Dog Brothers Public Forum

HOME | PUBLIC FORUM | MEMBERS FORUM | INSTRUCTORS FORUM | TRIBE FORUM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 31, 2016, 05:10:29 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
94987 Posts in 2312 Topics by 1081 Members
Latest Member: Martel
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 489 490 [491] 492 493 ... 736
24501  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Chistes, Bromas on: January 30, 2010, 08:31:28 PM
Las Dos Monjas Mexicanas:

Se van al Italia a ver al Papa.  No hablan italiano, pero los dos idiomas se parecen tanto que mas o menos pueden entender lo que se les diga los italianos.

Un dia una de las monjas pregunta por la hora a la otra.

"No se, mi reloj esta' descompuesto"
"Pues preguntale a esa italiana alli'"

Ella va a la italiana y con gestos de mano, pregunta por la hora.

La Italiana dice "Nove cinque" (9:05)

Regresa la monja a su hermana.

"Que te dijo la italiana?"

"Que no la moleste."

24502  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Video-Clips de DBMA en espanol on: January 30, 2010, 08:06:16 PM
Hola Gwen:

Primero, antes que nada, bienvenidos a nuestro foro  smiley

Segundo, disculpame el egoismo, pero lo que se ve en los clips es Dog Brother Martial Arts Kali.  cheesy

Tercero, cabe mencionar que los clips son gratis y que tambien vendemos cosas que , , , no son gratis smiley  Alli' vas a encontrar muchas respuestas a tus preguntas.

@Todos:

Va a tardar un rato la segunda edicion de DBMA clips en Espanol.  Nuestro editor esta' metido profundamente en nuestro proyecto de una pelicula.

Mientras tanto invito la participacion de todos en este foro.  Lo mas que se participen Uds, de mas utilidad sera' este foro para todos.

24503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: January 30, 2010, 07:42:07 PM
So, the answer to my question is "Yes" or "No"? smiley
24504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Deflation in Japan on: January 30, 2010, 04:08:28 PM
I am sympathetic to the notion that BO and his running dog progressives are following the Japanese strategy-- so lets take a look at Japan. 

The following article from Pravda on the Hudson, has much that is hideous economics, so caveat lector.

==================
TOKYO — The broiled meat is tender and the rice is silky-smooth. But as Japan’s economic recovery falters, beef bowls have come to symbolize one of its most pressing woes: deflation.


Shokuan, which has vending machines but no table service, is an inexpensive place to eat.

Japan’s big three beef bowl restaurant chains, the country’s answer to hamburger giants like McDonald’s, are in a price war. It is a sign, many people say, of the dire state of Japan’s economy that even dirt-cheap beef bowl restaurants must slash their already low prices to keep customers.

The battle has also come to epitomize a destructive pattern repeated across Japan’s economy. By cutting prices hastily and aggressively to attract consumers, critics say, restaurants decimate profits, squeeze workers’ pay and drive the weak out of business — a deflationary cycle that threatens the nation’s economy.

“These cutthroat price wars could usher in another recessionary hell,” the influential economist Noriko Hama wrote in a magazine article that has won much attention. “If we all got used to spending just 250 yen for every meal, then meals priced respectably will soon become too expensive,” she said. “When you buy something cheap, you lower the value of your own life.”

Deflation — defined as a decline in the prices of goods and services — is back in Japan as it struggles to shake off the effects of its worst recession since World War II.

While prices have fallen elsewhere during the global economic crisis, deflation has been the most persistent here: consumer prices among industrialized economies rose by a robust 1.3 percent in the year to November, but fell 1.9 percent in Japan.

In the decline, companies that undercut rivals too aggressively are being chastised as reckless at best, or as traitors undermining the country’s recovery at worst. Every markdown of beef bowl prices by the big three restaurants — Sukiya, Yoshinoya and Matsuya — has been promptly broadcast by the national news media here.

Japan has reason to be worried. Deflation hampered Japan from the mid-1990s, after the collapse of its bubble economy, to at least 2005. Households held back spending on big-ticket goods, knowing they would only get cheaper. Companies were unsure of how much to invest. At the time, the three beef bowl chains were in a similar price war.

Still, government officials back then emphasized the supposed benefits of deflation; falling prices were good for households, they said. Others said deflation would help restructure the economy by weeding out weak companies.

But the drawn-out deflationary cycle weighed heavily on Japan’s recovery. Apart from putting a damper on consumption and investment, asset deflation ravaged the country’s banks and shut out new businesses from credit.

Now that deflation is back, Japan is wary. Unemployment remains near record highs, and wages are falling. Mounting public debt is also a problem, causing Standard & Poor’s on Tuesday to cut its outlook for Japan’s sovereign rating for the first time since 2002. Japan must do more to lift its economy out of deflation and bolster long-term growth, S.& P. said.

Moreover, the population is shrinking, making demand inherently weak. Economists say Japan’s economy is saddled with a 35 trillion yen, or $388 billion, “demand gap,” or almost 7 percent of the country’s economic output.

“With supply continuing to exceed demand by a massive margin, deflationary expectations are proving very difficult to shake,” said Ryutaro Kono, an economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. “Households have been tightening their purse strings as the income outlook looks increasingly bleak, and we believe firms will continue to respond by lowering prices.”

Matsuya, the smallest of the three chains, set off the price war by cutting the price of its standard beef bowl to 320 yen, or $3.55, from 380 yen in early December. The market leader, Sukiya, followed suit that month, lowering its price to 280 yen, from 330 yen.

This month, the No. 2 beef bowl chain, Yoshinoya, lowered the price of its beef bowl to 300 yen, from 380 yen, though it says the cut is temporary. A smaller chain, Nakau, has also lowered prices.

The restaurant chains insist they have not downsized their portions, and will make up for cheaper prices by raising efficiency.

“We don’t consider this a price cut. We’ve simply set a new price,” said Naoki Fujita at Zensho, which runs the Sukiya chain. “With incomes falling, we needed to figure out what would be a reasonable price,” he said. “We hope customers who came every week will now come twice a week.”

===================

Page 2 of 2)



In a sense, the beef bowl has always been about low prices. Yoshinoya, the beef bowl pioneer with about 1,560 stores in Japan and overseas, helped bring beef to the Japanese working class with its first restaurant in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo in 1899.

Though beef was a delicacy at the time, Eikichi Matsuda, the Yoshinoya founder, kept prices cheap by buying in bulk, and serving as many customers as possible from his tiny stall. Speed and efficiency reigned, with workers trained to start preparing a bowl even before a customer sat down.
The same principles still apply at Yoshinoya. At a branch in central Tokyo, servers rarely take more than a minute to fill an order. The average customer spends just 7.5 minutes on a meal, and a small restaurant can serve more than 3,000 customers a day.

But forced to sell at ever-lower prices — and hurt by lower-priced competitors — making a profit has been increasingly difficult. The company suffered a 2.3 billion yen net loss in the nine months to November, and the next month, before Yoshinoya slashed prices, its sales slumped 22.2 percent. In contrast, sales at Sukiya, which serves up the cheapest beef bowl, surged 15.9 percent that month from the previous year.

Yoshinoya is not considering further price cuts. Squeezing out more savings is “like wringing a dry towel,” said a spokesman, Haruhiko Kizu.

Meanwhile, labor disputes at Sukiya show how falling prices and revenue can quickly hurt workers. A string of former workers have sued the chain over withholding overtime pay. Sukiya denies the accusations.

Other companies have been harshly criticized for slashing prices. Fast Retailing, the company behind the fast-growing Uniqlo brand, has garnered as much disapproval as awe for selling jeans as low as 990 yen. McDonald’s, on the other hand, has won kudos for resisting bargain basement prices by introducing a series of big “American-style” burgers for more than 400 yen, considered expensive in today’s Japan.

“Some Japanese companies are waging such reckless price wars, they’re wringing their own necks,” said Masamitsu Sakurai, who heads the influential business lobby Keizai Doyukai. “Companies need to be more creative. They should come up with products that add value.”

Economists say it is absurd to blame individual companies for Japan’s deflation. “For prices to fall during an economic downturn is natural. That stimulates demand and facilitates an eventual recovery,” said Takuji Aida, chief economist for UBS in Tokyo. “But this mechanism doesn’t work when there is such a big demand shortfall.”

“When prices fall because of an increase in productivity at a company, it’s good for the economy,” said Sean Yokota, an economist for UBS based in Tokyo. “It’s the demand gap that’s damaging.”

The government has vowed to lift household incomes through a series of subsidies, including new cash payments to families with small children. But the scale of government payments — 2.3 trillion yen in the case of the child subsidies — is hardly enough to fill the nation’s huge demand shortfall. With interest rates close to zero, Japan also has few options left in monetary policy.

In the meantime, cutthroat price battles are already driving laggards out of business. Wendy’s, the American burger chain, left Japan on Dec. 31.

It is not surprising, considering the competition. A mere stone’s throw from Tokyo’s celebrated Ginza district is Shokuan, the kind of restaurant that is undercutting everyone.

Shokuan, which has no chairs nor table service, is a cluster of beer vending machines huddled under the train tracks. A man behind a tiny counter sells dirt-cheap morsels: fish sausages for 50 yen, prawn crackers for 60 yen, canned yakitori for 160 yen. Many days of the week, Shokuan is spilling over with customers.

“I don’t think there’s anything around here cheaper than this. That’s why I started to come,” said Yasunori Miura, a manufacturing company employee and a recent regular. “This here,” he said, pointing to his fish sausage, “is deflation.”
24505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: January 30, 2010, 09:22:40 AM
Question:  Contrasting a base at home or a safe base abroad; does the balance change the closer one gets to combat zones/the front lines?  Would you want to have a NCO who thought you had a cute butt and wanted you to polish his rifle deciding whether you had to take extra risky missions?
24506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: January 30, 2010, 09:19:10 AM
With our accumulating and seemingly accelerating economic, political, and military weakness there is going to be more and more of this.

My guess is that BO looks for an exit from Afpakia, he has already committed to an exit from Iraq, Iran will get the bomb, and Russia already retakes the Ukraine (and prepares Georgia) and the confidence of the Poles and the Czechs in our work is minimal.  Seeing this Turkey will not place much value on our friendship.

But I digress-- this thread is about China.  On our current path, China is preparing to retake Taiwan.
24507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat's take on the same piece on: January 29, 2010, 11:44:42 PM
China's Planned Evolution of Naval Capabilities
THE CHINA INTERNET INFORMATION CENTER, an online outlet for news and information run by the Chinese central government, published a commentary on Thursday discussing China’s right to build overseas bases to support naval operations and protect Chinese interests abroad. The article, written by Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies executive dean Shen Dingli, is a response to debates inside China and abroad over whether Beijing should establish naval bases, supply depots and related facilities overseas to support China’s naval participation in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, and ultimately defend China’s broader maritime interests.

The article comes a day after Captain Chris Chambers, director of operations for the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which jointly heads the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) working group that helps coordinate multinational anti-piracy operations off of the Somali coast, told a conference in Singapore that China would soon be enhancing its participation in SHADE, and would take on the rotating leadership role in the working group in a few months. Currently SHADE leadership rotates between the CMF and European Union maritime forces and coordinates operations among these and other independent anti-piracy forces in the area.

China will be the first nation participating in the anti-piracy operations to take a leadership role in SHADE, and will expand its naval contribution above its current three-ship task force and take responsibility for patrolling an area with more active piracy. The expansion of China’s contributions and coordinating role are currently awaiting final approval in Beijing, and the extended mission is raising the discussion of a resupply base in the Indian Ocean basin to ease logistics for maintaining China’s fleet. China has kept an anti-piracy task force in the area since December 2008 and has not indicated it is leaving anytime soon. This makes a more local supply depot something that would ease the logistical burden of maintaining the small fleet so far from mainland China.

“The idea of Chinese bases abroad, particularly in the Indian Ocean, immediately raises concerns that China is growing more active and aggressive in its naval activities.”

Beijing has used the anti-piracy operations to demonstrate its growing participation in international operations and develop capabilities to deploy Chinese naval forces far from home for an extended period of time. A natural outgrowth of this is the discussion of establishing overseas naval bases, or at least arranging docking and resupply agreements at other countries’ ports to sustain Chinese maritime operations. But the idea of Chinese bases abroad, particularly in the Indian Ocean, immediately raises concerns in India and elsewhere that China is growing more active and aggressive in its naval activities.

In some sense, these perceptions are accurate, at least so far as China’s planned evolution of capabilities are concerned. China’s economic growth has led to a major shift in the country’s resource needs. China now imports large amounts of raw materials, including oil and minerals, from the Middle East and Africa. As China grows more dependent upon the steady flow of these supplies, it has also grown concerned about the security of its supply lines.

China has long been a land power and its forays into international waters have been few and far between, despite a series of explorations along the Indian and African coasts in the 15th century. Redesigning and training its navy to take a more active role in maritime security is now a major focus of its recent military reforms and a key area is the ability to protect one of its main supply arteries through the Indian Ocean. Beijing has been cautious in this task as it faces opposition from India and the United States, both of which have a much stronger and more secure presence in the region, and both of which have little interest in seeing China significantly expand its naval capabilities.

The anti-piracy operations have given Beijing the perfect opportunity to test and refine its capabilities in a non-threatening manner, and talk of resupply bases — and thus a more permanent Chinese naval presence — is something Beijing is considering carefully but seriously. China is years, if not decades, away from having the ability to sustain a true blue water naval capability and even further from being able to truly challenge U.S. maritime dominance, but each step Beijing takes gives it the skills and experience necessary to make the next move forward. Taking a leadership role in SHADE also gives China a valuable opportunity to observe and learn the protocols and operations of other nations’ fleets — lessons it can apply to its own operations.

Beijing may be far from floating a blue water navy in any sustainable way, but China has recognized the vulnerability of its dependence on overseas resources and is actively working to improve its ability to protect its own supply lines. But when these lines match those of others with equal or even more severe dependencies, like Japan, or pass through competitor’s areas of strategic interest, like India or the United States, even a defensive intent can be perceived as potentially aggressive preparation or action. It is this sort of perception of capabilities that can quickly escalate into competition or an arms race and keep tensions high. It also creates room for misunderstandings and accidents — as we have already seen in China’s more active operations in the South China Sea, and in the U.S. moves to temper Beijing’s advances.
24508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gays in the military on: January 29, 2010, 12:57:34 PM
Woof All:

I see that our CinC has proposed ending "Don't ask, don't tell" and allowing open gays in the military.

Although I am opinionated, as a lifelong civilian I must be humble here.  Thoughts from our military friends especially appreciated.

Lets kick things off with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkt1vAX0MRM
24509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Surveillance cameras on: January 29, 2010, 12:19:33 PM
From a thread started by our friend Cold War Scout on another forum:

Surveillance Cameras: How Does the Operator Contend With Them?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I am posting this article because it is an example of the informal network of video cameras that exists out there in urban areas. It does not matter whether you like surveillance cameras or not, they are out there. Any police department worth its salt has figured out what level of connectivity exists out there which they can use as the basis for trying to determine a suspect's movements to/from a crime scene. Sometimes this allows for determining which vehicle a suspect ultimately got into (e.g. a parking lot) because the "network" only needs to track you to a point where an indentification can be established.

Ergo, when you talk about throw downs and throw aways, or smoking a dirtbag and simply fleeing, keep in mind that you could have the effectiveness of this informal network hanging over your head.


Police capture student's accused rapist
Scott McCabe
Examiner Staff Writer
January 28, 2010
Montgomery County police arrested a man accused of the sexual assault of a 19-year-old student, capping off a five-hour manhunt and the temporary lockdown of Montgomery College's Takoma Park campus. Nathaniel L. Hart, 34, was charged with two counts of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense and attempting to escape after arrest. Authorities shut down the campus around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after a student reported that she had been raped in the bathroom of the performing arts center.Video footage led police to the Days Inn in Silver Spring, where they arrested Hart after officers noticed an open door of a room that hotel management said had been vacant.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/crime/Police-capture-student_s-accused-rapist-82808167.html#ixzz0e0wRBqqb
============

You might be well served right now to try and figure out where cameras are located in the areas you frequent and whether/how it is possible to avoid them (e.g. shopping centers, malls, traffic cameras on the main road outside your house).

There is a reason why talented bandits where layers of clothing. Police are looking for a man with a long sleeve blue flannel shirt, but bandit has pulled that off, thrown it away, and is now down to maybe long sleeve (or short sleeve) gray t-shirt. Same with pants. What started out as gray fleece sweat pants may wind up as blue jeans.

Hoodies and watch caps can be worth their weight in gold. Especially if you have flaming red hair or a Mohawk. Hoodies also seriously cut down the available angles and lighting in photo enhancements.

Is the logo on your jacket or shirt very distinctive or memorable? It might be to witnesses or a camera enhancement as well.

Are you driving a flaming red Hummer (or one of those yellow ones I see so many of)?

Wearing distinctive boots with a distinctive print? Running across a muddy field to your car?

So what thoughts come to YOUR mind as/if you need to successfully urban E and E?
===========

We put in a lot of these systems.

The factors that affect their usefulness for both actionable and forensic intel are:

1. Are the systems properly monitored?
2. Are they maintained?
3. Are they cohesive systems - ie all on one media server?
4. Do they store the video? Many places just store one day or not at all.
5. Do they have active detection software running? ( ie looks for a stopped car?)

Most university campuses have one system and its easy to put all cameras of interest on one pane of glass and then roll forward from a point in time. Universities are pretty good at 1-4. If they have a Dispatch/Security team looking at the systems actively, then they can respond pretty quick.

Many government agencies from airports to towns are not very good at 1-4. If they do 1-4 internally, then the chance is greater that the system is subpar - if they contract out the work of 1-4 then there is a greater chance its pretty good.

You could always slop some material on a camera and then come back a week later to see if they have cleaned it. If not, then the system is probably not a good one.

Public transit is the worst environment for tracking people. Most systems are not integrated because they are so big and there are too many people and they then dissappear into the urban environment.

Many urban roads have an ITS ( Intelligent Transportation System) running which has #5 - that detects stalled vehicles and some types of debris. Some will detect people on the road, too. Some campuses and other installations will detect movement as well.

If you had to do something specific, then you can create blind spots a few days before by disabling the systems in a random matter to reduce focus on your area of interest. You can use lasers or high power LED lights to disable the cameras in real time but would need to test this before hand on models under your control. Some cameras are wireless and you can jam their signals. Others will PTZ ( Pan-Tilt-Zoom) on movement.

These systems are not the all-seeing eyes.
=================

24510  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Master done on: January 29, 2010, 11:27:37 AM
After much misadventure (wife sick over the holidays, editor sick for a goodly part of January, etc.) the master disc for DLO 3 is now at long last finally DONE.  Today we choose a picture for the cover and I write the copy for the back.  We are getting very close , , ,
24511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: January 29, 2010, 11:11:12 AM
See my post today on the "Fascism, Liberal Fascism" thread.
24512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Little Rock AK attack by AQAP? on: January 29, 2010, 11:09:40 AM
On Jan. 12, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (aka Carlos Bledsoe), the man who allegedly shot and killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another outside a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting center in June 2009, wrote a letter to the judge in his case admitting his guilt and requesting to change his plea from innocent to guilty. In the letter, Muhammad also said he has ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and that he is part of “Abu Basir’s Army.” (Abu Basir is the honorific name, or kunya, for Nasir al-Wahayshi, the current leader of AQAP.)

If his claims are true — which is entirely possible — this is yet another example of AQAP striking targets far from Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

A Tennessee native and recent convert to Islam, Muhammad left Tennessee State University in September 2007 to travel to Yemen to learn Arabic and teach English. He was arrested in the southern Yemen city of Aden in November 2008 for overstaying his visa and was subsequently deported back to the United States months prior to the Arkansas attack.

Judging from Muhammad’s statement — which also claims, “this was [a] jihadi[st] attack on infidel forces that didn’t go as plan[ned]” — he appears to be a militant who undertook the type of “simple attack” that al-Wahayshi called for in late October 2009 — shortly before the Fort Hood shooting. In the analysis STRATFOR wrote on al-Wahayshi’s call for simple attacks (which was published the day before the Fort Hood shooting) we discussed the Little Rock shooting as an example of how easy as it is to conduct simple attacks using firearms.

It is also important to remember that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the failed Christmas Day 2009 airline bombing, also was linked to AQAP. That attack demonstrated AQAP’s interest in targeting the United States, further supporting the premise that Muhammad could be linked to the group.

Considering the timing of the attacks and documented links between Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric who has been linked to AQAP, it will be even more important for the government to attempt to determine if both Hasan and Abdulmutallab were also a part of “Abu Basir’s army.”
24513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Burqa bans coming? on: January 29, 2010, 11:02:37 AM
Summary
French proposals for a burqa ban have been echoed in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. The proposed bans, which come at a time of economic uncertainty, are popular across the European political spectrum. While such a ban would affect a very small minority of Muslims in continental Europe, it could spark Muslim ire in Europe and abroad.

Analysis
German politicians from across the political spectrum called Jan. 28 for a French-styled ban on the Muslim face veil known as the niqab. The calls come just days after a Jan. 26 French parliamentary commission ruling in favor of a ban on the burqa, a garment that covers the entire body; the French ban also forbids wearing the niqab in public institutions. Voices in the governments of Italy and Denmark are joining calls for a similar ban, with Italian Minister for Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna saying Jan. 27 that she was in absolute agreement with the French initiative, which she said will encourage other European countries to legislate on the issue.

A small minority of Muslim women in Europe wear the niqab, and even smaller minority wears the burqa. Even so, the ban is becoming a symbol of the opposition to what is seen as excessive Muslim immigration to Europe.

Calls for a “burqa ban” are not new in France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked parliament to form a commission to consider the issue in June 2009, and the topic has been debated for years. With the negative consequences of the economic crisis in full swing across Europe and with regional elections scheduled for March in France, the burqa ban has returned to the forefront.

Calls for such a ban represent an easy way to score political points during a time when Europeans are worried about job and economic security, which explains why the debate in France has so quickly traveled to other European states. They follow the recent ban in Switzerland on the building of minarets, which was also picked up across Europe by various right-wing politicians as a useful way to score political points.

Burqa bans also appeal to the left, however. The left often sees the burqa and the niqab as an affront to women’s rights and personal dignity. In Germany, for example, the liberal Free Democratic Party, part of the current ruling coalition, favors some sort of a ban.

More broadly, widespread calls for policies like the burqa ban underlie growing native European resentment against Muslim immigrants. These resentments historically have become more intense and more accepted during times of economic crises — like the one under way in Europe.

How Muslims inside and outside Europe react to the growing resentment of Muslims within Europe remains an open question. The 2005 Danish cartoon controversy taught that such sensitive matters can whip up antagonism throughout the Muslim world. So far, the burqa ban debate has not had such an effect on Europe’s Muslim population, but a widespread European campaign to ban the niqab — which is more common than the burqa — could be interpreted as widespread anti-Muslim discrimination and invite a violent reaction in Europe and abroad. A possible mitigating factor is that while there was little argument among Muslims regarding the offensiveness of the cartoons caricaturing the prophet, many in the Muslim community — especially the European Muslim community — do oppose the niqab and burqa.
24514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran on: January 29, 2010, 10:58:52 AM
second post

Iran’s To-Do List
WITH JUST A LITTLE UNDER TWO MONTHS to go before post-Baathist Iraq holds its second round of elections, Iraq’s Sunnis are being pushed into an all-too-familiar corner by Iran’s political allies in Baghdad. A Shiite-led government commission in Iraq is currently examining a list of 511 Sunni politicians who, depending on the commission’s final decision, could be deemed too Baathist to be considered eligible to participate in the elections. Meanwhile, in the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf, the provincial council has ordered the expulsion of Sunni Baathists from the city. Any remaining Baathists, according to the local council, would face “an iron hand.”

This is quite disconcerting for the United States. The last time Iraq’s Shiite faction attempted to cut Iraq’s Sunnis out of the political process was in 2003 under a highly controversial debaathification policy that essentially drove the Sunnis toward insurgency as a means of regaining political power. At that time, the Iranians had a golden opportunity at hand: the fall of Saddam Hussein meant the door was wide open for Iran to establish a Shiite foothold in the heart of the Arab world. After initially facilitating the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Tehran spent the next several years working on locking down Shiite influence in Baghdad. Iran did so with the help of its political, intelligence, economic and militant assets, but was also greatly aided by the nuclear bogeyman.

Throughout the Iraq war, STRATFOR watched as Iran used its nuclear program as a bargaining chip with the United States to consolidate influence over Iraq. This isn’t to say that the Iranians were never seriously interested in a nuclear weapons program. Indeed, such a program would be a welcome insurance policy and status symbol for the Iranian regime. But Iran’s nuclear ambitions ranked second on its priority list. Iran’s primary goal was always Iraq, Iran’s historic rival.

“By creating a nightmare scenario for the United States in Iraq, Iran effectively multiplies the value of its cooperation to Washington.”
Roughly seven years later, Iran is now ready to move down that list of priorities. In the weeks leading up to the Iraqi elections, STRATFOR has seen our forecast of Iran’s power consolidation in Iraq come to fruition. The Iranian incursion and seizure of the al Fakkah oil well in southern Iraq was the first warning shot to the United States, followed by some very obvious signs that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki — long known for keeping his distance from Tehran -– was beginning to align with Iran’s political allies in Baghdad. In a diplomatic slap to Washington’s face, al Maliki’s spokesman Ali al Dabbagh said Tuesday that U.S. attempts to intervene in the Iraqi political process to save a place for the Sunnis in the government would “not achieve anything.” The message Tehran is telegraphing to Washington is clear: Iran –- not the United States — holds the upper hand in Iraq.

With Iraq under its belt, Iran can now afford to focus on its next objective: nuclear weapons. But this particular agenda item carries a load of complications for Tehran, the most obvious of which is the threat of a pre-emptive U.S./Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.

In a shifting of priorities, Iran is now effectively using Iraq as a bargaining chip with the United States in its nuclear negotiations. Iran can see how desperately the United States needs to disengage from Iraq to tend to other issues. The threat of a major Sunni insurgency revival could run a good chance of throwing those withdrawal plans off course. Iran can also see how the United States, with its military focus now on Afghanistan, is no longer in a position to provide the same security guarantees to the Sunnis as it could at the height of the 2007 surge. Therefore, by creating a nightmare scenario for the United States in Iraq, Iran effectively multiplies the value of its cooperation to Washington.

As intended, this leverage will prove quite useful to Tehran in its current nuclear tango with the United States. If the United States wants to avoid a major conflagration in Iraq, then, according to Iran’s agenda, Washington is going to have to meet Tehran’s terms on the nuclear issue and give serious pause to any plans for military action. Iran has already made this clear by officially rejecting the West’s latest proposal to remove the bulk of its low-enriched uranium abroad. Some might call this defiance, others might call it overconfidence, but at its core, this is a negotiation and Iran still holds a lot of cards.
24515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: January 29, 2010, 10:55:48 AM
Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton: Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs
                                    under Bush:  Henry Paulsen of Goldman Sachs
                                    under BO:  Timothy Geithner of Goldman Sachs

From a recent email conversation:

"The real reason that AIG was bailed out was very simple.  All Swap sellers had special terms in their contracts that could be adverse to the Wall Street buyers.  AIG did not have these terms in their agreements at the "request" of Goldman Sacs.  Goldman ran all their Swaps through AIG.  And that is.............the rest of the story."

"I am sorry-- this went over my head a bit.  May I ask you to flesh this out?"

"I have to find the original article again, but here is the essence of it:

"Goldman Sachs demanded that one condition be placed in their Swaps that other firms did not demand.  As a result, Goldman used AIG most of the time.  If AIG had failed, then Goldman could never collect on the Swaps.  As well, when GS securitized loans, there were hundreds of millions of dollars in each pool.  Some went over one billion. The loans were sold to the investors, mutual funds, hedge funds, etc. These loans were headed for failure from Day One.
GS, after selling the loans, immediately took out Swaps on these pools.  They did not have to own the pools or loans to take out a SWAP.  I could even do it.  GS knew the loans would fail, so they took out the Swaps, betting against the loans and knowing that they would make significant amounts of money when the loans failed. GS would buy a Swap, say $20m, and then they would at times sell the Swap to other buyers.......for $40m.  Other times, they kept it, based upon the Pool.  GS was the biggest crook in all of this.  It was criminal what they did.  Yet Timmie and Paulie are covering for them.

"This will eventually come out, in about a decade or so.  Someone will write the definitive book on this. I would, but I would need someone from the Securitization side who understands this part much better than I do.  Actually, I have guy in mind who could do that.  He was former FDIC in the S&L crisis, and led the response team to bailing out banks then.  I am working with him on another project and it might be something to team up with him on the book."               
24516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USMC Sgt Proietto on: January 29, 2010, 10:45:02 AM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Marine Corps MGySgt Peter Proietto
United States Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Proietto was serving in Afghanistan when, on March 12, 2003, his patrol was ambushed by Taliban fighters. As the other Marines in the forward element of the patrol sought cover, Proietto stayed in position -- exposed to enemy fire though he was -- in order to provide suppressive fire for the protection of his comrades.


ProiettoAs the firefight continued, Proietto bravely stayed at the machine gun atop his unarmored vehicle on an open road. The Team Sergeant advised him to leave that position for cover, but he stayed and fired on the enemy for almost an hour until he ran out of ammunition. When the ammunition was gone, he grabbed his M4 carbine and continued to engage the enemy. Soon, the Taliban were pushed from their positions. For his actions, Proietto received the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor. His citation says he "displayed himself in a courageous professional manner and his heroic and immediate response to enemy fire and willingness to jeopardize his own safety to provide supporting fire for the rest of the team demonstrated a level of dedication to the mission and his fellow soldiers, which is rarely surpassed."
24517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia-Georgia on: January 29, 2010, 08:55:35 AM
January 27, 2010 | 2219 GMT



JACQUESCOLLET/AFP/Getty Images
Zurab Nogaideli in July 2006The leader of Georgian opposition party the Movement for a Fair Georgia, former Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, said Jan. 26 that his party would like to form a partnership with United Russia, the ruling party in Russia led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Nogaideli stated that “previous experience has shown that this kind of cooperation works,” adding that his recent visits to Moscow resulted in the release of detained Georgian teenagers from the breakaway region of South Ossetia as well as a resumption of civilian flights between Georgia and Russia.

Nogaideli’s proposal is indicative of a growing movement within the Georgian opposition that favors a more pragmatic and workable relationship with Russia than the strongly pro-Western and anti-Russian stance of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. While Saakashvili has grown increasingly unpopular among the Georgian public ever since the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war, the country’s opposition has been largely fractured, split between 14 or more parties unable to pose a united front against Saakashvili. That may now be changing, as significant elements of the opposition have seen the writing on the wall in Ukraine and have begun to rally around Nogaideli and his proven record of being able to work with the Russians.

A partnership between the Georgian opposition and the Russian ruling party, by far the most dominant political force in Russia, would be an unprecedented move. While United Russia has yet to respond officially to Nogaideli’s request, the very fact that it was made undoubtedly is pleasing to Moscow (and unpleasant to Saaskashvili). There will be much to discuss on Nogaideli’s upcoming trip to Moscow to meet with Putin in February.
24518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pension funds leveraging bonds? on: January 29, 2010, 08:09:24 AM
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/01/state-of-wisconsin-goes-insane-with.html

This sounds really unpromising , , ,
24519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, 1790; Justice Joseph Story on: January 29, 2010, 07:57:45 AM
"[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous." --George Washington, letter to Steptoe Washington, 1790

"The duty imposed upon him to take care, that the laws be faithfully executed, follows out the strong injunctions of his oath of office, that he will 'preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.' The great object of the executive department is to accomplish this purpose; and without it, be the form of government whatever it may, it will be utterly worthless for offence, or defence; for the redress of grievances, or the protection of rights; for the happiness, or good order, or safety of the people." --Justice Joseph Story
24520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany and Iran on: January 28, 2010, 11:22:07 PM
Obama Silent on Iran, Merkel Picks up the Slack
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA presented the nation with his first ever State of the Union address on Wednesday. The speech focused almost entirely on domestic affairs, revealing the world’s sole superpower to be wholly engrossed in domestic politics and economic concerns. Barely one out of the approximately 16 and a half pages of the address looked beyond U.S. shores. There were no profound challenges to U.S. rivals as we have seen in previous speeches.

Geopolitically speaking, a global hegemon preoccupied with domestic concerns is significant in and of itself. Simply put, it means that its challengers can take note of the acrimonious political debates on the home front and hope to catch America distracted on a number of global issues. One such front is Iran, where the United States is engaged with its Western allies in trying to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. There was barely a mention of Iran in Obama’s State of the Union, aside from a fleeting reference to “growing consequences.” But this does not mean that Wednesday carried no developments on the issue of Iranian nuclear ambition; it just means that they did not occur in Washington.

We therefore turn to Berlin where German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her most forceful statement to date on the question of sanctions against the Iranian regime. Standing next to Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday, Merkel said, “Iran’s time is up. It is now time to discuss widespread international sanctions. We have shown much patience and that patience is up.”

Tehran responded to the change in tone almost immediately, issuing a statement through the Iranian Deputy Minister of Intelligence on Wednesday that claimed that two German diplomats were involved in the December Ashura anti-government protests in Iran and were promptly arrested. The statement further alluded that “Western intelligence networks” were responsible for the protests. This leads one to wonder if Tehran was publicly linking the protests and covert activity on the part of the German government.

The spat between Iran and Germany makes for some interesting geopolitical drama. First, Germany’s relationship with Iran is not a recent phenomenon. Historically, Germany has always felt more comfortable expanding via the continental route. For example, it attempted to use the Berlin-Istanbul-Baghdad-Tehran path to compensate for its inability to break through the Skagerrak Strait and into the Atlantic due to the presence of the British navy. Furthermore, arriving late to the colonial game, Germany looked to expand its influence in the Ottoman and Persian territories where local rulers saw Berlin as a benign European power due to its status as the challenger nation.

“The spat between Iran and Germany makes for some interesting geopolitical drama.”
Fast forward to today. Tehran has relied on Germany as one of its most consistent supporters in the West. German businesses, particularly in the heavy industrial sector, exported nearly $6 billion worth of goods in 2008, a marked increase from barely $1 billion in 2000, especially considering the worsening relations between Tehran and the rest of the West’s powers. While trade with Iran only makes up around 0.4 percent of total German exports — on par with Berlin’s exports to Slovenia — industrial giants such as ThyssenKrupp and Siemens do a lot of business with Tehran, particularly in the steel pipe sector. Exports of steel pipe to Iran make up a sizable 18 percent of total global German exports of that particular sector and are valued at around $400 million, a sum Germany cannot ignore amidst rising unemployment and uncertain economic times.

As such, Germany has repeatedly looked to avoid cracking down on Tehran, keeping sanctions language constrained to the United Nations arena where it is clear that no progress can be made without a change in Russian and Chinese positions. However, Merkel’s comments seem to suggest that change may actually be afoot. This is particularly true when one puts them in the context of the announcement from Siemens on Wednesday that it plans to cut future trade relations with Iran, and by Hamburg-based ports company HHLA that it will cancel its planned agreement to modernize Iran’s Bandar-Abbas port. It should be noted that both companies have close ties to the German state.

To explain Germany’s change in tone we can point to two factors. One is increased pressure from the United States. STRATFOR sources have reported that German banks were facing up to $1 billion in fines from the United States for doing business with Iran. German banks — which are already hurting from the economic crisis and are almost certain to experience more pain in 2010 — are key in financing German exporters. A crackdown on their operations would have effectively forced them to stop providing credit to any business intending to export to Tehran. The second pressure came from Israel, whose intelligence services have close ties to German intelligence services, and whose entire Cabinet held a joint session with German intelligence officials last week. President Peres also came to Berlin to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, not the time for Berlin to eschew cracking down on Tehran’s Holocaust-denying government. The image of modern Germany being a friend to the state of Israel is very important to Berlin.

Merkel may have ultimately decided that with the elections in Germany behind her, the time to protect businesses in the face of American and Israeli pressure was over. On the other hand, she may have calculated that changing her tone on Iran would save German businesses that export to Tehran because the United States would then not crack down on banks that deal with export financing.

Whatever Berlin’s reasoning may be, it is important for us to determine whether it is merely a change in tone or a concrete change of policy. It is therefore going to require a careful study of Berlin’s moves in the coming weeks as the approaching February deadline — set by the international community for Tehran to comply with demands on its nuclear program — reveals just how serious Merkel is and whether she is willing to impose sanctions against Iran without a U.N. agreement. If Germany is serious about enforcing sanctions against Iran, it will place concrete pressure on Tehran, the kind of pressure that an entire U.S. State of the Union address dedicated to the Iranian nuclear program would not have been able to bear.
24521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A thought piece on: January 28, 2010, 04:46:18 PM
 
http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/25/recession-economy-government-monetary-opinions-columnists-wesbury-stein.html
 
 
Broke? Blame The Government
 
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein, 01.26.10, 12:01 AM EST
The private financial system didn't cause the recession.
  
Last week President Obama announced a new set of policies to deal with financial institutions that are "too big to fail." While a debate about too-big-to-fail institutions and policy is important, a more critical set of issues is being ignored.

First the Federal Reserve should have followed a rule for monetary policy, such as using the growth rate of nominal gross domestic product to guide short-term rates, or a gold standard, or the Taylor rule. If they had, the federal funds rate never would have been cut to 1% in 2003 and housing over-investment would have been either nonexistent or much less damaging.

Second, if mark-to-market accounting rules had not been re-instituted in late 2007, loan problems would have never spread as far or as fast as they eventually did in 2008. Mark-to-market accounting rules are pro-cyclical in the extreme--there is a reason FDR got rid of them in 1938. These accounting rules--which require banks to price assets to illiquid market bids, even when cash-flows are unimpeded--turn a problem in the financial system into a catastrophe.

The banking crisis of the early 1980s, also largely created by easy Fed policy, had more loan losses than the beginning of the 2007-08 crisis. Adding the early '80s bad debts in agriculture, oil and Latin America to those of the Savings & Loan Industry created bank losses of roughly 6% of GDP. Subprime and Alt-A loan losses in 2007 were roughly 4% of GDP. But once mark-to-market accounting started to accelerate, even those smaller losses undermined confidence and created a vicious feedback loop which put the system in jeopardy. While some argue that it is too-big-to-fail institutions that create systemic risk, it's really misapplied government action and policy that creates this risk.

Government action and reaction is why a large (but nonlethal) set of banking losses spread so rapidly and turned into the Panic of 2008.

Instead of suspending mark-to-market accounting rules in 2008 the Fed, Treasury, SEC and FDIC arbitrarily saved certain firms while allowing others to fail. The crisis accelerated after Lehman Brothers ( LEHMQ - news - people ) collapsed, which then led to more government bailouts. Instead of allowing banks to value loans using cash-flow, the government forced these loans to be priced to illiquid market prices. When this put institutions in technical violation of arbitrary capital requirements, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson forced these banks to swallow TARP money and accept government ownership.

 
Many conservatives, who profess to believe in free markets, supported these government actions. In a de facto sense this support for government bailouts created a vacuum in Washington. People say, "If conservative Republicans supported emergency bank bailouts, then John Maynard Keynes must have been right. The free market system is inherently unstable. We need the government to save us from the animal spirit of greed." There are few left to defend free markets.

But Keynes wasn't right. It was government that caused the Panic of 2008, not the private financial system. If government had run a stable monetary policy and hadn't artificially boosted housing or enforced a dumb accounting rule, the Panic of 2008 would not have happened. Unfortunately, many leading conservatives do not see the world this way. They panicked in 2008 and supported government bailouts. This leaves them with little firm ground to stand on when debating the merits of more government action against banks.

With any luck, creative politicians can figure out how to circumvent this political stumbling block and focus on fixing the real problems of the financial crisis. Following a price rule for monetary policy would minimize the potential for bubbles, while suspending mark-to-market accounting would end the potential of a crisis spinning completely out of control.

Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly columnfor Forbes. Brian S. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.

 
 
24522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fannie and Freddie on: January 28, 2010, 01:25:11 PM
The Congressional Budget Office has lopped $20 billion off its estimate of the cost of keeping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac afloat for the next decade—to a mere $79 billion. That will have to pass for good news, even if the estimate comes loaded with caveats. The bigger story is why the White House continues to keep these wards of the state off-budget.

As the CBO notes in a recent background paper, the standards for when to include government-sponsored entities in the budget go back to the 1960s, when a Presidential commission laid out a set of questions.

To wit: "Who owns the agency?" (In the case of Fan and Fred, taxpayers.) "Who supplies its capital?" (Taxpayers.) "Who selects its managers?" (The federal government.) And finally, "Do the Congress and the President have control over the agency's program and budget, or are the agency's policies the responsibility of the Congress or the President only in some broad ultimate sense?" (The feds have control in every sense.)

Since Hank Paulson placed them in conservatorship in September 2008, Fan and Fred have stopped even pretending to be run for profit. Losses have mounted accordingly: Some $291 billion for taxpayers through 2009, $48 billion for the cost of new business in 2009 alone, and $21 billion more this year. Last August, CBO estimated the 10-year cost to taxpayers of keeping Fannie and Freddie afloat at $389 billion.

Yesterday's estimate reduces that by some 5%, but this assumes the companies will stabilize at a loss rate of nearly $8 billion a year on average over the next decade. CBO bases its projection on an expectation that the housing market will "normalize" as the recession ends. However, there is no more normal in a housing market that now depends almost entirely on government subsidies. The full cost of subsidizing mortgages via Fannie and Freddie, the FHA and Ginnie Mae remains hidden and off the official balance sheet, so there is little political pressure to stop the losses.

As the CBO notes, Fannie and Freddie "purchase mortgages at above-market prices," driving down interest rates and passing some of the savings to home buyers. That subsidy is felt right away, but the risks in providing it are stored up over time, and their real costs may not be felt for years or even decades—as was the case in the years leading up to their spectacular collapse in 2008.

Yet this is precisely the fiction that the Obama Administration seeks to preserve by keeping the cost of Fan and Fred off the government's books. The Administration's budget accounting assumes Fannie and Freddie are private companies. So under its preferred treatment, the only recognized cost to taxpayers is the money that is being pumped in to keep them afloat—$110 billion so far.

That's plenty as it is, but in the wake of their government takeover, there is no justification for pretending that their risks aren't taxpayer risks. This is all the more true with the likes of New York Senator Chuck Schumer giving the companies marching orders to rescue tenants in the Stuyvesant Town development in Manhattan.

We suspect the real reason the White House wants Fan and Fred off budget is to disguise their real costs to taxpayers. They have become off-the-books subsidy engines for the housing lobby, and it is easier to push off the recognition of their losses to some future Administration and Congress rather than pay for them today. The new age of transparency has once again died aborning.
24523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SoCal Kaiser votes out SEIU on: January 28, 2010, 01:09:56 PM
The LA Times reports today that Kaiser Permanente health care workers have voted themselves out of SEIU by a 6 to 1 margin.  They are aligning with a break-away faction National Union of Health Care Workers.
24524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 27, 2010, 10:08:32 PM
I remember how the Reagan rate cuts were phased in over three year.  Laffer predicted huge growth kicking in as the final lowest rate kicked in.  Monetarist Milt Friedman, reading his monetary tea leaves predicted quite the contrary.  Laffer was proven right. 

I think his analysis is dead on here unless BO dramatically reverses course.
24525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: January 27, 2010, 08:51:25 AM
Yes.

As I am sure you already know, the real reason a big deal is made of this though is part of the deep plan to subvert US C'l gun rights via international treaty.
24526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US teams and intel deeply involved on: January 27, 2010, 08:49:41 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604239_pf.html
24527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Artillery fire exchanged on: January 27, 2010, 08:38:26 AM

http://alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/TOE60Q019.htm
24528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: January 27, 2010, 08:32:48 AM
I believe the great majority of the Mexican issue to be a red herring.  The armaments used by the gangs are not available to civilians in America.  Just as the Zetas were originally trained by the US govt, so too automatics, grenade launchers and the like are available only from govts-- including the Mexican govt.  The Mexican army is IMHO a major source of the arms purchased by the narcos.
24529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 27, 2010, 08:26:49 AM
Abolish the Dept of Education and leave education to the States.

Abolish the Dept of Agriculture

Abolish the NEA (Nat. Endowment of the Arts)

Gradually raise the age for Soc. Security.  When the age of 65 was set the average lifespan was 68.  Now its somewhere around 80.

Super important:  Abolish the Orwellian fiction/fraud called "baseline budgeting" and require govt to use the same accounting principles as everyone else.   Under BB reductions in the rate of increase are called "cuts" even though more money than the year before is being spent.  Until we do this, I fear we will always lose the current game of Three Card Monte.
24530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: January 27, 2010, 08:20:30 AM
http://www.kvue.com/news/local/San-Marcos-stops-to-honor-fallen-soldier-82729927.html
24531  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: January 27, 2010, 07:48:58 AM
Bless you for the thought but I caught and paused it at 1:59 and what I see there is an X-block against an icepick attack.
24532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Du Pont-- the coming tax increases on: January 26, 2010, 11:35:32 AM
By PETE DU PONT
Weather-wise it has been a very cold January, and politically the Scott Brown Senate victory has chilled Washington even further for Democrats. But if the Democratic economic policies continue nevertheless, this year will be nothing like the bitter economic January we will be living in a year from now.

Government spending has already hugely increased, and so has the size and scope of government, but next year there will also be substantial tax increases for a great many Americans. The first reason will be the expiration of the Bush tax cuts . The top personal income tax rate will rise next Jan. 1 to 39.6% from 35%, a hike of nearly one-eighth. The dividend tax rate will rise to 39.6%, more than 2½ times the current 15%. And the capital gains tax rate will rise by a third, to 20% from 15%. If the House health care bill had passed, all three of these rates would have risen to 45%.

The estate tax, which fell to zero this year under the Bush tax cuts, will return in 2011--or sooner, if Congress acts to restore it. Another likely tax increase will be on the income of private equity and hedge-fund managers, from the capital gains rate of 15% to the new higher income tax rates. It has already been passed by the House and is supported by the Obama administration, as is an additional 10-year, $90 billion tax on banks aimed at "rolling back bonuses for top earners." It would affect some 50 banks, insurance companies, and large broker-dealers.

Meanwhile a number of last year's tax deductions have disappeared due to the failure of Congress to extend them into this year. The tax deduction for state and local sales taxes is one; the deduction for college tuition and fees is another; and the 50% write-off for small businesses for capital purchases--equipment, machinery or building a new plant--has disappeared as well, which will have a negative effect upon the construction of new business operation facilities.

Add on to all of these increases the biggest government deficits and spending increases (to 26.5% of gross domestic product from 21%) in half a century, the protectionism of free trade downsizing through the "buy American" requirements, China import restrictions, and the administration limitations of Columbia, South Korea, and Panama free trade agreements, and we have a very different, and not very prosperous, America ahead of us.

Or as economist Arthur Laffer wrote in his January Economic Outlook, we "cannot have a prosperous economy when government is overspending, raising tax rates, printing too much money, over-regulating and restricting the free flow of goods and services across national boundaries." We are, in his words, simply "moving in the wrong direction."

***
But what Mr. Laffer sees as most important is a substantial American economic collapse coming to us in 2011. His reasoning is simple and sensible: the impending 2011 tax increases will lead Americans to get their incomes into this year and pay the current lower tax rates. That will mean a 2010 GDP growth 3% to 4% higher than it otherwise would have been, and that will look very good.

But when the huge tax-increase agenda arrives a year from now, the economy will begin to decline, and will be some 3% to 4% smaller than it otherwise would have been. The artificially high growth in 2010 followed by artificially low growth in 2011 would "represent a larger collapse than occurred in 2008 and early 2009," Mr. Laffer writes.

He also points out that there is a four- to eight-month gap between market performance and economic performance. Indeed, the market has often reflected good or bad tax news four to eight months ahead of their impact on the economy. We historically saw that after the Harding tax cuts (1922), the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill (1929), the Kennedy tax cuts (1963) and the Reagan tax cuts of 1983. If this pattern repeats, we could see the market begin to deteriorate sometime in the summer or fall of this year.

In modern times the Kennedy, Reagan and George W. Bush tax rate reductions helped spur economic growth. the Obama tax rate increases will have the opposite effect. Americans headed to the polls this fall, worried about the increasing size and spending of the federal government, possibly a falling market, and next year's looming tax increases, may reproduce next November the voter revolt we saw in the 1994 congressional elections. That led to a Democratic presidency and a Republican Congress, which together were better for the American people than the full-scale liberalism we see in the current administration.
24533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: VA Ratification Convention 1788 on: January 26, 2010, 11:13:40 AM
"There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." --James Madison, speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
24534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Complaining to God on: January 26, 2010, 10:49:16 AM
By Tzvi Freeman
 
Question:

When Moses saw things backfired in Egypt, he complained to G‑d, "Why have you done bad to these people? From the time You sent me, things have gotten worse instead of better!"

Didn't G‑d know that things had gotten worse? Isn't G‑d aware of what's going on in His world? Why does He need Moses to tell him?

Response:

G‑d sees all and knows all. But sometimes you need a report from down on the ground.

Here's an example: As a music composition major at the University of British Columbia (had a great faculty at the time), I set myself the task of writing a string quintet. With lots of help from my mentor, I toiled for months to come up with an original piece of complex counterpoint and clean form. Eventually, it won first place in its category in a provincial festival of the arts.

I recall vividly the morning that we first placed the sheet music in front of the quintet. This was in the days before instrument synthesizers, so I had heard nothing until now except whatever could be duplicated on the piano, plus the constructions of my own mind. As you can imagine, it was hard to keep my seat from shaking across the floor as my music came alive before me.

Then the double-bass player stopped the rehearsal. He took out his pencil and started changing some of the notes. I almost leaped at his neck, but my mentor grabbed my arm. I could see he was reading my very loud thoughts: "A chutzpah! The counterpoint is perfect! It's all been checked by my professors. The form is exquisite--I spent months on this! He thinks he knows the intent of the composer better than the composer himself!"

"They do that," he said. "And they're usually right. It's different when you're playing from the inside."

G‑d has two views of reality. One is the grand view from above. From there, the ugliness blends with its context to create even greater beauty. All is exquisite and ideal, a perfect whole.

Then He has the view from within. Within time, within space, within the confines of a flesh body that cringes at pain and is outraged at suffering; a view for which the now is more real than a thousand years of the future. The view not of the Composer, but of those who must play the music. And sometimes, what looks magnificent from above, is the pits from within.

Both views are true. Both views are G‑d.

In the Torah, the view from above is presented in G‑d's voice. G‑d's view from within is presented in the voice of Moses. The two come together to compose the ultimate truth of Torah.

Moses was simply practicing a common Jewish habit: Kvetching to G‑d. We call it prayer. It's the pencil granted us by the Composer. We preface our prayer with the verse, "G‑d, open my lips, that my mouth may speak Your praise." We ask, in other words, that our prayers should be the words of G‑d from within, speaking to G‑d as He stands above.
24535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 26, 2010, 09:01:38 AM
The attempted Christmas Day destruction over Detroit of Northwest Flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is fading from public memory as a fortunate near-miss. This incident should not fade from view. As more information emerges, the picture it paints about the antiterror mindset of the current U.S. government is—there is no other word—scary.

Last week in these columns, we discussed Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair's Congressional testimony on the Abdulmutallab case. This was Mr. Blair's famous "duh" remark about the government's failure to invoke the new High-Value Detainee Interrogration Group (HIG) to question Abdulmutallab. A remarkable Associated Press story this past weekend makes clear that "duh" was mainly another word for disgust inside the intelligence bureaucracy over what happened that day in Detroit.

Here, compressed, is AP's account of how Abdulmutallab was handled after the plane landed. Read it and weep.

He was taken to the hospital by U.S. Customs agents and local cops, to whom he babbled that he was trying to blow up the plane.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
.Agents from the FBI's Detroit bureau were called in about 2:15. He "spoke openly" and admitted he was from al Qaeda in Yemen. Under a Miranda exception meant to let officials find out fast if another bomb is imminent, the agents didn't issue the standard self-incrimination warning. He talked for 50 minutes. Then, to let the suspect's medications wear off, the interrogators stopped.

Five hours later, the FBI in Washington said it wanted a new interrogation team to do a second interview. This new group of FBI interrogators is called a "clean team."

The AP explains: "By bringing in a so-called 'clean team' of investigators to talk to the suspect, federal officials aimed to ensure that Abdulmutallab's statements would still be admissible if the failure to give him his Miranda warning led a judge to rule out the use of his first admissions . . . . In the end, though, the 'clean team' of interrogators did not prod more revelations from the suspect."

After he was rested and revived, Abdulmutallab was given his Miranda warning. He never said another thing.

On "Fox News Sunday," Chris Wallace asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whether the President was told that Abdulmutallab was Mirandized after only 50 minutes of interrogation. Mr. Gibbs said the decision was made "by the Justice Department and the FBI" and insisted they got "valuable intelligence."

This is awful. This talky terrorist should have been questioned for 50 hours, not 50 minutes. More pointedly, Abdulmutallab should not have been questioned by local G-men concerned principally with getting a conviction in court. He should have been interrogated by agents who know enough about the current state of al Qaeda to know what to ask, what names or locations to listen for, and what answers to follow up. The urgent matter is deterring future plots, not getting Abdulmutallab behind bars.

It gets worse. Appearing before Congress last week, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that the HIG group essentially doesn't even exist yet. They haven't pulled it together.

Recall that in August Mr. Obama announced the intention to create a multi-agency HIG, transferring lead responsibility for interrogations away from the CIA and into the FBI, with techniques limited to the Army Field Manual.

And worse. As a Wall Street Journal account of last week's Senate Judiciary hearings noted, the HIG team is intended only for interrogations overseas; the Administration hasn't decided whether to use it domestically. In any event, that's moot until there is an HIG team.

We hope the appropriate committees of Congress do not let this drop, for many obvious reasons. We'll make one point:

Ultimately, the national security bureaucracies take their signals from the top. In August Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder made it clear that their war on terror would be fought inside the framework of Miranda and the civilian justice system. Before Justice ordered him Mirandized, would-be suicide bomber Abdulmutallab thus gave us 50 minutes in the mortal war against al Qaeda.

It has to get better than this. But it won't unless the President throws his weight publicly behind the officials who want to make it better than this.
24536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Also posted in the Ukraine thread on: January 26, 2010, 08:52:46 AM
   
Ukraine's Election and the Russian Resurgence
January 26, 2010




By Peter Zeihan

Ukrainians go to the polls Feb. 7 to choose their next president. The last time they did this, in November 2004, the result was the prolonged international incident that became known as the Orange Revolution. That event saw Ukraine cleaved off from the Russian sphere of influence, triggering a chain of events that rekindled the Russian-Western Cold War. Next week’s runoff election seals the Orange Revolution’s reversal. Russia owns the first candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, outright and has a workable agreement with the other, Yulia Timoshenko. The next few months will therefore see the de facto folding of Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence; discussion in Ukraine now consists of debate over the speed and depth of that reintegration.

The Centrality of Ukraine
Russia has been working to arrest its slide for several years. Next week’s election in Ukraine marks not so much the end of the post-Cold War period of Russian retreat as the beginning of a new era of Russian aggressiveness. To understand why, one must first absorb the Russian view of Ukraine.

Related Special Topic Page
The Russian Resurgence
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, most of the former Soviet republics and satellites found themselves cast adrift, not part of the Russian orbit and not really part of any other grouping. Moscow still held links to all of them, but it exercised few of its levers of control over them during Russia’s internal meltdown during the 1990s. During that period, a number of these states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia to be exact — managed to spin themselves out of the Russian orbit and attach themselves to the European Union and NATO. Others — Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine — attempted to follow the path Westward, but have not succeeded at this point. Of these six, Ukraine is by far the most critical. It is not simply the most populous of Russia’s former possessions or the birthplace of the Russian ethnicity, it is the most important province of the former Russian Empire and holds the key to the future of Eurasia.

First, the incidental reasons. Ukraine is the Russian Empire’s breadbasket. It is also the location of nearly all of Russia’s infrastructure links not only to Europe, but also to the Caucasus, making it critical for both trade and internal coherence; it is central to the existence of a state as multiethnic and chronically poor as Russia. The Ukrainian port of Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and Ukrainian ports are the only well-developed warm-water ports Russia has ever had. Belarus’ only waterborne exports traverse the Dnieper River, which empties into the Black Sea via Ukraine. Therefore, as goes Ukraine, so goes Belarus. Not only is Ukraine home to some 15 million ethnic Russians — the largest concentration of Russians outside Russia proper — they reside in a zone geographically identical and contiguous to Russia itself. That zone is also the Ukrainian agricultural and industrial heartland, which again is integrated tightly into the Russian core.

These are all important factors for Moscow, but ultimately they pale before the only rationale that really matters: Ukraine is the only former Russian imperial territory that is both useful and has a natural barrier protecting it. Belarus is on the Northern European Plain, aka the invasion highway of Europe. The Baltics are all easily accessible by sea. The Caucasian states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are on the wrong side of the Caucasus Mountains (and Russia’s northern Caucasus republics — remember Chechnya? — aren’t exactly the cream of the crop of Russian possessions). It is true that Central Asia is anchored in mountains to the south, but the region is so large and boasts so few Slavs that it cannot be controlled reliably or cheaply. And Siberia is too huge to be useful.

Without Ukraine, Russia is a desperately defensive power, lacking any natural defenses aside from sheer distance. Moscow and Volgograd, two of Russia’s critically strategic cities, are within 300 miles of Ukraine’s eastern border. Russia lacks any natural internal transport options — its rivers neither interconnect nor flow anywhere useful, and are frozen much of the year — so it must preposition defensive forces everywhere, a burden that has been beyond Russia’s capacity to sustain even in the best of times. The (quite realistic) Russian fear is that without Ukraine, the Europeans will pressure Russia along its entire western periphery, the Islamic world will pressure Russia along its entire southern periphery, the Chinese will pressure Russia along its southeastern periphery, and the Americans will pressure Russia wherever opportunity presents itself.

Ukraine by contrast has the Carpathians to its west, a handy little barrier that has deflected invaders of all stripes for millennia. These mountains defend Ukraine against tanks coming from the west as effectively as they protected the Balkans against Mongols attacking from the east. Having the Carpathians as a western border reduces Russia’s massive defensive burden. Most important, if Russia can redirect the resources it would have used for defensive purposes on the Ukrainian frontier — whether those resources be economic, intelligence, industrial, diplomatic or military — then Russia retains at least a modicum of offensive capability. And that modicum of offensive ability is more than enough to overmatch any of Russia’s neighbors (with the exception of China).

When Retreat Ends, the Neighbors Get Nervous
This view of Ukraine is not alien to countries in Russia’s neighborhood. They fully understand the difference between a Russia with Ukraine and a Russia without Ukraine, and understand that so long as Ukraine remains independent they have a great deal of maneuvering room. Now that all that remains is the result of an election with no strategic choice at stake, the former Soviet states and satellites realize that their world has just changed.

Georgia traditionally has been the most resistant to Russian influence regardless of its leadership, so defiant that Moscow felt it necessary to trounce Georgia in a brief war in August 2008. Georgia’s poor strategic position is nothing new, but a Russia that can redirect efforts from Ukraine is one that can crush Georgia as an afterthought. That is turning the normally rambunctious Georgians pensive, and nudging them toward pragmatism. An opposition group, the Conservative Party, is launching a movement to moderate policy toward Russia, which among other things would mean abandoning Georgia’s bid for NATO membership and re-establishing formal political ties with Moscow.

A recent Lithuanian power struggle has resulted in the forced resignation of Foreign Minister Minister Vygaudas. The main public point of contention was the foreign minister’s previous participation in facilitating U.S. renditions. Vygaudas, like most in the Lithuanian leadership, saw such participation as critical to maintaining the tiny country’s alliance with the United States. President Dalia Grybauskaite, however, saw the writing on the wall in Ukraine, and feels the need to foster a more conciliatory view of Russia. Part of that meant offering up a sacrificial lamb in the form of the foreign minister.

Poland is in a unique position. It knows that should the Russians turn seriously aggressive, its position on the Northern European Plain makes it the focal point of Russian attention. Its location and vulnerability makes Warsaw very sensitive to Russian moves, so it has been watching Ukraine with alarm for several months.

As a result, the Poles have come up with some (admittedly small) olive branches, including an offer for Putin to visit Gdansk last September in an attempt to foster warmer (read: slightly less overtly hostile) relations. Putin not only seized upon the offer, but issued a public letter denouncing the World War II-era Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, long considered by Poles as the most outrageous Russian offense to Poland. Warsaw has since replied with invitations for future visits. As with Georgia, Poland will never be pro-Russian — Poland is not only a NATO member but also hopes to host an American Patriot battery and participate in Washington’s developing ballistic missile defense program. But if Warsaw cannot hold Washington’s attention — and it has pulled out all the stops in trying to — it fears the writing might already be on the wall, and it must plan accordingly.

Azerbaijan has always attempted to walk a fine line between Russia and the West, knowing that any serious bid for membership in something like the European Union or NATO was contingent upon Georgia’s first succeeding in joining up. Baku would prefer a more independent arrangement, but it knows that it is too far from Russia’s western frontier to achieve such unless the stars are somewhat aligned. As Georgia’s plans have met with what can best be described as abject failure, and with Ukraine now appearing headed toward Russian suzerainty, Azerbaijan has in essence resigned itself to the inevitable. Baku is well into negotiations that would redirect much of its natural gas output north to Russia rather than west to Turkey and Europe. And Azerbaijan simply has little else to bargain with.

Other states that have long been closer to Russia, but have attempted to balance Russia against other powers in hopes of preserving some measure of sovereignty, are giving up. Of the remaining former Soviet republics Belarus has the most educated workforce and even a functioning information technology industry, while Kazakhstan has a booming energy industry; both are reasonable candidates for integration into Western systems. But both have this month agreed instead to throw their lots in with Russia. The specific method is an economic agreement that is more akin to shackles than a customs union. The deal effectively will gut both countries’ industries in favor of Russian producers. Moscow hopes the union in time will form the foundation of a true successor to the Soviet Union.

Other places continue to show resistance. The new Moldovan prime minister, Vlad Filat, is speaking with the Americans about energy security and is even flirting with the Romanians about reunification. The Latvians are as defiant as ever. The Estonians, too, are holding fast, although they are quietly polling regional powers to at least assess where the next Russian hammer might fall. But for every state that decides it had best accede to Russia’s wishes, Russia has that much more bandwidth to dedicate to the poorly positioned holdouts.

Russia also has the opportunity. The United States is bogged down in its economic and health care debates, two wars and the Iran question — all of which mean Washington’s attention is occupied well away from the former Soviet sphere. With the United States distracted, Russia has a freer hand in re-establishing control over states that would like to be under the American security umbrella.

There is one final factor that is pushing Russia to resurge: It feels the pressure of time. The post-Cold War collapse may well have mortally wounded the Russian nation. The collapse in Russian births has halved the size of the 0-20 age group in comparison to their predecessors born in the 1970s and 1980s. Consequently, Russian demographics are among the worst in the world.

Even if Russia manages an economic renaissance, in a decade its population will have aged and shrunk to the point that the Russians will find holding together Russia proper a huge challenge. Moscow’s plan, therefore, is simple: entrench its influence while it is in a position of relative strength in preparation for when it must trade that influence for additional time. Ultimately, Russia is indeed going into that good night. But not gently. And not today.

 
24537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Election and Russian Resurgence on: January 26, 2010, 08:48:42 AM
   
Ukraine's Election and the Russian Resurgence
January 26, 2010




By Peter Zeihan

Ukrainians go to the polls Feb. 7 to choose their next president. The last time they did this, in November 2004, the result was the prolonged international incident that became known as the Orange Revolution. That event saw Ukraine cleaved off from the Russian sphere of influence, triggering a chain of events that rekindled the Russian-Western Cold War. Next week’s runoff election seals the Orange Revolution’s reversal. Russia owns the first candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, outright and has a workable agreement with the other, Yulia Timoshenko. The next few months will therefore see the de facto folding of Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence; discussion in Ukraine now consists of debate over the speed and depth of that reintegration.

The Centrality of Ukraine
Russia has been working to arrest its slide for several years. Next week’s election in Ukraine marks not so much the end of the post-Cold War period of Russian retreat as the beginning of a new era of Russian aggressiveness. To understand why, one must first absorb the Russian view of Ukraine.

Related Special Topic Page
The Russian Resurgence
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, most of the former Soviet republics and satellites found themselves cast adrift, not part of the Russian orbit and not really part of any other grouping. Moscow still held links to all of them, but it exercised few of its levers of control over them during Russia’s internal meltdown during the 1990s. During that period, a number of these states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia to be exact — managed to spin themselves out of the Russian orbit and attach themselves to the European Union and NATO. Others — Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine — attempted to follow the path Westward, but have not succeeded at this point. Of these six, Ukraine is by far the most critical. It is not simply the most populous of Russia’s former possessions or the birthplace of the Russian ethnicity, it is the most important province of the former Russian Empire and holds the key to the future of Eurasia.

First, the incidental reasons. Ukraine is the Russian Empire’s breadbasket. It is also the location of nearly all of Russia’s infrastructure links not only to Europe, but also to the Caucasus, making it critical for both trade and internal coherence; it is central to the existence of a state as multiethnic and chronically poor as Russia. The Ukrainian port of Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and Ukrainian ports are the only well-developed warm-water ports Russia has ever had. Belarus’ only waterborne exports traverse the Dnieper River, which empties into the Black Sea via Ukraine. Therefore, as goes Ukraine, so goes Belarus. Not only is Ukraine home to some 15 million ethnic Russians — the largest concentration of Russians outside Russia proper — they reside in a zone geographically identical and contiguous to Russia itself. That zone is also the Ukrainian agricultural and industrial heartland, which again is integrated tightly into the Russian core.

These are all important factors for Moscow, but ultimately they pale before the only rationale that really matters: Ukraine is the only former Russian imperial territory that is both useful and has a natural barrier protecting it. Belarus is on the Northern European Plain, aka the invasion highway of Europe. The Baltics are all easily accessible by sea. The Caucasian states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are on the wrong side of the Caucasus Mountains (and Russia’s northern Caucasus republics — remember Chechnya? — aren’t exactly the cream of the crop of Russian possessions). It is true that Central Asia is anchored in mountains to the south, but the region is so large and boasts so few Slavs that it cannot be controlled reliably or cheaply. And Siberia is too huge to be useful.

Without Ukraine, Russia is a desperately defensive power, lacking any natural defenses aside from sheer distance. Moscow and Volgograd, two of Russia’s critically strategic cities, are within 300 miles of Ukraine’s eastern border. Russia lacks any natural internal transport options — its rivers neither interconnect nor flow anywhere useful, and are frozen much of the year — so it must preposition defensive forces everywhere, a burden that has been beyond Russia’s capacity to sustain even in the best of times. The (quite realistic) Russian fear is that without Ukraine, the Europeans will pressure Russia along its entire western periphery, the Islamic world will pressure Russia along its entire southern periphery, the Chinese will pressure Russia along its southeastern periphery, and the Americans will pressure Russia wherever opportunity presents itself.

Ukraine by contrast has the Carpathians to its west, a handy little barrier that has deflected invaders of all stripes for millennia. These mountains defend Ukraine against tanks coming from the west as effectively as they protected the Balkans against Mongols attacking from the east. Having the Carpathians as a western border reduces Russia’s massive defensive burden. Most important, if Russia can redirect the resources it would have used for defensive purposes on the Ukrainian frontier — whether those resources be economic, intelligence, industrial, diplomatic or military — then Russia retains at least a modicum of offensive capability. And that modicum of offensive ability is more than enough to overmatch any of Russia’s neighbors (with the exception of China).

When Retreat Ends, the Neighbors Get Nervous
This view of Ukraine is not alien to countries in Russia’s neighborhood. They fully understand the difference between a Russia with Ukraine and a Russia without Ukraine, and understand that so long as Ukraine remains independent they have a great deal of maneuvering room. Now that all that remains is the result of an election with no strategic choice at stake, the former Soviet states and satellites realize that their world has just changed.

Georgia traditionally has been the most resistant to Russian influence regardless of its leadership, so defiant that Moscow felt it necessary to trounce Georgia in a brief war in August 2008. Georgia’s poor strategic position is nothing new, but a Russia that can redirect efforts from Ukraine is one that can crush Georgia as an afterthought. That is turning the normally rambunctious Georgians pensive, and nudging them toward pragmatism. An opposition group, the Conservative Party, is launching a movement to moderate policy toward Russia, which among other things would mean abandoning Georgia’s bid for NATO membership and re-establishing formal political ties with Moscow.

A recent Lithuanian power struggle has resulted in the forced resignation of Foreign Minister Minister Vygaudas. The main public point of contention was the foreign minister’s previous participation in facilitating U.S. renditions. Vygaudas, like most in the Lithuanian leadership, saw such participation as critical to maintaining the tiny country’s alliance with the United States. President Dalia Grybauskaite, however, saw the writing on the wall in Ukraine, and feels the need to foster a more conciliatory view of Russia. Part of that meant offering up a sacrificial lamb in the form of the foreign minister.

Poland is in a unique position. It knows that should the Russians turn seriously aggressive, its position on the Northern European Plain makes it the focal point of Russian attention. Its location and vulnerability makes Warsaw very sensitive to Russian moves, so it has been watching Ukraine with alarm for several months.

As a result, the Poles have come up with some (admittedly small) olive branches, including an offer for Putin to visit Gdansk last September in an attempt to foster warmer (read: slightly less overtly hostile) relations. Putin not only seized upon the offer, but issued a public letter denouncing the World War II-era Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, long considered by Poles as the most outrageous Russian offense to Poland. Warsaw has since replied with invitations for future visits. As with Georgia, Poland will never be pro-Russian — Poland is not only a NATO member but also hopes to host an American Patriot battery and participate in Washington’s developing ballistic missile defense program. But if Warsaw cannot hold Washington’s attention — and it has pulled out all the stops in trying to — it fears the writing might already be on the wall, and it must plan accordingly.

Azerbaijan has always attempted to walk a fine line between Russia and the West, knowing that any serious bid for membership in something like the European Union or NATO was contingent upon Georgia’s first succeeding in joining up. Baku would prefer a more independent arrangement, but it knows that it is too far from Russia’s western frontier to achieve such unless the stars are somewhat aligned. As Georgia’s plans have met with what can best be described as abject failure, and with Ukraine now appearing headed toward Russian suzerainty, Azerbaijan has in essence resigned itself to the inevitable. Baku is well into negotiations that would redirect much of its natural gas output north to Russia rather than west to Turkey and Europe. And Azerbaijan simply has little else to bargain with.

Other states that have long been closer to Russia, but have attempted to balance Russia against other powers in hopes of preserving some measure of sovereignty, are giving up. Of the remaining former Soviet republics Belarus has the most educated workforce and even a functioning information technology industry, while Kazakhstan has a booming energy industry; both are reasonable candidates for integration into Western systems. But both have this month agreed instead to throw their lots in with Russia. The specific method is an economic agreement that is more akin to shackles than a customs union. The deal effectively will gut both countries’ industries in favor of Russian producers. Moscow hopes the union in time will form the foundation of a true successor to the Soviet Union.

Other places continue to show resistance. The new Moldovan prime minister, Vlad Filat, is speaking with the Americans about energy security and is even flirting with the Romanians about reunification. The Latvians are as defiant as ever. The Estonians, too, are holding fast, although they are quietly polling regional powers to at least assess where the next Russian hammer might fall. But for every state that decides it had best accede to Russia’s wishes, Russia has that much more bandwidth to dedicate to the poorly positioned holdouts.

Russia also has the opportunity. The United States is bogged down in its economic and health care debates, two wars and the Iran question — all of which mean Washington’s attention is occupied well away from the former Soviet sphere. With the United States distracted, Russia has a freer hand in re-establishing control over states that would like to be under the American security umbrella.

There is one final factor that is pushing Russia to resurge: It feels the pressure of time. The post-Cold War collapse may well have mortally wounded the Russian nation. The collapse in Russian births has halved the size of the 0-20 age group in comparison to their predecessors born in the 1970s and 1980s. Consequently, Russian demographics are among the worst in the world.

Even if Russia manages an economic renaissance, in a decade its population will have aged and shrunk to the point that the Russians will find holding together Russia proper a huge challenge. Moscow’s plan, therefore, is simple: entrench its influence while it is in a position of relative strength in preparation for when it must trade that influence for additional time. Ultimately, Russia is indeed going into that good night. But not gently. And not today.

 
24538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ambassador Eikenberry's cables leaked on: January 26, 2010, 08:40:20 AM
Second post of the morning:

http://documents.nytimes.com/eikenberry-s-memos-on-the-strategy-in-afghanistan?hp#p=1
24539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq-2 reports this on: January 26, 2010, 08:31:43 AM
Without notice, our ongoing exit from Iraq coincides with a deteriorating situation.  It would appear that without notice our CinC is throwing away pretty much everything that was accomplished there.

Marc
============================================

Yesterday it was three hotels. Today it was the Iraqi forensics operation. Yet I still read pundits who state that AQI/the insurgency is demolished.

Get a grip:

Blast at Baghdad crime lab kills 18
Dozens injured as bomber drives pickup truck through police checkpoint
The Associated Press
updated 6:29 a.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 26, 2010

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide car bomber killed at least 18 and injured dozens more Tuesday in a strike against a police crime lab in central Baghdad, a day after several hotels were hit by suicide attacks, officials said.

Rescue crews are still combing through the rubble looking for casualties. Officials say the majority of those killed were likely police officers who worked in the forensic investigation office at Tahariyat Square in the central neighborhood of Karradah. At least 82 people were reported injured.

This week's bombings — all against prominent and heavily fortified targets — dealt yet another blow to the image of an Iraqi government struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out a number of massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August.

Police and hospital officials said the bomber in Tuesday's attack tried to drive a pickup truck through a checkpoint and blast walls protecting the forensic evidence office.
Among those confirmed killed were 12 police officers and six civilians who were visiting the office. Officials said more than half the wounded were police.
Shortly after the bombing, rescue teams in blue jumpsuits combed through the debris of the partially damaged three-story building as a crane removed some of the 10-foot, 7-ton blast walls toppled by the blast.

The office targeted in the attack mainly deals with data collected during criminal investigations, including fingerprints and other pieces of evidence. The office is located next to the Interior Ministry's major crimes office, which deals with terrorism cases.

Government offices have been frequent targets of major attacks in the capital since blasts struck the foreign and finance ministries in August, raising questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the country safe. While the criminal evidence offices have not been targeted by a major suicide bombing before, attackers have struck nearby.

Shops, restaurants damaged
The attack destroyed rooms on the ground floor of the building and damaged parts of the second floor, raising fears the number of casualties could grow, a police officer on the scene said.

The site is surrounded by low-rise buildings that contain shops, restaurants and offices that were also damaged.

Tuesday's attack comes one day after a series of bombings targeting hotels favored by Westerners.

The toll from those blasts continued to rise, with 41 people confirmed killed and up to 106 reported injured, police and health officials said Tuesday.
The bombings Monday targeted the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel, Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which are popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details.

'Senseless crimes'
U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill issued a statement Tuesday strongly condemning the attacks against the hotels.
"The terrorists who committed these senseless crimes aim to sow fear among the Iraqi people," he said. "We call upon all Iraqis to unite in combating all forms of violence and attempts at intimidation."

Also on Tuesday, Ahmed Fadhil Hassan al-Majid, the nephew of the man known as Chemical Ali arrived in Baghdad to collect the body of Saddam Hussein's cousin and close deputy who was hanged Monday.

A grave was dug for Ali Hassan al-Majid near his hometown of Tikrit next to Saddam's two sons and grandson.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35072893/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/
24540  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 26, 2010, 12:44:19 AM
We will leave starting time on Sunday up to those who will be attending on Sunday.  If an earlier start is desired due to the Superbowl, plane departures, etc. we can do that.
24541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Greg Mortenson on Bill Moyers on: January 26, 2010, 12:12:49 AM
Bill Moyers?  I know, I know shocked rolleyes

OTOH Greg Mortenson has been places and done things in Afpakia that merit deep respect and give his words weight.

I haven't viewed this yet, having read GM's first book "Three Cups of Tea" I do not hesitate to post it here:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01152010/profile2.html
24542  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: January 25, 2010, 11:59:57 PM
Awesome day today.  Kenny Johnson came by today and we prepared the outline for the Camp.  Those there were treated to some first rate stuff  cool
24543  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 25, 2010, 05:31:57 PM
Woof All:

Kenny came by today and we worked on things in preparation for the Camp.  Each of us is fired up!
24544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Federalist 62 on: January 25, 2010, 11:45:32 AM
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow." --Federalist No. 62
24545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secret agents of DOJ on: January 25, 2010, 11:27:52 AM
Paid secret agents of DOJ at work with your tax dollars

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/01/doj_hires_bloggers_as_propagan.html



http://patterico.com/2010/01/24/stil...-obama-letter/

Example:

Jan Chen of Seattle writes to the Northwest Asian Weekly (a small Asian paper serving the Seattle area):
As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that drop you after you make a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Elle writes to the Baltimore Chronicle — on the same page as Mark Spivey and Ellie Light:
As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that cancel you for making a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town-hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”
24546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Hezbollah's rocket relocations on: January 25, 2010, 11:13:12 AM
Hezbollah's relocation of rocket sites to Lebanon's interior poses wider threat
 
 
By Howard Schneider
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 23, 2010
BEIRUT -- Hezbollah has dispersed its long-range-rocket sites deep into northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, a move that analysts say threatens to broaden any future conflict between the Islamist movement and Israel into a war between the two countries.

More than 10,000 U.N. troops now patrol traditional Hezbollah territory in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border, and several thousand Lebanese armed forces personnel also have moved into the area. A cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas in summer 2006 triggered a month-long war that prompted the United Nations to deploy its force as part of a cease-fire.
The United Nations is confident that the dense presence of its troops in the comparatively small area is helping lower the risk of conflict and minimizing Hezbollah's ability to move weapons across southern Lebanon, but analysts in Lebanon and Israel say the U.N. mission is almost beside the point.

Hezbollah's redeployment and rearmament indicate that its next clash with Israel is unlikely to focus on the border, instead moving farther into Lebanon and challenging both the military and the government. The situation is important for U.S. efforts in the region, whether aimed at curbing the influence of Hezbollah's patrons in Iran or at persuading Syria to moderate its stance toward Israel and its neighbors.

Hezbollah "learned their lesson" in 2006, when vital intelligence enabled the Israel Defense Forces to destroy the group's long-range launch sites in the first days of the conflict, said reserve Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a former head of IDF intelligence. In effect, he said, "the 'border' is now the Litani River," with Hezbollah's rocket sites possibly extending north of Beirut.

In a December briefing, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the IDF head of operations, said some Hezbollah rockets now have a range of more than 150 miles -- making Tel Aviv reachable from as far away as Beirut. The Islamist group has talked openly of its efforts to rebuild, and Israel estimates that Hezbollah has about 40,000 projectiles, most of them shorter-range rockets and mortar shells.

The group "has been fortifying lots of different areas," said Judith Palmer Harik, a Hezbollah scholar in Beirut. With U.N. and Lebanese forces "packed along the border," she said, "we are looking at a much more expanded battle in all senses of the word."

Just a matter of time?


The border has been relatively quiet since the 2006 war, a fact that officials with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon attribute at least partly to the 400 or so patrols they send out each day to search for weapons stores and prevent border violations.

Armored U.N. vehicles sit at the entrance to southern Lebanon, alongside Lebanese army and intelligence checkpoints; blue-flagged U.N. troops occupy mountaintop posts that Hezbollah used as firing sites in 2006.

"We are covering every square inch," said Maj. S.K. Misra, a spokesman for the battalion of India's 3/11 Gurkha Rifles corps that patrols southeastern Lebanon. "It's impossible for anything to move."

At the same time, debate is raging in political and military circles between those who argue that the damage to each side in 2006 has created a sort of respectful deterrence between Israel and Hezbollah and those who say it is only a matter of time before violence erupts again.

Hezbollah lost hundreds of fighters in the conflict and was put on the defensive in Lebanon, where some questioned whether the group's vow to continue "resistance" against Israel was worth letting an unregulated paramilitary organization effectively make decisions about war and peace.

==========

With Iran backing and supplying Hezbollah and the United States backing and supplying Israel, "the battlefield is Lebanon," said Marwan Hamadeh, a Lebanese member of parliament and supporter of a government coalition that is trying to curb Hezbollah's arms and limit Syrian and Iranian influence in the country. "This is where the Iranian missiles sit, and this is where the Israeli air force can reach."


Israel, meanwhile, lost more than 100 troops and uncharacteristically large numbers of tanks, helicopters and other equipment -- prompting it to rewrite its war doctrine and adjust its perception of Hezbollah's militia. Military analysts now see Hezbollah not as primarily a guerrilla force but as an organization that practices "hybrid war," mixing classic guerrilla tactics with the strategy, equipment and capability of a standing army.

In a 2008 report for the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, analysts Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman concluded that Hezbollah had performed more effectively in 2006 than any of the Arab armies from Egypt, Syria or Jordan that had fought conventional wars with Israel over the years, and better in some ways than the Iraqi army in its two wars with the United States.

In Beirut, politicians and analysts agree that the group has only grown stronger since 2006. As they hear Hezbollah's secretary general, Hasan Nasrallah, speak of a conflict that will "change the face of the region," many assume that the IDF will not allow the organization to rearm, recruit and train much longer before striking.

In Israel, Hezbollah is seen as part of a wider struggle for regional influence between Iran and U.S.-allied moderate Arab states, given the group's ties to Iran and Syria and arms supplies assumed to run through both countries.

There is no reason the current calm cannot continue, said retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who is now a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. But if a conflict does break out, "Israel will not contain that war against Hezbollah," Eiland said. "We cannot."  Given Hezbollah's capabilities, he said, "the only way to deter the other side and prevent the next round -- or if it happens, to win -- is to have a military confrontation with the state of Lebanon."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/22/AR2010012204494.html
24547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 24, 2010, 08:58:29 PM
Having read Goldberg's book (Liberal Fascism) I think the piece would have been well served by bringing in the shared intellectual analysis of Mussolini and FDR.  Indeed not doing so was a real missed opportunity.  Also I found some of the editing graphics weird and distracting.
24548  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: International Issues on: January 24, 2010, 08:54:38 PM
Howie:

Please post this at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1980.0 and then I will delete here.

Thank you.
24549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hitler, Stalin, Che, Mao documentary on: January 24, 2010, 07:19:45 PM
Part 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDK1ND9f0KM&feature=related

Part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw7DtjO4V6c&feature=related

Part 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8XLKNUJzMQ&feature=related

Part 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMPWIqHli00&feature=related

Part 5:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzWLkzcnwp4&feature=related
24550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Gates in Pakistan on: January 24, 2010, 11:43:40 AM
With the US announced to begin leaving this "essential war of self-defense" to the Afghan Army in 16 months or so, is it really surprising that Pakistan plans for what happens after we leave?

Here's POTH's spin:
==================

Gates Sees Fallout From Troubled Ties With Pakistan

 
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: January 23, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.


“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network — this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.
Pages: 1 ... 489 490 [491] 492 493 ... 736
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!