said the memo ensures that "law enforcement has the ability to question suspected terrorists without immediately providing Miranda warnings when the interrogation is reasonably prompted by immediate concern for the safety of the public or the agents." He said "the threat posed by terrorist organizations and the nature of their attacks—which can include multiple accomplices and interconnected plots—creates fundamentally different public safety concerns than traditional criminal cases."

Attorney General Eric Holder suggested changing the guidelines last year after dust-ups over Miranda's use in two major domestic-terror arrests. The suspect in the Christmas Day 2009 bombing, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was questioned by FBI agents for less than an hour before being read his rights. Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was questioned for three hours.

In both cases, the administration said suspects provided valuable information to the FBI despite being advised of their rights. But the decision nonetheless provoked criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who said an opportunity to gain time-sensitive intelligence was lost.

The new guidelines could blunt criticism from Republicans, many of whom have pushed for terror suspects to be sent to military detention, where they argue that rigid Miranda restrictions don't apply. But many liberals will likely oppose the move, as might some conservatives who believe the administration doesn't have legal authority to rein in such rights.

The Justice Department believes it has the authority to tinker with Miranda procedures. Making the change administratively rather than through legislation in Congress, however, presents legal risks.

"I don't think the administration can accomplish what I think needs to be done by policy guidance alone," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "It may not withstand the scrutiny of the courts in the absence of legislation."

New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House homeland-security committee, is among the lawmakers who welcomed Mr. Holder's call to change Miranda. At a hearing last year, Mr. King said, "It's important that we ensure that the reforms do go forward and that at the very least the attorney general consults with everyone in the intelligence community before any Miranda warning is given."

The administration suggested legislation last year to alter Miranda but was rebuffed by Congress, administration officials said. Its proposals faltered due to objections from Democrats, who had no appetite for tinkering with Supreme Court precedent, and Republicans who aired civil-liberties concerns or rejected civilian custody for terror suspects.

The Miranda protocols have been controversial since the high court formalized a practice that was already in use by the FBI, albeit not uniformly. Conservatives have long argued that the warning impedes law enforcement's ability to protect the public.

President Barack Obama has grappled with a web of terrorism policies cobbled together since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Before becoming president, Mr. Obama had criticized the Bush administration for going outside traditional criminal procedures to deal with terror suspects, and for bypassing Congress in making rules to handle detainees after 9/11. He has since embraced many of the same policies while devising additional ones—to the disappointment of civil-liberties groups that championed his election. In recent weeks, the administration formalized procedures for indefinitely detaining some suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, allowing for periodic reviews of those deemed too dangerous to set free.

The Bush administration, in the aftermath of 9/11, chose to bypass the Miranda issue altogether as it crafted a military-detention system that fell outside the rules that govern civilians. Under Mr. Bush, the government used Miranda in multiple terror cases. But Mr. Bush also ordered the detention of two people in a military brig as "enemy combatants." The government eventually moved both suspects—Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, and Ali al-Marri, a Qatari man—into the federal criminal-justice system after facing legal challenges. In other cases, it processed suspects through the civilian system.

An increase in the number of domestic-terror cases in recent years has made the issue more pressing.

The Miranda change leaves other key procedures in place, notably federal rules for speedy presentation of suspects before a magistrate, normally within 24 hours. Legal experts say those restrictions are bigger obstacles than Miranda to intelligence gathering. The FBI memo doesn't make clear whether investigators seeking exemptions would have to provide a Miranda warning at the time of such a hearing.

Also unchanged is the fact that any statements suspects give during such pre-Miranda questioning wouldn't be admissible in court, the memo says.

24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shapiro: Wag the dog on: March 24, 2011, 06:58:42 AM

What is this really about?

As the price of oil skyrockets, as our debt levels rise to new highs and our housing market drops to new lows, President Obama decides that it is a fantastic time to start dropping bombs on Libya. Nobody, including Obama, seems to know what our objective is in Libya. First, it was deposing terroristic thug Muammar Qaddafi; then it was standing up for the United Nations; then it was protecting civilians; now it is some combination of all of them. This is the same man who once explained with regard to Middle East policy, "I can tell you this -- when I am president of the United States, the American people and the world will always know where I stand." Now, finding where Obama stands is tougher than finding a cane-less Waldo in a crowd of Christmas elves.

Meanwhile, the international community floats aimlessly through Obama's sea of foreign policy vagary. For a community organizer, Obama sure has trouble organizing the international community. Perhaps that's because even he doesn't know why we're in Libya.

One matter is crystal clear, however: we're certainly not in Libya for the reasons Obama has articulated.

Let's not deceive ourselves into believing that Obama has become an ardent advocate of Muslim freedom -- only a few short years ago, he was badmouthing President Bush's campaign in Iraq, ignoring Iranian pleas for freedom from the mullahs, and sending ambassadors to parlay with Hamas.

Let's not pretend, either, that America has serious interests at stake in Libya -- we don't. The rebels are backed by al-Qaida, the same people we're supposed to be fighting. Obama criticized the Iraq War for taking our eye off the ball with regard to al-Qaida; now, he's not merely taking our eye off the ball, but he's throwing the game to al-Qaida. Muammar Qaddafi deserves to lose his head, but America doesn't deserve a Libya run by an even worse foe. As for the U.N., we had more allies and more U.N. support for the war in Iraq, which Obama opposed.

As for Obama's contention that he wants to protect Libyan civilians, that also rings false. After all, the best way to protect Libyan civilians is to put highly trained allied troops on the ground in Libya -- as Obama himself has acknowledged. Back in 2007, Obama criticized President Bush's Afghanistan military policy for lack of boots, stating that the U.S. needed to "get the job done ... [which] requires us to have enough troops that we're not just air raiding villages and killing civilians."

So what's this really about? President Obama's war of choice in Libya is, very simply, a wag the dog scenario.

For months now, Obama has remained a non-entity on the Muslim uprisings rocking the Middle East. He has voted present, when in fact he isn't even present. Over the past few weeks, his non-action has begun to affect his public image. No longer is he considered cool -- now he's considered removed and distant. Obama has become Japan's last emperor, hiding behind his title and his advisers while performing ceremonial duties -- and the public has caught on. America knows, in short, that Obama is weak.

So Obama chose this moment to forge forth in a show of strength. Emphasis on the word "show."

Obama has explained that this intervention will take days, not weeks; he has backed down from his original aims; he has attempted to shirk leadership, handing it off to the Europeans (who want no part of it). All of this would seem to imply that he didn't want to be involved. But he chose to become involved in the first place, knowing full well that America could be supporting those who hope to murder us.

There's only one reason for that: he wants to distract the American public from the fact that the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is an insecure little man behind a media curtain. Obama is wagging the dog not to misdirect attention from a sex scandal, but in order to focus attention on his supposed brawn.

None of it is real. Once again, the military is being used by a Democrat as a political tool to curry favor with the hawkish American public. The American public is being manipulated by a Democrat, once again, because we support the men and women in harm's way. The war in Libya as Obama has organized it is a sham, a fraud and a disgrace.
24419  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cell phones on: March 24, 2011, 06:54:47 AM
California prisons confiscated more than 10,000 cellphones last year. This year, officials at Corcoran State Prison found a cellphone with a camera in possession of convicted serial killer Charles Manson. It was the second phone found on Manson in two years.

In 1996, four men gang-raped a 15-year-old girl. They were convicted. But in 2008, the ringleader called the victim from his prison cell.

"To our horror," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said at a press conference March 22, "there was nothing we could do about that."

In dysfunctional California, it is not illegal to smuggle a cellphone into a state prison.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, introduced a bill to make smuggling cellphones to inmates a misdemeanor -- and it passed last year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it because it wasn't tough enough.

"Tell me how that makes sense," Ryan Sherman of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association asked. "At least then, it was a misdemeanor."

This year, Padilla introduced SB26 to make smuggling a cellphone a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine per phone. The bill passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee on March 22. But Padilla had to remove a provision to add two to five years to the sentence of an inmate caught planning a crime with a smuggled phone.

You can thank the committee chairwoman, Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, for watering down the bill. As the Los Angeles Times reported, she didn't care about the list of crimes -- including murder, kidnapping and witness intimidation -- directed by inmates via cell. She doesn't want to add to prison overcrowding.

To fight the problem, the corrections department launched "Operation Disconnect," which included unannounced inspections of prison staff. One such search at Avenal State Prison turned up 13 cellphones.

Avenal Public Information Officer E.J. Borla believes most phones find their way into the medium-security prison through visitors who find creative ways to smuggle contraband. Even if he's right, one rotten prison guard can do a lot of damage. In 2009, the state fired an officer who made $150,000 smuggling phones to convicts. Because he broke no law, he wasn't prosecuted.

The department has begun testing new phone signal-jamming technology, according to spokesman Paul Verke.

Why not search all the guards before they go to work? Here the prison guards' union is of little help. Officers are paid "walk time" while they suit up in steel-toed boots, utility belts and other gear. Going through a metal detector would cut into "walk time."

In that prison staff have the most to fear from well-connected convicts, couldn't the union give on it?

"Give on working for free?" union spokesman Sherman replies. After the furloughs, his people have given enough.

Gov. Jerry Brown just cut a deal with the union, which supported his candidacy. According to the Department of Personnel Administration, "walk time" didn't come up.
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: March 24, 2011, 06:48:52 AM
Speaking of Brazil, I gather that George Soros has a big piece of the off-shore drilling deal that the US govt is helping finance at favorable rates, , , sorry no citation.

Gas is well over $4 a gallon in most places in California -- and soaring elsewhere as well. But are such high energy prices good or bad?

That should be a stupid question. Yet it is not when the Obama administration has stopped new domestic offshore oil exploration in many American waters, curbed oil leases in the West, and keeps oil-rich areas of Alaska exempt from drilling. Last week, President Obama went to Brazil and declared of that country's new offshore finds: "With the new oil finds off Brazil, President (Dilma) Rousseff has said that Brazil wants to be a major supplier of new stable sources of energy, and I've told her that the United States wants to be a major customer, which would be a win-win for both our countries."

Consider the logic of the president's Orwellian declaration: The United States in the last two years has restricted oil exploration of the sort Brazil is now rushing to embrace. We have run up more than $4 trillion in consecutive budget deficits during the Obama administration and are near federal insolvency. Therefore, the United States should be happy to borrow more money to purchase the sort of "new stable sources of energy" from Brazil's offshore wells that we most certainly will not develop off our own coasts.

It seems as if paying lots more for electricity and gas, in European fashion, was originally part of the president's new green agenda. He helped push cap-and-trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009. Had such Byzantine regulations become law, a recessionary economy would have sunk into depression. Obama appointed the incompetent Van Jones as "green jobs czar" -- until Jones' wild rantings confirmed that he knew nothing about his job description "to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives."

At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, the administration is borrowing billions to promote high-speed rail, and is heavily invested in the federally subsidized $42,000 Government Motors Chevy Volt. Apparently the common denominator here is a deductive view that high energy prices will force Americans to emulate European centrally planned and state-run transportation.

That conclusion is not wild conspiracy theory, but simply the logical manifestation of many of the Obama administration's earlier campaign promises. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu -- now responsible for the formulation of American energy policy -- summed up his visions to the Wall Street Journal in 2008: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." I think Chu is finally figuring out the "somehow."

A year earlier, Chu was more explicit in his general contempt for the sort of fuels that now keep Americans warm and on the road: "Coal is my worst nightmare. ... We have lots of fossil fuel. That's really both good and bad news. We won't run out of energy but there's enough carbon in the ground to really cook us."

In fairness to Chu, he was only amplifying what Obama himself outlined during the 2008 campaign. Today's soaring energy prices are exactly what candidate Obama once dreamed about: "Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Obama, like Chu, made that dream even more explicit in the case of coal "So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

There are lots of ironies to these Alice-in-Wonderland energy fantasies. As the public become outraged over gas prices, a panicked Obama pivots to brag that we are pumping more oil than ever before -- but only for a time, and only because his predecessors approved the type of drilling he has stopped.

The entire climate-change movement, fairly or not, is now in shambles, thanks to serial scandals about faked research, consecutive record cold and wet winters in much of Europe and the United States, and the conflict-of-interest, get-rich schemes of prominent global-warming preachers such as Al Gore.

The administration's energy visions are formulated by academics and government bureaucrats who live mostly in cities with short commutes and have worked largely for public agencies. These utopians have no idea that without reasonably priced fuel and power, the self-employed farmer cannot produce food. The private plant operator cannot create plastics. And the trucker cannot bring goods to the consumer -- all the basics like lettuce, iPads and Levis that a highly educated, urbanized elite both enjoys and yet has no idea of how a distant someone else made their unbridled consumption possible.
24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: March 24, 2011, 06:22:13 AM
I watched the video on that page Everyone should see it cry cry cry 
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: This SCOTUS term so far on: March 24, 2011, 05:52:30 AM
Written from the progressive POV (well, its POTH so no surprise there) this piece analyzes the law from the POV of the nature of the parties more than the legal questions presented, but at least it has the honesty to admit to itself that not all of its prejudices are accurate:

Among common impressions of the current Supreme Court are that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are joined at the hip and that the majority tilts reflexively in favor of corporations and employers.

As the court heads into the current term’s final three months, I looked at the statistics. What I found surprised me:
• In decisions that have split the court in any direction, Justices Scalia and Thomas have voted on opposite sides more often than they voted together. They differed in all three of the non-unanimous criminal-law cases that the court has decided so far.

.• Employees suing companies for civil rights violations have won all three cases decided so far, two of them by votes of 8-0 (with Justice Elena Kagan recused).

.• By wide margins, the court has rejected arguments put forward by corporate defendants in several cases. It refused to permit corporations to claim a personal-privacy exemption from disclosure of law-enforcement records under the Freedom of Information Act. It permitted a liability suit to proceed against an automobile manufacturer for not installing the safest kind of back-seat passenger restraint. And in a unanimous opinion on Tuesday, the court refused to throw out a lawsuit by investors alleging that a drug manufacturer’s failure to disclose reports that some patients using its cold remedy had lost their sense of smell amounted to securities fraud.

.What accounts for the topsy-turvy world of the Supreme Court’s 2010-2011 term?

One answer might be that the deviation from expected behavior is just an illusion, based on a small number of decisions that might not prove representative of the term as a whole. The court has decided 25 cases so far, with about twice that many yet to come by the time the term ends in late June. Some of the term’s more important cases, including Wal-Mart’s appeal in a huge class-action sex-discrimination suit, have not yet even been argued.

Still, when the court decides so few cases — 73 last year — 25 decisions count for something. At the very least, this preliminary snapshot reminds those of us (and I include myself) who think they have taken the court’s measure that assumptions are a poor substitute for close observation. So that’s what this column is: a portrait of a term in progress.

When I looked at voting patterns, I was surprised by what the numbers revealed: that in the divided cases, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has voted more often with Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor than with Justices Thomas, Scalia or Samuel A. Alito Jr. The number of cases is small, only nine, and there was no particular ideological spin to most of the decisions, so this is not to suggest that the term will disprove characterizations of the Roberts court, or the chief justice himself, as conservative.

Even so, it is worth noting that in eight of these nine cases (not all the same eight), the chief justice and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and/or Anthony M. Kennedy saw things the same way. (Justice Kagan’s previous service as solicitor general has required her to stay out of so many cases — 15 of the 25 decided so far — that I am not using her votes in these calculations.)

Chief Justice Roberts has yet to cast a dissenting vote this term; with the exception of Justice Kagan, every other justice has dissented at least once (probably the most eye-catching dissent so far is Justice Alito’s solitary dissent in Snyder v. Phelps, the 8-to-1 decision according First Amendment protection to the obnoxious funeral-picketing activities of the Westboro Baptist Church). And every justice, including Justice Kagan, has written more than one majority opinion, with one glaring exception: Justice Thomas, who has yet to write for the majority in any case this term.

That’s not to say that Justice Thomas has been silent (except on the bench during oral argument). He has written three dissenting and four concurring opinions. He gave the keynote address last month in Charlottesville, Va., at the annual student symposium of the Federalist Society, a national organization of conservative law students and lawyers. There, he offered a vigorous defense of his wife, Virginia, against criticism of her political activism.

“There is a price to pay today for standing in defense of your Constitution,” he said. Recognizing his wife in the audience, Justice Thomas said that the two of them were “equally yoked,” “believe in the same things” and were “focused on defending liberty.” Their critics, he warned, “seem bent on undermining” the court itself.

Assuming that Justice Thomas has received the same number of opinion-writing assignments as his colleagues — one or two cases from each of the court’s monthly argument sittings — the absence of majority opinions in his name is striking.
Granted, once a justice gets an assignment, the timing of the release of the opinion is not completely under his or her control. The need to satisfy a fractious majority can require multiple drafts, or those justices writing dissenting opinions can take their time, perhaps hoping to peel off a fifth vote and change the outcome.

The court’s eventual opinion in a case called Connick v. Thompson, argued back on Oct. 6, may be revealing. It is the only undecided case left from among the 12 the justices heard during the first month of the term, so by deduction, the opinion assignment should have gone to Justice Thomas, the only justice without a majority opinion from that session (Justice Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg each have two.)

This is not to suggest that the term will disprove characterizations of the Roberts court, or the chief justice himself, as conservative.

.The question in the case is a tricky one: whether a district attorney’s office can be held liable for damages based on a prosecutor’s intentional withholding of evidence that casts doubt on the defendant’s guilt. It’s easy to imagine the court deeply split over a case with disturbing facts (the defendant spent 14 years on death row and came close to being executed before the previously withheld blood evidence came to light) that nonetheless runs up against the court’s extreme reluctance to permit damage suits of this kind, even for egregious official misbehavior. Perhaps Justice Thomas, having received the initial assignment to write the majority opinion, has been unable to hold four other justices to his approach to this case. Or perhaps a dissenting opinion is taking a long time to incubate.

As a case about civil damages, the Connick case does not directly involve criminal law. No one disputes the prosecution’s duty to turn over exculpatory evidence; the question is whether the prosecutor’s office can be held liable for failing to train its staff to observe this very basic requirement. On issues of pure criminal law and procedure, including sentencing, Justices Thomas and Scalia have for some time demonstrated distinctly different points of view. Earlier this month, Justice Scalia joined Justice Sotomayor’s opinion permitting district judges in resentencing proceedings to grant leniency to defendants who have managed to rehabilitate themselves after the initial sentencing. In a solitary dissent, Justice Thomas wrote that he still regarded the federal sentencing guidelines as mandatory, despite the court’s ruling six years ago that rendered the guidelines “advisory.” Justice Thomas expressed sympathy for the defendant in this case, but said the district judge had no discretion to give a lighter sentence than the guidelines provided.

The two justices also diverged on the confrontation clause issue that provoked Justice Scalia’s vigorous dissent last month from another majority opinion by Justice Sotomayor. The question was whether a dying man gave the equivalent of testimony when he told the police the name of the man who shot him; if so, the victim’s statements to the police could not be introduced at trial because cross-examination would not be possible. In a separate opinion, Justice Thomas agreed with the majority that the encounter between the victim and the police was not testimonial. Justice Scalia, whose view of the Sixth Amendment confrontation right is categorical, insisted otherwise.

In all of the last term, Justices Scalia and Thomas were on opposite sides only six times. Already this term, they have split in five cases. An aberration or a trend? Watch and wait.

24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mercy Warren, 1805 on: March 24, 2011, 05:41:41 AM
"It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government." --Mercy Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, 1805

24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: March 23, 2011, 10:13:59 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

URL please!!!
24425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What next? on: March 23, 2011, 12:18:51 PM
What is Next in Libya?

As the air campaign over Libya enters its third night, command of military operations will soon transfer from the United States to either the Europeans or NATO. By most accounts, the opening gambit of the air campaign went well and was effective in achieving initial objectives — destroying or suppressing air defenses and destroying what remained of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air force. The loyalist drive toward Benghazi appears to have been halted, and the rebels have made tentative movements toward Ajdabiyah. There were no reports of combat losses; also, the coalition has not acknowledged responsibility for any civilian casualties.

“Control of the skies over Libya can help defend Benghazi from loyalist formations of armor but it does not provide control of the streets in Tripoli.”
This is not a surprise. The coalition air campaign, with ready, uncontested access to regional air bases, has become a hallmark of U.S. and NATO military operations. Though complex, it is a discipline of warfare that has been carefully refined, and there was little doubt that within days, the coalition would get to this point. The issue was never the ability to apply airpower to Libya. The problem of Libya is twofold. The first is what the coalition seeks to achieve and what forces it is willing to dedicate to that end, a subject about which there has been glaring contradiction from the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The second is the the applicability of airpower to that problem, however it is ultimately defined.

Airpower alone cannot force Gadhafi from power unless his position can be pinpointed and he can thereby be killed. Even if Gadhafi is killed, forces loyal to him cannot be removed from built-up urban areas without the risk of massive civilian casualties. At its core, Gadhafi’s forces are not tanks or artillery pieces — and certainly were not combat aircraft before they were destroyed. Gadhafi’s forces remain a ruthless internal security force loyal to the regime and oriented toward the management of internal dissent. At its heart, this is a light infantry force.

Dismounted forces in an urban area are difficult to target by fast moving aircraft even when forward air controllers are on the ground and are able to talk to and guide aircraft. Doing so still entails a significant risk of civilian casualties and in any event, aircraft are not the ideal tool for that job unless the entire area can be declared hostile.

So, the coalition is rapidly running up against a fundamental incompatibility with the air campaign. The objective is to prevent civilian casualties. Even setting aside the fact that airpower is not a precise tool and that its continued application will in all likelihood entail civilian casualties, the problem is that the danger to civilian lives is ground forces loyal to Gadhafi. While some of those forces were caught in the open in readily identifiable armor, others will continue to move in civilian vehicles and perhaps not even wear uniforms. For example, with troops on the ground in Afghanistan, Western military forces struggle to distinguish between and protect local populations from Taliban intimidation. It is not possible to do this from the air.

The question was never one of establishing air superiority over Libyan skies. The question remains what the coalition will do with that air superiority to further its objective. Control of the skies over Libya can help defend Benghazi from loyalist formations of armor, but it does not provide control of the streets in Tripoli. With or without Gadhafi, the country remains fractious and divided. The coalition has stepped into the fray in support of a loosely affiliated opposition that has thus far failed to coalesce into a meaningful military force capable of challenging Gadhafi. The removal of Gadhafi ‘s air force and the reduction in his ability to move conventional military vehicles do not fundamentally alter the underlying tactical equation: Loyalist forces have proved dedicated and capable; the opposition’s forces have not.

It is at this point in the air campaign that the question of “what is next” begins to become much less abstract and much more real.

24426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 23, 2011, 11:36:08 AM
Maybe I'm missing it, but I'm not seeing much contrary commentary from the current field of potential contenders on Libya, on the feebleness of budget cuts, on much of anything.
24427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Will on: March 23, 2011, 11:16:53 AM
As a good American I wish us and the people of Libya success--even if Baraq gets credit-- but there is much to worry about here.

Blithely off to war


NY Post

Posted: 11:10 PM, March 21, 2011

The missile strikes that inaugurated America's latest attempt at regime change were launched 29 days before the 50th anniversary of another such -- the Bay of Pigs of April 17, 1961. Then, the hubris of US planners was proportional to their ignorance of everything relevant, from Cuban sentiment to Cuba's geography. The fiasco was a singularly feckless investment of US power.

Does practice make perfect? In today's episode, America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know.

"We are standing with the people of Libya," says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, evidently confident that "the" people are a harmonious unit. Many in the media call Moammar Khadafy's foes "freedom fighters," and perhaps they are -- but no one calling them that really knows how the insurgents regard one another, or understand freedom, or if freedom (however understood) is their priority.

But, then, knowing is rarely required in the regime-change business. The Weekly Standard, a magazine for regime-change enthusiasts, serenely says: "The Libyan state is a one-man operation. Eliminate that man and the whole edifice may come tumbling down." Then good things must sprout?

In Libya, mission creep began before the mission did. A no-fly zone wouldn't accomplish what President Obama calls "a well-defined goal," the "protection of civilians." So the no-fly zone immediately became protection for aircraft conducting combat operations against Khadafy's ground forces.

America's war aim is inseparable from -- indeed, obviously is -- destruction of that regime. So our purpose is to create a political vacuum, into which we hope -- this is the "audacity of hope" as foreign policy -- good things will spontaneously flow.

But if Khadafy can't be beaten by the rebels, are we prepared to supply their military deficiencies? If the decapitation of his regime produces what the removal of Saddam Hussein did -- bloody chaos -- what then are our responsibilities regarding the tribal vendettas we may have unleashed? How long are we prepared to police the partitioning of Libya?

Explaining his decision to wage war, Obama said Khadafy has "lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead." Such boilerplate seems designed to anesthetize thought. When did Khadafy lose his people's confidence? When did he have legitimacy?

American doctrine is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. So there are always many illegitimate governments. When is it America's duty to scrub away these blemishes on the planet? Is there a limiting principle of humanitarian interventionism? If so, would Obama take a stab at stating it?

Congress' power to declare war resembles a muscle that has atrophied from long abstention from proper exercise. This power was last exercised on June 5, 1942 (against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary), almost 69 years, and many wars, ago.

It thus may seem quaint, and certainly is quixotic, for Indiana's Richard Lugar -- ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- to say, correctly, that Congress should debate and vote on this.

There are those who think that if the United Nations gives the United States permission to wage war, the Constitution becomes irrelevant. Let us find out who in Congress supports this proposition, which should be resoundingly refuted, particularly by Republicans insisting that government, and especially the executive, should be on a short constitutional leash. If all GOP presidential aspirants are supine in the face of unfettered presidential war-making and humanitarian interventionism, the GOP field is radically insufficient.

On Dec. 29, 1962, in Miami's Orange Bowl, President John Kennedy, who ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion, addressed a rally of survivors and supporters of that exercise in regime change. Presented with the invasion brigade's flag, Kennedy vowed, "I can assure you that this flag will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana."

Eleven months later, on Nov. 2, 1963, his administration was complicit in another attempt at violent regime change -- the coup against, and murder of, South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Saigon regime was changed, so perhaps this episode counts as a success, even if Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City.

24428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Libya's diplomatic missions on: March 23, 2011, 11:06:44 AM
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton discusses the diplomatic targets that intelligence agencies are watching in their efforts to disrupt terrorist plots.

While the world is focused on the war in Libya, intelligence agencies like the CIA and MI6 are focused on Libyan diplomatic missions around the globe in an effort to disrupt terror plots.

Libya has a long history of using their diplomatic missions as a hub for terrorist-related activity. Intelligence agencies around the globe will be focusing on three specific targets for the surveillance teams. The first is missions or the diplomatic facility. The second would be known or suspected intelligence officers. And the third would be diplomatic pouches.

The first target for the surveillance team would be the official diplomatic mission, embassy, consulate or front company where some sort of clandestine action could be taking place. The focus of the surveillance team would be the individuals that are suspected intelligence officers of the Libyan government as well as people that may be walking into the embassy or front company. The surveillance team would maintain a log with photographs or video of the individuals, and an effort will be made to identify who these individuals are through in-country investigations.

The second target set would be the Libyan diplomatic officers, with a laser focus on the suspected intelligence officers or known intelligence officers. You’re going to have surveillance of individuals that are meeting with these individuals that spin off into various webs of activity, and there is going to be an ongoing effort to identify who those people are that are meeting with the Libyan intelligence officers. The purpose of this surveillance activity is to create an umbrella, a quick read of activity to indicate whether or not there is some sort of terror plot in the works.

The third target set for the surveillance team would be Libyan diplomatic pouches. This is something that we learn through investigation of other terror plots: that the Libyans would utilize the diplomatic pouch to facilitate the transport of weapons, explosives, identity documents to third countries in an effort to carry out any kind of an attack. The interesting aspect of diplomatic pouches are that nations cannot search them, they don’t get x-rayed, they’re not opened, so you literally have no idea what’s in the diplomatic pouch. These items are escorted by diplomatic couriers that also have immunity.

Evidence has shown based on past specific acts of terrorism that I’ve personally investigated that Gadhafi uses his diplomatic missions as a center of gravity for terrorism activity, and it’s also going to be a concern for what other surrogate groups he could be reaching out to to facilitate acts of terrorism all around the world.

24429  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 23, 2011, 10:38:33 AM
It wouldn't surprise me.  EH took his Christianity pretty seriously.  I remember being moved by him powerfully singing gospel (he was in his church's choir too IIRC) in the locker room before his first fight with Tyson.  When I saw that I knew Tyson was going to lose.
24430  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Not a shining moment on: March 23, 2011, 10:36:27 AM
NYC Subway Hero Says Police Initially Left Him to Fend for Himself Against Killer -

New evidence shows two police officers who were aboard the subway car where the attack occurred locked themselves into the safe confines of the conductor’s cabin because they thought the suspect, Maxsim Gelman, was reaching for a gun as he approached Joseph Lozito, Edmond Chakmakian, Lozito’s attorney, said.

...a grand jury member told Lozito that jurors were appalled when they heard a police officer's version of the story...

“The juror said cops locked themselves inside because they thought Gelman was going to pull out a gun,” Chakmakian said. “What were the police officers waiting for, an engraved invitation?”
24431  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Beauty Queen on: March 22, 2011, 10:22:09 PM
Armed Beauty Queen Fatally Shoots Intruder in Florida Home Invasion
By Cristina Corbin

Published March 22, 2011


Florida beauty queen Meghan Brown, right, shot and killed an intruder with her pink .38-caliber handgun during a home invasion March 12 (

When a burly ex-convict forced his way into a posh Florida home last week, he had no idea what awaited him -- a 25-year-old beauty queen with a pink .38-caliber handgun.

Meghan Brown, a former Florida pageant queen, shot and killed 42-year-old Albert Franklin Hill during a home invasion March 12 at the 2,732-square-foot house she shares with her fiance in Tierra Verde, Fla.

Hill barged into the home at around 3 a.m. after Brown responded to a knock at the front door, according to a police report. He allegedly grabbed the 110-pound Brown around her nose and mouth and dragged her to an upstairs bedroom.

The woman’s fiance, Robert Planthaber, said in an interview that he was quickly awakened by the altercation and ran to Brown’s side.

"I attacked him and took a severe beating to the head," Planthaber told "But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 special.”

Brown, who reigned as the 2009 Miss Tierra Verde, snatched her gun from a nearby bedroom and shot the suspect several times – hitting him in the chest, groin, thigh and back, her fiance said. Hill was pronounced dead at the scene.

Panthaber, a 42-year-old arborist, said he believes he and his fiancee were targeted because of their wealth. He claimed a pizza delivery man and possible accomplice staked out the home for three months before Hill attempted to burglarize it.

“We live in a very prominent area and my fiancee wears a $60,000 engagement ring,” he said. “The pizza man knew we had money because sometimes we needed change for a $100 bill when he came to deliver pizza.”

Hill had a criminal record stretching back nearly three decades -- including arrests for burglary, battery, drug possession and grand theft. He reportedly served a 13-year prison term in 1987 and was released in September after serving a fourth term behind bars.

Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Robbery/Homicide Unit are still investigating the crime but believe the motive was robbery, according to local press reports. They say they haven’t yet determined the relationship, if any, Hill had with the couple. A police report said the ex-convict demanded money before the altercation between Hill and Panthaber ensued.

Panthaber, meanwhile, said he and his fiancee are lucky to be alive. He said he purchased the pink handgun for Brown last Christmas and that the two had gone to target practice together.

“She was not a good shot at the range,” he quipped.

Read more:
24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Chutzpah on: March 22, 2011, 08:22:03 PM
Arab League Redefines Chutzpah
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Many readers will recall one of the most famous headlines in modern American newspaper history -- the 1975 New York Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead."

Substitute "Arab League" for "Ford" and "America" for "City" and you've got the perfect headline: "Arab League to America: Drop Dead."

I always thought the best illustration of "chutzpah" was that of the boy who kills his parents and then pleads with the court for mercy, on the grounds that he is an orphan.

But given that that is only a hypothetical example, we now have a better illustration of chutzpah because this one is true.

Witnessing the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's large-scale killings of Libyan civilians, the Arab League begged us, the Europeans and the Security Council to militarily intervene on behalf of the Libyan people.

So, despite the fact that America is rather weary of fighting Muslim mass murderers, is militarily overstretched and has a devastating national debt, America said yes. We are the most decent country on Earth, and even a liberal-left Democrat in the White House feels the moral pull of America's legacy, values and unparalleled strength.

But no sooner have America and the Europeans intervened than the Arab League officially protests our intervention on the grounds that Libyan civilians -- 48 claimed, 0 confirmed at the time of the protest -- have been killed by the intervention requested by the Arab League.

What exactly did the Arab League, most of whose dictators have murdered thousands of their own people for political reasons, think would happen once the U.S. and the Europeans intervened militarily? Did they assume not one Libyan civilian would get killed? Has there been a military action in history in which no civilians died?

Amr Moussa, the outgoing secretary general of the Arab League, claimed in his statement that "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."

Perhaps Moussa did not read the Security Council resolution. It does not limit anti-Gadhafi military activity to "imposing a no-fly zone." The resolution authorizes U.N. member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi (italics added)."

Perhaps President Obama should hold a press conference and make this announcement:

"Given the Arab League's protest, we are immediately ending our military involvement in Libya. Apparently, Mr. Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, assumed that military intervention is possible without the killing of a single civilian. He should have told us so. Under that condition, we would never have put our blood and treasure on the line. So now, we are out, and the blood of every Libyan killed and tortured by the Libyan dictator is now on the Arab League's hands. On behalf of the American people, I ask the Arab League, and especially Mr. Moussa, to never again appeal to us to save Arabs from their dictators. Shukran."

(The president likes using Arabic words when he addresses Arab audiences, so his using the Arabic word for "thank you," shukran, would add a nice flourish.)

What does this Arab League protest mean?

It clarifies once again that tribal values outweigh moral values in the Arab world, including among much of its educated elite such as Moussa. In many Arabs' eyes, it is better for an Arab tyrant to slaughter any number of Arabs, and to allow that tyrant to retain power, than for Westerners to kill a dozen Arabs in order save tens of thousands of them trying to topple that tyrant.

In much of the Arab world, saving Arab lives and spreading freedom pale in comparison to two other passions.

One of these is power -- especially despotic power -- as David Pryce-Jones shows in his brilliant book on the Arab world, "The Closed Circle." Strong and cruel Arab leaders -- from Gamal Abdul Nasser to Saddam Hussein to Hamas and Hezbollah -- have been adored by the famed "Arab street."

The other passion is hatred of Israel. That's the one thing that unites nearly all Arabs. They no more love Palestinians than they love Libyans or the tens of thousands of Syrian victims of the two Assad regimes in Damascus. They defend Palestinians because they are necessary for demonizing and ultimately delegitimizing Israel.

And Moussa is among the Israel haters. As The New York Times reported, "Hosni Mubarak removed him (Moussa) as foreign minister after a song called 'I Hate Israel and I Love Amr Moussa' became a pop hit in 2001." To hate Israel is to love Moussa.

It gets worse. Moussa is favored to win the Egyptian presidential election.

But look at the bright side -- thanks to Moussa and the Arab League, we now have a real-life illustration of chutzpah that outdoes the classic fictitious one.
24433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 22, 2011, 08:13:07 PM
Our Community Organizer in Chief organizes the International Community.

What could go wrong?
24434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flotilla Round Two, coming soon on: March 22, 2011, 04:19:19 PM
Turkey: New Gaza Flotilla To Contain 15 Ships
March 22, 2011 0520 GMT
About 30 organizers from 15 countries met in the Spanish capital of Madrid early February 2011 to discuss plans by the Turkish organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) and several European groups to send a 15-ship flotilla to the Gaza Strip between May 15 and May 30, the anniversary of 2010's interception, Haaretz reported March 22. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will summon foreign ambassadors to the ministry to help stop the flotilla, which has asked the governments of some nationals planning to join the flotilla to guarantee their safety should Israel attempt to stop the ships again. Israel will launch a public campaign March 22 against the flotilla plan.
24435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Demise of Third Worldism on: March 22, 2011, 10:29:44 AM
The globalization of the international economy and this winter's Arab revolts mark the demise, each in a different domain, of an ideological stance that flourished in the third quarter of the previous century. "Third Worldism," which rose out of decolonization and the triumph of Marxist revolutions in developing countries, is the belief or pretense that the economic and political interests of poor nations are in variance and contradiction to those of rich nations—specifically those with Western values and modes of living.

On the economic front, Third Worldism based its rationale on the theory of "unequal exchange," according to which trade between developed and developing nations are detrimental to the latter: Developing countries' exports—which 40 years ago consisted largely of raw materials and other primary commodities—were allegedly underpriced, and foreign investment was deemed a means of exploiting emerging markets' natural endowments and labor markets. Such commercial relationships, Third Worldism further posited, were the main cause of economic backwardness in developing countries. To overcome this state of affairs, Third Worldist "experts" in academic circles and international organizations advised developing countries to foster trade among themselves ("collective self-reliance" was the name given to that endeavor) and to pursue an inward-oriented industrialization through protectionist barriers against imported manufactured goods.

This kind of economic autarky found its counterpart on the political front in the principle of "self-determination." Developing countries, it was argued, were in fundamentally different cultural settings than the countries that had colonized them. They had the right and the need to look for political norms that suited their specific conditions and levels of development, instead of adopting the liberal, multiparty, democratic models that prevailed in the West.

In practice, self-determination soon became an expedient for newly established despots to strengthen and perpetuate their wrongdoings. The world's Maos, Castros, Gadhafis and Mugabes claimed to incarnate the interests of their nations. The citizens under their whips were relegated to the category of "masses," with the duty simply to implement their masters' orders. Whoever attempted to disagree was accused of being a "mercenary" paid by foreign powers. Dissent was tantamount to treason.

This fashionable brand of Third-World "self-determination" left First-World leaders with only one politically correct choice: Sit down, keep quiet and let the dictators—er, "nationalist liberators"—continue to smother free expression and hunt, imprison, torture and murder their opposition. The alternative—to be accused of interfering in the domestic affairs of sovereign developing nations—was just too unpalatable.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Nikita Khrushchev with Fidel Castro at the U.N. General Assembly, 1960.
.Before the turn of the millennium, trade globalization came to disprove the economic foundations of Third Worldism: One after the other, developing countries realized that protectionism had led them only to poverty, and that they had far more to gain from participating fully in international commerce. Many thus decided to overhaul their macroeconomic policies, privatize inefficient state enterprises and open their markets to foreign capital and to the technology that comes with it. Thanks to that change of paradigm, a large number of these countries have become formidable competitors in international markets for manufactured goods.

But the political pillar of Third Worldism remained. Tyrants' abuse of the principle of "self-determination" has been contested since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In international forums, proposals were put forward to institute the "right to interfere," which has since become the "responsibility to protect" populations from flagrant human-rights violations; in June 1990, in the city of La Baule, French President François Mitterrand promised that France would tailor her support for African regimes to their willingness to foster political freedom and economic efficiency. Former U.S. President George W. Bush later pushed his "freedom agenda," which emphasized democracy promotion as an essential ingredient of American foreign policy.

All these initiatives tried to combat the notion that "self-determination" should serve as a subterfuge for unaccountable autocrats to perpetuate their reigns. But Third World despots (and like-minded intellectuals) argued that such initiatives had no roots or legitimacy in developing nations' cultures. The Middle East was their prime example of a region where representative democracy had never prospered and had not even been sought.

Cue this winter's revolts, which have torn this sorry argument to pieces. In the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and practically everywhere else in the region, men and women have risked their lives to show that they are not "masses," but individuals who want and have the right to choose and debate their governance. To my knowledge these protesters have not burned a single effigy of Uncle Sam or Israeli flag as their rulers have intermittently teleprompted them to do over the years. Instead their fury has been directed at those actually responsible for their decades-long suffering. Meanwhile Libyan rebels called on the outside world—and notably the West—for help in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi. And this is not even the first time the people of North Africa or the Middle East have requested our support: In 2009, the streets of Iran rang with protesters' chorus of "Obama! Obama! Are you with them or are you with us?"

Whatever the outcome in Libya, Egypt or Tunisia—or Bahrain or Syria for that matter—don't expect the yearning for true self-determination to subside. These people have now glimpsed freedom, and they aren't likely to forget it and revert to their status quo ante. Fighting for liberty creates an unyielding addiction. Poland's Solidarity was smashed and forced underground in 1981, but eight years later the Berlin Wall fell and by 1990 Lech Walesa was president. North Africa and the Middle East are going through a period not unlike that in Eastern Europe in the 1980s: Sooner or later freedom will have the final say.

But what has been buried in the adventures and misadventures of today's revolts is that whatever legitimacy was left in the ideology of Third Worldism is now gone. Those statesmen and intellectuals who have fought this moment for years will pay dearly before history, but it has now arrived: By refusing to be governed any longer by despots, and showing that they have democratic aspirations similar to the rest of the world's, the Arab people have finally killed Third Worldism.

Mr. Fiallo is a Dominican-born economist, writer and retired U.N. official. His latest publication, "Ternes Eclats" or "Dimmed Lights," (L'Harmattan, 2009) presents a critique of international organizations.

24436  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Nominee for headline of the year on: March 22, 2011, 10:15:26 AM
24437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Top 10 Rejected Mission Names on: March 22, 2011, 10:11:32 AM
Top 10 Rejected Obama Mission Names
Apparently the White House tossed out a number of perfectly good names before arriving at "Operation Odyssey Dawn":

10.Operation Nine Months In The Senate Didn't Prepare Me For This
9. Operation Organizing for Libya
8. Operation Double Standard
7. Operation FINE! I'll Do Something
6. Operation Enduring Narcissism
5. Operation So That's What the Red Button Does
4. Operation France Backed Me Into A Corner
3. Operation Start Without Me
2. Operation Unlike Bush Wars This One Is Justified Because Hey Look A Squirrel
1. Operation Aimless Fury

24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Boy and Girl Brains on: March 22, 2011, 09:19:55 AM
Boys' and girls' brains are different—but not always in the ways you might think.

A common stereotype is that boys develop more slowly than girls, putting them at a disadvantage in school where pressure to perform is starting ever younger. Another notion is that puberty is a time when boys' and girls' brains grow more dissimilar, accounting for some of the perceived disparities between the sexes.

 This time-lapse video shows MRIs of a girl and boy brain combined as they age from 9 to 22 and their their gender difference disappear as they age. Video courtesy of NIH.
.Now, some scientists are debunking such thinking. Although boys' and girls' brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar, according to recent government research. And, rather than growing more slowly, boys' brains instead are simply developing differently.

"There's a lot of work right now trying to go beyond sweeping generalizations, like boys aren't as good at reading," says Jay Giedd, chief of Brain Imaging at the National Institute of Mental Health's Child Psychiatry Branch.

The NIMH, as part of a 20-year-old brain-mapping project, has been doing MRI scans of young people's brains, age 9 to 22. By measuring the thickness of the brain's cortex and how it changes over time, scientists have found that boys' and girls' brains, on average, differ significantly at age 9. But by the time the participants reached age 22, the brains of the two sexes grew more alike in many areas critical for learning. In general, most parts of people's brains are fully developed by the age of 25 to 30. The NIMH study, which involved 284 people, was published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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National Institute of Mental Health (3)
Scientists combined MRIs of a girl and a boy brain. Blue shows where the two differ most, purple is a little different, and white virtually the same. At age 10, differences dominate. Similarities increase over time. (Click to graphic to enlarge.)
Gender Development
Some typical milestones and when boys and girls tend to hit them:

At birth: Girls are a few weeks more mature neurologically and have more advanced hearing. Boys on average weigh half a pound more.

First words: Girls typically utter their first word at 11 or 12 months, one month ahead of boys.

Vocabulary: At 18 months, girls on average know 86.8 words, more than double boys' 41.8 words. By 30 months, boys' and girls' language skills have converged, at about 500 words.

Walking: Caucasian girls and boys tend to walk around 12 months. African-Americans walk sooner, at nine to 10 months.

Potty training: Girls are fully trained by 36 months, according to one study. Boys took a bit longer, training by 38 months.

Onset of puberty: For girls, the process can start at age 9 to 10. For boys, it's closer to 11 to 12.

Source: WSJ research
.Another finding: Young girls' brains tend to mature faster in the front part, which is responsible, among other things, for language learning and controlling aggression and impulsivity. For boys, the fastest development is in the back of the brain, which performs visual-spatial tasks at which males tend to excel such as geometry and puzzle-solving.

The findings come as education experts debate the best ways to approach gender issues in schools. Aspects of the government research appear to support a push for segregated classrooms of boys and girls, especially at younger ages when their brains are the most different. But other educators and scientists cite other parts of the data to reject the idea of single-sex classrooms.

Leonard Sax, an advocate for single-sex classrooms, says, "If you're teaching 9-year-olds you need to understand that what the 9-year-old boy needs in the classroom may be very different than what the 9-year-old girl needs."

Dr. Sax, a physician and author of books on gender differences, worries that in kindergarten many boys aren't ready to learn to read the way it is usually taught—stressing sitting still and being quiet—and therefore may be turned off to school. The nonprofit National Association for Single Sex Public Education says that more than 500 public schools nationwide offer single-sex classrooms, compared with just 11 schools in 2002.

Woodward Avenue Elementary in DeLand, Fla., introduced single-sex classrooms in conjunction with educational experts at nearby Stetson University. Some differences: In the boys' classrooms, activities include tossing balls while reciting math facts, which helps turn boys on to learning, say the Stetson professors, Elizabeth Heins and Kathy Piechura-Couture. Classrooms for girls are conducted in lower tones, on the assumption that girls do better in quieter classrooms.

Torrence Broxton, the school's principal, says students in the single-sex classrooms often outperform their peers in coed rooms. He says parents rarely ask for a child to be switched out of a single-sex class.

Other education experts are concerned that single-sex curricula can reinforce gender stereotypes and don't mirror real-world circumstances. They also say scientific research doesn't support separate classrooms.

"There is much more similarity between the sexes than difference," says Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Chicago's Rosalind Franklin University who has authored a book about brain development in boys and girls. Brain differences, she says, "are real but they are small."

Dr. Eliot cites a neuro-imaging study from last year that showed the female brain has stronger neuronal connections than the male brain in certain areas, and vice versa. But in general, the study found that the male and female brains show more commonality than difference, Dr. Eliot says. The study, which looks at about 1,100 brain scans, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Giedd of the NIMH says his research also showed there are exceptions. In about 10% of the young people studied, boys' and girls' brains were more similar to the brains of the opposite sex than to others' of the same sex. Dr. Giedd says many factors can affect the rate of brain development, including the strength or weakness of testosterone receptors. Testosterone, a hormone usually associated with male traits, is present in both sexes and can help determine how quickly parts of the brain develop that account for typical male-dominated functions.

Dr. Giedd also cautions that even though boys and girls may end up by early adulthood with many parts of the brain's cortex showing similar thickness, that doesn't mean they will necessarily have similar behaviors or ability. Instead, he says other research has shown that the way the cortex develops, and not its thickness, is more important in determining such factors as a person's level of intelligence.

24439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When a Billion Chinese Jump on: March 22, 2011, 09:15:23 AM
When a Billion Chinese Jump
The dark side of China's rapid industrialisation is terrible environmental damage, claims a British journalist.

When a Billion Chinese Jump | by Jonathan Watts | Scribner | 448 pages | 2010 | US$17
ISBN: 141658076X

 The odd title of this book by the Asia environment correspondent for The Guardian, “When a Billion Chinese Jump”, comes from a warning he heard as a child. If everyone in China jumped at the same time, he was told, the shock would knock the earth off its axis and kill everyone on the planet.  You don’t have to read too far into the book before you realize that the world’s second largest economy may be killing all of us in its head-long dash to modernise with scant regard for our planet.

Jonathan Watts argues that Chinese have so deep a cultural prejudice against nature that even the central government’s efforts to protect and improve the environment are ignored.

The book is more a travelogue than a scientific tome. Watts peels the onion of environmental degradation as he journeys across China, from the village in Yunnan (which supposedly is Shangri-la in the novel “The Lost Horizon”) to the more developed and industrialized cities of the coast, to its hinterland, coal fields in Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia and the encroaching desert. He relates the environmental catastrophe through the voices of environmental activists, scientists, government officials and disenfranchised victims suffering disease and indignity.

Consider some of the following environmental crimes:

Since 1949 China has built 87,000 dams – most of them environmental catastrophes. Some Chinese and foreign seismologists have claimed that the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 occurred because one of the dams placed so much weight on a fault line that “had been relatively inactive for thousands of years”.
In 2006 some 8.6 million tonnes of untreated sewage was pumped into the South China Sea by just two provinces – Guangdong and Fujian in the country’s industrialised south.
By 2020 the volume of urban rubbish in China is expected to reach 400 million tonnes – the equivalent of the rest of the world in 1997.
Half the world’s current airborne dust comes from China.
This is scary stuff. China’s voracious appetite threatens the world.

But scarier still is that the people interviewed by Watts on his journey across China speak as though man and nature are disconnected from each other. They tend to believe that nature is something to be conquered and used, rapaciously if we wish. Even Chinese scientists seem to believe this. One of them has suggested using 200 nuclear bombs to blast a hole through the Himalayas to improve wind circulation in China.

Watts attributes this to Confucianism. This ancient philosophy privileges social harmony and the material needs of society over nature. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in 1958 started a mad rush to industrialise that trampled everything in its path and created the world’s worst man-made famine. Although China’s current development spree is by no means so catastrophic, the environment is still being trashed because Chinese are still Confucians at heart. As Watts points out, fixing the environment will require more than legislation and government edicts from Beijing; it will require a deep cultural shift.

In such an impressive book there are some disappointing lapses.

Watts fails to mention China’s belief in its own superiority. This was most evident in imperial times, but it lingers on today. Other nations are regarded as barbarians who should pay homage to China. This seems to explain why China ignores neighbouring countries when disposing of its waste. China currently seeds clouds over Beijing and Inner Mongolia (part of China) with chemicals to force it to rain on its territory, ignoring the desertification of the grasslands of independent Mongolia.

Another fault is that Watt doesn’t look into a crystal ball. For example, what will happen when water becomes even scarcer than it is today? There is already discussion in Chinese scientific and military circles about harnessing the headwaters of the Ganges and diverting them away from India and into China. Forecasting is the real jump that could shake the world to its core, is it not?

Watts sees hope for the future in a myriad of small, community level initiatives throughout the country. But China is vast and each region has gigantic problems. Thinking locally is like sticking your finger in the crack in the dam. There are just too many cracks. What is needed is a concerted effort by the Central Government to coordinate national action.

China needs a cultural shift, not from Communism to capitalism, but from Confucianism back to Taoism – an older Chinese philosophy that taught man to live in harmony with nature. And then it needs to think of itself as a citizen of the world, not as the centre of the world.

Depressingly these changes seem very distant. In the meantime, China, which has the highest per capita rates of cancer and stillborn births in the world, will continue to poison itself -- and perhaps the rest of us as well.

Constance Kong is the pen name of a Shanghai-based business consultant.

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24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Why do we let them dress like that? on: March 22, 2011, 08:16:08 AM
In the pale-turquoise ladies' room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is "skanky," that one is "really cute," and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they've got under the party lights.

But for the most part, there isn't all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.

 Today's teen and preteen girls are bombarded with images and products that tout the benefits of sexual attraction. But must we as parents, give in to their desire to "dress like everyone else?" asks author Jennifer Moses. She talks with WSJ's Kelsey Hubbard.

In a few years, their attention will turn to the annual ritual of shopping for a prom dress, and by then their fashion tastes will have advanced still more. Having done this now for two years with my own daughter, I continue to be amazed by the plunging necklines, built-in push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos. And try finding a pair of sufficiently "prommish" shoes designed with less than a 2-inch heel.

All of which brings me to a question: Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?

I posed this question to a friend whose teenage daughter goes to an all-girls private school in New York. "It isn't that different from when we were kids," she said. "The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They'll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It's almost like they're saying, 'Look how hot my daughter is.'" But why? "I think it's a bonding thing," she said. "It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there."

I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?"

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that's certainly the norm among my peers.

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.

As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they'll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: "What's the big deal?" "But it's the style." "Could you be any more out of it?" What teenage girl doesn't want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?

And what mom doesn't want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.

In recent years, of course, promiscuity has hit new heights (it always does!), with "sexting" among preteens, "hooking up" among teens and college students, and a constant stream of semi-pornography from just about every media outlet. Varied sexual experiences—the more the better—are the current social norm.

I wouldn't want us to return to the age of the corset or even of the double standard, because a double standard that lets the promiscuous male off the hook while condemning his female counterpart is both stupid and destructive. If you're the campus mattress, chances are that you need therapy more than you need condemnation.

But it's easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: "Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!" But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs.

—Jennifer Moses is the author of "Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou" and "Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom."
24441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tipping point in Yemen? on: March 22, 2011, 08:08:50 AM
SAN'A—Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is trying to salvage his 32-year rule by negotiating an exit with the towering array of opponents including key military commanders and tribal leaders demanding that he immediately step down.

Back-channel negotiations between the controversial U.S. ally and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar—a top commander who withdrew his loyalty from the president on Monday—haven't yet yielded a clear transition of power, but the political process so far has succeeded in keeping the power struggle from devolving into military conflict or civil war.

Tanks commanded by Mr. Saleh's son are deployed around the presidential palace in the capital, while tanks manned by forces loyal to Gen. Ahmar have set up nearby, as well near several sensitive government buildings, like the Central Bank, according to residents.

The prognosis of the talks remain unclear, and the threat of military conflict remains a possibility, according to officials in San'a. Saudi Arabia and Yemeni tribal leaders are involved in the negotiations, according to people familiar with the situation, but President Saleh appears to be staking out untenable terms.

His spokesman announced early Tuesday that the leader would agree to step down by the end of the year in favor of a military council taking over. An umbrella group of opposition political parties rejected a similar proposal when the president offered it last month in what appeared to be a bid to end the unceasing street protests against his continued rule.

Now, with the opposition in a stronger bartering position in the wake of the defections of key military leaders, religious figures and tribal elders, opposition leaders say they will accept nothing besides President Saleh's immediate resignation so that the country can start building a new, democratic future.

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.For the U.S., the prospect of an emerging civil war in Yemen and the possibility of losing a controversial but key ally in the war on terror has emerged as a significant national-security concern. Yemen's al Qaeda affiliate has used bases in tribal areas outside of Mr. Saleh's control to launch failed bombing attempts on U.S.-bound planes.

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Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press
A protester being carried by other demonstrators flashed the victory sign.
.Washington has encouraged Mr. Saleh to loosen the reins and adopt democratic reforms, while spending tens of millions of dollars to train his forces to aid in counterterrorism operations.

The standoff between Mr. Saleh and his opponents has opened the unsavory possibility that U.S.-trained forces could be unleashed to defend the embattled leader. The White House issued a statement saying violence in Yemen would be "unacceptable."

The Yemeni president dispatched his foreign minister to neighboring Saudi Arabia Monday to discuss the situation with the Saudi king, considered Mr. Saleh's strongest foreign benefactor. Mr. Saleh said "the majority" of the country backed him, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Saleh and Gen. Ahmar, the rebel general, exchanged messages through a mediator in efforts to broker an end to the tension, according to a Yemeni official. The official also confirmed that Saudi Arabia was involved in brokering a peaceful transition of power.

Saudi Arabia has helped prop up President Saleh for much of his three decades in power, primarily as a bulwark against extremist threats aimed at the Saudi royal family.

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Associated Press
A Yemeni army officer joined protesters demanding the resignation of Yemeni president Saleh on Monday.
.The Saudis also have been financial patrons for many Yemeni tribal figures, giving them leverage to influence how the situation plays out in San'a, according to people familiar with the situation.

The big U.S. concern about the possible ouster of Mr. Saleh is the disposition of the leader who succeeds him; such concerns have been cited by U.S. and Arab officials in explaining their support for the Yemeni president in recent years.

One scenario, if Mr. Saleh were to be removed from power, is a broken state in which terrorism flourishes; another, a tribal-based government unfriendly to the U.S.

A third outcome would be a military-backed leadership that is friendly to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni opposition activists said they were wary of a wide-ranging Saudi role in Yemen, given the conservative kingdom's own reticence to enact political reform.

Saudi Arabia also stepped in recently, against U.S. wishes, to help the Sunni royal family in Bahrain, sending troops to support the monarchy against majority Shiite protesters. That deployment was followed by an intensified Bahraini crackdown on opposition activists.

 Some members of the military in Yemen throw in their support for anti-government protesters dealing a blow to President Saleh as he clings to power. Video and image courtesy of Reuters.
.In Yemen, forces aligned against President Saleh coalesced rapidly over the past weekend in the wake of a bloody crackdown against demonstrators who had been camped out in San'a for weeks demanding political overhauls and the resignation of the leader.

Plainclothes gunmen set up on rooftops overlooking the plaza filled with protesters shot and killed more than 50 people and wounded dozens more, according to doctors and witnesses.

The attack catalyzed an anemic protest movement led by opposition parties with unproven grass-roots support and youth activists whose reach didn't venture far from the capital.

By the weekend, leaders of the nation's largest tribes, including Mr. Saleh's own, came out against the president.

On Sunday, Mr. Saleh sacked his government in a bid to assuage criticism of his rule, and state television announced that an investigation into Friday's shooting. The government said it had arrested 16 suspected gunmen.

On Monday, many of the country's elite who hadn't yet taken sides in the dispute declared their loyalties in favor of the protest movement.

Gen. Ahmar, the rebel military commander, served with President Saleh for more than 30 years and was considered one of his closest confidantes.

He was joined by at least four other generals, while local media reported the defections of at least one dozen other officers from the standing army as well as at least one governor and one mayor.

"The crisis is getting more complicated and it's pushing the country toward violence and civil war," Gen. Ahmar—who commands an armored infantry division—said in a statement broadcast by al-Jazeera.

Yemen's defense minister, Nasser Ahmed, spoke on state television Monday evening saying the army still supported the president and would defend him against any "coup against democracy."

It is unclear if Gen. Ahmar's military division has received any U.S. military assistance; much of U.S. aid has been channeled to units under the command of Mr. Saleh's son and nephews.

Mr. Saleh, 66 years old, has been an on-and-off ally of the U.S. in the campaign against al Qaeda. U.S. officials have said the political upheaval has made it difficult for the U.S. to resume airstrikes in Yemen, which were halted in May. Pentagon officials said they were closely following events, which U.S. officials described as "fluid."

"No one in their right mind would predict what might happen in a place like Yemen, but it's true that Saleh's political support has eroded in recent weeks, including inside the Yemeni government," a U.S. official said.

A senior U.S. military official said the chance of Mr. Saleh surviving was less than 50%.

24442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT (POTH) Bahrain on: March 22, 2011, 07:59:06 AM
MANAMA, Bahrain — When Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement began its demonstrations in Pearl Square last month, Atif Abdulmalik was supportive. An American-educated investment banker and a member of the Sunni Muslim elite, he favored a constitutional monarchy and increasing opportunities and support for the poorer Shiite majority.

But in the past week or two, the nature of the protest shifted — and so did any hope that demands for change would cross sectarian lines and unite Bahrainis in a cohesive democracy movement. The mainly Shiite demonstrators moved beyond Pearl Square, taking over areas leading to the financial and diplomatic districts of the capital. They closed off streets with makeshift roadblocks and shouted slogans calling for the death of the royal family.
“Twenty-five percent of Bahrain’s G.D.P. comes from banks,” Mr. Abdulmalik said as he sat in the soft Persian Gulf sunshine. “I sympathize with many of the demands of the demonstrators. But no country would allow the takeover of its financial district. The economic future of the country was at stake. What happened this week, as sad as it is, is good.”

To many around the world, the events of the past week — the arrival of 2,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and other neighbors, the declaration of martial law, the forceful clearing out of Pearl Square, the military takeover of the main hospital and then the spiteful tearing down of the Pearl monument itself — seem like the brutal work of a desperate autocracy.

But for Sunnis, who make up about a third of the country’s citizenry but hold the main levers of power, it was the only choice of a country facing a rising tide of chaos that imperiled its livelihood and future.

“How can we have a dialogue when they are threatening us?” Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the foreign minister and a member of the royal family, asked Friday night at a news conference.

On Sunday, Bahrain was returning to a level of normality, with schools restarting, traffic returning and shops reopening. Indeed, in an overnight report posted on the official Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said that a “fomented subversive plot,” brewing for 20 or 30 years, had failed.

But many Shiites stayed home from work in protest of recent events, some checkpoints and curfews remained and a sense of political paralysis prevailed. No political dialogue seemed likely soon.

For government supporters here, it was the way protesters blocked the financial district that was especially worrisome. They say they worry mostly about what happened to Lebanon. Beirut was once the financial capital of the Middle East. Then sectarian tensions among Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze, exacerbated by meddling of foreign powers, broke out in the mid-1970s, leading to civil war.

Not only did the country tear out its own heart, the financial business there pulled out and never returned. Today, much of that business is here in Bahrain. Downtown Manama has mushroomed. Bahrainis worry that if Sunni-Shiite sectarianism grows out of control, the financial business will again pick up stakes and move to the waiting competitors, Dubai and Qatar.

Urgent measures were therefore needed, the government’s defenders say, and they are grateful they were taken. The demonstrators, they argue, had allowed their cause to be taken over by hard-liners inspired by — or linked to — Iran.

No evidence of such links has been presented, and Shiite leaders here deny that they are doing Iran’s bidding. Still, the walls of some Shiite mosques in Bahrain bear portraits of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah spiritual figures, and ties to Iran run deep among many Shiites in the country.

The takeover of Salmaniya Hospital by the military especially shocked the world. But Hala Mohammed is a Sunni doctor at the hospital and said that in recent weeks it had turned into a mini-Pearl Square with tents and radical posters.

“The doctors who supported the protesters were suddenly issuing decrees on behalf of the entire medical community,” she said. “They had politicized a medical institution. The government didn’t occupy it, it freed it and I am grateful.”

Rana Abdulaal said that many Sunnis like herself had felt imprisoned in their homes for the past month. She said she expected the Shiite opposition to accept offers to begin a dialogue with the government, but it instead refused to join one. “If the government had not acted, there would have been a civil war,” she said, with Sunnis marching on Pearl Square.


Page 2 of 2)

What also troubles Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker, is the way in which Bahrain has been grouped recently in discussions abroad with Libya and Yemen. The elite here think of their country as more like the Persian Gulf’s version of Singapore — a liberal, sophisticated place that is culturally far more open than its neighbors.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Abdulmalik led two visitors around Muharraq, the original capital of Bahrain, a warren of lovely alleys and 200-year-old homes being gracefully restored as museums and cultural spaces, because his company supports these projects. By chance, the country’s culture minister, Sheika Mai bint Mohammed al-Khalifa, was at one of the houses.
Ms. Khalifa wears her shoulder-length hair uncovered and was in trousers and sneakers in the Abdullah Al Zayed House, the home of the first newspaper publisher in the gulf, being restored by her foundation.

“Bahrain has always been open, and we don’t want to see it turned into another Iran,” Ms. Khalifa said. In the nearby cultural center her foundation runs, philosophers, poets and thinkers from around the world have taken part in a weekly lecture program. But the program and others like it have ground to a halt because of the recent troubles; a large meeting that Bahrain was planning to host has been suddenly moved to Paris.

Much of the push for democratic reform here, as elsewhere in the region, has come from economic hard times. Bahraini supporters of the government note that in this country there is free education, free medical care, heavily subsidized housing as well as no taxes. Budgetary troubles meant home construction was delayed, pushing some of the poor to join the demonstrations.

“The last few years were very difficult because of the financial crisis,” said Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker. “But that crisis was not so bad because we were dealing with facts. In the last month, we have been dealing with emotions. I told the demonstrators, ‘This country is developing, and you will stifle it.’ Something had to be done, and it was.”
24443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor's Friedman: Libya, the West, and the Narrative of Democracy on: March 22, 2011, 07:50:00 AM
Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy
March 21, 2011

By George Friedman

Forces from the United States and some European countries have intervened in Libya. Under U.N. authorization, they have imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, meaning they will shoot down any Libyan aircraft that attempts to fly within Libya. In addition, they have conducted attacks against aircraft on the ground, airfields, air defenses and the command, control and communication systems of the Libyan government, and French and U.S. aircraft have struck against Libyan armor and ground forces. There also are reports of European and Egyptian special operations forces deploying in eastern Libya, where the opposition to the government is centered, particularly around the city of Benghazi. In effect, the intervention of this alliance has been against the government of Moammar Gadhafi, and by extension, in favor of his opponents in the east.

The alliance’s full intention is not clear, nor is it clear that the allies are of one mind. The U.N. Security Council resolution clearly authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone. By extension, this logically authorizes strikes against airfields and related targets. Very broadly, it also defines the mission of the intervention as protecting civilian lives. As such, it does not specifically prohibit the presence of ground forces, though it does clearly state that no “foreign occupation force” shall be permitted on Libyan soil. It can be assumed they intended that forces could intervene in Libya but could not remain in Libya after the intervention. What this means in practice is less than clear.

There is no question that the intervention is designed to protect Gadhafi’s enemies from his forces. Gadhafi had threatened to attack “without mercy” and had mounted a sustained eastward assault that the rebels proved incapable of slowing. Before the intervention, the vanguard of his forces was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The protection of the eastern rebels from Gadhafi’s vengeance coupled with attacks on facilities under Gadhafi’s control logically leads to the conclusion that the alliance wants regime change, that it wants to replace the Gadhafi government with one led by the rebels.

But that would be too much like the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations and the alliance haven’t gone that far in their rhetoric, regardless of the logic of their actions. Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.

The Regional Context

To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.

Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.

Consider also Bahrain. Clearly, the majority of the population is Shiite, and resentment toward the Sunni government is apparent. It should be assumed that the protesters want to dramatically increase Shiite power, and elections should do the trick. Whether they want to create a liberal democracy fully aligned with the U.N. doctrines on human rights is somewhat more problematic.

Egypt is a complicated country, and any simple statement about what is going on is going to be wrong. Bahrain is somewhat less complex, but the same holds there. The idea that opposition to the government means support for liberal democracy is a tremendous stretch in all cases — and the idea that what the demonstrators say they want on camera is what they actually want is problematic. Even more problematic in many cases is the idea that the demonstrators in the streets simply represent a universal popular will.

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles. Leaving aside whether the narrative is accurate, reconciling these two principles is not easy — but it particularly appeals to Europeans with their ideological preference for “soft power.”

The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue. In the narrative being told, Libya was no longer an isolated tyranny but part of a widespread rising — and the one in which the West’s moral integrity was being tested in the extreme. Now was different from before.

Of course, as with other countries, there was a massive divergence between the narrative and what actually happened. Certainly, that there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt caused opponents of Gadhafi to think about opportunities, and the apparent ease of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings gave them some degree of confidence. But it would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely.

The Libyan Uprising

As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.

According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.

This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.

As Gadhafi closed in on Benghazi, the narrative shifted from the triumph of the democratic masses to the need to protect them from Gadhafi — hence the urgent calls for airstrikes. But this was tempered by reluctance to act decisively by landing troops, engaging the Libyan army and handing power to the rebels: Imperialism had to be avoided by doing the least possible to protect the rebels while arming them to defeat Gadhafi. Armed and trained by the West, provided with command of the air by the foreign air forces — this was the arbitrary line over which the new government keeps from being a Western puppet. It still seems a bit over the line, but that’s how the story goes.

In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues between them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine. They remind me of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, anointed by the Americans, distrusted by much of the country and supported by a fractious coalition.

Other Factors

There are other factors involved, of course. Italy has an interest in Libyan oil, and the United Kingdom was looking for access to the same. But just as Gadhafi was happy to sell the oil, so would any successor regime be; this war was not necessary to guarantee access to oil. NATO politics also played a role. The Germans refused to go with this operation, and that drove the French closer to the Americans and British. There is the Arab League, which supported a no-fly zone (though it did an about-face when it found out that a no-fly zone included bombing things) and offered the opportunity to work with the Arab world.

But it would be a mistake to assume that these passing interests took precedence over the ideological narrative, the genuine belief that it was possible to thread the needle between humanitarianism and imperialism — that it was possible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds without thereby interfering in the internal affairs of the country. The belief that one can take recourse to war to save the lives of the innocent without, in the course of that war, taking even more lives of innocents, also was in play.

The comparison to Iraq is obvious. Both countries had a monstrous dictator. Both were subjected to no-fly zones. The no-fly zones don’t deter the dictator. In due course, this evolves into a massive intervention in which the government is overthrown and the opposition goes into an internal civil war while simultaneously attacking the invaders. Of course, alternatively, this might play out like the Kosovo war, where a few months of bombing saw the government surrender the province. But in that case, only a province was in play. In this case, although focused ostensibly on the east, Gadhafi in effect is being asked to give up everything, and the same with his supporters — a harder business.

In my view, waging war to pursue the national interest is on rare occasion necessary. Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground. In this intervention, the ideology is not crystal clear, torn as it is between the concept of self-determination and the obligation to intervene to protect the favored faction. The reality on the ground is even less clear. The reality of democratic uprisings in the Arab world is much more complicated than the narrative makes it out to be, and the application of the narrative to Libya simply breaks down. There is unrest, but unrest comes in many sizes, democratic being only one.

Whenever you intervene in a country, whatever your intentions, you are intervening on someone’s side. In this case, the United States, France and Britain are intervening in favor of a poorly defined group of mutually hostile and suspicious tribes and factions that have failed to coalesce, at least so far, into a meaningful military force. The intervention may well succeed. The question is whether the outcome will create a morally superior nation. It is said that there can’t be anything worse than Gadhafi. But Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years because he was simply a dictator using force against innocents, but rather because he speaks to a real and powerful dimension of Libya.

24444  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC/MMA Thread on: March 22, 2011, 07:28:11 AM
Thank you.

24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria on: March 22, 2011, 07:26:30 AM
Every Arab country is unhappy in its own way, and it turns out Syria is no different. A wave of protests the past four days, starting in the city of Deraa on Friday and spreading, makes Iran's chief Arab ally a latecomer to the spring of Muslim discontent.

The unrest has taken Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. foreign policy establishment by surprise. Syria was supposedly immune to Arab contagion. Earlier this month, Foreign Affairs magazine published "The Sturdy House That Assad Built," arguing that the Arab wave would not only "pass Syria by" but see Damascus "relatively strengthened" by the collapse of Egypt and other pro-American regimes. The West, urged German political scientist Michael Bröning, better think of new and better ways to "engage Assad."

The Obama Administration had already embraced this policy. The White House put an ambassador back in Damascus charged with pursuing a new detente. John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi have pushed the same line. The demonstrations and the Assad regime's bloody crackdown ought to give the champions of engagement pause. It turns out Syria's young and underemployed are no less frustrated with corruption and repression than are their peers from Tunis to Tehran.

Syria only looked "sturdy" until its people pushed on the doors of the house of Assad. Trouble started after hundreds of people in Deraa marched peacefully to protest the jailing of 15 schoolchildren who had written antiregime graffiti. Security forces opened fire, killing at least four. Protests continued through the funerals of the men killed. The offices of the ruling Baath Party in Deraa and vehicles were torched. Thousands yesterday marched in the nearby towns of Jasim and Inhkil. Demonstrations have also been reported in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.

Like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Syria's regime isn't squeamish about using force against domestic opponents. Bashar Assad's kinder and gentler father, Hafez, ordered the massacre of 20,000 or so people during the 1982 uprising in the town of Hama. His son's allies in Iran certainly won't complain if Hama rules are applied in Deraa.

The U.S. national interest in this season of Arab uprisings is to have anti-American regimes fall while helping pro-American regimes to reform in a more liberal (in the 19th-century meaning of that word) direction. Rather than waste effort wooing Assad, the U.S. should support his domestic opponents at every opportunity. A weaker Syria might cause less trouble in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah, and be less able to spread weapons and terror throughout the Mideast. Even bloody-minded authoritarians are less sturdy than they look to Westerners who mistake fear and order for consent.

24446  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: March 21, 2011, 10:03:18 PM
Woof Sisco:

It would be great to have your there.  cool
24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq in Brazil on: March 21, 2011, 01:30:59 PM
President Obama's trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador this week, while war rages in Libya, has been sharply criticized as proof of dangerous detachment from a world that badly needs U.S. leadership.

Yet there is a case to be made for going—to Brazil anyway. Arguably Santiago and San Salvador could have been postponed. Chile is already a stable ally and the stop in El Salvador, to mouth platitudes about hemispheric security while Central America is going up in narco-trafficking flames, only highlights the futility of the U.S. war on drugs.

Going to Brasilia to meet with Workers' Party President Dilma Rousseff on Saturday, on the other hand, was important.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama discredited his trip even before it began by peddling it as a trade mission to create jobs and boost the U.S. economy. With those goals in mind, he would have been better off staying home and lobbying Congress to drop the 54 cents per gallon tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol, and to end all U.S. subsidies on cotton, which have been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization in a case brought by Brazil. Or he could have sent the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where they would be easily ratified.

Let's face it: Mr. Obama's reputation as a protectionist precedes him. If he believes otherwise, our silver-tongued president has a tin ear.

As to the good reason for such a trip, consider the shared geopolitical interests between the U.S. and the biggest democracy in Latin America. Although former President Lula da Silva, also from the Workers' Party, did almost nothing to deregulate a mostly unfree economy over his eight years in office, he did manage to respect the central bank reforms carried out by his predecessor, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. As a result, after decades of inflationary chaos caused by central bank financing of government deficits, Brazil has now had vastly improved price stability for more than a decade. Ending the cycle of repeated devaluations is enabling the formation of a substantial middle class, and it is shaping a nation that increasingly wants to be part of the modern, global economy.

Millions of Brazilians climbing out of poverty is something to celebrate. But it is troubling when the leadership of a formerly isolated sleeping giant announces that it seeks alliances with tyrants. That's what was happening during Lula's time in office.

Lula had a thing for thugs. Given his roots in the left-wing labor movement, his soft spot for Cuba's Fidel Castro was understandable. But his decision to act as a flack for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the world stage was not. Fortunately, it was ineffective. On the other hand, his support for Hugo Chávez—who is antidemocratic at home and supports Colombian terrorists beyond his borders—damaged multilateral efforts to contain the Venezuelan menace.

Now Ms. Rousseff wants to shape a new foreign policy that, while far from aligning itself with the U.S., is not so likely to actively pursue dictators and authoritarians. The U.S. should nurture this effort. In the struggle for hemispheric stability, Brazil is a crucial player.

As president, Ms. Rousseff, who was once a member of a Marxist guerrilla group, was expected to be further to the ideological left than her predecessor and just as dangerously populist. But so far she has proven pragmatic. Whereas the charismatic Lula was fond of the limelight, she keeps a low profile. When she does speak, she is serious and measured. Lula complained loudly about media criticism and wanted to clamp down on press freedom. Ms. Rousseff has rejected the idea.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.It is an old Brazilian tradition to reserve the foreign ministry for the country's crackpot left. That and the time-tested Brazilian ambition to defeat U.S. hegemony in the region is one way to explain the support for despots under Lula. Brazil also has valuable commercial contracts in Venezuela. But Ms. Rousseff seems to have decided that Lula's approach was counterproductive, especially to Brazil's goal of winning a permanent seat on the U.N.'s Security Council.

Shortly after she won the election runoff last Oct. 31, she began criticizing the human rights records of Iran and Cuba, something Lula never had the courage to do. Another important, though subtle, signal is the way in which Ms. Rousseff seems to be distancing herself from Mr. Chávez and his cohorts.

If Brazil is seeking rapprochement with the U.S., it is a welcome development for the entire hemisphere. As an ally on the fundamentals, like opposition to torture in Cuban jails, Brazil could be part of a long-awaited regional push to denounce human rights abuses. It might also come in handy next year when Venezuela holds presidential elections. Mr. Chávez has said that even if he loses, he won't step down, and the commander of the army has agreed.

That could make for a situation not unlike what is unfolding in Libya today. If the U.S. and Brazil are singing from the same hymn book, it will help. It's only too bad the commander in chief who was starting a war didn't have the good sense to return home after the meeting in Brasilia.

24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No doubt our Pat will have a different take on this data ;-) on: March 21, 2011, 01:00:27 PM
Existing home sales fell 9.6% in February To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 3/21/2011

Existing home sales fell 9.6% in February to an annual rate of 4.88 million, well below the consensus expected pace of 5.11 million. Existing home sales are down 2.8% versus a year ago.

Sales in February were down in all major regions of the country. Sales declined for both single-family homes and condos/coops.
The median price of an existing home fell to $156,100 in February (not seasonally adjusted), and is down 5.2% versus a year ago. Average prices are down 2.7% versus last year.
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) rose to 8.6 from 7.5 in January. The increase in the months’ supply was mostly due to the slower selling pace. Inventories also increased slightly.
Implications: Existing home sales pulled back in February, after increasing substantially in the past three months.  Despite overall economic improvement – including higher wages and more private-sector jobs – credit conditions remain a major headwind for home sales. Anyone who has taken out a mortgage lately knows the lending process can be brutal, even for those willing and able to make a down-payment of 20%. By contrast, rental vacancies are falling fast. We are not concerned about the small rise in inventories in February. Inventories normally rise in February, as the spring selling season approaches, and are still down 1.2% compared to a year ago. Although the data will zig and zag from month to month, we expect the sales of existing homes to eventually reach the long-term trend of 5.5 million units annually.  With housing affordability at the highest level in at least 40 years, the market for homes is poised to improve.
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Australian Bullying Case on: March 21, 2011, 12:54:27 PM
Here is the original clip:

and here is the follow up
24450  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Follow up on bully comeuppance on: March 21, 2011, 12:53:01 PM
Thank you for that.

Very glad to see that young man get the support he deserves!
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