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24451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MCain-omics on: April 16, 2008, 10:16:26 AM
McCain-omics
April 16, 2008; Page A18
John McCain gave his big economic speech in Pittsburgh Tuesday, and many of the policies he proposed are laudable – the highlight being an optional flat tax for individuals. The weakness – especially heading into a general election amid a struggling economy – is that his pudding still has no theme.

Being able to provide a guiding economic narrative is not just a matter of having a catchy soundbite, a la the "ownership society." It's essential for two reasons. First, it offers voters an explanation of how we got to the current moment, which means why the economy is struggling. The two Democrats already have their story: The 1990s were a golden age for the middle class that has been ruined by Republican tax cuts that rewarded only rich lenders and speculators. Mr. McCain needs a different policy narrative.

 
AP 
John McCain
Second, a guiding philosophy shows voters that future decisions will be made according to a set of principles they can understand. Example: A month ago, Mr. McCain gave a speech saying it wasn't the government's obligation to rescue those who took out loans they couldn't afford. Then last week he, ahem, supplemented that view by supporting an FHA-guaranteed loan-restructuring program in what looked to be a bid to compete with Democrats in the housing bailout auction.

Without some guiding principles, voters are left to wonder whether Mr. McCain's next lurch will be to the populist left, where his instincts sometimes run, or to the fiscally conservative right, where he is also sometimes found.

True to form, yesterday's speech offered support for both McCains. On the pro-growth side, he spoke out strongly for tax reform and endorsed the specific idea of an optional flat tax. "We are going to create a new and simpler tax system – and give the American people a choice," he said. Tax reform is precisely the kind of big domestic proposal that will let him plausibly campaign as the real agent of "change." And by making it optional, he can deflect Democratic claims that he'll rob Americans of their tax deductions.

We were also glad to see Mr. McCain repeat his proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% from its current 35%. This is a competitive necessity, as the rest of the world marches its way down the corporate Laffer Curve. The U.S. now has the second highest corporate tax rate in the developed world – after Japan – and every CEO we talk to says the punitive U.S. rate is one reason so much investment is being made overseas.

The Senator also took a hard line on spending, saying "we need to make a clean break from the worst excesses of both political parties." And he put some specific ideas behind it: A promise to veto any bill with earmarks, and a "one-year pause in discretionary spending increases," except for defense and veterans. You can already hear the squealing on both of those from Capitol Hill, where spending increases have long been automatic and earmarks are nearly a matter of natural right. This attack on spending is credible given Mr. McCain's voting record, and it will serve as a contrast with either Democratic candidate, who will be promising vast new spending programs.

Less credible is Mr. McCain's call for Washington to suspend the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day to help consumers hit by high oil prices. There are few tax cuts we don't like, but this one smacks of poll-driven gimmickry. If Mr. McCain wants to cut the price of gasoline, he should tell the Federal Reserve to stop fueling the commodity boom by cutting interest rates.

Mr. McCain had almost nothing to say about prices and inflation, yet both are among the major concerns of voters in the polls. Like most of today's politicians, he seems to see gasoline prices only through the prism of energy policy. But the single major cause of the recent oil and gas price spike is monetary policy. Mr. McCain needs to find a way to tell voters, as Ronald Reagan did, that inflation is the great thief of the middle class and that he wants a Federal Reserve that will protect the value of the dollar and personal thrift.

Which brings us back to the matter of an agenda without a theme. To win in November, Mr. McCain is going to have to do more than mimic the Democrats by blaming the housing bust on greedy lenders and rich Wall Street CEOs. If voters believe that narrative, they'll elect a President Obama. He needs to be the tribune of the middle-class family that pays its bills and didn't gamble on property.

He'll also need to say more than that Democrats will raise taxes while he will cut them. He needs to explain to voters why low tax rates are vital in an increasingly competitive world; why they can help revive growth at home; and why growth and economic security go hand in hand with national security.

In yesterday's speech, Mr. McCain tried to show voters he feels their pain. What they need and want to hear is a speech that shows that he understands and is willing to fight for the policies that produce prosperity.

WSJ
24452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Al-Sadr Problem on: April 16, 2008, 12:28:32 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran’s al-Sadrite Problem
April 16, 2008
Stratfor
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that differences have surfaced between the U.S. and Iraqi governments on how to deal with radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

While Shia-dominated Baghdad had assumed a far tougher attitude towards al-Sadr — wanting to eliminate him as a political force altogether — Washington is seeking to accommodate the Shiite leader in the political process.

Meanwhile, as the Americans and the Iraqis figure out what to do with al-Sadr, the Iranians have their own set of problems with his movement. Iran enjoys a significant amount of influence over al-Sadr, giving the country the ability to rein him in, especially on several recent occasions. But the relationship between Iran and the maverick cleric-to-be is both complex and problematic. While the Iranians are providing al-Sadr with the opportunity to establish his clerical credentials by allowing him to pursue his studies in their seminary city of Qom, they have also used punitive tools to keep him in line.

One tool includes a murder case filed in an Iranian court against al-Sadr by the family of Ayatollah Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, an assassinated Iraqi Shiite cleric, according to an April 10 report in the UK-based Saudi news website Elaph. Al-Khoei was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Najaf in April 2003 when he returned from exile in London following the toppling of the Baathist regime. The murder victim was the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, an internationally renowned Iraqi Shiite cleric and the mentor of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Initially, the cleric’s family filed a case with Iraqi authorities blaming al-Sadr along with 27 other individuals for the murder. Although a judge issued an arrest warrant for al-Sadr, it was never executed. Overall, U.S. and Iraqi authorities did not pursue the matter. They decided to back off given the power of his Medhi Army militia and Iraq’s unstable political situation.

Frustrated with the situation, al-Khoei’s family decided to take the matter to the Iranians. The case was brought to the attention of a special court established by the Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that is designed to prosecute clerics who violate the law. It seems the case has stalled there. Although it has not been pursued, it also had not been dismissed.

Given certain jurisdictional issues, the Iranians cannot technically prosecute al-Sadr since he is neither an Iranian national nor a cleric. Furthermore, al-Khoei’s family members are ideological rivals to the Iranians. In fact, Tehran views them as U.S. lackeys and has reveled in seeing them suffer setbacks.

However, the lingering case still provides the Iranians with a handy method of keeping al-Sadr in check and managing his ability to upset its plans for Iraq. But the power of the Iranians to intimidate al-Sadr only extends so far, given his large following among the Iraqi Shia. Iranians have no interest in jeopardizing the relationships they have spent the last five years cultivating with the al-Sadrites. But that does not diminish the strong opposition many Iranians feel toward al-Sadr.

Tehran has long viewed al-Sadr as a political wildcard who can never be completely tamed. Recently, his willfulness was demonstrated in a March 29 interview with al-Jazeera in which he recalled a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I told him that we share the same ideology, but that politically and militarily, I would not be an extension of Iran, and that there were negative things that Iran was doing in Iraq,” al-Sadr reportedly said in the interview. “I mentioned to him a few things that Iran needs to rectify with regard to Iraq. Iran committed mistakes that it should not have made.”

Whether or not al-Sadr actually said this to Khamenei matters little, but the claims — made on an international television station — have still caused a significant stir within Iran. In fact, many senior Iranian officials have publicly criticized al-Sadr. Those critics include Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, who is seen as the main challenger to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in next year’s presidential election. Another power critic includes Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the Expediency Council and the former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This situation is being watched closely by Saudi Arabia, which is eager to counter an emerging Iran by exploiting intra-Shia rifts. This position could explain why news of the impending murder case was reported by a Saudi media group while it has received little publicity elsewhere. The Saudis realize problems between Iran and Iraqi Shia, hamper Iran’s ability to threaten their national security. Therein lies al-Sadr’s ability to serve as a potential arrestor to Iranian ambitions in Iraq and the region.

The Saudis are not the only ones happy to see the wrangling between al-Sadr and Iran. The United States, engaged in multiple complex dealings with Iraqi factions in order to block Iran’s path towards regional dominance, would also like to see as many obstacles in the path of Iran as possible. While it continues to create a bulwark among Iraq’s Sunnis, Washington can certainly benefit from a Shiite thorn in Iran’s side and recent comments from top U.S. officials have almost rallied behind al-Sadr.

Last week in fact, al-Sadr was described as “a significant political figure,” by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates who added that the United States wanted the Shiite leader to work within the political process. Additionally Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Iraq, called the al-Sadrite movement a major force that should be accommodated to varying degrees.

Politicking aside, it is unlikely that Washington can align with al-Sadr, given his radical Islamist ideology and anti-occupation nationalist stance although an understanding could develop. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that al-Sadr is proving to be a problem for Iran and his influence could play a key role in preventing the Iranians from dominating Iraq in the long run.

Click Here to Send Stratfor Your Comments
24453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brigitte Bardot on: April 15, 2008, 04:51:51 PM

http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSL1584799120080415?feedType=RSS&feedName=entert ainmentNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Brigitte Bardot on trial for Muslim slur

PARIS (Reuters) - French former film star Brigitte Bardot went on trial on Tuesday for insulting Muslims, the fifth time she has faced the charge of "inciting racial hatred" over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers.
Prosecutors asked that the Paris court hand the 73-year-old former sex symbol a two-month suspended prison sentence and fine her 15,000 euros ($23,760) for saying the Muslim community was "destroying our country and imposing its acts".
Since retiring from the film industry in the 1970s, Bardot has become a prominent animal rights activist but she has also courted controversy by denouncing Muslim traditions and immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.
She has been fined four times for inciting racial hatred since 1997, at first 1,500 euros and most recently 5,000.
Prosecutor Anne de Fontette told the court she was seeking a tougher sentence than usual, adding: "I am a little tired of prosecuting Mrs Bardot."
Bardot did not attend the trial because she said she was physically unable to. The verdict is expected in several weeks.
French anti-racist groups complained last year about comments Bardot made about the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha in a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy that was later published by her foundation.
Muslims traditionally mark Eid al-Adha by slaughtering a sheep or another animal to commemorate the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on God's orders.
France is home to 5 million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim community, making up 8 percent of France's population.
"I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its acts," the star of 'And God created woman' and 'Contempt' said.
Bardot has previously said France is being invaded by sheep-slaughtering Muslims and published a book attacking gays, immigrants and the unemployed, in which she also lamented the "Islamisation of France".
24454  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mya 3-4: Guro Crafty Dog at Manassas VA on: April 15, 2008, 01:43:42 PM
Dino and Ashley, who are getting ready for the August Gathering, have asked me to focus on Stickfighting.  I told them I though I could handle that. wink
24455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cyberwar and American Freedom on: April 15, 2008, 12:30:48 PM
We kick off this thread with a piece by the ever thoughtful Stratfor.com

Cyberwarfare 101: The Internet Is Mightier Than the Sword
Stratfor Today » April 15, 2008 | 1347 GMT
Summary
To say that the Internet is growing in importance these days is an understatement. It is perhaps less obvious to most people that cyberspace is also becoming weaponized. In addition to being a revolutionary medium of communication, the Internet also offers a devastating means of waging war. Understanding the evolution of the Internet is key to understanding the future and effectiveness of cyberwarfare.

Analysis

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of analyses on the emergence of cyberspace as battlespace. The series will be ongoing, with the initial pieces serving as a kind of primer on the Internet. Subsequent analyses will look at specific ways nations are dealing with the growing threat of cyberwar and its military, economic and geopolitical ramifications.

Related Special Topic Page
Cyberwarfare
Related Links
Cyberwarfare: A Glossary of Useful Terms
A Brief History

Although cyberspace has already established itself as a new medium for all manner of human interactions, its pervasive growth presents profound implications for geopolitical security. Nations, organizations and individuals alike are relying more and more on the Internet in unprecedented ways. This growing dependency entails vulnerability, which is one reason the Internet was created in the first place.

Older than many people might think, the Internet began in the 1950s as a group of primitive networks designed to share research data inside and among academic institutions (notably the RAND Corp.) and air surveillance data between military radar installations (notably the U.S. Semi-Automatic Ground Environment). The former use was based on the need for researchers across the country to access the few really powerful research computers operating at the time. The latter use was an outgrowth of the Soviet Union’s newfound intercontinental reach: the Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber, a large swept-wing four-engine turboprop that began operations in the mid 1950s with a combat radius in excess of 4,500 miles.

(click to view timeline)

The Soviets’ 1957 Sputnik launch spooked the Americans even more. Terrified that it had fallen behind Russia in science and technology, the United States scrambled to catch up. This effort involved, among other things, creation of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Later “Defense” would be tacked on to the agency’s name to create DARPA (which still exists today). One of ARPA’s early creations was ARPAnet, one of the seminal precursors to the Internet. ARPAnet’s design would be informed by a government-funded RAND study that advocated for a distributed network architecture that could survive — at least in part — a nuclear attack. While progress in developing the network was initially slow, by the 1980s, improvements in programming, technology and infrastructure — combined with increasingly accessible connections and affordable personal computers — were quickly cascading into what would become the Internet as we know it today.

Along the way, the challenges evolved. Technical hurdles early on were all about making the connections work (developing protocols, perfecting packet-switching, etc). It was only in the 1990s that the World Wide Web architecture we know today really took off. While the rapid growth of the Internet (numbers of users, the power or processors, connection speeds) continues apace, the nature of its growth is becoming increasingly organic, as users explore what is possible within connections that already exist.

The Nature of the Internet

The Internet itself is a fairly neutral environment: It is defined, more than anything, by its individual users, who create virtual extensions of themselves, their ideologies and their societies. In many ways, creating human connections is what the Internet is all about. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow Internet users to connect with disparate individuals and groups around the world. Connectivity outside of centralized Web sites is also growing rapidly; simply having a connection to the Internet potentially allows one person to interact with every other Internet user.

This has profound implications for both groups and individuals. The Internet can be a powerful facilitator of mass “grassroots” movements that can become forces to reckon with in everything from presidential elections to transnational radical Islamism. Just as the Internet allows Beijing to monitor and disseminate its views to users across China, those users — and expatriates abroad — can use the very same system to coordinate campaigns to undermine Beijing’s efforts. Indeed, the global Internet may be one of the greatest threats to the Communist central government. The accessibility of information on the Internet also allows a single user to learn from the conglomerated lessons of many. This can manifest itself in powerful new online research tools. It can just as easily be found on YouTube, a video hosting Web site where budding hackers can learn the tricks of the trade.

Ultimately, this sort of utility translates into a structural vulnerability that will only increase as the Internet further evolves. As it becomes ever more critical in everyday life, the Internet is likely to be exploited by groups and governments to achieve their strategic goals. This dynamic is the keystone of cyberwarfare.

Cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare is a broad category. For our purposes here, we are using the term to encompass significant geopolitical conflict in cyberspace usually involving at least one nation-state or its critical infrastructure. Cyberwarfare can be a principal avenue for attack in and of itself or it can be used in a supporting manner, to aid operations in other domains. Cyberwarfare has five noteworthy characteristics:

It provides an extremely dynamic and utterly new battlespace.
It makes range obsolete.
Its operations are typically decentralized and anonymous.
It places great importance on the offense.
It has low entry costs and can give great power to the individual user of the Internet.

Although the word “cyber” suggests “virtual,” or not existing in actual fact or form, cyberspace does have its physical aspects — e.g., computers, servers, fiber-optic cables, network switches and, most important, the connections that make the Internet global, like the immense undersea cable network that stretches around the world. While one of these cables may run from New Jersey to Cornwall, the transmission of data can take place almost instantaneously. U.S. military dominance of the globe rests in no small part on its unparalleled and unprecedented ability to sustain complex logistical links around the globe. In cyberwarfare, the only link the warrior needs to worry about is his or her connection to the global network. Some countries admittedly are far more connected than others. This makes their connections redundant and, generally, they enjoy broader bandwidth. But it also makes them more accessible to those with malicious intent.

Because cyberspace makes range obsolete, an attacker can muster resources from all over the world and bring them to bear in an instant, often with little that could serve as an early warning amid the clutter of day-to-day Internet traffic. The Pentagon alone defends against hundreds — sometimes thousands — of such attacks each day, several of which succeed at some level in penetrating the network. While this clearly demonstrates that a mature network security system can stand up to a great deal of punishment, it takes time to recognize and react to a coordinated and comprehensive attack. Such an attack may come from thousands of remotely controlled computers from around the world and be well under way before a coherent response can be mounted. And none of the computers directly involved in such an attack necessarily has to belong to the attacker. One of the early purposes of computer networking was to share computers as a resource. Malicious hackers have learned how to do much the same thing by infecting and hijacking other computers, unbeknownst to their owners, in order to harness and redirect their processing power.

As interconnected as the Internet is — and with broadband connections and powerful personal computers increasingly affordable — the greatest limitation to the use of the Internet in cyberwarfare may be individual experience and skill. As we continue our look at cyberwarfare, we will focus first not on the amalgamated resources of a national actor but on the innumerable discrete actors that populate cyberspace.

Next: Black Hats, White Hats, Crackers and Bots

24456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: April 15, 2008, 12:19:03 PM
-- John Fund

White House, Green House

Our sources in the White House confirm recent news reports that President Bush is now poised to join the global warming brigades. The administration is motivated by two political developments. First, it believes the courts will soon command the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Second, there is a growing sentiment in the White House that acting now will prevent even more draconian steps by a McCain, Obama, or Clinton administration in 2009.

The White House is right to fear worse may be coming from the next administration. Hillary Clinton, for one, seems to relish the opportunity to enact cap-and-trade rules to regulate industry output and energy use. She has even said that "California "has prospered" through its green energy efficiency policies. Prospered? The state is in economic free-fall.

No one should be fooled that anti-global warming initiatives can be bought on the cheap -- despite arguments by Democrats and their environmentalist pals who say global warming laws will be good for the U.S. economy, thanks to all the "green" technology jobs these regulations and mandates will create. Ken Green of the American Enterprise Institute aptly likens this Keynesian impulse to philosopher Frédéric Bastiat's "broken window fallacy" -- the idea that breaking shop windows leaves society better off because it creates jobs for glassmakers. Of course, those glassmaker jobs come at the expense of jobs and output that would have gone to creating new wealth and new goods and services. However, the last thing advocates of greenhouse regulation want to do is submit their proposals to real cost-benefit analysis.

But even if the Bush administration acts this year, it's doubtful a Democratic administration would be deterred from piling on more onerous rules in 2009. Democrats in Congress are content to wait for a friendlier administration. For his part, Mr. McCain has been a global warming alarmist in the past and co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill. But there may be some hope: "Just as there is danger in doing too little," he says, "there is peril in going too far, too fast, in a way that imposes unsustainable costs on the economy."

-- Stephen Moore and Tyler Grimm

Quote of the Day

"There is even a slight chance that Obama's words in San Francisco could cost him the nomination. Obama is almost certain to have more elected delegates in June than Hillary Clinton, but if he loses Pennsylvania by 15 percentage points (which is not out of the question), that could start a media firestorm around his candidacy that could contribute to other primary defeats and to superdelegate support for Clinton. It's not likely to happen, but after Obama spoke his mind, and, perhaps, lost small-town voters' hearts, in San Francisco, it has suddenly become conceivable" -- John Judis, a senior editor at The New Republic, on presidential candidate Barack Obama's criticism of blue-collar voters for voting on religion and gun rights.

The Horror, the Horror

Albert Einstein once said that the most complicated thing on earth was the U.S. tax code -- and he was speaking at time when the tax code was about one-tenth as costly and time-consuming to fill out as today.

According to the Tax Foundation, the tax code now comprises 67,200 pages. It takes the average taxpayer 24 hours a year to do his or her taxes, and the average small business spends 52 man-hours a week on taxes. Many businesses now correctly complain that the cost of complying with the income tax is higher than the cost of actually paying their taxes -- and that's not counting the cost of a potential audit. Dick Armey, chairman of FreedomWorks.org and the former congressional sponsor of the flat tax, says that tax compliance now costs the economy at least $250 billion a year.

As bad as Tax Day is today, it will get a lot worse for millions of Americans. Five million filers swept up by the Alternative Minimum Tax will soon become 30 million unless the law is changed. Happy April 15th.

-- Stephen Moore

The 'Waterloo' of Italian Communism

The return of Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister after 20 months in political exile is receiving a mixed greeting by Italian conservatives. On the one hand they are pleased with the sweeping defeat of the left-wing coalition led by Walter Veltroni, a former Communist. However, they recall Mr. Berlusconi's previous two stints as prime minister, where he showed a disturbing tendency to forget his small-government platform, tie himself to vested interests and look the other way at corruption. Italy needs strong leadership, and Italian conservatives aren't sure Mr. Berlusconi will rise to the challenge.

But no matter what kind of leader Mr. Berlusconi becomes, Italian politics has taken a dramatic turn in this election. The number of parties in parliament has gone down to just six, from 26. For the first time in over 60 years, not a single Communist will sit in parliament -- ending the damaging influence that Marx's heirs have long exercised in Italian politics. Indeed, far-left parties were the biggest losers in the election, receiving only 3.5% of the vote, down from 11.5% in the 2006 election.

That result prompted the resignation of the long-time leader of the Communist Refoundation Party, Fausto Bertinott. "It's a complete defeat of unforetold proportions," he told supporters.

"It's a Waterloo," agreed the headline in Tuesday's edition of the left-wing daily Il Riformista. Antonio Polito, the paper's editor, noted sadly that Italian politics will never be the same. "The left is disappearing for the first time in history."

-- John Fund



24457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FEC Clusterfcuk on: April 15, 2008, 12:16:11 PM
Feckless FEC

The Federal Election Commission, down to only two out of its six required members since January, suffered another blow yesterday. A Democratic nominee for a vacancy announced he was withdrawing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it will "most likely" take several months to find a replacement for Robert Lenhard, who said in a statement he couldn't wait any longer in limbo.

Leaving the FEC with only a skeleton crew means the agency can't open new cases, hold public meetings or even issue advisory opinions. Michael Toner, a former FEC chairman, says the inability of the White House and the Senate to agree on nominees "hurts the ability of parties and candidates to comply with the law." The commission does not have the legal authority without a quorum to release the public financing funds that may be vital to John McCain's fall campaign -- a situation that perhaps suits Barack Obama, who has declared that his large haul of private Internet donations represents a new kind of "public financing" and who seems intent on reneging on his previous pledges to abide by the public financing system.

Democrats created the FEC impasse last year when they balked at confirming Hans von Spakovsky, who had served on the FEC for two years. Ironically, it was Sen. Obama himself who put the nomination on hold because Mr. von Spakovsky, as a Justice Department official, had supported laws requiring voters to show photo ID. Those laws have since been upheld as Constitutional by several federal courts and the Supreme Court is likely to follow suit in a decision it will hand down this June.

So much for Mr. Obama's call to transcend partisanship. So much for Democratic insistence on the importance of maintaining a strong federal watchdog to enforce all the campaign-finance regulations Democrats created. And so much for the wisdom of John McCain in promoting his infamous McCain-Feingold regulations -- which now appears to have entangled him in a federal snafu that is likely to damage his candidacy.

-- John Fund

White House, Green House
24458  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Canton OH 7/12-13 on: April 14, 2008, 10:37:47 PM
Dog Tom:

Officer Dave Clouse of the Canton Ohio Police Dept. is coordinating the training.  The University of Akron Law Enforcement Training Center is sponsoring that training, but it is going to be open to the public-- please bring all your people that you wish.  It will be great to see you.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty

PS:  At your convenience, please give me a call.
24459  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Secret Gathering: It was 20 years ago , , , on: April 14, 2008, 10:34:14 PM
Brought over from the DBMA Association forum to post for someone who is not registered on the public forum:

Woof ,  Finally back home and thought I would share my most memorable moments from the 3 days.  Seeing Dogzilla ascend to the Council of Elders (watching him fight was also a revelation), the Espada y Daga fight between Red Dog and Pappy Dog was a thing of beauty and to the uninitiated would have appeared almost choreographed.  Having Sled Dog run a clinic on me (the Illustrisimo cross step would have helped if only my brain didn't lockup).  Poi Dog (Semper Fi Bro) tough as coffin nails and side splitting funny.  Guide Dog who in addition to being an intelligent articulate individual, for me wins the Ironman award (I think he fought everyone who showed up!!!).  Dog Pound who in addition to being a great fighter and a beast of strength was kind enough(one on one) to share his prayer goals for the weekend and allow me to share in the higher purpose of the Gathering.  Dog Kase (Lightbulbs?  Don't judge me) who in addition to his honesty and warrior spirit cracked me up every morning.  Speaking in movie dialog with Pappy Dog (who was very kind to me, hooked me up with a tent and coffee,  a big thanks to Linda also!) Getting the run down on gang mentality from Sheep Dog.  Having Dog Matt smash my face with his head and having Tahiti Dog crack me at will (watch this guy he is scary good).  Watching Lonely Dog fight, to me the ideal of beauty and brutality.  So many others that I'll have to write down and organize properly.  Between the fights and the camaraderie it just made me glow(still does).  Even though I have a long long way to go, being the lowest in the company of great men is good and right.  The final image for me is Crafty Dog speaking softly (his voice most likely hoarse from yelling "relax and move white man") in the coral, closing the Gathering.  It brought to mind what the composer Stravinsky said about Segovia;  "his voice is not loud but is heard a long way away".  Thank you to all who participated and fought and welcomed me as one of their own,  I am humbled by your generosity and honored by your company.  Dog Randall 
24460  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Canton OH 7/12-13 on: April 14, 2008, 04:54:54 PM
Woof All:

This seminar will have a strong LEO presence and therefore it naturally will be oriented towards DLO material.

TAC,
Guro Crafty
24461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: April 14, 2008, 03:32:33 PM
Mexico Security Memo: April 14, 2008
Stratfor Today » April 14, 2008 | 1952 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Operation Chihuahua continues
The security operation that began March 31 in Chihuahua state made little significant progress this past week, echoing a theme that has developed in previous security operations elsewhere in the country. Although the number of drug-related killings has declined since federal forces arrived in the state, the problem has not disappeared, with approximately 10 homicides reported in the area since April 1. Public security in general faces a challenge, as many police units in the state reportedly have stopped conducting routine patrols. As a result, residents in Ciudad Juarez have reported an increase in the number of car thefts and the kidnapping of small-business owners in the downtown area, including those having auto parts stores, restaurants and hardware stores. An official from the state attorney general’s office said the kidnappings could be intended to scare the wealthier business community into paying its “protection” fees to organized crime groups in the city.

Although arrests of high-value Juarez cartel targets have not occurred, the government has claimed several victories that will impact the organization’s capabilities. For example, in what appears to have been a well-planned operation, eight cartel suspects were arrested at the funeral of one of their fellow members this past week. Following aerial surveillance of the cemetery, army special forces descended on the site via helicopter while being fired on by the funeral party. Meanwhile, troops on the ground secured the cemetery’s perimeter and eventually captured all suspects present. The high priority placed on these kinds of operations helps to explain the poor public security in a city being patrolled by the military. Operations such as this require a significant commitment of manpower and resources — and they are a much higher priority for Mexico City than is preventing car thefts.

Mexico’s national defense secretary, citing intelligence acquired by the military, announced this week that the Juarez cartel has plans to undermine the military’s credibility by committing violent crimes against the population while dressed in military uniforms and driving trucks painted to look like government vehicles. He warned that the cartel plans to commit sexual assaults while conducting fake searches of homes, businesses and nightclubs, and then videotape the acts to later leak to the media or post online.

There is no doubt that the Juarez cartel — or other large criminal groups in Mexico — has access to military and law enforcement uniforms and credentials. Cartel members also routinely conduct kidnappings, targeted assassinations and other attacks while purporting to be legitimate authorities. However, a move to begin targeting the civilian population with the specific intention of undermining the government’s credibility would indicate a further shift by the cartels toward insurgent-style tactics.

There is reason, however, to doubt the credibility of the secretary’s statement, which comes as the military is under increasing political scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses. A series of high-profile incidents over the past year involving the unwarranted use of force against civilians has the potential to upset the military’s position as one of the most respected institutions in Mexico. One possibility, then, is that the secretary’s announcement is intended to allow plausible deniability of any future embarrassing incidents involving military personnel. The move could backfire, however, as it will result in a more wary public in areas where the military is currently operating — exacerbating already tense relations in areas where it most needs the cooperation of the population to succeed.

Juarez cartel shifting tactics?
The leftist militant group Democratic Revolutionary Tendency-People’s Army (TDR-EP) released a video message last week opposing the privatization of Mexico’s state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), an idea currently being debated in Mexico City. TDR-EP previously claimed joint responsibility for a series of small bombings in Mexico City in November 2006, though the group’s operational role in the incident is considered to be small to nonexistent. However, the statement echoes a recent message by the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which carried out several successful attacks against Pemex oil pipelines in 2007.

While President Felipe Calderon’s proposed energy reform plan has stirred up heated political debate, it also has the potential to spark a new round of pipeline attacks. Pemex increased its security at many of its facilities in 2007, but the EPR attacks against remote pipelines demonstrated that it is impossible to protect all of the company’s infrastructure. Aside from an unclaimed bank bombing in Mexico City on March 30, EPR has been noticeably — and inexplicably — inactive since the last round of Pemex attacks Sept. 10, suggesting that the group has lost members or resources, affecting its capabilities. However, the intensified debate over energy reform might be all that is needed to begin planning the next attack.


April 7
A group of armed men threw several fragmentation grenades at police during a pursuit in Salvatierra, Guanajuato state.
Authorities in the state have noted an increase in the frequency of grenade attacks over the last several weeks.
Authorities in Acapulco, Guerrero state, discovered the bodies of two unidentified individuals bound at the hands and with gunshot wounds to the head. The bodies were found buried approximately nine feet under a building, and were estimated to have died about a year ago.
The body of a federal agent who had been kidnapped the day before was found in Tijuana, Baja California state, with a gunshot wound to the head and signs of torture.
A man carrying false documents identifying him as a federal law enforcement agent was shot to death by a group of gunmen that fired more than 50 rounds at his vehicle in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Two female reporters from a radio station were shot to death while traveling in a vehicle in Putla de Guerrero, Oaxaca state.
Gunmen traveling in a vehicle fired several shots at a government building in Rosarito, Baja California state.
April 8
Two presumed drug dealers were shot to death by a group of armed men in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
Officials from Laredo, Texas, met with their counterparts in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, to discuss a plan to improve security in the two cities. In addition to narcotics trafficking, the officials discussed frequent bomb threats on the international bridges and the recent influx of heavily tattooed members of the Mexican Mara criminal gang.
A bodyguard of the Sinaloa state treasurer died after being shot in the back by several armed men while he was arriving at his home with his 3-year-old son in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
Several armed men entered a hospital in Navolato, Sinaloa state, and shot a patient who had been admitted several days before after he was wounded in a gun attack.
April 9
Residents in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported gunshots fired on their home by several unidentified assailants traveling in a vehicle.
A man was shot to death outside a health club in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, a day after he escaped a kidnapping attempt.
Four suspects were detained following a firefight outside a police station in Tijuana, Baja California state. Authorities said the attack on the building came after police arrested a man and impounded his vehicle.
April 10
Three people, including one minor, traveling together in a vehicle were shot to death by armed assailants in a suburb of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The driver of the vehicle reportedly returned fire briefly before he died.
The bodies of two men with gunshot wounds were found in a vehicle in Guadalupe Distrito Bravo, Chihuahua state.
Authorities in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, found the body of a man who appeared to have been killed in another location.
A Baja California state police officer died after he was shot by several armed men while he was driving to work in the border city of Mexicali.
April 11
The bodies of two men who had been abducted several days earlier were found in plastic bags and bound at the hands along a highway in Navolato, Sinaloa state.
April 12
The bodies of three men who had been shot to death in separate incidents were found in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
A deputy police chief in Tijuana, Baja California state, was wounded along with a bodyguard after they engaged a group of armed assailants that entered his home, presumably to assassinate him. At least two of the gunmen were killed. The attackers reportedly arrived at his home during a child’s party.
April 13
A police commander died after he was shot by several armed men just north of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
A large banner hung over a street in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, said in part, “Los Zetas operational group wants you, soldier or ex-soldier. We offer you good pay, food, and attention to your family. No longer suffer mistreatment or hunger. “The banner included a telephone number to call for more details. A similar banner appeared the day before in Reynosa.

stratfor
24462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran Ballistic Missile sites? on: April 14, 2008, 03:10:54 PM
http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0411/p99s01-duts.html

A new report by The Times of London says that satellite photographs of a site in Iran indicate the location is being used to develop a ballistic missile that could reach most of continental Europe.

The Times writes that the photographs show the launch site of a Kavoshgar 1 rocket that Iran tested on February 4. Tehran claimed that the rocket was intended to further a nascent Iranian space program, but The Times says that the photos suggest otherwise.

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran's long-range programme, was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space programme that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.

Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 metres in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea.

The Times adds that the rocket launched from the facility in February was based on Iran's Shahab 3B missile, which is in turn based on North Korea's Nodong missile. Geoffrey Forden, a member of the UN team monitoring Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in 2002 and 2003, noted that while the test rocket did not indicate any significant advances in Iran's missile technology, the launch site had "very high levels of security and recent construction activity" and appeared to be "an important strategic facility."

If the Iranian facility is indeed developing a long-range ballistic missile, it would explain NATO's decision last week to move ahead with the missile shield program supported by the US. The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that the Bush administration scored a key success by persuading NATO to approve the missile shield, which is meant to protect against missiles like those that Iran is linked to.

NATO members all supported the US position on missile-shield defense, which is to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. "There is a threat ... and allied security must be indivisible in the face of it," read the statement on missile defense.

But Iran has denied any hostile intent behind its rocket program. While Tehran has not yet commented on the Times report, after the February test of the Kavoshgar 1 rocket it stated its intent to use the technology for launching satellites, reported The New York Times.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... said on state-run television: "We need to have an active presence in space. We witness today that Iran has taken its first step in space very firmly, precisely and with awareness."

Iran has said that it wants to put satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters and to improve telecommunications, as well as for security reasons.

Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said Iran would launch its domestically made satellite, called Omid, meaning Hope, in June, Fars News reported.

But US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the launch "troubling," noting that "the kinds of technologies and capabilities that are needed in order to launch a space vehicle for orbit are the same kinds of capabilities and technologies that one would employ for long-range ballistic missiles."

Much of the concern of both the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, stems from evidence found on a laptop stolen by an Iranian in 2004 and turned over to US intelligence services. Among other documents on the laptop, investigators found "drawings on modifying Iran's ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead," reported The Washington Post in February. But the problem is proving that the documents are legitimate.

U.S. intelligence considers the laptop documents authentic but cannot prove it. Analysts cannot completely rule out the possibility that internal opponents of the Iranian leadership could have forged them to implicate the government, or that the documents were planted by Tehran itself to convince the West that its program remains at an immature stage....

British intelligence, asked for a second opinion, concurred last year that the documents appear authentic. German and French officials consider the information troubling, sources said, but Russian experts have dismissed it as inconclusive. IAEA inspectors, who were highly skeptical of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, have begun to pursue aspects of the laptop information that appear to bolster previous leads.

"There is always a chance this could be the biggest scam perpetrated on U.S. intelligence," one U.S. source acknowledged. "But it's such a large body of documents and such strong indications of nuclear weapons intent, and nothing seems so inconsistent."

Despite the possibility of Iran developing a long-range ballistic missile in time, Mr. Forden says that they likely still have a long way to go. ArmsControlWonk.com, a blog on WMDs and national security, cites Forden's observations about the flaws revealed by the February launch .

Iran's February 4th launch of a Shahab-3 just keeps on getting more and more interesting; that is if you are interested in just how good of a missile the Shahab/No'dong is. Video from Iran's television show that there is a failure of the missile's thrust vector control system nineteen seconds into its powered flight. At that point, there is a brief flaring at the very end of the missile and an object is seen flying off for several seconds, until it leaves the video's frame as the camera continues to follow the missile. Tellingly, it doesn't just drop off the missile but is given quite a transverse boost.

Forden says that the debris indicates that the missile's graphite jet vanes, used to steer the rocket in flight, are being "eaten away" by the rocket exhaust. Such a problem can knock a missile severely off course, he adds.

So what does this mean for missile proliferators in general and Syria and Iran (and North Korea since they are all involved in the development of these missiles) in particular? It means that they are still having a hard time producing graphite tough and pure enough to be used in large missiles. It also indicates that a top priority for their missile engineers will be to develop other thrust vector control mechanisms.



24463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Monkey in the Middle on: April 14, 2008, 03:06:39 PM
Afghanistan: Why India’s Cooperation is a Problem for Pakistan
Stratfor Today » April 11, 2008 | 2253 GMT

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Abdul Rahim WardakSummary
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak is visiting India amid talks of New Delhi providing counterinsurgency assistance to Kabul. Increased Indian-Afghan cooperation — at a time when Islamabad’s Taliban card has become problematic — would place the Pakistanis at a disadvantage with India, its long-time rival.

Analysis
The Indian army will train Afghanistan’s army in counterinsurgency operations — the latest development in a growing alliance between India and Afghanistan that threatens the country sandwiched between: Pakistan.

For Pakistan, it would appear that this triangular relationship is coming full circle.

Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak met with his Indian counterpart A. K. Antony in the Indian capital April 10 to discuss bilateral military cooperation, The Associated Press of Pakistan reported April 11.

While the Indian defense minister ruled out any military involvement in Afghanistan, the increased cooperation between New Delhi and Kabul puts Pakistan in a weakened position with its neighbors.

Wardak also visited the 15th Corps of the Indian army headquartered in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, and will visit the Indian air force’s training command and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore in southern India. These visits are coming amid reports that Afghanistan might be considering sending its air force pilots for training to India. Moreover, Wardak said his country would seek New Delhi’s help in maintaining Soviet-era helicopter gun ships and medium helicopters to provide logistical support to its armed forces.

Related Links
Making Sense of the Fighting in Kashmir
Pakistan: Democratization and U.S. Interests
Pakistan: Democracy and the Jihadist Threat
Pakistan: Toward Constitutional Regime Change?
Pakistan: Adjusting Relations with the Taliban Under U.S. Pressure
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Implications of Talibanization
NATO can also use the increased interest in Indian involvement in counterterrorism with Afghanistan as leverage against Pakistan to rein in militants on its soil.

India and Afghanistan are pushing the idea that the faster India trains the Afghan army, the quicker NATO can withdraw troops from Afghanistan. India’s goal is to gain a toehold in the Afghan military establishment, creating goodwill that it can cash in when the time comes. This prospect worries Pakistan, which sees India as its biggest rival. Antony assured Wardak that India would remain “actively engaged” in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-wrecked Afghanistan.

While it will be some time before the relationship between the Indian and Afghan militaries is solidified in a meaningful way, even the meager assistance India provides Afghanistan would be a significant enhancement of its military involvement, which until now has been mostly related to reconstruction and development work in Afghanistan. New Delhi’s key interest in Afghanistan has to do with its security vis-a-vis its neighboring rival, Pakistan, and the transnational Islamist militant groups headquartered in Pakistan.

To best understand the impact of India’s growing support in Afghanistan, one must understand Pakistan’s recent history of backing Islamist militant groups and how Pakistan has tried to use Afghanistan to gain strategic advantage against India.

Long before the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Islamabad viewed Kabul as aligned with New Delhi. Pakistan felt sandwiched between its archrival to the east and a hostile regime to the west. Another issue was secular left-leaning Pakistani Pashtun forces were pushing for a separate homeland for their ethnic group — a demand backed by Afghanistan in those days.

To deal with these threats, the Pakistanis decided to employ the Islamist card to counter Pashtun nationalism on both sides of the Durand Line — the line drawn in 1893 that divides the Pashtun people, and a continual source of tension between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Even before 1977, when the Islamist-leaning regime of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq came to power, the Pakistanis had aligned themselves with Afghan Islamist dissidents such as Gulbadin Hekmatyar. Then came the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan starting in 1979, when Islamabad’s backing for Afghan Islamists increased, with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

By the time the Soviets withdrew in defeat from Afghanistan a decade later, the Pakistanis had successfully contained ethnic Pashtun nationalism. Pakistan unwittingly sowed the seeds of a deadlier Frankenstein’s monster in the form of jihadism, which would bite the hand of its creator years later.

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan provided the Pakistanis the opportunity to direct its attention to Indian-administered Kashmir, the disputed region on the border that Pakistan has long sought to control. A separatist rising in Kashmir gave Pakistan a chance to play a new hand in its same Islamist militant strategy. As early as the 1947-1948 India-Pakistan War, the Pakistanis employed Pashtun tribesman in its bid to seize control of the parts of Kashmir that are now under Pakistani administration.

In 1996, the Pakistani military realized its objective of installing a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul when it supported the Taliban, the extremist Islamist movement that controlled Afghanistan until the U.S.-backed coalition drove them from power after Sept. 11, 2001. Pakistan had hoped that with its rear flank secure it could then deal with India, especially in the context of Kashmir, which it unsuccessfully tried to do in the Kargil mini-war in 1999. Between the failure of the Kargil operation and the events of 9/11, Pakistan lost its ability to project power into Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Pakistanis also began to lose control over the Islamist militant landscape with the rise of al Qaeda, which brought together the various strands of militant forces that threatened both Kabul and New Delhi.

Thus, Pakistan opened a process of normalization with India and established a cooperation of sorts with Washington against al Qaeda but continued to maintain an ambiguous stance toward the Taliban. That was because the Pashtun jihadist movement was the only available card Islamabad could play as it pursued its interests in Afghanistan and keep India out.

By offering economic and developmental assistance to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, India has been able to establish a sphere of influence, which has alarmed the Pakistanis. Even so, Islamabad had been able to take comfort in knowing that it had an asset in the insurgent Taliban, which they could use to block Indian moves in Afghanistan.

However, things have changed. With the complex nature of Pakistan’s alignment with the United States and the gravitation of jihadist forces toward al Qaeda, Islamabad no longer has an effective response to India’s plans for counterinsurgency cooperation with Afghanistan.

The relationship between Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban has been complicated by the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Moreover, Pakistan’s ability to counter India’s moves has been weakened because it is going through internal convulsions brought on as a coalition government — formed by foes of President Pervez Musharraf — swept parliamentary elections, and Musharraf no longer heads the military. If, at some point in the future, the Taliban gain a larger share of power in Afghanistan, Pakistani influence would be limited because of the break between the Taliban and Islamabad.

With the Taliban no longer in the Pakistani camp as they once were, Afghanistan could return to being hostile to Pakistan. There is significant anti-Pakistani sentiment in Afghanistan because of the perception of Pakistani interference in their country. In contrast, Afghan attitudes in general are far more positive toward India because of the increased assistance India has begun to provide.

Thus, when it comes to Pakistan and its complicated relationship with neighbors Afghanistan and India, it appears what goes around comes around.
24464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Health Insurance Mafia on: April 14, 2008, 01:45:42 PM
The Health Insurance Mafia
By JONATHAN KELLERMAN
April 14, 2008; Page A15

Most discussions about the rising cost of health care emphasize the need to get more people insured. The assumption seems to be that insurance – rather than the service delivered by doctor to patient – is the important commodity.

But perhaps the solution to much of what currently plagues us in health care – rising costs and bureaucracy, diminishing levels of service – rests on a radically different approach: fewer people insured.

You don't need to be an economist to understand that any middleman interposed between seller and buyer raises the price of a given service or product. Some intermediaries justify this by providing benefits, such as salesmanship, advertising or transport. Others offer physical facilities, such as warehouses. A third group, organized crime, utilizes fear and intimidation to muscle its way into the provider-consumer chain, raking in hefty profits and bloating cost, without providing any benefit at all.

The health insurance model is closest to the parasitic relationship imposed by the Mafia and the like. Insurance companies provide nothing other than an ambiguous, shifty notion of "protection." But even the Mafia doesn't stick its nose into the process; once the monthly skim is set, Don Whoever stays out of the picture, but for occasional "cost of doing business" increases. When insurance companies insinuate themselves into the system, their first step is figuring out how to increase the skim by harming the people they are allegedly protecting through reduced service.

Insurance is all about betting against negative consequences and the insurance business model is unique in that profits depend upon goods and services not being provided. Using actuarial tables, insurers place their bets. Sometimes even the canniest MIT grads can't help: Property and casualty insurers have collapsed in the wake of natural disasters.

Health insurers have taken steps to avoid that level of surprise: Once they affix themselves to the host – in this case dual hosts, both doctor and patient – they systematically suck the lifeblood out of the supply chain with obstructive strategies. For that reason, the consequences of any insurance-based health-care model, be it privately run, or a government entitlement, are painfully easy to predict. There will be progressively draconian rationing using denial of authorization and steadily rising co-payments on the patient end; massive paperwork and other bureaucratic hurdles, and steadily diminishing fee-recovery on the doctor end.

Some of us are old enough to remember visiting the doctor and paying him/her directly by check or cash. You had a pretty good idea going in what the service was going to cost. And because the doctor had to look you in the eye – and didn't need to share a rising chunk of his profits with an insurer – the cost was likely to be reasonable. The same went for hospitals: no $20 aspirins due to insurance-company delay tactics and other shenanigans. Few physicians became millionaires, but they lived comfortably, took responsibility for their own business model, and enjoyed their work more.

Several years ago, I suffered a sports injury that necessitated an MRI. The "fee" for a 20-minute procedure was over $3,000. My insurance company refused to pay, so I informed the radiologist that I'd be footing the bill myself. Immediately, the "fee" was cut by two thirds. And the doctor was tickled to get it.

A few highly technical and complex procedures that need to amortize the purchase of extremely expensive hardware will be out of reach for any but the wealthiest patient. For that extremely limited category, insurance might work. A small percentage of indigent individuals won't be able to afford even low-cost procedures. For them, government-funded county facilities are the answer, because any decent society takes care of the weakest among us. But a hefty proportion of health-care services – office visits, minor surgeries – would be affordable to most Americans if the slice of the health-care dollar that currently ends up in the coffers of insurance companies was eliminated.

When I was in practice as a psychologist, I discussed fees up front with prospective patients, prior to their initial visit. People appreciated knowing what to expect and my bad debt rate was less than 1%. That allowed me to keep my charges reasonable and, on occasion, to lower them for less fortunate patients. And I loved my job because I was free to concentrate on what I went to school for: helping people, rather than filling out incomprehensible forms designed to discourage me from filing them in the first place.

Physicians and other providers need to liberate themselves from the Faustian bargain they've cut with the Mephistophelian suits who now run their professional lives. Because many doctors are loath to talk about money, they allowed themselves to perpetuate the fantasy that "insurance is paying." It isn't. There is no free lunch and no free physical exam.

If substantial numbers of health-care providers shook off the insurance monkey on their back, en masse, and the supply of providers was substantially increased by opening more medical schools, the result would be a more honest, cost-effective system benefiting everyone. Except the insurance companies.

Dr. Kellerman, clinical professor of pediatrics and psychology at USC's Keck School of Medicine, is the author of numerous crime novels and three books on psychology. His latest novel is "Compulsion" (Ballantine, 2008).

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From PD/WSJ on: April 14, 2008, 01:41:36 PM


The Whistle Blower and the Wind Surfer

Everyone knows that Barack Obama got caught on tape accusing Pennsylvania primary voters of being people who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." What isn't well known is that his campaign tried to prevent Mayhill Fowler, the HuffingtonPost.com blogger who broke the story, from getting into the San Francisco mansion where the candidate made the remarks.

Unlike three other events Mr. Obama attended in the Bay Area on April 6 that were priced at the legal contribution limit of $2,300, the soiree at the home of developer Alex Mehran was priced at only $1,000 because it was pitched to donors who had already given to Team Obama. Ms. Fowler somehow snagged an invitation even though the well-known blogger had been turned away from a previous Obama fundraising event a couple of months earlier.

"There's a very basic [fundraiser] rule -- you don't let press in, and anyone with an interest in reporting shouldn't get in," an Obama source told the San Francisco Chronicle. The paper reports that "Obama campaign higher-ups were said to be livid, with fingers pointing at a local fundraising consultant for the slip-up."

They shouldn't be angry. In an age of citizen journalism -- when literally anyone can carry an MP3 recorder and cell phone video camera into an event -- nothing any longer is completely private. And it's not as if Ms. Fowler qualified as an Obama enemy. A previous donor to the Obama campaign, she paid her $1,000 to attend the San Francisco event. Last Friday, she candidly admitted to CNN: "I was not initially going to write about Senator Obama's remarks about Pennsylvanians, because, frankly, I didn't want to bring down the campaign. I gave it more thought and I decided that the remarks bothered me enough that I wanted to write them up."

That admission is a signal that Mr. Obama's remarks really do represent a problem for him since they disturbed even an ardent supporter enough for her to report them.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances -- welfare and immigrants were 'scapegoats,' part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college...." -- Slate.com blogger Mickey Kaus, mocking Barack Obama's condescending attitude about working class voters, guns and religion.

Quote of the Day II

"Poor wording was not the problem; on the contrary, it was his precision that was so unfortunate, and his ability to pack half a dozen unintended insults into a single sentence uncanny. And in San Francisco, no less? Roger Ailes couldn't have planned it better, unless he'd maybe followed up the event with some impromptu windsurfing in the bay" -- columnist Melinda Henneberger, a former New York Times reporter, writing at Slate.com about Barack Obama's comments.

24466  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Seminar: 10/11-12 Guro Crafty in Bloomington IL on: April 14, 2008, 10:38:01 AM
 
Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association Seminar/Featuring Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Date:   October 11 and 12th 2008
Location:  Bloomington/Normal JKD Concepts
              602 S Main St
              Bloomington, Illinois 61701, USA

Contact: 
Lakan Guro Terry Crutcher
Phone 309-310-7626
Email    terry@jkdconcepts.com,

Cost:
   General Public: $175.00 Before July 1st 2008   
                        $200.00 After July 1st 2008 

   Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association Members
   $150.00 prior to July 1st 2008   
   $175.00 after July 1st 2008 

  Active Military and Law Enforcement
  $125.00 prior to July 1st 2008 
  $150.00 after July 1st

 

24467  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4/20 Guro Crafty at Surf Dog's in Hemet, CA on: April 14, 2008, 10:35:43 AM
TTT!  This is going to be good fun.  It looks like we will be doing some Kali Tudo as part of the mix. grin
24468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Moment of Truth in Iraq on: April 14, 2008, 09:16:14 AM
Dear friends,

Our soldiers are turning defeat and disaster into victory and hope. But we could still fumble—if the American people don’t hear the truth now.  There remain serious perils in Iraq and this is a time for action.

To get the message out, please help me get Moment of Truth in Iraq stocked in bookstores, and especially in free libraries and military exchanges.

Here’s how: Please click on “Handout for Bookstores and Libraries” below. This will open a printable one-page handout that can be given to any local bookstore manager, librarian, or military exchange.  (Or all three if you can.)

The handout will tell bookstores and libraries everything they need to order Moment of Truth in Iraq. But what will really motivate retailers and librarians is you, the reader, a member of their community, requesting the book.

So please click here and ask your bookstore, library, or military exchange to please stock Moment of Truth in Iraq today.

Moment of Truth in Iraq is available on Amazon.com.  We have hit the Amazon top 50 before the book even hit stores or libraries.

 

Thank you for your help,

Michael
24469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 14, 2008, 08:52:08 AM
"[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general
government our foreign ones.  I wish, therefore...never to see
all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn
from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought
and sold at market."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Judge William Johnson, 12 June 1823)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (261); original Memoir,
Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas
Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson
24470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taiwan on: April 14, 2008, 01:59:21 AM
Busted!!!

The plot thickens , , ,  Anyway, here's this:

   
Geopolitical Diary: Taiwan's Straitjacket
April 14, 2008
Taiwanese Vice President-elect Vincent Siew met Chinese President Hu Jintao Saturday on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2008. It was the first time Taiwan’s incoming government held a formal meeting with the Beijing regime. Siew gave a positive evaluation of his meeting with Hu — quite a contrast to outgoing President Chen Shui-bian’s typically provocative stance against Beijing. However, the meeting itself has not changed, nor will it change, the fundamental bilateral relationship. Not by one iota.

In fact, it is not really a bilateral relationship but a trilateral one. Taiwan remains sandwiched between the two largest geopolitical players of the Asia-Pacific region: China and the United States. Taipei has little if any room for maneuver within this trilateral framework. Despite Chen’s pro-independence posturing and rhetoric, Taipei has never been a free actor in this space between China and the United States. It is consigned to play the role of a pawn in the wider geopolitical interaction between its patron of choice, Washington, and its other aspiring patron, Beijing.

China will not tolerate Taiwan getting too close to the United States. Keeping alive the “one China” myth is important to the Chinese regime — Beijing’s legitimacy is predicated on its ability to hold together a far-flung and geographically diverse country with a strong central authority. Like Tibet, Taiwan is considered a linchpin in the carefully balanced social and political structure of mainland China. In truth, China stands next to no chance of successfully invading and forcibly reabsorbing Taiwan, given that its current naval capabilities are a generation or two behind those of the United States. However, Beijing does need to buffer itself against Washington’s growing influence in Asia — if not in military reality, then in domestic perception at least.

Likewise, the United States will not put up with a Taipei that pursues too close a relationship with China. While defending Taiwan’s democratic integrity plays well with the voters back home, a more fundamental reason behind Washington’s fierce protection of the island revolves around the security of maritime trade routes into and out of the Asia Pacific region. A key source of U.S. geopolitical power is its dominance over the world’s oceans, a supremacy that Washington will not give up voluntarily. That is why American airpower, missiles, submarines and surface vessels have never left Taiwan since the U.S. Navy’s seventh fleet first swept to the island’s rescue in 1950.

So long as China does not invade or physically reclaim Taiwan and Taipei does not formally declare independence, an uneasy half-truth is perpetuated, and both sides go about their business.

Politically and superficially, Siew’s visit to China marks a change from the previous Taiwanese regime. But geopolitically, just as Chen could talk but not walk Taiwan towards independence, neither will Siew or President-elect Ma Ying-jeou be able to change the dynamic. There might be some movement along the spectrum of possibilities between independence and reunification, but the geopolitical reality of the Taiwan Straits is that that movement will be narrow and constrained. Taiwan has nowhere to go.

 
24471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraqi Kurds threaten Iran on: April 14, 2008, 01:47:12 AM
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080413...nrestirankurds


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

 Kurdish rebels in Iraq threaten to attack Iran by Shwan Mohammed
Sun Apr 13, 7:26 AM ET
 


MOUNT QANDIL, Iraq (AFP) - A Kurdish rebel group based in northern Iraq threatened on Sunday to launch bomb attacks inside Iran if Tehran fails to halt anti-Kurdish policies in the Islamic country.

ADVERTISEMENT
 
Pejak (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) warned it has the ability to "carry out bombings against Iranian forces" inside Iran.

Ronahi Ahmed, a member of Pejak's political bureau, told AFP from the group's hideout in Qandil mountain in northern Iraq that the rebels were ready for a long fight with Tehran.

"We can't stand handcuffed when Iran is chasing us on daily basis. We have the ability to confront Iran inside Tehran. We are not accepting any threat from anybody," she said.

"We don't accept the religious suppression that is being carried out by the Iranians. We totally reject it."

Ahmed said the group had recently attacked Iranian forces across the border.

"Last month our people were able to infiltrate Mahkook town in northwest Iran. They killed dozens of Iranian soldiers. In another incident in Iran's Miryuwan town our guerrillas killed six soldiers," she said.

"Iran should be aware that we have a long arm that can strike at significant places inside Iran, especially in the northwest reaching Tehran."

The Iranian military often shells Iraqi border villages in an attempt to flush out Kurdish guerrillas, sending residents fleeing from their homes.

Pejak is an anti-Iranian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish rebel movement fighting to carve out an independent state in southeastern Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has killed more than 37,000 people.

The PKK and Ankara's troops fought fierce battles in March inside Iraq after Turkey launched a ground offensive.

"If they (Iran) continue to follow the policy of (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, then the battle will be more severe and the region where we are staying will be hit by a war," Ahmed said.

Tehran alleges that Washington supports Pejak in its fight against Iran, but Ahmed denied the allegation.

"We have no relations with the Americans and Iran's claim that we have an alliance with America is not true. America does not back or fund us. We depend on supplies from our own people," she said.

Ahmed's statement comes as mystery still surrounds an explosion in a mosque in Iran's southern city of Shiraz on Saturday that killed 11 people and wounded at least 191.

Some officials insist the blast was accidental, but others said it could have been caused by a bomb.


24472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 13, 2008, 01:02:57 AM
Of course there are several good points in this piece GM, but IMHO there is a fair amount of hyperventilating too.

China's population is contracting due to the one child policy.  The consequences of this unusual demographic remain to be seen, but are likely to be potent.  How will the few young support the many old?

China is a toxic dump.  The costs are staggering and have yet to be considered.

China's banking system is a giant ponzi scheme-- its bookkeeping is said by sources that seem responsible to me to be an utter fraud.

Freedom is seditious to a system like China and as Chinese mingle in the world, maintaining the old order is going to be a very good trick.

The dollar and the US were in worse shape in the Carter years than now.

The Japanese were feared to be taking over the world in the 80s, yet now they are fcuked-- in part due to demographics of few young supporting many old-- and China will have a worse hand in this regard than the Japanese.

Just some additional points to consider IMHO
24473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: April 13, 2008, 12:46:52 AM
Some very good ones in there GM.
24474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush's overture on: April 11, 2008, 02:47:40 PM
   
Geopolitical Diary: Bush's Overtures to Iran and a Message to the American Public
April 11, 2008
In his speech on Thursday morning, U.S. President George W. Bush made two clear overtures to Iran, signaling that an agreement over Iraq is possible. The first came as a choice to Tehran, saying it “can live in peace with its neighbor, enjoy strong economic and cultural and religious ties, or it can continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and turning them against Iran. If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq. If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners.”

The second overture split al Qaeda from Iran, saying “Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century — al Qaeda and Iran.”

These two messages show that the United States does not consider negotiations with Iran to be off-limits — as it does regarding talks with al Qaeda — and that if Iran cooperates (i.e. negotiates with the United States), the issue of Iraq could be settled peacefully to more or less the mutual satisfaction of both Washington and Tehran.

In testimony to the U.S. Senate on April 8, Gen. David Petraeus issued the same kind of message, saying that Iran had a choice on how the situation in Iraq would progress and leaving the door open for cooperation. However, Bush and Petraeus continued to make it very clear that the United States would punish Iran if it chose to continue to support elements of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. Washington has by no means removed any threats of retaliation from the table. While the United States will pause its troop reductions in Iraq this summer to consolidate its gains and hedge its bets, the sustainment of the U.S. military force in Iraq will also resonate strongly in Tehran.

Bush and Petraeus’ statements seem to be responses to an Iranian Foreign Ministry announcement on April 8 that the United States wanted to start another round of talks with Iran. These negotiations have been taking place on and off for the past year. On April 7, al-Sadr announced that he might disband the Mehdi Army, which seems to indicate that Iran is willing to halt its violent meddling in Iraq – temporarily at least. And this might suggest that talks between Washington and Tehran are progressing.

However, too many deal-breakers are still on the table to call this conflict settled. Israel of late has issued warnings to Syria, Hezbollah and Iran and is conducting war exercises, suggesting that something is brewing in the Levant. Israel also is gearing up for an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Another Mideast conflict in the midst of negotiations over Iran, while not necessarily devastating, would put a U.S.-Iranian deal in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the upcoming U.S. elections are looming: it would be in Iran’s best interest to reach a conclusion with Bush rather than try to negotiate a deal with an unknown quantity — the next American president.

Statements from Bush’s speech and in Petraeus’ testimony acknowledge that Iran is a significant stakeholder in Iraq. Without cooperation from the Iranians, Iraq has no chance of recovering. By insisting that the situation in Iraq has improved, Bush and Petraeus are implicitly saying that, so far, Iran is cooperating. Dual statements — despite all of their caveats — from the president and the U.S. commander in Iraq suggesting that Iran is cooperating with the United States is a significant improvement in rhetoric. This is a signal to Iran that Washington is willing to engage in a final settlement, and it is a signal to the American public to prepare for a more open dialogue between the two rivals. Progress with Iraq does not come without progress with Iran.

It will be interesting to watch Iran over the next few days to see how the leadership there responds to these overtures. More positive signals from Iran could mean that further negotiations are pending. The political situation between the United States and Iran is reflecting the situation on the ground — one that offers the opportunity of a tenable agreement over the future of Iraq.

 
24475  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Republicanos y Democratas on: April 11, 2008, 01:21:51 PM
         Las diferencias entre Republicanos Y Democratas
 
Una mujer que iba volando en un globo, de repente se dio cuenta de que estaba perdida. Ella
disminuyo poco a poco la altura del globo hasta que diviso a un hombre que iba montando a
caballo.

-La mujer le grito: Por favor, podria usted ayudarme? Es que le prometi a un amigo que me iba  a
encontrar con el hace una hora pero no tengo idea de donde estoy!

El hombre consulto su equipo GPS portable y le dijo: Usted esta en un globo de aire caliente, a
30 metros por encima de la tierra con una elevacion de 234 pies por encima del nivel del mar.
Usted esta a 31 grados y 14 minutos de latitud Norte y a 100 grados y 49 miunutos de longitud
oeste.

-La mujer giro los ojos hacia el cielo en un gesto de impaciencia y le dijo: "Usted tiene que
ser Republicano"

-Si, yo lo soy, dijo el hombre. Y usted como lo sabe?

-Bueno, respondio la mujer del globo, porque todo lo que me ha dicho esta tecnicamente correcto,
pero no tengo idea de que hacer con su informacion y de todas maneras sigo perdida. Francamente,
su informacion no me ha servido de nada.

- Y  usted tiene que ser Democrata le contesto el hombre.

-Si, yo soy Democrata, contesto la mujer,. Y usted como lo sabe?

-Bueno, dijo el hombre, Porque usted no sabe donde esta ni a donde va. Usted llego ahi impulsada
por el aire. Usted prometio a un amigo algo que no tiene idea de como cumplir, y usted espera
que YO la ayude a resolver su problema.  Ademas, usted esta EXACTAMENTE  en la misma posicion que estaba antes de que se encontrara conmigo pero de alguna manera ahora usted quiere que La CULPA sea mia.
24476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yon: Lets Surge Some More on: April 11, 2008, 09:42:06 AM
Let's 'Surge' Some More
By MICHAEL YON
April 11, 2008; Page A17

It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators – on both sides of the aisle – who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.

I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about "GoArmy.com."

As the outrages of Abu Ghraib faded in memory – and paled in comparison to al Qaeda's brutalities – and our soldiers under the Petraeus strategy got off their big bases and out of their tanks and deeper into the neighborhoods, American values began to win the war.

Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have.

Some people charge that we have merely "rented" the Sunni tribesmen, the former insurgents who now fight by our side. This implies that because we pay these people, their loyalty must be for sale to the highest bidder. But as Gen. Petraeus demonstrated in Nineveh province in 2003 to 2004, many of the Iraqis who filled the ranks of the Sunni insurgency from 2003 into 2007 could have been working with us all along, had we treated them intelligently and respectfully. In Nineveh in 2003, under then Maj. Gen. Petraeus's leadership, these men – many of them veterans of the Iraqi army – played a crucial role in restoring civil order. Yet due to excessive de-Baathification and the administration's attempt to marginalize powerful tribal sheiks in Anbar and other provinces – including men even Saddam dared not ignore – we transformed potential partners into dreaded enemies in less than a year.

Then al Qaeda in Iraq, which helped fund and tried to control the Sunni insurgency for its own ends, raped too many women and boys, cut off too many heads, and brought drugs into too many neighborhoods. By outraging the tribes, it gave birth to the Sunni "awakening." We – and Iraq – got a second chance. Powerful tribes in Anbar province cooperate with us now because they came to see al Qaeda for what it is – and to see Americans for what we truly are.

Soldiers everywhere are paid, and good generals know it is dangerous to mess with a soldier's money. The shoeless heroes who froze at Valley Forge were paid, and when their pay did not come they threatened to leave – and some did. Soldiers have families and will not fight for a nation that allows their families to starve. But to say that the tribes who fight with us are "rented" is perhaps as vile a slander as to say that George Washington's men would have left him if the British offered a better deal.

Equally misguided were some senators' attempts to use Gen. Petraeus's statement, that there could be no purely military solution in Iraq, to dismiss our soldiers' achievements as "merely" military. In a successful counterinsurgency it is impossible to separate military and political success. The Sunni "awakening" was not primarily a military event any more than it was "bribery." It was a political event with enormous military benefits.

The huge drop in roadside bombings is also a political success – because the bombings were political events. It is not possible to bury a tank-busting 1,500-pound bomb in a neighborhood street without the neighbors noticing. Since the military cannot watch every road during every hour of the day (that would be a purely military solution), whether the bomb kills soldiers depends on whether the neighbors warn the soldiers or cover for the terrorists. Once they mostly stood silent; today they tend to pick up their cell phones and call the Americans. Even in big "kinetic" military operations like the taking of Baqubah in June 2007, politics was crucial. Casualties were a fraction of what we expected because, block-by-block, the citizens told our guys where to find the bad guys. I was there; I saw it.

The Iraqi central government is unsatisfactory at best. But the grass-roots political progress of the past year has been extraordinary – and is directly measurable in the drop in casualties.

This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting. To give one example, I just returned this week from Nineveh province, where I have spent probably eight months between 2005 to 2008, and it is clear that we remain stretched very thin from the Syrian border and through Mosul. Vast swaths of Nineveh are patrolled mostly by occasional overflights.

We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.

Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.

Mr. Yon is author of the just-published "Moment of Truth in Iraq" (Richard Vigilante Books). He has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.
24477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Children told they are dogs during mosque visit on: April 10, 2008, 08:56:55 PM
Second post of the day:

Children Told they are Dogs during Mosque Visit

THE HAGUE, 09/04/08 - A primary school in Amsterdam wished to provide its pupils with an understanding for other cultures. But during a visit to a mosque, the children were told they were dogs.

With a view to developing understanding and respect for other cultures among children, primary school De Horizon regularly organises outings to various religious organisations. The chairman of the El Mouchidine mosque told the children from group 7 (aged 10) and their chaperones however that non-Muslims are dogs.

In a letter to the children's parents, the school expresses its regret at the incident: "We are shocked that during the guided tour, the mosque's chairman told the children and chaperoning parents that non believers were dogs. We consider this statement as unacceptable since we allow our children to partake in this project to develop respect for freedom of religious choice".

In the meantime, the school's management has addressed the mosque on the undesirable behaviour of the chairman. Both parties will say nothing further on the matter. "We will resolve the matter amongst ourselves and I have no inclination whatsoever to discuss the matter with the media", as newspaper De Telegraaf quoted the school's spokesperson Mariet ten Berge. "We have been to the mosque before and it always went well".

Angry parents had sent the letter on to De Telegraaf but were reportedly rapped on the knuckles by the school's management. "The school wishes to play this down. That is precisely the problem", as one mother commented.

http://www.nisnews.nl/public/090408_2.htm
24478  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Blade Wounds by a Surgeon on: April 10, 2008, 06:47:13 PM
Great post Tom, thank you for sharing it here.

Folks, Dog Dean is highly qualified in these matters, indeed I consider him to be a subject matter expert for Dog Brothers Martial Arts. 

Concerning this matter of tourniquets, in addition to Dog Dean, my readings and conversations with those on the front lines of the War with Islamic Fascism tell me that a lot of folks are regarding tourniquets as Option A for serious bleeding, but speaking of these matters puts me WAY outside my lane and I leave proper discussion to Dog Dean and others qualified to an opinion in these matters.

Crafty Dog



24479  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Telescopic Batons on: April 10, 2008, 06:38:35 PM
Maxx:

Please forgive the advertisement, but our 28" kamagongs can be found at
http://dogbrothers.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=126&osCsid=f6647807fc37155892d6b4894859b855

Yip!
CD
24480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: April 10, 2008, 10:26:42 AM
The Airline Bomb Plot
April 10, 2008; Page A14
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain brought their presidential campaigns to the Petraeus-Crocker hearings on Iraq this week. An Iraq-based reporter appearing on one of the cable networks in the evening said the hearings struck him as oddly decoupled from the daily reality of war for the Iraqi people and U.S. troops there. Yup, never hurts to pinch yourself hard on entering presidential campaign space right now.

The three candidates addressed Gen. David Petraeus in tones of high gravitas equal to the thin altitude of the American presidency. Sen. Obama colloquied with Gen. Petraeus about the status of al Qaeda in Iraq – asking whether the terrorist organization could "reconstitute itself" and said that he was looking for "an endpoint."

 
WSJ's Wonder Land columnist Dan Henninger discusses the disconnect between U.S. politics and global terrorism. (April 9)
Here's another hypothetical: Would this conversation be different today if in August 2006 seven airliners had taken off from Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, bound for the U.S. and Canada and each carrying about 250 passengers, and then blew up over the Atlantic Ocean?

It is a hypothetical because, instead of the explosions, British prosecutors this week presented their case against eight Muslim men arrested in August 2006 and charged with conspiring to board and blow up those planes.

The details emerging from that case are quite remarkable and will be summarized shortly. Pause to reflect on the ebb and flow of public debate that has occurred over how free societies should order themselves after two airliners full of passengers knocked down the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11 in 2001.

The view that 9/11 "changed everything" did not hold up under the weight of our politics. Divisions re-emerged between Democrats and Republicans, in office and on the streets. These fights reignited over the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and the warrantless wiretap bill (or "FISA" revision). These arguers stopped to stare momentarily at their televisions when Islamic terrorists committed mass murder in the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the 2005 London subway bombing.

One sometimes gets the feeling that our policy debates over national security and the journalism that travels with them float, as it were, at 30,000 feet above the reality of the threat on the ground. A novelist or filmmaker, alert to the personal demons that drive modern terror, would with fiction better clarify what is at stake. Start with the details of the eight defendants now on trial in England.

The names of the accused plotters, all men in their 20s, are Abdullah Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Mohammed Gulzar, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan, Waheed Zaman and Umar Islam. They lived around London, in Walthamstow, Leyton, Plaistow and Barking. Most are Pakistanis.

Abdullah Ahmed Ali was caught on a wiretap telling his wife that he wished to bring his baby son along on the suicide mission. She resists. His suicide video, intended to become public after the planes blew up and shown at trial, promises "floods of martyr operations against you" and "your people's body parts decorating the streets."

Waheed Zaman studied biomedical science at London Metropolitan University. In his video Zaman says, "I have been educated to a high standard. I could have lived a life of ease but instead chose to fight for the sake of Allah's Deen [religion]."

Umar Islam mocks complacent Brits: "Most of you too busy, you know, watching Home and Away and EastEnders, complaining about the World Cup, drinking your alcohol." This would be fascinating as one nut's reason for murder. It is instead the basis for an ideology to justify blowing up thousands.

The prosecution said a computer memory stick on one of the men at his arrest listed the targeted flights. They were: United Airlines Flight 931 to San Francisco; UA959 to Chicago; UA925 to Washington; Air Canada 849 to Toronto; AC865 to Montreal; American Airlines 131 to New York and AA91 to Chicago. The first flight would depart at 2:15 p.m., the last at 4:50 p.m., allowing all to be aloft and out of U.S. or British airspace when they fell.

The private intelligence-analysis agency, Stratfor, concludes from the trial that "al Qaeda remains fixated on aircraft as targets and, in spite of changes in security procedures since 9/11, aircraft remain vulnerable to attack."

The men planned to take the bomb pieces onboard for assembly: empty plastic bottles, a sugary drink powder, hydrogen peroxide and other materials to be detonated with the flash on disposable cameras.

The arrests of the men, who say they are innocent, were the result of broad and prolonged surveillance. For months, the suspects were bugged, photographed and wiretapped.

Here in the U.S., our politics has spent much of the year unable to vote into law the wiretap bill, which is bogged down, incredibly, over giving retrospective legal immunity to telecom companies that helped the government monitor calls originating overseas. Even granting there are Fourth Amendment issues in play here, how is it that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot at least say that class-action lawsuits against these companies are simply wrong right now?

Philip Bobbitt, author of the just released and thought-provoking book, "Terror and Consent," has written that court warrants are "a useful standard for surveillance designed to prove guilt, not to learn the identity of people who may be planning atrocities." Planning atrocities is precisely the point.

"Atrocity" is a cruel and ugly word, but it has come to define the common parameters of the world we inhabit. It is entertaining to watch the candidates trying to convince the American people of their ability to be presidential. It would be more than nice to know, before one of them turns into a real president this November, what they will do – or more importantly, will never do – to stop what those eight jihadists sitting in the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in London planned for seven America-bound airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.

WSJ
24481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sowell: Republicans and Blacks on: April 10, 2008, 09:28:22 AM
Republicans And Blacks
By Thomas Sowell
April 10, 2008

If Senator John McCain needed to prove that he is a real Republican, he did it when he continued an old Republican tradition of utterly inept attempts to appeal to black voters.

Senator McCain was booed at a recent memorial on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In typical Republican fashion, he tried to apologize but the audience was not buying it and let him know it.


Why would Senator McCain choose a venue where his rejection was virtually guaranteed? Not only did he not get his message out, the message that came out through the media is that this black audience rejected him, which is readily portrayed as if blacks in general rejected him.

The Republican strategy for making inroads into the black vote has failed consistently for more than a quarter of a century. Yet it never seems to occur to them to change their approach.

The first thing that they do that is foredoomed to failure is trying to reach blacks through the civil rights organizations and other institutions of the black establishment. The second proven loser is trying to appeal to blacks by offering the same kinds of things that Democrats offer-- token honors, politically correct rhetoric and welfare state benefits.

Blacks who want those things know that they can already get them from the Democrats. Why should they listen to Republicans who act like imitation Democrats?'

These are not the blacks whose votes Republicans have any realistic hope of getting. Nor do the Republicans need the votes of all blacks. If just 20 percent of blacks begin voting Republican, the Democrats are lost.

The question then is how to have a shot at getting the votes of those blacks who are not in thrall to the current black "leaders" and who on many issues may be conservative.

First of all, you don't get their votes by approaching them from the left, when that is neither their orientation nor yours. Issuing stamps honoring Paul Robeson and Kwanzaa are not the way to reach those blacks whom Republicans have any realistic chance of reaching.

Trying to reach blacks through civil rights organizations that are totally hostile to your message is like a quarterback trying to throw a pass to a receiver surrounded by opposing defenders. That just leads to a lot of interceptions and touchdowns for the other team.

That is essentially what has been happening to the Republicans, as far as the black vote is concerned, for decades on end. Someone once said that a method which fails repeatedly may possibly be wrong.

The truth is something that can attract people's attention, if only for its novelty in politics. There is no need for Republicans to try to pose as saviors of blacks. Democrats do that and they have more experience doing it.

A sober presentation of the facts-- "straight talk," if you will-- gives Senator McCain and Republicans their best shot at a larger share of the votes of blacks. There is plenty to talk straight about, including all the things that the Democrats are committed to that work to the disadvantage of blacks, beginning with Democrats' adamant support of teachers' unions in their opposition to parental choice through vouchers.

>> Continued -- Page 1 2

The teachers' unions are just one of the sacred cow constituencies of the Democratic Party whose agendas are very harmful to blacks.

Black voters also need to be told about the tens of thousands of blacks who have been forced out of a number of liberal Democratic California counties by skyrocketing housing prices, brought on by Democratic environmentalists' severe restrictions on the building of homes or apartments.

The black population of San Francisco, for example, has been cut in half since 1970-- and San Francisco is the very model of a community of liberal Democrats, including green zealots who are heedless of the consequences of their actions on others.

Then there are the effects of tort lawyers in raising prices, liberal judges turning criminals loose and other influential Democratic Party constituencies whose effects on blacks are strictly negative.

Where should these and other messages be delivered to blacks, if not through the existing black organizations?

That message can be delivered as part of televised speeches addressing other major issues facing the country. It can be delivered as part of advertisements in the general media and separately in advertisements in newspapers, magazines and television programs with a black audience.

Logistics are not the problem. Insistence on following a repeatedly failed game plan is.
24482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 10, 2008, 09:16:04 AM
Sent to me by someone who has seen interesting things in Pak and Afg.

It's Payback Time
Times of India, India
Haroun Mir
9 Apr 2008
In 1994 when Pakistani officials decided to create a dreadful monster called the Taliban, they didn't bother to estimate its impact on their own society.

In fact, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) militaristic policies, which consisted of bleeding the Indian army in Kashmir and turning Afghanistan into their virtual fifth province, have blinded them to the consequences.

Their ill-conceived strategy has failed once again. Consequently, the Indian military has emerged stronger from the long conflict in Kashmir and the coalition forces have assisted Afghans to liberate Kabul from the grasp of the Taliban.

Eventually, Pakistan has become the biggest loser because the same radical movements, which its military leaders have created, threaten its very existence.

In the spring of 1992, the communist regime fell and Ahmad Shah Massoud's forces entered Kabul. Pakistani officials instructed their trusted man and surrogate Gulbudin Hekmatyar (leader of Hezb-e-Islami), who had just been appointed the prime minister of the newly established coalition government in Kabul, to burn down the city.

From 1992 to 1994, the Afghan capital became a living hell. Despite intensive efforts, Hekmatyar's forces were stuck in the southern and eastern parts of Kabul and were unable to make significant progress. Pakistani authorities decided to shift their support from Hekmatyar to a then-unknown radical movement — the Taliban.

Along with the ISI the late Benazir Bhutto and Nasrullah Babar — then respectively the prime minister and interior minister of Pakistan — are also to blame because the movement was created under their direct watch.

Few politicians in Pakistan and in the rest of the world ever questioned Pakistan's dangerous policy of purposely nurturing a radical Islamist group.

In September 1995, Colonel Imam (a senior ISI official), with impunity and consent of western officials who had an interest in the Turkmen pipeline project, personally led Taliban forces to capture Herat, which is the largest city in western Afghanistan.

In 1996 when Bin Laden's airplane landed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, no alarm went off in the capitals of the West.

When the Taliban were beating women, destroying schools, and holding public executions, Pakistani officials were trying to convince the rest of the world by saying that Afghanistan was a backward, fragmented, and ethnically divided country which needed an iron hand to stabilise it.

Today, the same ills that destroyed Afghanistan plague Pakistan. Pakistani society today has become fundamentally divided. The home to Pakistan's intellectuals and moderate middle class is Punjab and Sindh, while radicalism, terrorism and poverty thrive in the Pashtun heartland and in Baluchistan province.

Up to the present moment, Pakistan's military authorities have favoured radical Islamist groups at the expense of moderate and democratic movements.

For example, President Musharraf didn't hesitate to jail lawyers who protested in favour of rule of law and democracy but appeased murderous radical Islamists and Taliban leaders under the phony Pashtun code of conduct enforced in the tribal area.

Until now, Pakistani authorities have been able to avoid a full confrontation with local Taliban groups for fear of alienating Pashtuns who constitute over 15 per cent of Pakistan's popu-lation, but are intentionally over-represented up to 25 per cent in Pakistan's army.

Despite continuous pressure from the US, Pakistan's military authorities have resisted bringing their Punjabi elite units to the tribal battlegrounds against the Pashtun radical movements.

Instead, they heavily relied on militia forces from the tribal zone to secure the area. Pakistani leaders rigorously want to avoid a rift and direct confrontation between Punjabis and Pashtuns.

Indeed, there is a real risk that the "war on terror" in Pakistan might transform into a full war for autonomy or independence of Pashtun tribes from Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities have broken the status quo in the tribal zone by promoting radical Islam and extremist religious leaders at the expense of traditional tribal leaders and institutions.

Pakistan's policy in the tribal zone has been a continuation of former British colonial policy, which consisted of keeping Pashtun tribes economically dependent, politically fragmented, and intellectually backward.

The government in Islamabad has continued to subsidise them and bribe their leaders, instead of creating a sustained economy and providing modern education.

The ageing Al-Qaida leaders and Afghan veterans of the Soviet war are ceding leadership to much younger and emerging local Taliban leaders.

Baitullah Mehsud is the best example of the new leaders, who want to set the agenda rather than follow anyone's orders.

Despite the efforts of ISI and Pakistani religious leaders to force him to fight against "infidel troops" in Afghanistan, Mehsud persisted with his goal to take the battle to Islamabad instead of Kabul.

Many fellow Afghans praise him for taking on Pakistani forces. Indeed, Pakistani authorities created Taliban to protect their interests in Afghanistan and in Kashmir, but are now faced with uncalculated consequences, which seriously threaten Pakistan's own existence.

The newly elected civilian leaders will have a hard time setting right the mistakes committed by the military over more than three decades.

(The writer served as a special assistant to late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defence minister.)
24483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / HPLF on: April 10, 2008, 09:08:14 AM
I entered HPLF at .34 (yes, that is 34 cents rolleyes ) with a suitably small position and added at .44 and am happy to report at the moment that it is at .68.

They are reporting success in their development of an artificial liver.
24484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraqi ambassador on: April 10, 2008, 08:54:11 AM
Bicycle races?  Those small details can be so telling , , ,

And here's the Iraqi ambassador in today's WSJ on the big picture:


Iraq's National Identity Is Alive and Growing
By SAMIR SUMAIDA'IE
April 10, 2008

Five years after Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, Iraq and the U.S. face important choices for their future relationship – choices that will have profound long-term ramifications for both countries.

Iraq, freed from a ruthless dictatorship, has chosen plurality, democracy and federalism as a system of government. It is struggling to implement them against a formidable set of internal and external challenges. The leaders of the new Iraq must further demonstrate resolve to defend their choices and rise above parochial interests.

Having intervened and committed itself so deeply, the U.S. is debating the level and cost of its engagement. I submit that it cannot afford to lose this fight to its enemies. The destinies of the U.S. and Iraq have become intertwined and their national interests very closely linked.

The big test for Iraq is to find the necessary internal accommodations between competing political interests, enabling the country to keep outside interference at bay and ensure its internal cohesion and national unity. The big test for the U.S. is to maintain its resolve while adjusting its tactics and policies to achieve success in Iraq.

Those who see only serious problems within the Iraqi government and society miss the point. Iraqis are the first to admit to their shortcomings. What is important is that they are determined to overcome them. They also know it will be a long and painful process of incremental progress, punctuated by setbacks.

Those who argue that Iraq is fractured and hopelessly broken – a Humpty Dumpty that can never be put together again – are wrong. Many countries have experienced great difficulties and emerged united and strong. Iraqi national identity has been weakened, but it is alive and kicking, and will embarrass all of those who rushed to write its obituary.

A year ago some people were convinced that Iraq was sliding into a civil war. It was precisely the sense of Iraqi national identity that helped to avert it.

Others considered Iraq lost to terrorists and militias. Again, it was the sense of national identity, as well as a tradition of tolerance, that made the communities in Al Anbar and elsewhere rise up against al Qaeda. This same sense of national identity was behind the widespread rejection of proposals to carve up the country into federal regions on a sectarian basis.

The convulsions of a society battered by decades of brutality and deprivation are all too evident. But the resilience, tenacity and commitment to national unity are no less evident. The glass may be half-empty, but it is also half full and filling up. Slowly perhaps, but surely. The achievements which Iraqis have accomplished under fire spanning the security, economic and political spheres stand as a testimony to their determination to succeed.

Yet the challenges the Iraqi government still faces are daunting. In addition to fighting terrorists and extremists, the government needs to reform its security forces and bureaucracy, purging them of sectarian discrimination and debilitating corruption. Only by doing this will it be able to deliver better services to its citizens and obtain full legitimacy.

Today, the world is facing a new and dangerous threat of international extremism and terrorism. The epicenter of this confrontation is Iraq. The new enemy is harder to defeat because it is not confined to a state, though some states are involved in its creation and promotion. It is diffused throughout many societies. But this enemy can and must be defeated. As the struggles of the last century shaped our world, this struggle will shape the world for generations to come.

This is not to say that this struggle is simple: the good versus the bad. It is complex. In Iraq, there are many layers of competing visions, interests and political objectives existing simultaneously. The people of Iraq were traumatized for decades. They are as vulnerable to the worst elements among them as they are to external forces. But there are enough of them with the will to fight for their future and their country.

This was demonstrated by the recent events in Basra, where the Iraqi government decided to pursue outlaws and armed militias engaged in criminal activities and the terrorizing of communities. It was a brave attempt given the circumstances, and was supported by all the political groups in Iraq except for the Sadrists. This was Round One. The fight will continue.

The salvation of Iraqis and the interests of the U.S. coincide. They lie in the defeat of the terrorists and extremists, and the frustration of the ambitions of all those who want this joint American-Iraqi endeavor to fail. This endeavor is costly, in every sense. But failure would be immeasurably costlier. That is why we need to build a long-term strategic alliance, and to make it work. It is in this context that we must look at the current negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq to reach a Status of Forces Agreement and a Strategic Framework Agreement.

After a bumpy learning curve, the U.S. has started to do things better in Iraq. The surge, applying the counterinsurgency principles of Gen. David Petraeus, has produced tangible results. It is not time to give up.

Mr. Sumaida'ie is Iraq's ambassador to the United States.

24485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Several days worth 2 on: April 10, 2008, 08:46:25 AM

"The Declaration of Independence...[is the] declaratory charter
of our rights, and the rights of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Samuel Adams Wells, 12 May 1821)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., vol. 15 (200)


----------

"That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular
arrangements of the powers of society, or, in other words, that
form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial
and exact execution of the laws, is the best of republics."

-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 194
-------------

“Remember, that Time is Money.” —Benjamin Franklin
---------------

"Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions
of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice
without constraint."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 15)

Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 15.
------------------

24486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: April 10, 2008, 08:32:16 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Escalation and the Saudi Connection
April 8, 2008
Syria decided on Tuesday to postpone releasing the findings of its investigation into the Feb. 12 assassination of Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyah just as Iranian media outlet, Fars News Agency, reported through its Persian language service that Syrian authorities had detained a Saudi Arabian intelligence official for allegedly participating in the assassination. According to the Fars report, the Saudi official’s Syrian girlfriend bought the two vehicles used in the bombing that killed Mughniyah. We are also told that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a top Saudi national security official, masterminded the operation.

While Damascus is refraining from officially implicating Riyadh in the assassination, the Iranians have decided to escalate matters with the Saudis, their chief rivals in the Arab/Muslim world.

In fact, the conflicts in both Iraq and Lebanon (and to a lesser degree in the Israeli-Palestinian theatre) represent a struggle between the Saudis and Iranians for influence over the predominantly Arab Middle East. However, this struggle did not begin with the rise of Iran and the Arab Shia when the Baathist regime was ousted in Iraq at the hands of the United States nearly five years ago.

Instead, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry truly began at the foundation of the Islamic republic in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Up until that point, Saudi Arabia saw itself as the virtually unchallenged leader of the Arab/Islamic world. Saudi Arabia claimed unrivaled status as the preeminent nation-state in the largely Sunni Islamic world, given that its founding principle was Islam (albeit Wahhabi) coupled with the fact that that the Kaaba was housed in Mecca while the Mosque of the Prophet was located in Medina.

Alongside its identity as an Islamic state, Saudi Arabia is also a pro-western country with the largest oil resources in the Middle East. More importantly it was a key U.S. ally in the region. But, the autocratic nature of the regime coupled with its western alignment made Saudi Arabia a target of resentment among emerging radical Islamists. The establishment of a radical Islamist (though Shiite) regime in Iran, which overthrew the pro-western Iranian monarchy of the Shah, led to the rise of the worst Saudi nightmare — a regional state with comparable energy resources and a much larger military force. This new power challenged Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Islamic world by employing a radical brand of Islam that appeared more attractive to the Arab/Muslim masses who were disillusioned with what they perceived as the moribund version of official Islam promoted by a corrupt Saudi regime.

For the longest time, the Saudis took comfort from the fact that the Persian and Shiite character of the clerical regime in Tehran would stifle an Iranian challenge.

Another key factor that kept the Saudis comfortable was the fact that Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. This created a buffer separating the Iranians from the Arabian Peninsula. Furthermore, Iraq (a Shiite majority state dominated by the Sunni minority) kept Iran occupied with eight years of war and forced the newly formed Islamic republic to temper its regional ambitions. Tehran therefore reached an informal and uncomfortable accommodation of sorts with Riyadh.

The most that the Iranians were able to do was help create Hezbollah in Lebanon and align with Syria. It was not until the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which removed a major threat to the Iranians, that Tehran was presented with an opportunity to revisit its regional ambitions by empowering pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia in Baghdad. As a result, the return of the Iranian/Shiite threat has been the single largest security nightmare for the Saudis.

Realizing that there is not much that can be done to check Iranian gains in Iraq, the Saudis are trying to strike back in the Levant by creating a coalition against Hezbollah while forcing Syria out of the Iranian orbit. Here is where Saudi and Israeli interests converge. A behind the scenes cooperation has emerged between the two with Prince Bandar playing a key role. This collaboration would explain why the Iranians linked him to the Mugniyah assassination. Emboldened by their growing influence in Iraq, the Iranians now feel that they can afford to up the ante with the Saudis, and hence the leak via Fars.

It is unlikely that the Iranians or the Saudis will come to blows because of these rising tensions, but their rivalry has just intensified. To what degree the Saudis can play the Persian/Shiite card against Tehran and how far the Iranians can exploit Saudi alignment with the United States and Israel against Riyadh in this race for regional domination remains to be seen. From Washington’s point of view, so long as it exists, this conflict is perfect and one that it can use to advance its own regional interests.

stratfor
24487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wall of Silence Broken on: April 10, 2008, 05:03:16 AM
Wall of silence broken at state's Muslim public school
By KATHERINE KERSTEN, Star Tribune

Last update: April 9, 2008 - 12:45 PM


Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food - permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day.

Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, "due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing." But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond -- even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.

Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomington is a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZA on Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.

Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.

Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."

Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."

"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty," Getz said. "The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one -- the board said the kids were studying the Qu'ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."

After school, Getz's fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day -- buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside. Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say that their "main reason for choosing TIZA ... was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building," according to a TIZA report. TIZA may be the only school in Minnesota with this distinction.

Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school? According to Zaman, the department inspects TIZA regularly -- and has done so "numerous times" -- to ensure that it is not a religious school.

But the department's records document only three site visits to TIZA in five years -- two in 2003-04 and one in 2007, according to Assistant Commissioner Morgan Brown. None of the visits focused specifically on religious practices.

The department is set up to operate on a "complaint basis," and "since 2004, we haven't gotten a single complaint about TIZA," Brown said. In 2004, he sent two letters to the school inquiring about religious activity reported by visiting department staffers and in a news article. Brown was satisfied with Zaman's assurance that prayer is "voluntary" and "student-led," he said. The department did not attempt to confirm this independently, and did not ask how 5- to 11-year-olds could be initiating prayer. (At the time, TIZA was a K-5 school.)


Zaman agreed to respond by e-mail to concerns raised about the school's practices. Student "prayer is not mandated by TIZA," he wrote, and so is legal. On Friday afternoons, "students are released ... to either join a parent-led service or for study hall." Islamic Studies is provided by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, and other "nonsectarian" after-school options are available, he added.

Yet prayer at TIZA does not appear to be spontaneously initiated by students, but rather scheduled, organized and promoted by school authorities.

Request for volunteers

Until recently, TIZA's website included a request for volunteers to help with "Friday prayers." In an e-mail, Zaman explained this as an attempt to ensure that "no TIZA staff members were involved in organizing the Friday prayers."


But an end run of this kind cannot remove the fact of school sponsorship of prayer services, which take place in the school building during school hours. Zaman does not deny that "some" Muslim teachers "probably" attend. According to federal guidelines on prayer in schools, teachers at a public school cannot participate in prayer with students.


In addition, schools cannot favor one religion by offering services for only its adherents, or promote after-school religious instruction for only one group. The ACLU of Minnesota has launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review.


TIZA's operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense. The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there's a double standard at work here -- if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.

TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.

http://www.startribune.com/local/17406054.html
24488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Heathrow Plot Trial on: April 10, 2008, 04:57:47 AM

The Heathrow Plot Trial: Retrospection and Implications
April 9, 2008
Graphic for Terrorism Intelligence Report

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

The trial of eight men accused of participating in a 2006 plot to bomb a series of airline flights began April 3 in London. The men are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and preparing acts of terrorism in connection with the plot, which allegedly called for using liquid explosives to bring down at least seven planes flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to cities in the United States and Canada.

The trial is expected to last several months, but several interesting facts already have emerged regarding the plot and the people accused of participating in it. Although a considerable amount of media attention has been focused on the revelation that two Air Canada flights (one to Montreal and one to Toronto) were among the first seven flights targeted — the others were United Airlines flights to Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, and American Airlines flights to Chicago and New York — perhaps the most interesting revelation has been the alleged role of Mohammed Gulzar.

Gulzar reportedly flew into the United Kingdom in July 2006 using a fraudulent identity. His means of travel and his role in the conspiracy suggest he was an operational commander who had been sent from abroad to assist the grassroots plotters with their attack plans. The involvement of an operational commander sent by the al Qaeda core leadership and charged with working with grassroots operatives to orchestrate an attack is what we consider the al Qaeda 1.0 operational model.

When combined with other indicators, Gulzar’s role and travel pattern seem to confirm the involvement of the al Qaeda core leadership in the plot. The participation of the core organization sheds new light on the behavior of the core al Qaeda leaders in 2006, and gives us some insight into plots they might still be planning.
Recurrent Themes

As we noted after the Heathrow plot came to light, the scheme shared several themes with other thwarted or successful al Qaeda plots, including the choice of aircraft as targets, the notion of multiple, simultaneous strikes and the use of modular improvised explosive devices, which would have been smuggled aboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage. Moreover, whoever was involved in planning the operation shared al Qaeda’s penchant for “thinking big.”

As originally conceived, al Qaeda’s 2001 “planes operation” was to involve the simultaneous hijackings of 10 aircraft departing from both the East and West Coasts of the United States. Nine of the aircraft were to be either blown up in-flight or slammed into targeted buildings. The 10th plane was to be landed at a U.S. airport and, after all the adult male passengers were killed, a speech was to be delivered outlining al Qaeda’s grievances with the United States. Al Qaeda’s apex leaders — Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef — eventually agreed to a scaled-down version of the planes operation involving four aircraft, which was carried out Sept. 11, 2001.

The West Coast portion of the plan was spun off as a separate operation that was to have occurred in October 2001, but which reportedly was postponed several times for various reasons. This operation, also known as the Library Tower Plot, was compromised and disrupted in 2002.

These themes also were evidenced in the plot to bomb American Airlines Flight 63 in December 2001. In that plan, Richard Reid successfully smuggled his “shoe bomb” aboard the aircraft. The attempt failed only because Reid tried to light the bomb’s fuse in the passenger cabin (rather than a more secluded area, such as a restroom) and was stopped by a flight attendant and passengers.

The 2006 Heathrow plot, however, bears the strongest resemblance to Operation Bojinka, which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with his nephew Abdel Basit, helped to plan and finance while living in Manila, the Philippines, in the mid-1990s. The tactical similarities include the targeting of multiple U.S.-flagged aircraft traveling to the United States, the use of modular explosive devices — which were to be assembled in-flight after operatives accessed their carry-on baggage — and the use of liquid explosives.

The scope of the Heathrow plot also highlights another theme common in al Qaeda plots: a tendency to think big. This theme, which was reflected in the original planes operation and in Bojinka, was also the undoing of al Qaeda attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Millennium Bomb Plot and an attempted strike against the USS The Sullivans off the coast of Yemen in January 2000. Indeed, the scope of the Heathrow plot and the need to include many people in its execution is likely what opened the door for a British government informant to penetrate the group and learn of the plans.
Mohammed Gulzar

A close look at the details emerging from the trial of Gulzar and the seven other suspects also reveals other recurring themes, including the use of document fraud. Gulzar entered the United Kingdom on July 18, 2006, using a fraudulent South African passport in the name of Altaf Ravat. He reportedly was traveling with his new wife and, in order to secure a visa, alleged that he was on his honeymoon. The pair even spent a couple of days in Mauritius after leaving South Africa in order to make the honeymoon cover appear more convincing. As a British citizen, Gulzar had the right to a British passport and thus could have traveled to the United Kingdom using his own identity. The only reason to commit document fraud was to conceal his identity.

As seen in past cases involving operational commanders such as Basit and Ahmed Ressam, it is fairly common for operational commanders to commit passport fraud. In fact, recovered al Qaeda operation manuals encourage using fraudulent documents to hide one’s identity, enter a country illegally or continue to stay in a country after a legitimate visa has expired. Basit had more than a dozen aliases that we know of, including the well-known fraudulent Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef — the name by which many people still mistakenly refer to him. Gulzar’s use of South Africa as a source of fraudulent documents and a transit point to Europe also exemplifies a trend we have been watching for some time now.
=========
When British police arrested Gulzar on Aug. 9, 2006, he told them his name was Altaf Ravat and produced his South African documents. It was only after running fingerprint checks that they determined — two days after his arrest — that he really was a British citizen named Mohammed Gulzar. When questioned by police, Gulzar admitted he was not on his honeymoon, though he then said he was a missionary with the Tablighi Jamaat and was in the United Kingdom on a proselytizing mission.

As seen in past attacks — the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the attack on the USS Cole, the East Africa embassy bombings and others that followed the al Qaeda 1.0 operational model — the operational planner does not intend to be killed or captured. He flees and lives to fight another day. In operations in which an operative plans to be killed, such as 9/11 and the July 7, 2005 London attacks, there is no need for him to hide his true identity. Gulzar’s use of a fraudulent identity suggests he intended to flee after the attack. This theory is supported by the fact that British authorities recovered a number of videotapes containing the wills and suicide declarations of various members of the alleged cell, but they did not recover such a video featuring Gulzar.
Fitting the Pieces Together

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and when we use it to plug the 2006 Heathrow plot into the big picture of al Qaeda behavior during that time, we can begin to make some assumptions as to the extent of the core leadership’s involvement.

According to court testimony, the British government began to monitor many of the men allegedly involved in the plot shortly after the July 7, 2005 London attacks. It also has been reported that, like Mohammed Siddique Khan, several of the men involved in the 2006 plot had traveled to Pakistan and received training at jihadist camps. It also appears that Gulzar was sent by the core al Qaeda leadership to London in July 2006 to supervise the execution of this plot. Judging from past cases, Gulzar’s preparation for the travel to London likely began several months prior to his actual arrival in the United Kingdom. Also judging from past cases, a plan of this magnitude, involving so many aircraft, almost certainly would have to have been approved by the al Qaeda apex leadership. The leadership probably also provided the funding for the operation, including the more than $271,000 in cash the group reportedly paid for the flat they purchased in London, where the improvised explosive mixtures were to be manufactured.

If those assumptions are indeed true, then this plot may very well be one of the operations Osama bin Laden was referencing in his Jan. 19, 2006, message when he said, “The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God’s permission.”

The preparations for this attack also had picked up momentum by mid-2006 when the al Qaeda core leadership was undertaking what we referred to at the time as a media blitz. Indeed, just as the traffic from this blitz was beginning to slow down, As-Sahab released a video titled, “Will of the Knights of the London Raid (Part 2),” which contained the last will of London bomber Shehzad Tanweer. This video was released one day before the anniversary of the July 7 attacks and 12 days before Gulzar arrived in the United Kingdom.

Nine days after Gulzar’s arrival, and two weeks before the arrests were made, As-Sahab released a video featuring al-Zawahiri. The backdrop featured three large photographs: one of Mohammed Atef (al Qaeda’s senior military chief who was killed in Afghanistan in late 2001), one of 9/11 operational commander Mohammed Atta and one of the burning World Trade Center towers.

In the video, al-Zawahiri discussed a lecture Atef gave in 2000 to al Qaeda trainees about Palestine. According to his recounting, Atta — who was among the trainees — asked, “What is the way to defeat the attack on Palestine?” Al-Zawahiri supplied his own answer in the video, saying the nation that produced the 19 “who shook America” is “capable of producing double that number.”

It could be a coincidence that a large plot involving aircraft — nearly twice as many as were hijacked on 9/11 — was thwarted only two weeks after this video surfaced. But we are not big believers in coincidence — nor do we believe there are obvious (or even hidden) messages in every al Qaeda message. However, to our minds the July 27 tape was a clear message meant to be viewed in retrospect — that al Qaeda was behind the Heathrow airline plot.
The Continuing Fixation

More than anything, the current trial is a reminder of three things. First, had the first wave of attacks successfully taken down the planes, it would have been very difficult to determine how the explosive devices had been smuggled aboard the aircraft. This means it is entirely possible the same tactic would have been used in subsequent waves of attacks.

Second, for some reason in 2006 the al Qaeda leadership’s eagerness for a spectacular attack appears to have trumped their perceived need for moderation. It was the moderation of people like Mohammed Atef that reined in the enthusiasm of the group’s idealists (men such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) and caused them to scale down the 2001 planes operation to less than half its original size — a measure that improved operational security and assisted in the 9/11 plot’s eventual success.

Finally, al Qaeda remains fixated on aircraft as targets and, in spite of changes in security procedures since 9/11, aircraft remain vulnerable to attack.
24489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Sergeant Solution on: April 09, 2008, 07:51:29 PM
The Sergeant Solution
By ROBERT H. SCALES
April 8, 2008; Page A21

Today Gen. David Petraeus testifies in front of Congress. He will note the progress being made in Iraq thanks to his new counterinsurgency strategy and the "surge." He will also remind everyone that much remains to be done, as the recent battle in Basra demonstrated.

But no matter what he says, it is clear that the writing is on the wall. The bulk of American ground forces will be leaving Iraq. The only question is how many and how fast.

 
AP 
The first group of soldiers from the new Iraqi army prepare to graduate in 2003.
After we leave, the Iraqis will have to shoulder the burden of maintaining stability in their country. How well prepared they are for this task will depend on how strong the Iraqi army's noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps is when we leave. NCOs, sergeants and corporals, provide a center of gravity for effective fighting forces and often lead small units. They will be vital to sustaining the Iraqi army through the battles ahead.

As a flurry of facts and figures buzz through the air on Capitol Hill today, keep in mind the Army adage that armies are best built from the bottom up, squad by squad, platoon by platoon. Winning wars is not a test of numbers or materiel so much as it is a test of will. The side that wins is the side that wants most to win, and has young soldiers willing to die to secure victory. In good armies, the will to win is set by example, by junior leaders, sergeants and lieutenants, who lead from the front.

The most encouraging news from the battlefield recently is that Iraqi leadership at the small unit level is improving. Sadly, finding effective young officers in wartime is a brutal process, as it requires testing them in action. The American Army in the Civil War experienced a similar baptism of fire, at a cost of more than half a million dead.

NCOs are the backbone of the American Army. But strong NCOs, who take a leadership role, are an alien concept in areas of the world ruled by strict hierarchies. The Iraqi army is no exception.

In Saddam's military, sergeants were only expected to hold formations, account for equipment and march soldiers from one place to another. Officers made all of the decisions. That's why Saddam had so many of them – and why his army was not as flexible as it needed to be. Gen. Petraeus is trying to change the old-Iraqi-army culture, and he must if the Iraqis are to have a robust military with depth and staying power on the battlefield.

At Gen. Petraeus's urging, last year the Iraqis started divisional schools for NCOs. About 10% of each basic training class is sent to three additional weeks of instruction to learn to be corporals, the first rung of the NCO leadership ladder. Successful corporals attend a five-week course, where they learn how to take care of soldiers and the details of leading small units in close combat.

The most senior course teaches sergeants to lead platoons, learning skills formerly reserved for captains and majors. Many newly minted NCOs depart from these schools directly into combat, where they learn to get better in the harsh classroom of real war.

This process of "on the job training" among small units in combat has been made more efficient with the addition of American military training teams. These are squad-sized units embedded in Iraqi combat battalions and brigades.

Experience has shown that the surest way to quickly increase the competency of small unit leaders and their men is to have direct, hands-on instruction in the field by American NCOs. In such a setting, our NCOs demonstrate professionalism and a "take charge" attitude while fighting side by side with their Iraqi counterparts. Our NCOs teach by doing.

Today there are only 5,000 of these embedded trainers in the field. As the Iraqis head into combat without American partner units, they will probably need more training teams to embed with them. How many? That is a decision that has not yet been made. But a consensus among senior officers engaged in this program suggests that the number of trainers must be doubled, perhaps even tripled if the new Iraqi army is to be successful.

The postsurge strategy should not be focused solely on creating an Iraqi army in the image of our own. The Iraqis only have to be better than their enemies. And there is a danger in committing the blood, treasure and time necessary to train and a large Iraqi army. Wars are not won by the bigger force, but by intangibles. Leadership, courage, adaptability, integrity, intellectual agility and allegiance ultimately determine who wins wars.

Major Gen. Scales (Ret.), a former commandant of the Army War College, is president of Colgen Inc., a defense consulting firm.
24490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Mystery on: April 09, 2008, 07:48:04 PM
A Mystery in the Middle East
By George Friedman
Stratfor

The Arab-Israeli region of the Middle East is filled with rumors of war. That is about as unusual as the rising of the sun, so normally it would not be worth mentioning. But like the proverbial broken clock that is right twice a day, such rumors occasionally will be true. In this case, we don't know that they are true, and certainly it's not the rumors that are driving us. But other things — minor and readily explicable individually — have drawn our attention to the possibility that something is happening.

The first thing that drew our attention was a minor, routine matter. Back in February, the United States started purchasing oil for its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is a reserve of crude oil stored in underground salt domes. Back in February, it stood at 96.2 percent of capacity, which is pretty full as far as we are concerned. But the U.S. Department of Energy decided to increase its capacity. This move came in spite of record-high oil prices and the fact that the purchase would not help matters. It also came despite potential political fallout, since during times like these there is generally pressure to release reserves. Part of the step could have been the bureaucracy cranking away, and part of it could have been the feeling that the step didn't make much difference. But part of it could have been based on real fears of a disruption in oil supplies. By itself, the move meant nothing. But it did cause us to become thoughtful.

Also in February, someone assassinated Imad Mughniyah, a leader of Hezbollah, in a car bomb explosion in Syria. It was assumed the Israelis had killed him, although there were some suspicions the Syrians might have had him killed for their own arcane reasons. In any case, Hezbollah publicly claimed the Israelis killed Mughniyah, and therefore it was expected the militant Shiite group would take revenge. In the past, Hezbollah responded not by attacking Israel but by attacking Jewish targets elsewhere, as in the Buenos Aires attacks of 1992 and 1994.

In March, the United States decided to dispatch the USS Cole, then under Sixth Fleet command, to Lebanese coastal waters. Washington later replaced it with two escorts from the Nassau (LHA-4) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), reportedly maintaining a minor naval presence in the area. (Most of the ESG, on a regularly scheduled deployment, is no more than a few days sail from the coast, as it remains in the Mediterranean Sea.) The reason given for the American naval presence was to serve as a warning to the Syrians not to involve themselves in Lebanese affairs. The exact mission of the naval presence off the Levantine coast — and the exact deterrent function it served — was not clear, but there they were. The Sixth Fleet has gone out of its way to park and maintain U.S. warships off the Lebanese coast.

Hezbollah leaders being killed by the Israelis and the presence of American ships off the shores of Mediterranean countries are not news in and of themselves. These things happen. The killing of Mughniyah is notable only to point out that as much as Israel might have wanted him dead, the Israelis knew this fight would escalate. But anyone would have known this. So all we know is that whoever killed Mughniyah wanted to trigger a conflict. The U.S. naval presence off the Levantine coast is notable in that Washington, rather busy with matters elsewhere, found the bandwidth to get involved here as well.

With the situation becoming tense, the Israelis announced in March that they would carry out an exercise in April called Turning Point 2. Once again, an Israeli military exercise is hardly interesting news. But the Syrians apparently got quite interested. After the announcement, the Syrians deployed three divisions — two armored, one mechanized — to the Lebanese-Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley, the western part of which is Hezbollah's stronghold. The Syrians didn't appear to be aggressive. Rather, they deployed these forces in a defensive posture, in a way walling off their part of the valley.

The Syrians are well aware that in the event of a conventional war with Israel, they would experience a short but exciting life, as they say. They thus are hardly going to attack Israel. The deployment therefore seemed intended to keep the Israelis on the Lebanese side of the border — on the apparent assumption the Israelis were going into the Bekaa Valley. Despite Israeli and Syrian denials of the Syrian troop buildup along the border, Stratfor sources maintain that the buildup in fact happened. Normally, Israel would be jumping at the chance to trumpet Syrian aggression in response to these troop movements, but, instead, the Israelis downplayed the buildup.

When the Israelis kicked off Turning Point 2, which we regard as a pretty interesting name, it turned out to be the largest exercise in Israeli history. It involved the entire country, and was designed to test civil defenses and the ability of the national command authority to continue to function in the event of an attack with unconventional weapons — chemical and nuclear, we would assume. This was a costly exercise. It also involved calling up reserves, some of them for the exercise, and, by some reports, others for deployment to the north against Syria. Israel does not call up reserves casually. Reserve call-ups are expensive and disrupt the civilian economy. These appear small, but in the environment of Turning Point 2, it would not be difficult to mobilize larger forces without being noticed.

The Syrians already were deeply concerned by the Israeli exercise. Eventually, the Lebanese government got worried, too, and started to evacuate some civilians from the South. Hezbollah, which still hadn't retaliated for the Mughniyah assassination, also claimed the Israelis were about to attack it, and reportedly went on alert and mobilized its forces. The Americans, who normally issue warnings and cautions to everyone, said nothing to try to calm the situation. They just sat offshore on their ships.

It is noteworthy that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a scheduled visit to Germany this week. The cancellation came immediately after the reports of the Syrian military redeployment were released. Obviously, Barak needed to be in Israel for Turning Point 2, but then he had known about the exercise for at least a month. Why cancel at the last minute? While we are discussing diplomacy, we note that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Oman — a country with close relations with Iran — and then was followed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. By itself not interesting, but why the high-level interest in Oman at this point?

Now let's swing back to September 2007, when the Israelis bombed something in Syria near the Turkish border. As we discussed at the time, for some reason the Israelis refused to say what they had attacked. It made no sense for them not to trumpet what they carefully leaked — namely, that they had attacked a nuclear facility. Proving that Syria had a secret nuclear program would have been a public relations coup for Israel. Nevertheless, no public charges were leveled. And the Syrians remained awfully calm about the bombing.

Rumors now are swirling that the Israelis are about to reveal publicly that they in fact bombed a nuclear reactor provided to Syria by North Korea. But this news isn't all that big. Also rumored is that the Israelis will claim Iranian complicity in building the reactor. And one Israeli TV station reported April 8 that Israel really had discovered Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which it said had been smuggled to Syria.

Now why the Bush administration wouldn't have trumpeted news of the Syrian reactor worldwide in September 2007 is beyond us, but there obviously were some reasons — assuming the TV report is true, which we have no way of establishing. In fact, we have no idea why the Israelis are choosing this moment to rehash the bombing of this site. But whatever their reason, it certainly raises a critical question. If the Syrians are developing a nuclear capability, what are the Israelis planning to do about it?

No one of these things, by itself, is of very great interest. And taken together they do not provide the means for a clear forecast. Nevertheless, a series of rather ordinary events, taken together, can constitute something significant. Tensions in the Middle East are moving well beyond the normal point, and given everything that is happening, events are moving to a point where someone is likely to take military action. Whether Hezbollah will carry out a retaliatory strike or Israel a pre-emptive strike in Lebanon, or whether the Israelis' real target is Iran, tensions systematically have been ratcheted up to the point where we, in our simple way, are beginning to wonder whether something has to give.

All together, these events are fairly extraordinary. Ignoring all rhetoric — and the Israelis have gone out of their way to say that they are not looking for a fight — it would seem that each side, but particularly the Americans and Israelis, have gone out of their way to signal that they are expecting conflict. The Syrians have also signaled that they expect conflict, and Hezbollah always claims there is about to be conflict.

What is missing is this: who will fight whom, and why, and why now. The simple explanation is that Israel wants a second round with Hezbollah. But while that might be true, it doesn't explain everything else that has happened. Most important, it doesn't explain the simultaneous revelations about the bombing of Syria. It also doesn't explain the U.S. naval deployment. Is the United States about to get involved in a war with Hezbollah, a war that the Israelis should handle themselves? Are the Israelis going to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad — and then wind up with a Sunni government, or worse, an Israeli occupation of Syria? None of that makes a lot of sense.

In truth, all of this may dissolve into nothing much. In intelligence analysis, however, sometimes a set of not-fully-coherent facts must be reported, and that is what we are doing now. There is no clear pattern; there is no obvious direction this is taking. Nevertheless, when we string together events from February until now, we see a persistently escalating pattern of behavior. In fact, what we can say most clearly is that there is escalation, without being able to say what is the clear direction of the escalation or the purpose.

We would like to wrap this up with a crystal clear explanation and forecast. But we can't. The motives of the various actors are opaque; and taken separately, the individual events all have quite innocent explanations. We are not prepared to say war is imminent, nor even what sort of war there would be. We are simply prepared to say that the course of events since February — and really since the September 2007 attack on Syria — have been startling, and they appear to be reaching some sort of hard-to-understand crescendo.

The bombing of Syria symbolizes our confusion. Why would Syria want a nuclear reactor and why put it on the border of Turkey, a country the Syrians aren't particularly friendly with? If the Syrians had a nuclear reactor, why would the Israelis be coy about it? Why would the Americans? Having said nothing for months apart from careful leaks, why are the Israelis going to speak publicly now? And if what they are going to say is simply that the North Koreans provided the equipment, what's the big deal? That was leaked months ago.

The events of September 2007 make no sense and have never made any sense. The events we have seen since February make no sense either. That is noteworthy, and we bring it to your attention. We are not saying that the events are meaningless. We are saying that we do not know their meaning. But we can't help but regard them as ominous.

24491  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: April 09, 2008, 10:31:01 AM
Dog Kase Wright it is  cool
24492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Petaeus Effect on: April 08, 2008, 09:43:18 PM
The Petraeus Effect
April 8, 2008; Page A20
As General David Petraeus briefs Congress this week on Iraq, it's clear his surge has achieved remarkable results. The most crucial is that the U.S. can no longer be defeated militarily in Iraq, which could not be said a year ago. The question now is whether Washington will squander these gains by withdrawing so quickly that we could still lose politically.

Sixteen months after President Bush ordered the change in strategy, the surge has earned a place among the most important counteroffensives in U.S. military annals. When it began, al Qaeda dominated large swaths of central Iraq, Baghdad was a killing zone, Sunni and Shiites were heading toward civil war, and the Iraqi government was seen as a failure.

 
AP 
A U.S. soldier on patrol in Mosul, northwest of Baghdad.
The Washington consensus – as promoted by the James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group – portrayed retreat as the only option. "This war is lost," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in April, thus telling U.S. soldiers they were risking their lives for nothing. As late as September, Hillary Clinton had the nerve to lecture General Petraeus in a Senate hearing that "the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief."

Today, al Qaeda has been cleared from all but the northern reaches of Anbar and Diyala Provinces, Iraqis feel safe enough to resume normal lives, Sunni sheikhs are working with coalition forces, and the long process of Sunni-Shiite political reconciliation has begun. The surge seized the offensive from the enemy so rapidly that it deserves to be studied for years as an example of effective counterinsurgency.

Yes, this progress has also required some luck and Iraqi help. Al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand with a brutality that turned the Sunnis against them. Four years of war had made Iraqis tired of violence, and Sunnis began to understand that they couldn't win a civil war against the Shiites but could use the Americans as leverage to negotiate a better bargain. Some 90,000 Sunnis are now working with the U.S. as part of the "Sons of Iraq" movement.

 
None of this would have been possible, however, if Iraqis had not seen that the U.S. was committed to protect them. General Petraeus and his chief deputy, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, pursued a strategy that secured the population while going on offense against al Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into neighborhoods and lived among Iraqis, who in turn began to supply valuable intelligence about the terrorists. Faster than even the surge's architects hoped, the strategy led to far less violence.

While Democrats still claim political progress is possible only if the U.S. leaves Iraq, the surge has proved the opposite. Better security required a larger U.S. presence, which in turn has made Iraqis feel more secure about compromise. The political progress has been especially significant at the local level, with greater cooperation from tribal leaders and local councils, most Sunnis saying they'll participate in provincial elections this fall, and more oil money flowing to the provinces from Baghdad.

Much remains to be done, of course, and a premature U.S. withdrawal would put these gains at risk. Al Qaeda must still be swept from Mosul and upper Diyala, with the same U.S.-Iraqi troop strategy that worked in Baghdad. Terrorist entry routes West of Mosul from Syria also need to be stopped. And as we've learned in the last two weeks, Iraq Security Forces aren't able by themselves to impose a monopoly of force on Basra and the Shiite South.

Iraqi troops have made progress as a fighting force, but they still require U.S. help for the toughest operations. Though poorly planned, the Basra offensive showed that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is finally willing to fight Shiite gangs. The U.S. media have portrayed the battle mainly as an intra-Shiite feud and thus another example of budding "civil war." But the fight is also about Iran's attempts to stir trouble and weaken the Maliki government in favor of Iran's allies.

The U.S. has been reluctant to help in Basra, which has been British turf as part of the coalition. But the U.S. has a national interest in resisting Iranian influence, and Basra is a crucial front in that effort. As for the Brits, their failure to engage in counterinsurgency has left the Basra vacuum to be filled by Iranian-backed "special groups." The British made the same strategic mistake that former U.S. Iraq commanders George Casey and John Abizaid made in 2006 in Baghdad. The U.S. will have to deploy one or more brigades to Basra to help the Maliki government assert its control.

* * *
The five U.S. surge brigades are scheduled to return home in July, and one question Congress should ask General Petraeus is whether that pace makes him uneasy. He's under enormous Pentagon pressure, especially from the Army, to send those troops home. But if, say, three brigades could help solidify the surge's gains by staying another few months, the General should say so. One of Mr. Bush's mistakes in this war has been deferring too much to Pentagon brass who have always had one eye on the Iraq exit.

Americans are understandably impatient with the war, but we have sacrificed too much, and made too much progress in the last year, not to finish the task. The surge has prevented a humiliating military defeat, and now is the time to sustain that commitment to achieve a political victory.
24493  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: April 08, 2008, 12:33:21 AM
Also:

Dog Chris Schultz

yip!
CD
GF
24494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Slavery, Terrorism and Islam on: April 07, 2008, 04:27:00 PM
This piece aggressively articulates what many fear is the case:
===========================================


Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The
Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat.
WWW.frontline.org.za/books_videos/sti.ht

Islam is not a religion nor is it a cult. It is a complete system. Islam has
Religious, legal, political, economic and military components. The religious
Component is a beard for all the other components. Islamization occurs
When there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their so-called
"religious rights." When politically correct and culturally diverse Societies
Agree to "the reasonable" Muslim demands for their "religious
Rights," they also get the other components under the table. Here's how it
Works (percentages source CIA: The World Fact Book (2007)).

As long as the Muslim population remains around 1% of any given country
They will be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to anyone.
In fact, they may be featured in articles and films, stereotyped for their
Colorful uniqueness:

United States -- Muslim 1.0%
Australia -- Muslim 1.5%
Canada -- Muslim 1.9%
China -- Muslim 1%-2%
Italy -- Muslim 1.5%
Norway -- Muslim 1.8%

At 2% and 3% they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and
Disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street
Gangs:

Denmark -- Muslim 2%
Germany -- Muslim 3.7%
United Kingdom -- Muslim 2.7%
Spain -- Muslim 4%
Thailand -- Muslim 4.6%

From 5% on they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their
Percentage of the population. They will push for the introduction of halal
(clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs
For Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature
It on their shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply. (United States).

France -- Muslim 8%
Philippines -- Muslim 5%
Sweden -- Muslim 5%
Switzerland -- Muslim 4.3%
The Netherlands -- Muslim 5.5%
Trinidad & Tobago -- Muslim 5.8%

At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to
Rule themselves under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islam
Is not to convert the world but to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

When Muslims reach 10% of the population, they will increase lawlessness
As a means of complaint about their conditions (Paris -- car-burnings). Any
Non-Muslim action that offends Islam will result in uprisings and threats
(Amsterdam -- Mohammed cartoons).

Guyana -- Muslim 10%
India -- Muslim 13.4%
Israel -- Muslim 16%
Kenya -- Muslim 10%
Russia -- Muslim 10-15%

After reaching 20% expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations,
Sporadic killings and church and synagogue burning:

Ethiopia -- Muslim 32.8%

At 40% you will find widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and
Ongoing militia warfare:

Bosnia -- Muslim 40%
Chad -- Muslim 53.1%
Lebanon -- Muslim 59.7%

From 60% you may expect unfettered persecution of non-believers and other
Religions, sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a
Weapon and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels:

Albania -- Muslim 70%
Malaysia -- Muslim 60.4%
Qatar -- Muslim 77.5%
Sudan -- Muslim 70%

After 80% expect State run ethnic cleansing and genocide:

Bangladesh -- Muslim 83%
Egypt -- Muslim 90%
Gaza -- Muslim 98.7%
Indonesia -- Muslim 86.1%
Iran -- Muslim 98%
Iraq -- Muslim 97%
Jordan -- Muslim 92%
Morocco -- Muslim 98.7%
Pakistan -- Muslim 97%
Palestine -- Muslim 99%
Syria -- Muslim 90%
Tajikistan -- Muslim 90%
Turkey -- Muslim 99.8%
United Arab Emirates -- Muslim 96%

100% will usher in the peace of "Dar-es-Salaam" -- the Islamic House of
Peace -- there's supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim:

Afghanistan -- Muslim 100%
Saudi Arabia -- Muslim 100%
Somalia -- Muslim 100%
Yemen -- Muslim 99.9%

"Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me
Against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against
My cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against
The world and all of us against the infidel. -- Leon Uris, "The Haj"

It is good to remember that in many, many countries, such as France, the
Muslim populations are centered around ghettos based on their ethnicity.
Muslims do not integrate into the community at large. Therefore, they
exercise more power than their national average would indicate.

Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The
Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat..
> www.frontline.org.za/books_videos/sti.htm
__________________
24495  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / New Ascencions on: April 07, 2008, 02:13:22 PM
Let the Howl Go Forth:

On April 4, 5, and 6 in commemoration of the First "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering" 20 years ago in Acu Canyon Park in San Juan Capistrano (a.k.a. the Rumble at Ramblas) we held a similar three day stickfight.    It was heavily filmed and will be the culmination of a movie on the Dog Brothers; more on this in another thread soon.

It was a truly extraordinary three days.   At the moment I am deep in the altered space that comes after a Gathering so if I miss any names please let me know (and blame Lonely Dog and Red Dog too, who sit at my elbow as I type) :

New Dogs:

Dog Eric Bryant
Dog Dean Webster
Dog Randall Gregory
Dog Kase ______ (we need to look up the last name)

New Candidate Dog Brothers

Teddy "C-Tahiti Dog" Moux

New Dog Brothers:

Dog Pound
Red Dog
Scurvy Dog
Guide Dog
Kahuna Dog

and a very special ascension:

New Member of the Council of Elders:

Dogzilla



The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
24496  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dates of Dog Brothers Gatherings of the Pack on: April 07, 2008, 01:41:28 PM
Woof All:

Just a quick yip from the altered state that comes after a Gathering.

This year's Gathering schedule is a year of transition.  After consultation with Lonely Dog, I have what we intend to be the schedule from here forward:

2008:

August 10:  Open Gathering-- location yet to be determined
September 27:  The Swiss Gathering (As always, in Bern)

2009 and forward:

Late April/Early May:  The Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering.  This is a two day happening.  Subject to confirming certain matters, it will be again held in the secret location

August/Sept: The Swiss Gathering:  Please post about your preferences in this thread.

Mid/late November:  The Open Gathering

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
24497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: April 07, 2008, 11:46:13 AM
Garin-teed

The reason for Clinton strategist Mark Penn's departure from the campaign last night was ostensibly his conflict of interest in representing the government of Colombia's position in favor of a trade treaty while his candidate, Hillary Clinton, was a fierce opponent of the same trade agreement.

In reality, Mr. Penn had to go because the Clinton campaign needs a new strategy. The latest polls show Barack Obama's massive saturation ad buys in Pennsylvania are working. He is now tied with Mrs. Clinton in that state's April 22 primary. Hillary has perhaps one more Hail Mary pass in her and Mr. Penn wasn't the man to execute it.

That job will now go to Geoff Garin, a respected pollster and a man with a reputation for digging candidates out of holes they've put themselves in. In 2001, he helped craft the message that enabled Mark Warner to be elected governor of Virginia, a state that hadn't voted Democratic for president in a quarter century. Many of the leading Democrats in the Senate, from Dick Durbin to Chuck Schumer, have relied on Mr. Garin's advice.

Of course, Mr. Garin would be the first to admit that some candidates are beyond help. In 2004, he was the pollster for General Wesley Clark's ill-fated presidential campaign, an effort that no amount of resuscitation could save.

-- John Fund

Not Ready for Prime Time

First Barack Obama's economic adviser is caught telling the Canadian government not to worry about the candidate's threats to renegotiate Nafta. Now Hillary Clinton's top campaign adviser has been caught dividing his time between promoting a free trade treaty with Colombia and promoting a presidential candidate who opposes the same treaty.

Mark Penn, who resigned over the weekend, was not only top dog behind Hillary Clinton's presidential run but also served as president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, among the world's biggest PR agencies. One of his firm's clients was the government of Colombia, a U.S. ally that has been fighting successfully against a narco-insurgency and serving as a counterexample to the failing radicalism of Hugo Chavez. As such, Mr. Penn saw it as appropriate to meet with the Colombian ambassador to the U.S. on March 31 -- that is, until the union heavyweights in the Democratic camp got wind of the meeting. Then suddenly it was an "error in judgment" and Mr. Penn said so in a public apology.

That's a lousy way to treat a client, especially an honorable one with an honorable cause. "The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," the government said as it fired Burson-Marsteller. Colombia also said it would "continue its efforts to obtain a favorable vote on the pending Free Trade Agreement with the United States, for greater wellbeing and prosperity for all."

Perhaps in their upcoming debate in Philadelphia, someone will ask both candidates which of their many messages on trade is the one we're supposed to believe. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton, who likes to paint Barack Obama as too naive and untested to be trusted with the nation's affairs, might hold up a mirror.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Quote of the Day I

"Audiences project onto [Barack Obama] the personal qualities and political positions they want in a president. They look at Obama and see their hopes and dreams. Glamour is more than beauty or stage presence. You can't generate it just by having a wife who dresses like Jackie Kennedy. Glamour is a beautiful illusion -- the word glamour originally meant a literal magic spell -- that promises to transcend ordinary life and make the ideal real.... Too much information breaks the spell. So does obvious effort. That's why glamour is so rare in contemporary politics. In post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America, skeptical voters demand full disclosure of everything from candidates' finances to their medical records, and spin-savvy accounts of backstage machinations dominate political coverage. Obama's glamour gives him a powerful political advantage. But it also poses special problems for the candidate and, if he succeeds, for the country" -- Virginia Postrel, writing in The Atlantic magazine.

Quote of the Day II

"There is growing evidence that liberals are losing ground among blacks. In 1972, only one in ten of African-Americans identified themselves as conservative. Today, nearly 30% African-Americans publicly and openly identify themselves as conservative. Not Republican, mind you, but conservative" -- Christopher Alan Bracey, author of "Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice."

His Promised Land Was America

Charlton Heston, who died over the weekend at age 84, once had impeccable credentials for acceptance in Hollywood circles. In addition to his acting talent, Mr. Heston served as a six-term president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute. He backed John F. Kennedy for president in 1960 and three years later accompanied Martin Luther King on his famous March on Washington.

But Mr. Heston began to feel that liberalism lost its moorings in the turbulent '60s and in 1972 he broke with his fellow actors and attended his first Republican convention, explaining to reporters he wanted to be at a place where they "didn't spell America with a 'k.'" He later became a staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan and told Britain's Daily Telegraph in 1989: "Today, I am about as right-wing as a man can be." But he spurned appeals to enter politics, saying: "I'd rather play a senator than be one."

In Hollywood his political conversion did not go unnoticed. He was shunned in many circles when he became president of the National Rifle Association, a job he said was consistent with his "record of supporting civil rights." Blogger Ed Morrissey notes the irony of how "Hollywood turned its back on one of its biggest icons for the sin of supporting gun rights" at the same time the industry was churning "out more and more films dedicated to mass shootings and indiscriminate violence."

-- John Fund
24498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turning Point on: April 07, 2008, 11:42:22 AM
Second post of the day
=================

Israel and its neighbors

Geopolitical Diary: An Israeli 'Turning Point'
April 7, 2008 | 0312 GMT
Israel launched a major, nationwide military exercise on Sunday. Scheduled to last five days, it is designed to simulate air and missile attacks against Israel, including “unconventional” weapons — which we would assume refers to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The exercise will test Israel’s ability to protect its population and maintain continuity of government and military decision-making in the event of such an attack.

The Israelis have emphasized that the simulation is not an attempt to raise tensions in the region, nor a cover for an attack against either Lebanon or Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday, “The goal of the exercise is to check the authorities’ ability to carry out their duty in times of emergency and for preparing the home front for various scenarios. There is nothing else hidden behind it.”

The code name of the exercise is Turning Point 2, a choice that bears some scrutiny because code names have become public relations tools. From Operation Peace for Galilee (Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982) to Urgent Fury (the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983) to Iraqi Freedom, the code names selected by Western countries have less to do with the desire for security than the desire for a clear message. (Turning Point 1 was a much smaller exercise that took place last year. However, given rumors flying around the region right now, anything called “Turning Point” will raise eyebrows, even if it was used before.)

Thought was given by the Israelis to the name “Turning Point.” That choice was intended to deliver a message, and deliver it to two audiences. One audience is the Israeli public. The other is Israel’s adversaries, ranging from Hamas and Hezbollah to Syria and Iran. That a message is being delivered along with the exercise is clear. The meaning of the message, however, is more opaque.

“Turning point,” as Winston Churchill used it in World War II, is that moment in which the trend of the war shifts away from one side and toward another. It is a decisive moment, a point of rectification. From the Israeli standpoint, there would appear to be three conflicts that need to be rectified. The first is the Israeli confrontation with Hamas in Gaza, where an extended stalemate appears to be in place. The second is Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah. The Israeli-Hezbollah encounter of 2006 defined a balance between Israeli and Hezbollah forces that is unsatisfactory to Israel. Many Israelis would argue the need for a turning point there — a reinitiation of conflict to change the outcome of 2006 — and Hezbollah has been claiming that this is Israel’s intent. The third of Israel’s conflicts has been in its relations with Iran. Israel has asserted that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon and delivery system that will threaten Israel. An elimination of that threat through offensive, defensive or combined efforts would certainly be a turning point.

The Israelis may have in mind one or more of these actions taking place simultaneously. A combined action in Gaza and the Bekaa Valley would represent an attempt to achieve a turning point in the Israeli strategic position. Either or both of those offensives might trigger missile attacks using chemical weapons. Therefore any operation that would be intended as a turning point in the regional conflict might well contain a defensive scenario against a large-scale chemical attack against Israel from weapons deployed in Lebanon or possibly Syria.

The Israelis could also be conducting a necessary exercise for implementing defensive warfighting scenarios under unknown circumstances. They might have chosen the code name simply to jangle nerves in the region. However, over the past weeks we have seen everything from U.S. Sixth Fleet naval vessels moving close to the Lebanese coast, to very convincing reports of Syrian troop movements along the Lebanese border. Jangling the nerves of the region seems superfluous.

The name might simply mean that from this moment forward, Israel is ready for unconventional air and missile attack. Or it could be intended as a signal that Israel is interested in a broader turning point. Either way, code names are not casually chosen and the code name for the largest anti-WMD defensive exercise that Israel has ever undertaken was not pulled out of a jar.

“Turning Point” is an interesting choice.
======

And this from a few days ago:

Israel, Syria: Military Posturing and Rumors of Troop Movements
Stratfor Today » April 4, 2008 | 2154 GMT

HAITHAM MUSSAWI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian soldiers in Lebanon loading a tank in 2005Summary
Officials in both Syria and Israel continued to state that unusual Syrian troop movements have not been occurring. Indications suggest that Syria has in fact been engaging in military posturing, however, as both countries probe each other while regional tensions escalate over Israeli plans for a new conflict with Hezbollah.

Analysis
Israeli and Syrian military officials continue to deny that any unusual Syrian troop movements have been taking place since April 3. In a defense briefing, Israeli Military Intelligence officials added that Syria had not mobilized its reserve forces. Stratfor sources earlier said three Syrian divisions had been sent to the Lebanese border near the western Bekaa Valley.

Despite the denials, a number of indicators suggest Syria has indeed been engaged in some military posturing over the past couple days.

According to a Lebanese military source with ties to the Syrian regime, the Syrians sent three divisions (two armored and one mechanized) along the Lebanese-Syrian-Israeli border. Two of the divisions were redeployed from the Golan Heights, where Syria maintains three forward divisions by the cease-fire line, to positions near the western Bekaa Valley. Though the Syrian military is not in stellar shape, these units tend to be somewhat more proficient than the rest of the regular army. Syria reportedly redeployed another armored division from Dira (near the Jordanian border) to positions near the western Bekaa Valley.

The predominately offensive armored divisions are reportedly positioned behind the mechanized division. Our source indicates that Damascus is attempting to portray these tactics — in part through unit disposition — as a defensive posture. But the deployment of three divisions to the border is hardly defensive in nature — and it is unlikely Israel will read these as defensive moves.

Though the Israelis are making a strong effort to deny that any such action is taking place, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s cancellation of his trip to Germany (citing “scheduling problems”) the same day as the reports on the Syrian military buildup probably was not coincidental. Moreover, a Sudanese news agency cited Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem as saying April 4 that Syria is preparing for an Israeli attack and further contention with the United States, but has chosen peace as its strategic option. The same day, the daily Al Hayat reported that Syria and Israel were in back-channel discussions involving talk of a possible truce, as well as warnings from both sides against instigating a military confrontation.

As Stratfor has discussed, following the failure of the March 29-30 Arab League summit, Syria was expected to turn more aggressive. Damascus has closely eyed Israel’s preparations for a military offensive against Hezbollah, a military organization in Lebanon. Syria wants to undermine Israeli confidence that the Syrians would remain on the sidelines of an Israeli-Hezbollah rematch.

The Syrians are not delusional about their severe military disadvantage vis-a-vis the Israel Defense Forces and what would be an assured Syrian defeat if Damascus followed through with its threat to enter any Israeli-Hezbollah fight. Damascus also knows the Israelis would much rather have the Syrians stay out of the conflict and ensure the stability of the al Assad government. But by such military maneuvers, the Syrians hope to give Israel some pause in its planning, and open a back door for negotiations.

The flurry of apparent diplomatic and military activity in the past two days suggests the Israelis and Syrians are trying to probe each other as regional tensions continue to escalate about whether Israeli plans a new conflict with Hezbollah. While neither side can be certain of the other’s intentions, such military posturing is part and parcel of this diplomatic game.



stratfor
24499  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Secret Gathering: It was 20 years ago , , , on: April 07, 2008, 11:34:33 AM
Woof All:

A hearty how of respect to all who were there for an extraordinary experience.

Now that it is over, please feel free to post at length about it.

TAC
Crafty Dog
24500  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Colombia on: April 07, 2008, 11:27:59 AM
Smoot-Chavez
Democrats play politics with trade. America may end up paying the price.
April 7, 2008
Trade legislation debates are usually about dry-as-dust topics like reciprocity and dumping. But sometimes they really matter. Take the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which the Bush administration will send to Congress this week. If Congress rejects it, the loss wouldn't be just measured in dollors or pesos. It could have profound geopolitical effects that would hurt the U.S.

Colombia is a democratic ally of the U.S. in a tough neighborhood. Alvaro Uribe, its president, has been battling a left-wing insurgency that has used kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking in an attempt to overthrow his government. An impressive body of evidence shows the insurgents, known as the FARC, have been encouraged and financed by Venezuela's strongman, Hugo Chavez. Mr. Chavez, who already has allies in charge of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, would love to extend his influence in Latin America.

The trade agreement shouldn't be controversial. Colombia's economy is doing well, with growth rates of some 6% a year, and more than 90% of its exports to the U.S. already are duty-free under previous agreements. The new proposed trade pact would strip dozens of high tariffs Colombia erects to restrict the flow of U.S. goods and services in.

American unions demanded that the agreement incorporate labor and environmental standards. They got their wish, but that wasn't enough for some unions, which leaned on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to make opposition to the agreement a theme of their presidential campaigns.

* * *

Although Mrs. Clinton has long been a fierce critic of the accord, it was revealed last week that her top strategist Mark Penn was hired by the Colombian government to push the agreement through. Mr. Penn promptly called a recent meeting he had with Colombian officials on the agreement an "error in judgment" and promptly left their employ. Yesterday he quit the campaign too.

The agreement's supporters held out hope for Mr. Obama. But faced with a critical primary in heavily unionized Pennsylvania later this month, Mr. Obama took the occasion of his speech before the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia last week to announce that he too would oppose it. "The violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements," he said.

But in truth, the Uribe government has made great strides in reducing violence in Colombia. Since 2001, the number of kidnappings has dropped by over 80%, acts of terror are down over 75%, and the murder rate associated with trade unionists is down almost 80%.

President Uribe made clear how disappointed he was that the Democratic front-runner had chosen domestic politics over geopolitical stability: "I deplore the fact that Sen. Obama . . . should be unaware of Colombia's efforts," he said in a statement. "I think it is for political calculations that he is making a statement that does not correspond to Colombia's reality."

The simple truth is that the opposition to the trade agreement--from the Democratic presidential contenders to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--has nothing to do with reality. Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, admitted as much recently: "It's not the substance on the ground--it's the politics in the air."

* * *

There was another period when raw politics was allowed to trump what many in Congress privately admitted was common sense. In the spring of 1930, as the economic downturn set off by the previous year's stock market crash set in, Congress was debating the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill that sought to raise U.S. import barriers to record levels.

Most of the leading economists of the day opposed Smoot-Hawley. A front-page New York Times headline on May 5, 1930, read: "1,028 Economists Ask Hoover to Veto Pending Tariff Bill." But for entirely selfish and shortsighted reasons, both Congress and President Hoover went along with the protectionist hysteria. As a result, the Great Depression was probably deepened and extended for years.

Today, another no-brainer trade vote is before Congress. The foreign-policy benefits of the agreement are immense and the economic costs are minimal. "This is a test of whether the Democratic Congress is ready to accept the responsibilities of the majority," says Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

Everyone plays politics with trade. But there are times when the stakes are too important. The Colombia agreement is another example of when politics must take a back seat for a larger good. We certainly know how Hugo Chavez is rooting for the congressional vote to turn out.
WSJ
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