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24451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Consistency is the hobgoblins of small minds on: April 21, 2009, 09:23:43 AM
Helen Thomas: Why is the president blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there . . .

Robert Gibbs: You're incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

You know we live in interesting times when Helen Thomas is going after Barack Obama. Miss Thomas was asking the White House press secretary last week why detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan should not have the same right to challenge their detention in federal court that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush gave to Guantanamo's detainees. All Mr. Gibbs could do was interrupt and correct the doyenne of the White House press corps about Mr. Obama's class as a law professor.

The precipitate cause of Miss Thomas's question was a ruling earlier this month by federal district Judge John Bates. Judge Bates says that last year's Supreme Court ruling on Gitmo does apply to Bagram. The administration has appealed, saying that giving detainees such rights could lead to protracted litigation, disclosure of intelligence secrets and harm to American security. The wonderful irony is that, at least on the logic, everyone is right.

Start with Judge Bates. The judge is surely correct when he says the detainees brought in to Bagram from outside the country are "virtually identical" to those held at Guantanamo. He's also correct in asserting that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did out of concern "that the Executive could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain an individual" at Bagram.

But President Obama's appeal is also right. Though most headlines from the past few days have focused on the release of Justice Department memos on CIA interrogation, the president's embrace of the Bush position on Bagram is far more striking. Mr. Gibbs became tongue-tied while trying to explain that stand. But the Justice Department brief is absolutely correct in asserting that "there are many legitimate reasons, having nothing to do with the intent to evade judicial review, why the military might detain an individual in Bagram."

Finally, critics like Miss Thomas also have it right. In a long and thorough post called "Obama and habeas corpus -- then and now," Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional law litigator who blogs at, exposes the gaping contradiction between past Obama rhetoric on the inviolability of the right to habeas corpus and the new Obama reality. He also quotes Mr. Obama's reaction to Boumediene as a "rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

Manifestly, Mr. Greenwald believes that "black hole" is simply moving to Bagram. "I wish I could be writing paeans celebrating the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law," he writes. "But these actions -- these contradictions between what he said and what he is doing, the embrace of the very powers that caused so much anger towards Bush/Cheney -- are so blatant, so transparent, so extreme, that the only way to avoid noticing them is to purposely shut your eyes as tightly as possible and resolve that you don't want to see it, or that you're so convinced of his intrinsic Goodness that you'll just believe that even when it seems like he's doing bad things, he must really be doing them for the Good."

How can all these people be right? The answer is that each is responding to a different contradiction raised by the president's Guantanamo policy. In an impassioned 2006 speech on the Senate floor on the right to habeas corpus, Mr. Obama declared, "I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy." During the campaign, his language implied that all we needed to settle the detainee issue once and for all was to shut down Gitmo.

As president, he is finding out that this very much is a new world, that we do face a new enemy, and that the problems posed by Guantanamo have less to do with the place than the people we detain there.

Put simply, the U.S. needs the ability to detain people we know to be dangerous without the evidence that might stand up in a federal criminal court. Because we can't say when this war will end, moreover, we also need to be able to detain them indefinitely. This is what makes the war on terror different, and why our policies will never fit neatly into a legal approach that is either purely criminal or purely military.

The good news is that Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that the relative obscurity of Bagram, not to mention the approval he has received on Guantanamo, enables him to do the right thing here without, as Mr. Greenwald notes, worrying too much that he will be called to account for a substantive about-face.

The bad news is that we seem to have reached the point where our best hope for sensible war policy now depends largely on presidential cynicism.
24452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BAckdoor nationalization on: April 21, 2009, 09:15:27 AM
Just when you think the political class may have learned something in months of trying to fix the banking system, the ghost of Hank Paulson returns to haunt the Treasury. The latest Beltway blunder -- and it would be a big one -- is the Obama Administration's weekend news leak that it may insist on converting its preferred shares in some of the nation's largest banks into common equity.

The stock market promptly tumbled by more than 3.5% yesterday, with J.P. Morgan falling 10% and financial stocks as a group off 9%, as measured by the NYSE Financials index. Note to White House: Sneaky nationalizations aren't any more popular with investors than the straightforward kind.

The occasion for this latest nationalization trial balloon is the looming result of the Treasury's bank strip-tease -- a.k.a. "stress tests." Treasury is worried, with cause, that some of the largest banks lack the capital to ride out future credit losses. Yet Secretary Timothy Geithner and the White House have concluded that they can't risk asking Congress for more bailout cash.

Voila, they propose a preferred-for-common swap, which can conjure up an extra $100 billion in bank tangible common equity, a core measure of bank capital. Not that this really adds any new capital; it merely shifts the deck chairs on bank balance sheets. Why Treasury thinks anyone would find this reassuring is a mystery. The opposite is the more likely result, since it signals that Treasury no longer believes it can tap more public capital to support the financial system if the losses keep building.

Worse, wholesale equity conversion would mean the government owns a larger share of more banks and is more entangled than ever in their operations. Giving Barney Frank more voting power is more likely to induce panic than restore confidence. Simply look at the reluctance of some banks -- notably J.P. Morgan Chase -- to participate in Mr. Geithner's private-public toxic asset sale plan. The plan is rigged so taxpayers assume nearly all the downside risk, but the banks still don't want to play lest Congress they become even more subject to political whim.

A backdoor nationalization also creates more uncertainty, not less, by offering the specter of an even lengthier period of federal control over the banking system. And it creates the fear of even more intrusive government influence over bank lending and the allocation of capital. These fears have only been enhanced by the refusal of Treasury to let more banks repay their Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money.

As it stands, banks and their owners at least know how much they owe Uncle Sam, and those preferred shares represent a distinct and separate tier of bank capital. Once the government is mixed in with the rest of the equity holders, the value of its investments -- and the cost to the banks of buying out the Treasury -- will fluctuate by the day.

Congress is also still trying to advance a mortgage-cramdown bill that would hammer the value of already distressed mortgage-backed securities, and now the Administration is talking up legislation to curb credit-card fees and interest. Both of these bills would damage bank profits, but large government ownership stakes would leave the banks helpless to oppose them. (See Citigroup, 36% owned by the feds and now a pro-cramdown lobbyist.)

We've come to this pass in part because the Obama Administration is afraid to ask Congress for the money for a meaningful bank recapitalization. And it may need that money now in part because Mr. Paulson's Treasury insisted on buying preferred stock in all the big banks instead of looking at each case on its merits. That decision last fall squandered TARP money on banks that probably didn't need it and left the Administration short of funds for banks that really do.

The sounder strategy -- and the one we've recommended for two years -- is to address systemic financial problems the old-fashioned way: bank by bank, through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a resolution agency with the capacity to hold troubled assets and work them off over time. If the stress tests reveal that some of our largest institutions are insolvent or nearly so, it's then time to seize the bank, sell off assets and recapitalize the remainder. (Meanwhile, the healthier institutions would get a vote of confidence and could attract new private capital.)

Bondholders would take a haircut and shareholders may well be wiped out. But converting preferred shares to equity does nothing to help bondholders in the long run anyway. And putting the taxpayer first in line for any losses alongside equity holders offers shareholders little other than an immediate dilution of their ownership stake. Treasury's equity conversion proposal increases the political risks for banks while imposing no discipline on shareholders, bondholders or management at failed or failing institutions.

The proposal would also be one more example of how Treasury isn't keeping its word. When he forced banks to accept public capital whether they needed it or not, Mr. Paulson said the deal was temporary and the terms wouldn't be onerous. To renege on those promises now will only make a bank recovery longer and more difficult.

24453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 21, 2009, 02:25:07 AM
Geopolitical Diary: CIA Directors Speak About Memo Releases
April 20, 2009
The Obama administration’s decision to release four previously classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration on now-banned interrogation techniques late last week sparked a flurry of articles and debate over the weekend. Critics denounce the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as morally reprehensible torture and want the details brought to light. But on Sunday, former CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly criticized the White House over the release, arguing that it made CIA interrogators’ jobs more difficult.

Hayden, a Bush appointee to the top post in Langley, reportedly was one of four former directors — a mixture of Bush and Clinton appointees — to contact the White House last month in order to warn that the Obama administration’s decision to release the memos would compromise intelligence efforts. These four directors — Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and John Deutch — are approaching the issue from the perspective of intelligence practitioners. Their argument is that the memos, which specifically detail now-banned interrogation methods, reveal more information on the threshold at which interrogators are legally obligated to stop. Subjects who are aware of these limits, the line of reasoning goes, are better positioned to endure the methods that are used.

These methods were hardly the most draconian used — indeed, captives handed over to foreign governments experienced far worse in many cases. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that even these limited methods could be psychologically devastating if applied over time by a skilled interrogator. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has claimed that their use helped prevent a terrorist attack, though details and evidence of that are scarce.

Cheney’s assertion brings to mind — perhaps not unintentionally — the idea of a captured terrorist refusing to reveal information about an impending and devastating attack on the verge of being carried out. This is great fodder for dramatic television series and movies, but getting to that point is an intelligence-intensive process. A great deal of tactical information on the individual — what he knows, the organization he works for and that organization’s activities — is all necessary to get to that point. This is rarely the case in either police work or the intelligence community — and if authorities did have that much highly specific intelligence, the time-consuming process of torture is rarely either necessary or an efficient means of gathering further details.

Interrogation is rightly termed a dark art. It is difficult to do well, and takes well-trained and experienced interrogators to apply techniques that compel subjects to accurately reveal information they intend to keep secret. Done poorly, these harsh techniques only compel the individual to tell the interrogators what they think they want to hear — some true, but much made up. Indeed, this was reportedly the case with the interrogation of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. False or made-up information is often a problem — even when skilled practitioners (who are very rare) are used. The issue is commonly mentioned in criticism of torture in general.

And in the months and years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, this was how harsh interrogation techniques were being applied: with little concrete intelligence on individual subjects specifically or al Qaeda in general out of a nonspecific and highly generic concern about another impending al Qaeda attack. Dr. George Friedman will explore this issue in depth in this week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report.
24454  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 21, 2009, 02:11:24 AM
" I thought that the Silva's side kicks to the knee were interesting in that they weren't the range rinding kicks of bjj like royce used effectively in the early UFCs, but more like a straightforward attempt to disrupt his opponents ACL.  I wonder if attacks like this which are designed to inflict serious permanent injury are going to make a comeback in the UFC."

I'd call them chasse's more than I would side kicks, but still the question is an interesting one.
24455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak going down on: April 20, 2009, 07:32:36 PM
Sent to me by someone who has seen and done interesting things in Afpakia:

----- Original Message -----
From: Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 5:30 PM
Subject: Fw: Buy your ammo now

Experts predict Pakistan's collapse
Kansas City Star
17 April 2009
A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists.
“It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity.
Pakistan's fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al-Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American Army, and the headquarters of al-Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
“Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century,” agreed the U.S. intelligence official. “It's a developed state.”
He added: “The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.”
The experts interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers said their views aren't a worst case scenario, but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's leadership to respond.
“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified. He continued: “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”
That pessimistic view has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration into the rest of the nation.
24456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: April 20, 2009, 07:21:51 PM

Newt at Tea Party:
24457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 20, 2009, 03:51:15 PM
"The panel instead follows the Supreme Court's "selective incorporation" cases under the Due Process Clause, and concludes that the right to bear arms "ranks as fundamental, meaning 'necessary to an Anglo-American regime of ordered liberty.'"

 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked
24458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 20, 2009, 03:47:46 PM
Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure
April 20, 2009

By George Friedman

The Obama administration published a series of memoranda on torture issued under the Bush administration. The memoranda, most of which dated from the period after 9/11, authorized measures including depriving prisoners of solid food, having them stand shackled and in uncomfortable positions, leaving them in cold cells with inadequate clothing, slapping their heads and/or abdomens, and telling them that their families might be harmed if they didn’t cooperate with their interrogators.

On the scale of human cruelty, these actions do not rise anywhere near the top. At the same time, anyone who thinks that being placed without food in a freezing cell subject to random mild beatings — all while being told that your family might be joining you — isn’t agonizing clearly lacks imagination. The treatment of detainees could have been worse. It was terrible nonetheless.

Torture and the Intelligence Gap
But torture is meant to be terrible, and we must judge the torturer in the context of his own desperation. In the wake of 9/11, anyone who wasn’t terrified was not in touch with reality. We know several people who now are quite blasé about 9/11. Unfortunately for them, we knew them in the months after, and they were not nearly as composed then as they are now.

Sept. 11 was terrifying for one main reason: We had little idea about al Qaeda’s capabilities. It was a very reasonable assumption that other al Qaeda cells were operating in the United States and that any day might bring follow-on attacks. (Especially given the group’s reputation for one-two attacks.) We still remember our first flight after 9/11, looking at our fellow passengers, planning what we would do if one of them moved. Every time a passenger visited the lavatory, one could see the tensions soar.

And while Sept. 11 was frightening enough, there were ample fears that al Qaeda had secured a “suitcase bomb” and that a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city could come at any moment. For individuals, such an attack was simply another possibility. We remember staying at a hotel in Washington close to the White House and realizing that we were at ground zero — and imagining what the next moment might be like. For the government, however, the problem was having scraps of intelligence indicating that al Qaeda might have a nuclear weapon, but not having any way of telling whether those scraps had any value. The president and vice president accordingly were continually kept at different locations, and not for any frivolous reason.

This lack of intelligence led directly to the most extreme fears, which in turn led to extreme measures. Washington simply did not know very much about al Qaeda and its capabilities and intentions in the United States. A lack of knowledge forces people to think of worst-case scenarios. In the absence of intelligence to the contrary after 9/11, the only reasonable assumption was that al Qaeda was planning more — and perhaps worse — attacks.

Collecting intelligence rapidly became the highest national priority. Given the genuine and reasonable fears, no action in pursuit of intelligence was out of the question, so long as it promised quick answers. This led to the authorization of torture, among other things. Torture offered a rapid means to accumulate intelligence, or at least — given the time lag on other means — it was something that had to be tried.

Torture and the Moral Question
And this raises the moral question. The United States is a moral project: its Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that. The president takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution does not speak to the question of torture of non-citizens, but it implies an abhorrence of rights violations (at least for citizens). But the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” This indicates that world opinion matters.

At the same time, the president is sworn to protect the Constitution. In practical terms, this means protecting the physical security of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Protecting the principles of the declaration and the Constitution are meaningless without regime preservation and defending the nation.

While this all makes for an interesting seminar in political philosophy, presidents — and others who have taken the same oath — do not have the luxury of the contemplative life. They must act on their oaths, and inaction is an action. Former U.S. President George W. Bush knew that he did not know the threat, and that in order to carry out his oath, he needed very rapidly to find out the threat. He could not know that torture would work, but he clearly did not feel that he had the right to avoid it.

Consider this example. Assume you knew that a certain individual knew the location of a nuclear device planted in an American city. The device would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but he individual refused to divulge the information. Would anyone who had sworn the oath have the right not to torture the individual? Torture might or might not work, but either way, would it be moral to protect the individual’s rights while allowing hundreds of thousands to die? It would seem that in this case, torture is a moral imperative; the rights of the one with the information cannot transcend the life of a city.

Torture in the Real World
But here is the problem: You would not find yourself in this situation. Knowing a bomb had been planted, knowing who knew that the bomb had been planted, and needing only to apply torture to extract this information is not how the real world works. Post-9/11, the United States knew much less about the extent of the threat from al Qaeda. This hypothetical sort of torture was not the issue.

Discrete information was not needed, but situational awareness. The United States did not know what it needed to know, it did not know who was of value and who wasn’t, and it did not know how much time it had. Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don’t know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well. In such a case, you know you will be following many false leads — and when you carry torture with you, you will be torturing people with little to tell you. Moreover, torture applied by anyone other than well-trained, experienced personnel (who are in exceptionally short supply) will only compound these problems, and make the practice less productive.

Defenders of torture frequently seem to believe that the person in custody is known to have valuable information, and that this information must be forced out of him. His possession of the information is proof of his guilt. The problem is that unless you have excellent intelligence to begin with, you will become engaged in developing baseline intelligence, and the person you are torturing may well know nothing at all. Torture thus becomes not only a waste of time and a violation of decency, it actually undermines good intelligence. After a while, scooping up suspects in a dragnet and trying to extract intelligence becomes a substitute for competent intelligence techniques — and can potentially blind the intelligence service. This is especially true as people will tell you what they think you want to hear to make torture stop.

Critics of torture, on the other hand, seem to assume the torture was brutality for the sake of brutality instead of a desperate attempt to get some clarity on what might well have been a catastrophic outcome. The critics also cannot know the extent to which the use of torture actually prevented follow-on attacks. They assume that to the extent that torture was useful, it was not essential; that there were other ways to find out what was needed. In the long run, they might have been correct. But neither they, nor anyone else, had the right to assume in late 2001 that there was a long run. One of the things that wasn’t known was how much time there was.

The U.S. Intelligence Failure
The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda’s intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn’t need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.

Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.

The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator’s tool kit.

At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn’t.

If you know that an individual is loaded with information, torture can be a useful tool. But if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That’s not when you use torture. That’s when you simply point out to the prisoner that, “for you the war is over.” You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.

U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.

The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.

24459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Pak going down the drain on: April 20, 2009, 03:35:49 PM
Extremist tide rises in Pakistan

After deal in north, Islamists aim to install religious law nationwide

By Pamela Constable

The Washington Post

updated 12:49 a.m. ET, Mon., April 20, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A potentially troubling era dawned Sunday in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a top Islamist militant leader, emboldened by a peace agreement with the federal government, laid out an ambitious plan to bring a "complete Islamic system" to the surrounding northwest region and the entire country.

Speaking to thousands of followers in an address aired live from Swat on national news channels, cleric Sufi Mohammed bluntly defied the constitution and federal judiciary, saying he would not allow any appeals to state courts under the system of sharia, or Islamic law, that will prevail there as a result of the peace accord signed by the president Tuesday.

"The Koran says that supporting an infidel system is a great sin," Mohammed said, referring to Pakistan's modern democratic institutions. He declared that in Swat, home to 1.5 million people, all "un-Islamic laws and customs will be abolished," and he suggested that the official imprimatur on the agreement would pave the way for sharia to be installed in other areas.

Mohammed's dramatic speech echoed a rousing sermon in Islamabad on Friday by another radical cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who appeared at the Red Mosque in the capital after nearly two years in detention and urged several thousand chanting followers to launch a crusade for sharia nationwide.

Arc of radical Islam
Together, these rallying cries seemed to create an arc of radical religious energy between the turbulent, Taliban-plagued northwest region and the increasingly vulnerable federal capital, less than 100 miles to the east. They also appeared to pose a direct, unprecedented religious challenge to modern state authority in the Muslim nation of 176 million.

"The government made a big mistake to give these guys legal cover for their agenda. Now they are going to be battle-ready to struggle for the soul of Pakistan," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of security studies at Quaid-i-Azam university here. He predicted a further surge in the suicide bombings that have recently become an almost daily occurrence across the country. Two recent bombings at security checkpoints in the northwest killed more than 40 people.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the region, said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN that the decision by insurgents to keep fighting in spite of the peace deal should be a "wake-up call to everybody in Pakistan that you can't deal with these people by giving away territory as they creep closer and closer to the populated centers of the Punjab and Islamabad."

Also Sunday, a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people at a Taliban compound in the South Waziristan tribal region; such attacks have become a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups in Pakistan as anti-American sentiment builds.

‘We really had no other choice’
The government agreed to Mohammed's demands in an effort to halt violent intimidation by Taliban forces that the army was unable to quell despite months of operations in the former tourist haven. In recent interviews, Swati leaders and refugees described armed men in black turbans whipping suspected thieves on the spot, cutting off the ears and noses of village elders who opposed them, and selling videos of police beheadings.

"We really had no other choice. We had no power to crush the militants, and people were desperate for peace," said Jafar Shah, a Swati legislator. His Awami National Party, though historically secular, sponsored the sharia deal. "Now people are calling us Taliban without beards," he said ruefully, "but it was the only option available."

Provincial and federal officials also hoped their show of good faith would halt further insurgent inroads and buy time for foreign aid programs to shore up the impoverished northwest against the Islamists' message of swift justice and social equality.

Instead, the evidence suggests that the extremist forces have drawn the opposite lesson from their victory in Swat and are gearing up to carry their armed crusade for a punitive, misogynistic form of Islam into new areas. There have been numerous reports of Taliban fighters entering districts south and west of Swat, where they have brandished weapons, bombed and occupied buildings, arrested aid workers, and killed female activists.

"When we achieve our goals in one place, we need to struggle for it in other areas," Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told Pakistani news services by telephone last week. "Sharia does not permit us to lay down our arms if the government continues anti-Muslim policies." The goal, he said, is to "enforce the rule of Allah on the land of Allah."

In the northwestern town of Mardan, insurgents attacked girls schools, forced CD shops to close, ordered barbers not to shave beards and bombed the office of a nonprofit aid agency, killing a female worker. Taliban commanders accused the agency of "propagating obscenity." Taliban fighters occupied the Buner district for several days, closed a religious shrine and burned DVDs in the streets. They then toured the region in a convoy of trucks, even entering a secured army area while displaying heavy weapons.

"The inescapable reality is that another domino has toppled and the Taliban are a step closer to Islamabad," the Pakistan-based News International newspaper warned last week after the Buner takeover. The paper compared Pakistan to Vietnam: a weak and corrupt state being "nibbled away" by determined insurgents: "The Taliban have the upper hand, and they know it."

Surprisingly, there has been little official or public protest against the creeping tide of Islamist extremism. Analysts said this is partly because of fear of retaliation and partly because of strong religious sentiments that make Pakistanis reluctant to criticize fellow Muslims.

Even in especially shocking cases, such as the public flogging of a Swati girl suspected of having an affair, the response from national leaders was a muddle of denial and obfuscation. Some said the incident, which surfaced last month on a videotape, had been staged to sabotage the peace deal. Others said it was a minor issue compared with U.S. cross-border missile strikes.

Raising alarm
A handful of influential Pakistanis have begun to raise the alarm, warning in newspaper columns or speeches that government and society need to confront the enemy within and acknowledge the difference between conventional sharia and the crude, brutally enforced Taliban version of an extremist Islamist state.

"In Swat they got their system imposed at gunpoint, and now they are ready to Taliban-ize the whole country," Altaf Hussain, the exiled head of the Muttahida Qaumi Majlis political party, said at a teleconference of Muslim clerics in Karachi on Sunday. Denouncing the insurgents' abusive and autocratic methods, he said, "We have to decide between our country and the Taliban."

Sharia in Pakistan, as in Afghanistan, exists in tandem with a modern legal code but does not supersede it. Sharia courts rule on certain religious and moral issues, while other cases are tried by regular courts. Mohammed, Aziz and other radicals espouse a more severe version like the one Taliban rulers imposed on Afghanistan in the 1990s, which segregates women and imposes harsh punishments.

Supporters of the Swat agreement pointed out that residents have been demanding sharia for years to replace the slow, corrupt justice system. But Swati leaders said that the local version of Islamic law was traditionally moderate and that in elections last year Swatis voted overwhelmingly for two secular parties.

Indeed, older natives of Swat like to recall earlier days when serenity and tolerance prevailed in the region of apple orchards, forested hills and glacial streams. Tourists from Japan and Europe came to explore ancient Buddhist ruins, while residents practiced a timeless mix of tribal customs and Islamic faith.

"There was something in the soil that made the people soft," said Asad Khan, a Swat native in his 40s who lives in the city of Peshawar. "Our culture was one of civilized hospitality. Everyone was a Muslim, but almost no one was a fundamentalist. The climate was not good for harsh people and ideas."

This week, after the peace accord was endorsed, officials and pro-government news media described the atmosphere in Swat as relieved and heading back to normalcy. But several people who visited the Swati capital of Mingora this week said they saw worried faces, no women in the markets, and clusters of black-turbaned men watching everyone closely.

"Things are confused and unclear. People have suffered a lot, and they are desperate for peace, but they don't know if it will last," said Afzal Khan Lala, a provincial legislator, reached by phone in Mingora. "If the Taliban are sincere, then peace should prevail. But if they have ulterior aims and seek supremacy over the state, I doubt peace will come to Swat."
24460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 20, 2009, 12:59:10 PM
What do we make of this?

April 20, 2009
Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects
C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mr. Mohammed had been barraged more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning. But the precise number and the exact nature of the interrogation method was not previously known.

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

President Obama plans to visit C.I.A. headquarters Monday and make public remarks to employees, as well as meet privately with officials, an agency spokesman said Sunday night. It will be his first visit to the agency, whose use of harsh interrogation methods he often condemned during the presidential campaign and whose secret prisons he ordered closed on the second full day of his presidency.

C.I.A. officials had opposed the release of the interrogation memo, dated May 30, 2005, which was one of four secret legal memos on interrogation that Mr. Obama ordered to be released last Thursday.

Mr. Obama said C.I.A. officers who had used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods with the approval of the Justice Department would not be prosecuted. He has repeatedly suggested that he opposes Congressional proposals for a “truth commission” to examine Bush administration counterterrorism programs, including interrogation and warrantless eavesdropping.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has begun a yearlong, closed-door investigation of the C.I.A. interrogation program, in part to assess claims of Bush administration officials that brutal treatment, including slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in standing positions for days and confining them in small boxes, was necessary to get information.

The fact that waterboarding was repeated so many times may raise questions about its effectiveness, as well as about assertions by Bush administration officials that their methods were used under strict guidelines.

A footnote to another 2005 Justice Department memo released Thursday said waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume of water than the C.I.A. rules permitted.

The new information on the number of waterboarding episodes came out over the weekend when a number of bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the blog emptywheel, discovered it in the May 30, 2005, memo.

The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers.

Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A. for the last two years of the Bush administration, would not comment when asked on the program “Fox News Sunday” if Mr. Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times. He said he believed that that information was still classified.

A C.I.A. spokesman, reached Sunday night, also would not comment on the new information.

Mr. Hayden said he had opposed the release of the memos, even though President Obama has said the techniques will never be used again, because they would tell Al Qaeda “the outer limits that any American would ever go in terms of interrogating an Al Qaeda terrorist.”

He also disputed an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Abu Zubaydah had revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed that after unspecified “techniques” were used, Abu Zubaydah revealed information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh.

The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been “unnecessary” in his case.

24461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Susan Rice and BO get it wrong on: April 20, 2009, 12:53:48 PM
The BO love affair of international "law" continues unabated , , ,

It's strange enough that the Obama Administration is hyping last week's toothless statement by the United Nations Security Council condemning North Korea's recent rocket launch. Even more amazing, it says the U.N. move is "legally binding" on member states.

Those were the words used by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and repeated by a State Department spokesman. Ms. Rice is badly misinformed. As she ought to know, a "presidential statement" issued by the Security Council is legally binding on no one.

A presidential statement is agreed to by all 15 members of the Security Council and issued by the rotating president. Invented in 1994, such statements aren't even mentioned in the Security Council's procedural rules and impose zero obligations on members. They are a last resort when the Security Council can't summon the will or agreement to pass a resolution.

That's what happened after North Korea's April 5 missile launch, when neither China nor Russia would agree to the U.S. wish for a resolution. Legal experts -- including the Permanent Five's attorneys in a 2005 memo -- agree that the only U.N. pronouncement that is legally binding is a Security Council resolution issued under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which sets out the Council's powers to maintain peace. Such resolutions can be enforced with sanctions or military action. Resolution 1718, passed in 2006 after North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, falls in this category.

The distinction between "Chapter VII resolutions" and other U.N. utterances is important -- as the example of Israel illustrates. Since the Jewish state has never been subject to a Chapter VII resolution, no Israeli "violation" of a U.N. pronouncement can give rise to sanctions. Even the famous Resolution 242, issued at the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, was not issued under Chapter VII. If the Obama Administration considers even U.N. presidential statements "legally binding," it's an invitation to the U.N. to ramp up its attacks on Israel.

Last week's statement on North Korea is binding only in the sense that it calls on member states "to comply fully" with their obligations under Resolution 1718, which bans sales of weapons, weapons parts and luxury goods to North Korea. Resolution 1718 is legally binding, but it has never been enforced. This speaks volumes about the sincerity of promises made at the U.N., and about the failure of the Obama Administration to win Security Council support for a serious response to North Korea's missile launch.
24462  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 20, 2009, 12:01:03 PM
Chad:  Thanks.

SG:  Thanks.

Amazing footage!
24463  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: O'Grady on: April 20, 2009, 11:44:45 AM

Si el objetivo de Presidente Barack Obama en la quinta Cumbre de las Américas en Trinidad y Tobago que este fin de semana fue mejor ser querido por los dictadores de la región y populistas izquierdistas que su antecesor George W. El arbusto, la Casa Blanca puede apuntar una victoria.

Si, por otro lado, el comandante en el jefe procuró avanzar ideales norteamericanos, las cosas no fueron bien. Cuando la prensa convencional informó, el Sr. Obama pareció bien recibido. Pero el país más libre en la región tomó una paliza de Chávez de Hugo de Venezuela, de las Moral de Evo de Bolivia, y de Ortega de Danny de Nicaragua.

Jamás desde Bill Clinton organizó la primera Cumbre de las Américas en 1994 en Miami, esta reunión regional ha estado en el descenso. Pareció golpear su nadir en 2005 en Estropea del Plata, Argentina, cuándo Presidente Nestór Kirchner permitió el Sr. Chávez y a sus aliados revolucionarios de alrededor de la región para tener un masivo, la norteamericano Bandera que quema odio-fiesta en un cerca estadio con el objetivo de Sr. Bush humillante. Estas cosas del año consiguieron todavía peor con los peleones de la región que acaparando toda la atención y el Sr. Obama que rechaza una oportunidad inapreciable defender libertad.

El Sr. Obama tuvo que saber que la reunión es utilizada por los políticos de la región para recuperarse la base en casa mostrando que ellos Le pueden poner a Tío Sam en su lugar. Dándose cuenta de esto, el presidente norteamericano quizás había llegado en el Puerto de España preparó para volver su lluvia. Ellos tienen, después de todo, tolerados e incluso favorecidos por décadas uno de los regímenes más represivos del siglo XX. En los últimos años, esa represión ha esparcido de Cuba a Venezuela, y hoy millones de latinoamericanos vive bajo la tiranía. Cuando el líder del mundo libre, el Sr. Obama tuvo el deber para hablar francamente para estas almas sordas. En este él falló.

El sujeto de Cuba fue un béisbol que el presidente norteamericano podría haber golpeado fuera del parque. El supo bien en avance que sus contrapartes lo presionarían para terminar la prohibición de EEUU. El preparó aún para ese hecho unos pocos días adelante de la cumbre por levantar incondicionalmente restricciones de EEUU en el viaje y remesas a la isla, y ofreciendo permitir las compañías de teleco de EEUU para traer la tecnología a la isla atrasada.
Las Américas en las Noticias

 Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
¿Piensa que molde ayudado EEUU en una mejor luz en la región? Oportunidad gorda. Raúl Castro respondió el viernes de Venezuela con una diatriba larga contra el opresor yanqui y una oferta fresca negociar de igual a igual. En caso de que usted no hable a cubano, yo traduciré: Los hermanos de Castro desean crédito de bancos de EEUU porque ellos han dejado de pagar en el resto del mundo, y nadie prestará a ellos ya. Ellos también desean ayuda al extranjero del Banco Mundial.

Cualquiera que piensa que Raúl rumia sobre elecciones libres sueña. No obstante, la sugerencia de Cuba para poner "todo" llegó a ser sobre la mesa las "noticias" de la cumbre. Y mientras es verdad que el Sr. Obama mencionó a presos políticos en su lista de artículos que EEUU quiere negociar, él podría haber hecho mucho más. Verdaderamente, él podría haber llamado el francote de Raúl poniendo el proyector en los presos de conciencia, denominando nombres. El podría haber hablado de hombres como Oscar Elias Biscet pacifista Afro-cubano, que ha escrito eloquentemente acerca de su admiración para Martin Luther Rey Jr., y se sienta hoy en la cárcel para el crimen de disensión.

El primer presidente negro de EEUU podría haber denominado cientos de otros ser contenidos condiciones inhumanas por el dictador blanco. El también podría haber preguntado da del Presidente de Brasil Lula Silva, el Presidente de Chile Michelle Bachelet y Calderón de Felipe de México donde ellos se paran en derechos humanos para todos cubanos. Imagínese si el Sr. Obama pidió una exposición de manos para averiguar que cree que cubanos merecen menos de libertad que, dice, la mayoría negra en Sudáfrica bajo apartheid o chileno durante la dictadura de Pinochet. Por otro parte, eso no sería manera de ganar un concurso de popularidad ni para congraciarselo con partidarios norteamericanos que forman fila para hacer el negocio en Cuba.

En lugar presidente de EEUU flotó simplemente abajo el río de cumbre botando pasivamente de cualquier obstáculos que él se encontró con. El "regalo" de Chávez de la 1971 guía revolucionaria izquierdista "Abre Venas de Iberoamérica" seguido por una sugerencia de renovar relaciones diplomáticas fueron un insulto a las personas norteamericanas. Otorgado, dando la atención venezolana habría sido contraproducente. Pero el Sr. Obama se debía haber quejado fuertemente acerca de la agresión de ese país. Ha apoyado a terroristas colombianos, la droga que trafica con drogas y ambiciones nucleares de Irán. Cuando Michael Hayden anterior de director de CIA dijo Zorro Noticias el domingo, "la conducta de Presidente Chávez sobre los años pasados ha sido categóricamente horrenda -- internacionalmente y con respecto a lo que él ha hecho Venezuela internamente interior".

El Sr. Obama demasiado malo no tuvo una copia del éxito de venta del final de la década del noventa "El Idiota latinoamericano Perfecto" como un regalo para Sr. Chávez. Otra manera que Sr. Obama podría haber neutralizado la izquierda habría sido de anunciar un empujón de la Casa Blanca para la ratificación de EEUU-Acuerdo de libre cambio de Colombia. Eso no sucedió cualquiera. El sólo prometió hablar unos más, una estrategia que ofenderá nadie y no logrará nada. Es una estrategia que resume, para fechar, la política exterior de Sr. Obama para la región.

If President Barack Obama's goal at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago this weekend was to be better liked by the region's dictators and left-wing populists than his predecessor George W. Bush, the White House can chalk up a win.

Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama.
If, on the other hand, the commander in chief sought to advance American ideals, things didn't go well. As the mainstream press reported, Mr. Obama seemed well received. But the freest country in the region took a beating from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, and Nicaragua's Danny Ortega.

Ever since Bill Clinton organized the first Summit of the Americas in 1994 in Miami, this regional gathering has been in decline. It seemed to hit its nadir in 2005 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, when President Nestór Kirchner allowed Mr. Chávez and his revolutionary allies from around the region to hold a massive, American-flag burning hate-fest in a nearby stadium with the goal of humiliating Mr. Bush. This year things got even worse with the region's bullies hogging the limelight and Mr. Obama passing up a priceless opportunity to defend freedom.

Mr. Obama had to know that the meeting is used by the region's politicians to rally the base back home by showing that they can put Uncle Sam in his place. Realizing this, the American president might have arrived at the Port of Spain prepared to return their volley. They have, after all, tolerated and even encouraged for decades one of the most repressive regimes of the 20th century. In recent years, that repression has spread from Cuba to Venezuela, and today millions of Latin Americans live under tyranny. As the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama had the duty to speak out for these voiceless souls. In this he failed.

The subject of Cuba was a softball that the American president could have hit out of the park. He knew well in advance that his counterparts would pressure him to end the U.S. embargo. He even prepared for that fact a few days ahead of the summit by unconditionally lifting U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to the island, and offering to allow U.S. telecom companies to bring technology to the backward island.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Think that helped cast the U.S. in a better light in the region? Fat chance. Raúl Castro responded on Friday from Venezuela with a long diatribe against the Yankee oppressor and a cool offer to negotiate on "equal" terms. In case you don't speak Cuban, I'll translate: The Castro brothers want credit from U.S. banks because they have defaulted on the rest of the world, and no one will lend to them anymore. They also want foreign aid from the World Bank.

Anyone who thinks that Raúl is ruminating over free elections is dreaming. Nevertheless, the Cuba suggestion to put "everything" on the table became the "news" of the summit. And while it is true that Mr. Obama mentioned political prisoners in his list of items that U.S. wants to negotiate, he could have done much more. Indeed, he could have called Raúl's bluff by putting the spotlight on the prisoners of conscience, by naming names. He could have talked about men like Afro-Cuban pacifist Oscar Elias Biscet, who has written eloquently about his admiration for Martin Luther King Jr., and today sits in jail for the crime of dissent.

The first black U.S. president could have named hundreds of others being held in inhumane conditions by the white dictator. He could have also asked Brazil's President Lula da Silva, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet and Mexico's Felipe Calderón where they stand on human rights for all Cubans. Imagine if Mr. Obama asked for a show of hands to find out who believes Cubans are less deserving of freedom than, say, the black majority in South Africa under apartheid or Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship. Then again, that would be no way to win a popularity contest or to ingratiate yourself with American supporters who are lining up to do business in Cuba.

Instead the U.S. president simply floated down the summit river passively bouncing off whatever obstacles he encountered. The Chávez "gift" of the 1971 leftist revolutionary handbook "Open Veins of Latin America" followed by a suggestion of renewing ambassadorial relations was an insult to the American people. Granted, giving the Venezuelan attention would have been counterproductive. But Mr. Obama ought to have complained loudly about that country's aggression. It has supported Colombian terrorists, drug trafficking and Iran's nuclear ambitions. As former CIA director Michael Hayden told Fox News Sunday, "the behavior of President Chávez over the past years has been downright horrendous -- both internationally and with regard to what he's done internally inside Venezuela."

Too bad Mr. Obama didn't have a copy of the late 1990s bestseller "The Perfect Latin American Idiot" as a gift for Mr. Chávez. Another way Mr. Obama could have neutralized the left would have been to announce a White House push for ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. That didn't happen either. He only promised to talk some more, a strategy that will offend no one and accomplish nothing. It is a strategy that sums up, to date, Mr. Obama's foreign policy for the region.
24464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 20, 2009, 10:48:05 AM
This point about the market's beliefs about FUTURE rates is key.
24465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: general orders; NC delegate WR Davie on: April 20, 2009, 09:56:37 AM
"[T]he hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."

--George Washington, General Orders, 23 August 1776

"So low and hopeless are the finances of the United States, that, the year before last Congress was obliged to borrow money even, to pay the interest of the principal which we had borrowed before. This wretched resource of turning interest into principal, is the most humiliating and disgraceful measure that a nation could take, and approximates with rapidity to absolute ruin: Yet it is the inevitable and certain consequence of such a system as the existing Confederation." --North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention William Richardson Davie (1756-1820)
24466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ahmadinejad to BO: Fellate me on: April 19, 2009, 08:16:31 PM
24467  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 08:07:37 PM
Your guro is still to clueless to figure out the URL for that , , ,
24468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: April 19, 2009, 11:55:10 AM
One of the scariest parts of all these is the meme that it was deregulation instead of govt meddling (the FMs, the CRA, negative interest rates, etc) that laid the groundwork for all this (see e.g. the professor's conclusion) has become accepted truth
24469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is BO's bug out about to throw the baby out with the bath water? on: April 19, 2009, 11:38:45 AM
Our man in Iraq reports:


More insurgents for the battlefield.  Frankly I personally do not think Iraq will survive our departure:

23 of Anbar residents released from jail
April 19, 2009 - 02:53:47

ANBAR / Aswat al-Iraq: U.S. forces on Sunday freed 23 detainees of Anbar residents from Camp Bucca after they have been cleared of all wrongdoing, according to a media director in the local police.
“The detainees were released from Camp Bucca in southern Iraq after investigations have cleared them of involvement in acts of violence,” Maj. Abd Sattar Mohammed told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

“Those released have been delivered to their next of kin,” the official noted, providing no further details.

Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar province, lies 110 km west of Baghdad.
SS (P)
24470  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 09:54:57 AM
So, what happened last night?
24471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 19, 2009, 09:39:37 AM

That was very moving and I hope lots of people will see it.


Here's an interesting clip that left me thinking.
24472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Turkey on: April 19, 2009, 09:14:48 AM
hope the link comes through live:

Presidents of Russia, Turkey adopt strategic declaration: “The presidents of Russia and Turkey adopted a joint declaration following talks in Moscow on Friday to promote ties and enhance bilateral friendship and partnership. Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived for his first four-day visit to Russia [in February]….They also vowed to move quicker in settling issues related to defense cooperation….Turkey receives about 65% of its gas from Russia, which is pumped via Ukraine and the Blue Stream pipeline that passes directly from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters on Friday that Russia could sign an energy contract worth more than $60 billion with Turkey on the construction of a nuclear power plant and power supplies to the country for the next 15 years. He said four reactors for a potential nuclear plant in Turkey could cost $18 billion-$20 billion….’I believe my current visit will open up a new page in the history of Russian-Turkish ties,’ Gul said.”
24473  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 18, 2009, 10:26:14 PM
A fine time today:

a) Dos Triques

b) Kali Tudo:  Flying Bong Sao variations
24474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 4/15 Tea Tax Protests on: April 18, 2009, 09:43:06 PM
"2. The original tea parties were about taxation without representation, today's spending is the result of Democrats winning elections, so it's taxation with representation."

"There's some fairness to this objection. But one response would be that Democrats are tripling the debt, which means that generations of Americans not yet born will be taxed to pay for spending today. That is a kind of taxation without representation."

Furthermore there is the matter of gerrymandering and "campaign finance reform" creating one party, the Incumbent Party.  I don't have current numbers (anyone out there?) but for much of the 80s and 90s the incumbency rate of the House of Representatives was something like 97-98%.   shocked shocked shocked
24475  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 18, 2009, 05:09:30 PM
Now there's a Black Swan Event!   cheesy
24476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis!!! on: April 18, 2009, 05:04:16 PM
Think of it this way: China started out with about $1 trillion in cash, most of which was held in dollars. Then it looked at the yield on that cash (almost zero) and then they thought about all the money the Fed was printing, and all the commodities they would be buying in the future, and they figured they had too much exposure to dollars and not enough to commodities. Then they realized that if they tried to sell $1 trillion of dollar cash they could depress the dollar's value and thus undermine their entire holdings of dollar-denominated instruments. So they decided to move some money from dollar cash to copper. That is the equivalent of the world suddenly waking up and finding that its demand for dollar cash had declined, and its demand for exposure to commodities had increased. A relative price shift happens, and most of it shows up in an increased price for copper.

The world cannot get rid of all the dollar cash that exists out there, but any attempt to reduce dollar cash exposure must necessarily result in an increased price for the new object of affection. Money doesn't actually flow from one market to another, but changing desires to hold the money balances that exist do result in changes in relative prices.
24477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cavuto caught inflating? on: April 18, 2009, 01:16:41 PM
24478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gay Conservatives on: April 18, 2009, 12:42:07 PM
'There's a stereotype that if you're gay, you're liberal - and if you are a conservative, you're a bigot. Well, there are people like me who are gay and conservative, and we think it's important that we have a voice."

The speaker is Jimmy LaSalvia. Tomorrow morning in Washington, Mr. LaSalvia and his allies will launch a new tax-exempt 527 political organization they hope will be that voice for gay conservatives. Called GOProud, it will certainly make for a more interesting Republican Party -- and a richer internal debate.

Mr. LaSalvia, the new group's executive director, points to the arithmetic. In the 2008 presidential election, between 4% and 5% of voters self-identified as gay. Of these, 27% went for John McCain. That works out to 1.4 to 1.8 million gay Republican votes.

"If you pulled the lever for John McCain in 2008, then passing hate-crimes legislation or ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] is probably not your priority," says Mr. LaSalvia. "Most issues that are defined as 'gay' issues have been defined by the left. We take a different approach."

Health care is one example. Mr. LaSalvia points out that many gays do not believe their best interests are served by government-run health care. To the contrary, he says, they believe they would be better served by private-run individual accounts that are portable, that put them in charge of their own health care, and that would allow them to designate their own beneficiaries.

Some of these issues are explored at, whose founder, Bruce Carroll, is also on the board of GOProud. From the disastrous economic policies of Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank to the outing of gay Republicans to the importance of male sexual monogamy, this conservative site offers a perspective you just won't see anywhere else. Even on hot-button social issues, it can make for some strange bedfellows.

Take abortion. Christopher Barron, GOProud's chairman of the board, points to an example from a few years back, when a Maine state legislator introduced a bill that would have outlawed abortion for a child thought to be gay, in the event genetic testing ever reached that point. That politician, Mr. Barron says, received virtually no support from gay groups. Though he himself is pro-choice, he says, "I want pro-life gays to know they have a home here."

There may even be some common ground on the issue that most divides GOProud from long-standing Republican orthodoxy: gay marriage. Like most conservative organizations, GOProud is skeptical about using courts to advance social change. They also tend to believe that social issues like this one are best left to the American people acting through their state legislatures.

"I opposed the federal marriage amendment because I do not believe we should federalize marriage," says Mr. Barron. "Marriage is and always has been a state issue. The last thing I want is for some federal court to impose a tortured Roe v. Wade law on gay marriage that will make sure that this issue is never resolved."

That's not likely to be satisfying to those who oppose gay marriage on the merits. But the approach is consistent with a conservative respect for process. Even more important today, this approach also helps make possible a real conversation between people who share the same principles but operate from strong, opposing beliefs.

As Mr. LaSalvia puts it, "Demonstrating common ground is just as important as saying it exists, and that's where we're different."

Whatever else it is, these are not your father's gay Republicans. To the contrary, GOProud springs from a growing dissatisfaction among some gay Republicans that the Log Cabin Republicans, the traditional gay advocacy group within the party, has drifted to the point where its positions are indistinguishable from those of the left. It didn't help when the Washington Blade chimed in with a report that Log Cabin's biggest contributor, Tim Gill, is a Democrat.

Messrs. LaSalvia and Barron are themselves former officers for the Log Cabin Republicans. They know they belong to a defeated party that has no clear leaders but is now making decisions that will determine that party's future in the years to come. They say they have formed GOProud in part to participate in that conversation -- as conservatives who want to contribute to the team.

The ironies are legion. Since the loss of Congress and Mr. McCain's defeat in November, any number of people have come forward to suggest that if the party ever wants to win again, it has to abandon its conservative principles. What does it say about the Beltway's established ideological boxes that it is the gay wing of the Republican Party which is now advocating for a return to the party's Reaganite roots?

Write to
24479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Minnesota on: April 18, 2009, 06:58:15 AM
Meanwhile, back in the Minnesota Senate recount, the three-judge panel reviewing the race has declared Democrat Al Franken the winner. Republican Norm Coleman intends to appeal to the state's Supreme Court, while Democrats and the press corps pressure him to surrender. We hope Mr. Coleman keeps fighting, because the outcome so far hangs on the fact that some votes have been counted differently from others.

APEven after the recount and panel-findings, the 312-vote margin separating the two men equals about .01% of the 2.9 million votes cast. Even without any irregularities, this is as close to a "tie" as it gets. And there have been plenty of irregularities. By the end of the recount, the state was awash with evidence of duplicate ballot counting, newly discovered ballots, missing ballots, illegal voting, and wildly diverse standards as to which votes were counted. Any one of these issues was enough to throw the outcome into doubt. Combined, they created a taint more worthy of New Jersey than Minnesota.

The Coleman camp pushed for resolution of these problems during the recount, but it was stymied by a state canvassing board that cared more about preserving its "Minnesota nice" reputation than about making tough calls. The state Supreme Court also punted difficult questions. The mess then landed with the three-judge panel overseeing Mr. Coleman's contest trial, a panel that seemed out of its depth.

Case in point: the panel's dismal handling of absentee ballots. Early in the recount, the Franken team howled that some absentee votes had been erroneously rejected by local officials. We warned at the time that this was dangerous territory, designed to pressure election officials into accepting rejected ballots after the fact.

Yet instead of shutting this Franken request down, or early on issuing a clear set of rules as to which absentees were valid, the state Supreme Court and the canvassing board oversaw a haphazard process by which some counties submitted new batches to be included in the tally, while other counties did not. The resulting additional 933 ballots were largely responsible for Mr. Franken's narrow lead.

During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6,500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933. The three judges then finally defined what constituted a "legal" absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied these standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional absentees that the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed only about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now "illegal" according to the panel's own ex-post definition.

If all this sounds familiar, think Florida 2000. In that Presidential recount, officials couldn't decide what counted as a legal vote, and so different counties used different standards. The Florida Supreme Court made things worse by changing the rules after the fact. In Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this violated Constitutional principles of equal protection and due process, which require that every vote be accorded equal weight.

This will be a basis for Mr. Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Should that body be reluctant to publicly rebuke their judicial colleagues who sat on the contest panel, Mr. Coleman could also take his appeal to federal court. This could take months.

Another solution is to hold a special Senate election. Minnesota law does not specifically provide for such a runoff. However, the U.S. Constitution's 17th amendment does provide states with a roadmap for filling "vacancies," which might be a legal starting point for a do-over. Even before the shifting standards of the contest trial, the St. Paul Pioneer Press looked at the ballot-counting evidence and called for a revote. It could be that this is where the court case is leading in any event.

Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.
24480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Delay in lighter body armor on: April 18, 2009, 06:45:44 AM
WASHINGTON — The Army has promised to lighten the soldier’s load, and nowhere more urgently than in eastern Afghanistan, where the unforgiving terrain tests the stamina of troops whose weapons, body armor, rucksacks and survival gear can weigh 130 pounds.

Skip to next paragraph
Finding the Right Coverage But an experiment to shave up to 20 pounds off a soldier’s burden — much of it by reducing the bulletproof plates that protect the chest and back — has stalled, leaving $3 million in new, lightweight equipment sitting in a warehouse in the United States instead of being sent to the war zone where it was to have been tried out by a battalion-size group of 500 soldiers. The delay offers a new window into how Army rules have slowed the deployment of specialized gear that small units are seeking for harsh combat environments.

The new lightweight bulletproof plates, part of what is known as a Modular Body Armor Vest, are already in use by the military’s Special Operations Command, which includes the Army’s elite light-infantry troops, the Rangers.

A team of Army experts went to eastern Afghanistan in early March expecting to begin trial runs of the gear for regular Army soldiers, including a company assigned to the remote Korangal Valley, a harsh and primitive area of eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency has proved especially resilient, and where soldiers regularly set off on multiple-day patrols that require them to hike up and down steep hills and valleys.

But the assessment team was ordered back to the United States late last month when its experiment was put off. The delays in the assessment were reported first by Army Times.

According to Army officials familiar with the effort, senior Army leaders ordered further reviews of the lighter bulletproof plates to guarantee that soldiers would not be put at risk wearing them during the combat field tests; the leaders also wanted to expand the goals for the assessment. The officials who discussed the stalled study did so on ground rules of anonymity because of the senior-level review of the matter still under way.

The lighter set of plates and vest could reduce the load of conventional troops by about 20 pounds compared with the current Army-issue Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

The Special Operations Command prides itself on rapidly equipping its units with the latest in weaponry, body armor and war-fighting technology, and many of its innovations subsequently have been adopted by conventional forces. But some of its highly specialized gear carries with it a greater risk for the user, one that Special Operations commanders say is mitigated by the elite level of training given their forces.

All involved in the debate agree that the lighter plates and vest do not cover as much of the torso as the current Army body armor. But advocates of the lighter protection say that giving a soldier greater mobility contributes to survivability, and that the greatest threat to troops in eastern Afghanistan is from bullets, while the heavier vests were designed also to guard against shrapnel from roadside bombs.

Army officials say that the assessment, headed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in conjunction with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, will resume in about a month, and that the focus will be on the impact of the total soldier’s load and not on analyzing particular pieces of equipment, like the body armor alone.

“To preserve the validity of this assessment and evaluation on soldier performance, the Army decided to equip the unit with all types of lighter equipment simultaneously rather than in a piecemeal fashion,” an Army spokesman said.

The assessment is expected to resume “in the next month, pending a final decision from senior Army leadership,” the spokesman said.

Advocates of a more cautious assessment schedule cite the importance of getting the study right, saying it will guide decisions on equipping the entire force both to meet the challenges of combat in Afghanistan — where thousands of additional troops are being sent this year — and to lessen the physical strain that can lead to long-term injury.

But other officials counter that time has been wasted, and that the lighter gear is only one option to commanders whose troops are going out on patrol, because heavier body armor would remain at each base for use when more coverage of the upper body was needed.

Critics say the delays in testing the lighter body armor are another sign of Army inflexibility, even after years of efforts by the service to speed up its procurement process. The Army was also late to recognize the dangers posed by a reliance on soft-skinned Humvees for troops in Iraq, and then was slow in buying and building better-armored troop transports.

The Army has been driven to examine how to lighten the soldier’s load after years of adding heavier armor, night-vision goggles, rifle scopes, knives, water and food. A soldier on patrol carries, on average, 60 pounds of equipment, but in places like Afghanistan, where the terrain requires prolonged missions away from an operating base, the load can be doubled by the need for shelter, extra food, ammunition and other gear.
24481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 18, 2009, 05:56:22 AM
Still hoping for feedback on the veracity of my previous posts:

SKorean navy repels Somali pirate attack: military
Fri Apr 17, 1:58 pm ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – South Korean naval forces drove away pirates who were trying to board a Danish-registered ship in waters off Somalia, the military and the vessel's owner said Friday.

The incident occurred Friday about 110 kilometres (70 miles) off the coast of Yemen, said a Joint Chiefs of Staff official in Seoul as well as shipowner Shipcraft in Copenhagen.

The Munmu the Great destroyer, carrying a crew of 300, received a distress call from the ship which reported it was being chased by a pirate boat, said Army Colonel Lee Hyoung-Kook, a JCS official who oversees the deployment.

The 2,500-ton ship Puma -- carrying a generator from Singapore to Germany with a crew of three Danes, four Filipinos and five British security guards -- was about 55 kilometres from the South Korean destroyer.

"The crew of the Puma, upon seeing Friday six pirates in an outboard motor boat approaching at full speed, began to zig-zag to keep them from boarding, and fired a distress flare in their direction," said Shipcraft director Per Nykjaer Jensen.

That gave them just enough time for the Puma to call for help from international naval forces in the area, he told AFP.

The South Korean destroyer dispatched its Lynx anti-submarine helicopter, which arrived at the scene in just over 20 minutes, Lee said.

"The pirates gave up (their) attempt to board the ship and turned away when the helicopter threatened to fire," he said.

Jensen agreed that the helicopter's arrival saved the Puma from being seized, but he added: "We are really frustrated by these intolerable conditions whereby the pirates more often than not get away with impunity."

The South Korean destroyer began operating this week to help fight piracy off Somalia, where several Korean ships have been seized.

Up to 20 foreign warships now patrol the waters off the Somali coast to safeguard major shipping lanes.
24482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 17, 2009, 10:38:11 PM
Unsourced.  Caveat lector:

Having spoken to some SEAL pals yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:
1. BHO wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.
So per our last email thread, I'm downgrading Oohbaby's performace to D-. Only reason it's not an F is that the hostage survived.
Read the following accurate account.
Philips’ first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn’t worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country’s Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors — and none was taken.
The guidance from National Command Authority — the president of theUnited States, Barack Obama — had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage’s life was in clear, extreme danger.
The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates — and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance fromWashington and a mandate from the commander in chief’s staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a “peaceful solution” would be acceptable.
After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on-scene commander decided he’d had enough. Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer — unnamed in all media reports to date — decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips’ back was a threat to the hostage’s life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.
Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.
There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday’s dramatic rescue of an American hostage.
Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in theIndian Ocean and declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president’s toughness and decisiveness.
Despite the Obama administration’s (and its sycophants’) attempt to spin yesterday’s success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort.
What should have been a standoff lasting only hours — as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location — became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.
24483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chirs Matthews struggles with SEALs' "lucky" three shots on: April 17, 2009, 10:33:20 PM
24484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now this is more like it!!! on: April 17, 2009, 12:48:46 PM

Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban With Swift and Lethal Results
Published: April 16, 2009

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Last week, members of Second Platoon, Company B, surprised a Taliban column and killed at least 13.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife.

The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. It was one of hundreds of firefights that have occurred in the Korangal Valley, an isolated region where local insurgents and the Americans have been locked in a bitter stalemate for more than three years.

But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.

The patrol, 30 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, had left this outpost before noon on April 10, and spent much of the day climbing a ridge on the opposite side of the Korangal River, according to interviews with more than half the participants.

Once the soldiers reached the ridge’s crest, almost 6,000 feet above sea level on the side of a peak called Sautalu Sar, they found fresh footprints on the trails, and parapets of rock from where Taliban fighters often fire rifles and rocket-propelled grenades down onto this outpost.

The platoon leader, Second Lt. Justin Smith, selected a spot where trails intersected, and the platoon dug shallow fighting holes before dark. Claymore antipersonnel mines were set among the trees nearby.

At sunset, Lieutenant Smith called for a period of absolute silence, which lasted into darkness. Then he ordered three scouts to sit in a listening post about 100 yards away, 10 feet off the trail.

The scouts set in. Less than a half-minute later, a column of Taliban fighters appeared, walking briskly their way.

Sgt. Zachary R. Reese, a sniper, whispered into his radio. “We have eight enemy personnel coming down on our position really fast,” he said. He could say no more; the Taliban fighters were a few feet away.

More appeared. Then more still. The sergeant counted 26 gunmen pass by.

The patrol, Second Platoon of Company B, was in a place where no Americans had spent a night for years, and it seemed that the Afghans did not expect danger.

The soldiers waited. The rules of the ambush were long ago drilled into them: no one can move, and no one can fire until the patrol leader gives the order. Then everyone must fire at once.

The third Taliban fighter in the column switched on a flashlight, the soldiers said, and quickly switched it off. About 50 yards separated the two sides, but Lieutenant Smith did not want to start shooting too soon, he said, “because if too many lived then we’d be up there fighting them all night.”

He let the Taliban column continue on. The soldiers trained their weapons’ infrared lasers, which are visible only with night-vision equipment, on the fighters as they drew closer. The lasers mark the path a bullet will fly.

The lead fighter had almost reached the platoon when Pvt. First Class Troy Pacini-Harvey, 19, his laser trained on the lead man’s forehead, moved his rifle’s selector lever from safe to semi-automatic. It made a barely audible click. The Taliban fighter froze. He was six feet away.

(Page 2 of 2)

Lieutenant Smith was new to the platoon. This was his fourth patrol. He was in a situation that every infantry lieutenant trains for, but almost no infantry lieutenant ever sees. “Fire,” he said, softly into the radio. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

As accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province.

The platoon’s frontage exploded with noise and flashes of light as soldiers fired. Bullets struck all of the lead Taliban fighters, the soldiers said. The first Afghans fell where they were hit, not managing to fire a single shot.

Five Taliban fighters bolted to the soldiers’ left, unwittingly running squarely into the path of machine-gun bullets and the Claymore mines. For a moment, the soldiers heard rustling in the brush. They detonated their Claymores and threw hand grenades. The rustling stopped.

Two other Taliban fighters had dashed to the right, toward an almost sheer drop. One ran so wildly in the blackness that his momentum carried him off the cliff, several soldiers said.

Another stopped at the edge. Pvt. First Class Brad Larson, 19, had followed the man with his laser. “I took him out,” he said.

The scout at the listening post shot three of the fleeing fighters, and dropped two more with hand grenades. “We stopped what we could see,” Sergeant Reese said.

The shooting had lasted a few minutes. The hillside briefly fell quiet. The surviving Taliban fighters, some of whom had run back up the trail, began shouting in the darkness. “We could hear them calling out to one another,” Specialist Soto said.

Lieutenant Smith called the listening post back in. After two Apache attack helicopters showed up, an F-15 dropped a bomb on the Taliban’s escape route, about 600 yards up the trail. Then the lieutenant ordered teams to search the bodies they could find on the crest.

Sergeant Reese gave his rifle to another sniper to cover him while he tried to cut away a Taliban fighter’s ammunition pouches with a four-inch blade. The fighter had only been pretending to be dead, the soldiers said. He lunged for Sergeant Reese, who stabbed him in the left eye.

In all, the soldiers found eight bodies on the crest. They photographed them to try to identify them later, and collected their weapons, ammunition, radios and papers. Then the patrol swept down a gully where a pilot said he saw more insurgents hiding.

Four scouts, using night-vision gear, spotted five fighters crouching behind rocks, and killed them with rifle and machine-gun fire, the scouts said. The bodies were searched and photographed, too. The platoon began to hike back to the outpost, carrying the captured equipment.

Second Platoon, Company B has endured one of the most arduous assignments in Afghanistan. Eight of the platoon’s soldiers have been wounded in nine months of fighting in the valley, part of a bitter contest for control of a small and sparsely populated area.

Three others have been killed.

In a matter of minutes, the ambush changed the experience of the surviving soldiers’ tours. The degree of turnabout surprised even some the soldiers who participated.

“It’s the first time most of us have even seen the guys who were shooting at us,” said Sgt. Thomas Horvath, 21.

The next day, elders from the valley would ask permission to collect the villages’ dead. Company B’s commander, Capt. James C. Howell, would grant it.

But already, as the soldiers slid and climbed down the mountain, word of the insurgents’ defeat was traveling through Taliban networks.

Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours.
24485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Exploiting class issues on: April 17, 2009, 12:41:09 PM
Its the NYTimes, so caveat lector:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.

Supporters of Islamic law on Thursday in the Swat Valley, a Pakistani region where the Taliban exploited class rifts to gain control.

The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province.

In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.

To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.

The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.

“This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.”

The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.

Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas.

Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.”

Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”

The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said.

The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to Al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region.

The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital.

At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said.

Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass. By 2006, Mr. Fazlullah had formed a ragtag force of landless peasants armed by the Taliban, said Mr. Hussain and former residents of Swat.

At first, the pressure on the landlords was subtle. One landowner was pressed to take his son out of an English-speaking school offensive to the Taliban. Others were forced to make donations to the Taliban.

Then, in late 2007, Shujaat Ali Khan, the richest of the landowners, his brothers and his son, Jamal Nasir, the mayor of Swat, became targets.

After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled


Page 2 of 2)

Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ”

One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said.

According to Pakistani news reports, Mr. Amin was arrested in August 2004 on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda and was released in November 2006. Another Pakistani intelligence agent said Mr. Amin often visited a madrasa in North Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, where he apparently received guidance.

Each time the landlords fled, their tenants were rewarded. They were encouraged to cut down the orchard trees and sell the wood for their own profit, the former residents said. Or they were told to pay the rent to the Taliban instead of their now absentee bosses.

Two dormant emerald mines have reopened under Taliban control. The militants have announced that they will receive one-third of the revenues.

Since the Taliban fought the military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge.

When provincial bureaucrats visit Mingora, Swat’s capital, they must now follow the Taliban’s orders and sit on the floor, surrounded by Taliban bearing weapons, and in some cases wearing suicide bomber vests, the senior provincial official said.

In many areas of Swat the Taliban have demanded that each family give up one son for training as a Taliban fighter, said Mohammad Amad, executive director of a nongovernmental group, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis.

A landlord who fled with his family last year said he received a chilling message last week. His tenants called him in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, to tell him his huge house was being demolished, he said in an interview here.

The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.
24486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 17, 2009, 12:13:05 PM
Second post of the day:

The Americans Who Risked Everything

My father, Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., delivered this oft-requested address locally a number of times, but it had never before appeared in print until it appeared in The Limbaugh Letter. My dad was renowned for his oratory skills and for his original mind; this speech is, I think, a superb demonstration of both. I will always be grateful to him for instilling in me a passion for the ideas and lives of America's Founders, as well as a deep appreciation for the inspirational power of words which you will see evidenced here:
"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

 The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

 Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

 "The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not." 
"Most Glorious Service"

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

 · William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

 · Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."

· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

 · Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50. 
Lives, Fortunes, Honor

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

 And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house - in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged "parchments" we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..."

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

- Rush Limbaugh III
24487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams to J. Hancock on: April 17, 2009, 12:08:36 PM
"What a glorious morning this is!"

--Samuel Adams to John Hancock at the Battle of Lexington, Massachusetts, 19 April 1775
24488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That cheering crowd of soldiers on: April 17, 2009, 11:58:38 AM
Fauxbama Photo Event Generates Positive Coverage
According to Minority Report's Dave Hinz, "[T]hat wonderful cheering welcome that President Obama received with his unscheduled surprise visit to the troops in Iraq, was entirely a staged event." One Army sergeant described the event this way: "We were pre-screened, asked by officials 'Who voted for Obama?', and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up." As Hinz put it, "[P]olitical operatives from the Administration orchestrate a faux-cheering crowd of adoring military, right in front of the media covering the event."

The Associated Press obliged, reporting, "President Barack Obama went for the defining television shot by capping his first extended foreign tour with a surprise visit to Iraq. He got it -- pictures of hundreds of U.S. troops cheering wildly as he told them it was time for the Iraqis to take charge of their own future. The war-zone photo opportunity produced a stunning show of appreciation for Obama from military men and women who have made great sacrifices, many serving repeated tours in a highly unpopular war."

It's not hard to believe that all the "journalists" tagging along on this assignment failed to mention this charade. But when covering the teleconference President Bush set up a couple of years ago with soldiers who were shown on camera, discussing who would take what question, all the media could say was "Scandal!" As for Obama, he must have learned from this comparison with a real commander in chief.
24489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Making the old new again on: April 17, 2009, 12:40:11 AM
It's make-or-break time for many newspapers. Denver and Seattle recently lost dailies, the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times are both in bankruptcy, and owners of the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle threaten closure. One reader mourned the loss of her local newspaper in Connecticut by lamenting that she had gone from living in a city to living off just another exit on Interstate 95. As comedian Stephen Colbert put it last week, "The impending death of the newspaper industry: Where will they print the obituary?"

Barney Kilgore.
Creative destruction is blowing hard through the news industry, as digital technology gives readers access to endless sources of news but undermines the ability of publishers to support news departments. City newspapers are no longer the dominant way people get news or the main way advertisers reach consumers. The recession is accelerating these trends, with advertising so soft even Web-only news operations, which don't have the legacy costs of print, are now struggling to support journalism.

As the remaining city newspapers rethink themselves, editors and publishers might consult a road map for how newspapers can live alongside new media that was drawn up more than 50 years ago by Bernard Kilgore, outlined in a new biography by former Journal executive Richard Tofel, "Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal and the Invention of Modern Journalism."

Kilgore had remarkable judgment early about the journalistic issue of our day: how readers use old media, new media and both. When Kilgore became managing editor of the Journal in 1941, he inherited a business model that technology had undermined. Founded in 1889 to provide market news and stock prices to individual investors, the Journal lost half its circulation as this basic information became widely available.

Kilgore observed that then new media such as radio meant market news was available in real time. Some cities had a dozen newspapers that had gained the Journal's once-valuable ability to report share prices.

The Journal had to change. Technology increasingly meant readers would know the basic facts of news as it happened. He announced, "It doesn't have to have happened yesterday to be news," and said that people were more interested in what would happen tomorrow. He crafted the front page "What's News -- " column to summarize what had happened, but focused on explaining what the news meant.

On the morning after Pearl Harbor, other newspapers recounted the facts already known to all the day before through radio. The Journal's page-one story instead began, "War with Japan means industrial revolution in the United States." It outlined the implications for the economy, industry and commodity and financial markets.

Kilgore led the Journal's circulation to one million by the 1960s from 33,000 in the 1940s by adapting the newspaper to a role reflecting how people used different media for news. His rallying cry was, "The easiest thing in the world for a reader to do is to stop reading."

Business and financial news is different from the general news focus of city newspapers, but in 1958 the owners of the New York Herald Tribune approached Kilgore for help. Mr. Tofel uncovered a five-page memo Kilgore wrote them on how to keep city newspapers essential to readers. The Herald Tribune, he wrote, is "too much a newspaper that might be published in Philadelphia, Washington or Chicago just as readily as in metropolitan New York." Kilgore urged the "compact model newspaper." Readers valued their time, so the newspaper should have just one section, with larger editions on Sunday when people had more time to read.

His advice was clearly ahead of its time. The owners didn't heed it, and the Herald Tribune went out of business in 1967. But his observations on what readers want from city newspapers may be even more true in today's online world. Readers increasingly know yesterday what happened yesterday through Web sites, television and news alerts.

"Kilgore's first critical finding," Mr. Tofel wrote, was "that readers seek insight into tomorrow even more than an account of yesterday." This "may only now be getting through to many editors and publishers." Indeed, at a time when print readership is declining, The Economist, with its weekly focus on interpretation, is gaining circulation. The Journal continues to focus on what readers need, growing the number of individuals paying for the newspaper and the Web site.

If readers would prefer more-compact city newspapers, a less-is-more approach could help cut newsprint, printing, distribution and other costs that don't add to the journalism. Newspaper editors could craft a new, forward-looking role for print, alongside the what's-happening-right-now focus of digital news.

There's a lot of experimentation by editors around the country to find out what people want from their print and online news. For city newspapers on the brink, the Barney Kilgore approach might deliver some badly needed good news.

24490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Barney Frank's latest brainstorm on: April 17, 2009, 12:18:12 AM
Barney Frank's track record as a financial analyst is, shall we say, mixed. The House Financial Services Chairman said for years that a collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pose zero risk to taxpayers. For most people, a mistake of that magnitude would trigger introspection, if not humility. But not the sage of Massachusetts. He's cooking up another fantastic subsidy -- and like the last one, he swears taxpayers won't feel a thing. In his words, "it would cost the federal government zero." Uh oh.

Barney Frank.
Mr. Frank believes state and local governments are paying too much when they issue debt because rating agencies don't give them the ratings Mr. Frank feels they deserve. So last year he pushed a bill to effectively force Standard &Poor's, Moody's and Fitch to raise their ratings on municipal bonds, but the legislation got sidetracked amid the financial turmoil. Now Mr. Frank is back, bigger than ever.

He'd like to create what he calls an FDIC-like federal insurance program for municipal bonds. Jurisdictions issuing debt would pay premiums into the insurance fund, and in return the federal government would guarantee the debt against default. Private companies already insure municipal bonds -- companies such as MBIA, Ambac and Berkshire Hathaway. And you may recall that last year the big bond insurers caused considerable angst when their exposure to mortgage-related debt called into question their ability to meet their muni-bond obligations. MBIA, in response, recently fenced off its muni-bond business from its other obligations.

If Mr. Frank really believes that state and local governments have been forced to overpay for this insurance, one has to assume his federal program would charge lower premiums and so undercut its private-sector competitors. The government can charge low premiums without putting taxpayers on the hook, he argues, because the risk of default is so low.

Or is it? The payment history of municipal bonds seems to support Mr. Frank. But then the triple-A ratings assigned to many mortgage-backed securities were also based on backward-looking models that failed to anticipate today's housing bust. The muni-bond performance record is also mostly the history of uninsured bonds. But the very existence of insurance can change the behavior of the policyholder or beneficiary -- watch Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in the 1944 classic "Double Indemnity." If a state or locality knows someone else will make bondholders whole, they are far more likely to default than an uninsured issuer would be.

Many states and localities have run up huge pension and health-care obligations to retirees that will come due over the next few decades. And many of those obligations were underfunded even before the bottom fell out of the stock market. When those bills hit, cities will have to choose among raising taxes, cutting benefits or stiffing bondholders. In some states, such as New York, retiree benefits are constitutionally protected, and taxes are already chokingly high. So stiffing the bond insurers will look pretty attractive.

None other than Warren Buffett devoted several pages in his latest Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter to precisely this kind of risk: "When faced with large revenue shortfalls, communities that have all of their bonds insured will be more prone to develop 'solutions' less favorable to bondholders than those communities that have uninsured bonds held by local banks and residents."

He continues: "Losses in the tax-exempt arena, when they come, are also likely to be highly correlated among issuers. If a few communities stiff their creditors and get away with it, the chance that others will follow in their footsteps will grow. What mayor or city council is going to choose pain to local citizens in the form of major tax increases over pain to a far-away bond insurer?" This goes double if the insurer is Uncle Sugar.

Mr. Buffett concludes: "Insuring tax-exempts, therefore, has the look today of a dangerous business -- one with similarities, in fact, to the insuring of natural catastrophes. In both cases, a string of loss-free years can be followed by a devastating experience that more than wipes out all earlier profits."

The difference, in this case, is that bond insurance, and especially federal bond insurance, would have helped create the "natural" catastrophe by encouraging jurisdictions to rack up obligations that taxpayers would be forced to make good on down the road. As for Mr. Frank's contention that muni-bond insurance is too expensive, Berkshire Hathaway is charging two and three times historical rates -- and Mr. Buffett is still worried.

One Fannie Mae debacle ought to be enough for any career, but Mr. Frank wants taxpayers to double down on his political guarantees. There are currently some $1.7 trillion in municipal bonds held by the public, and Barney thinks we can insure them at "zero cost." Considering the source, and the potential size of the bill, someone in Congress needs to sound the alarm
24491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Two wins; Prez ties his own hands on: April 17, 2009, 12:12:43 AM
It came as good news yesterday from Attorney General Eric Holder that the government isn't going to prosecute any Central Intelligence Agency officials who participated in the government's waterboarding interrogations. Mr. Holder cited the simple logic that it would be unfair to prosecute these officials for acts ruled legal at the time by the Justice Department. Mr. Holder also pointedly said the U.S would defend the CIA interrogators against attempted prosecutions from overseas.

Mr. Holder's reference to out-of-area prosecutions is surely a reference to Spain, the source of yesterday's second piece of good news on the antiterror front. Spain's attorney general, Candido Conde-Pumpido, said his office would not support Judge Baltasar Garzon's outrageous effort to prosecute six Bush Administration officials for their role in the U.S. antiterror effort. Spain's AG said any such prosecution would turn his nation's National Court "into a plaything" for politics. Judge Garzon gets the final call, but the odds are strong this judicial overreach is ending.

What remains to be seen is whether the American left, maddened by these two decisions, will now demand that Congress gin up a "Truth Commission" to dissect the U.S. war on terror during the Bush years. This would hamstring even a gentler war on terror by the Obama team, as no official would risk being hung out to dry later by Congressional Democrats or the partisans they appoint to a commission. For elaboration on that we recommend the piece opposite by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA director Michael Hayden.
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.

Soon after he was sworn in, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that suspended use of these techniques and confined not only the military but all U.S. agencies -- including the CIA -- to the interrogation limits set in the Army Field Manual. This suspension was accompanied by a commitment to further study the interrogation program, and government personnel were cautioned that they could no longer rely on earlier opinions of the OLC.

Although evidence shows that the Army Field Manual, which is available online, is already used by al Qaeda for training purposes, it was certainly the president's right to suspend use of any technique. However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president's task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president's executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome. This conflicts with the sworn promise of the current director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, who testified in aid of securing Senate confirmation that if he thought he needed additional authority to conduct interrogation to get necessary information, he would seek it from the president. By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack.

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies. Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens.

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don't work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense. If coercive interrogation had been administered to obtain confessions, one might understand the argument. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who organized the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, among others, and who has boasted of having beheaded Daniel Pearl, could eventually have felt pressed to provide a false confession. But confessions aren't the point. Intelligence is. Interrogation is conducted by using such obvious approaches as asking questions whose correct answers are already known and only when truthful information is provided proceeding to what may not be known. Moreover, intelligence can be verified, correlated and used to get information from other detainees, and has been; none of this information is used in isolation.

The terrorist Abu Zubaydah (sometimes derided as a low-level operative of questionable reliability, but who was in fact close to KSM and other senior al Qaeda leaders) disclosed some information voluntarily. But he was coerced into disclosing information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the planners of Sept. 11, who in turn disclosed information which -- when combined with what was learned from Abu Zubaydah -- helped lead to the capture of KSM and other senior terrorists, and the disruption of follow-on plots aimed at both Europe and the U.S. Details of these successes, and the methods used to obtain them, were disclosed repeatedly in more than 30 congressional briefings and hearings beginning in 2002, and open to all members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses of Congress beginning in September 2006. Any protestation of ignorance of those details, particularly by members of those committees, is pretense.

The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in these opinions. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.

Nor was there any legal reason compelling such disclosure. To be sure, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of these and other memoranda, but the government until now has successfully resisted such lawsuits. Even when the government disclosed that three members of al Qaeda had been subjected to waterboarding but that the technique was no longer part of the CIA interrogation program, the court sustained the government's argument that the precise details of how it was done, including limits and safeguards, could remain classified against the possibility that some future president may authorize its use. Therefore, notwithstanding the suggestion that disclosure was somehow legally compelled, there was no legal impediment to the Justice Department making the same argument even with respect to any techniques that remained in the CIA program until last January.

There is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the claim that our interrogation of some unlawful combatants beyond the limits set in the Army Field Manual has disgraced us before the world. Such a claim often conflates interrogation with the sadism engaged in by some soldiers at Abu Ghraib, an incident that had nothing whatever to do with intelligence gathering. The limits of the Army Field Manual are entirely appropriate for young soldiers, for the conditions in which they operate, for the detainees they routinely question, and for the kinds of tactically relevant information they pursue. Those limits are not appropriate, however, for more experienced people in controlled circumstances with high-value detainees. Indeed, the Army Field Manual was created with awareness that there was an alternative protocol for high-value detainees.

In addition, there were those who believed that the U.S. deserved what it got on Sept. 11, 2001. Such people, and many who purport to speak for world opinion, were resourceful both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks in crafting reasons to resent America's role as a superpower. Recall also that the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the punctiliously correct trials of defendants in connection with those incidents, and the bombing of the USS Cole took place long before the advent of CIA interrogations, the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the many other purported grievances asserted over the past eight years.

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the OLC as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism. It is hard to see how that will promote candor either from those who should be encouraged to ask for advice before they act, or from those who must give it.

In his book "The Terror Presidency," Jack Goldsmith describes the phenomenon we are now experiencing, and its inevitable effect, referring to what he calls "cycles of timidity and aggression" that have weakened intelligence gathering in the past. Politicians pressure the intelligence community to push to the legal limit, and then cast accusations when aggressiveness goes out of style, thereby encouraging risk aversion, and then, as occurred in the wake of 9/11, criticizing the intelligence community for feckless timidity. He calls these cycles "a terrible problem for our national security." Indeed they are, and the precipitous release of these OLC opinions simply makes the problem worse.

Gen. Hayden was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Mukasey was attorney general of the United States from 2007 to 2009.


24492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Gilder on Israel/Jews on: April 17, 2009, 12:05:25 AM
Gilder Telecosm Forum Member (4/13/09): George, Can you provide any update
on the timing of the release of your book on Israel?

George Gilder, Gilder Telecosm Forum (4/13/09): I am finishing the
footnotes at the moment and books will be available within six weeks,
official publication date late July. The Jerusalem Post (David
Klinghoffer) got a copy of an early draft and already did a review
(illegitimate but enthusiastic) a week ago Friday.

David Klinghoffer, The Jerusalem Post (4/3/09): Israel stands out from
other nations in many ways, not least that its survival appears to depend
on powerful but geographically very distant countries. That observation
should lead Jews to wonder what makes friends of Israel feel as they do.

America has been the country's closet ally, while other Western countries
showed less affection even before absorbing huge new Muslim populations.
Why? In the American context, why do Republicans on average judge Israel
more favorably than Democrats - by a significant spread of 20 percent, 84%
compared to 64%, according to a Gallup poll?

Pointing to the number of Evangelical Christians among the Republican base
only begs the question. Conservative Christians quote biblical verses to
justify their passion for the Jewish state, but you can imagine an
alternative universe where those voters today would show the same
hostility to Jewish interests that other Christians demonstrated

Chalking up the difference to religious influence also ignores the
staunchly pro-Israel stance of secular conservative activists and
journalists. Add to this the mystery of Jews who either don't care about
Israel or are more or less disdainful. What explains it all?

Israel's well-wishers should carefully consider the question because the
trite, frequently cited rationales for being pro-Israel - that it is a
"bastion of democracy in the Middle East" and so on - sound like
rationalizations. In a secular democracy, religious friends also need to
be able to say, without pounding a Bible, why allying with Israel is good
not just for Israel but for other countries, notably America.

I'VE STRUGGLED for years to figure out what difference in fundamental
viewpoints it is, what polarity in thinking about how the world works,
that Israel casts so sharply into contrast.

An answer I came across recently snaps the mystery into focus. I found it
in the manuscript of a forthcoming book by, of all people, the capitalism
and technology guru George Gilder, one of the chief intellectual stars of
the Reaganomics revolution.

Gilder and I share an affiliation with the Discovery Institute, a think
tank with offices in Seattle, but I've never met him and hadn't followed
his earlier career all that carefully. I'm old school - technology bores
me. But his book The Israel Test, which should be out in June, spoke to me
with an unexpected power.

Apart from being beautifully, fiercely written, its merit lies in
clarifying, in a totally new, secular and intuitive way, why Israel
matters. Gilder begins with a frankly, even racially philo-Semitic
observation that will make some Jews uncomfortable. I can say it without
squirming because, as a convert to Judaism, I can't claim any credit that
attaches to having Jewish genes.

Jews are known for their greatly disproportionate giftedness in film,
physics, finance - almost every field where creativity and intellect
determine success. Gilder writes with candor about Jewish "superiority and
excellence." As a result of such Jewish gifts, Israel has done far more
with far less, in physical resources, than any other country. The Israeli
technology boom has made this clearer than ever.

As Gilder puts it, "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 accomplishments? 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?"

SOME PEOPLE see wealth-creation as a zero-sum game, where your enriching
yourself means that you are taking something away from me. Others see
wealth as almost miraculous. Material value is created from nothing - ex
nihilo. That is, from nothing material - but from an idea, from
creativity, from genius. In this view, your enrichment takes nothing from
me. In fact, it creates opportunities for your neighbors to enrich
themselves by doing business with you. Israel's Palestinian neighbors,
with their pitiful economy, have failed spectacularly to perceive this.

Elementally, there are two different personality types here. Where you
come down reveals a lot not just about your politics - though political
views flow from it - but about the orientation of your soul..

Read on:
24493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Have you seen your doctor? on: April 17, 2009, 12:01:20 AM

Here's something that has gotten lost in the drive to institute universal health insurance: Health insurance doesn't automatically lead to health care. And with more and more doctors dropping out of one insurance plan or another, especially government plans, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see a physician no matter what coverage you have.

Consider that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reported in 2008 that 28% of Medicare beneficiaries looking for a primary care physician had trouble finding one, up from 24% the year before. The reasons are clear: A 2008 survey by the Texas Medical Association, for example, found that only 38% of primary-care doctors in Texas took new Medicare patients. The statistics are similar in New York state, where I practice medicine.

More and more of my fellow doctors are turning away Medicare patients because of the diminished reimbursements and the growing delay in payments. I've had several new Medicare patients come to my office in the last few months with multiple diseases and long lists of medications simply because their longtime provider -- who they liked -- abruptly stopped taking Medicare. One of the top mammographers in New York City works in my office building, but she no longer accepts Medicare and charges patients more than $300 cash for each procedure. I continue to send my elderly women patients downstairs for the test because she is so good, but no one is happy about paying.

The problem is even worse with Medicaid. A 2005 Community Tracking Physician survey showed that only 50% of physicians accept this insurance. I am now one of the ones who doesn't take it. I realized a few years ago that it wasn't worth the money to file the paperwork for the $25 or less that I received for an office visit. HMOs are problematic as well. Recent surveys from New York show a 10% yearly dropout rate from the state's largest HMO, the Health Insurance Plan of New York (HIP), and a 14% drop-out rate from Health Net of New York, another big HMO.

The dropout rate is less at major medical centers such as New York University's Langone Medical Center where I work, or Mount Sinai Medical Center, because larger physician networks have more leverage when choosing health plans. Still, I am frequently hamstrung as I try to find a good surgeon or specialist to refer one of my patients to.

Overall, 11% of the doctors at NYU Langone don't participate in at least two insurance plans -- Aetna or Blue Cross, for instance -- so I end up not being able to refer my patients to some of our top specialists. This problem, in addition to the mass of paperwork and diminishing reimbursements, is enough of a reason for me to consider dropping out as well.

Bottom line: None of the current plans, government or private, provide my patients with the care they need. And the care that is provided is increasingly expensive and requires a big battle for approvals. Of course, we're promised by the Obama administration that universal health insurance will avoid all these problems. But how is that possible when you consider that the medical turnstiles will be the same as they are now, only they will be clogged with more and more patients? The doctors that remain in this expanded system will be even more overwhelmed than we are now.

I wouldn't want to be a patient when that happens.

Dr. Siegel, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center, is a Fox News medical contributor.
24494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 16, 2009, 07:20:17 PM
A very interesting piece Huss, worthy of reflection.  Nice find.
24495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNBC sweats BO-Bashing on: April 16, 2009, 03:40:23 PM

April 16, 2009 --

THE top suits and some of the on-air talent at CNBC were recently ordered to a top-secret meeting with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker to discuss whether they've turned into the President Obama-bashing network, Page Six has learned.

"It was an intensive, three-hour dinner at 30 Rock which Zucker himself was behind," a source familiar with the powwow told us. "There was a long discussion about whether CNBC has become too conservative and is beating up on Obama too much. There's great concern that CNBC is now the anti-Obama network. The whole meeting was really kind of creepy."

One topic under the microscope, our insider said, was on-air CNBC editor Rick Santelli's rant two months ago about staging a "Chicago Tea Party" to protest the president's bailout programs -- an idea that spawned tax protest tea parties in other big cities, infuriating the White House. Oddly, Santelli was not at the meeting, while Jim Cramer was, noted our source, who added that no edict was ultimately handed down by the network chieftains.

CNBC flack Brian Steel confirmed the get-together, but insisted: "The dinner was to thank CNBC for a job well done in our in-depth reporting throughout the financial crisis. As far as our coverage is concerned, we are built for balance and we are unabashedly pro-investor."

Our source retorted: "That is complete bull[bleep] . . . they didn't invite a lot of people to [the meeting]. There were many staffers who were working 24/7 during the crisis who weren't asked to attend, even Santelli, who was a big star for the network during those weeks. Why not?"

In addition, the insider said: "News of the meeting is starting to leak out and people are contacting a number of the on-air people to ask if they've been muzzled by GE."
24496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 16, 2009, 11:37:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Making of a Taliban Emirate in Pakistan
April 14, 2009

The legislative and executive branches of the Pakistani government on Monday approved a Feb. 17 peace agreement between the provincial government in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and a Taliban rebel group based in NWFP’s Swat district. The agreement allows for the enforcement of a legal system based on “Islamic” law in the greater Swat region, in exchange for an end to the Taliban insurgency. Arguing that legal systems will vary from area to area in keeping the local culture, the supporters of the move — both within the government and society — say that the agreement will lead to the end of violence. Given the jihadist agenda, it is unlikely that this will happen; rather, the state’s capitulation will only embolden the jihadists to pursue their goals with greater vigor.

Lacking any strategy to combat the spreading insurgency, the Pakistani state over the past couple of years has lost more and more ground to Pashtun jihadists in its northwest. But until now, there has been only a de facto evaporation of the writ of the state – a situation Islamabad viewed as temporary. The approval of the Sharia deal by an overwhelming majority in Parliament, however, and the president’s signature on the peace agreement represent an acknowledgment of defeat on the part of the state — a situation that is very difficult to reverse, especially for a country that is grappling with all sorts of domestic and international issues.

Allowing a special political and legal dispensation in a given part of its territory essentially amounts to recognizing the autonomy of the region in question. It should be noted that the Pakistani state has, since its inception, fiercely resisted the minority provinces’ demands for autonomy.

The recognition of what amounts to a Taliban emirate in a significant portion of the NWFP comes at a time when Balochistan, the large province in southwest Pakistan, is experiencing a fresh wave of violence — triggered by last week’s killing of three key separatist leaders, allegedly by the country’s security apparatus. Not only will legislating a Taliban-style legal system for the greater Swat region facilitate the Talibanization of significant parts of the country, it also will embolden Baloch separatism. In other words, the two provinces that border Afghanistan could spin out of control. An accelerating meltdown of Islamabad’s writ in its western periphery seriously undermines the Obama administration’s regional strategy concerning the Taliban and transnational jihadism.

Insurgencies in the Pashtun and Baloch areas threaten Western military supply routes running through the two provinces and make it increasingly difficult for U.S. and NATO forces to level the battlefield in Afghanistan. The situation on the Afghan-Pakistani border is becoming even more fluid, allowing Taliban insurgents on both sides to make gains in their respective theaters. Such a scenario has a direct bearing on the political component of the U.S. strategy, as it makes negotiations with pragmatic Taliban elements all the more elusive.

In fact, the negotiations between the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat region and Islamabad set a bad precedent, undermining any U.S. efforts to reach out to pragmatic Taliban in Afghanistan. Seeing the success of their counterparts in Swat, the Afghan Taliban are likely to insist that they will negotiate with their fellow Afghans only after Western forces leave the country. This means that Western forces are looking at a long conflict — one in which the jihadists, and not the United States and NATO, will have the advantage called Pakistan.
24497  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mas sobre Mumbai on: April 16, 2009, 10:22:07 AM
Mas sobre Mumbai. Que pensamos nosotros

1- Que hacer: Algunos piensan que propiciamos zambullirnos en la pelea dando alaridos con un cuchillo en una mano y un .38 de 5 tiros en la otra. No estoy seguro de donde viene eso, ya que nunca ha sido sugerido y si uno lo piensa un poco, es bien tonto

Aun asi, un contraataque agresivo apenas comenzado el incidente parece ser una mejor opcion que esconderse esperando no ser descubierto una vez que los chicos malos hayan consolidado sus fuerzas. Tambien creo que si estas desarmado (porque alguien haria eso hoy dia?), tus opciones son muy limitadas. Ademas, si no estas en el punto de contacto, ir hacia la pelea puede no ser lo mas astuto ya que lo unico que sabes es que empezaron los disparos. Inmolarse en una hogera de gloria no esta en la lista de "cosas por hacer" de nadie aca, al menos eso creo. Pero esconderse como un desamparado y llamar pidiendo ayuda tampoco.

Si no podes hacer nada, yo voto por salir del lugar al trote rapido. Y en lo que respecta a recolectar informacion, o pasar info hacia afuera, o ayudar a la policia a identificar a los malos, por que seria ese tu problema?

2- Si estas armado (como deberias), y supieras que esta pasando mas alla de toda duda (no es la DEA en un tiroteo con traficantes en la que ahora estas envuelto) y en una posicion donde podes dispararle a los malos...bueno, que crees que tenes que hacer? 911? Nop, no para mi. Algun otro llamará .
Llamar a alguien? No en este punto, no para mi. Voy a estar disparando o saliendo del lugar. Una vez afuera, quiza pueda llamar, pero cuando estas en el fuego, o peleas, o volas o te freis.

3- Antes de condiderar siquiera en dispararle a los malos, fijate quien esta con vos. Por ejemplo, poner en peligro a tu familia para salvar a otro puede ser visto como la cima de la falta de egoismo, pero yo lo veo como la cima de la estupidez. Tuve la oportunidad de hablar con un sheriff al que le mataron a la hija porque puso la seguridad y las propiedades de otra persona por sobre las de su familia. Mala eleccion, muy mala eleccion.
Si me tocara estar en una situacion como la de Mumbai con los mios, mi trabajo seria utilizar mis habilidades para sacarlos de ahi. Aquellos que no se prepararon estan por las suyas hasta que yo considere que los mios esten seguros. Si cincuenta pacifistas son masacrados porque yo opte por la seguridad de mi familia primero...y bue! deberian haber estado mejor preparados.
Ahora, si cualquier atacante se encuentra en medio de tu paso a la salida, podes apostar que deberas disparar para llegar a la salida. Si estoy solo, quiza haga algo diferente, pero mi familia esta primero que nada y que nadie. Asi deberia ser para vos tambien.

4- Si estuviera en el mismo centro del ataque cuando los malos empiezan a disparar, y estoy solo, atacaré . No porque sea lo mejor, sino porque es lo unico que se puede hacer. Que opciones tenes? Sugiero que hagas lo mismo. Y comprendé las implicaciones tácticas de "ATACAR". No quiere decir correr hacia ellos con un cuchillo en una mano y tu Glock en la otra dando alaridos de guerra. Si esa es tu idea de lo que significa atacar...Chabón! necesitar venir a alguna clase y actualizarte. ¿Cuantas veces trate el tema de tiros a larga distancia en el curso "terrorist interdiction course"? Atacar significa que pones las miras sobre el terrorista (en su cabeza en lo posible) y se la volas a sangre fria. Este es un escenario MUY diferente al tipico de defensa propia de un civil. No hay necesidad de ninguna advertencia, no hay que hacer nada previo, ni tampoco ninguna oportunidad de que se rinda.
Quiza EMBOSCADA sea un mejor término.

5- No veo la ventaja de esconderse y permitir que el evento se consolide mientras vos, el buen testigo, junta y pasa info. Quiza eso sea lo que las autoridades quieran que hagas, ya que beneficia a su mision. Pero TU mision es diferente.
Vi lo que pasa en un video de entrenamiento de Al Qaeda , y lo que pasa en cada evento donde ha habido tiradores terroristas activos organizados Ellos tienen un plan y una vez que les es posible consolidar sus fuerzas tus opciones son muy, muy limitadas.
Un ejemplo: ellos saben que estas bajo cobertura escondiendote, y se dan cuenta cuando o te ven en sus recorridas de seguridad o cuando le disparas a uno de ellos. Te ordenan salir. Vos los mandas a la mierda. Ellos agarran a una nenita y le vuelan la cabeza ahi mismo en frente tuyo y de su mamá. Cuando cae, agarran a otra. La madre ya no grita mas porque la desmayaron de un culatazo. Entonces te vuelven a decir que salgas mientras agarran a la hermanita y le ponen el cañon de un AK en la boca. Esto esta sacado directamente de su manual de instrucciones.

6- Algunos asumen que los malos estaran usando AKs. Creo que en Mumbai usaron AKs porque eso fue lo que consiguieron en pakistan. Uno de mis contactos -alguien que sabe bien- me comento que los rifles eran Ak del ejercito pakistani. Si hubieran conseguido G3s, eso hubieran usado.
Algunos creen que los AK te marcaran como el "malo". Creo que tener CUALQUIER rifle en tus manos hará eso en estos casos. Un dato interesante: Les pregunte a varios policias de esto y la verdad es que no pueden distinguir facilmente entre un FAL y un SKS. Un rifle es un rifle y una pistola es una pistola, hasta ahi llegamos.
Otro caso: Los terrroristas de Beltway, Malvo y Mohammed usaron un AR-15
Aparte, algunos policias estan tomando clases fuera de agenda con AKs. Las agencias que le permiten a su personal comprar su propio equipo, estan viendo mas y mas AKs en servicio. Especialmente los "Arsenal SLR" en .223.

7- Si el evento es el tipico solitario psicopata armado como el de Trolley square, Tacoma mall, etc. Podes esperar un razonablemente rapida respuesta de la policia (aunque de varios minutos en el mejor de los casos) Asi que la idea de levantar alguno de los rifles de los malos no sera ni necesario ni astuto. Si te encontras en medio de algo asi, estaras peleando con tu pistola, no con el rifle del malo, ni con el tuyo. No tendras tampoco tiempo para ir a buscarlo.
En un evento del tipo de Mumbai podes apostar que los tangos hayan preparado algo para retrasar a la policia, sean explosivos o tiradores externos (con los cuales tal vez debas lidiar) o alguna otra cosa. En ese caso, levantar un rifle de los malos es una opcion. Una opcion no libre de riesgos. Te da una mejor capacidad para abatir "tangos" que la te da tu pistola, pero en un evento como estos, cualquiera con un rifle puede ser confundido con un malo.

8-Se ha discutido mucho si los eventos en Mumbai fueron una practica o no. Esta actitud usualmente es vista entre quienes tienen su pensamiento centrado en los EEUU. No todo lo que pasa en el mundo tiene algo que ver con los EEUU. Esto fue una practica tanto como Pearl Harbor fue una practica para la invasion de las Filipinas.
El terror es visto por los terroristas como una herramienta y no un fin en si mismo. Hubo una razon para Beslan, para las Torres Gemelas, Madrid, etc. El terror crea miedo y se cae en la cuenta que las autoridades a cargo no pueden proteger a nadie. Esto traera como consecuencia una de dos: o la solidaridad contra el mal, como se ha visto en Israel, o el deseo de apaciguarlo, como se ve en Europa. El terror cuenta con esa mentalidad de apaciguamiento que desea rendirse al terrorismo, asi el terror se detendria.
Tambien apela a la naturaleza humana del odio, en este caso apela a los indios quienes diran: "Vean lo que pasa cuando nos hacemos amigos de los norteamericanos y los judios"
Y lo mismo podran decir "Ven? tampoco se puede confiar en Pakistan, siempre han sido y seran nuestros enemigos"
El fomento de esos sentimientos, su desarrollo y cultivo, los cuales pueden ser vistos estrategicamente como una ventaja por los jefes terroristas, es de lo que se trata Mumbai.
Aun asi, uno no puede ignorar que muchas de las victimas no darian ni un centavo por la politica exterior de EEUU, las alianzas de la India o la expancion del Islam y asi y todo fueron torturados y asesinados, especialmente si eran judios o estaounidenses.

Gabe Suarez
Traducido por Pablo T
Attached Images
Las armas son necesarias
Pero naides sabe cuando;
Ansina, si andas pasiando,
Y de noche sobre todo,
Debes llevarlo de modo
Que al salir, salga cortando.
Martín Fierro
24498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Capt. John Parker on: April 16, 2009, 10:09:11 AM
"Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here."

--Captain John Parker, commander of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts, on sighting British Troops (attributed), 19 April 1775
24499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Confucius say on: April 16, 2009, 12:27:17 AM
Confucius Says:



Man who scratch ass
Should not bite fingernails.


Man who eat many
Prunes get good run for money.


Baseball is wrong:
Man with four balls cannot walk.


War does not
Determine who is right, war determines who is


Wife who put
Husband in doghouse soon find him in


Man who fight with
Wife all day get no piece at night.


It take many nails
To build crib, but one screw to fill it.

*~*~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*

Man who drive like
Hell, bound to get there.


Man who live in
Glass house should change clothes in


=0 D

Man who fish in
Other man's well often catch crabs.


Crowded elevator
Smell different to midget.
24500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Indonesia on: April 15, 2009, 11:51:15 PM
Against a backdrop of Korean missile launches and violent protests in Thailand, those looking for a spot of calm in Asia may alight on an unlikely candidate: Indonesia. Largely peaceful parliamentary elections last week -- the third consecutive free elections since the end of Gen. Suharto's 32-year rule in 1998 -- reflect the strides made by a country that not so long ago was in danger of becoming a byword for chaos and random violence.

Most heartening of all has been the Indonesian electorate's affirmation of its legendary moderation. The top three parties in the incoming parliament -- President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democrat Party, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's left-leaning Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, and Suharto's former political machine, Golkar -- are all nonsectarian.

They stand for the country's founding ideology, the live-and-let-live doctrine of Pancasila, and draw their supporters from each of the country's five major faiths. Mr. Yudhoyono, known as the "gentle general" for his military past and avuncular manner, is the overwhelming favorite to win July's presidential election.

Islam-based parties saw their cumulative vote-share shrink to about 20% from 38% five years ago. Take the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) -- Indonesia's version of the Muslim Brotherhood -- which seeks to institute Shariah law. In the outgoing parliament, PKS and the Democrat Party were virtually tied; in the new parliament the president's party, which deftly stole PKS's signature issue, a promise of graft free governance, will seat about three times as many members.

Five years ago, when the Democrat Party won only 7% of the parliamentary vote, Mr. Yudhoyono was forced to rely on PKS support in parliament. This time around he can exclude PKS from the governing coalition and deny it the chance to grow under the umbrella of state power. Nevertheless, while PKS is down, it is still the fourth-largest party in parliament, thanks to the decline of other Islam-oriented parties. It controls several important governorships, including those of the populous provinces of West Java and North Sumatra.

In the short term, striking a deal with PKS may be expedient -- it's natural for any politician to eye the party's disciplined voter base. But in the long term, as the experience of Pakistan and Sudan shows, trucking with Islamists is a high-risk gamble. A pathbreaking new report by the Libforall Foundation, an anti-extremist nonprofit co-founded by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, notes that PKS continues its effort to infiltrate mainstream Islamic organizations, and to replace Indonesia's tolerant, homespun Islam with an arid import from the Middle East.

It will take much more than a single election to dent PKS's access to Saudi funding and its network of supportive mosques and madrassas, or to diminish the appeal for many newly educated Indonesians of its starkly utopian message: Islam is the solution.

Since it first burst into prominence five years ago, PKS has done little to dispel fears that it is the dark bloom at the heart of Indonesia's democratic flowering. Party leaders are outspoken supporters of Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group responsible for suicide bombing in Bali that killed hundreds. Last year, PKS piloted through parliament a harsh antipornography bill that legalizes vigilante violence and forces non-Islamic communities to conform to conservative Islamic norms.

The party's attitudes toward women's rights are captured by its obsession with dress codes and outspoken support for polygamy. In a country long famous for a pragmatic foreign policy, PKS makes emotive appeals to pan-Islamic causes such as Palestine. Among the party rank and file, 9/11 conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are rampant.

If Indonesia is to fulfill its potential as a moderate and modern Muslim-majority democracy, mainstream politicians must not make the mistake of legitimizing this party. In the short term, this means scotching rumors that the PKS may snag the vice-presidential spot on President Yudhoyono's ticket.

In the long term, it means recognizing the sobering reality that Indonesia's long struggle with radical Islam is not about to end any time soon. That struggle will be won not by embracing PKS, but by working to banish it to the margins of political life, where it belongs.

Mr. Dhume is a Washington-based writer and the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels With a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009).
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