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24501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury continues bullish on: May 12, 2011, 11:19:09 AM

Retail Sales increased 0.5% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/12/2011

Retail sales increased 0.5% in April (1.1% including large upward revisions to February/March). The consensus had expected a gain of 0.6%. Retail sales are up 7.6% versus a year ago.

Sales excluding autos were up 0.6% in April (1.0% including upward revisions to February/March). The consensus expected a gain of 0.6%. Retail sales ex-autos are up 6.9% in the past year.
The increase in retail sales for April was led by gas stations and grocery stores. There were no signficiant declines in any category of sales.
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.2% in April and were up 0.5% including revisions for February/March. These sales are up 5.5% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
Implications:  The US consumer is on a roll. Retail sales increased for the tenth straight month in April – the longest winning streak since the late 1990s – and are up 7.6% versus a year ago.  Including upward revisions for prior months, overall sales were up 1.1% in April and 1% excluding autos. This was not all fueled by higher gas prices. Not even close. “Core” sales (which exclude autos, building materials, and gas) were up a solid 0.5% including upward revisions to prior months.  Even if these sales are completely unchanged for the rest of the second quarter they will still be up at a roughly 4% annual rate in Q2. Auto sales, which took a breather last month after eight straight monthly increases, bounced back in April and were revised higher for prior months as well.  Consumer spending is rising for two main reasons.  First, earnings are growing due to more jobs, more wages per hour, and more hours per worker.  Second, due largely to debt reductions, consumers’ financial obligations (debt service plus other recurring payments like rent, car leases, homeowners’ insurance, and property taxes) are now the smallest share of disposable income since 1995.  All of this bodes well for spending in the months to come.
24502  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 12, 2011, 11:14:15 AM
Starting time 10:00.

Also, remember a big dinner will be held Saturday evening.  Everyone comfortable with the Indian place we usually go?

24503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: May 12, 2011, 11:12:23 AM
I have seen reports that the rebels are evolving into a more competent force and have taken a city?
24504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 12, 2011, 11:10:41 AM
I agree with 95% of that.  The point I don't agree with is the idea that a stronger dollar would hurt the US.  I disagree on a number of levels.
24505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 12, 2011, 11:07:31 AM
"As it were, the law would have made it illegal for immigrants not to carry their immigration papers"

Ummm , , , it is my distinct understanding that it already IS illegal not to carry papers establishing the legality of one's presence here-- not that the Feds seem to pay any attention to it.

But, trying to stay on track here JDN -- again I invite you to back up your assertions about hate and vitriol on the part of GB.

PS:  I read GM's comment about anti-semitism not to be an accusation of anti-semitism but to be a statement that if GB were considered hateful, then the same could be said but more so of JDN.

24506  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / C-Bad Dog on: May 12, 2011, 10:21:29 AM
from Russ "C-Bad Dog" Iger

When you have a chance, take a look at our website:  I just updated it with pictures of Kesang with the Chinese movie stars at our Cafe, and have added some recent pictures to our Gallery:
24507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 12, 2011, 08:43:21 AM
If anything I think that makes my point stronger-- US interest rates will have to go up MORE due to dollar's diminished world role.

Coincidentally enough , , , see this:
24508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: May 12, 2011, 08:38:17 AM
Osama bin Laden is dead. The Middle East is in chaos. And radical Islam is floundering.

For a time after 9/11, bin Laden was riding high. Destroying 16 acres in Manhattan and hitting the Pentagon won al-Qaeda even more admiration from the Arab Street, hidden cash donations from sympathetic petrol-sheiks, and bribe and hush money from triangulating Middle East dictatorships.

But now bin Laden and most of his henchmen of a decade ago are dead, like the bloodthirsty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by American forces in Iraq. Or they were captured, like the 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. Or they are in hiding, like Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the increasingly irrelevant blowhard al-Qaeda information minister.

What caused al-Qaeda's steady decline? There are a lot of reasons.

Right after 9/11, the United States crafted a set of antiterrorism protocols as sweeping as they were controversial: the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, intercepts, wiretaps and enhanced interrogations. New security measures filtered down to every facet of American life, from radically intrusive and unpopular airport protocols that X-rayed baggage and passengers to beefed-up security on trains and at ports.

Civil libertarians mocked such vigilance, but the message went out that it was now much harder to come to America from the Middle East and in anonymity plan another 9/11. Subsequent terrorist attempts, aimed at targets such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square, either failed or were thwarted before they began.

In wars abroad, thousands of radical Islamic jihadists heeded bin Laden's call to arms and flocked to the Hindu Kush and Anbar Province. The United States military and its allies were waiting, and then killed or wounded many thousands of terrorists and insurgents. That indisputable fact is as little remarked upon as it was critical to weakening and discrediting the martial prowess of radical Islam.

We also forget that the removal of Saddam Hussein, followed by his trial and execution by a democratically elected Iraq government, set off initial ripples of change in the Middle East between 2004 and 2006. The Syrian army was pushed out of Lebanon by popular protests. Muammar Gadhafi surrendered his nuclear weapons and publicly worried about his own future. Pakistan abruptly arrested for a time A.Q. Khan, who had franchised his nuclear weapons expertise.

These events did not lead directly to the current popular protests throughout the Middle East, but they may well have been precursors of a sort, once Iraq's elected government survived and the violence there abated.

But there is a final development that caused headaches for radical Islam -- the end of the American hysteria over the legality and morality of its own antiterrorism measures.

Although candidate Barack Obama was elected as the anti-Bush who promised to repeal the Bush protocols and end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama did no such thing. He continued the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq. He escalated in Afghanistan. He kept all the antiterrorism measures that he had once derided. And he expanded the Predator drone assassination missions fivefold, while sending commandos inside Pakistan to kill -- not capture and put on trial -- bin Laden. He ignored most recommendations from Attorney General Eric Holder and guessed rightly that his own left-wing base would keep largely quiet.

The effect was twofold. America kept up the pressure on terrorists and their supporters. And the liberal opposition to our antiterrorist policies simply evaporated once Obama became commander in chief.

Some who once protested the removal of Saddam lauded the efforts to do the same to Gadhafi. Those who once sued on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo joined the government to ensure the Predator drone targeted-killing program continued.

The chances in 2012 that the buffoonish Michael Moore -- who once praised the Iraqi insurgents -- will be again feted as a guest of honor at the Democratic National Convention, as he was in 2004, or that Cindy Sheehan will grab headlines once again, are zero.

Polls show that Obama's America is still just as unpopular among Middle Easterners as it was under George W. Bush. But now a much different media assumes that the problem is theirs, not America's. In this brave new world, the American liberal community is now invested in the continuance of the once-despised Bush antiterrorism program and the projection of force abroad -- and has little sympathy for foreign criticism of an American president.

Quite simply, bin Laden's world of 2001 no longer exists. That's mostly good for us, but quite bad for the dead terrorist's followers.
24509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: on: May 12, 2011, 08:33:48 AM
This week was a big week in China news. The United States and China sat down for strategic and economic dialogue, China’s new economic statistics revealed that the economy is starting to slow its pace of growth a little bit and beneath all of this there is a growing awareness that the U.S. is going to be putting more pressure for China to open up and more rapidly reform its economy. The United States and China concluded the strategic and economic talks this week with an agreement to hold consultations on the Asia-Pacific region. That’s really the big takeaway from this round of dialogue, but looking at the economic issues you can see a number of technical agreements that the two sides made.

China gave some concessions — they said the U.S. would be able to invest more in Chinese stocks and bonds, U.S. companies would be able to offer mutual funds or car insurance in China. They also pledged that the indigenous innovation policies that have been so controversial will not really apply to government procurement contracts, meaning that U.S. companies would be able to be considered at any level for Chinese government. We’ll see how that’s implemented, there’s obviously a lot of reason for doubt, but clearly China making that statement and making that pledge to the United States was important. And the Chinese also said that they would stop condoning the theft of intellectual property from the U.S. at least in regards to software that is being used on Chinese government computers. One industry group suggested the U.S. may lose about $8 billion a year because of that kind of theft.

The U.S. concessions had mainly to do with the suggestion that the U.S. will gradually ease the controls on its exports so that China can import more high-technology goods from the U.S. which it was hoping to do. Also, the U.S. said that it would allow more Chinese investment in, and of course there are national security concerns for the U.S. and that will continue to apply on a case-by-case basis. But overall, what China was really demanding was to get more access into the U.S. market, and there is a number of interests in the U.S. of course that would like to see that happen, so the U.S. claims that that will proceed very rapidly going forward.

Now at the same time that the dialogue was taking place, new economic statistics came out of China showing that in the month of April, the pace of growth in China is starting to slow a little bit. This comes as the government has taken over the past year, very, very tiny steps incrementally to moderate the pace of growth, and what we’re seeing is some of that bearing small fruit. We’ve seen that industrial output has started to slow its pace of growth a little bit, and also we’ve seen inflation stabilize a little bit, even sinking slightly compared to the previous month. Inflation of course has been the big worry. We’re still at three-year highs, in terms of inflation, and we’re also seeing asset bubbles grow as people withdraw their money from banks and invest in things that they think will gain in value namely real estate, because they’re afraid of this inflation problem. And we’re also seeing social frustration bubble up in different parts of China because of the rising prices, and that’s not going away. So fighting inflation will remain the priority in the short term even as we’re starting to hear the conversation shift a little bit among experts in China who are starting to see that in the second half of the year the government may have to become more accommodative and push growth a little bit more, which makes sense in terms of a normal Chinese economic cycles.

Now beneath the mostly technical discussions between the U.S. and China, reinforced by these new economic statistics, there is a growing awareness that the U.S. is going to begin to put more pressure on China to open up its economy and reform in ways that bring it into line with mainstream international practice as led by the United States. One event that created dissonance with the dialogue was China registering an $11.4 billion trade surplus for the month of April, but the U.S. is familiar at this point with large trade surpluses on a monthly basis from China and these negotiations are not really about a month by month development. Rather, the U.S. is expecting something much bigger. They’re putting pressure on China gradually to entirely rebalance and transform its economy. They’re aware that many in China are also arguing for this rebalancing to take place, but they’re also aware as the trade surplus shows, that this process is not happening very quickly. Vice Premier Wang Qishan said that China needs to make sure that all of its leaders are on the same page when it comes to this transformation of their economic model. His implication is of course that there are factual disagreements in China that are preventing reforms from happening. While it’s certainly true that there are factional divisions within China, it’s also curious that he would choose this platform and the United States to make that comment and what it suggests is that the Chinese are using these internal divisions as an excuse for the fact that they continue to move very slowly and reluctantly on the reforms that the U.S. is demanding.
24510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: Iranian flotilla to Bahrain? on: May 12, 2011, 08:29:52 AM

Iranian Flotilla a Calculated Gamble

A little-known Iranian activist group called the Islamic Revolution Supporters Society announced Tuesday in Tehran that a flotilla of humanitarian activists would set sail for Bahrain from Iran’s southern port city of Bushehr on May 16. The “Solidarity with Oppressed Bahraini People” flotilla would be Iran’s way of calling attention to the Saudi and Bahraini governments for what Iran perceives as the subjugation of a Shiite majority by Sunni rulers. Iran’s Red Crescent Society has spoken in the past about readying aid for Bahrain, but this is the first time we’ve seen an Iranian activist group describe concrete plans to send an aid flotilla to Bahrain.

The aid flotilla public-relations tactic is not new, nor is it unique to Iran. In May of last year, a Turkish humanitarian activist group attempted to send an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos boarded a ship and ended up killing nine civilians. Though accounts of which side initiated the provocation remain in dispute, the diplomatic outrage that ensued scored Ankara a great deal of credibility within the Arab world while largely portraying Israel as an aggressor. In perhaps the most classic illustration of this tactic, the Exodus ship in 1947, carrying Holocaust survivors, broke through a British blockade en route to Palestine. The story was later made into a book and film that vilified the British, portrayed the Zionists as anti-imperialists and played a key role in shaping global perceptions toward the creation of the state of Israel.

Iran is hoping for a similar propaganda feat. Even if the flotilla never makes it to Bahrain’s shores or even fails to set sail — a likely prospect, given that the ships would encounter heavy resistance from Bahraini and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces, with the U.S. 5th Fleet standing by from Manama — Iran could still use the affair to try to portray itself as the brave guardian of its Shiite brethren and the Sunni Gulf Arab states as U.S.-dependent assailants. In the early days of the Arab uprisings, Iran seized an opportunity to fuel Shiite dissent in Bahrain, hoping that a sustained crisis there would eventually lead to the empowerment of Shia in eastern Arabia. A quick response by Saudi-led GCC forces has kept Iran from obtaining results in the early phase of this campaign, but time and the current geopolitical dynamics still work in Iran’s favor. In the longer term, Tehran still hopes to reinvigorate growing Shiite grievances by exploiting incidents that highlight a broader Sunni interest in keeping Shia politically disabled.

“By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians.”
Nonetheless, an attempt to sail a flotilla to Bahrain across troubled diplomatic waters creates the possibility of an incident that would make the Gaza flotilla affair appear minor in comparison. One wrong move by any one side, and a public-relations move could rapidly escalate into a military showdown in which Iran is left with the uncomfortable choice of standing down and taking a credibility hit for failing to come to the aid of Iranian civilian aid workers, or squaring off in a losing fight against the world’s most powerful navy. There are no clear indications yet that Iran will in fact sail the aid flotilla, but a worst-case scenario in the Persian Gulf region would have obvious consequences for global energy prices.

As Iran debates the pros and cons of this flotilla gamble, its diplomatic efforts to sow fissures within the Sunni Arab camp are proceeding apace. In the past week alone, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has traveled to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Over the past month, hints of a developing Iranian-Egyptian diplomatic rapprochement have also come to light. The Sunni Arab states may not agree on a lot of things, but — with the exception of Syria, which has a complex alliance with Iran — they do by and large agree on the strategic need to keep Iran at bay. Iran is now trying to chip away at this rare display of Arab solidarity through diplomatic outreach to countries that are too physically distant to feel meaningfully threatened by the Persians (like Egypt) and countries that are more demographically secure, too small, and/or economically entwined with Iran to engage in provocations against it (Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman).

As for the stalwart Sunni regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, who are leading the resistance against Iranian power projection in the Persian Gulf, Tehran seems to be relying more on scare tactics to try to coerce them to the negotiating table. By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians. Whether or not Iran follows through with such threats is an important question. If Iranian rhetoric remains just that then the Sunni Arab states are far more likely to throw their efforts into building a shield against Iran than to be pressured into searching for a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. The flotilla announcement is the latest on Iran’s list of strategic gambits, but it will take more than talk for Tehran to demonstrate it has the backbone to meaningfully challenge a U.S.-backed Arab alliance.

24511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 12, 2011, 08:24:51 AM
Well, McC got re-elected by pretending to be a hardass on defending the border and GB got dumped because of economic pressure organized by George Soros-- which IMHO should concern all lovers of free speech.

Losing in court proves NOTHING on the merits, only that activist judges can be found there.

"Racial bias"?  The term is certainly tossed about readily by the race-baiting left.  Do you have any more support for it than they do?  or for your assertion of "vitriol and hate" from GB?
24512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gold and Silver in the 70s on: May 12, 2011, 08:19:50 AM
I remind you of what happened to the price of the dollar when Volcker had to dramatically raise interest rates in the late 70s and of what happened when the Hunt Brothers tried cornering silver in the same period.  How much hot momentum money has been playing silver with its de minimis margin requirements.

What happens to US interest rates in a month when/if QE 2 comes to a close? 
24513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China and Cybersecurity: Trojan chips on: May 12, 2011, 08:15:35 AM

Pasting here BBG's post in the Internet thread

China and Cybersecurity: Trojan Chips and U.S.–Chinese Relations
Published on May 5, 2011 by Dean Cheng and Derek Scissors, Ph.D. WEBMEMO #3242

One subject of the third round of the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue will be cybersecurity. Part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s proposed Strategic Security Dialogue, it reflects the growing prominence of cybersecurity in Sino-American strategic relations.   

The concerns include computer network exploitation and computer network attacks, but also tampering with the physical infrastructure of communications and computer networks. Vulnerabilities could be introduced in the course of manufacturing equipment or created through purchase of malignant or counterfeit goods. Recent experience highlights these problems.
Such possibilities have brought calls for trade barriers, ranging from random entry-point inspections of various types of goods and equipment (e.g., chips and routers) to prohibition of some imports (e.g., communications hardware), especially from a major manufacturer, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The trade proposals tend to be vague because the cyber threat itself, while real, is vaguely presented. While an ill-defined threat certainly bears watching, it does not justify protectionism. Cybersecurity is largely classified, but trade is not, and trade policy cannot be held hostage to cybersecurity unless specific dangers are put forward.
What Is the Threat?
A longstanding fear has been that cyber attacks against the U.S. might result in disruptions to power, banking, and communications systems at a critical moment. The cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia, which disrupted commerce and communications, raise the specter that the U.S. might undergo the equivalent of a cyber Pearl Harbor. Efforts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to improve verification capabilities highlight the limitations of current computer engineering skills in, for example, diagnosing cyber intrusions. Initial studies on the Trusted Integrated Circuit program, seeking to create a secure supply chain, were requested in 2007. As of late 2010, DARPA was still seeking new research proposals for determining whether a given chip was reliable, and whether it had been maliciously modified, as part of the Integrity and Reliability of Integrated Circuits (IRIS) program.[1]
A more recent worry is vulnerabilities “hardwired” into the physical infrastructure of the Internet. In the last several years, the FBI has warned that counterfeit computer parts and systems may be widespread.
This can manifest itself in two ways: fake parts and systems, which may fail at dangerously higher rates, or contaminated systems that might incorporate hardwired backdoors and other security problems, allowing a foreign power to subvert a system.[2] Similar problems have been identified by American allies; the U.K. has identified counterfeit parts entering into its military supply chain.
Much cyber-related attention has been focused on the PRC. China is reportedly the source of many of the hacking efforts directed at U.S. military and security computer networks. Chinese computer infiltration has reputedly obtained access to such sensitive programs as F-35 design information. Such efforts as Titan Rain, Ghostnet, and others have reportedly attacked U.S. and other nations’ information systems systematically and have infiltrated email servers and networks around the world. One example is the “Shadow network,” which affected “social networking websites, webmail providers, free hosting providers and services from some of the largest companies.”[3] Many have been traced back to the PRC—but attribution to any specific Chinese entity is extremely difficult.
A growing concern is that China can exploit its position as one of the world’s largest producers of computer chips, motherboards, and other physical parts of the Internet to affect American and allied infrastructure. China has apparently already demonstrated an ability to tamper with Domain Name System (DNS) servers based in China, “effectively poisoning all DNS servers on the route.”[4]
The fear is that they could now affect foreign-based routers. In this regard, the issue of Chinese counterfeit parts is compounded by uncertainty about whether fake parts are being introduced as part of a concerted intelligence campaign or simply the result of profiteering by local contractors.
Public Information Is Lacking
The arcane nature of the threat enhances uncertainty. Understanding the workings of computer viruses, patches, and the vulnerabilities of routers or microchips is difficult. Comprehending the intricacies of global supply chains and tracing the ultimate source of sub-systems and components can be equally difficult. Former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden writes that “Rarely has something been so important and so talked about with less clarity and less apparent understanding.”[5]
Several studies highlight some of the myriad vulnerabilities.
The 2005 Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microchip Supply identified the growing security problem of microchips being manufactured (and more and more often designed) outside the United States.
The 2007 Defense Science Board Task Force on Mission Impact of Foreign Influence on DOD Software noted that software frequently incorporates pieces of code from a variety of sources, any of which might be a point of vulnerability.
The 2008 National Defense Industrial Association’s handbook “Engineering for System Assurance” provides a comprehensive overview of system assurance, which in turn highlights how difficult it can be to achieve it.
Over-classification is also a problem. General Hayden notes that much of the information on cyber threats is “overprotected.” Greg Garcia, head of the Bush Administration’s efforts on cybersecurity, has similarly noted that “there was too much classified…Too much was kept secret.”[6]
Leave Trade Alone
The ambiguity on the security side actually clarifies the trade side. If the cyber threat is understood only tenuously, testing imported goods for cyber threats will be inadequate to identify compromised equipment. With ineffective testing, banning some importers would not be worthwhile. In a global economy, equipment will simply be re-routed. The U.S. does not have the resources necessary to track the true source of goods when dangerous items cannot be easily discovered—and discovery may even be impossible.
If the threat was well understood but national security argued against the disclosure of vital information, this at least suggests that the danger from trade is secondary to other dangers. America retains the option, of course, of simply restricting trade on national security grounds without disclosing its reasons. This would be unwise.
One drawback of restricting trade would be the costs incurred by the U.S. in terms of spending on import inspections and the loss of availability of certain goods. The defense community is often not well-positioned to anticipate the extent of these economic costs. People will not relinquish scarce resources voluntarily when the gains from doing so are not spelled out.
The second drawback is the reaction of American trade partners. American exports already suffer from undocumented national security justifications for protectionism. Were the U.S. to introduce a new set of potentially sweeping restrictions based on hidden national security requirements, the global trade environment would immediately and sharply deteriorate. Costs would be far higher than indicated by looking at American actions alone.
Balancing Economic and Security Responsibilities
Security. For policymakers and the public to properly comprehend the magnitude of the problem, the Department of Defense must be as transparent as possible. Some material will be classified. But the trade-off between security classification and the ability to promptly and adequately respond to a threat should be weighted more heavily to the transparency side than it is at present.
Trade. The Department of Commerce and United States Trade Representative should restrict trade only in accordance with what can be defended publicly and systematically. Introduction of ad hoc trade restrictions that claim a classified basis will harm the American economy.
For now, it is unreasonable to impose considerable economic costs for the sake of a serious but vaguely presented threat.
Dean Cheng is Research Fellow in Chinese Political and Security Affairs and Derek Scissors, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in Asia Economic Policy in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
24514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1785: Virtue on: May 12, 2011, 08:12:11 AM
"Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you... From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 1785

24515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics on: May 12, 2011, 08:03:08 AM

"Cargo scanners using the new nuclear fingerprints would be sensitive enough to spot an entire bomb or the smaller parts to build one, according to Mohammad Ahmed, a nuclear physicist at Duke University."

Nice work Mohammed!

"They especially encourage students from historically black colleges and universities to participate, hoping the effort will help broaden the diversity of nuclear physicists working to identify new ways to curb the threat of future terror attacks."

Great  tongue  Affirmative action in physics tongue rolleyes

24516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cindy McCain, twit on: May 12, 2011, 07:58:53 AM
Well, McC just got another six years and to my eye seems too physically old to run again six years from now.

COMPLETE agreement on the merits of PC's comments.  GB is actually exemplary in his expression of his emotions (last night's show had him featuring a liberal progressive woman on a matter of agreement btw) ; C McC's tweet reveals her to be , , , a twit.
24517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: AQAP, missile strike on: May 12, 2011, 07:52:51 AM
By Scott Stewart

On May 5, a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) struck a vehicle in the town of Nissab in Yemen’s restive Shabwa province. The airstrike reportedly resulted in the deaths of two Yemeni members of the Yemen-based al Qaeda franchise group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and injured a third AQAP militant. Subsequent media reports indicated that the strike had targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born member of AQAP, but had failed to kill him.

The May 5 strike was not the first time al-Awlaki had been targeted and missed. On Dec. 24, 2009 (a day before the failed AQAP Christmas Day bombing attempt against Northwest Airlines Flight 253), an airstrike and ground assault was launched against a compound in the al-Said district of Shawba province that intelligence said was the site of a major meeting of AQAP members. The Yemeni government initially indicated that the attack had killed al-Awlaki along with several senior AQAP members, but those reports proved incorrect.

In 2009 and 2010, the United States conducted other strikes against AQAP in Yemen, though most of those strikes reportedly involved Tomahawk cruise missiles and carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft. Still, the United States has reportedly used UAVs to attack targets in Yemen on a number of occasions. In November 2002, the CIA launched a UAV strike against Abu Ali al-Harithi and five confederates in Marib. That strike essentially decapitated the al Qaeda node in Yemen and greatly reduced its operational effectiveness for several years. There are also reports that a May 24, 2010, strike may have been conducted by a UAV. However, that strike mistakenly killed the wrong target, which generated a great deal of anger among Yemen’s tribes, who then conducted armed attacks against pipelines and military bases. The use of airstrikes against AQAP was heavily curtailed after that attack.

All this is to say that a UAV strike in Yemen is not particularly surprising — nor is a strike targeting AQAP or al-Awlaki. Indeed, we noted in January our belief that AQAP had eclipsed the al Qaeda core on the physical battlefield due to the efforts of its tactical commanders and on the ideological battlefield due to the efforts of its propaganda wing, Al-Malahem Media.

One thing that has struck us as odd about the May 5 airstrike, however, is the way al-Awlaki has been characterized in the press. Several media outlets have referred to him as the leader of AQAP, which he clearly is not (he is not even the group’s primary religious leader). Other reports have even speculated that al-Awlaki could be in line to become the global leader of the jihadist movement following the death of Osama bin Laden. In light of such statements, it seems a fitting time to discuss once again the leadership of AQAP and to examine al-Awlaki’s role within the organization.

Stepping Into the Void

Yemen became a focus of U.S. counterterrorism efforts following the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen; the 9/11 attacks; and the October 2002 bombing attack against the oil tanker Limburg off the Yemeni coast. As noted above, following the November 2002 UAV strike that killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, the jihadists in Yemen entered a period of disorganization and operational dormancy. This period was also marked by the arrests and imprisonment of several important Yemeni jihadists. There remained many jihadists in Yemen, and many more sympathizers, but the movement in Yemen lacked effective leadership and direction.

This leadership void was filled by a man named Nasir al-Wahayshi, who is also known by the honorific name, or kunya, Abu Basir. Al-Wahayshi is an ethnic Yemeni who spent time in Afghanistan while allegedly working closely with Osama bin Laden. Some reports even indicate al-Wahayshi was bin Laden’s personal secretary. Al-Wahayshi fled Afghanistan following the battle at Tora Bora and went to Iran, where he was arrested by the government of Iran in late 2001 or early 2002. Al-Wahayshi was repatriated to Yemen in 2003 through an extradition deal with the Iranian government and subsequently escaped from a high-security prison outside Sanaa in February 2006, along with 22 other jihadists. Other escapees in the group included Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted by U.S. officials for his alleged role as the leader of the cell that carried out the suicide bombing of the USS Cole, and Qasim al-Raymi, who became AQAP’s military leader. Al-Raymi is said to be an aggressive, ruthless and fierce fighter (some have likened him to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). Al-Raymi has also been unsuccessfully targeted by an airstrike.

Following the 2006 prison break, there was a notable change in jihadist activity in Yemen. In September 2006 there was an attack involving dual vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) against oil facilities. This was the first use of VBIEDs on land in Yemen (large IEDs in boats had been used in the USS Cole and Limburg attacks).

Al-Wahayshi was able to establish control of Yemen’s ramshackle network of jihadists by mid 2007, bringing a resurgence to jihadist operations in Yemen. By January 2009, the remnants of the Saudi al Qaeda franchise had fled Saudi Arabia for Yemen and declared their loyalty to al-Wahayshi. It is notable that the Saudi contingent swore allegiance to al-Wahayshi because it indicated that the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni jihadist entities was not a merger of equals. A hierarchy had been established for AQAP with al-Wahayshi at the top, a testament to his leadership.

At the time of the merger, Saudi national (and former Guantanamo detainee) Said Ali al-Shihri was named as al-Wahayshi’s deputy. Another notable Saudi who joined the group during the union was Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri, who has become AQAP’s chief bombmaker and the mastermind behind the innovative IEDs used in AQAP’s attacks. Also joining AQAP at this time was a Saudi cleric named Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, who reportedly earned a degree in Islamic law from Muhammad Ibn-Saud University and would become the group’s mufti, or religious leader. Al-Rubaish fought with bin Laden and al-Wahayshi at Tora Bora, and shortly after the battle he was arrested and detained at Guantanamo Bay until 2006, when he was returned to Saudi Arabia. After completing the Saudi rehabilitation program, al-Rubaish fled to Yemen, where he joined AQAP. The relationship between AQAP figures such as al-Wahayshi and al-Rubaish and bin Laden helps explain why AQAP has been the franchise jihadist group that is the closest ideologically to the al Qaeda core.

Al-Awlaki’s Path to AQAP

This review of AQAP’s formation demonstrates that Nasir al-Wahayshi is clearly the leader of AQAP. However, that does not mean that al-Awlaki plays an insignificant role in the group. He has come to be an important ideologue and spokesman — especially to English-speaking Muslims. Even in the years before he was well-known, al-Awlaki was long suspected of being an al Qaeda supporter. The 9/11 Commission Report even noted that he had had close contact with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who attended his mosque in San Diego. After al-Awlaki moved to a mosque in northern Virginia, Alhamzi reportedly visited him with another 9/11 hijacker, Hani Hanjour.

In 2002, under increasing law enforcement scrutiny during the 9/11 investigation, al-Awlaki left the United States. After living and preaching for just over a year in London, he returned to Yemen in early 2004. It is important to remember that in early 2004, the jihadists in Yemen were off balance and directionless. While al-Awlaki was able to establish himself as a leading online English-language jihadist preacher, he was always somewhat circumspect in his choice of language in public and did not directly espouse attacks against the United States and the West, probably because he was undergoing a slow transformation from being an American Salafi to becoming a transnational jihadist, and it takes time for ideas to crystallize. Although al-Awlaki’s prominence as an English-language preacher increased dramatically during this time, it is noteworthy that al-Awlaki was not able to provide the leadership required to organize the jihadist movement in Yemen, which would continue to struggle until al-Wahayshi escaped from prison and assumed control. Al-Awlaki is an ideologue, not an organizer.

Al-Awlaki was arrested by Yemeni authorities in August 2006 and held in custody until December 2007. Between the time of his arrest and the time of his release, there had been a tectonic shift in the Yemeni jihadist landscape under the leadership of al-Wahayshi, which had once again become active and deadly, as evidenced by the July 2010 suicide attack that killed eight Spanish tourists and their two Yemeni guides. Following his release from prison, al-Awlaki’s public rhetoric indicated an increased degree of radicalism. However, despite the increasing radicalism in his sermons and statements, al-Awlaki remained somewhat ambivalent regarding his association with AQAP. Even following the above-mentioned Dec. 24, 2009, airstrike in which he was supposedly targeted, he denied being associated with AQAP in an interview with a Yemeni reporter. This position was becoming increasingly untenable as reports of his links to Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan and Christmas Day bombing-attempt suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab were revealed.

Al-Awlaki’s Role

By early 2010, al-Awlaki finally began to publicly acknowledge his affiliation with AQAP, a relationship that he openly admitted in the first edition of AQAP’s English-language Inspire magazine. Al-Awlaki has been a regular contributor to Inspire, and a review of his contributions clearly displays his role in the organization as a religious leader and propagandist. In the first edition of Inspire, al-Awlaki wrote the theme article for the edition, “May Our Souls Be Sacrificed for You,” which provided a religious justification for attacks against the individuals involved in the Mohammed cartoon controversy. A list of individuals to be targeted was also included.

The second edition of Inspire contained a lengthy article by al-Awlaki that was intended to refute a declaration made by a group of mainstream Islamic scholars called the New Mardin Declaration, which undercut several key tenets of jihadism such as the practice of takfir, or declaring another Muslim to be an unbeliever. The scholars also condemned the practice of terrorism and attacks directed against Muslim rulers. The fourth edition of Inspire contained a fatwa by al-Awlaki entitled “The Ruling on Disposing the Unbelievers Wealth in Dar el Harb,” which provides religious justification for stealing from unbelievers in the West. Then in the fifth edition of Inspire, al-Awlaki wrote an article titled “The Tsunami of Change,” which was intended to refute claims that the ideology of jihadism had become irrelevant in the wake of the uprisings occurring across the Arab world over the previous few months.

Al-Awlaki’s in-depth refutation of the New Mardin Declaration clearly displayed how seriously jihadists take any attack against their ideology, a trend we have noted in the past by discussing the efforts of core al Qaeda ideological figures like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Libi to vigorously defend the key doctrines of jihadism against assault from mainstream Islamic scholars. In the words of al-Libi, the jihadist battle “is not waged solely at the military and economic level, but is waged first and foremost at the level of doctrine.”

To a movement that is based upon ideology, especially an ideology that embraces “martyrdom,” the largest threat is not physical force — which can kill individuals — but rather ideological attacks like the New Mardin Declaration that can tear down the ideological base the movement is founded upon. This is something jihadists fear more than death.

Therefore it is important for the movement to have ideological leaders who not only expound and propagate the ideology, using it to recruit new members, but can also act as ideological watchdogs or apologists to defend the theology from ideological attack. This is one of the roles that al-Awlaki is currently playing for AQAP, that of an ideological guardian. He preaches the doctrine of jihadism in an effort to attract new recruits, provides religious rulings as to whether it is religiously permissible to attack particular targets and conduct specific types of operations and vigorously defends the doctrine of jihadism from attack.

However, it is important to understand that al-Awlaki is an ideological leader in AQAP and not the ideological leader of the organization. As noted above, the actual ideological leader (mufti) of AQAP is a Saudi named Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, who, unlike al-Awlaki, fought with bin Laden at Tora Bora, was captured and is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. In addition to this cachet of having fought side by side with bin Laden and maintained his faith through Guantanamo, al-Rubaish has also been formally educated in Shariah (al-Awlaki has degrees in civil engineering and education and worked toward a degree in human resources development, but he has no formal theological training). Al-Awlaki and al-Rubaish are also joined by another AQAP ideological leader, Adel bin Abdullah al-Abab, a Yemeni imam who, according to some reports, chairs AQAP’s Shariah Council.

So, while Al-Awlaki is an American citizen, speaks native English and is an accomplished communicator (especially in appealing to English-speaking Muslims), he is not the emir of AQAP or even its primary religious authority. Therefore it is unthinkable that he could possibly replace Osama bin Laden as the leader of the worldwide jihadist movement instead of a far more significant jihadist figure such as Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The second and clearly most significant role that al-Awlaki plays for AQAP is that of the group’s foremost preacher to English-speaking Muslims. Starting in 2008, al-Wahayshi and the AQAP leadership made a strategic decision to encourage radicalized Muslims living in the West to adopt a leaderless-resistance form of jihadist militancy. This operational model meant instructing radicalized Muslims to conduct simple attacks using readily available means where they live, instead of traveling to places like Yemen or Pakistan to obtain training. This appeal was evidenced not only in the group’s online Arabic-language magazine Sada al-Malahem but also in the founding of the group’s English-language online magazine Inspire.

Because of counterterrorism measures undertaken in the West, it has become more difficult for terrorist operatives from the al Qaeda core and franchise groups like AQAP to travel to the United States or Europe to conduct terrorist attacks. This is the reason that AQAP (and later the al Qaeda core) chose to focus on recruiting and equipping grassroots operatives. These efforts have paid dividends in attacks like the Fort Hood shooting, which killed more Americans than any attack conducted by the AQAP itself. So, while al-Awlaki’s role in reaching out to the English-speaking Muslim world may not seem all that significant as far as AQAP’s internal operations are concerned, it allows the group to project power into the heart of the West, and it is a critical component of the group’s effort to take the fight to their enemy’s homeland. Al-Awlaki is important, just not in the way many in the press are portraying him to be.

24518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 12, 2011, 07:45:41 AM
I see that fears of global recession are causing commodities to pull back (my silver holdings have been hard hit, in part due to increased margin requirements) and the problems with Greece and the Euro to strengthen the dollar and Treasuries , , ,
24519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Towery on Newt on: May 12, 2011, 07:41:23 AM
Anyone have a URL for the debate?

Anyway, Newt has officially announced , , ,
Trust me, when it comes to the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination, I am going to be fair in assessing the candidates. Already I have polled for NewsMax, and my early polls placed former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in fourth place among announced or potential candidates.

But before I go into my harsh analyst mode -- which once in a while leads to an "I'm hurt" email from Newt -- let me share my personal feelings about the man who has just announced that he will seek the presidency.

Other than the man most call my "other father," former U.S. Sen. Mack Mattingly, no political figure in my adult life has been as close to me or had more moments of importance in my life than Newt Gingrich. For over 33 years, we have laughed and cried together, argued incessantly, shared countless moments of happiness, known each other's family members, and run campaigns together. And after all that, I'm still constantly amazed at the new facets of Newt's life and politics that continue to surface.

But one thing I do know about Newt: Never underestimate him.

I still remember one day in 1980. We had just eaten lunch during a busy day of working on his re-election campaign for Congress. Newt asked me what my ultimate ambition was in politics. I'm sure my answer was something that would read embarrassingly grand if I recalled it today. But when I turned the tables and asked Newt what he planned to achieve, he said without missing a beat that he aspired to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

At that time, no Republican in my lifetime had ever served as speaker. I thought he was nuts.

I was wrong. And little did I know that I would have an inside, front-row view of that dream as it unfolded. Looking back, it was all worth it -- the many hours in cars, on planes, in meetings, pleading for money, battling for votes, fighting recounts.

So now my friend begins the voyage for the presidency. It will be an uphill climb. Mitt Romney has a full campaign team in place from his 2008 run. Potential candidate Donald Trump could self-finance his early campaign. Mike Huckabee, should he enter the race, starts out, based on the polls, as the frontrunner. Sarah Palin has a huge following, as does the often-overlooked Ron Paul.

Then there are the new faces, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and Mitch Daniels -- the favorite of the "Bush team."

And even if Gingrich wins the nomination, he must face an incumbent president whose fortunes appear to be on the rise. President Obama displayed decisive leadership and considerable political savvy in ordering the commando raid that, in essence, "executed" Osama bin Laden.

Still, the latest bad news on housing and the overall unemployment figures suggest that Barack Obama is vulnerable.

As for Newt, we all know his plusses and minuses. All agree he is brilliant.

He must harness his desire to address every new issue and every new policy solution, and instead stick to the message that half of the current GOP electorate was too young to pay attention to in the mid-1990s: his accomplishments as speaker.

It is a fact that Gingrich went toe-to-toe with then-President Clinton to force a reduction in the deficit and balanced budgets. He also successfully pressured Clinton to embrace a cut in the capital gains tax and to approve welfare reform.

Yes, I have heard about Newt's "political baggage" -- endlessly. But compared to someone like Donald Trump, whom I find to be a far more serious candidate than most pundits do -- Newt's personal history seems to pale in comparison. And polling confirms that no one really cares about ancient mistakes and misery.

Trust me, I will bust Newt in a minute if he makes a mistake. I've done it privately with him for years. We have had many a knockdown fight in our many years of friendship. So, he will get no free passes from this point forward.

But for a moment, imagine a skinny, overly ambitious kid working with a fairly slender Newt, our eyes both open and optimistic, and our whole lives ahead of us. I would have no heart and soul if I did not feel a special sense of pride in Gingrich's announcement Wednesday night.

Win or lose, Gingrich is owed much by the Republican Party. He is also owed much by me.

Good luck, old friend. I'll see you on the other side of the 2012 presidential race, whatever it may bring.
24520  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Where's the updated list? on: May 11, 2011, 02:41:40 PM
See my Reply #14 of 4/26.  It appears that that is where Cindy is keeping the updated list of record.
24521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: May 11, 2011, 12:38:05 PM
A fair point it seems to me.
24522  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Interesting discussion of the etymology of "Kali" on: May 11, 2011, 12:22:19 PM
24523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Backgrounder on Syria on: May 11, 2011, 11:51:50 AM


By Reva Bhalla

Syria is clearly in a state of internal crisis. Protests organized on Facebook were quickly stamped out in early February, but by mid-March, a faceless opposition had emerged from the flashpoint city of Daraa in Syria’s largely conservative Sunni southwest. From Daraa, demonstrations spread to the Kurdish northeast, the coastal Latakia area, urban Sunni strongholds in Hama and Homs, and to Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus. Feeling overwhelmed, the regime experimented with rhetoric on reforms while relying on much more familiar iron-fist methods in cracking down, arresting hundreds of men, cutting off water and electricity to the most rebellious areas, and making clear to the population that, with or without emergency rule in place, the price for dissent does not exclude death. (Activists claim more than 500 civilians have been killed in Syria since the demonstrations began, but that figure has not been independently verified.)

A survey of the headlines would lead many to believe that Syrian President Bashar al Assad will soon be joining Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in a line of deposed Arab despots. The situation in Syria is serious, but in our view, the crisis has not yet risen to a level that would warrant a forecast that the al Assad regime will fall.

Four key pillars sustain Syria’s minority Alawite-Baathist regime:

Power in the hands of the al Assad clan
Alawite unity
Alawite control over the military-intelligence apparatus
The Baath party’s monopoly on the political system
Though the regime is coming under significant stress, all four of these pillars are still standing. If any one falls, the al Assad regime will have a real existential crisis on its hands. To understand why this is the case, we need to begin with the story of how the Alawites came to dominate modern Syria.

The Rise of the Alawites

Syria’s complex demographics make it a difficult country to rule. It is believed that three-fourths of the country’s roughly 22 million people are Sunnis, including most of the Kurdish minority in the northeast. Given the volatility that generally accompanies sectarianism, Syria deliberately avoids conducting censuses on religious demographics, making it difficult to determine, for example, exactly how big the country’s Alawite minority has grown. Most estimates put the number of Alawites in Syria at around 1.5 million, or close to 7 percent of the population. When combined with Shia and Ismailis, non-Sunni Muslims average around 13 percent. Christians of several variations, including Orthodox and Maronite, make up around 10 percent of the population. The mostly mountain-dwelling Druze make up around 3 percent.

(click here to enlarge image)
Alawite power in Syria is only about five decades old. The Alawites are frequently (and erroneously) categorized as Shia, have many things in common with Christians and are often shunned by Sunnis and Shia alike. Consequently, Alawites attract a great deal of controversy in the Islamic world. The Alawites diverged from the mainstream Twelver of the Imami branch of Shiite Islam in the ninth century under the leadership of Ibn Nusayr (this is why, prior to 1920, Alawites were known more commonly as Nusayris). Their main link to Shiite Islam and the origin of the Alawite name stems from their reverence for the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali. The sect is often described as highly secretive and heretical for its rejection of Shariah and of common Islamic practices, including call to prayer, going to mosque for worship, making pilgrimages to Mecca and intolerance for alcohol. At the same time, Alawites celebrate many Christian holidays and revere Christian saints.

Alawites are a fractious bunch, historically divided among rival tribes and clans and split geographically between mountain refuges and plains in rural Syria. The province of Latakia, which provides critical access to the Mediterranean coast, is also the Alawite homeland, ensuring that any Alawite bid for autonomy would be met with stiff Sunni resistance. Historically, for much of the territory that is modern-day Syria, the Alawites represented the impoverished lot in the countryside while the urban-dwelling Sunnis dominated the country’s businesses and political posts. Unable to claim a firm standing among Muslims, Alawites would often embrace the Shiite concept of taqqiya (concealing or assimilating one’s faith to avoid persecution) in dealing with their Sunni counterparts.

Between 1920 and 1946, the French mandate provided the first critical boost to Syria’s Alawite community. In 1920, the French, who had spent years trying to legitimize and support the Alawites against an Ottoman-backed Sunni majority, had the Nusayris change their name to Alawites to emphasize the sect’s connection to the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali and to Shiite Islam. Along with the Druze and Christians, the Alawites would enable Paris to build a more effective counterweight to the Sunnis in managing the French colonial asset. The lesson here is important. Syria is not simply a mirror reflection of a country like Bahrain, a Shiite majority country run by a minority Sunni government. Rather than exhibiting a clear Sunni-Shiite religious-ideological divide, Syria’s history can be more accurately described as a struggle between the Sunnis on one hand and a group of minorities on the other.

Under the French, the Alawites, along with other minorities, for the first time enjoyed subsidies, legal rights and lower taxes than their Sunni counterparts. Most critically, the French reversed Ottoman designs of the Syrian security apparatus to allow for the influx of Alawites into military, police and intelligence posts to suppress Sunni challenges to French rule. Consequently, the end of the French mandate in 1946 was a defining moment for the Alawites, who by then had gotten their first real taste of the privileged life and were also the prime targets of purges led by the urban Sunni elite presiding over a newly independent Syria.

A Crucial Military Opening

The Sunnis quickly reasserted their political prowess in post-colonial Syria and worked to sideline Alawites from the government, businesses and courts. However, the Sunnis also made a fateful error in overlooking the heavy Alawite presence in the armed forces. While the Sunnis occupied the top posts within the military, the lower ranks were filled by rural Alawites who either could not afford the military exemption fees paid by most of the Sunni elite or simply saw military service as a decent means of employment given limited options. The seed was thus planted for an Alawite-led military coup while the Sunni elite were preoccupied with their own internal struggles.

The second major pillar supporting the Alawite rise came with the birth of the Baath party in Syria in 1947. For economically disadvantaged religious outcasts like Alawites, the Baathist campaign of secularism, socialism and Arab nationalism provided the ideal platform and political vehicle to organize and unify around. At the same time, the Baathist ideology caused huge fissures within the Sunni camp, as many — particularly the Islamists — opposed its secular, social program. In 1963, Baathist power was cemented through a military coup led by President Amin al-Hafiz, a Sunni general, who discharged many ranking Sunni officers, thereby providing openings for hundreds of Alawites to fill top-tier military positions during the 1963-1965 period on the grounds of being opposed to Arab unity. This measure tipped the balance in favor of Alawite officers who staged a coup in 1966 and for the first time placed Damascus in the hands of the Alawites. The 1960s also saw the beginning of a reversal of Syria’s sectarian rural-urban divide, as the Baath party encouraged Alawite migration into the cities to displace the Sunnis.

The Alawites had made their claim to the Syrian state, but internal differences threatened to stop their rise. It was not until 1970 that Alawite rivalries and Syria’s string of coups and counter-coups were put to rest with a bloodless military coup led by then-air force commander and Defense Minister Gen. Hafez al Assad (now deceased) against his Alawite rival, Salah Jadid. Al Assad was the first Alawite leader capable of dominating the fractious Alawite sect. The al Assads, who hail from the Numailatiyyah faction of the al Matawirah tribe (one of four main Alawite tribes), stacked the security apparatus with loyal clansmen while taking care to build patronage networks with Druze and Christian minorities that facilitated the al Assad rise. Just as important, the al Assad leadership co-opted key Sunni military and business elites, relying on notables like former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass to contain dissent within the military and Alawite big-business families like the Makhloufs to buy loyalty, or at least tolerance, among a Sunni merchant class that had seen most of its assets seized and redistributed by the state. Meanwhile, the al Assad regime showed little tolerance for religiously conservative Sunnis who refused to remain quiescent. The state took over the administration of religious funding, cracked down on groups deemed as extremist and empowered itself to dismiss the leaders of Friday prayers at will, fueling resentment among the Sunni Islamist class.

In a remarkably short period, the 40-year reign of the al Assad regime has since seen the complete consolidation of power by Syrian Alawites who, just a few decades earlier, were written off by the Sunni majority as powerless, heretical peasants.

A Resilient Regime

For the past four decades, the al Assad regime has carefully maintained these four pillars. The minority-ruled regime has proved remarkably resilient, despite several obstacles.

The regime witnessed its first meaningful backlash by Syria’s Sunni religious class in 1976, when the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood led an insurgency against the state with the aim of toppling the al Assad government. At that time, the Sunni Islamists had the support of many of the Sunni urban elite, but their turn toward jihadism also facilitated their downfall. The regime’s response was the leveling of the Sunni stronghold city of Hama in 1982. The Hama crackdown, which killed tens of thousands of Sunnis and drove the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood underground, remains fresh in the memories of Syrian Brotherhood members today, who have only recently built up the courage to publicly call on supporters to join in demonstrations against the regime. Still, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood lacks the organizational capabilities to resist the regime.

The al Assad regime has also experienced serious threats from within the family. After Hafez al Assad suffered from heart problems in 1983, his younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against the Syrian leader. None other than the al Assad matriarch, Naissa, mediated between her rival sons and reached a solution by which Rifaat was sent abroad to Paris, where he remains in exile, and Hafez was able to re-secure the loyalty of his troops. The 1994 death of Basil al Assad, brother of current president Bashar and then-heir apparent to a dying Hafez, also posed a significant threat to the unity of the al Assad clan. However, the regime was able to rely on key Sunni stalwarts such as Tlass to rally support within the military for Bashar, who was studying to become an ophthalmologist and had little experience with, or desire to enter, politics.

Even when faced with threats from abroad, the regime has endured. The 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the 2005 forced Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon may have knocked the regime off balance, but it never sent it over the edge. Syria’s military intervention in the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war allowed the regime to emerge stronger and more influential than ever through its management of Lebanon’s fractured political landscape, satisfying to a large extent Syria’s strategic need to dominate its western neighbor. Though the regime underwent serious internal strain when the Syrian military was forced out of Lebanon, it did not take long for Syria’s pervasive security-intelligence apparatus to rebuild its clout in the country.

The Current Crisis

The past seven weeks of protests in nearly all corners of Syria have led many to believe that the Syrian regime is on its last legs. However, such assumptions ignore the critical factors that have sustained this regime for decades, the most critical of which is the fact that the regime is still presiding over a military that remains largely unified and committed to putting down the protests with force. Syria cannot be compared to Tunisia, where the army was able quickly to depose an unpopular leader; Libya, where the military rapidly reverted to the country’s east-west historical divide; or Egypt, where the military used the protests to resolve a succession crisis, all while preserving the regime. The Syrian military, as it stands today, is a direct reflection of hard-fought Alawite hegemony over the state.

Syrian Alawites are stacked in the military from both the top and the bottom, keeping the army’s mostly Sunni 2nd Division commanders in check. Of the 200,000 career soldiers in the Syrian army, roughly 70 percent are Alawites. Some 80 percent of officers in the army are also believed to be Alawites. The military’s most elite division, the Republican Guard, led by the president’s younger brother Maher al Assad, is an all-Alawite force. Syria’s ground forces are organized in three corps (consisting of combined artillery, armor and mechanized infantry units). Two corps are led by Alawites (Damascus headquarters, which commands southeastern Syria, and Zabadani headquarters near the Lebanese border). The third is led by a Circassian Sunni from Aleppo headquarters.

Most of Syria’s 300,000 conscripts are Sunnis who complete their two- to three-year compulsory military service and leave the military, though the decline of Syrian agriculture has been forcing more rural Sunnis to remain beyond the compulsory period (a process the regime is tightly monitoring). Even though most of Syria’s air force pilots are Sunnis, most ground support crews are Alawites who control logistics, telecommunications and maintenance, thereby preventing potential Sunni air force dissenters from acting unilaterally. Syria’s air force intelligence, dominated by Alawites, is one of the strongest intelligence agencies within the security apparatus and has a core function of ensuring that Sunni pilots do not rebel against the regime.

The triumvirate managing the crackdowns on protesters consists of Bashar’s brother Maher; their brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat; and Ali Mamluk, the director of Syria’s Intelligence Directorate. Their strategy has been to use Christian and Druze troops and security personnel against Sunni protesters to create a wedge between the Sunnis and the country’s minority groups (Alawites, Druze, Christians), but this strategy also runs the risk of backfiring if sectarianism escalates to the point that the regime can no longer assimilate the broader Syrian community. President al Assad has also quietly called on retired Alawite generals to return to work with him as advisers to help ensure that they do not link up with the opposition.

Given Syria’s sectarian military dynamics, it is not surprising that significant military defections have not occurred during the current crisis. Smaller-scale defections of lower-ranking soldiers and some officers have been reported by activists in the southwest, where the unrest is most intense. These reports have not been verified, but even Syrian activist sources have admitted to STRATFOR that the defectors from the Syrian army’s 5th and 9th divisions are being put down.

A fledgling opposition movement calling itself the “National Initiative for Change” published a statement from Nicosia, Cyprus, appealing to Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Habib (an Alawite) and Army Chief of Staff Daoud Rajha (a Greek Orthodox Christian) to lead the process of political change in Syria, in an apparent attempt to spread the perception that the opposition is making headway in co-opting senior military members of the regime. Rajha replaced Habib as army chief of staff when the latter was relegated to the largely powerless political position of defense minister two years ago. In name, the president’s brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, is deputy army chief of staff, but in practice, he is the true chief of army staff.

The defections of Rajha and Habib, which remain unlikely at this point, would not necessarily represent a real break within the regime, but if large-scale defections within the military occur, it will be an extremely significant sign that the Alawites are fracturing and thus losing their grip over the armed forces. Without that control, the regime cannot survive. So far, this has not happened.

In many ways, the Alawites are the biggest threat to themselves. Remember, it was not until Hafez al Assad’s 1970 coup that the Alawites were able to put aside their differences and consolidate under one regime. The current crisis could provide an opportunity for rivals within the regime to undermine the president and make a bid for power. All eyes would naturally turn to Bashar’s exiled uncle Rifaat, who attempted a coup against his brother nearly three decades ago. But even Rifaat has been calling on Alawite supporters in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon and in Latakia, Syria, to refrain from joining the demonstrations, stressing that the present period is one in which regimes are being overthrown and that if Bashar falls, the entire Alawite sect will suffer as a result.

While the military and the al Assad clan are holding together, the insulation to the regime provided by the Baath party is starting to come into question. The Baath party is the main political vehicle through which the regime manages its patronage networks, though over the years the al Assad clan and the Alawite community have grown far more in stature than the wider concentric circle of the ruling party. In late April, some 230 Baath party members reportedly resigned from the party in protest. However, the development must also be viewed in context: These were a couple of hundred Baath party members out of a total membership of some 2 million in the country. Moreover, the defectors were concentrated in southern Syria around Daraa, the site of the most severe crackdowns. Though the defections within the Baath party have not risen to a significant level, it is easy to understand the pressure the al Assad regime is under to follow through with a promised reform to expand the political system, since political competition would undermine the Baath party monopoly and thus weaken one of the four legs of the regime.

The Foreign Tolerance Factor

Internally, Alawite unity and control over the military and Baath party loyalty are crucial to the al Assad regime’s staying power. Externally, the Syrian regime is greatly aided by the fact that the regional stakeholders — including Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran — by and large prefer to see the al Assads remain in power than deal with the likely destabilizing consequences of regime change.

It is not a coincidence that Israel, with which Syria shares a strong and mutual antipathy, has been largely silent over the Syrian unrest. Already unnerved by what may be in store for Egypt’s political future, Israel has a deep fear of the unknown regarding the Syrians. How, for example, would a conservative Sunni government in Damascus conduct its foreign policy? The real virtue of the Syrian regime lies in its predictability: The al Assad government, highly conscious of its military inferiority to Israel, is far more interested in maintaining its hegemony in Lebanon than in picking fights with Israel. While the al Assad government is a significant patron to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among other groups it manages within its Islamist militant supply chain, its support for such groups is also to some extent negotiable, as illustrated most recently by the fruits of Turkey’s negotiations with Damascus in containing Palestinian militant activity and in Syria’s ongoing, albeit strained, negotiations with Saudi Arabia over keeping Hezbollah in check. Israel’s view of Syria is a classic example of the benefits of dealing with the devil you do know rather than the devil you don’t.

The biggest sticking point for each of these regional stakeholders is Syria’s alliance with Iran. The Iranian government has a core interest in maintaining a strong lever in the Levant with which to threaten Israel, and it needs a Syria that stands apart from the Sunni Arab consensus to do so. Though Syria derives a great deal of leverage from its relationship with Iran, Syrian-Iranian interests are not always aligned. In fact, the more confident Syria is at home and in Lebanon, the more likely its interests are to clash with Iran. Shiite politics aside, secular-Baathist Syria and Islamist Iran are not ideological allies nor are they true Shiite brethren — they came together and remain allied for mostly tactical purposes, to counter Sunni forces. In the near term at least, Syria will not be persuaded by Riyadh, Ankara or anyone else to sever ties with Iran in return for a boost in regional support, but it will keep itself open to negotiations. Meanwhile, holding the al Assads in place provides Syria’s neighbors with some assurance that ethno-sectarian tensions already on the rise in the wider region will not lead to the eruption of such fault lines in Turkey (concerned with Kurdish spillover) and Lebanon (a traditional proxy Sunni-Shiite battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia).

Regional disinterest in pushing for regime change in Syria could be seen even in the April 29 U.N. Human Rights Council meeting to condemn Syria. Bahrain and Jordan did not show up to vote, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt insisted on a watered-down resolution. Saudi Arabia has even quietly instructed the Arab League to avoid discussion of the situation in Syria in the next Arab League meeting, scheduled for mid-May.

Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has given indications that it is seeking out Sunni alternatives to the al Assad regime for the longer term and is quietly developing a relationship with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. AKP does not have the influence currently to effect meaningful change within Syria, nor does it particularly want to at this time. The Turks remain far more concerned about Kurdish unrest and refugees spilling over into Turkey with just a few weeks remaining before national elections.

Meanwhile, the United States and its NATO allies are struggling to reconcile the humanitarian argument that led to the military intervention with Libya with the situation in Syria. The United States especially does not want to paint itself into a corner with rhetoric that could commit forces to yet another military intervention in the Islamic world — and in a much more complex and volatile part of the region than Libya — and is relying instead on policy actions like sanctions that it hopes exhibit sufficient anger at the crackdowns.

In short, the Syrian regime may be an irritant to many but not a large enough one to compel the regional stakeholders to devote their efforts toward regime change in Damascus.

Hanging on by More Than a Thread

Troubles are no doubt rising in Syria, and the al Assad regime will face unprecedented difficulty in trying to manage affairs at home in the months ahead. That said, it so far has maintained the four pillars supporting its power. The al Assad clan remains unified, the broader Alawite community and its minority allies are largely sticking together, Alawite control over the military is holding and the Baath party’s monopoly remains intact. Alawites appear to be highly conscious of the fact that the first signs of Alawite fracturing in the military and the state overall could lead to the near-identical conditions that led to its own rise — only this time, power would tilt back in favor of the rural Sunni masses and away from the urbanized Alawite elite. So far, this deep-seated fear of a reversal of Alawite power is precisely what is keeping the regime standing. Considering that Alawites were second-class citizens of Syria less than century ago, that memory may be recent enough to remind Syrian Alawites of the consequences of internal dissent. The factors of regime stability outlined here are by no means static, and the stress on the regime is certainly rising. Until those legs show real signs of weakening, however, the al Assad regime has the tools it needs to fight the effects of the Arab Spring.

Read more: Making Sense of the Syrian Crisis | STRATFOR
24524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Gas for Israel on: May 11, 2011, 11:44:06 AM

During a meeting between the Israeli and Qatari prime ministers May 8 in London, Doha reportedly offered to sell liquefied natural gas to Israel. The rumored offer comes as Egypt, which supplies Israel with about 40 percent of its natural gas needs, is showing an intention to renegotiate the controversial natural gas deal with Israel that has provided energy to the country at below-market rates. A partnership with Qatar may offer some longer term potential for Israel to reduce its dependence on Egyptian energy, but due to infrastructure limitations, Israel likely will not have any choice but to pay a higher price to Cairo in the interim.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani in London on May 8, Ahram Online reported, citing Israel Radio. During the meeting, the Qatari prime minister reportedly expressed Qatar’s willingness to supply Israel with liquefied natural gas (LNG). Israel is becoming increasingly concerned about its energy security amid Egyptian calls to renegotiate the terms of a natural gas deal between the two countries, as well as sporadic attacks on the Egyptian-Israeli natural gas pipeline that have caused two temporary disruptions in delivery since February.

Though Qatar’s offer does have long-term potential to make Israel less dependent on Egyptian energy supplies, in the near term Israel will have little choice but to accede to Cairo’s demands on changes to the natural gas deal.

Egypt currently supplies 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas as part of an agreement signed in 2005. The delivery of natural gas started in May 2008 through an underwater pipeline from the Egyptian city of El Arish on the northern Mediterranean coast to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The specifics of the deal have long remained unknown, though an addendum was signed to it in 2009 increasing the amount of natural gas exported from 1.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) to 2.1 bcm.

The deal has long been unpopular with the Egyptian public due to the preferential terms under which it sold natural gas to Israel at below-market prices. Following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, however, the interim government and Supreme Council of the Armed Forces are pushing for a renegotiation of the agreement. Former Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy and five other former officials were detained April 21 for an investigation into the contract. Unconfirmed leaks from the Egyptian Interior Ministry in March indicated that Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa, as well as the former president himself, personally benefited from the deal, which would not be unusual given the nature of the Mubarak regime and Gamal’s extensive ties to businessmen controlling all sectors of the Egyptian economy. By pushing for a revision of the natural gas deal, the Egyptian military aims to both increase its revenue to help pay Egypt’s budget deficit and debt, which could make the Egyptian economy even more vulnerable while it is trying to recover from the ongoing political turmoil, and to legitimize itself in the eyes of the Egyptian public by distancing itself from the former regime. To this end, unnamed Egyptian officials told Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on May 5 that negotiations with Israel would start by the end of May with the aim of doubling the current price level.

Besides Egyptian demands to revise the current deal, Israeli dependence on Egyptian natural gas is also increasingly questioned due to a series of attacks on the pipeline that twice led to temporary disruptions in supply. The first attack occurred Feb. 5 during the unrest that resulted in Mubarak’s overthrow Feb. 11. Another attempt at sabotage was reportedly thwarted March 27. A second attack succeeded April 27, prompting Israeli officials, such as Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, to speak out about Israel’s need to find alternative resources to lessen its dependence on Egypt, including accelerating the development of the recently discovered Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. However, Israel is years away from developing those fields. Therefore, the leak about Netanyahu’s meeting with his Qatari counterpart was likely intended to show Egypt that Israel has other options when it comes to natural gas supply. Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter. Even though Israel does not have an LNG import station at present, it announced in February that it would build a floating platform off the northern city of Hadera by the end of 2012.

If the project can be completed as planned, Israel could reduce its dependence on Egyptian natural gas by buying LNG from Qatar, which could be found at lower prices on the spot market. Egypt, for its part, would have a number of options for its reserves: It could still supply Jordan and Syria, two destinations of the Arab Gas Pipeline, with natural gas; it could export natural gas to other clients via LNG facilities; and under a deal signed in March 2006, the pipeline will eventually be extended through Syria to Turkey and Iraq, adding more potential markets. Jordan depends on Egyptian natural gas for 80 percent of its electricity production, so Egypt would likely have a destination for any excess production that had previously been purchased by Israel.

This, however, does not mean that both Egypt and Israel intend to cancel the deal altogether. Egypt and Israel are likely to reach a renewed accommodation that could satisfy Egypt’s demands, at least until Israel develops viable natural gas alternatives. But until that point, Israel has no option but to negotiate a new price with Egypt, and Cairo’s newfound inclination to push for such a renegotiation is a sign of the cooler relations between the two states.

Read more: Israel's Growing Energy Security Concerns | STRATFOR
24525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: May 11, 2011, 11:41:43 AM
Thank you for keeping this on our radar screen GM
24526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Security Report on: May 11, 2011, 11:40:53 AM
Gunbattles in Matamoros

A series of gunbattles flared up May 5 in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, resulting in the emplacement of several cartel roadblocks in and around the city. This is a tactic not typically employed by the Gulf cartel, which controls that territory. One of the battles started in the street in front of the Tamaulipas state police building just before 7:30 a.m. and continued for almost an hour.

According to the state attorney general’s office, the firefights involved federal troops and unidentified cartel gunmen, but there is conflicting information and evidence of a third significant element: Los Zetas. Posts on Internet forums and Twitter describe gunfire and explosions that morning in several areas of Matamoros and along the 50 kilometers (30 miles) of highway between Matamoros and Valle Hermoso. The series of roadblocks included one blockade very near the Matamoros side of the Veterans International Bridge point of entry, which caused a temporary closure of the southbound lanes of the point of entry by U.S. authorities.

What is significant about these events is the use of trailers and vehicles to block roads after the gunbattles, which is a tactic regularly employed by Los Zetas. Matamoros is home turf for the Gulf cartel, and the presence of roadblocks indicates the possibility that the fighting was a significant probe by Los Zetas. Information posted on the Internet by possible witnesses indicated that the battles involved two cartel groups — gunmen connected to Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen (incarcerated in a U.S. federal penitentiary but known to still be running many Gulf operations via proxies) and a contingent of Zetas gunmen. The placement of the roadblocks after the main battle and the running gunbattle from southern Matamoros to Valle Hermoso make it likely that Zetas gunmen were involved.

Judging from the reported events, and what is known of Zetas tactics, it appears they successfully penetrated the Gulf’s outlying surveillance posts surrounding the city and pushed into central Matamoros, nearly to the U.S. border. Last February, in the last major round of Zetas incursions into Matamoros, the violence remained at a sustained level for a couple of weeks. It is likely that this latest probing action will be followed by a series of battles in the next week or two, and extreme caution should be exercised by anyone conducting business in the region.

Arrests in Mexico City

Federal authorities arrested Jose Efrain Zarco Cardenas and another suspect May 7 in Mexico City. Zarco Cardenas was the latest leader of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA), and according to Mexican media reports he was restructuring CIDA and working to forge alliances with the Gulf cartel and the hybrid group La Familia Michoacana/Knights Templar. Media reports also suggest that Zarco Cardenas may have been headed to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, to acquire weapons, drugs and/or money from the Gulf cartel.

Despite its name, CIDA’s area of influence stretches beyond the local Acapulco area. STRATFOR sources recently indicated that CIDA has as many as 180 gunmen in Morelos state distributed in three groups and covering a triangular region about 65 kilometers south of Mexico City, with the triangle’s corners centered on the cities of Cuernavaca, Cuautla and Amacuzac.

The arrest and possible incarceration of CIDA’s leader could further destabilize the cartel, but not enough is known about its membership to rule out the possibility that it can withstand the loss. Given the group’s shaky footing in the Pacific coast areas of Guerrero and southern Michoacan states, where it has been marginalized, CIDA’s apparently strong presence in the triangular area south of Mexico City may be the result of an effort to rebuild its membership and strength. This could mean a CIDA resurgence over the next three to six months, and if that occurs we will expect to see the group try to re-establish itself in strength in the Acapulco seaport area.

Firefight on Falcon Lake

A firefight reportedly occurred the afternoon of May 9 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border between Laredo and McAllen, Texas. Although few details have emerged about the incident, a Mexican navy patrol on the lake apparently encountered a group of Zetas gunmen on an island about 3.5 kilometers from Nueva Ciudad Guerrero. A gunbattle began, and marines reportedly were called in to reinforce the navy patrol. It is unclear whether any gunmen were captured, though 12 gunmen and one marine reportedly were killed. Mexican forces seized 19 firearms, including a Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle and a 5.56 mm light machine gun.

STRATFOR’s initial take on the significance of this event is that Los Zetas appear once again to have ramped up their marijuana-smuggling operations across Falcon Lake. Following the shooting of David Hartley in September 2010, there was an increase in law enforcement and military patrolling of the lake on both sides of the border, and it was apparent that Zetas operations had withdrawn while the organization lay low. Now Los Zetas appear to be using the islands again, in the same area of the lake where they were last summer when they encountered the Hartleys (who reportedly were sightseeing at the Old Guerrero church ruins). The area is remote, with few residents, and Los Zetas need more smuggling routes to increase revenue in order to buy more weapons and train more gunmen. With hot weather setting in, the increasing number of U.S. citizens plying the lake in watercraft should heed the warnings and stay well away from border buoys and not venture anywhere near the Mexican side.

(click here to view interactive map)

May 2

Soldiers in the La Hacienda neighborhood of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, chased and killed two suspected cartel gunmen in a car. A third gunman reportedly escaped, leaving behind a suitcase full of ammunition.
Security forces arrested nine suspected members of the Cartel Nueva Generacion in the municipality of Tequila, Jalisco state. The men were arrested with 17 firearms, four bulletproof vests, 14 radios and approximately 4,140 rounds of ammunition.
Local residents found the body of a man wrapped in a blanket in the Jardines de la Silla neighborhood of Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The victim had been shot in the head.
A group of unidentified gunmen shot and killed a police officer, injured two others and stole seven firearms from municipal police officers during three separate incidents in the municipality of Acapulco, Guerrero state.

May 3

Police found four decapitated bodies in an abandoned car in the San Antonio neighborhood of Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico state. A message was left near the victims’ severed heads saying they were murdered for “working with the H and the CC.” In the place of a signature on the message were three question marks. Reports indicated that the message came from Cartel del Centro.
Police found the bodies of four men who had been shot to death in the town of Tablillas San Dimas, Durango state.

May 4

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped three highway patrol officers in Linares, Nuevo Leon state. Three gunmen were reportedly killed in the incident.
Workers at a department store in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state, discovered a dismembered body in the store parking lot. A message attributing the crime to “El Sapo Guapo,” an alleged local leader of La Familia Michoacana, was found near plastic bags containing the body parts.
The Public Security Secretariat announced that federal police officers freed 16 migrants being held hostage in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified gunmen in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state, shot and killed two police officers in a drive-by shooting. The content of a message found near the officers’ bodies was not reported.

May 5

Unidentified gunmen in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, used stolen vehicles to block several roads, including Pedro Cardenas, Sendero Nacional, Canales, Sexta, Portes Gil and the Ignacio Zaragoza International Bridge.
The decapitated body of a man wrapped in plastic bags was found in the Ciudad Cuauhtemoc neighborhood of Ecatepec, Mexico state. The victim’s head was found a short distance from the body.
Unidentified gunmen wearing uniforms similar to those worn by federal police officers shot and killed two men and two women travelling in a car in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The victims were shot after a brief chase.
Police in Pachuca, Hidalgo state, arrested 20 people, including five police officers, for alleged links to Los Zetas.
Soldiers arrested 23 police officers in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, for alleged links to organized crime.

May 6

Unidentified gunmen travelling in two vehicles shot and killed six people outside a taco stand in the municipality of Ebano, San Luis Potosi state.
Soldiers in the Nuevo Leon Estado de Progreso and Agropecuario neighborhoods of Escobedo, Nuevo Leon state, freed nine people held hostage and killed one suspected cartel gunman. Two other suspects were arrested during the raid. The soldiers had been searching for gunmen believed to be responsible for a firefight in Escobedo earlier in the day.
Authorities found the decapitated body of a man wrapped in a blanket in the El Refugio neighborhood of Durango, Durango state. The victim’s head was found in a different location.
Federal police arrested Jose Efrain Zarco Cardenas, the leader of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, in Mexico City along with another suspect.

May 7

Soldiers in the municipality of Poncitlan, Jalisco state, seized approximately 720 kilograms (1,600 pounds) of methamphetamine and more than 3,000 liters (800 gallons) of chemicals at a drug lab.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire in a seafood restaurant in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, killing a man and injuring a woman.
Federal police officers in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, stopped a pickup truck for speeding and discovered that two Guatemalans traveling in the vehicle had no identity documents. The people in the vehicle led police to a house from which 16 migrants were seized.

May 8

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the former deputy director of prevention and social re-adaptation in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Unidentified gunmen traveling in two vehicles shot and killed a prison guard in the San Ignacio neighborhood of Durango, Durango state.
24527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ox thanks to Al Gore on: May 11, 2011, 11:35:33 AM
24528  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: May 11, 2011, 11:34:24 AM
In the Hermosa Beach area with Guro Crafty.  Details soon.
24529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Stealth Helicopter that crashed in Afpakia on: May 11, 2011, 10:14:42 AM
Hi, I’m Fred Burton with STRATFOR, and in this week’s Above the Tearline we are going to take a look at the stealth helicopter that crashed at the safe house hiding Osama bin Laden.

Numerous media sources have reported that the stealth helicopter was a modified Blackhawk. Having said that, we have no independent confirmation as to whether or not it was a Blackhawk. Our sources are indicating that the stealth helicopter has been operational for a good four years, predominantly flying special operations missions only at night.

In looking at the design of the helicopter wreckage from the bin Laden safe house, it carries many of the characteristics that you would typically see on the stealth bomber and aircraft that is flying today. The design of the helicopter is one that is masked to reduce its radar signature as well as dampen the noise from the rotors. And it’s our understanding that the aircraft was designed for that specific purpose, meaning special operations missions to be handled at night behind enemy lines for the sole purpose of masking its approach to an attack site. From a person I talked to who has flown in one of these stealth helicopters, the helicopter has been described as amazingly quiet in the air, and the noise is much like an outdoor air conditioner next to your house in the dead of the summer.

The helicopter was flown out of the 160th at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and certainly explains why President Obama made the visit to personally recognize the flight crews.

Our aviation sources close to the operation advise that the stealth helicopter crashed due to a brown out. In essence, as the helicopter approached, with the pilot utilizing night vision goggles, the dust and the dirt of the compound created an atmosphere which caused the pilot to set down the helicopter on the wall. After the helicopter crashed, a front portion, the cockpit area, was blown up by special operations SEALS while they were departing with bin Laden’s body.

Having done a lot of aircraft investigations in my past, one of the things you will notice is, the Pakistanis lost control of the crash site. At this point it’s unclear how much of the wreckage has already been lost that potentially could show up on the black market or in the hands of a nation-state that would be fascinated to learn the technology used in order to enter and exit Pakistani airspace without getting caught.

The “Above the Tearline” aspect of this video is the fact that we have been flying this stealth helicopter for four years is a remarkable achievement, and the fact that there had been no leaks until the pictures of the helicopter next to safe house surfaced.

24530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Feds getting out of big mortgages on: May 11, 2011, 08:24:35 AM
MONTEREY, Calif. — By summer’s end, buyers and sellers in some of the country’s most upscale housing markets are slated to lose one their biggest benefactors: the deep pockets of the federal government. In this seaside community of pricey homes, the dread of yet another housing shock is already spreading.

“We’re looking at more price drops, more foreclosures,” said Rick Del Pozzo, a loan broker. “This snowball that’s been rolling downhill is going to pick up some speed.”
For the last three years, federal agencies have backed new mortgages as large as $729,750 in desirable neighborhoods in high-cost states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Without the government covering the risk of default, many lenders would have refused to make the loans. With the economy in free fall, Congress broadened its traditionally generous support of housing to a substantial degree.

But now Democrats and Republicans agree that the taxpayer should no longer be responsible for homes valued well above the national average, and are about to turn a top slice of the housing market into a testing ground for whether the private mortgage market can once again go it alone. The result, analysts say, will be higher-cost loans and fewer potential buyers for more expensive homes.

Michael S. Barr, a former assistant Treasury secretary, said the federal government’s retrenchment would be painful for many communities. “There’s always going to be a line, and for the person just over it it’s always going to be an arbitrary line,” said Mr. Barr, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School. “But there is no entitlement to living in a home that costs $750,000.”

As the housing market braces for more trouble, homeowners everywhere have been reduced to hoping things will someday stop getting worse. In some areas, foreclosures are the only thing selling. New home construction is nearly nonexistent. And CoreLogic, a data company, said Tuesday that house prices fell 7.5 percent over the last year.

The federal government last year backed nine out of 10 new mortgages nationwide, and losses from soured loans are still mounting. Fannie Mae, which buys mortgages from lenders and packages them for investors, said last week it needed an additional $6.2 billion in aid, bringing the cost of its rescue to nearly $100 billion.

Getting the government out of the mortgage business, however, is proving much more difficult than doling out new benefits. As regulators prepare to drop the level at which they will guarantee loans — here in Monterey County, the level will drop by a third to $483,000 — buyers and sellers are wondering why they should be punished simply for living in an expensive region.

Sellers worry that the pool of potential buyers will shrink. “I’m glad to see they’re trying to rein in Fannie Mae, but I think I’m being disproportionately penalized,” said Rayn Random, who is trying to sell her house in the hills for $849,000 so she can move to Florida.

Buyers might face less competition in the fall but are likely to see more demands from lenders, including higher credit scores and larger down payments. Steve McNally, a hotel manager from Vancouver, said he had only about 20 percent to put down on a new home in Monterey County.

If a bigger deposit were required, Mr. McNally said, “I’d wait and rent.”

Even those who bought ahead of the changes, scheduled to take effect Sept. 30, worry about the effect on values. Greg Peterson recently purchased a house in Monterey for $700,000. “That doesn’t get you a palace,” said Mr. Peterson, a flight attendant.

He qualified for government insurance, which meant he needed only a small down payment. If that option is not available in the future, he said, “home prices all around me will plummet.”

The National Association of Realtors, 8,000 of whom have gathered in Washington this week for their midyear legislative meeting, is making an extension of the loan guarantees a top lobbying priority.


Page 2 of 2)

“Reducing the limits will put more downward pressure on prices,” said the N.A.R. president, Ron Phipps. “I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense.” But he said that in contrast to last year, when a one-year extension of the higher limits sailed through Congress, “there’s more resistance.”

Federal regulators acknowledge that mortgages will get more expensive in upscale neighborhoods but say the effect of the smaller guarantees on the overall housing market will be muted.
A Federal Housing Administration spokeswoman declined to comment but pointed to the Obama administration’s position paper on reforming the housing market. “Larger loans for more expensive homes will once again be funded only through the private market,” it declares.

Brokers and agents here in Monterey said terms were much tougher for nonguaranteed loans since lenders were so wary. Borrowers are required to come up with down payments of 30 percent or more while showing greater assets, higher credit ratings and lower debt-to-income ratios.

In the Federal Reserve’s quarterly survey of lenders, released last week, only two of the 53 banks said their credit standards for prime residential mortgages had eased. Another two said they had tightened. The other 49 said their standards were the same — tough.

The Mortgage Bankers Association has opposed letting the limits drop, although a spokesman said its members were studying the issue.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat this,” said Mr. Barr, the former Treasury official. “The housing finance system of the future will be one in which borrowers pay more.”

The loan limits were $417,000 everywhere in the country before the economy swooned in 2008. The new limits will be determined by various formulas, including the median price in the county, but will not fall back to their precrisis levels. In many affected counties, the loan limit will fall about 15 percent, to $625,500.

Monterey County, however, will see a much greater drop. The county is really two housing markets: the farming city of Salinas and the more affluent Monterey and Carmel.

Real estate records show that 462 loans were made in Monterey County between the current limit and the new ceiling since the beginning of 2009, according to the research firm DataQuick. That was only about 1 percent of the loans made in the county. But it was a much higher percentage for Monterey and Carmel — about a quarter of their sales.

Heidi Daunt, with Treehouse Mortgage, said loans too large for a government guarantee currently carried interest rates of at least 6 percent, more than a point higher than government-backed loans.

“That can definitely blow a lot of people out of the water,” Ms. Daunt said.
24531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tench Coxe, 1787 on: May 11, 2011, 08:02:56 AM
"As our president bears no resemblance to a king so we shall see the Senate has no similitude to nobles. First, not being hereditary, their collective knowledge, wisdom, and virtue are not precarious. For by these qualities alone are they to obtain their offices, and they will have none of the peculiar qualities and vices of those men who possess power merely because their father held it before them." --Tench Coxe, An American Citizen, No. 2, 1787

24532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Doubts cloud future on: May 11, 2011, 07:47:35 AM
Doubts Cloud Future of U.S.-China Relations

The third round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China started May 9. Cabinet-level officials on both sides emphasized that cooperation in all categories is strong and growing. They credited the January meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao with establishing a new period of warm relations. Both sides expressed confidence that disagreements on everything from economic policy to human rights can be overcome.

Yet the optimistic tone seems to rise in proportion with the deepening of doubts in the relationship. Most recently, events in South Asia have complicated matters. While the United States achieved a victory in killing Osama bin Laden, the event has clouded its relations with Pakistan. China and Pakistan are historical and contemporary allies with mutual antagonism toward India. While China has no trouble formally applauding the death of bin Laden — and using it to highlight its concerns about the East Turkestan Islamic Movement — it is shocked at the Americans’ open criticism of Pakistan in the aftermath. U.S. actions have stirred up public anger in Pakistan in a way that would seem to pose unnecessary risks to U.S.-Pakistani relations and regional stability. China senses that U.S. foreign policy is shifting in important ways.

When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, the United States and China were in the midst of rocky relations symbolized by the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and the EP-3 incident in Hainan. China supported America’s new war on terrorism, sensing an opportunity to crack down on militants in its far west and to enjoy Washington’s refocusing on a different region. China also lent Pakistan assistance as the latter withdrew support for the Taliban to assist the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and Beijing pledged to support U.S. counterterrorism efforts as long as the United States reciprocated. This arrangement served as a basis for new cooperation.

“The very topics to be included in the strategic security talks read like a list of the new threats the two countries pose to each other: nuclear proliferation, missile defense, cyber-security, and the militarization of space.”
As the United States waded deeper into Afghanistan and Iraq, China faced a period of extraordinary opportunity. Beijing had just joined the World Trade Organization and benefited from having the doors to export markets flung open during a global credit boom. Although Washington complained about China’s delays on economic liberalization, Beijing found that a little currency appreciation, along with other adjustments here and there, was enough to fend off American pressure so long as Washington was embroiled in crises in the Middle East.

The arrangement began to weaken toward the end of the decade. Fast-growing China, emboldened by the global economic crisis in 2008, began to test the waters in its region to see where its rising clout would give it greater bargaining power. Meanwhile, the United States began to see that its relative neglect of the Asia-Pacific region had opened up a space that China was seeking to fill. Washington declared its return to the region in 2009, but it has not yet been able to put much effort behind the initiative. China enjoyed a bout of assertiveness in its periphery, provoking a U.S. backlash. By 2010 the situation had grown bleaker than it had been for a long time.

This is the context in which Obama and Hu relaxed tensions in January 2011, an arrangement that appears to be holding for now. China’s yuan is rising and Beijing is cooperating on North Korea. Washington remains preoccupied with foreign wars and domestic troubles and is not willing to confront Beijing. Meanwhile, the two are making economic trade-offs. Both sides recognize underlying pressures but point to the strategic and economic talks as a means of containing their disagreements. They are specifically talking up the new “strategic security” dialogue as a way to bring top military leaders into the civilian dialogue. Washington hopes the dialogue will provide a forum that will eliminate the problems arising from the intermittent military communication and mixed signals sent from China’s military and civilian leaders.

Despite efforts to manage tensions and delay confrontation, the relationship looks set to deteriorate. The very topics to be included in the strategic security talks read like a list of the new threats the two countries pose to each other: nuclear proliferation, missile defense, cyber-security and the militarization of space.

On a deeper level, bin Laden’s death is a harbinger of the coming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This move will leave China with the burden of suppressing militancy and helping Pakistan do the same. While the United States prods Beijing over the implications of Arab popular unrest for the future of China’s political system, Beijing points to the threat of instability in the Persian Gulf, hoping to prolong China’s strategic opportunity — and mitigate threats to its oil supplies — by keeping Washington preoccupied there. China sees American commitment waning in the Middle East and South Asia and worries that its priorities will next shift to containing China’s rise.

China is an emerging power attempting to expand its influence into a large space where it has not felt challenged for more than a decade. But ultimately the United States views the Asia-Pacific theater as one critical to its global strategy and to the naval supremacy it forged in the fires of World War II. The two countries have yet to settle their spheres of influence in this region, and dialogue alone will not accomplish such delineation. When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S.-China dialogue should “demystify long-term plans and aspirations,” she meant the United States wants to make sure that China does not seek regional hegemony. Washington is bound to try to undercut any such claimant. In other words, since U.S. hegemony is not vanishing, the “demystifying” is up to Beijing.

None of this is to say the United States and China cannot cooperate further. Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo struck a sincere tone May 9 when he recalled that 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the United States and China’s “ping-pong diplomacy” — the ice-breaker that allowed for detente during the Cold War. Dai said the only reason for a 70-year-old like himself to engage in diplomacy is to make sure this detente continues into the future. However, Dai’s comments also called attention to the generational change sweeping China’s leadership and the doubts about the durability of the Sino-American Cold War arrangement. In this context, Clinton’s talk of “forward-deployed diplomacy” — in this case, re-engagement in the Asia-Pacific — made for a stark contrast that underlined the doubts.

24533  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 10, 2011, 08:37:57 PM
Hum , , , who will be our EMT?  Frankfurter?

Location:  Will be about ten minutes from the usual location.  I think everyone will be very pleased.  Tomorrow (remember "tomorrow" means "not today") I will get the URL of the location so I can send it to all concerned.  Also, we are looking at caravaning from the park. 
24534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Bin Laden dead on: May 10, 2011, 08:35:00 PM
A Hollywood movie that often about a rogue CIA being challenged by a rogue (e.g. the Bourne trillogy) or evil white racists (e.g. the Clancy movie that changed the bad guys from Islamo Fascists in the book to , , , somebody white, I forget who)  but never about the evils of Stalin, Marxism, the oppressions of the Soviet Empire blah blah
24535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Beyond OBL on: May 10, 2011, 03:23:35 PM

There are assertions in here which are not self-apparent to me; regardless it is a thought provoking piece:

U.S.-Pakistani Relations Beyond Bin Laden
May 10, 2011

By George Friedman

The past week has been filled with announcements and speculations on how Osama bin Laden was killed and on Washington’s source of intelligence. After any operation of this sort, the world is filled with speculation on sources and methods by people who don’t know, and silence or dissembling by those who do.

Obfuscating on how intelligence was developed and on the specifics of how an operation was carried out is an essential part of covert operations. The precise process must be distorted to confuse opponents regarding how things actually played out; otherwise, the enemy learns lessons and adjusts. Ideally, the enemy learns the wrong lessons, and its adjustments wind up further weakening it. Operational disinformation is the final, critical phase of covert operations. So as interesting as it is to speculate on just how the United States located bin Laden and on exactly how the attack took place, it is ultimately not a fruitful discussion. Moreover, it does not focus on the truly important question, namely, the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Posturing Versus a Genuine Breach
It is not inconceivable that Pakistan aided the United States in identifying and capturing Osama bin Laden, but it is unlikely. This is because the operation saw the already-tremendous tensions between the two countries worsen rather than improve. The Obama administration let it be known that it saw Pakistan as either incompetent or duplicitous and that it deliberately withheld plans for the operation from the Pakistanis. For their part, the Pakistanis made it clear that further operations of this sort on Pakistani territory could see an irreconcilable breach between the two countries. The attitudes of the governments profoundly affected the views of politicians and the public, attitudes that will be difficult to erase.

Posturing designed to hide Pakistani cooperation would be designed to cover operational details, not to lead to significant breaches between countries. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan ultimately is far more important than the details of how Osama bin Laden was captured, but both sides have created a tense atmosphere that they will find difficult to contain. One would not sacrifice strategic relationships for the sake of operational security. Therefore, we have to assume that the tension is real and revolves around the different goals of Pakistan and the United States.

A break between the United States and Pakistan holds significance for both sides. For Pakistan, it means the loss of an ally that could help Pakistan fend off its much larger neighbor to the east, India. For the United States, it means the loss of an ally in the war in Afghanistan. Whether the rupture ultimately occurs, of course, depends on how deep the tension goes. And that depends on what the tension is over, i.e., whether the tension ultimately merits the strategic rift. It also is a question of which side is sacrificing the most. It is therefore important to understand the geopolitics of U.S.-Pakistani relations beyond the question of who knew what about bin Laden.

From Cold to Jihadist War
U.S. strategy in the Cold War included a religious component, namely, using religion to generate tension within the Communist bloc. This could be seen in the Jewish resistance in the Soviet Union, in Roman Catholic resistance in Poland and, of course, in Muslim resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it took the form of using religious Islamist militias to wage a guerrilla war against Soviet occupation. A three-part alliance involving the Saudis, the Americans and the Pakistanis fought the Soviets. The Pakistanis had the closest relationships with the Afghan resistance due to ethnic and historical bonds, and the Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had built close ties with the Afghans.

As frequently happens, the lines of influence ran both ways. The ISI did not simply control Islamist militants, but instead many within the ISI came under the influence of radical Islamist ideology. This reached the extent that the ISI became a center of radical Islamism, not so much on an institutional level as on a personal level: The case officers, as the phrase goes, went native. As long as the U.S. strategy remained to align with radical Islamism against the Soviets, this did not pose a major problem. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States lost interest in the future of Afghanistan, managing the conclusion of the war fell to the Afghans and to the Pakistanis through the ISI. In the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States played a trivial role. It was the ISI in alliance with the Taliban — a coalition of Afghan and international Islamist fighters who had been supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — that shaped the future of Afghanistan.

The U.S.- Islamist relationship was an alliance of convenience for both sides. It was temporary, and when the Soviets collapsed, Islamist ideology focused on new enemies, the United States chief among them. Anti-Soviet sentiment among radical Islamists soon morphed into anti-American sentiment. This was particularly true after the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and Desert Storm. The Islamists perceived the U.S. occupation and violation of Saudi territorial integrity as a religious breach. Therefore, at least some elements of international Islamism focused on the United States; al Qaeda was central among these elements. Al Qaeda needed a base of operations after being expelled from Sudan, and Afghanistan provided the most congenial home. In moving to Afghanistan and allying with the Taliban, al Qaeda inevitably was able to greatly expand its links with Pakistan’s ISI, which was itself deeply involved with the Taliban.

After 9/11, Washington demanded that the Pakistanis aid the United States in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. For Pakistan, this represented a profound crisis. On the one hand, Pakistan badly needed the United States to support it against what it saw as its existential enemy, India. On the other hand, Islamabad found it difficult to rupture or control the intimate relationships, ideological and personal, that had developed between the ISI and the Taliban, and by extension with al Qaeda to some extent. In Pakistani thinking, breaking with the United States could lead to strategic disaster with India. However, accommodating the United States could lead to unrest, potential civil war and even collapse by energizing elements of the ISI and supporters of Taliban and radical Islamism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Solution
The Pakistani solution was to appear to be doing everything possible to support the United States in Afghanistan, with a quiet limit on what that support would entail. That limit on support set by Islamabad was largely defined as avoiding actions that would trigger a major uprising in Pakistan that could threaten the regime. Pakistanis were prepared to accept a degree of unrest in supporting the war but not to push things to the point of endangering the regime.

The Pakistanis thus walked a tightrope between demands they provide intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban activities and permit U.S. operations in Pakistan on one side and the internal consequences of doing so on the other. The Pakistanis’ policy was to accept a degree of unrest to keep the Americans supporting Pakistan against India, but only to a point. So, for example, the government purged the ISI of its overt supporters of radial Islamism, but it did not purge the ISI wholesale nor did it end informal relations between purged intelligence officers and the ISI. Pakistan thus pursued a policy that did everything to appear to be cooperative while not really meeting American demands.

The Americans were, of course, completely aware of the Pakistani limits and did not ultimately object to this arrangement. The United States did not want a coup in Islamabad, nor did it want massive civil unrest. The United States needed Pakistan on whatever terms the Pakistanis could provide help. It needed the supply line through Pakistan from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. And while it might not get complete intelligence from Pakistan, the intelligence it did get was invaluable. Moreover, while the Pakistanis could not close the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, they could limit them and control their operation to some extent. The Americans were as aware as the Pakistanis that the choice was between full and limited cooperation, but could well be between limited and no cooperation, because the government might well not survive full cooperation. The Americans thus took what they could get.

Obviously, this relationship created friction. The Pakistani position was that the United States had helped create this reality in the 1980s and 1990s. The American position was that after 9/11, the price of U.S. support involved the Pakistanis changing their policies. The Pakistanis said there were limits. The Americans agreed, so the fight was about defining the limits.

The Americans felt that the limit was support for al Qaeda. They felt that whatever Pakistan’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban was, support in suppressing al Qaeda, a separate organization, had to be absolute. The Pakistanis agreed in principle but understood that the intelligence on al Qaeda flowed most heavily from those most deeply involved with radical Islamism. In others words, the very people who posed the most substantial danger to Pakistani stability were also the ones with the best intelligence on al Qaeda — and therefore, fulfilling the U.S. demand in principle was desirable. In practice, it proved difficult for Pakistan to carry out.

The Breakpoint and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan
This proved the breakpoint between the two sides. The Americans accepted the principle of Pakistani duplicity, but drew a line at al Qaeda. The Pakistanis understood American sensibilities but didn’t want to incur the domestic risks of going too far. This psychological breakpoint cracked open on Osama bin Laden, the Holy Grail of American strategy and the third rail of Pakistani policy.

Under normal circumstances, this level of tension of institutionalized duplicity should have blown the U.S.-Pakistani relationship apart, with the United States simply breaking with Pakistan. It did not, and likely will not for a simple geopolitical reason, one that goes back to the 1990s. In the 1990s, when the United States no longer needed to support an intensive covert campaign in Afghanistan, it depended on Pakistan to manage Afghanistan. Pakistan would have done this anyway because it had no choice: Afghanistan was Pakistan’s backdoor, and given tensions with India, Pakistan could not risk instability in its rear. The United States thus did not have to ask Pakistan to take responsibility for Afghanistan.

The United States is now looking for an exit from Afghanistan. Its goal, the creation of a democratic, pro-American Afghanistan able to suppress radical Islamism in its own territory, is unattainable with current forces — and probably unattainable with far larger forces. Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the Afghan strategy, has been nominated to become the head of the CIA. With Petraeus departing from the Afghan theater, the door is open to a redefinition of Afghan strategy. Despite Pentagon doctrines of long wars, the United States is not going to be in a position to engage in endless combat in Afghanistan. There are other issues in the world that must be addressed. With bin Laden’s death, a plausible (if not wholly convincing) argument can be made that the mission in AfPak, as the Pentagon refers to the theater, has been accomplished, and therefore the United States can withdraw.

No withdrawal strategy is conceivable without a viable Pakistan. Ideally, Pakistan would be willing to send forces into Afghanistan to carry out U.S. strategy. This is unlikely, as the Pakistanis don’t share the American concern for Afghan democracy, nor are they prepared to try directly to impose solutions in Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan can’t simply ignore Afghanistan because of its own national security issues, and therefore it will move to stabilize it.

The United States could break with Pakistan and try to handle things on its own in Afghanistan, but the supply line fueling Afghan fighting runs through Pakistan. The alternatives either would see the United States become dependent on Russia — an equally uncertain line of supply — or on the Caspian route, which is insufficient to supply forces. Afghanistan is war at the end of the Earth for the United States, and to fight it, Washington must have Pakistani supply routes.

The United States also needs Pakistan to contain, at least to some extent, Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. The United States is stretched to the limit doing what it is doing in Afghanistan. Opening a new front in Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is well beyond the capabilities of either forces in Afghanistan or forces in the U.S. reserves. Therefore, a U.S. break with Pakistan threatens the logistical foundation of the war in Afghanistan and poses strategic challenges U.S. forces cannot cope with.

The American option might be to support a major crisis between Pakistan and India to compel Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. However, it is not clear that India is prepared to play another round in the U.S. game with Pakistan. Moreover, creating a genuine crisis between India and Pakistan could have two outcomes. The first involves the collapse of Pakistan, which would create an India more powerful than the United States might want. The second and more likely outcome would see the creation of a unity government in Pakistan in which distinctions between secularists, moderate Islamists and radical Islamists would be buried under anti-Indian feeling. Doing all of this to deal with Afghan withdrawal would be excessive, even if India played along, and could well prove disastrous for Washington.

Ultimately, the United States cannot change its policy of the last 10 years. During that time, it has come to accept what support the Pakistanis could give and tolerated what was withheld. U.S. dependence on Pakistan so long as Washington is fighting in Afghanistan is significant; the United States has lived with Pakistan’s multitiered policy for a decade because it had to. Nothing in the capture of bin Laden changes the geopolitical realities. So long as the United States wants to wage — or end — a war in Afghanistan, it must have the support of Pakistan to the extent that Pakistan is prepared to provide support. The option of breaking with Pakistan because on some level it is acting in opposition to American interests does not exist.

This is the ultimate contradiction in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and even the so-called war on terror as a whole. The United States has an absolute opposition to terrorism and has waged a war in Afghanistan on the questionable premise that the tactic of terrorism can be defeated, regardless of source or ideology. Broadly fighting terrorism requires the cooperation of the Muslim world, as U.S. intelligence and power is inherently limited. The Muslim world has an interest in containing terrorism, but not the absolute concern the United States has. Muslim countries are not prepared to destabilize their countries in service to the American imperative. This creates deeper tensions between the United States and the Muslim world and increases the American difficulty in dealing with terrorism — or with Afghanistan.

The United States must either develop the force and intelligence to wage war without any assistance — which is difficult to imagine given the size of the Muslim world and the size of the U.S. military — or it will have to accept half-hearted support and duplicity. Alternatively, it could accept that it will not win in Afghanistan and will not be able simply to eliminate terrorism. These are difficult choices, but the reality of Pakistan drives home that these, in fact, are the choices.

24536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: US-China Strategic Dialogue on: May 10, 2011, 02:28:03 PM
The United States and China began the third Strategic and Economic Dialogue since the Obama administration took office. The range of topics is expanding, and both sides are maintaining the warm relations that they began in the beginning of the year. But the underlying strains on the relationship are very much present and can burst forward at any point.

What’s new to this round of dialogue is that the two sides will initiate a strategic security track of dialogue, which China has just agreed to. This was an American proposal to discuss defense and military matters alongside the normal foreign affairs and economic and financial matters that are discussed at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Now the reason this is important is because the U.S. and China have a really irregular past when it comes to sharing information and communicating on their military. Now they’ll be able to broach topics like nuclear disarmament or missile defense or general naval issues and questions about how China intends to use its growing military power in the region. And these topics will be discussed in a format that perhaps could become more regular, although it’s really hard to say; typically, China cuts off military-to-military communications when the U.S. sells a new arms package to Taiwan. Perhaps the hope is that by initiating a new track of strategic security dialogue, that irregularity can be put to an end and they’ll have a consistent means of communicating on the really tricky defense matters that these two countries face, especially going forward.

Now the next point is the economic and financial issues. Looking at the Chinese yuan, this as always is a major topic of discussion. The United States is going to be pressing for China to appreciate its currency faster against the dollar. The yuan has risen by about 5 percent over the past year and the U.S. is glad to see movement there. But at the same time it’s clear that this movement isn’t really very comparable to what’s happened with other currencies, such as the Japanese yen, the euro, the Swiss franc or the British pound, all of which have risen much more dramatically against the dollar in the past year. But the U.S. isn’t really going to limit its focus to the yuan. But now, Washington wants to expand the range of topics including interest rate ceiling, the idea being that if China can raise the interest rates for its vast pool of depositors at home, they will make more money on their savings and eventually they’ll be able to build up savings and feel more comfortable, perhaps even consume more. And at the same time that would force China’s banks to be much more particular about what rates they lend to their state-owned companies. In other words, it would force a total rebalancing of the Chinese economic system in which consumers would have more money and corporations and industry would have to pay more for the capital that they borrow.

On the strategic track, the truth is that China has a lot to be anxious about going forward. On the one hand, the U.S. has introduced the topic of Middle East unrest and how that applies to Chinese society, implying that China has this large problem of growing social frustration. How is China going to deal with that? Is it going to use force to quell protests or is it going to be proactive and improve living standards for people? China is afraid that the U.S. is simply going to be fanning the flames of domestic unrest in order to weaken China and take advantage of it. So obviously there’s a lot of distrust there, especially with the U.S. taking this very proactive stance on Internet movements, social networking and projecting democratic values across the world. On the other hand, in South Asia, with the U.S. having killed Osama bin Laden, we’re getting closer to a time that China realizes the U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan and take less of a role in the region. That will put more of a burden on China and its ally Pakistan to stabilize the region, and China will be concerned that militancy running wild in the area will impact its western borders. So China’s looking at having to take a much bigger role in stabilizing the area and in making sure that Pakistan does its part to prevent militancy from spreading.

And finally, China fears that if the U.S. does withdraw successfully from South Asia, that the increased freedom of maneuver that the U.S. gains will in fact later be brought to bear on China itself, as the two are seeing much greater strategic competition, and a number of U.S. allies in the region are demanding that the U.S. take a greater role in the Asia-Pacific to counterbalance China’s rising power.

24537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 10, 2011, 02:19:38 PM
Amen to that; that said I hold our side to higher standards.
24538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Bin Laden dead on: May 10, 2011, 02:17:13 PM
I eagerly await Andraz Bole's return  grin
24539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: May 10, 2011, 02:06:43 PM

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, 1820

"It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth -- and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it." --Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Convention, 1775

"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." --Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

"t is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own." --Benjamin Franklin

"The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers, and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty." --John Adams, letter to Zabdiel Adams, 1776

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death." --Thomas Paine, The Crisis, no 1, 1776

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." --Thomas Jefferson

"If individuals be not influenced by moral principles; it is in vain to look for public virtue; it is, therefore, the duty of legislators to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility, as well as the necessity of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice." --James Madison, in response to Washington's first Inaugural address, 1789

24540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: May 10, 2011, 01:58:47 PM
That is a man bites dog story , , , and very funny.
24541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: May 10, 2011, 01:45:19 PM
No doubt!  But my Israeli host booked me on Iberia  cry   There is already discussion about my next trip and I have requested no more Iberia.

24542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 10, 2011, 01:44:01 PM
If someone were to search, I believe on this thread, not so many months ago I offered some ideas  wink

Anyway, a momentary interruption from the important subjects which YA's excellent posts and the exellent responses thereto are discussing-- here's the latest on the Greg Mortenson saga:

While Montana's Attorney General looks into Greg Mortenson's dealings with his charity CAI, two state lawmakers--Rep. Michele Reinhart of Missoula to buy the book and Rep. Jean Price of Great Falls--filed suit in a Missoula Federal Court against Mortenson, alleging fraud. They claim they "purchased the book because of his heart-wrenching story which he said was true," says their attorney Alexander Blewett. "If people had known all of this was fabricated, they would not have given the money."

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status and have asked the judge to creative a "constructive trust" to be "administered by a court-appointed charity that would direct it to schoolchildren in Afghanistan and Pakistan." The suit includes a RICO racketeering claim because some of the donations were made by mail. They are using that claim to seek triple damages.

Blewett says the suit is designed to elicit the truth from Mortenson: "We welcome the opportunity to let Mr. Mortenson testify under oath to all these things. To us, it seems overwhelmingly false and we will give him ample opportunity to explain away all of the falsehoods."

The Central Asia Institute did not comment on the filing. They posted a note last Monday saying that Mortenson's planned heart surgery had been postponed. His physician wrote, "Mortenson is convalescing at home with CPAP,  oxygen and bed rest, allowed no electronics, and will undergo additional tests this week that will determine when his condition will allow for a safe procedure to repair the hole in his heart." The latest "update" on the CAI site is actually a new color brochure. There, they address Mortenson's extensive use of private aircraft at the charity's expense with an omnibus three-part excuse (without addressing why Mortenson charged travel expenses as part of his speakers' fees that he kept rather than reimbursing the CAI):

"Number one, Greg's schedule often presents difficult logistical scenarios that are nearly impossible to accomplish with commercial airlines. Generally he has to fly late at night to accommodate his hectic schedule, which in the past four years put him in an average 126 cities per year, plus international travel and overseas project visits. Number two is his health, which has been in decline for the past 18 months. And number three is security. Greg has received threats against his life, and commercial travel sometimes presents over-exposure to threatening elements."
24543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 10, 2011, 12:07:13 PM
e.g. their clitorises and/or their heads.  Nonetheless, doctoring history is quite Orwellian and quite unacceptable.

Anyway, being there for the moment of silence was one of my most moving moments, as was praying at the Wailing Wall.
24544  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More than a little outside the box on: May 10, 2011, 11:58:33 AM
24545  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mini Gathering in New Braunfels, TX - May 7th on: May 10, 2011, 11:37:38 AM
 cool cool cool
24546  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on Seagal on: May 10, 2011, 11:32:19 AM
From the TPI forum:

Interesting,. Aikido forums have been blowing up since his appearance, and it appears this was all cooked up:

Steven Seagal did not, in fact, teach Anderson Silva anything and certainly not the kick which knocked out Vitor Belfort at UFC 126.

This should really have been obvious to everyone but it has taken a reporter from Brazilan outfit Portal De Vale Tudo to definitively debunk it.

"The declaration of the champion Anderson Silva (Seagal helping him with the amazing kick) was contemplated with humor by the fans, who knows that the actor was at most twice with the Brazilian," a report in the online magazine says.

"The approach between the two was actually a marketing maneuver planned by the agent of Anderson, Jorge Joinha, to give more visibility to it's champion in the American media. The plan worked very well in the first stage, the problem was in the wrong dose and reached the absurdity of assigning a brilliant victory by the biggest name in the MMA of all time to a "Master of Hollywood" who never climbed in the ring.

"The worst of all is that Segal, perhaps influenced by some of his films, believed and even stated in several interviews after the fight that "He (Anderson) did everything the way i taught him and made me very proud". For God's sake..."

So, that's cleared that up. Segal didn't teach Anderson his fight-finishing kick (which, incidentally, Anderson used on Dan Henderson and Lee Murray and also featured in an instructional he produced TWO YEARS AGO).

This seems to have escaped the notice of Mr Segal himself who has given numerous interviews detailing his "pride" in Anderson's winning technique. He is either deluded or putting in the performance of his acting career.


Original article:

Diante de uma vitória histórica Anderson surpreendeu a todos ao dividir os louros de sua genialidade com o ator Steven Seagall. "Foi ele que me ensinou aquele golpe", disse o brasileiro para surpresa de todos, que já o haviam visto usar este golpe em diversas outras lutas, inclusive contra Dan Henderson. A declaração do campeão foi encarada com humor pelos fãs, que sabem que o ator esteve no máximo duas vezes com o brasileiro.

A aproximação dos dois foi na realidade uma manobra de marketing engendrada pelo agente de Anderson, Jorge Joinha, para dar maior visibilidade a seu campeão na mídia americana. O plano funcionou muito bem na primeira etapa, o problema foi errar na dose e chegar ao absurdo de atribuir uma vitória genial do maior nome de MMA de todos os tempos a um "Mestre de Hollywood" que nunca subiu num ringue. O pior de tudo isso é que Seagall, talvez influenciado por alguns de seus filmes, acreditou e chegou a declarar em diversas entrevistas após a luta. "Ele fez tudo da maneira que eu ensinei e me deixou muito orgulhoso". Pelo amor de Deus...

Source: Portal do Vale Tudo Magazine #15, pp 25-26.
Apparently Machida and Silva have the same agent, this Joinha guy?

I tried not posting the link to the incredibly frustrating aikido thread, but there is more revealing stuff from the Brazilian press from Page 2 of the thread:

From Guro C:

Seagal with Machida
 with Silva
24547  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: May 10, 2011, 11:21:42 AM
Grateful for a wonderful trip to and seminar in Israel.
24548  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Infidel Dogs of War on: May 10, 2011, 10:57:10 AM
24549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: May 10, 2011, 08:44:43 AM
I'm back!  Great trip.

PS: Never fly Iberia Airlines!
24550  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Israel May 6-7 on: May 10, 2011, 08:43:45 AM
Got in last night after 30 hour trip from hell.  NEVER fly Iberia Airlines!!!

OTOH, a great trip.  45 at seminar, including from Germany and Borut Kincl from Slovenia.  My hosts were awesome.
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