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24451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gilder' on: June 30, 2009, 02:00:00 PM
"My friends, it would behoove you to study everything
you can get your hands on by George Gilder, a true
American genius." -- Rush Limbaugh

"Israel is the crucial battlefield for Capitalism and Freedom in our
time." -- George Gilder, author of The Israel Test

George Gilder's global best seller Wealth & Poverty made the moral case
for capitalism to millions of Americans, changing the national debate. Now
Gilder, in The Israel Test, makes the moral case for Israel as a bastion
of capitalism and freedom.

Have you ever wondered why, in our time, it is the Left that leads the
attack on Israel? After reading The Israel Test you will never wonder
again. Gilder brilliantly shows that Israel is the ultimate test dividing
those who really stand with Capitalist Democracy from those who always
blame America and Israel first.

Gilder's argument has even long-time defenders of Israel saying things
like "I never looked at Israel that way before. I never truly realized
what was at stake." The Jerusalem Post raves about the book's "unexpected
power." But that's the way it has always been with Gilder's work. He has
an astonishing knack for making his readers see fresh what should have
been obvious all along.

The official publication date of The Israel Test is not until July 22. But
we can show you a way to get your copy weeks before it shows up in

Click here to pre-order The Israel Test today at 25% off publisher's


What's so revolutionary about The Israel Test?  Well, for one thing,
Gilder portrays Israel not as a needy "poor relation" dependent on the
U.S. but as a leader of the hi-tech economy indispensable to continued
U.S. success. "The reason America should continue to 'prop up' Israel," he
writes, "is that Israel itself is a crucial prop of American wealth,
freedom, and power."

Obscured by the usual media coverage of the "war-torn" Middle East are
Israel's rarely celebrated feats of commercial, scientific, and
technological creativity. Today tiny Israel, with its population of 7.23
million, five and one-half million Jewish, stands behind only the United
States in technological contributions. In per-capita innovation, Israel
dwarfs all nations. The forces of civilization in the world continue to
feed upon the quintessential wealth of mind epitomized by Israel.

In The Israel Test Gilder documents Israel's transformation into a hi-tech
powerhouse, profiling the top companies and entrepreneurs that are making
Israel into Silicon Valley's greatest rival-and ally-and shows how the
world's leading-edge technologies increasingly feature "Israel Inside."

Obviously with the book still "embargoed" we can't quote The Israel Test
at length here. But here is a just a snippet to whet your appetite: From
The Israel Test , by George Gilder:

The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two
fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel.

The prime issue is not a global war of civilizations between the West and
Islam or a split between Arabs and Jews. These conflicts are real and
salient, but they obscure the deeper moral and ideological war. The real
issue is between the rule of law and the rule of leveler egalitarianism,
between creative excellence and covetous "fairness," between admiration of
achievement versus envy and resentment of it.

Israel defines a line of demarcation. On one side, marshaled at the United
Nations and in universities around the globe, are those who see capitalism
as a zero-sum game in which success comes at the expense of the poor and
the environment: every gain for one party comes at the cost of another. On
the other side are those who see the genius and the good fortune of some
as a source of wealth and opportunity for all.

The Israel test can be summarized by a few questions: What is your
attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other
accomplishment? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it?
Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it
and seek to tear it down? Caroline Glick, the dauntless deputy managing
editor of the Jerusalem Post, sums it up: "Some people admire success;
some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel."

. . . . Today in the Middle East, Israeli wealth looms palpably and
portentously over the mosques and middens of Palestinian poverty. But
dwarfing Israel's own wealth is Israel's contribution to the world
economy, stemming from Israeli creativity and entrepreneurial innovation.
Israel's technical and scientific gifts to global progress loom with
similar majesty over all others' contributions outside the United States.

Though Jews in Palestine had been the most powerful force for prosperity
in the region since long before the founding of Israel in 1948, more
remarkable still is the explosion of innovation attained through the
unleashing of Israeli capitalism and technology over the last two decades.
During the 1990s and early 2000s Israel sloughed off its manacles of
confiscatory taxes, oppressive regulations, government ownership, and
Socialist nostalgia and established itself in the global economy first as
a major independent player and then as a technological leader.

Contemplating this Israeli breakthrough, the minds of parochial intellects
around the globe, from Jerusalem to Los Angeles, are clouded with envy and
suspicion. Everywhere, from the smarmy diplomats of the United Nations to
the cerebral leftists at the Harvard Faculty Club, critics of Israel
assert that Israelis are responsible for Palestinian Arab poverty. . . .
Denying to Israel the moral fruits and affirmations that Jews have so
richly earned by their paramount contributions to our civilization, the
critics of Israel lash out at the foundations of civilization itself--at
the golden rule of capitalism, that the good fortune of others is also
one's own.

In simplest terms, amid the festering indigence of Palestine, the state of
Israel presents a test. Efflorescent in the desert, militarily powerful,
industrially preeminent, culturally cornucopian, technologically
paramount, it lately has become a spearhead of the global economy and
vanguard of human achievement. Believing that this position was somehow
captured, rather than created, many in the West still manifest a primitive
zero-sum vision of economics and life. . . .

Click here to pre-order The Israel Test today at 25% off publisher's
24452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Clusterfcuk continues , , , on: June 30, 2009, 01:52:15 PM
Court Rules Franken Has Won Senate Seat

The Minnesota Supreme Court has just issued its long-awaited
judgment in the Senate race, declaring that Democrat Al
Franken is the winner.

Read More:
24453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Honduras on: June 30, 2009, 11:36:43 AM
Many foreign observers are condemning the ouster of Honduran President Mel Zelaya, a supporter of Hugo Chavez, as a "military coup." But can it be a coup when the Honduran military acted on the orders of the nation's Supreme Court, the step was backed by the nation's attorney general, and the man replacing Mr. Zelaya and elected in emergency session by that nation's Congress is a member of the former president's own political party?

Mr. Zelaya had sacked General Romeo Vasquez, head of the country's armed forces, after he refused to use his troops to provide logistical support for a referendum designed to let Mr. Zelaya escape the country's one-term limit on presidents. Both the referendum and the firing of the military chief have been declared illegal by the Honduran Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Mr. Zelaya intended yesterday to use ballots printed in Venezuela to conduct the vote anyway.

All this will be familiar to members of Honduras' legislature, who vividly recall how Mr. Chavez in Venezuela adopted similar means to hijack his country's democracy and economy. Elected a decade ago, Mr. Chavez held a Constituent Assembly and changed the constitution to enhance his power and subvert the country's governing institutions. Mr. Zelaya made it clear that he wished to do the same in Honduras and that the referendum was the first step in installing a new constitution that would enhance his powers and allow him to run for re-election.

No one likes to see a nation's military in the streets, especially in a continent with such painful memories of military rule. But Honduras is clearly a different situation. Members of Mr. Zelaya's own party in Congress voted last week to declare him unfit for his office. Given his refusal to leave, who else was going to enforce the orders of the nation's other branches of government?

--John Fund
24454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Honduras on: June 30, 2009, 11:25:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Venezuela and the Honduran Coup
June 29, 2009
Military forces arrested Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at his home early Sunday morning, marking a sea change for the country. Prior to the coup, Zelaya had been attempting to call a national referendum on whether to change the constitution. Though Zelaya still had backing from many leftist organizations in the country, he lacked the support of the Congress, the Supreme Court and the military — all of which maintained that his actions were unconstitutional. His decision to go forward with the referendum in the face of such strong opposition pushed the situation to a climax, ending with his exile to Costa Rica.

The situation has prompted howls of objections, particularly from leftist leaders in Latin America — with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the forefront. Though Chavez’s promises of a military response following the arrest of Zelaya — a fellow leftist — have made headlines, his ability and will to intervene are both extremely constrained. Chavez himself has mentioned limits to his willingness to intervene in the situation, declaring that hostilities would be inevitable if the Honduran military violated the sanctity of the Venezuelan embassy or murdered the Venezuelan ambassador.

Chavez likes to link Venezuela to any and all leftist leaders in the region and to rattle sabers when any of those leaders are threatened. The Honduran coup, however, is deeply entrenched in domestic politics, and Chavez’s ability to take serious action is limited by uncertainties in the political situation he faces in Venezuela. Just as in a 2008 incident between Colombia and Ecuador (when Colombian forces crossed the border in pursuit of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Chavez can make statements but is not able to put substantial forces into play.

There have been isolated and unsubstantiated reports that Venezuelan and Nicaraguan personnel might have been supporting Zelaya in Honduras as hostilities were intensifying, but there is nothing to suggest that any kind of meaningful troop presence or interference was a factor in the day’s events. Indeed, sources in Venezuela have revealed that even Venezuelan military personnel lack confidence in the country’s ability to leverage the troop transport aircraft that would be required to establish a meaningful force in Honduras.

Because even Chavez is unable to intervene effectively, the situation in Honduras remains localized. The military immediately turned control of the country over to the Congress, which appointed its leader as the interim head of state. Therefore, it does not seem likely that this situation will turn into a military grab for power — a fact that should bring sighs of relief to a region where the destructive military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s are remembered well.

This also should not be read as a symbolic or tide-turning failure of the Latin American left, which is far from being a united ideological bloc. With center-leftists leading successful regimes in Brazil and Chile, the myth of a rising, unified wave of extreme leftism in Latin America is just that. Though the coup in Honduras could invigorate opposition movements in leftist-led countries throughout the region — particularly in countries like Venezuela, which are experiencing serious economic difficulties due both to populist excesses and the troubled global economy — it should not be taken as a part of a larger trend. If other governments in Latin America fall, it will be a result of their own spiraling, domestic dramas rather than a domino effect from Sunday’s events in relatively isolated Honduras.

The fact is that regional cohesion in Latin America is very difficult to achieve. With massive geographic barriers separating Latin American countries and the economic challenges facing each leader, there are enormous obstacles to functional cooperation and pressing concerns to attend to at home. Ultimately, the challenges facing Latin American countries in 2009 might lead to military intervention, as in Honduras. But regime stability very often depends on domestic factors — and all the leftist alliances in the world cannot save a leader who rejects the authority of every other branch of his government.
24455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul's bill for transparent thread has strong support on: June 30, 2009, 11:22:57 AM
Mr. Popular? Ron Paul Wins Supporters to Fed Sunshine Bill
Rep. Ron Paul so far has won 245 co-sponsors to a bill that would require a full-fledged audit of the Federal Reserve by the end of 2010. 
By Judson Berger

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rep. Ron Paul, shown here speaking to the American Conservative Union last February, is winning supporters to a new bill. (Reuters Photo)

All of a sudden, Congress is paying close attention to Ron Paul.

The feisty congressman from Texas, whose insurgent "Ron Paul Revolution" presidential campaign rankled Republican leaders last year, now has the GOP House leadership on his side -- backing a measure that generated paltry support when he first introduced it 26 years ago.

Paul, as of Tuesday, has won 245 co-sponsors to a bill that would require a full-fledged audit of the Federal Reserve by the end of 2010.

Paul attracted just 18 co-sponsors when he authored a similar bill, which died, in 1983. While the impact Fed policies have on inflation is once again a concern, fears about loose monetary policy and excessive federal spending appear even more widespread in 2009.

"In the past, I never got much support, but I think it's the financial crisis obviously that's drawing so much attention to it, and people want to know more about the Federal Reserve," Paul told

With the Federal Reserve holding interest rates at rock-bottom levels, pumping trillions into the economy and now poised to have new powers to oversee the financial system under President Obama's proposed regulatory overhaul, Paul said lawmakers want transparency.

"If they give them a lot more power and there's no more transparency, that'll be a disaster," he said.

The bill would call for the comptroller general in the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed and report those findings to Congress. The GAO's ability to conduct such audits now is severely restricted.

A slew of top Republicans are backing the bill, as are many Democrats.

"Ron Paul has the right idea on this," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who supports similar legislation in the Senate. "I'm just hoping we can get a clear audit. ... We need to know what they're up to."

House Republican Leader John Boehner, who signed on as a co-sponsor this month, wrote in a recent blog post that the "lack of transparency and accountability" regarding federal dollars committed by the Fed and Treasury Department raise "serious concerns" and make an audit critical.

"The Federal Reserve Transparency Act would remove all of these restrictions, and allow GAO to get real answers from the Federal Reserve to protect American taxpayers," Boehner wrote.

Unfortunately for Paul, the bill appears to be idling in the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Barney Frank, D-Mass. The bill has been sitting there, gathering co-sponsors, since Paul introduced it in late February.

"You've kind of got to rely on the Democratic leadership (to move the bill along)," a Boehner aide said. "I haven't heard a lot of support from Chairman Frank."

Calls to Frank's office were not returned.

Paul acknowledged that his bill hasn't advanced but said Frank has "promised" him he will deal with his bill and is willing to give it a hearing. Paul said it's easily got the "momentum" to pass the full House.

A representative with the Federal Reserve could not be reached for comment.

Obama, though, voiced confidence in Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last Tuesday and defended the Fed's overall ability to regulate effectively as well as his proposal to give the body more power.

"If you look at what we've proposed, we are not so much expanding the Fed's power as we are focusing what the Fed needs to do to prevent the kinds of crises that are happening again," Obama said. "We want that power to be available so that taxpayers aren't on the hook."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a bill similar to Paul's in the Senate in March, which so far has attracted just three co-sponsors -- DeMint and Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

But DeMint told FOX News last week that the measure would have a good chance of passing the Senate if supporters can push Paul's to a vote, which he said would be successful, in the House.

"I think if we can get that much attention on this bill, I don't believe senators could vote against it, if people knew what they were voting for because everyone is suspicious of the Federal Reserve," DeMint said.

Paul's underlying goal is to abolish the Federal Reserve, which he finds contemptible.

"I blame almost everything on the Fed because they create the bubbles, they create the credit," Paul said.

But the move to require an audit, which Paul described as "neutral," puts him a bit more in the congressional mainstream.

That's a change of pace. The long-time congressman's GOP primary bid was decidedly outside the mainstream. His campaign drew enthusiastic support last year, and though it wasn't enough to pose an electoral threat to the top candidates, he even staged his own September counter-convention in Minneapolis -- down the road from the official Republican National Convention in St. Paul. His "Rally for the Republic" drew more than 10,000 supporters and was complete with a rock band and a slew of faux-delegates wielding signs for their states.

Paul frequently plays the role of party and congressional outsider. Most recently, he was the lone "no" vote on last Friday's resolution to condemn the Iranian government's crackdown on protesters.

He cited constitutional concerns in that vote, as he has in his criticism of the Fed and a slew of other issues.

"The whole process is unconstitutional. There is no legal authority to operate such a monetary system," Paul said in February, in a statement calling for Washington to "end the Fed." He introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act the following day.
24456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The costs of Barack's bug-out on: June 30, 2009, 10:01:15 AM

Today is a milestone in Iraq. Under the terms of the Strategic Framework Agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities. In retrospect, however, June 30 will likely mark another milestone: the end of the surge and the relative peace it brought to Iraq. In the past week, bombings in Baghdad, Mosul and near Kirkuk have killed almost 200 people. The worst is yet to come.

While the Strategic Framework Agreement was negotiated in the twilight of the Bush administration, President Barack Obama shaped the final deal. He campaigned on a time line to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, and his words impacted the negotiation.

Iraq has shown us time and again that military strength is the key to influence in other matters. Just look at the behavior of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.

Under Saddam, Mr. Sistani was an independent religious mind, but he was hardly a bold voice. Like so many other Iraqis, he stayed alive by remaining silent. Only after Saddam's fall did he speak up. Though he is today a world-famous figure, the New York Times made its first mention of the ayatollah on April 4, 2003, five days before the fall of Baghdad.

Mr. Sistani is as much of a threat to Iran as he was to Saddam. In November 2003, he contradicted Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei when asked what night the holy month of Ramadan would end, a determination made by sighting the moon. Mr. Sistani said Tuesday, Mr. Khamenei said Wednesday.

To the West, this might be trivial, but it sent shock waves through Iran. How could the supreme leader claim ultimate political and religious authority over not only the Islamic Republic but all Shiites and be contradicted?

Perhaps this is why Iran bolstered its support for militias. When I visited Najaf in January 2004, I saw dark-clad militiamen on the streets outside Mr. Sistani's house. Mr. Sistani quieted until the following year, when U.S. forces retook the city.

Militias are not simply reactions to sectarian violence, nor are they spontaneous creations. They are tools used by political leaders to impose through force what is not in hearts and minds.

Because of both ham-fisted postwar reconstruction and neighboring state interference, militia and insurgent violence soared from 2004 through 2006. The fight became as much psychological as military.

Iranian and insurgent media declared the United States to be a paper tiger lacking staying power. The Baker-Hamilton Commission report underscored such perceptions. Al-Jazeera broadcast congressional lamentations of defeat throughout the region. Iranian intelligence told Iraqi officials that they might like the Americans better, but Iran would always be their neighbor and they best make an accommodation. Al Qaeda sounded similar themes in al-Anbar.

Then came President Bush's announcement that he would augment the U.S. presence. The surge was as much a psychological strategy as it was a military one. It proved our adversaries' propaganda wrong. Violence dropped. Iraq received a new chance to emerge as a stable, secure democracy.

By telegraphing a desire to leave, Mr. Obama reverses the dynamic. In effect, his strategy is an anti-surge. Troop numbers are not the issue. It is the projection of weakness. Not only Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani have also reached out to the Islamic Republic in recent weeks.

In Cairo, Mr. Obama said the U.S. had no permanent designs on Iraq and declared, "We will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron." Indeed. But until the Iraqi government is strong enough to monopolize independently the use of force, a vacuum will exist and the most violent factions will fill it.

Power and prestige matter. Withdrawal from Iraq's cities is good politics in Washington, but when premature and done under fire it may very well condemn Iraqis to repeat their past.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

24457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: June 30, 2009, 09:54:32 AM
"Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."

--John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765
24458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler on: June 29, 2009, 10:30:24 PM
Middle East
Jun 30, 2009
Obama creates a deadly power vacuum
By Spengler

There's a joke about a man who tells a psychiatrist, "Everybody hates me," to which the psychiatrist responds, "That's ridiculous - everyone doesn't know you, yet." Which brings me to Barack Obama: one of the best-informed people in the American security establishment told me the other day that the president is a "Manchurian Candidate".

That can't be true - Manchuria isn't in the business of brainwashing prospective presidential candidates any more. There's no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a

strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself. The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider.

Obama doesn't want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America's enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi'ite majority.

America also sought Iran's help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama's imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington's turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi'ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama's face.

Iran already has made clear that casting America's enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America's enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America's terms. Iran's verbal war with the American president over the violent suppression of election-fraud protests leaves Washington with no policy at all. The premise of Obama's policy was that progress on the Palestinian issue would empower a Sunni coalition. As the president said May 18:
If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians - between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.
Israel's supporters remonstrated in vain. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Obama supporter, wrote, "If there is to be any linkage - and I do not believe there should be - it goes the other way: it will be much easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran does not have a nuclear umbrella under which it can continue to encourage Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli civilians."

No matter: America made clear that it had annulled the George W Bush administration's promise that a final settlement would allow most of Israel's 500,000 "settlers" to keep their homes, in order to launch the fantasy ship of Iranian cooperation with America.

That policy now is in ruins, and Washington has no plan B. David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, told television interviewers on January 28 that Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who spent the last week denouncing the United States, "Did not have final say" over Iran's foreign policy and that America still wanted to negotiate with Iran. This sounds idiotic, but the White House really has painted itself into a corner. The trouble is that Obama has promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq, and Iran has sufficient influence in Shi'ite-majority Iraq to cause continuous upheaval, perhaps even to eventually win control of the country.

By a fateful coincidence, American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq's urban centers on June 30. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein left Iraq open to Iranian destabilization; that is why the elder George Bush left the Iraqi dictator in power in 1990.

Offering Iran a seat at the table in exchange for setting a limit to its foreign ambitions - in Lebanon and Gaza as well as Iraq - seemed to make sense on paper. But the entity that calls itself revolutionary Islam is not made of paper, but of flesh and blood. It is in danger of internal collapse and can only assert its authority by expanding its influence as aggressively as it can.

After the election disaster, Iran's revolutionary leadership urgently needs to demonstrate its credibility. Israel now can say, "A country that murders its own citizens will have no compunction about massacring its enemies," and attack Iran's nuclear capacity with fewer consequences than would have been imaginable in May. And if an Israeli strike were to succeed, or appear successful to the world, the resulting humiliation might be fatal to the regime.

Israel may not be Tehran's worst nightmare. Iraq's Sunnis are testing the resolve of the weakened mullahs. The suicide bombing that killed 73 people at a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk on June 20 and a second bombing that killed another 72 Shi'ites in Baghdad's Sadr City slum most likely reflect Sunni perceptions that a weakened Tehran will provide less support for Iraqi Shi'ites. Although Shi'ites comprise more than three-fifths of Iraq's population, Sunnis provided the entire military leadership and are better organized on the ground. America's hopes of enlisting Iran to provide cover for its withdrawal from the cities of Iraq seem delusional.

What move on the chessboard might Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei venture to pre-empt an Israeli air raid against the nuclear facilities? Iran has the rocket launchers of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world. Iran might seek to pre-empt what it anticipates to be the next move from Israel by demonstrating its capacity to inflict injury on Israel or on Jewish targets elsewhere. That would require careful judgment, for a heavy handed action could provide a pretext for even more serious action by the Israelis and others. The same sort of consideration applies to Iranian support for Pakistan Shi'ites, for Hezbollah, and other vehicles of Iran's program of imperial expansion.

The Obama administration has put itself in a peculiar bind. It has demanded that the Pakistani army suppress the Taliban, after Islamabad attempted a power-sharing agreement that left the Taliban in control of the Swat Valley. To root out the largely Pashtun Taliban, Pakistan's largely Punjabi army has driven a million people into refugee camps and leveled entire towns in the Swat Valley. Tens of thousands of refugees are now fleeing the Pakistani army in the South Waziristan tribal area. Punjabis killing Pashtuns is nothing new in the region, but the ferocity of the present effort does not augur well for an early end to the conflict.

While the Pakistan army holds nothing back in attacking the Taliban, American troops in Afghanistan have been told that they no longer can call in air strikes if civilians are likely to suffer. That will put American forces in the unfortunate position of the Pirates of Penzance, who exempted orphans. Once this became generally known, everyone they attempted to rob turned out to be an orphan.

The Taliban need only take a page from Hamas' book, and ensure that civilians are present wherever they operate. The US has made clear that it will not deal in civilian blood, the currency of warfare in that region since before the dawn of history. It will not be taken seriously in consequence.

What will the administration do now? As all its initiatives splatter against the hard realities of the region, it will probably do less and less, turning the less appetizing aspects of the fighting over to local allies and auxiliaries who do not share its squeamishness about shedding civilian blood. That is the most dangerous outcome of all, for America is the main stabilizing force in the region.

The prospect of civil wars raging simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq is no longer improbable. The Israel-Palestine issue is linked to all of these through Iran, whose credibility depends on its ability to sustain such puppies of war as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whether or not the Israelis take the opportunity to strike Iran, the prospect of an Israeli strike will weigh on Iran's proxies in the region, and keep Israel's borders in condition of potential violence for the interim.

America's great good fortune is that no hostile superpower stands ready to benefit from its paralysis and confusion. When Soviet troops landed in Afghanistan in December 1979, America was in the grip of an economic crisis comparable to the present depression. American diplomats at the Tehran Embassy were still hostages to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The price of gold doubled from around $400 to $800 after the Russian invasion because most of the world thought that Russia would win the Cold War. If America lost its dominant superpower status in the West, the dollar no longer could serve as a global reserve currency. To the superpower goes the seigniorage, the state's premium for providing a currency.

By contrast, the gold price barely fluttered all through the present crisis. America remains the undisputed global superpower for the time being. America's creditors express consternation about its $1.8 trillion budget deficit and many trillions more of guarantees for the banking system, but there is nothing they can do about it for the time being but talk. That is how one should interpret a June 25 Reuters report that a "senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party" had urged China to shift some of its $2 trillion in reserves out of dollars and into gold.
Li Lianzhong, who heads the economic department of the Party's policy research office, said China should use more of its $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to buy energy and natural resource assets. Speaking at a foreign exchange and gold forum, Li also said that buying land in the United States was a better option for China than buying US Treasury securities.

"Should we buy gold or US Treasuries?" Li asked. "The US is printing dollars on a massive scale, and in view of that trend, according to the laws of economics, there is no doubt that the dollar will fall. So gold should be a better choice."
There is no suggestion that Li, even though he is a senior researcher, was enunciating an agreed party line.

The last thing China wants at the moment is to undercut the US dollar, for three reasons. First, as America's largest creditor, China has the most to lose from a dollar collapse. Second, Americans would buy fewer Chinese imports. And third, the collapse of the dollar would further erode America's will to fulfill its superpower function, and that is what China wants least of all.

America remains the indispensable outsider in Asia. No one likes the United States, but everyone dislikes the United States less than they dislike their neighbors. India need not worry about China's role in Pakistan, for example, because America mediates Indian-Pakistani relations, and America has no interest in a radical change to the status quo. Neither does China, for that matter, but India is less sure of that. China does not trust Japan for historical reasons that will not quickly fade, but need not worry about it because America is the guarantor of Japan's security. The Seventh Fleet is the most disliked - and nonetheless the most welcome - entity in Asia.

All of this may change drastically, quickly, and for the worse. Obama's policy reduces to empowering America's enemies in the hope that they will conform to American interests out of gratitude. Just the opposite result is likely to ensure: Iran, Pakistan and other regional powers are likely to take radical measures. Iran is threatened with a collapse of its Shi'ite program from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and Pakistan is threatened with a breakup into three or more states.

Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely to create a void in the region by withdrawing American power. The result is likely to be a species of pandemonium that will prompt the leading players in the region to learn to live without the United States.

In his heart of hearts, Obama sees America as a force for evil in the world, apologizing for past American actions that did more good than harm. An example is America's sponsorship of the 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the left-leaning government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government," the president offered in his Cairo address to Muslims on June 5. Although Iran's theocracy despises Mossadegh - official Iranian textbooks call him the "son of a feudal family of exploiters who worked for the cursed Shah, and betrayed Islam" - Iran's government continues to reproach America for its role in the coup. "With a coup they toppled the national government of Iran and replaced it with a harsh, unpopular and despotic regime," Ahmadinejad complained in a January 28 speech.

It is s a bit late to offer advice to Obama, but the worst thing America can do is to apologize. Instead, it should ask for the gratitude of the developing world. Weak countries become punching-bags in the proxy wars of empires. This was from the dawn of history until the fall of the last empire - the "evil" empire of Soviet communism.

The Soviets exploited anti-colonial movements from the 1917 Bolshevik coup until the collapse of the Afghanistan adventure in the late 1980s. Nationalists who tried to ride the Russian tiger ended up in its belly more often than on its back. Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Angola and numerous other weak countries became the hapless battleground for the contest of covert operations between the Soviet Union and America - not to mention Vietnam and Korea.

The use of developing countries as proxy battlefields and their people as cannon fodder came to an end with the Cold War. As a result, the past 20 years have seen the fastest improvement in living standards ever in the global south, and a vast shift in wealth towards so-called developing countries.

By defeating Russia in the Cold War, America made it possible for governments in the global south to pursue their own interests free from the specter of Soviet subversion. And by countering Soviet subversion, America often averted much worse consequences.

Many deficiencies can be ascribed to the Shah of Iran, but a communist regime in the wake of a Mossadegh administration would have been indescribably worse. The septuagenarian Mossadegh had his own agenda, but he relied on the support of the communist Tudeh party. The US feared a Soviet invasion of Iran, and "the [Harry S] Truman administration was willing to consider a Soviet invasion of Iran as a casus belli, or the start of a global war", according to Francis J Gavin's 1999 article in The Journal of Cold War Studies.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with help from British intelligence helped the shah overthrow the left-leaning regime. But this was no minor colonial adventure, but a flashpoint with the potential to start a world war.

It is painful and humiliating for Iranians to recall the overthrow of a democratically elected government with American help. It would have been infinitely more humiliating to live under Soviet rule, like the soon-to-be-extinct victims of Soviet barbarism in Eastern Europe.

The same is true of Chile, where the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, with help from the CIA. Allende was surrounded by Cuban intelligence operations. As Wikipedia reports:
Shortly after the election of Salvador Allende in November 1970, the [Cuban Directorate of Intelligence - DI] worked extremely closely to strengthen Allende's increasingly precarious position. The Cuban DI station chief Luis Fernandez Ona even married Salvador Allende's daughter Beatrice, who later committed suicide in Cuba. The DI organized an international brigade that would organize and coordinate the actions of the thousands of the foreign leftists that had moved into Chile shortly after Allende's election. These individuals ranged from Cuban DI agents, Soviet, Czech and North Korean military instructors and arms suppliers, to hardline Spanish and Portuguese Communist Party members.
My Latin American friends who still mourn the victims of Pinochet's "night and fog" state terror will not like to hear this, but the several thousand people killed or tortured by the military government were collateral damage in the Cold War. Like Iran, Chile became the battleground of a Soviet-American proxy war. The same is true in Nicaragua. (Full disclosure: I advised Nicaragua's president Violeta Chamorro after she defeated the Cuban-backed Sandinistas in the 1990 elections; I did so with no tie to any government agency.)

Obama's continuing obsession with America's supposed misdeeds - deplorable but necessary actions in time of war - is consistent with his determination to erode America's influence in the most troubled parts of the world. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. We are entering a very, very dangerous period as a result.
24459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Honduras on: June 29, 2009, 04:20:00 PM
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was detained by military forces in the early hours of June 28, transported to a military base just outside Tegucigalpa and flown to Costa Rica on a military aircraft.

In a media interview from Costa Rica, where he is reportedly seeking asylum, Zelaya called his ouster a “kidnapping” and called on his supporters to resist the action peacefully. Zelaya supporters burned tires in front of the presidential palace to protest his ouster, and there were reports of security forces using tear gas to dispel protesters.

In a brief radio announcement, the Honduran Supreme Court said it ordered the army to remove the president to “defend the rule of law.” The Honduran Congress is expected to approve the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, to serve as interim president, and presidential elections slated for Nov. 29 will proceed on schedule, according to the country’s electoral court.

The details of Zelaya’s expulsion to Costa Rica are unclear, but Zelaya’s comments and his transportation on a military aircraft suggest he was forced to go there. It isn’t clear if the terms of his expulsion require him to stay in Costa Rica and not seek refuge with allies in Nicaragua, El Salvador or Venezuela. In response to the military action, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would take steps to “defeat” the coup against Zelaya, while the government of Ecuador announced it would not recognize the interim government of Honduras.

Zelaya’s ouster is not, in and of itself, necessarily a significant event. While there hasn’t been a coup in Latin America for some time, such an event is not exactly unheard of. There have been initial protests, and the next several days should show the extent to which Zelaya is supported by the populace. There could be marches and unrest among his supporters, particularly rural laborers and unions. One early flash point could be the military’s seizing materials for a referendum on possible constitutional reforms scheduled for June 28 — it was this referendum that triggered the army’s move against Zelaya, after the Supreme Court declared the reforms unconstitutional.

The question is whether Venezuela or other allies of the left-leaning Zelaya act on their pledges to resist the coup, and how those actions manifest themselves. While there were rumors (from possibly biased sources) of the movement of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans into Honduras in recent days, at the moment there does not appear to be any physical action being taken by Zelaya’s allies. This situation, however, will need to be closely monitored in the coming days and weeks.
24460  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bromas, humor on: June 29, 2009, 09:13:39 AM
La frase del año: del ganador del Nobel en Literatura 'En el mundo actual, se está invirtiendo cinco veces más en medicamentos para la virilidad masculina y silicona para mujeres, que en la cura del Alzheimer. De aquí algunos años, tendremos viejas de tetas grandes y viejos con pene duro, pero ninguno de ellos se acordará para que sirven'.
24461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: June 29, 2009, 09:03:37 AM
"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

--Benjamin Franklin (attributed), letter to Benjamin Vaughn, March 14, 1783
24462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: June 29, 2009, 09:03:21 AM
Good contribution!  I have been reading about this with concern for some time now.  The question remains though concerning genital deformations in fish, etc.
24463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: June 29, 2009, 08:59:32 AM
Very interesting Rachel.  Looking forward to Part Two:


Lasting Peace

By Tzvi Freeman
Lasting peace is not created by intellectuals, for their minds are easily bribed from within and from without. Nor by those who follow their faith blindly, for at times their blindness wreaks havoc.

Lasting peace is the achievement of those who have made peace between the rigor of their mind and the simplicity of their faith. Their faith is firmly anchored beyond the whims of this world, and their mind sees clearly that proper results are achieved.
24464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American History on: June 29, 2009, 01:42:03 AM
From the WSJ, some book reviews:


1.The Journals of Lewis and Clark

There are hundreds of books on the Lewis and Clark expedition— scholarly treatises, narratives, biographies, collections of maps. Engrossing reading, sure, but why choose them when the original journals by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark exist? Even if the prose is rough, the journals are an American treasure, a first-hand account of the discovery of a nation. There is a hypnotic, galvanizing power in the daily descriptions of rivers forged, buffaloes seen, Indians met, meals eaten, illnesses suffered, plants examined, rainstorms weathered and dangers overcome. No matter the hardship experienced over the more than two years they spent in the wilds, the two explorers always managed to update their journals, as Lewis did one winter day: “The ink f[r]iezes in my pen,” he complained, before continuing with his account. When Clark writes on Nov. 7, 1805, “Ocian in view! O! the joy,” your heart, too, will leap.

2. The Great Bridge
By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster, 1972

No other structure better represents American industriousness and ingenuity than the Brooklyn Bridge. In this magisterial account, David McCullough describes its design and construction with all the drama of an epic battle. John A. Roebling, the original engineer of what would be the longest suspension bridge in the world upon its opening in 1883, dies after being injured in a dockside accident as he scouted the construction site. His eldest son, ­Washington Roebling, takes up the cause, but frequent journeys below the murky East River waters to set the foundations of the bridge’s two massive stone towers leave him crippled with decompression sickness, or “the bends.” His wife, Emily, all but assumes command of the ­endeavor and sees the project through to its glorious completion.

3. Paul Revere’s Ride
By David Hackett Fischer
Oxford, 1994

David Hackett Fischer offers a bracing corrective to the ­traditional view of the lone silversmith named Revere on horseback alerting Massachusetts ­patriots with the cry: “The British are coming!” Paul Revere, the author ­observes, would never have warned of the “British” approach; the colonists still considered themselves British, even if on the cusp of revolution. A minor point, perhaps, but evidence of how legend becomes accepted fact. More important, Fischer shows that though Revere—a “gregarious man, a great joiner”—might have led the alarm-sounding effort, he was far from alone. Dozens of other brave riders set about the countryside on the night of April 18, 1775.

4. The Right Stuff
By Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979

In Tom Wolfe’s chronicle of Project Mercury and America’s first manned space flight in the early 1960s, we have the perfect marriage of writer and story. With his unblinking eye, Wolfe reveals what constituted the “right stuff”—for test pilots like Chuck Yeager, and, despite the skepticism of some of those flyboys, the seven Mercury ­astronauts who vied for the chance to perch atop a rocket filled with liquid ­oxygen and go where no man had gone before. “It was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life,” Wolfe writes, because “any fool could do that.” No, “a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the ­experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment—and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day.”

5. The Children
By David Halberstam
Random House, 1998

In a Montgomery bus station on May 20, 1961, a young man got down on his knees and prayed for the strength to love the racist mob closing in on him. “When he tried to get up, someone kicked him violently in the back, so viciously that three vertebrae on his spine were cracked.” This is one ­visceral scene among scores of others in David Halberstam’s “The Children,” a sweeping portrait of Nashville activists, most of them students, who brought courageous nonviolent protest to the civil-rights struggle in the Deep South. Halberstam covered the movement as a young reporter for the ­Tennessean, and when he wrote this book four decades later, the memory of those students clearly still burned in his heart.

—Mr. Bascomb’s latest book is ­“Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most ­Notorious Nazi” (Houghton Mifflin).

By Michael B. Ballard
The idea is beguiling: a ­region in the South during the Civil War where the inhabitants, disgusted by slavery and unwilling to support the Confederate cause, take up arms as Union loyalists. Better still, for storytelling purposes, would be a charismatic leader who organizes the resistance.

Such is the legend of what became known as the “Free State of Jones,” a county deep in Mississippi’s piney woods. The area was one of many pockets in the state where dissatisfaction with the Confederacy boiled for much of the war, but only Jones County was elevated by folklore, ­especially in the decades after the war, into a scene of noble rebellion. It helped that the anti-Confederate ­faction there was led by a tall, stern backwoodsman named Newton Knight.

View Full Image

The New York Public Library/Art Resource NY
The Tishomingo Hotel in Corinth, Miss., was used at different times as a hospital by both Union and Rebel troops.
Book Details
The State of Jones
By Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer
Doubleday, 402 pages, $27.50
The operative words here are ­“legend” and “folklore.” Although Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer labor mightily in “The State of Jones” to make the case for Newt Knight and Jones County as emblems of ­enlightened “insurrection” within the Confederacy, the truth, alas, is hardly as inspiring as the authors suppose. Far from being a haven for the ­high-minded, Jones County was a magnet for Confederate deserters. Their hostility to being executed, ­imprisoned or pressed back into the service of a lost cause was the men’s animating principle.

Even among Jones County ­residents who were noncombatants, an antipathy for the Confederate ­government did not automatically translate into pro-Union feelings: The Confederacy was so preoccupied with prosecuting the war, and its finances were so precarious, that the government was scarcely able to protect ordinary citizens, much less provide basic ­services. Anger at one’s own bureaucracy does not mean embracing the enemy’s.

Still, Ms. Jenkins, a journalist, and Mr. Stauffer, a historian, have brought fresh attention to a little-known and interesting sidebar of Civil War ­history. They freely acknowledge their debt to Victoria Bynum’s “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War” (2001), which is the most scholarly treatment of the subject to date—though, as the subtitle ­indicates, Ms. Bynum was also rather taken with the romantic notion of the troubles in Jones County.

Early on, Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Stauffer posit that Newt Knight and his neighbors were unusual ­Mississippians in that few of them owned slaves—and therefore had no reason to support the South’s ­secession. Jones County, though, was not in a cotton-producing part of the state and, like other areas of ­Mississippi where plantations were rare and the economy not dependent on slave labor, the lack of robust ­interest in the Confederate war effort hardly signaled anti-slavery ­sentiment; slavery simply wasn’t vital to life in these remote areas and didn’t seem worth fighting for.

Collection of Herman Welborn
Newton Knight, a Confederate medic and deserter.
Even if Newt Knight was ­unenthused about fighting for the South, he still enlisted in May 1862 at age 24 rather than face conscription. It helped, the authors note, that he was joined by “twenty-two of his ­closest relatives and friends, young men who hunted together, worshipped together, drank together, helped build one another’s homes, and even ­married one another’s sisters.” The men of Jones County were an insular lot—and it is this insularity that Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Stauffer seem to ­underappreciate in their portrait. The clannishness of Knight, his family and neighbors made them prefer an ­isolated life, and the war had ­disturbed their seclusion. They blamed the Confederacy and readily abandoned the army when Union forces marched across the South.

Knight told an interviewer in the 1920s: “I felt like if they had the right to conscript me when I didn’t want to fight the Union, I had the right to quit when I got ready.” It didn’t take long: Six months after enlisting and ­becoming a medic, Knight joined the thousands of Confederate soldiers who fled the war in Mississippi in the aftermath of the bloody fight at the important railroad-crossroads town of Corinth. He was captured and put back into action; Knight deserted again after the battle of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. The Mississippi woods by then were teeming with Confederate deserters, and the roads were alive with soldiers sent to round them up. Knight made his way back to Jones County and vowed not to be forced back into service. He and fellow deserters organized to resist any such effort—and were soon fighting ­skirmishes with Confederate soldiers. It is here, with such fighting, that the legend of a “free state” was born.
24465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO and Cyberdefense on: June 29, 2009, 01:38:00 AM

In a Monty Python skit from 1970, the Vercotti brothers, wearing Mafia suits and dark glasses, approach a colonel in a British military barracks. "You've got a nice army base here, Colonel," says Luigi Vercotti. "We wouldn't want anything to happen to it." Dino explains, "My brother and I have got a little proposition for you, Colonel," and Luigi elaborates, "We can guarantee you that not a single armored division will get done over for 15 bob a week."

If the idea of the military having to pay protection money to the mob seems silly, imagine what Monty Python could do with last week's White House decision on security. It announced a new "Cyber Command" to protect information infrastructure, but stipulated that the military is allowed to protect only itself, not the civilian Internet or other key communications networks. When President Barack Obama announced the plan, he stressed that it "will not -- I repeat -- will not -- include monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic." It's like telling the military if there's another 9/11 to protect the Pentagon but not the World Trade Center.

The announcement shows that our political system is still ambivalent about how to defend communications networks such as the Internet. We expect privacy, but we know that intrusive techniques are required to protect the system from cyber attacks. How to balance privacy with preventing attacks that would undermine the system altogether?

It's an open secret that the National Security Agency (NSA) must operate through civilian networks inside the U.S. in order to prevent millions of cyber attacks every year by foreign governments, terror groups and hackers. Likewise, the NSA must follow leads through computer networks that run through innocent countries. "How do you understand sovereignty in the cyber domain?" asked James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent speech. "It doesn't tend to pay a lot of attention to geographic borders."

The risks are real. Cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia by Russia in recent years forced government, banking, media and other Web sites offline. In the U.S., the public Web, air-traffic control systems and telecommunications services have all been attacked. Congressional offices have been told that China has broken into their computers. Both China and Russia were caught having infiltrated the U.S. electric-power grid, leaving behind software code to be used to disrupt the system. The risk of attacks to create massive power outages is so serious that the best option could be unplugging the U.S. power grid from the Internet.

The military is far ahead of civilian agencies such as Homeland Security and is now focused on cyber offense as well as defense. Cyberspace, says Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, is the new "domain," joining the traditional domains of air, land and sea. Each is a focus for both defense and attack. The U.S., a decade behind China, is now officially focused on using cyber warfare offensively as well as defensively.

The U.S. is an inventive nation, so we'll get to the right answer on security if we ask the right questions. What if the only way the military can block a cyber attack is to monitor domestic use of the Web, since foreigners use the Web to launch cyber attacks? What is a "reasonable" search in a virtual world such as a global communication network? What's the proper response to cyber attacks?

If cyber war is a new form of war, wouldn't most Americans adjust their expectations of reasonable privacy to permit the Pentagon to intrude to some degree on their communications, if this is necessary to prevent great harm and if rules protecting anonymity can be established? Finally, wouldn't it be better for politicians to encourage a frank discussion about these issues before a significant attack occurs instead of pretending there are no trade-offs?

Only the NSA, which operates within the Defense Department, has the expertise to protect all U.S. networks. It has somehow found ways to mine needed data despite pre-Web rules that restrict its activities domestically. But the question remains: How can the military get enough access to private, domestic networks to protect them while still ensuring as much privacy as possible? One logical approach is for Homeland Security to delegate domestic defense to the NSA, but for the domestic agency to maintain enough responsibility to have political accountability if privacy rights get violated in the process.

We'll look back on the current era, with the military constrained from defending vital domestic interests, as an artifact of an era when it was easy to point to what was foreign and what was domestic. In the digital world, as the cyber threat shows, physical distinctions such as political borders are unhelpful and can be dangerously confusing.
24466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: June 29, 2009, 01:25:56 AM
second post

A bipartisan congressional commission, headed by some of our most experienced national security practitioners, recently concluded that a nuclear deterrent is essential to our defense for the foreseeable future. It also recommended that urgent measures be taken to keep that deterrent safe and effective.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has adopted an agenda that runs counter to the commission's recommendations.

Consider the president's declaration, in a major speech this spring in Prague, of "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Will such a world be peaceful and secure? It is far from self-evident.

David Klein
 In the nuclear-free world that ended in 1945 there was neither peace nor security. Since then there have indeed been many wars but none has come close to the carnage that occurred regularly before the development of nuclear weapons, and none has pitted nuclear powers against each other.

Consider also that while the administration accepts the urgency of halting the spread of nuclear weapons, the policies it has embraced to reach that goal are likely to make matters worse.

Thus, in his Prague speech, Mr. Obama announced that the U.S. would "immediately and aggressively" pursue ratification of the comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. The administration believes, without evidence, that ratification of the test-ban treaty will discourage other countries from developing nuclear weapons.

Which countries does it have in mind? Iran? North Korea? Syria? Countries alarmed by the nuclear ambitions of their enemies? Allies who may one day lose confidence in our nuclear umbrella?

There are good reasons why the test-ban treaty has not been ratified. The attempt to do so in 1999 failed in the Senate, mostly out of concerns about verification -- it simply is not verifiable. It also failed because of an understandable reluctance on the part of the U.S. Senate to forgo forever a test program that could in the future be of critical importance for our defense and the defense of our allies.

Robert Gates, who is now Mr. Obama's own secretary of defense, warned in a speech last October that in the absence of a nuclear modernization program, even the most modest of which Congress has repeatedly declined to fund, "[a]t a certain point, it will become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal, especially in light of our testing moratorium." Suppose future problems in our nuclear arsenal emerge that cannot be solved without testing? Would our predicament discourage nuclear proliferation -- or stimulate it?

For the foreseeable future, the U.S. and many of our allies rely on our nuclear deterrent. And as long as the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons, they must be -- as Mr. Obama recognized in Prague -- "safe, secure and effective." Yet his proposed 2010 budget fails to take the necessary steps to do that.

Those steps have been studied extensively by the Perry-Schlesinger Commission (named for co-chairmen William Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and James R. Schlesinger, secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford). Its consensus report, released in May, makes numerous recommendations to increase the funding for, and improve the effectiveness of, the deteriorating nuclear weapons laboratory complex (e.g., the Los Alamos facility in New Mexico, the Pantex plant in Texas, and the dangerously neglected Y-12 plant in Tennessee) that has become the soft underbelly of our deterrent force.

The commission also assessed the nuclear weapons infrastructure that is essential to a safe, secure and effective deterrent and declared it "in serious need of transformation." It looked at our laboratory-based scientific and technical expertise and concluded that "the intellectual infrastructure" is in "serious trouble." A major cause is woefully inadequate funding. The commission rightly argued that we must "exercise the full range of laboratory skills, including nuclear weapon design skills . . . Skills that are not exercised will atrophy." The president and the Congress must heed these recommendations.

There are some who believe that failing to invest adequately in our nuclear deterrent will move us closer to a nuclear free world. In fact, blocking crucial modernization means unilateral disarmament by unilateral obsolescence. This unilateral disarmament will only encourage nuclear proliferation, since our allies will see the danger and our adversaries the opportunity.

By neglecting -- and in some cases even opposing -- essential modernization programs, arms-control proponents are actually undermining the prospect for further reductions of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As our nuclear weapons stockpile ages and concern about its reliability increases, we will have to compensate by retaining more nuclear weapons than would otherwise be the case. This reality will necessarily influence future arms-control negotiations, beginning with the upcoming Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty follow-on.

For these negotiations, the Russians are insisting on a false linkage between nuclear weapons and missile defenses. They are demanding that we abandon defenses against North Korean or Iranian missiles as a condition for mutual reductions in American and Russian strategic forces. As the president cuts the budget for missile defense and cedes ground to the Russians on our planned defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, we may end up abandoning a needed defense of the U.S. and our European allies from the looming Iranian threat.

There is a fashionable notion that if only we and the Russians reduced our nuclear forces, other nations would reduce their existing arsenals or abandon plans to acquire nuclear weapons altogether. This idea, an article of faith of the "soft power" approach to halting nuclear proliferation, assumes that the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces -- or that India, Pakistan or China would respond with reductions of their own.

This is dangerous, wishful thinking. If we were to approach zero nuclear weapons today, others would almost certainly try even harder to catapult to superpower status by acquiring a bomb or two. A robust American nuclear force is an essential discouragement to nuclear proliferators; a weak or uncertain force just the opposite.

George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have, on this page, endorsed the distant goal -- about which we remain skeptical -- of a nuclear-free world. But none of them argues for getting there by neglecting our present nuclear deterrent. The Perry-Schlesinger Commission has provided a path for protecting that deterrent. Congress and the president should follow it, without delay.

Mr. Kyl is a Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
24467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras on: June 29, 2009, 01:22:46 AM
Hugo Chávez's coalition-building efforts suffered a setback yesterday when the Honduran military sent its president packing for abusing the nation's constitution.

It seems that President Mel Zelaya miscalculated when he tried to emulate the success of his good friend Hugo in reshaping the Honduran Constitution to his liking.

But Honduras is not out of the Venezuelan woods yet. Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.

Associated Press
 That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court's order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

It remains to be seen what Mr. Zelaya's next move will be. It's not surprising that chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose, too.

Mrs. Clinton has piled on as well. Yesterday she accused Honduras of violating "the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter" and said it "should be condemned by all." Fidel Castro did just that. Mr. Chávez pledged to overthrow the new government.

Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution. The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Supreme Court later said that the military acted on its orders. It also said that when Mr. Zelaya realized that he was going to be prosecuted for his illegal behavior, he agreed to an offer to resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Mr. Zelaya denies it.

Many Hondurans are going to be celebrating Mr. Zelaya's foreign excursion. Street protests against his heavy-handed tactics had already begun last week. On Friday a large number of military reservists took their turn. "We won't go backwards," one sign said. "We want to live in peace, freedom and development."

Besides opposition from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the electoral tribunal and the attorney general, the president had also become persona non grata with the Catholic Church and numerous evangelical church leaders. On Thursday evening his own party in Congress sponsored a resolution to investigate whether he is mentally unfit to remain in office.

For Hondurans who still remember military dictatorship, Mr. Zelaya also has another strike against him: He keeps rotten company. Earlier this month he hosted an OAS general assembly and led the effort, along side OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, to bring Cuba back into the supposedly democratic organization.

The OAS response is no surprise. Former Argentine Ambassador to the U.N. Emilio Cárdenas told me on Saturday that he was concerned that "the OAS under Insulza has not taken seriously the so-called 'democratic charter.' It seems to believe that only military 'coups' can challenge democracy. The truth is that democracy can be challenged from within, as the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and now Honduras, prove." A less-kind interpretation of Mr. Insulza's judgment is that he doesn't mind the Chávez-style coup.

The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators. This crisis clearly delineates the problem. In failing to come to the aid of checks and balances, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Insulza expose their true colors.
24468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Target Hawaii on: June 29, 2009, 01:20:17 AM
The Pentagon recently announced that it is repositioning ground-to-air radar and missile defenses near Hawaii in case North Korea decides to launch another long-range missile, this time toward the Aloha State. So at least 1.3 million Hawaiians will benefit from defenses that many officials in the current Administration didn't even want to build.

But what about the rest of us? It's an odd time to be cutting missile defense, as the Obama Administration is doing in its 2010 budget -- by $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, depending on how you calculate it. Programs to defend the U.S. homeland are being pared, while those that protect our soldiers or allies are being expanded after the Pentagon decided that the near-term threat is from short-range missiles. But as North Korea and Iran show, rogue regimes aren't far from having missiles that could reach the U.S.

In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:

Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"

Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly. . . . The demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[ellite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a solid rocket motor test which is . . . disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated . . . that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."

Associated Press
This 2006 image provided by the U.S. Navy shows the heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin entering Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Sea Based X-Band Radar (SBX) aboard.
Among the losers in the Administration's budget are the additional interceptors planned for the ground-based program in Alaska. The number will be limited to 30 interceptor missiles located at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Also on the chopping block is the Airborne Laser, which is designed to shoot down incoming missiles in the boost phase, before they can release decoys and at a point in the missile trajectory when it would fall back down on enemy territory. This highly promising technology will be starved.

The Administration may also kill the plan for a missile defense system in Europe. The proposed system, which would place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, is intended to protect Europe against Iranian missiles. As is often forgotten, it would also protect the U.S., by providing an additional layer of defense for the Eastern seaboard, which is a long way from the Alaskan defenses.

The Administration is reconsidering the European site due to opposition from Moscow, which says -- though it knows it's false -- that the European system is intended to defeat Russian missiles. In advance of Barack Obama's visit to Russia next week, there's talk of "cooperation" on missile defense, possibly by adding radars in southern Russia and Azerbaijan. From a geographical perspective, neither location would add much as an Iranian missile headed for Western Europe or the U.S. would be on the periphery of the radars' vision, at best.

Meanwhile, Moscow says that unless the Administration backtracks on missile defense, it won't agree to mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals under the START Treaty, which expires this year. Mr. Obama is eager to negotiate arms cuts. But it would be a mistake to tie decisions on missile defense to anything except what is best for the security of the U.S. and its allies.

In Congress, bipartisan efforts are afoot to restore some of the funding for missile defense. But even if more money is forthcoming, the bigger problem is the new U.S. mindset. The Obama Administration is staffed with Cold War-era arms controllers who still believe missile defense is destabilizing -- except, apparently, now that they need it for Hawaii. They also reject the essential next phase, which is to make better use of space-based systems.

Missile defense is no techno-fantasy. The U.S. has made major strides since President Bush exercised the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2001. If North Korea launches a missile toward Hawaii, the best demonstration of that ability -- and of U.S. resolve -- would be to shoot it down.
24469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 6 states want to opt-out Obamacare on: June 28, 2009, 06:57:42 PM
From the WT forum:

6 States Want to Nullify Obamacare With Opt Out Law

Interesting question, is Obamacare even Constitutional?

Posted by Warner Todd Huston

Sunday, June 28th at 7:12AM EDT

Six states are currently looking to add an “opt out” law to their books to protect citizens from the possibility of a national healthcare plan imposed by federal fiat.

Arizona started the ball rolling by introducing the Health Care Freedom Act, a voting initiative that will be put before voters on the 2010 ballot. If accepted by the majority of the voters, Arizona will be able to opt out of any federal healthcare laws passed by Washington. Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming are considering similar measures.
The arrogance of Congress and the president worries many of these state lawmakers, some even consider Obama’s healthcare policies a naked power grab.
Some state legislators say they worry that a government-mandated program will effectively eliminate their traditional role in regulating health insurers — an important power base. Others raise constitutional concerns. “The real goal of national health insurance exchange isn’t competition — it’s a federal power grab that flies in the face of the Tenth Amendment,” says Wisconsin state Rep. Leah Vukmir, a Republican.

Just for a point of reference, here is the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Now, I’ve read the Constitution several times and I don’t see a single place in it where it talks about hospitals, doctors, or healthcare, nor especially where it might say that the federal government should control all such activities from Congress and pay for it all out of the national treasury. Then again, the Constitution hasn’t mattered to any Democrat for decades, so why worry about that now?

In any case, this is an interesting movement on the part of six brave states. Let us hope that this idea spreads to others and Obamacare, should we be so unfortunate enough to have it pas
24470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rogue Militia killings on: June 27, 2009, 02:46:38 PM
Its the NYT, so caveat lector.  That said, troubling questions are raised:


ARIVACA, Ariz. — “Somebody just came in and shot my daughter and my husband!” the woman shouted to the 911 dispatcher. “They’re coming back in! They’re coming back in!”

Arivaca finds itself a town both terrified and angered.
Multiple gunshots are then heard on a tape of the call.

The woman, Gina Gonzalez, survived the attack after arming herself with her husband’s handgun, but both he and their 10-year-old daughter died.

The killings, last month, have terrified this small town near the Mexican border, in part because the authorities have now tied them to what they describe as a rogue group engaged in citizen border patrols.

The three people arrested in the crime include the leader of Minutemen American Defense, a Washington State-based offshoot of the Minutemen movement, in which citizens roam the border looking for people crossing into the country illegally. Former members describe the group’s leader, Shawna Forde, 41, as having anti-immigrant sentiments that are extreme, at times frightening, even to people accustomed to hard-line views on border policing.

The authorities say that the three suspects were after money and drugs that they intended to use to finance vigilantism, and that members of the group may have been involved in at least one other home invasion, in California.

“There was an anticipation that there would be a considerable amount of cash at this location,” said Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, since, he said, Ms. Gonzalez’s husband, Raul J. Flores, had previously been involved in narcotics trafficking, an assertion the family denies.

A Pima County public defender representing Ms. Forde had no comment on the case. Nor did lawyers for the other suspects, Jason E. Bush, 34, and Albert R. Gaxiola, 42. All three remain in custody, charged with first-degree murder, assault and burglary.

Merrill Metzger, who worked for the group for six months just as it was getting started in 2007, said Ms. Forde had often traveled from Washington to Arizona with weapons. In March, while stopping over at his home in Redding, Calif., she presented a plan for the group to undertake, Mr. Metzger, her half-brother, said in a telephone interview.

“She was sitting here talking about how she was going to start an underground militia and rob drug dealers,” he said.

Mr. Metzger quit the group, alarmed, he said, by a number of things, including Ms. Forde’s demand for extreme loyalty, right down to the choice of cuisine.

“I had to take an oath, and part of the oath was that I couldn’t eat Mexican food,” he said. “That’s when red flags went up all over for me. That seemed like prejudice.”

Another former member, Chuck Stonex, a retired independent contractor, said Ms. Forde had talked about buying a ranch near Arivaca and building a compound. He said that in October, he took an excursion with her into the desert north of here, where, wearing camouflage and carrying handguns and rifles, they searched for illegal immigrants.

“It’s just like hunting,” Mr. Stonex said, describing the tracking skills the group used. “If you’re going out hunting deer, you want to scout around and get an idea what their pattern is, what trails they use.”

Mr. Stonex said he treated one of the suspects, Mr. Bush, for a flesh wound the day of the attack on Ms. Gonzalez’s family. Ms. Gonzalez had presumably shot Mr. Bush in warding off the attackers, but, Mr. Stonex said, the wound did not raise his suspicions, because, he said, Ms. Forde offered what seemed a plausible explanation: “They’d been jumped by border bandits.”

“They were very relaxed, having casual, normal chitchat,” he recalled.

Small numbers of Americans have always viewed border patrolling as a patriotic duty, but the most recent incarnation — the Minutemen movement, which takes its name from citizen militias formed during the Revolutionary War — gained steam in 2005, when hundreds of volunteers flocked to border locations.

Page 2 of 2)

Their patrols initially drew praise from some political leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, but also raised concerns that the activities were thin veils for racism and xenophobia. Over time, the movement has also suffered from infighting, with some groups, like Ms. Forde’s, advocating increasingly confrontational tactics while others have simply monitored the border and reported illegal crossings to the authorities.

Shawna Forde, 41, a suspect, in an undated photograph.

Gilbert Mungaray, 80, says he “can’t imagine why” his grandson and great-granddaughter were killed.
Since the killings here, members of some better-known groups involved with the movement have scrambled to disassociate themselves from Minutemen American Defense. Others had begun doing so well beforehand. The 750-member San Diego Minutemen, for instance, started warning people on its Web site in January to avoid Ms. Forde.

According to Ms. Gonzalez’s 911 call, the killers arrived shortly after midnight on May 30, dressed in uniforms resembling those of law enforcement personnel. They told the family that they were looking for a fugitive. Actually, the authorities say, the three suspects believed that Ms. Gonzalez’s husband, Mr. Flores, 29, was holding both drugs and money at their remote home.

Sheriff Dupnik has said there is ample drug activity between here and the border. The suggestion has angered the residents of Arivaca, a town of retirees, artists and working people about 50 miles south of Tucson. “This is a good town,” said Fern Loveall, 76. “It’s a good place to live, and it’s a good place to raise kids. What they’re saying about it isn’t true.”

Members of Mr. Flores’s family also denied that he had had any connection to the drug trade.

“He was a good guy,” said Gilbert Mungaray, his 80-year-old grandfather. “I know what happened, but I can’t imagine why.”

The family’s house was silent this week. An American flag hung on the porch, and three pink roses adorned the front door. Down a dirt road, at the local community center, a picture of Brisenia, the slain daughter of Mr. Flores and Ms. Gonzalez, had been placed in a frame with a small black ribbon affixed to it.

For the regulars at La Gitana Cantina, a friendly establishment with a mixed clientele of Anglos and Mexican-Americans, emotions have ranged from abject sorrow to rage.

“I’ve had people come into the bar and just put their heads in their hands, and all the sudden they’ve got tears pouring down their face,” said Karen Lippert, a bartender. She added that while Mr. Gaxiola was a local, the two other suspects were not.

“This is not us guys,” she said. “It’s the not the way us guys operate.”

24471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kidnapped NYT reporter on: June 27, 2009, 02:42:15 PM
Michael Yon on why he held back info on kidnapped NYT reporter
24472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Interesting blog on Jefferson on: June 27, 2009, 01:41:29 PM
24473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 27, 2009, 11:06:23 AM
Well, if we are not going to decriminalize/legalize opium/heroin here, the logic eludes me.

To repeat a point I have raised here various times for quite some time now, if we are unwilling/unable to go after a/the primary source of money to the enemy, WTF are we doing?  WTF is our strategy?!?  These crops are in plain site in an arid climate (i.e. no coverage by a jungle canopy), so as best as I can tell BO's "new" policy has been our policy all along.
24474  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Law on: June 27, 2009, 10:59:39 AM
It is my understanding that in my state of CA that carrying for defense is considered an admission of intent to carry a weapon.
24475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit parachute operation on: June 26, 2009, 08:17:28 PM
4th post

SAS troopers have carried out the first major combat parachute operations since Suez more than 50 years ago, it can now be disclosed.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Published: 5:04PM BST 26 Jun 2009

Using advanced parachuting techniques Special Forces carried out a series of operational jumps onto the outskirts of Baghdad targeting insurgent leaders and bomb-making factories, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The airborne operations - which can only now be disclosed - played a significant role in removing so-called insurgent “high value targets” and reducing their ability to make roadside bombs.

On at least a dozen occasions SAS soldiers using BT80 parachutes jumped from the back of a Hercules aircraft at around 15,000ft. After steering for several miles, they landed silently close to insurgent strongholds on an area the size of a football pitch.

The troops of up 12 men then quietly made their way on foot either to begin an operation or set up a covert observation post where they would mount electronic devices linked to voice and facial recognition software to spy on insurgents.
Dressed in the SAS’s latest pixellated combat uniforms with some carrying the heavy-hitting Heckler and Koch 417 weapon mounted with silencers, the men either assisted other SAS helicopter-borne troops or mounted the raid themselves.

“It was the surprise factor that we were after,” said a special forces soldier involved in the operations. “You could have some time under canopy to travel a few kilometres from the point of opening onto the ground.”
Using a special chest rig mounted with satellite navigation, radios and altimeters and oxygen masks the soldiers at first gathered in the sky and then steered towards the ground as a group.

“These jumps took place all over city but particularly Sadr city on the eastern edge of Baghdad where it heads into countryside. You would land on the outskirts, on the right side of the Tigris, and then tab in.
“It gives you the ability of surprise for a hard knock or to get to that point where you have eyes on the target without anyone having a clue that you are in there. As soon as you put a helicopter up people know what’s going on.”
On some occasions a helicopter force in Pumas was called in to start an operation otherwise they were used to extract the soldiers.

“We had the means to get into a building and means to fight our way out,” the soldier said.
“We did arrests. We are not going in to neutralise everything but to try and capture targets. However, if you are in the course of apprehending somebody and your life is under threat, if somebody is pointing a gun at you then they will be very lucky to survive.”

News of combat jumps, which were made over the last two years, comes at a time when a shortage of RAF Hercules and pilots has meant that a third of the 2,400 paratroopers in 16 Air Assault Brigade are not qualified to jump.
Airborne officers argue that by keeping a parachute capability it maintains Britain’s ability to launch rapid reaction forces that could for instance take a hostile runway in Africa or at the very least “give the enemy something to think about”.
A few parachute jumps were used by the SAS and SBS in Afghanistan in 2001 and on two occasions the Parachute Regiment has come close to making drops in Afghanistan.

During the Suez operation in 1956 more than 700 paratroopers landed in Egypt to successful seize airfields, to enable transport of troops and supplies. The operation by Britain, France, and Israel followed Egypt’s decision to nationalize the strategically-important Suez Canal.
Currently Parachute Jump Instructors are in Afghanistan assessing the situation for parachuting that is made difficult by the high altitude and rough terrain.
24476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: June 26, 2009, 08:14:20 PM
Indulge this old gray beard in reminding you that the Air Traffic Controllers Union, a public union, went on strike when President Reagan first took office.  He shocked the excrement out of them and the Dems when he fired them.  OTOH, NYC has a long and extremely expensive history of negotiating with striking public transit and sanitation unions.
24477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No guns for negroes on: June 26, 2009, 12:35:09 PM
24478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-7 on: June 26, 2009, 12:05:08 PM
third post

A couple of weeks ago while en route to al Kut I got to see during the course of 3-minutes the best Iraq has to offer security-wise, and their typical slackers.
Hard to explain but we were in MRAPs crossing Suicide Bridge (as affectionately named by the soldiers at FOB Delta).  Suicide is a one lane bridge.  So at one point we had to stop and wait for the bridge to be availlable to us.
As we were slowing down for the stop I could see two Iraqi Army soldiers standing security.  Beforfe the MRAP even stopped I thoought to myself these guys are STRAC.  You could see it in their demeanor, the way they comported themselves and their alert behavior.  As soon as our MRAPs stopped they both went into hyper alert mode.  Scanning 360.  Weapons more ready.  Basically they were ready to instantly shoot.  Clearly in good shape.  Out of the ordinary camo uniforms.  Helmets on in 115 degree weather.  The kind of guys in appearance that 99 out of 100 of us would probably not want to take on.  It's like they instinctively knew halted Army MRAPs = exponentially elevated threat level.  I tried to get a photo but it did not come out.  Damn shame.
So after a minute or two we start moving.  We get to the other side of the bridge and there were a couple of Iraqi soldiers and police basically sitting on their fat asses, cigarettes dangling from their fat worthless faces.  Utter disgraces to a professional military and law enforcement presence.
I could not help but wonder if when I read aboout all the soldiers and policemen getting killed around the country every day at checkpoints were these worthless, disgraceful clowns.  And conversely, whoever trained these other two soldiers I hope they have gotten to see the end result of their labor.
June 30th draws ever nearer and I am not convinced the Iraqis have it together to repel the coming juggernaut.
24479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraq Security on: June 26, 2009, 11:33:35 AM
second post

STRATFOR learned June 25 that ailing top Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim’s health has worsened. Al-Hakim was a key player in both Iranian and U.S. plans for the future of Iraq, and his death will complicate matters for Iran. Meanwhile, U.S. forces are preparing to withdraw from urban areas in Iraq on June 30. The main question is whether Iraqi security forces are ready to take on more security responsibilities at a time when a lot could go wrong in their country.

STRATFOR learned June 25 that the condition of ailing top Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim has deteriorated and that U.S. military authorities are preparing for his death. Al-Hakim, who had long received treatment in Tehran for lung cancer, leads Iraq’s largest and most pro-Iranian Shiite political party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). Al-Hakim’s worsening condition comes at a very critical time, considering that he has been a key player in both U.S. and Iranian plans for post-Baathist Iraq.

As far as the Iranians are concerned, al-Hakim’s death will complicate matters as they seek to consolidate the gains they have made in Iraq since the rise of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Iran is embroiled in a huge internal power struggle between rival conservative factions that came out into the open with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial election victory June 12. A loss of a key foreign policy asset at a time of intense domestic turmoil limits the extent to which Tehran can counter Washington’s moves to finalize the security environment in Iraq.

U.S. plans revolve around a June 30 deadline for the implementation of a key phase of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that requires U.S. troops to complete the withdrawal of combat forces form Iraqi cities. This will not be a sudden or rapid process; the United States has been preparing for this deadline for months, carefully monitoring the progress of Iraqi security forces and slowly drawing back. Nor will the process be uniform. As per a deliberate vagueness in the text of the agreement, U.S. forces likely will retain a significant presence in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, the scene of continuing jihadist violence.

The SOFA is the guiding document crafted to oversee the transition of day-to-day security responsibility from U.S. troops to Iraqi forces in preparation for a 2011 withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the country. Since the agreement’s signing in December 2008, Iraqi forces have taken on more of these responsibilities, while U.S. forces have moved into more of an advisory capacity. Iraqi forces have been running the routine street patrols, checkpoints and other security facilities and have been taking an increasingly greater role in counterinsurgency operations against jihadists.

That said, in places like the capital and Mosul, Iraqi troops still depend heavily upon U.S. troops. Therefore, as U.S. forces transition from tactical oversight to strategic oversight, the main question is the extent to which Iraqi forces will be able to maintain the relative calm that has existed since 2007, when the U.S. military turned Sunni nationalist insurgents who were fighting U.S. troops into critical forces combating al Qaeda in Iraq. The next few months will be a crucial test for Iraq’s security forces, revealing whether they can act as a national force or whether they will succumb to ethno-sectarian struggles. In turn, the Iraqi forces’ success (or lack thereof) will determine the degree to which U.S. forces will have to intervene to stabilize the situation. It should be noted that most of the violence in Iraq has been in urban areas — the same areas from which some 130,000 U.S. forces are leaving under the SOFA.

With their independence and proficiency still a work in progress, it is unclear how capable and willing Iraqi security forces are to perform in a manner that will prevent another descent into sectarian bloodshed. A larger concern is that the violence level in Iraq has remained steady in recent months, with periodic attacks taking place across the country. In the past few days there have been two noteworthy attacks, in Kirkuk and Baghdad, on Shiite targets affiliated with the movement of radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Realizing that this is the time to try to stir up ethno-sectarian tensions and stage a comeback, suspected jihadists have carried out suicide attacks. The June 30 pullback date is also a symbolic time for attacks, as it gives the impression that the jihadists are driving U.S. forces out and that Iraq remains unsafe.

The principals of the country’s three major ethno-sectarian groups have an interest in making sure that the political disputes among them do not escalate to the point of violence. In spite of their intention to remain peaceful, they run into problems when they try to pursue their respective political objectives. A particularly problematic issue is the lingering — and potentially explosive — induction of Sunni tribal militiamen affiliated with the Awakening Councils into the state’s Shiite-dominated security apparatus. Despite his moves away from Islamist sectarian politics and toward a secular Iraqi national platform (which gave him significant gains in recent provincial elections), Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants to limit Sunnis’ power, and thus has refused to allow more than 20 percent of these militiamen into the security apparatus. Though the Awakening Councils also made significant gains in the provincial vote and have a bigger stake in the system, there is still a major concern that many of these tribal fighters could revert to their old ways.

At the intra-Shiite level, internal rivalries continue to simmer even though al-Hakim’s ISCI performed badly in the provincial polls and the al-Sadrites’ political and military power has been diminished. After al-Hakim’s death, his successor — likely his son Ammar al-Hakim — will need to consolidate his hold over the movement and ward off rivals’ attempts to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the power vacuum. Iran, which has played the various Iraqi Shiite factions off one another, will have to re-establish an intra-Shiite balance of power. Iran also could try to stir up trouble in Iraq in order to reposition itself in relation to the United States after the Iranian election crisis.

In northern Iraq, the Kurdish bid for greater autonomy pits the Kurds against the Sunnis and Shia. Furthermore, the Kurds will be holding their own regional elections this month. With President Jalal Talabani — leader of one of the two major parties in the Kurdistani alliance that controls the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) — nearing retirement from political activity due to health conditions, the internal balance of power among the Kurds is also in play. The ongoing dispute over sharing energy revenues between the federal government and the KRG and tensions over the future status of the contested oil-rich northern region of Kirkuk are also issues that could easily create security situations.

In other words, there is a lot that can go wrong at a time when Iraqi forces are supposed to demonstrate that they can function as a national force capable of keeping the various ethno-sectarian groups in Iraq from succumbing to multi-directional centrifugal forces. Therefore, the next several months — especially ahead of the Jan. 30, 2010, parliamentary elections that could shake up the political establishment formed after the 2003 regime change — will be very telling in terms of the Iraqi factions’ abilities to keep their disputes within acceptable parameters.

From the U.S. point of view, the Iraqi forces’ performance will be critical in terms of Washington’s ability to focus on Afghanistan and ultimately disengage militarily from the Islamic world.

24480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Iraq oil on: June 26, 2009, 11:29:09 AM
Iraq’s oil minister is being forced to defend himself against various charges stemming from the country’s stagnant oil production. The charges come during a period of heightening tensions over oil among Iraq’s feuding Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions. Ultimately, it will probably be up to an outside power to manage this political maelstrom — and of these powers, Turkey is the one to watch.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani returned to the Iraqi parliament on June 25 to defend himself against a multitude of complaints from parliamentarians involving such issues as Iraq’s declining oil output, its languishing hydrocarbons law and the corruption and mismanagement of the Iraqi oil industry’s profits.

Due to a steep drop in once record-high crude prices over the past year, and aggravated by budget constraints and political infighting, Iraq’s current oil output has stagnated at around 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) — well below the country’s enormous oil production potential. Since oil revenues account for 95 percent of the state’s income, Shahristani has become the natural scapegoat for Iraq’s current political and economic woes. And with a major oil auction on the horizon, the country’s first since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi oil brawl is bound to escalate in the coming weeks. Given what he is up against, there is no guarantee that Shahristani will make it out of these June parliamentary grill sessions in one piece, but he has given no indication that he is prepared to bow out of this fight.

Shahristani’s plan to breathe some life back into Iraq’s oil industry involves circumventing parliamentary approval to allow 32 of the world’s major energy companies on June 29-30 to bid on 20-year-long service contracts to develop Iraq’s six largest oil producing fields and two untapped natural gas fields. These energy companies, which include ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell, ConocoPhillips, Turkish Petroleum Corp., BP, France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, Russia’s Gazprom Neft and LUKoil, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and China National Petroleum Corp., are taking a risk in investing in a country that has yet to pass an oil law, and whose politics pose a severe threat to business deals. Despite the risks, all these firms have a deep interest in securing these potentially lucrative contracts.

But first, the oil minister must answer to the Federation of Oil Unions in the Shiite southern oil hub of Basra. The southern labor unions produce the bulk of Iraqi crude and are extremely hesitant to allow foreign companies a piece of their contracts. The union federation has strongly criticized the oil minister for offering long-term service contracts, asserting that Iraqi companies and their employees are fully capable of developing the fields themselves. Shahrahstani’s opponents in parliament argue that oil exploration — not production of existing fields — is needed to increase production. Shahristani, on the other hand, claims that exploration will take too much time, and there is a stronger need to focus on boosting current production. He argues that the foreign companies are the ones that the have the training, technological expertise and tools to more rapidly and efficiently boost Iraq’s oil output by an additional 1.5 million bpd within four to five years.

This debate is not only about southern oil unions worried about being edged out by foreign oil majors. As Shahristani himself has claimed, there is a much wider political agenda involving multiple Iraqi factions currently in play.

The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), currently the largest Shiite party in parliament and the political bloc most closely aligned to Iran, carries a great deal of clout in the Shiite south that could strengthen the anti-Shahristani movement. After having fared poorly against Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in January provincial polls, the ISCI is doing whatever it can to weaken the prime minister’s power base so that it can be on a stronger political footing for legislative elections slated for Jan. 30, 2010.

The ISCI’s strategy involves using its clout in parliament to chip away at al-Maliki’s Cabinet appointees. Already, Iraqi Trade Minister Falah al-Sudani and former Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani have been forced to resign. Shahristani, who maintains his political independence — and yet is in agreement with al-Maliki’s vision of a strong, centralized government — is next on the target list.

In addition to natural political competition, the ISCI and al-Maliki are on two different wavelengths in trying to shape the future of Iraq. The ISCI, and the Iranians by extension, envision a federalist model of Iraq that essentially carves out a Shiite autonomous zone in the south (similar to the Kurdish autonomous zone in the north). This would augment Iran’s influence in Iraq via their Iraqi Shiite allies. This vision, however, is directly at odds with that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, smaller regional Shiite parties and the mainstream Sunni parties, who all agree on the need for a strong, centralized government in Iraq that can build up its immunity to foreign penetration. Al-Maliki and Shahristani have been able to draw support from Sunni and Shiite factions for their strong stance against federalism and their iron-fist approach with the Kurds, but they are also up against a number of sore losers from the provincial elections who want to see the prime minister weakened.

Click to enlarge
The ISCI has no shortage of allies to use against al-Maliki. The oil unions in the south do not always get along politically with the ISCI, but they do share a common interest in fighting Shahristani’s oil investment program. The ISCI also has a parliamentary alliance with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, which recently succeeded in getting its own man in the parliamentary speaker position to use as a platform to challenge al-Maliki directly. Finally, the ISCI has found an ally among the Kurds, who have the most to lose in this oil battle against al-Maliki and Shahristani.

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is locked into conflict with Baghdad over how to manage the country’s massive oil wealth. Blessed by its energy resources and cursed by its geography, the Kurdish region is up against not only Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Arab communities, but also by its far more powerful neighbors — Turkey, Iran and Syria, who all share a common interest in extinguishing any notion of Kurdish independence or even expanded autonomy.

The Kurds’ best defense against their rivals is to gain as much control as possible over energy resources in the north and to use their region’s energy appeal to lure in foreign investors. The more foreigners buy into the Kurdish region, the more protection the Kurds receive against outside penetration. Consequently, from the moment Saddam Hussein fell from power and the Kurds organized politically, the KRG has been extremely active in inviting foreign firms to explore and develop Iraq’s northern fields.

To sweeten the pot, the Kurds have offered these firms extremely attractive Production-Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that offer firms ownership stakes in the fields. This policy directly opposes Shahristani’s push only to allow foreign firms to charge fees, as opposed to offering them ownership rights that would undermine Baghdad’s central authority, for raising output. The Kurds know they have a narrow window of opportunity to secure these energy rights, and will thus fight tooth and nail in parliament to shoot down Shahristani and al-Maliki’s policies that aim to assert central authority in Iraq and undermine Kurdish autonomy.

But the Kurds can only go so far in their dealings with foreign energy firms, dealings Baghdad terms “illegal” and “unconstitutional.” Energy companies have been exploring and developing fields in the north, but any plan to export for real profit must have both Turkey’s (as the export link) and Baghdad’s approval. The Kurds, however, are feeling more emboldened after the central government — under heavy pressure to raise Iraq’s oil output — reluctantly allowed oil to flow from KRG fields in the north to the Turkish port at Ceyhan for export beginning June 1. The budget pressure on Baghdad allowed the KRG to take another step forward in furthering Kurdish autonomy, but the Kurds also know this export opportunity can just as easily be snatched away by their rivals. For now, the Kurds are trying to exploit the wider criticism against Shahristani, a move that will allow them to continue with business as usual on the energy front while Baghdad remains at odds with itself.

From intra-Shiite rivalries to panicky oil unions to Kurdish-Arab political battles, there are a number of reasons for the world’s oil supermajors to be nervous about the June 29-30 auction. These political fissures run deep, and will continue to hold the country back from checking off critical items on the parliamentary agenda, such as signing a viable oil law. With the central government on the defensive, it will most likely be up to an outside power to manage this political maelstrom.

Of these powers, the United States is too distracted to enter into Iraqi internal politics to resolve these conflicts, and Iranian influence is largely limited to their Shiite allies. Turkey, however, is the country to watch in Iraq’s energy evolution. The Turks are already on an ascendant path in the region, and have been busily shoring up ties with key members of each of Iraq’s warring factions, including the Kurds. If Turkey intends to fulfill its long-term objective to control a substantial portion of Iraq’s energy industry, it is only a matter of time before Ankara dives deeper into Iraqi politics.

24481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ACTION items on: June 26, 2009, 10:52:59 AM
This thread is for calls to citizens to action:

Dear Marc,

It's not often that a single bill so clearly defines the struggle between freedom and control. Those are the stakes with the National Energy Tax, H.R. 2454, and the House will likely vote on it today.

President Obama stated yesterday that the National Energy Tax is a "jobs bill." He's right. But it's not an American jobs bill. It's a China jobs bill, because that's where our jobs will go. Experts predict that this bill would destroy between 1,105,000 and 2,479,000 jobs on average, every year*. We can't let that happen.

Please take a minute to call your member of Congress, and urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 2454.

Here's the link to find their phone number:

Yesterday, American Solutions members made over 15,000 phone calls to their Congressmen. It's an amazing number, but we must push harder, because Speaker Pelosi, Al Gore and their left-wing allies are trying to corral moderate Republicans and Democrats to vote for what could be the largest tax increase in American history.

But, Congress is feeling the pressure. Your call - right now - can make a huge difference.

Please take a minute to call your member of Congress, and urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 2454.

Together, we can stop this, and work towards implementing a real jobs bill, that will grow our economy, provide more energy at lower cost, and strengthen our national security.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich
General Chairman
American Solutions

P.S.  Keep up to date on all the key issues by joining our Facebook Page and following us on Twitter.

24482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McFarlane on: June 26, 2009, 08:21:39 AM
One casualty of the Iraq war has been the confusion among politicians about the proper place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. Iran's recent election -- which evoked a very vocal, frustrated opposition -- brings into sharp focus the urgent need for clarity concerning this issue. Do we support those seeking freedom from oppression? And if so, how? It may do well to recall how we got into this confused state.

Sixteen or so years ago a small circle of cold warriors, flush with victory, concluded that with the dissolution of the Soviet Union democracy and free enterprise had been vindicated. To these neoconservatives, the task of future American presidents would be to spread the gospel of democracy -- using force if necessary -- so that governments everywhere would become accountable to their people and thus less likely to wage war. In 2003, it was arguably democracy promotion, rather than the threat of weapons of mass destruction, which triggered the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Throughout his two terms in office, President George W. Bush was an indefatigable advocate of democracy, even when it resulted in the victories of such un-Jeffersonian parties as Hezbollah and Hamas. Thus began the neocon versus realist battle. The current situation in Iran offers an opportunity to turn this debate in a less doctrinaire, more coherent direction.

To oversimplify, in Iran, the wrong man may have won. Yet a strong, vibrant opposition exists there that ought to be nurtured. Ilan Berman, a vice president at the American Foreign Policy Council, is one the best analysts of Iranian politics today. Mr. Berman explains the reasons for this opposition:

"Iran is a country in the grip of massive socio-economic malaise. Inflation . . . stands at nearly 30 percent. Unemployment is rampant, officially pegged at over 10 percent but unofficially estimated to be as much as two-and-a-half times that figure. Nearly a quarter of the Iranian population now lives under the poverty line, and both prostitution and drug addiction are rampant. Add to these Ahmadinejad's gross mismanagement of the national economy over the past four years, and it is easy to see why Iran's leaders fear that outrage over a stolen election could spiral into something more."

But will it? What is to become of the aspirations and lives of the hundreds of thousands of Iranian dissidents who are braving police brutality in the name of freedom and accountability? The reason we should care goes well beyond perpetuating Wilsonian principles. It involves upholding realist principles too.

Iran poses a formidable threat to U.S. and allied interests for three principal reasons. Tehran's illegal drive to become a nuclear-weapons state is well underway. The country's 7,000 centrifuges are enriching uranium that could produce enough weapons-grade material for one or more bombs within a year. If Iran continues down that path, whether successfully or not, other Middle Eastern nations will be eager to move forward with their own deterrent nuclear programs. A proliferation cascade would then ensue among countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Jordan. Before long, matters will have gone beyond the ability of institutions or statecraft to control.

The very existence of Iran's nuclear program is seen to pose an existential threat to Israel. Even an undeclared yet plausible Iranian nuclear threat gives the country an enormous amount of political leverage in its relationships throughout the region. Its ability to coerce neighbors over any disagreement would rise exponentially.

Another issue is Iran's sponsorship and support of terrorist groups -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestinian areas, and less prominently, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood. Unless Iran ends its support for these organizations, they will ultimately destroy Israel, not to mention their own host countries.

Denying Israel's very right to exist, while openly arming terrorist groups bent on destroying Israel, constitutes aggression by any standard of international law. These deeds ought to be a matter of formal sanction.

President Barack Obama has made clear his wish to engage Iran's government. But he ignores a fundamental question. What, beyond conversation, does engagement mean?

Dealing with Iran, the president needs to use all the tools of diplomacy at his disposal. First, the president needs to strengthen our position by adding partners. Mr. Obama should sit down with moderate Arab states. He should listen to their views and forge an agreed regional security strategy. Such a strategy should include a vigorous program of support for the Iranian opposition, based on a well-funded program of broadcasts and other communications into Iran. This would help the opposition become better organized and grow. Recent surveys reflect that Iran is the most "wired" nation in the Middle East. Nearly 35% of its population is connected to the Internet.

Further, Mr. Obama must raise awareness among our European and Asian allies of how serious a threat to regional peace Iran has become. He should then launch an effort at the United Nations Security Council to impose strong sanctions on anyone supplying gasoline to Iran. This will underline what should be our commitment to defang Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Barack Obama is seeking to craft a doctrine of effective realism, a doctrine that advances our own interests and those of democratic aspirants throughout the world. It will stand or fall on his actions toward Iran in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. McFarlane, who served as President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser (1983-85), is a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
24483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fannie Mae health care on: June 26, 2009, 08:06:50 AM
President Obama and most congressional Democrats say they want to preserve private health insurance. They also want to add a "public plan" to compete with private insurance plans. Their basic argument is that a public plan would offer needed competition, save money through low administrative costs and zero profits, realize greater economies of scale, and be a superior negotiator of the prices of medical services and technology.

 The first three arguments are bogus. The fourth argument is only half-bogus -- but the half that isn't reveals a great danger: If a public plan is inserted into private insurance markets, the American health-care system could rapidly evolve into a single-payer system, which would have devastating effects on R&D for new medical technology.

The first argument, that we need a public plan to spur competition, just isn't plausible. Hundreds of health insurance plans already exist, and employer benefit managers can choose among numerous alternatives. There is no lack of firms willing to compete to provide health insurance.

As to the second argument, what is to be saved by avoiding profits? Nonprofit health insurance firms are common, including many of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield plans. Nonprofit status has not proved to be a reliable source of efficiency and cost-saving. The addition of new nonprofit cooperatives and the like -- as a bipartisan group of senators has proposed -- would make little difference, unless the new plans are given the power to set prices and take on extra risk supported by government subsidies.

Would a public plan have lower administrative costs? Well, how often are public enterprises run more efficiently than private ones? Why did practically all economically advanced nations dismantle their public airlines, phone companies, and so on, invariably obtaining lower administrative costs and consumer prices?

As Stanford University health economist Victor Fuchs has pointed out, what "insurance" firms actually sell to large employers -- which account for the single largest segment of the entire health-care market -- is usually administrative services, not actual insurance. (Large companies are not insured; they pay benefits directly.) There is no reason to expect a Medicare-like public plan to match the administrative efficiency of Aetna, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint. Medicare doesn't even try. It outsources most administrative services to the private sector.

Turning to public plans like Medicare and Medicaid for more efficient administration is a fool's errand.

What about economies of scale? Aetna currently serves about 18 million subscribers, UnitedHealth Care serves between 25 million and 30 million, and WellPoint more than 35 million. That is more than is served by the health-care monopoly of Canada (population 33.6 million), and more than the entire health-care systems of most European nations. Once a plan reaches a few million subscribers, there may not be a lot of economies of scale left that can enable public plans to provide lower prices.

Finally, there is the crucial task of negotiating prices for doctors, hospitals, clinics, drugs, devices and thousands of other items essential to modern health care. Here, there are really two arguments for a public plan. The first is about bargaining skill and the firm size, basic ingredients in any negotiating environment.

There is no reason to think the administrators of a public plan will possess skills superior to those honed by private plan personnel during years of negotiations under the pressure of competition. Nor is there any reason to think that mere size would help.

True enough, relatively small European nations routinely obtain better drug prices than are achieved by mammoth American pharmacy benefit managers such as Express Scripts (50 million patients) and Medco (60 million patients), each of whose numbers exceed the entire citizenry of all but the largest European nations. Even sparsely populated New Zealand (population four million) gets better prices than the giant drug-price negotiators in the American private market.

Their success is due to what economists call "monopsony power." Monopsony occurs when a single buyer negotiates prices with several competing sellers (as opposed to monopoly, where there are many buyers but one seller).

Thus, if you want to sell your branded drug in New Zealand, your prices are negotiated with PharMac, a branch of the government. Much the same is true when selling to Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and essentially the entire developed world save the United States. The negotiating power of these government entities results from monopsony, not superior skill.

For example, the various sellers of cholesterol drugs (Lipitor, Crestor, and so on) have to compete with one another while they all face a single government negotiator. If one seller balks at government prices, it leaves competitors to pick up more sales. The same is true for most other drug classes and most medical devices. This uneven battle ensures that negotiated prices will be well below those in a competitive market.

But here is where the huge risks of creating a "public plan" to compete with private insurance firms come into focus. Foremost among these risks are the effects of monopsony power in the purchase of medical technology.

The U.S. is unique because it alone is the source of half of world-wide profits that provide the payoff for the complex, lengthy, and expensive process of developing new treatments. When other nations construct their health-care systems, they ignore the impact of their pricing policies on R&D incentives. As the dominant R&D funding wellhead, we do not have that option.

Competitive markets have generated the prices and the profits necessary to induce a steady flow of medical innovation in this country. A public plan option would tend to dismantle that system. The people in charge will not know how to set reimbursement levels to motivate reasonable R&D efforts, and there is no reason to expect them to try. In public plans, the tried-and-true method is to push the prices of suppliers down until something gives -- too few doctors willing to take on Medicare patients, for example -- and then to ease up. That is a destructive approach to medical technology R&D.

Who knows what drugs will not be developed if reimbursement levels for a new multiple-sclerosis treatment are too measly? In virtually every advanced economy but our own, pricing authorities simply make sure prices are high enough so that existing drugs continue to be made available. We can expect a public plan here to do the same. The inevitable result is to drastically under-incentivize R&D.

This problem would not matter if a public plan remained small -- but it would likely grow into a monster. Monopsony negotiating power will generate lower prices, so many consumers will switch to a public plan. Employers eager to offload health-care costs will also dump unwilling employees into the public plan. That is the basis for the Lewin Group's much-cited prediction that a public plan would come to dominate any market in which it is allowed to compete.

Bargaining power, however, is far from the only potential source of below-market prices for public plans. In the home mortgage market, the public plans -- known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- were for years viewed by investors as less risky because they would be bailed out by the federal government if they took on too much risk. That translated into lower prices (the interest rates paid by borrowers), which eventually translated into extraordinary and unseemly growth, culminating in bankruptcy and a federal bailout.

The lesson for health insurance is clear. All insurance plans -- especially in health-care markets -- have to take on risk. Prudent planning, including the maintenance of reasonable financial reserves, is necessary. That increases costs. It would be all too easy for a public plan to gain a competitive advantage by taking on extra risk while keeping prices low because everyone would expect the federal government to take care of financial surprises down the road.

In sum, a public plan would possess formidable and perhaps overwhelming competitive advantages -- generated not by efficiency but by the artificial advantages of "public" status. This would have two disastrous consequences. The first will be to cause most Americans now covered by private insurance to move to public insurance -- one step away from single-payer health care. The second will be to undermine incentives to develop more of the immensely valuable medical technology that is central to all of health care.

Mr. Calfee is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
24484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 26, 2009, 07:53:40 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Shift in the U.S.-Israeli Drama
June 25, 2009
A meeting that had been scheduled this week in Paris between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, was canceled Wednesday.

Netanyahu’s spokesman said the meeting was called off so that the Americans and Israelis could have more time to “clarify some issues.” But Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot then published a report citing an unnamed Israeli official, who said the U.S. administration had sent the following “stern” message to Netanyahu: “Once you’ve finished the homework we gave you on stopping construction in the settlements, let us know. Until then, there’s no point in having Mitchell fly to Paris to meet you.”

The U.S. explanation for the scrapped meeting was much tamer: State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Netanyahu and Mitchell had canceled the meeting so that Mitchell could meet first with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak next Monday in Washington. It is still unclear who canceled on whom, but the Israelis seem intent on giving the impression that the Americans are the ones being unreasonable.

Tensions in the U.S.-Israeli relationship can be traced to the post-election crisis in Tehran.

To understand this, we need to rewind to June 4 in Egypt, as U.S. President Barack Obama attempted to reach out to the Muslim masses and distinguish his policies in the region from those of George W. Bush. In that speech, Obama focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue for several reasons. First, by generating perceptions that his administration was not afraid to stand up to Israel over the issue of West Bank settlements, he might draw an increase in Arab support that could be used to form a more solidified coalition against Iran. Second, he could counter Iranian attempts to hijack the Palestinian cause. Iran’s increasingly blatant support for Hamas is designed to call out the hypocrisy of Arab regimes who pledge support for the Palestinians in public for rhetorical reasons, but whose actions are limited by their own strategic concerns. By laying the groundwork rhetorically for greater acceptance of U.S. policy in the region, Obama could strengthen his negotiating position in regard to Iran — or so the theory went.

But by issuing an ultimatum on the West Bank, Obama also invited a confrontation with Israel. From the Israeli point of view, there is no compelling reason to negotiate on the Palestinian issue. The Palestinian territories are divided geographically, politically and ideologically between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip — and because the Palestinian government is in shambles, there is no authority for the Israelis to deal with in the first place. Still, Obama thought it would be worth the risk to raise tensions with Israel if it would advance his agenda in dealing with Iran.

That strategy already had a number of built-in flaws, but its chances of success appear even slimmer in the aftermath of Iran’s June 12 presidential election. Obama has been careful in his statements on Iran for good reason. He made it clear before and after the Iranian election that he was prepared to deal with Tehran, regardless of who won the presidency. An exclusive report by the Washington Times on Wednesday reinforced this idea: Prior to the election, Obama was said to have delivered a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through the Swiss Embassy, reiterating his desire to negotiate. Though Obama recognizes that it would be useless to reject the election victory of someone he would be dealing with anyway, he still faces a significant problem at home. With the right wing stressing the futility of talking to an unchanged Iranian regime and the left wing and human rights groups condemning talks with a regime that violently suppresses protests, he is under pressure to take a tougher stance on Iran. Any attempt at talks with Iran also will be widely viewed in the United States as negotiating with an illegitimate government, given the strong allegations of vote fraud in the election.

The Israelis can see that Obama’s diplomatic strategy for Iran — a strategy about which Israel was never really enthused — is rolling toward the gutter. Therefore, the Israelis have an opportunity. Obama previously had tried to pressure Israel over the settlements issue, when he was in a stronger position and knew that Netanyahu would have a heck of a time balancing between the right- and left-wing parties in his own coalition an issue as contentious as the West Bank. Netanyahu first sidestepped the issue with his own peace speech, driving U.S.-Israeli negotiations into the ground by insisting on the right to “natural growth” in the West Bank and the disarmament of the Palestinian territories. Now, Israel sees a U.S. president who is getting hammered at home for his Iran strategy —and whose options on dealing with Iran are dwindling rapidly on the international front.

Obama desperately wants to avoid harsher actions against Iran for fear that Russia will use Iran as a geopolitical lever. The Russians are already hinting privately that they can make the Iran issue more complicated for Washington, through strategic weapons sales, should the Americans fail to meet Moscow’s demands in Eurasia. In essence, Obama is fast becoming stuck in the same mess that ensnared a number of presidents before him.

With the U.S. president in a quandary over Iran, Netanyahu has an opportunity to regain the upper hand, pull the settlement issue from the agenda and start pushing his preferred methods of dealing with Iran — including harsher sanctions. Knowing the constraints Washington is facing on the Iran front, Netanyahu at the very least can get Obama to back off on his demands for Israel, but first he has to snap Washington back to attention. This begins with a mini-diplomatic drama over a canceled meeting with a U.S. envoy. Netanyahu likely will be able to generate several more “crises” should he need them, but that all depends on how much strain Israel wants to put on its relationship with the United States at this point.
24485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: June 26, 2009, 07:03:21 AM
"To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted."

--Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures, December, 1791
24486  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Law on: June 26, 2009, 07:02:22 AM
Good post David. 

Has anyone here written a letter about this yet?  NOW is the time for comments people!
24487  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: June 26, 2009, 06:59:04 AM
Neither FF or EM were really on my radar screen, but please forgive me my curmdgeonly moment.  Why is the fcuk is MJ here?

Q: Why does Michael Jackson have a tough guy reputation?
A: He has licked every kid possible.

Q: Why did Michael Jackson get food poisoning?
A: He ate a nine year old wiener!

Q: Why were Michael Jackson's pants so small?
A: They belonged to somebody else.

Q: What do Michael Jackson and Walmart have in common?
A: They both have small boys pants at half off!

Q: How many Michael Jacksons does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Michael Jackson only screws little boys!

Q: What did the man on the beach say to Michael Jackson?
A: Get out of my sun!

Q: What do Michael Jackson and zits have in common?
A: They both wait till your 12 to come on your face!

Q: How do we know Michael is guilty?
A: Several children have fingered him.

Q: Why does Michael Jackson like to lose foot races to little boys?
A: He likes to come in a little behind.

Q: How do you know when it's bedtime at the Jackson residence?
A: When the big hand touches the little hand...
24488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Jackson may be feeling a bit warm on: June 26, 2009, 12:19:10 AM

Q: Why does Michael Jackson have a tough guy reputation?
A: He has licked every kid possible.

Q: Why did Michael Jackson get food poisoning?
A: He ate a nine year old wiener!

Q: Why were Michael Jackson's pants so small?
A: They belonged to somebody else.

Q: What do Michael Jackson and Walmart have in common?
A: They both have small boys pants at half off!

Q: How many Michael Jacksons does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Michael Jackson only screws little boys!

Q: What did the man on the beach say to Michael Jackson?
A: Get out of my sun!

Q: What do Michael Jackson and zits have in common?
A: They both wait till your 12 to come on your face!

Q: How do we know Michael is guilty?
A: Several children have fingered him.

Q: Why does Michael Jackson like to lose foot races to little boys?
A: He likes to come in a little behind.

Q: How do you know when it's bedtime at the Jackson residence?
A: When the big hand touches the little hand...
24489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary is wrong about the settlements on: June 24, 2009, 11:37:39 PM
Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.

In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

Getty Images
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan's King Abdullah, June 4, 2003.
We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.
24490  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prisons on: June 24, 2009, 11:27:20 PM
CO friend texted me the following:
 3 Way's 2 Stay out of Trouble in Prison:
 Don't Gamble.
Don't Do Drugs.
 Don't have a Bitch.
 This will keep U All out of 90% of All problems.
  Because some one else will want your Bitch.
 If U don't pay your Debts , U will Be a Bitch.
 & Stand Up 4 Yourself All  The Time.
 Or! get ready 2 get Hitched:(

 There's 30 of Us Staff Members  @ Work right Now.
 & 650 of Them. Do the Math.
 If you don't like the Hospitality,= don't come 2 Prison *
24491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan on: June 24, 2009, 10:19:17 PM
Who'd have thought it?  A thoughtful piece from Pat Buchanon:

Ten Days That Shook Tehran

Given its monopoly of guns, bet on the Iranian regime. But, in the long run, the ayatollahs have to see the handwriting on the wall.
Let us assume what they insist upon -- that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election; that, even if fraud occurred, it did not decide the outcome. As Ayatollah Khamenei said to loud laughter in his Friday sermon declaring the election valid, "Perhaps 100,000, or 500,000, but how can anyone tamper with 11 million votes?"

Still, the ayatollah and Ahmadinejad must hear the roar of the rapids ahead. Millions of Iranians, perhaps a majority of the professional class and educated young, who shouted, "Death to the Dictatorship," oppose or detest them. How can the regime maintain its present domestic course or foreign policy with its people so visibly divided?

 Where do the ayatollah and Ahmadinejad go from here?

If they adopt a harder line, defy Barack Obama and refuse to negotiate their nuclear program, they can continue to enrich uranium, as harsher sanctions are imposed. But to what end adding 1,000 more kilograms?

If they do not intend to build a bomb, why enrich more? And if they do intend to build a bomb, what exactly would that achieve?
For an Iranian bomb would trigger a regional arms race with Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking nuclear weapons. Israel would put its nuclear arsenal on a hair trigger. America would retarget missiles on Tehran. And if a terrorist anywhere detonated a nuclear bomb, Iran would risk annihilation, for everyone would assume Tehran was behind it.

Rather than make Iran more secure, an Iranian bomb would seem to permanently isolate her and possibly subject her to pre-emptive attack.

And how can the Iranians survive continued isolation?

According to U.S. sources, Iran produced 6 million barrels of crude a day in 1974 under the shah. She has not been able to match that since the revolution. War, limited investment, sanctions and a high rate of natural decline of mature oil fields, estimated at 8 percent onshore and 11 percent offshore, are the causes. A 2007 National Academy of Sciences study reported that if the decline rates continue, Iran's exports, which in 2007 averaged 2.4 million barrels per day, could decrease to zero by 2015.
You cannot make up for oil and gas exports with carpets and pistachio nuts.

If Tehran cannot effect a lifting of sanctions and new investments in oil and gas production, she is headed for an economic crisis that will cause an exodus of her brightest young and quadrennial reruns of the 2009 election.

And there are not only deep divisions in Iran between modernists and religious traditionalists, the affluent and the poor, but among ethnic groups. Half of Iran's population is Arab, Kurd, Azeri or Baluchi. In the Kurdish northwest and Baluchi south, secessionists have launched attacks the ayatollah blames on the United States and Israel.

As they look about the region, how can the ayatollahs be optimistic?

Syria, their major ally, wants to deal with the Americans to retrieve the Golan. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are hostile, with the latter having uncovered a Hezbollah plot against President Hosni Mubarak.

Hamas is laser-focused on Gaza, the West Bank and a Palestinian state, and showing interest in working with the Obama administration.

Where is the Islamic revolution going? Where is the state in the Muslim world that has embraced Islamism and created a successful nation?

Sudan? Taliban Afghanistan? Somalia is now in final passage from warlordism to Islamism. Does anyone believe the Al-Shahab will create a successful nation?

As for the ayatollahs, after 30 years, they are deep in crisis -- and what have they produced that the world admires?

Even if the "green revolution" in Iran triggers revolts in the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia or Egypt, can Iran believe Sunni revolutionary regimes will follow the lead of a Shia Islamic state? How long did it take Mao's China to renounce its elder brother in the faith, Khrushchev's Russia?

When one looks at the Asian tigers -- South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia -- or at the China or India of recent decades, one sees nations that impress the world with their progress.

Iran under the mullahs has gone sideways or backward. Now, with this suspect election and millions having shown their revulsion of the regime, the legitimacy and integrity of the ayatollahs have been called into question.

Obama offers the regime a way out.

They may exercise their right to peaceful nuclear power, have sanctions lifted and receive security guarantees, if they can prove they have no nuclear weapons program and will cease subverting through their Hezbollah-Hamas proxies the peace process Obama is pursuing between Israel and Palestine.

If Iran refuses Obama's offer, she will start down a road at the end of which are severe sanctions, escalation and a war that Obama does not want and Iran cannot want -- for the winner will not be Iran.

24492  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prisons on: June 24, 2009, 02:30:50 PM
Well, its the NY Slimes, so caveat lector.  Bad dog on me for forgetting to point this out.
24493  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: June 24, 2009, 02:29:50 PM
Putting aside the politics of this footage, for those of us, e.g. me, who are cherry to these things, there is some footage here of a fresh gunshot wound.  Note the failure to adress the exit wound.

VERY GRAPHIC, not suitable for office environments, viewing by children, etc.
24494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Waziristan on: June 24, 2009, 08:27:58 AM
The Pakistani military is coming closer to launching a full-scale assault against Taliban militants in South Waziristan, one of the lawless tribal areas in Pakistan’s northwest where the Taliban are most deeply entrenched. The offensive will be Islamabad’s second attempt in recent months to strike at the roots of an insurgency that has advanced beyond the fringes of the country to threaten its very core.

The first attempt took place in Swat, a critical district that is too close to the capital for comfort. There, a failed cease-fire with the Taliban forced the government to rethink its policy of preferring compromise to confrontation. In April and May, Pakistani air and ground forces moved into the region, destroying some of the insurgency’s infrastructure and reclaiming urban areas. The operation was a dubious success: It displaced millions of people and stirred up local resentment that could feed into the insurgency, while requiring a long-term commitment from Pakistani troops.

Operation Salvation Path, as the developing assault in Waziristan is called, is Islamabad’s next step in taking the fight to the Taliban’s largest grouping. It is the logical continuation of the campaign, after having gained some momentum in Swat. But this time the challenge is far more formidable. Unlike Swat, North and South Waziristan historically were relatively autonomous regions, ruled by traditional tribal leaders. It was not until 2004 that the Pakistani state, goaded by the United States, even attempted to show force in the region. In Swat, militants were more local in their interests and emerged mostly because of a power vacuum that was waiting to be filled — whereas the Taliban commanders who established themselves in Waziristan took advantage of the region’s rugged terrain to hide out and plan attacks against high-level targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to train militants from around the world. The Taliban in Waziristan have withstood several attacks by the Pakistani army: Each time they have fought the army to a standstill, reinforcing their position. And while Swat is nestled within the North-West Frontier Province, giving the Pakistanis a better chance at entrapping the militants, Waziristan has a long, traversible boundary with Afghanistan that allows militants ample supply and escape routes.

The Pakistani army will confront these and a host of other obstacles as it attempts to subdue a large area with inadequate forces — while also trying to save face with the public as refugees spill out of Waziristan and collateral damage increases. The greater challenge is not winning the immediate battle, but consolidating gains and building institutions of governance and security that will last.

Waziristan’s location along the Afghan border calls attention to the fact that the ongoing offensive is not just an internal Pakistani issue, but a wider geopolitical one. The timing of the army offensives coincides with a broader shift in U.S. and NATO strategy against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The latest unit to deploy as part of the U.S. surge in Afghanistan will focus its efforts in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, far from North and South Waziristan. But the question is what will happen when Taliban militants from Waziristan are pushed into Afghanistan by the Pakistani assault from the east, leading U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to step up operations. Will the parallel counterinsurgency campaigns force loosely affiliated elements of Taliban to coalesce into a coherent fighting force, or wedge them apart as each element focuses more intently on its own objectives and survival?

As Pakistani soldiers are preparing to move into Waziristan, U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones is planning a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India this week. The United States is in an interesting position: Pakistan is finally doing what Washington has wanted it to do all along — spearheading attacks directly against Taliban positions on its side of the border, so as to deprive Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan places of refuge and to secure supply lines essential to the U.S.-led effort. While the Pakistanis are acting out of fear for their own security, rather than out of sudden eagerness to earn their billions of dollars in U.S. assistance, their moves are nevertheless an indication of the fighting spirit Washington needs to see if its own plans are to have even a chance at success.

But the deeper worry for the United States is this: It is by no means a foregone conclusion — or even necessarily likely — that the Pakistani military will be able to succeed in the mission at hand. There are too many variables, boiling down to how much of a fight the militants put up and whether Islamabad will be capable of a sustained campaign that will carry a high rate of attrition and exact high political costs. And Washington knows that its own plans — which extend much farther than South Asia, and well beyond the next two years — will be affected by Islamabad’s performance now.

24495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: June 24, 2009, 07:33:11 AM
I'm not sure I agree with all of that.

As a general economic principle it seems sound to me to have the person consuming a service be the person paying for the service.  Indeed, IMHO a rather large percentage of our problems with this issue come from having someone other than the consumer pay.

It may well be that simply having a small or even no deductible combined with a higher percentage of patient participation in the bill is the way to go-- here I have no opinion.
24496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: START quid pro quo on: June 24, 2009, 07:25:38 AM
Russia: The START Quid Pro Quo

Speaking in Vienna on Tuesday, as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference began, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently linked the issue of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to that of nuclear disarmament. Lavrov said there is an obvious link between nuclear disarmament and an American BMD system in Europe, noting, “This position is shared by the presidents of our two countries.” The comments came two weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama’s scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, in Russia, where they plan to discuss a replacement for the expiring 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Replacing START is a priority for Russia. Though the Soviets, during the Cold War, at times might have been able to match U.S. technological capabilities and industrial resources — a burden that contributed to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse — the Russia of today most certainly cannot. Maintaining parity with the United States in strategic nuclear weaponry, even if only in appearance, is impossible without a treaty limiting the quality and type of weapons that the United States is allowed to field.

The Americans, on the other hand, have grown to rely on the nuclear treaty as a way to monitor the status of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and to enhance cooperation in curbing nuclear proliferation. This is something that the United States would prefer not to give up, but it is by no means essential. The Russians are certainly not about to distribute nuclear technology to terrorist groups that would be almost as likely to use it against St. Petersburg as they would against New York. So while monitoring the Russian arsenal is useful, it is no longer as crucial as it was during the Cold War. In short, the United States does not face a fundamental strategic threat with the expiration of the treaty, but it seems that Russia does.

Therefore, linking the START talks — currently under way in Geneva — with the BMD system is quite a gamble. STRATFOR sources in Russia first suggested in late May that an internal debate was being waged in the Kremlin over whether to make such a play. Essentially, the Kremlin is using a valuable chip to efforts to extract a big concession from the United States. For this gamble to work, Washington essentially must both believe the bluff and value the START talks as much as the Russians do.

It is not clear how the U.S. administration will respond to this. From a purely strategic point of view, Washington very well could let the treaty expire and then pressure Russia with nuclear rearmament — if not under Obama, then under a future administration — to expose just how few resources Moscow can mobilize in a parity campaign. Moscow is probably betting that Obama, already as lukewarm on the BMD system as an American president will get, is highly vested in nuclear disarmament for domestic political purposes. Nuclear disarmament is also the only issue on which Russia and the United States still have relatively good relations. It is the only point on which contact remains open, and the Russians are hoping the Americans won’t be willing to lose that.

For Russia, this might come down to sacrificing a long-term goal — strategic nuclear parity with the United States — for what the Kremlin views as the equally important, short-term goal of preventing U.S. military encroachment in Central Europe through the BMD system. U.S. military proximity to the Russian borders also could be classed as a long-term concern, but BMD in Poland and the Czech Republic is the issue that has Moscow’s attention at the moment. However, sacrificing the nuclear parity guaranteed by a bilateral treaty for what could be only a brief pause (and even that much is not guaranteed) in U.S. military expansion into Central Europe would not necessarily be a good trade. This is particularly true if the United States decides to move into Central Europe at some later date in a different way — such as establishing so-called “lily pad” bases, housing pre-positioned equipment, that can be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis — or through other means.

This is the quandary the Kremlin has faced in debating whether to link the two issues. Thus, Lavrov’s statement, coming two weeks before the Obama-Medvedev meeting, might not be a definitive declaration of policy, but more a trial balloon to test the U.S. response.

There is another grave danger for the Kremlin in this strategy: the possibility that Washington might come to realize just how little nuclear disarmament means to it after all.


24497  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Prisons on: June 24, 2009, 07:20:43 AM
Woof All:

I wasn't sure whether to post this thread in this forum or the Politics and Religion forum.   Obviously I chose here.  This thread is for things that happen in prison.

Kicking this off is this from today's NY Times:

Rape in Prison
Published: June 23, 2009

Rape accompanied by savage violence has long been part of prison life. Congress finally confronted this horrendous problem by passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. In addition to bringing attention to a long overlooked problem, the new law created a commission that has put forth a broad set of rape-prevention standards that deserve to become mandatory in correctional agencies throughout the country.

The commission report, released earlier this week, should come as alarming news. It suggests, for example, that rapes carried out by corrections officers and inmates are widespread, but the actual rates of rape vary widely from place to place.

Drawing on a federal survey of more than 63,000 state and federal inmates, the commission said that about 4.5 percent reported being sexually abused at least once during the previous 12 months. Extrapolating from this data, the commissioners estimate that there were at least 60,000 rapes of prisoners nationally during this period.

Young people in custody are particularly vulnerable. In pilot study of nine youth facilities, nearly 1 in 5 respondents reported one nonconsensual sexual contact during the previous year.

Rape is not inevitable, however. Strong leaders who are committed to fighting the problem can minimize these savage and traumatic assaults. For starters, the commission recommends that all correctional agencies develop explicit, written zero-tolerance policies on this issue.

These agencies, which need to do a better job of screening corrections workers, should adopt the policy that employees who participate in sexual assaults or look the other way while they occur will be fired. Zero-tolerance policies should eventually be integrated into collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

Beyond that, corrections agencies need to make it easier for people in custody to report rape without facing reprisal. The reports need to be promptly and thoroughly investigated. The agencies need to keep publicly accessible records on the reports and investigations. And they need to develop plans for preventing any rape scenarios that continue to recur.

The report represents a strong first step in confronting this problem. The next step lies with Attorney General Eric Holder, who can approve the report’s recommendations and thereby make the standards mandatory for federal prisons and state prisons that accept federal money.
24498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams: Property Rights on: June 24, 2009, 07:02:38 AM
"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet' and `Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free."

--John Adams, A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787
24499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Making and quaking on: June 24, 2009, 07:01:26 AM
Deep in Bedrock, Clean Energy and Quake Fears


Published: June 23, 2009


The danger of digging deeper (An especially fascinating, and brief, interactive graphic)

BASEL, Switzerland — Markus O. Häring, a former oilman, was a hero in this city of medieval cathedrals and intense environmental passion three years ago, all because he had drilled a hole three miles deep near the corner of Neuhaus Street and Shafer Lane.

He was prospecting for a vast source of clean, renewable energy that seemed straight out of a Jules Verne novel: the heat simmering within the earth’s bedrock.

All seemed to be going well — until Dec. 8, 2006, when the project set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many in a city that, as every schoolchild here learns, had been devastated exactly 650 years before by a quake that sent two steeples of the Münster Cathedral tumbling into the Rhine.

Hastily shut down, Mr. Häring’s project was soon forgotten by nearly everyone outside Switzerland. As early as this week, though, an American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.

Residents of the region, which straddles Lake and Sonoma Counties, have already been protesting swarms of smaller earthquakes set off by a less geologically invasive set of energy projects there. AltaRock officials said that they chose the spot in part because the history of mostly small quakes reassured them that the risks were limited.

Like the effort in Basel, the new project will tap geothermal energy by fracturing hard rock more than two miles deep to extract its heat. AltaRock, founded by Susan Petty, a veteran geothermal researcher, has secured more than $36 million from the Energy Department, several large venture-capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Google. AltaRock maintains that it will steer clear of large faults and that it can operate safely.

But in a report on seismic impact that AltaRock was required to file, the company failed to mention that the Basel program was shut down because of the earthquake it caused. AltaRock claimed it was uncertain that the project had caused the quake, even though Swiss government seismologists and officials on the Basel project agreed that it did. Nor did AltaRock mention the thousands of smaller earthquakes induced by the Basel project that continued for months after it shut down.

The California project is the first of dozens that could be operating in the United States in the next several years, driven by a push to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases and the Obama administration’s support for renewable energy.

Geothermal’s potential as a clean energy source has raised huge hopes, and its advocates believe it could put a significant dent in American dependence on fossil fuels — potentially supplying roughly 15 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, according to one estimate by Google. The earth’s heat is always there waiting to be tapped, unlike wind and solar power, which are intermittent and thus more fickle.

According to a 2007 geothermal report financed by the Energy Department, advanced geothermal power could in theory produce as much as 60,000 times the nation’s annual energy usage. President Obama, in a news conference Tuesday, cited geothermal power as part of the “clean energy transformation” that a climate bill now before Congress could bring about.

Dan W. Reicher, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration who is now director of climate change and energy at Google’s investment and philanthropic arm, said geothermal energy had “the potential to deliver vast amounts of power almost anywhere in the world, 24/7.”

Power companies have long produced limited amounts of geothermal energy by tapping shallow steam beds, often beneath geysers or vents called fumaroles. Even those projects can induce earthquakes, although most are small. But for geothermal energy to be used more widely, engineers need to find a way to draw on the heat at deeper levels percolating in the earth’s core.

Some geothermal advocates believe the method used in Basel, and to be tried in California, could be that breakthrough. But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.

Even so, there is no shortage of money for testing the idea. Mr. Reicher has overseen a $6.25 million investment by Google in AltaRock, and with more than $200 million in new federal money for geothermal, the Energy Department has already approved financing for related projects in Idaho by the University of Utah; in Nevada by Ormat Technologies; and in California by Calpine, just a few miles from AltaRock’s project.

Steven E. Koonin, the under secretary for science at the Energy Department, said the earthquake issue was new to him, but added, “We’re committed to doing things in a factual and rigorous way, and if there is a problem, we will attend to it.”

The tone is more urgent in Europe. “This was my main question to the experts: Can you exclude that there is a major earthquake triggered by this man-made activity?” said Rudolf Braun, chairman of the project team that the City of Basel created to study the risks of resuming the project.

“I was quite surprised that all of them said: ‘No, we can’t. We can’t exclude it,’ “ said Mr. Braun, whose study is due this year.

“It would be just unfortunate if, in the United States, you rush ahead and don’t take into account what happened here,” he said.

Basel’s Big Shock

By the time people were getting off work amid rain squalls in Basel on Dec. 8, 2006, Mr. Häring’s problems had already begun. His incision into the ground was setting off small earthquakes that people were starting to feel around the city.

Mr. Häring knew that by its very nature, the technique created earthquakes because it requires injecting water at great pressure down drilled holes to fracture the deep bedrock. The opening of each fracture is, literally, a tiny earthquake in which subterranean stresses rip apart a weak vein, crack or fault in the rock. The high-pressure water can be thought of loosely as a lubricant that makes it easier for those forces to slide the earth along the weak points, creating a web or network of fractures.

Mr. Häring planned to use that network as the ultimate teapot, circulating water through the fractures and hoping it emerged as steam. But what surprised him that afternoon was the intensity of the quakes because advocates of the method believe they can pull off a delicate balancing act, tearing the rock without creating larger earthquakes.

Alarmed, Mr. Häring and other company officials decided to release all pressure in the well to try to halt the fracturing. But as they stood a few miles from the drill site, giving the orders by speakerphone to workers atop the hole, a much bigger jolt shook the room.

“I think that was us,” said one stunned official.

Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 — modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt — often out of proportion to the magnitude — rather than a rumble.

Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an “air shock,” a loud tearing or roaring noise.

The noise “made me feel it was some sort of supersonic aircraft going overhead,” said Heinrich Schwendener, who, as president of Geopower Basel, the consortium that includes Geothermal Explorers and the utility companies, was standing next to the borehole.

“It took me maybe half a minute to realize, hey, this is not a supersonic plane, this is my well,” Mr. Schwendener said.

By that time, much of the city was in an uproar. In the newsroom of the city’s main paper, Basler Zeitung, reporters dived under tables and desks, some refusing to move until a veteran editor barked at them to go get the story, said Philipp Loser, 28, a reporter there.

Aysel Mermer, 25, a waitress at the Restaurant Schiff near the Rhine River, said she thought a bomb had gone off.

Eveline Meyer, 44, a receptionist at a maritime exhibition, was on the phone with a friend and thought that her washing machine had, all by itself, started clattering with an unbalanced load. “I was saying to my friend, ‘Am I now completely nuts?’ “ Ms. Meyer recalled. Then, she said, the line went dead.

Mr. Häring was rushed to police headquarters in a squad car so he could explain what had happened. By the time word slipped out that the project had set off the earthquake, Mr. Loser said, outrage was sweeping the city. The earthquakes, including three more above magnitude 3, rattled on for about a year — more than 3,500 in all, according to the company’s sensors.

Although no serious injuries were reported, Geothermal Explorers’ insurance company ultimately paid more than $8 million in mostly minor damage claims to the owners of thousands of houses in Switzerland and in neighboring Germany and France.

Optimism and Opportunity

In the United States, where the Basel earthquakes received little news coverage, the fortunes of geothermal energy were already on a dizzying rise. The optimistic conclusions of the Energy Department’s geothermal report began driving interest from investors, as word trickled out before its official release.

In fall 2006, after some of the findings were presented at a trade meeting, Trae Vassallo, a partner at the firm Kleiner Perkins, phoned Ms. Petty, the geothermal researcher who was one of 18 authors on the report, according to e-mail messages from both women. That call eventually led Ms. Petty to found AltaRock and bring in, by Ms. Petty’s tally, another six of the authors as consultants to the company or in other roles.

J. David Rogers, a professor and geological engineer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology who was not involved in the report, said such overlap of research and commercial interests was common in science and engineering but added that it might be perceived as a conflict of interest. “It’s very, very satisfying to see something go from theory to application to actually making money and being accepted by society,” Professor Rogers said. “It’s what every scientist dreams of.”

Ms. Petty said that her first “serious discussions” with Ms. Vassallo about forming a company did not come until the report was officially released in late January 2007. That June, Ms. Petty founded AltaRock with $4 million from Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures, an investment firm based in California.

The Basel earthquake hit more than a month before the Energy Department’s report came out, but no reference to it was included in the report’s spare and reassuring references to earthquake risks. Ms. Petty said the document had already been at the printer by the fall, “so there was no way we could have included the Basel event in the report.”

Officials at AltaRock, with offices in Sausalito, Calif., and Seattle, insist that the company has learned the lessons of Basel and that its own studies indicate the project can be carried out safely. James T. Turner, AltaRock’s senior vice president for operations, said the company had applied for roughly 20 patents on ways to improve the method.

Mr. Turner also asserted in a visit to the project site last month that AltaRock’s monitoring and fail-safe systems were superior to those used in Basel.

“We think it’s going to be pretty neat,” Mr. Turner said as he stood next to a rig where the company plans to drill a hole almost two and a half miles deep. “And when it’s successful, we’ll have a good-news story that says we can extend geothermal energy.”

AltaRock, in its seismic activity report, included the Basel earthquake in a list of temblors near geothermal projects, but the company denied that it had left out crucial details of the quake in seeking approval for the project in California. So far, the company has received its permit from the federal Bureau of Land Management to drill its first hole on land leased to the Northern California Power Agency, but still awaits a second permit to fracture rock.

“We did discuss Basel, in particular, the 3.4 event, with the B.L.M. early in the project,” Mr. Turner said in an e-mail response to questions after the visit.

But Richard Estabrook, a petroleum engineer in the Ukiah, Calif., field office of the land agency who has a lead role in granting the necessary federal permits, gave a different account when asked if he knew that the Basel project had shut down because of earthquakes or that it had induced more than 3,500 quakes.

“I’ll be honest,” he said. “I didn’t know that.”

Mr. Estabrook said he was still leaning toward giving approval if the company agreed to controls that could stop the work if it set off earthquakes above a certain intensity. But, he said, speaking of the Basel project’s shutdown, “I wish that had been disclosed.”

Bracing for Tremors

There was a time when Anderson Springs, about two miles from the project site, had few earthquakes — no more than anywhere else in the hills of Northern California. Over cookies and tea in the cabin his family has owned since 1958, Tom Grant and his sister Cynthia Lora reminisced with their spouses over visiting the town, once famous for its mineral baths, in the 1940s and ’50s. “I never felt an earthquake up here,” Mr. Grant said .

Then came a frenzy of drilling for underground steam just to the west at The Geysers, a roughly 30-square-mile patch of wooded hills threaded with huge, curving tubes and squat power plants. The Geysers is the nation’s largest producer of traditional geothermal energy. Government seismologists confirm that earthquakes were far less frequent in the past and that the geothermal project produces as many as 1,000 small earthquakes a year as the ground expands and contracts like an enormous sponge with the extraction of steam and the injection of water to replace it.

These days, Anderson Springs is a mixed community of working class and retired residents, affluent professionals and a smattering of artists. Everyone has a story about earthquakes. There are cats that suddenly leap in terror, guests who have to be warned about tremors, thousands of dollars of repairs to walls and cabinets that just do not want to stay together.

Residents have been fighting for years with California power companies over the earthquakes, occasionally winning modest financial compensation. But the obscure nature of earthquakes always gives the companies an out, says Douglas Bartlett, who works in marketing at Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco, and with his wife, Susan, owns a bungalow in town.

“If they were creating tornadoes, they would be shut down immediately,” Mr. Bartlett said. “But because it’s under the ground, where you can’t see it, and somewhat conjectural, they keep doing it.”

Now, the residents are bracing for more. As David Oppenheimer, a seismologist at theUnited States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., explains it, The Geysers is heated by magma welling up from deep in the earth. Above the magma is a layer of granite-like rock called felsite, which transmits heat to a thick layer of sandstone-like material called graywacke, riddled with fractures and filled with steam.

The steam is what originally drew the power companies here. But the AltaRock project will, for the first time, drill deep into the felsite. Mr. Turner said that AltaRock, which will drill on federal land leased by the Northern California Power Agency, had calculated that the number of earthquakes felt by residents in Anderson Springs and local communities would not noticeably increase.

But many residents are skeptical.

“It’s terrifying,” said Susan Bartlett, who works as a new patient coordinator at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco. “What’s happening to all these rocks that they’re busting into a million pieces?”
24500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Luttwak on: June 24, 2009, 12:09:09 AM
At this point, only the short-term future of Iran's clerical regime remains in doubt. The current protests could be repressed, but the unelected institutions of priestly rule have been fatally undermined. Though each aspect of the Islamic Republic has its own dynamic, this is not a regime that can last many more years.

When it comes to repression, Iran has a spectrum of security instruments that can be used synergistically. The national police can take care of routine crowd control; riot-police units can beat some demonstrators in order to discourage others; the much more brutal, underclass Basij militiamen enjoy striking and shooting affluent Iranians; and the technical arm of the regime can block cellular service to disrupt demonstrations, as well as stall Internet services.

If the protests were to seriously escalate, the Revolutionary Guard troops with their armored vehicles might also be called in, though at some risk to the regime, given that reformist presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai was their longtime commander. The alternative -- calling in the regular army -- would be much more risky since the loyalty of the generals is unknown. So far the regime has required neither.

What has undermined the very structure of the Islamic Republic is the fracturing of its ruling elite. It was the unity established by Ayatollah Khomeini that allowed the regime to dominate the Iranian people for almost 30 years. Now that unity has been shattered: The very people who created the institutions of priestly rule are destroying their authority.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's leading rival for the presidency, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was prime minister from 1981-89 when the Islamic Republic acquired its administrative structure, including its unelected head, the supreme leader. Though the supreme leader must be obeyed in all things, Mr. Mousavi now flatly rejects the orders of Ali Khamenei to accept Ahmadinejad's re-election. In this, Mr. Mousavi is joined by another presidential candidate, former parliament speaker and pillar of the establishment Mehdi Karroubi, and a yet more senior founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani. President from 1989-97, Mr. Rafsanjani is also chairman of the Assembly of Experts, whose 86 members choose the supreme leader and can ostensibly remove him.

During the campaign, Ahmadinejad accused Mr. Rafsanjani and his children of corruption on live television. So if Ahmadinejad's re-election is to be "definitive" and even "divine," as Supreme Leader Khamenei has declared, Mr. Rafsanjani would have to resign from all his posts and his children would have to leave Iran. Instead, he is reportedly trying to recruit a majority of the Assembly of Experts to remove Khamenei, or at least force him to order new elections.

The other key undemocratic institution of the Islamic Republic, founded in part by Messrs. Mousavi and Rafsanjani, is the 12-member Council of Guardians that can veto any laws passed by the elected parliament and any candidate for the parliament or the presidency. In recent years, the Council has persistently sided with extremists and Ahmadinejad, using its veto powers aggressively. Supreme Leader Khamenei logically chose the Council to deal with the election dispute.

Last week, the Council of Guardians announced that it might recount 10% of the ballots and summoned Messrs. Mousavi, Karroubi and Rezai. All three rejected the recount offer, and only Mr. Rezai showed up before the Council. Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi simply refused to appear, explicitly denying the Council's authority as well as that of the supreme leader.

This is highly significant. Were it not for the office of the supreme leader and the Council, Iran would be a normal democratic republic.

In theory, if Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the extremists of the Council of Guardians were all replaced by consensus figures, the Islamic Republic could continue as before. But in practice, that is impossible. Huge numbers of Iranians haven't been demonstrating at risk of beatings and worse for the uncharismatic and only marginally moderate Mr. Mousavi. His courage under pressure has certainly raised his popularity, but he is still no more than the accidental symbol of an emerging political revolution.

What's clear is that after years of humiliating social repression and gross economic mismanagement, the more educated and the more productive citizens of Iran have mostly turned their backs on the regime. Even if personally religious, they now reject the entire post-1979 structure of politicized Shiite Islam with its powerful ayatollahs, officious priests, strutting Revolutionary Guards and low-life Basij militiamen. Many Iranians once inclined to respect clerics now view them as generally corrupt -- including the Ahmadinejad supporters who applauded his attacks on Mr. Rafsanjani.

Had Mr. Mousavi won the election, modest steps to liberalize the system -- he would have allowed women to go out with uncovered heads, for example -- would only have triggered demands for more change, eventually bringing down the entire system of clerical rule. In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev's very cautious reforms designed to perpetuate the Communist regime ended up destroying it in less than five years. In Iran, the system is much newer, and the process would likely have been faster.

Some important clerics have long suggested that men of religion should strive to regain popular respect by voluntarily giving up political power. That may provide a way out eventually. But for now, Supreme Leader Khamenei is in the impossible position of having to support a president whose authority is not accepted by much of the governing structure itself. Even the extremist Parliament Speaker Ali Larjani has declared that the vote count was biased.

Therefore, even if he remains in office, Ahmadinejad cannot really function as president. For one thing, the parliament is unlikely to confirm his ministerial appointments, and he cannot govern without them. If Khamenei is not removed by the Assembly of Experts and Ahmadinejad is not removed by Khamenei, the government will continue to be paralyzed.

The great news is that, below the eroding machinery of priestly rule, the essential democratic institutions in Iran are up and running and need only new elections for the presidency and the parliament.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).
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