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24551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 31, 2010, 03:32:15 PM
Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion
May 31, 2010

By George Friedman

On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.

A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.

The ‘Exodus’ Scenario
In the 1950s, an author named Leon Uris published a book called “Exodus.” Later made into a major motion picture, Exodus told the story of a Zionist provocation against the British. In the wake of World War II, the British — who controlled Palestine, as it was then known — maintained limits on Jewish immigration there. Would-be immigrants captured trying to run the blockade were detained in camps in Cyprus. In the book and movie, Zionists planned a propaganda exercise involving a breakout of Jews — mostly children — from the camp, who would then board a ship renamed the Exodus. When the Royal Navy intercepted the ship, the passengers would mount a hunger strike. The goal was to portray the British as brutes finishing the work of the Nazis. The image of children potentially dying of hunger would force the British to permit the ship to go to Palestine, to reconsider British policy on immigration, and ultimately to decide to abandon Palestine and turn the matter over to the United Nations.

There was in fact a ship called Exodus, but the affair did not play out precisely as portrayed by Uris, who used an amalgam of incidents to display the propaganda war waged by the Jews. Those carrying out this war had two goals. The first was to create sympathy in Britain and throughout the world for Jews who, just a couple of years after German concentration camps, were now being held in British camps. Second, they sought to portray their struggle as being against the British. The British were portrayed as continuing Nazi policies toward the Jews in order to maintain their empire. The Jews were portrayed as anti-imperialists, fighting the British much as the Americans had.

It was a brilliant strategy. By focusing on Jewish victimhood and on the British, the Zionists defined the battle as being against the British, with the Arabs playing the role of people trying to create the second phase of the Holocaust. The British were portrayed as pro-Arab for economic and imperial reasons, indifferent at best to the survivors of the Holocaust. Rather than restraining the Arabs, the British were arming them. The goal was not to vilify the Arabs but to villify the British, and to position the Jews with other nationalist groups whether in India or Egypt rising against the British.

The precise truth or falsehood of this portrayal didn’t particularly matter. For most of the world, the Palestine issue was poorly understood and not a matter of immediate concern. The Zionists intended to shape the perceptions of a global public with limited interest in or understanding of the issues, filling in the blanks with their own narrative. And they succeeded.

The success was rooted in a political reality. Where knowledge is limited, and the desire to learn the complex reality doesn’t exist, public opinion can be shaped by whoever generates the most powerful symbols. And on a matter of only tangential interest, governments tend to follow their publics’ wishes, however they originate. There is little to be gained for governments in resisting public opinion and much to be gained by giving in. By shaping the battlefield of public perception, it is thus possible to get governments to change positions.

In this way, the Zionists’ ability to shape global public perceptions of what was happening in Palestine — to demonize the British and turn the question of Palestine into a Jewish-British issue — shaped the political decisions of a range of governments. It was not the truth or falsehood of the narrative that mattered. What mattered was the ability to identify the victim and victimizer such that global opinion caused both London and governments not directly involved in the issue to adopt political stances advantageous to the Zionists. It is in this context that we need to view the Turkish flotilla.

The Turkish Flotilla to Gaza
The Palestinians have long argued that they are the victims of Israel, an invention of British and American imperialism. Since 1967, they have focused not so much on the existence of the state of Israel (at least in messages geared toward the West) as on the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Since the split between Hamas and Fatah and the Gaza War, the focus has been on the plight of the citizens of Gaza, who have been portrayed as the dispossessed victims of Israeli violence.

The bid to shape global perceptions by portraying the Palestinians as victims of Israel was the first prong of a longtime two-part campaign. The second part of this campaign involved armed resistance against the Israelis. The way this resistance was carried out, from airplane hijackings to stone-throwing children to suicide bombers, interfered with the first part of the campaign, however. The Israelis could point to suicide bombings or the use of children against soldiers as symbols of Palestinian inhumanity. This in turn was used to justify conditions in Gaza. While the Palestinians had made significant inroads in placing Israel on the defensive in global public opinion, they thus consistently gave the Israelis the opportunity to turn the tables. And this is where the flotilla comes in.

The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project. As with the Zionist portrayal of the situation in 1947, the Gaza situation is far more complicated than as portrayed by the Palestinians. The moral question is also far more ambiguous. But as in 1947, when the Zionist portrayal was not intended to be a scholarly analysis of the situation but a political weapon designed to define perceptions, the Turkish flotilla was not designed to carry out a moral inquest.

Instead, the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel’s increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous.

The Geopolitical Fallout for Israel
It is vital that the Israelis succeed in portraying the flotilla as an extremist plot. Whether extremist or not, the plot has generated an image of Israel quite damaging to Israeli political interests. Israel is increasingly isolated internationally, with heavy pressure on its relationship with Europe and the United States.

In all of these countries, politicians are extremely sensitive to public opinion. It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which public opinion will see Israel as the victim. The general response in the Western public is likely to be that the Israelis probably should have allowed the ships to go to Gaza and offload rather than to precipitate bloodshed. Israel’s enemies will fan these flames by arguing that the Israelis prefer bloodshed to reasonable accommodation. And as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will track with this shift.

The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish government undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost necessary for Ankara.

With roughly the population of Houston, Texas, Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation, meaning this event has profound geopolitical implications.

Public opinion matters where issues are not of fundamental interest to a nation. Israel is not a fundamental interest to other nations. The ability to generate public antipathy to Israel can therefore reshape Israeli relations with countries critical to Israel. For example, a redefinition of U.S.-Israeli relations will have much less effect on the United States than on Israel. The Obama administration, already irritated by the Israelis, might now see a shift in U.S. public opinion that will open the way to a new U.S.-Israeli relationship disadvantageous to Israel.

The Israelis will argue that this is all unfair, as they were provoked. Like the British, they seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard? As with a tank battle or an airstrike, this sort of warfare has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with controlling public perception and using that public perception to shape foreign policy around the world. In this case, the issue will be whether the deaths were necessary. The Israeli argument of provocation will have limited traction.

Internationally, there is little doubt that the incident will generate a firestorm. Certainly, Turkey will break cooperation with Israel. Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States — by far the most important in the equation — might shift to a “plague-on-both-your-houses” position.

While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel’s isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen.

The tougher Israel is, the more the flotilla’s narrative takes hold. As the Zionists knew in 1947 and the Palestinians are learning, controlling public opinion requires subtlety, a selective narrative and cynicism. As they also knew, losing the battle can be catastrophic. It cost Britain the Mandate and allowed Israel to survive. Israel’s enemies are now turning the tables. This maneuver was far more effective than suicide bombings or the Intifada in challenging Israel’s public perception and therefore its geopolitical position (though if the Palestinians return to some of their more distasteful tactics like suicide bombing, the Turkish strategy of portraying Israel as the instigator of violence will be undermined).

Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.

And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it. In doing so, Israel ran into its own fist.
24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The case for Fiorina on: May 31, 2010, 01:44:26 PM
Costa Mesa, Calif.

"I've always voted against taxes. This is important, ladies and gentlemen, because our country is on a precipice. Do you want people to follow through on their promises?" state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore bellows to a rapt crowd this week at the Ayres Hotel in Costa Mesa. More than three hundred people have come to this GOP Senate debate to see the three candidates duke it out in the final push toward the June 8 primary. And Mr. DeVore clearly doesn't plan on playing third fiddle to opponents Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina.

The rabble-rousing radio talk-show hosts moderating the debate encourage the candidates to "fight it out" as if it were a WWF wrestling match. So when Mr. DeVore goes after former Hewlett Packard CEO Fiorina for supporting a ballot initiative a decade ago that he says "would gut Prop 13," which limits property tax increases, she fires back: "I'm sure it's very frustrating for Chuck DeVore to have so many conservatives endorsing me. Maybe it makes Chuck DeVore, who's sort of dog-paddling at 14% in the polls . . . feel better to belittle other people's conservative credentials."

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Associated Press
GOP Senate candidates Tom Campbell (left), Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina.
.Her aggressive defense draws boos and hisses. Mr. DeVore's supporters outnumber his opponents' supporters by about three to one. These are the tea partiers we keep reading about. Many of the people I talk to say this election is the first time they've been involved in politics; they're concerned about their grandchildren's futures. "I'm worried we're turning into Greece with all of our entitlements," says an older DeVore supporter sitting next to me.

After the state's disastrous experiment with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fiscal conservatism resonates. Mr. Schwarzenegger was swept into power seven years ago on the promise of fiscal responsibility, even though he had no track record to recommend him. Under his predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis, the state budget deficit reached a mammoth $38 billion. Yet during Mr. Schwarzenegger's first four years in office, state spending ballooned to $103 billion from $78 billion. Last year, the state faced a $42 billion deficit.

Though better known and better funded than Mr. DeVore, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Campbell are struggling to pull ahead in the primary race to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer in the fall. And even though recent polls show Mr. DeVore trailing by double digits, his support has nearly doubled in the last two months to 16% from 8%.

Mr. DeVore's campaign is predicated on convincing conservatives that they can't trust Ms. Fiorina's credentials. At the debate, his volunteers passed out leaflets claiming she supported the stimulus, the Wall Street bailout, cap and trade, ObamaCare and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Though all gross misrepresentations of her positions, they generate anxiety among a distrustful electorate. When I ask people why they can't support Ms. Fiorina, they point to this leaflet.

What these tea partiers don't seem to realize is that by supporting Mr. DeVore, they are splitting the conservative vote and will likely hand a win to the moderate Mr. Campbell. If Mr. DeVore's attacks on Ms. Fiorina are as successful in riling up conservative voters as they are at this debate, come November Republicans will have a choice between Ms. Boxer, who has held the seat for three terms, and a "Barbara Boxer-lite," as Ms. Fiorina called Mr. Campbell in the debate.

Mr. Campbell has locked up the moderate vote because he's pro-choice on abortion and pro-gay marriage. "If we're serious about replacing Boxer, we need to nominate someone who is fiscally conservative and socially moderate," Mr. Campbell says, trying to sell his positions to the socially conservative crowd.

Mr. Campbell is a known quantity, having served 10 years in Congress and worked as Mr. Schwarzenegger's finance director. He was the architect of California's 2005 budget, credited for the state's current financial problems. He has also proposed covering the state's budget gap with a 32 cent per gallon gas tax, and he supported the governor's decision last year to sign a $12.5 billion tax hike.

Ms. Fiorina has used Mr. Campbell's spotty fiscal record to portray him as a "FCINO," or fiscal conservative in name only. Her "demon sheep" YouTube video depicting Mr. Campbell as a wolf in sheep's clothing struck a nerve among Republicans who once supported him because they thought he had the best chance of taking down Ms. Boxer. Now they're not so sure.

But they're not sure about Ms. Fiorina either, though she holds strong conservative positions on just about every issue. During the debate, she silences the pro-DeVore crowd when she speaks fluently about Sarbanes-Oxley (a 2002 federal law that set new accounting standards for publicly traded firms) and the Wall Street bailout in ways her primary opponents—and certainly Ms. Boxer—cannot. She's also run a Fortune 500 company. In short, she could be "the one" California conservatives have been waiting for to finally trample Ms. Boxer. But—and it's this that worries people—she has no legislative voting track record.

Although their movement is sweeping out political insiders across the country, tea partiers in the Golden State are loathe to take a chance on someone who doesn't have political experience. Yet by voting for Mr. DeVore because of his conservative record, they may guarantee Mr. Campbell a spot on the GOP ticket.

Ms. Finley is an assistant editor of
24553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 31, 2010, 12:28:58 PM

Let us be precise now.  From the information posted in this blog, all we can say is that some idiot(s) in DHS have initiated this.   

That said, this bears watching, please keep us informed.
24554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 31, 2010, 12:00:36 PM
There is a thread dedicated to Turkey on this forum which has some Stratfor articles discussing what it perceives as changes in Turkey's geopolitics.

Rachel, GM:  Good finds and one's that I will put to good use.
24555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 31, 2010, 11:47:01 AM
I lived throught the LBJ-McCarthy era.  My mom was an organizer within the local Dem party for McCarthy and long with future Congresswoman Bella Abzug  shocked co-chaired many meetings held at our house.  In this context as a 15 or 16 year old I met:

Allard Lowenstein (McCarthy's campaign manager);Ted Sorenson; Betty Fridan; David Halberstam; then Congressman Ed Koch; and many others.

Unlike LBJ and the liberals, BO and the Progressives (nee "liberals") are one and that same.  His failure will be their failure.  In '68 the struggle within the Dem party was between the mainstream Dems and the liberals.  The struggle was won in '72 by the lilberals with the ascencion of McGovern and the rules changes his people instituted that have lasting effect to this days.  The Democratic Party is now run by Soros's money and the Progressives.  To turn on BO would be suicidal.
24556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 7/31-8/1 Guro Crafty at Range 37 in Fayetteville (Fort Bragg) NC on: May 31, 2010, 10:08:08 AM
I confess to being greatly excited about this one.
24557  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Survivalism; Armageddon; Zombies on: May 31, 2010, 10:05:18 AM
BTW folks, Shadowdancer is from Argentina so he brings perspective when he says that.

IMHO the Perons of Argentina (a form of fascism in my terminology) and their successors have brought down a country that had a first world standard of living , , , and the Progressives (liberal fascism in my terminolgy) of America, e.g. President Obama, are following similar policies which are having similar effects on what was once the greatest economy in the world.

Prepare to have your assumptions shattered.
24558  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Knife and Anti Knife on: May 31, 2010, 09:59:53 AM

When it comes to folders of the size typically carried here in the US, for many years I preferred a hammer grip for the knife and therefore chose knives with handles that favored this grip.  Part of the reason that I preferred hammer grip was that I got (and probably still do get) better results with it in what in DBMA we call "Sport Knife Dueling".  Because I suspect the SKD mindset informs the thinking of many people in martial arts for Real World application more than they realize (which was certainly the case for me) I'd like to share a bit of my own evolution here.

I begin by making clear that, despite the playfulness of the name, I do not make fun of SKD.  SKD was a staple of my training some 25 years ago with Paul Vunak who used it for the development for certain important attributes such as footwork, timing, reflexes, etc.   Furthermore, in the Dog Brothers we have always used SKD as a way to open our "DB Gatherings of the Pack" for additional purpose of kicking the day off, getting fighters warmed up for the stickfights, letting fighters assess each other a bit before stickfighting, etc. (The Euros do not do SKD at their DB Gatherings.)

In short SKD dueling can be lots of fun for young males into ritual hierarchical ritual combat AND it can serve quite well in many situations which force one to pull a knife.  And these knife skills can be very directly applicable to the real world should one need to use a knife to keep threat at bay-- though do note that brandishing a knife at an unarmed person can present interesting legal questions.  I'm not saying these questions can't be answered with the right fact pattern e.g. a middle aged desk jockey being menaced by a guy whose face is covered with MS-13 tattoos intuitively seems to me like a relatively easy sell wink but often the line between legal and illegal brandishing can be quite blurred.

But I digress , , , Returning to the discussion,

That said it does present interesting challenges for those interested in using this training method for real world application because IMHO what we do in the adrenal state of ritual combat will tend to appear in real world combat as well.  (This is precisely the reason I develop our "Kali Tudo" tm-- so we can adrenalize our empty handed fighting with Kali Silat with the result that our unarmed and armed fighting are the same idiom of movement.) 

But what if the worst case scenarios of the real world feature behaviors other than those assumed by "proper" SKD?

In the real world two people facing off with real knives drawn is really rare.  As the actors here in Los Angeles would say "What is the motive here in this scene?"  What would motivate someone to stay and have a knife fight?  And how likely is it that the other person would be equally motivated?  In prison I suppose leaving might not really be an option, but most of us are not in prison-- and in prison it is usually an ambush, often by superior numbers, anyway.

If we answer the question by assuming two men both in a killing rage e.g. in prison or on the battlefied, then we are likely to see, in the immortal words of someone with whom I once had an interesting conversation, the behavior pattern of "Pump him until he is dead, then bind your wounds" (Hereinafter "Pump and bind" or PAB).  The problem though for SKD is if we bring PAB to it then we are not developing the attributes intended by the training nor or we acting rationally like the semi-normal people that we are for KD is not something rational people do in our time and place in our culture.

Thus in SKD we are left with the inherently blurry lines concerning the definition of realistic behavior for it.   Most people will leave in the presence of a knife, but if we assume staying e.g. a desperate robber, then we can say most people would leave after getting slashed or stabbed.  On the other hand, of the kind of people who in this world are genuinely willing and motivated to engage against a knife, then most of them will not leave after getting wounded, for their mindset is Pump and Bind-- they expect to be cut and stabbed and to survive the process of killing you , , , or they don't care if they die as long as they kill you.

Good luck and my rules of engagement (avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things and what your think of me is none of my business) have combined to my having absolutely no personal experience in this whatsover.  Success!  That said my readings, conversations with those not so lucky, and various youtube clips have persuaded me that many people do not realize that they have been slashed or stabbed until after the fight is over. This can include even mortal wounds.

Thus we can have someone of evil intent unstopped and undeterred by what SKD might consider "good scores".   In SKD I might be busily defanging the snake by slashing at the arm of my opponent but if some cranked out gangbanger in colder weather wearing heavier clothing is coming to get me, well then those slashes that I thought would stop him and keep him outside my bubble might not work.

Thus it is that I have come to the thinking that when using a small knife (e.g. one that is not going to lop off hands) that the power and impact of the strike matter and for me ice pick does a better job than hammer grip.

Thus for Kali Tudo, I look principally to double stick and double ice pick knife.
24559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 31, 2010, 07:27:03 AM
UFC prices, the unevenness of fight cards, and my budget are such that I don't pay for watching all by myself.  Fortunately I have a neighbor who always watches and with 3-4 friends to share the cost, the price comes down for each of us quite a bit.  Unfortunately my neighbor's 50th birthday party was on Saturday and he went to Vegas to watch the fight.

Bottom line: I didn't see the fights on Saturday night.  Would someone be so kind as to give me the run down?  I am interested to hear descriptions of Rashad vs. Rampage, not because of the soap opera of it (as good fun as that has been) but for a description of Evans striking game.  I have a reason for asking, but will leave it out for now so as to not lead any responses.
24560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Where's the medals? on: May 30, 2010, 07:58:31 AM
ON NOV. 15, 2004, several Marines in dress uniforms came to Rosa Peralta’s San Diego home to tell her that her 25-year-old son, Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, had been killed in Falluja by an improvised explosive device. Rosa Peralta was widowed three years earlier when her husband, a mechanic, was crushed to death in a freak accident while working on a garbage truck; now her son’s death seemed every bit as senseless.

 A few days later, while watching the nightly news, Peralta heard a different account of her son’s death. According to the televised report, Rafael Peralta emerged as the hero of the Second Battle of Falluja after deliberately sacrificing his life to save fellow Marines. He was with a unit clearing houses of weapons and insurgents when a group of insurgents attacked from the back room of a home the Marines had entered. A firefight ensued, and Peralta took a bullet in the head — a friendly-fire ricochet. Then an insurgent threw a grenade. Despite his injury, Peralta pulled the grenade under his body before it detonated. By absorbing the force of the blast, he saved the lives of an estimated six of his fellow Marines.
When I visited Rosa Peralta in December, she choked briefly with emotion as she remembered hearing, for the first time, her son called a hero. Shortly after the news story appeared, the Marine Corps informed her that what she heard was true and that the Marines were initially mistaken about the circumstances of her son’s death. Around this time she was also told unofficially, by Marines who knew her son, that he had been nominated for America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, and that he was considered certain to receive it.

“I didn’t know anything about medals,” Peralta told me. But she said that the idea that her son would be remembered as a national hero slowly became a source of comfort to her. The Peralta family, which includes Rafael’s three siblings, moved to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, when Rafael was a teenager, and he joined the Marines the first moment he could legally do so, on the same morning he got his green card. Though the Peralta parents spoke little English and felt like foreigners in Southern California, Rafael “really loved this country” and loved being a Marine, Peralta told me. As the months after his death wore on, she began to look forward to the day when she would receive the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

But that day never came. Almost four years later, on Sept. 17, 2008, Peralta was summoned to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where Lieut. Gen. Richard F. Natonski informed her of the Pentagon’s decision: Rafael Peralta would not be awarded the Medal of Honor after all. Instead he would receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest American military decoration that can be awarded to a Marine. Natonski was not able to offer an explanation at the meeting, but George Sabga, a former Marine who has known Rosa Peralta since her son was killed (and now works, pro bono, as the Peraltas’ lawyer), soon uncovered the story: after Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates reviewed the findings on the circumstances of Rafael Peralta’s death compiled by a review board made up partly of civilian medical specialists, he decided that it could not be determined with sufficient confidence that Peralta deliberately pulled the grenade under his body.

Rosa Peralta was stunned. Her family had received thousands of letters expressing admiration for her son’s already-famous heroism. When Marine officials asked her how she would like to have his Navy Cross presented, she declined it. “I said no,” she told me. “I can’t take that medal now.” In the year and a half since, Peralta has continued to refuse to accept the Navy Cross on Rafael’s behalf, a decision that has placed her in the thick of a growing controversy over how — and how often — Medals of Honor are being awarded.

THE AMERICAN MILITARY has dozens of medals that can be awarded for performance or participation in various endeavors, but only a small handful, known as “valor awards,” are given for acts of courage. The highest and most revered of these is the Medal of Honor. (It is sometimes mistakenly called the Congressional Medal of Honor, presumably because, unlike other military decorations, the Medal of Honor is awarded in the name of Congress.) According to military regulations, the Medal of Honor is awarded to a soldier who performed a deed of “personal bravery” that was “beyond the call of duty” and “involved risk of life.” The heroic actions of Medal of Honor winners are frequently cited by military instructors, and their names are even on occasion chanted in cadences during boot-camp training runs. By custom, all service members, regardless of relative rank, salute a Medal of Honor recipient.


Despite its symbolic importance and educational role in military culture, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only six times for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. By contrast, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. “From World War I through Vietnam,” The Army Times claimed in April 2009, “the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.”

Since that article was published, President Obama, on Sept. 17, presented the sixth post-9/11 Medal of Honor to the family of Army Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti for his heroic efforts, under intense enemy fire, to rescue a wounded fellow soldier in Afghanistan in 2006. Monti died in the attempt. In fact, all six medals since 9/11 have been awarded posthumously. For service during World War II and the Vietnam War, by comparison, roughly 60 percent of all Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously.

The steep decline in the awarding of Medals of Honor — along with the absence, post-9/11, of any Medal of Honor bestowed on a living serviceman — has spurred many military officers and veterans to speak out in protest. These servicemen complain that higher-ups at the Pentagon either downgrade valor-award nominations — as with Peralta’s Navy Cross — or reject them altogether. Petitions supporting a Medal of Honor for Peralta have circulated widely, and there have been calls to reconsider awarding the Medal of Honor to other servicemen, like Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for tackling a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2007, shielding several nearby soldiers from the blast. On the blog of the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center, based in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Major Niel Smith wrote: “I, like many commanders, have submitted soldiers for combat valor awards which have been knocked down at higher levels. I defer to their judgment, but I think we are overhesitant to reward bravery that doesn’t result in death.”

Last year, in response to the controversy, Congress required the Pentagon, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, to review its criteria for Medal of Honor awards. (The report is scheduled to be released on July 31.) A Defense Department spokeswoman, Eileen M. Lainez, assured me in an e-mail message that the criteria for awarding the Medal of Honor are “longstanding and have not changed.” Addressing the drastic drop in Medal of Honor awards, she cited changes in the nature of warfare, noting that the enemy forces of Vietnam and earlier wars typically engaged in “close conflict” with U.S. forces, whereas today’s “non-uniformed insurgents” rely on “remotely detonated improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.’s), suicide bombers and rocket, mortar and sniper attacks” — all tactics, her statement implied, that create fewer opportunities for U.S. soldiers to demonstrate the traditional valor of close-quarters combat.

In January, I sat down with Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, at Washington’s Fairfax hotel, to ask him about the Medal of Honor controversy. I raised the issue of Sergeant Peralta and asked why his nomination was downgraded. Petraeus declined to address Peralta’s case (internal deliberations over Medal of Honor recommendations are kept confidential, and Peralta was not under Petraeus’s command at the time he was nominated for the medal), but he did speak of a generalized anxiety among commanders, surrounding the Medal of Honor, about getting a recommendation wrong. “They’re something that everyone in the chain of command wants to ensure is done absolutely right,” he said.

Petraeus emphasized the thoroughness of today’s review process, noting that the packets of data that are circulated to review-board members about Medal of Honor nominees are often as thick as phone books. “They want to ensure that these medals are approved for those who have earned them, but they also want to make sure that they never, ever, in a sense, get it wrong,” he said, referring to the review boards. “There’s a band there, and the difference between the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross is sort of in the eye of the beholder on a given day. And that’s tough. But decisions do have to be made.”

IS THERE LESS heroism today, or fewer opportunities for it, than in earlier eras? Has the Pentagon, despite its insistence to the contrary, raised its standards for what counts as bravery? Has a rigorous review and investigation process made it all too easy to raise doubts about individual acts of bravery? In an age of the all-volunteer military, is the Pentagon taking sacrifice for granted and failing to recognize “today’s heroes,” as many servicemen and veterans are arguing?

Some analysts agree with the Pentagon that there is less heroism today — at least in its traditional forms — as a result of the nature of modern warfare. When I spoke with Michael E. O’Hanlon, a defense-policy specialist at the Brookings Institution, he argued that counterinsurgency efforts, which place greater emphasis on avoiding the use of force (to minimize civilian casualties), call for “a quieter daily kind of courage,” one that rarely requires “that moment of extreme valor” typically honored with a medal.

Many combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan dispute this explanation. Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican congressman from Southern California, served two tours as a Marine in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and one tour in Afghanistan in 2007. He led the effort last year to include the language in the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Pentagon to review its criteria for Medal of Honor awards. When I met with him recently in his Washington office, he insisted that moments of extreme valor are still occurring frequently — almost as frequently as they did in Vietnam or during World War II. “Warfare has changed,” he said. “But 90 percent of it hasn’t. You’ve still got to take ground, and you’ve got to hold it.” He raised the possibility that, in today’s all-volunteer military, expectations and standards have gone up: an action that would have been considered heroic in the mid-20th century is seen today almost as routine conduct — “just being a Marine.”


Page 3 of 3)

Other observers have suggested — and Petraeus’s comments to me could be seen to support the idea — that the military, after its recent experiences with Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, is hesitant to publicize or otherwise herald tales of heroism, for fear of later embarrassment. Both Lynch, in 2003, and Tillman, in 2004, were initially celebrated as war heroes. But Lynch herself was highly critical of those who described her as a heroine, later testifying before Congress that she had been falsely portrayed as a “little-girl Rambo from the hills.” Tillman’s family also testified before Congress, suggesting that his story was deliberately manipulated by officials in order to gather support for the war effort. “They have to be very careful,” O’Hanlon told me. “The idea of first building up this great story and then having it proven factually inaccurate would be very damaging.”

For many criticsof the Pentagon’s handling of the Medal of Honor, Rafael Peralta’s case is a vivid example of the perils of an overly cautious, overly bureaucratic approval process. The standard for awarding the Medal of Honor has always been “incontestable proof of the performance of service,” but critics charge that in recent years the standard for “incontestable” must have been raised. “The eyewitness accounts, it seems, they mean much less than they used to,” Hunter told me. “Now there’s much more weight placed on forensic evidence.”
George Sabga obtained redacted copies of the Medal of Honor recommendation packages that were submitted for Rafael Peralta by the Marine Corps in 2005, which he shared with me. The contents of these packages suggest that, long before the case reached the Pentagon, a pathologist working on an earlier-level review of Peralta’s Medal of Honor case raised questions about his gunshot wound. The pathologist expressed the opinion that, given the particular location of the head wound that Peralta received at the start of the firefight, he would have been cognitively disabled and could not deliberately have brought the grenade in toward his body. A letter included with the pathologist’s report suggests that Peralta’s “scooping/grabbing” was more likely to have been a result of “involuntary muscle spasms” than of a conscious act of courage.

After the pathologist’s report, the packet was returned to Peralta’s division for reconsideration. General Natonski, then commanding general of the First Marine Division, was evidently unconvinced by the pathologist’s interpretation. He ordered a thorough review of the investigation, enlisting medical specialists of his own. In a letter addressed to the secretary of the Navy, dated Aug. 8, 2005, Natonski restated the case on Peralta’s behalf: “This package is being resubmitted based on re-interviews and sworn statements from eyewitnesses as well as new statements from three neurosurgeons with outstanding credentials who have given their medical opinion. These doctors opine that Sergeant Peralta could have scooped the grenade under his body despite his head wound. However, regardless of the medical opinions rendered after the fact there is sufficient eyewitness testimony and physical evidence (grenade fuse lodged in Sergeant Peralta’s flak jacket) to support this award recommendation.” But the pathologist’s original opinion, it appears, continued to sway those in the Pentagon reviewing the file.

MUCH OF THE anger expressed by officers and veterans groups about the decline in Medal of Honor awards reflects their perception that Pentagon officials are disrespectful, even dismissive, of eyewitness accounts by servicemen. The feeling is compounded by the fact that, in today’s military, younger servicemen sometimes have far more combat experience than their seniors now working in the Pentagon, who often progressed through the military hierarchy in a time of relative peace: after Vietnam but before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In a phone conversation with me, Robert Reynolds, one of the Marines who was with Peralta during the firefight in Falluja, expressed frustration that his testimony was not taken seriously. He, like Peralta, was shot during the firefight, and he said he clearly recalled Peralta smothering the grenade. “Knowing what Sergeant Peralta did for me,” he said, “it angers me to know that the Marines that day are basically called liars.”

Peralta is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. One recent afternoon, Rosa Peralta, along with Rafael’s 19-year-old brother, Ricardo (only weeks from beginning Marine Corps boot camp himself), and George Sabga, drove to the cemetery with me. As we stood around Peralta’s simple white marble headstone, Sabga recounted the moment when he and Rosa Peralta learned that Rafael would not receive the Medal of Honor. General Natonski had slid a copy of the Navy Cross citation across the table to Rosa. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety,” the citation read, “Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away.”

The wording of the citation is strikingly similar to the description of the events as Peralta’s fellow Marines have related them, not as the pathologist interpreted them. “I asked the general, ‘How can you say that there were doubts and yet you give us a Navy Cross citation that says that Sergeant Peralta did the exact same thing that the Marines say he did?’ ” Sabga recounted. “I told him, ‘Every single Medal of Honor from now on is going to be tainted because of what’s been done to Peralta.’ The Marines are never going to give up. We’re never going to give up fighting for Peralta’s medal.”
24561  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: May 29, 2010, 11:45:43 PM
Grateful for a fun day with Southnark and Ryan out at the Burro Canyon Range today, with more to come tomorrow.
24562  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: May 29, 2010, 01:10:19 AM
Grateful for two interesting days of training in the Piper System.  Grateful to be training gun this weekend with Southnark.

24563  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Door Work, Bouncing, Bodyguarding on: May 29, 2010, 01:09:27 AM
I was training with Lloyd de Jongis in Piper again this evening and he was relating some of his body guarding experiences.  His ability to imitate the misdirects of South African criminal behavior is quite remarkable.  To know just how good some people are at this seems a vital awareness.
24564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: UN against drone strikes on: May 28, 2010, 11:41:24 AM
It's POTH, so caveat lector:

U.N. Official to Ask U.S. to End C.I.A. Drone StrikesBy CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: May 27, 2010

WASHINGTON — A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, complicating the Obama administration’s growing reliance on that tactic in Pakistan.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Thursday that he would deliver a report on June 3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva declaring that the “life and death power” of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies. He contrasted how the military and the C.I.A. responded to allegations that strikes had killed civilians by mistake.

“With the Defense Department you’ve got maybe not perfect but quite abundant accountability as demonstrated by what happens when a bombing goes wrong in Afghanistan,” he said in an interview. “The whole process that follows is very open. Whereas if the C.I.A. is doing it, by definition they are not going to answer questions, not provide any information, and not do any follow-up that we know about.”

Mr. Alston’s views are not legally binding, and his report will not assert that the operation of combat drones by nonmilitary personnel is a war crime, he said. But the mounting international concern over drones comes as the Obama administration legal team has been quietly struggling over how to justify such counterterrorism efforts while obeying the laws of war.

In recent months, top lawyers for the State Department and the Defense Department have tried to square the idea that the C.I.A.’s drone program is lawful with the United States’ efforts to prosecute Guantánamo Bay detainees accused of killing American soldiers in combat, according to interviews and a review of military documents.

Under the laws of war, soldiers in traditional armies cannot be prosecuted and punished for killing enemy forces in battle. The United States has argued that because Qaeda fighters do not obey the requirements laid out in the Geneva Conventions — like wearing uniforms — they are not “privileged combatants” entitled to such battlefield immunity. But C.I.A. drone operators also wear no uniforms.

Paula Weiss, a C.I.A. spokeswoman, called into question the notion that the agency lacked accountability, noting that it was overseen by the White House and Congress. “While we don’t discuss or confirm specific activities, this agency’s operations take place in a framework of both law and government oversight,” Ms. Weiss said. “It would be wrong to suggest the C.I.A. is not accountable.”

Still, the Obama administration legal team confronted the issue as the Pentagon prepared to restart military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay. The commissions began with pretrial hearings in the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee accused of killing an Army sergeant during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, when Mr. Khadr was 15.

The Pentagon delayed issuing a 281-page manual laying out commission rules until the eve of the hearing. The reason, officials say, is that government lawyers had been scrambling to rewrite a section about murder because it has implications for the C.I.A. drone program.

An earlier version of the manual, issued in 2007 by the Bush administration, defined the charge of “murder in violation of the laws of war” as a killing by someone who did not meet “the requirements for lawful combatancy” — like being part of a regular army or otherwise wearing a uniform. Similar language was incorporated into a draft of the new manual.

But as the Khadr hearing approached, Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, pointed out that such a definition could be construed as a concession by the United States that C.I.A. drone operators were war criminals. Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department general counsel, and his staff ultimately agreed with that concern. They redrafted the manual so that murder by an unprivileged combatant would instead be treated like espionage — an offense under domestic law not considered a war crime.

“An accused may be convicted,” the final manual states, if he “engaged in conduct traditionally triable by military commission (e.g., spying; murder committed while the accused did not meet the requirements of privileged belligerency) even if such conduct does not violate the international law of war.”

Under that reformulation, the C.I.A. drone operators — who reportedly fly the aircraft from agency headquarters in Langley, Va. — might theoretically be subject to prosecution in a Pakistani courtroom. But regardless, the United States can argue to allies that it is not violating the laws of war.

Mr. Alston, the United Nations official, said he agreed with the Obama legal team that “it is not per se illegal” under the laws of war for C.I.A. operatives to fire drone missiles “because anyone can stand up and start to act as a belligerent.” Still, he emphasized, they would not be entitled to battlefield immunity like soldiers.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame University law professor who has criticized the use of drones away from combat zones, also agreed with the Obama administration’s legal theory in this case. She said it could provide a “small modicum” of protection for C.I.A. operatives, noting that Germany had a statute allowing it to prosecute violations of the Geneva Conventions, but it does not enforce domestic Pakistani laws against murder.

In March, Mr. Koh delivered a speech in which he argued that the drone program was lawful because of the armed conflict with Al Qaeda and the principle of self-defense. He did not address several other murky legal issues, like whether Pakistani officials had secretly consented to the strikes. Mr. Alston, who is a New York University law professor, said his report would analyze such questions in detail, which may increase pressure on the United States to discuss them.
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More bankrupctcy talk on: May 28, 2010, 03:43:30 AM
24566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 28, 2010, 12:33:39 AM
Scott Grannis comments on the M3 decline of my previous post:

First, I suggest you read my post from last week on the issue of growth in the money supply:

Bottom line: slow or negative growth in money today is "payback" for very rapid growth in money leading up to last year. There is no reason at all to think that there is a shortage of money in the U.S.

I would also note that M3 is no longer calculated by the Fed, but is cobbled together by various private sources. The Fed stopped publishing the M3 numbers long ago because they (correctly in my belief) concluded that M3 provided no useful information that was not contained in M1 and M2.

I have always followed M2, and I honestly do not see any cause for concern here.

I would also note that if there were a shortage of money, as the M3 alarmists are trying to argue, then how do they explain the ongoing rise in gold and commodity prices? or the abundant evidence of expanding global economic activity?
24567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 27, 2010, 12:17:26 PM
Nah, couldn't be.  Don't they know we're the richest, mightiest nation in the world?

US money supply plunges at 1930s pace as Obama eyes fresh stimulus
The M3 money supply in the United States is contracting at an accelerating rate that now matches the average decline seen from 1929 to 1933, despite near zero interest rates and the biggest fiscal blitz in history.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Published: 9:40PM BST 26 May 2010

Comments 298 | Comment on this article

The M3 figures - which include broad range of bank accounts and are tracked by British and European monetarists for warning signals about the direction of the US economy a year or so in advance - began shrinking last summer. The pace has since quickened.

The stock of money fell from $14.2 trillion to $13.9 trillion in the three months to April, amounting to an annual rate of contraction of 9.6pc. The assets of insitutional money market funds fell at a 37pc rate, the sharpest drop ever.

"It’s frightening," said Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research. "The plunge in M3 has no precedent since the Great Depression. The dominant reason for this is that regulators across the world are pressing banks to raise capital asset ratios and to shrink their risk assets. This is why the US is not recovering properly," he said.

The US authorities have an entirely different explanation for the failure of stimulus measures to gain full traction. They are opting instead for yet further doses of Keynesian spending, despite warnings from the IMF that the gross public debt of the US will reach 97pc of GDP next year and 110pc by 2015.

Larry Summers, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, has asked Congress to "grit its teeth" and approve a fresh fiscal boost of $200bn to keep growth on track. "We are nearly 8m jobs short of normal employment. For millions of Americans the economic emergency grinds on," he said.

David Rosenberg from Gluskin Sheff said the White House appears to have reversed course just weeks after Mr Obama vowed to rein in a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion (9.4pc of GDP) this year and set up a commission to target cuts. "You truly cannot make this stuff up. The US governnment is freaked out about the prospect of a double-dip," he said.

The White House request is a tacit admission that the economy is already losing thrust and may stall later this year as stimulus from the original $800bn package starts to fade.

Recent data have been mixed. Durable goods orders jumped 2.9pc in April but house prices have been falling for several months and mortgage applications have dropped to a 13-year low. The ECRI leading index of US economic activity has been sliding continuously since its peak in October, suffering the steepest one-week drop ever recorded in mid-May.

Mr Summers acknowledged in a speech this week that the eurozone crisis had shone a spotlight on the dangers of spiralling public debt. He said deficit spending delays the day of reckoning and leaves the US at the mercy of foreign creditors. Ultimately, "failure begets failure" in fiscal policy as the logic of compound interest does its worst.

However, Mr Summers said it would be "pennywise and pound foolish" to skimp just as the kindling wood of recovery starts to catch fire. He said fiscal policy comes into its own at at time when the economy "faces a liquidity trap" and the Fed is constrained by zero interest rates.

Mr Congdon said the Obama policy risks repeating the strategic errors of Japan, which pushed debt to dangerously high levels with one fiscal boost after another during its Lost Decade, instead of resorting to full-blown "Friedmanite" monetary stimulus.

"Fiscal policy does not work. The US has just tried the biggest fiscal experiment in history and it has failed. What matters is the quantity of money and in extremis that can be increased easily by quantititave easing. If the Fed doesn’t act, a double-dip recession is a virtual certainty," he said.

Mr Congdon said the dominant voices in US policy-making - Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, as well as Mr Summers and Fed chair Ben Bernanke - are all Keynesians of different stripes who "despise traditional monetary theory and have a religious aversion to any mention of the quantity of money". The great opus by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz - The Monetary History of the United States - has been left to gather dust.

Mr Bernanke no longer pays attention to the M3 data. The bank stopped publishing the data five years ago, deeming it too erratic to be of much use.

This may have been a serious error since double-digit growth of M3 during the US housing bubble gave clear warnings that the boom was out of control. The sudden slowdown in M3 in early to mid-2008 - just as the Fed talked of raising rates - gave a second warning that the economy was about to go into a nosedive.

Mr Bernanke built his academic reputation on the study of the credit mechanism. This model offers a radically different theory for how the financial system works. While so-called "creditism" has become the new orthodoxy in US central banking, it has not yet been tested over time and may yet prove to be a misadventure.

Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics said the decline in M3 is worrying and points to a growing risk of deflation. "Core inflation is already the lowest since 1966, so we don’t have much margin for error here. Deflation becomes a threat if it goes on long enough to become entrenched," he said.

However, Mr Ashworth warned against a mechanical interpretation of money supply figures. "You could argue that M3 has been going down because people have been taking their money out of accounts to buy stocks, property and other assets," he said.

Events may soon tell us whether this is benign or malign. It is certainly remarkable.

** While the Fed does not publish M3, it still publishes the underlying components. The indicator is reconstructed accurately for clients by Dr John Williams. See it here.
24568  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: May 27, 2010, 11:37:40 AM
The idea is that ever-growing categories of criminal wrong doing will not be pursued by the DA due to lack of resources, case backlogs, etc.
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: May 27, 2010, 11:11:40 AM
Alexander's Essay – May 27, 2010

In Memoriam: American Patriots
"With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves." --Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775

Patriots RememberedMonday is Memorial Day, that exceptional day of each year all Patriots reserve to formally honor the service and sacrifice of generations of uniformed Patriots now departed -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who honored their sacred oaths "to support and defend" our Constitution and the liberty it enshrines.

In this era, however, our "progressive" academic institutions choose not to teach genuine history or civics. Consequently, many Americans have no sense of reverence or obligation for the liberty they enjoy. Indeed, many will "celebrate" Memorial Day as any other holiday, with barbecues, beer, and commercial sales at local malls. Simply put, they have sold out Memorial Day.

However, those of us who do understand the cost of liberty will advance this custom in honor of fallen Patriots, with both formal rites and simple prayers. For it is through the legacy of these Patriots that we are able to see most clearly our nation's noble history of eternal vigilance in support of liberty.

In 1776, an extraordinary group of men signed a document affirming our God-given right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Their commitment to the principles outlined therein are summed up in its final sentence: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Founding Patriot John Adams wrote: "I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States."

And the cost has been incalculable.

Generations of Patriots have since pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in defense of the Essential Liberty codified by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Our nation has, time and again, spent its treasure and spilt its sons' blood, not only for liberty at home, but also abroad.

However, Benjamin Franklin noted in 1777 that it should be so: "
  • ur cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own."

Since the opening salvos of the American Revolution, nearly 1.2 million American Patriots have died in defense of liberty. Additionally, 1.4 million have been wounded in combat, and tens of millions more have served honorably, surviving without physical wounds. These numbers, of course, offer no reckoning of the inestimable value of their service or the sacrifices borne by their families, but we do know that the value of the liberty they have extended to their posterity -- to us -- is priceless.

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died," said Gen. George S. Patton. "Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

While I greatly appreciate Gen. Patton's sentiment, I must respectfully disagree with his premise. I both mourn their absence and thank God they lived.

Etched into the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial in our nation's capital are the words of Adm. Chester Nimitz, his timeless tribute to the Marines who fought so valiantly there during World War II: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue." Such valor has attended every conflict involving American Patriots.

Not to be confused with men of such virtue, last week, Barack Hussein Obama addressed the graduating class at the United States Military Academy. His minions brokered Obama's appearance before the latest Corps (pronounced "core", not "corpse") of Cadets in the Long Gray Line, in an effort to burnish his thin veneer as "Commander in Chief" of our Armed Forces.

Obama used the occasion to dress up his strategy of appeasement.

In other years, men of somewhat greater stature have addressed the USMA, perhaps the most memorable being General Douglas MacArthur, who delivered his address on "Duty, Honor and Country," without the assistance of teleprompters, or even notes.

His words immortalize the spirit of all American Patriots who have served our nation in uniform:

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world's noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast.

But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

Honor. Duty. Country.

Thomas Jefferson offered this advice to all generations of Patriots: "Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."


We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those generations who have passed the torch of liberty to succeeding generations.

In Memoriam, we recall these words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

"Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours."

And these...

"[L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died." --Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, 1984
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coming soon to your town? on: May 27, 2010, 08:50:30 AM
From Failed Bombings to Armed Jihadist Assaults
May 27, 2010
By Scott Stewart

One of the things we like to do in our Global Security and Intelligence Report from time to time is examine the convergence of a number of separate and unrelated developments and then analyze that convergence and craft a forecast. In recent months we have seen such a convergence occur.

The most recent development is the interview with the American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki that was released to jihadist Internet chat rooms May 23 by al-Malahim Media, the public relations arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In the interview, al-Awlaki encouraged strikes against American civilians. He also has been tied to Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was charged in the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the failed Christmas Day 2009 airline bombing. And al-Awlaki reportedly helped inspire Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested in connection with the attempted Times Square attack in May.

The second link in our chain is the failed Christmas Day and Times Square bombings themselves. They are the latest in a long string of failed or foiled bombing attacks directed against the United States that date back to before the 9/11 attacks and include the thwarted 1997 suicide bomb plot against a subway in New York, the thwarted December 1999 Millennium Bomb plot and numerous post-9/11 attacks such as Richard Reid’s December 2001 shoe-bomb attempt, the August 2004 plot to bomb the New York subway system and the May 2009 plot to bomb two Jewish targets in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft. Indeed, jihadists have not conducted a successful bombing attack inside the United States since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Getting a trained bombmaker into the United States has proved to be increasingly difficult for jihadist groups, and training a novice to make bombs has also been problematic as seen in the Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi cases.

The final link we’d like to consider are the calls in the past few months for jihadists to conduct simple attacks with readily available items. This call was first made by AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi in October 2009 and then echoed by al Qaeda prime spokesman Adam Gadahn in March of 2010. In the Times Square case, Shahzad did use readily available items, but he lacked the ability to effectively fashion them into a viable explosive device.

When we look at all these links together, there is a very high probability that jihadists linked to, or inspired by, AQAP and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — and perhaps even al Shabaab — will attempt to conduct simple attacks with firearms in the near future.

Threats and Motives

In the May 23 al-Malahim interview (his first with AQAP), al-Awlaki not only said he was proud of the actions of Hasan and Abdulmutallab, whom he referred to as his students, but also encouraged other Muslims to follow the examples they set by their actions. When asked about the religious permissibility of an operation like Abdulmutallab’s, which could have killed innocent civilians, al-Awlaki told the interviewer that the term “civilian” was not really applicable to Islamic jurisprudence and that he preferred to use the terms combatants and non-combatants. He then continued by noting that “non-combatants are people who do not take part in the war” but that, in his opinion, “the American people in its entirety takes part in the war, because they elected this administration, and they finance this war.” In his final assessment, al-Awlaki said, “If the heroic mujahid brother Umar Farouk could have targeted hundreds of soldiers, that would have been wonderful. But we are talking about the realities of war,” meaning that in his final analysis, attacks against civilians were permissible under Islamic law. Indeed, he later noted, “Our unsettled account with America, in women and children alone, has exceeded one million. Those who would have been killed in the plane are a drop in the ocean.”

While this line of logic is nearly identical to that historically put forth by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the very significant difference is that al-Awlaki is a widely acknowledged Islamic scholar. He speaks with a religious authority that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri simply do not possess.

On May 2, the TTP released a video statement by Hakeemullah Mehsud in which Mehsud claimed credit for the failed Times Square attack. In the recording, which reportedly was taped in early April, Mehsud said that the time was approaching “when our fedayeen [suicide operatives] will attack the American states in their major cities.” He also said, “Our fedayeen have penetrated the terrorist America. We will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America.”

While TTP leaders seem wont to brag and exaggerate (e.g., Baitullah Mehsud falsely claimed credit for the April 3, 2009, shooting at an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y., which was actually committed by a mentally disturbed Vietnamese immigrant), there is ample reason to believe the claims made by the TTP regarding their contact with Shahzad. We can also deduce with some certainty that Mehsud and company have trained other men who have traveled (or returned) to the United States following that training. The same is likely true for AQAP, al Shabaab and other jihadist groups. In fact, the FBI is likely monitoring many such individuals inside the United States at this very moment — and in all likelihood is madly scrambling to find and investigate many others.

Fight Like You Train

There is an old military and law-enforcement training axiom that states, “You will fight like you train.” This concept has led to the development of training programs designed to help soldiers and agents not only learn skills but also practice and reinforce those skills until they become second nature. This way, when the student graduates and comes under incredible pressure in the real world — like during an armed ambush — their training will take over and they will react even before their mind can catch up to the rapidly unfolding situation. The behaviors needed to survive have been ingrained into them. This concept has been a problem for the jihadists when it comes to terrorist attacks.

It is important to understand that most of the thousands of men who attend training camps set up by al Qaeda and other jihadist groups are taught the basic military skills required to fight in an insurgency. This means they are provided basic physical training to help condition them, given some hand-to-hand combat training and then taught how to operate basic military hardware like assault rifles, hand grenades and, in some cases, crew-served weapons like machine guns and mortars. Only a very few students are then selected to attend the more advanced training that will teach them the skills required to become a trained terrorist operative.

In many ways, this process parallels the way that special operations forces operators are selected from the larger military population and then sent on for extensive training to transform them into elite warriors. Many people wash out during this type of intense training and only a few will make it all the way through to graduation. The problem for the jihadists is finding someone with the time and will to undergo the intensive training required to become a terrorist operative, the ability to complete the training and — critically — the ability to travel abroad to conduct terrorist attacks against the far enemy. Clearly the jihadist groups are able to train men to fight as insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they have shown the ability to train terrorist operatives who can operate in the fairly permissive environments of places like the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. They also have some excellent bombmakers and terrorist planners in Iraq and Pakistan.

What the jihadists seem to be having a problem doing is finding people who can master the terrorist tradecraft and who have the ability to travel into hostile areas to ply their craft. There seems to be a clear division between the men who can travel and the men who can master the advanced training. The physical and intelligence onslaught launched against al Qaeda and other jihadist groups following the 9/11 attacks has also created operational security concerns that complicate the ability to find and train effective terrorist operatives.

Of course, we’re not telling the jihadists anything they don’t already know. This phenomenon is exactly why you have major jihadist figures like al-Wahayshi and Gadahn telling the operatives who can travel to or are already in the West to stop trying to conduct attacks that are beyond their capabilities. Gadahn and al-Awlaki have heaped praise on Maj. Hasan as an example to follow — and this brings us back to armed assaults.

In the United States it is very easy to obtain firearms and it is legal to go to a range or private property to train with them. Armed assaults are also clearly within the skill set of jihadists who have made it only through basic insurgent training. As we’ve mentioned several times in the past, these grassroots individuals are far more likely to strike the United States and Europe than professional terrorist operatives dispatched from the al Qaeda core group. Such attacks will also allow these grassroots operatives to fight like they have been trained. When you combine all these elements with the fact that the United States is an open society with a lot of very vulnerable soft targets, it is not difficult to forecast that we will see more armed jihadist assaults in the United States in the near future.

Armed Assaults

Armed assaults employing small arms are not a new concept in terrorism by any means. They have proved to be a tried-and-true tactic since the beginning of the modern era of terrorism and have been employed in many famous attacks conducted by a variety of actors. A few examples are the Black September operation against the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; the December 1975 seizure of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries headquarters in Vienna, led by Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka “Carlos the Jackal”; the December 1985 simultaneous attacks against the airports in Rome and Vienna by the Abu Nidal Organization; and the September 2004 school seizure in Beslan, North Ossetia, by Chechen militants. More recently, the November 2008 armed assault in Mumbai demonstrated how deadly and spectacular such attacks can be.

In some instances — such as the December 1996 seizure of the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement — the objective of the armed assault is to take and intentionally hold hostages for a long period of time. In other instances, such as the May 1972 assault on Lod Airport by members of the Japanese Red Army, the armed assault is planned as a suicide attack designed simply to kill as many people as possible before the assailants themselves are killed or incapacitated. Often attacks fall somewhere in the middle. For example, even though Mumbai became a protracted operation, its planning and execution indicated it was intended as an attack in which the attackers would inflict maximum damage and not be taken alive. It was only due to the good fortune of the attackers and the ineptitude of the Indian security forces that the operation lasted as long as it did.

We discussed above the long string of failed and foiled bombing attacks directed against the United States. During that same time, there have been several armed assaults that have killed people, such as the attack against the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet in July 2002, the shooting attacks by John Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo in the Washington area in September and October 2002 and the June 2009 attack in which Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad allegedly shot and killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another outside a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting center. The most successful of these attacks was the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, which resulted in 13 deaths. These attacks not only resulted in deaths but also received extensive media coverage.

Armed assaults are effective and they can kill people. However, as we have noted before, due to the proficiency of U.S. police agencies and the training their officers have received in active shooter scenarios following school shootings and incidents of workplace violence, the impact of armed assaults will be mitigated in the United States, and Europe as well. In fact, it was an ordinary police officer responding to the scene and instituting an active shooter protocol who shot and wounded Maj. Hasan and brought an end to his attack in the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood. The number of people in the American public who are armed can also serve as a mitigating factor, though many past attacks have been planned at locations where personal weapons are prohibited, like the Los Angeles International Airport, Fort Hood and Fort Dix.

Of course, a Mumbai-like situation involving multiple trained shooters who can operate like a fire team will cause problems for first responders, but the police communication system in the United States and the availability of trained SWAT teams will allow authorities to quickly vector in sufficient resources to handle the threat in most locations — especially where such large coordinated attacks are most likely to happen, such as New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Therefore, even a major assault in the United States is unlikely to drag out for days as did the incident in Mumbai.

None of this is to say that the threats posed by suicide bombers against mass transit and aircraft will abruptly end. The jihadists have proven repeatedly that they have a fixation on both of these target sets and they will undoubtedly continue their attempts to attack them. Large bombings and airline attacks also carry with them a sense of drama that a shooting does not — especially in a country that has become somewhat accustomed to shooting incidents conducted by non-terrorist actors for other reasons. However, we believe we’re seeing a significant shift in the mindset of jihadist ideologues and that this shift will translate into a growing trend toward armed assaults.

24571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Executive Power during war time on: May 27, 2010, 08:30:28 AM
a treatise penned by former Justice Benjamin Curtis, who dissented from the majority in the Dred Scott case.  This work is a discussion of the executive power during war time.
24572  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: May 27, 2010, 08:29:42 AM
Interesting philosophical questions are presented when a wronged citizen cannot seek justice via the courts.
24573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: May 27, 2010, 08:13:15 AM

"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the  moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few." --John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 1763

"The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty." --Fisher Ames, speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788

"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East Tennessee College, 1810

"To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the college and university. The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jose Correa de Serra, 1817

"Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness." --George Washington, First Annual Message, 1790
24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BP cut corners on: May 27, 2010, 08:00:37 AM
24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 27, 2010, 07:58:34 AM
IMHO there will be no serious challenge and BO will be the nominee.
24576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A potential Turkish-Israeli crisis on: May 27, 2010, 07:53:28 AM
A Potential Turkish-Israeli Crisis and Its International Implications
AMINOR DEVELOPMENT WITH FAR-REACHING implications occurred Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow a flotilla belonging to Insani Yardim Vakfi (Humanitarian Aid Association), a Turkish, religious non-governmental organization (NGO), to fulfill its mission of providing supplies to Palestinians. Earlier, the organization, which possibly has ties to Turkey’s ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), had rejected Israel’s offer to have the supplies delivered via Israeli territory.

Turkey is in the process of trying to stage a comeback as a great power — a pursuit that has tremendous implications for the alliance it has had with Israel for more than six decades. In fact, Turkey on the path of resurgence means it has to take a critical stance toward Israel, because Ankara needs to re-establish itself as the hegemon in the Middle East and the leader of the wider Islamic world. This would explain Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s scathing and loud criticism of Israel at Davos after the last Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which led to a significant deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations.

The Turks are apparently sensing an opportunity to try and push Israel into a difficult situation. At the same time, they are trying to take advantage of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. While the NGO may have ties to the ruling AKP, there is no evidence to suggest that the move to run the blockade is being organized by the government. The emerging scenario, however, makes for a potentially serious international scene with an outcome — whatever way — that could benefit Turkey.

If Israeli forces interdict the ship, Turkey can go on the diplomatic offensive against Israel and rally widespread condemnation against the nation. The rising tensions could get the United States involved. Given the United States’ dependence on Turkey, the Turks could force Washington to take sides, placing the United States in the difficult position of opposing Ankara. Alternatively, forcing the Israelis to allow the flotilla to complete its mission would be a major victory for the Turks. It would enhance Turkey’s international standing as a leader and a rising power.

“The Turks are apparently sensing an opportunity to try and push Israel into a difficult situation.”
While the emerging situation presents itself as a win-win situation for Turkey, it places Israel in an extremely difficult situation, regardless of how it deals with the flotilla. Should the Israelis decide to prevent the ship from making its delivery, they risk global criticism and further deterioration of relations with Turkey. They also risk further complicating matters with the United States at a time when U.S.-Israeli relations are going through a rough period, and when Washington needs Ankara to resolve multiple regional issues. On the other hand, if the Israelis decide to avoid the diplomatic fallout and allow the ship to sail to its destination, that is tantamount to going on the defensive vis-a-vis the nation’s security — something that Israel has never done.

At a time when Israel’s relations with the United States are already uneasy because of diverging regional interests between Iran and the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not want to have to engage in any further action that exacerbates its tensions with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration. This desire notwithstanding, the Turkish ship, which has already set sail for the Gaza coast, is creating a situation where the Israelis don’t have the option of not doing anything. This scenario has taken on a life of its own — far beyond the original intent of the players involved.
24577  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 26, 2010, 10:50:02 AM
What is the UFC rule concerning stomps to the knee?

I clearly saw one buckle at fighter on TUF last week with nary a comment from anyone.
24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / All it takes is a hammer on: May 26, 2010, 10:38:40 AM
24579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: May 26, 2010, 12:11:42 AM
That certainly is plausible, but do you think Petraeus would participate in that?
Does the following shed any light?

Washington Strengthens Its Bargaining Position
IRAN SENT A LETTER TO THE INTERNATIONAL Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday saying that it accepted a nuclear fuel swap deal proposed by Turkey and Brazil that would involve transferring low-enriched uranium to Turkey for storage. The deal is a bid to reassure the international community that Iran is not using the fuel to make highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device. The United States responded that it would review the proposal, speak with France and Russia, and then respond to the IAEA in the coming days.

The U.S. response followed its initial rejection of the Turkey-Brazil proposal and claim that it would continue pressing for new sanctions against Iran in the United Nations. This is notable especially because the Iranian letter did not provide any new details that would change Washington’s calculus. It did not indicate any specifics about the timing or volume of uranium transfers, nor did it suggest in any way that Iran has changed its position on enriching uranium, which Washington wants to stop fully. It merely asserted Tehran’s acceptance of the Turkish proposal.

Nevertheless, the United States has not dismissed the proposal outright. This is because Iran’s nuclear program is not the only thing on Washington’s mind, but rather one component of a more complex set of negotiations as the United States prepares to withdraw from Iraq and, before too long, Afghanistan. If the United States is to withdraw major forces from the region, it wants to ensure that some semblance of balance has taken shape so that the threat of any one actor gaining too much of an advantage is minimized. It has become clear that such a strategy will require forging an arrangement with Tehran, since Iran has a special ability to affect both Iraq and Afghanistan. Having for the moment ruled out the option of striking Iran militarily, the United States must now look for ways to coordinate with Iran, while at the same time imposing limits to its power so that it will not overturn the regional balance when the United States leaves.

“Iran’s nuclear program is not the only thing on Washington’s mind, but rather one component of a more complex set of negotiations.”
Washington’s problem, however, is that it is attempting to find ways to negotiate while Iran sits in the best bargaining position. In recent months, Iran has seen a series of victories. It has watched as the United States vetoed Israel’s threats of military strikes; watered down proposals for sanctions at the United Nations so as to curry Russian and Chinese favor; and, crucially, it has turned the March election in Iraq to its favor by manipulating the various factions as they attempt to form a governing coalition. The latter is a tool Iran can use at length and to devastating effect if necessary, threatening to disrupt U.S. President Barack Obama administration’s withdrawal plans — and its other plans for that matter.

Washington needs to strengthen its bargaining position. And so it has, by attacking the problem from a different angle. Throughout the United States’ lengthy diplomatic quest to pressure Iran, a chief sticking point has been Russia. Moscow sees the U.S. imbroglios in the Middle East as an opportunity of a lifetime, and is pleased to use its relationship with Iran as a means of drawing out the opportunity, whether by offering to assist Iran with its nuclear energy program through the long-awaited completion of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility, provide it with S300 anti-air missile systems, or circumvent international sanctions on its fuel imports. The United States has tried before to work out a deal with Russia to abandon its support of Iran, which would leave Tehran isolated and considerably weaker in its negotiations with the United States. Previous attempts failed because the United States was not willing to give Russia the concessions it wanted — namely recognition of its superiority within the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.

But whenever the United States and Russia have begun negotiating more intensely with each other, Iran has become more conscious of its role as a mere bargaining chip for Russia, often signaling its displeasure with an outburst of rhetoric. Notably, just such a paroxysm occurred over the weekend, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on Russia to support the nuclear swap proposal, warning against making “excuses,” and saying that Russia should be more careful about remarks concerning its “great neighbor” Iran.

Why should Iran suddenly doubt Russia’s support? On the same day that Iran sent its letter to the IAEA, the United States transferred a battery of Patriot missiles to Poland. The Patriots are significant as a symbol of U.S. commitment to Poland’s security — and by extension that of its Central European allies — after the United States canceled plans for a fixed ballistic missile defense installation in the country. The Patriots come at a time in which the Obama administration is fashioning a new national security strategy that aims to spread the responsibility and costs of foreign interventions among U.S. allies. This will inevitably attract the most interest from European states that acutely feel the threat posed to them by a resurgent Russia. None of these developments have gone unnoticed in Moscow, and neither have positive U.S. moves, such as lifting sanctions on Russian arms dealers and not attempting to prevent Russia from selling the S300s to Iran. The United States has grabbed Russia’s undivided attention, and that alone is enough to unnerve Iran.

24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What do we make of this? on: May 25, 2010, 09:11:58 PM
Well gentlemen, what do we make of this?
24581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: May 25, 2010, 08:55:19 PM

That is profoundly scary  shocked shocked shocked


We're from the government and we are here to help you, the Australian version.
The Australian Government and the NSW Forestry Service were presenting an alternative to NSW sheep farmers for controlling the dingo population. It seems that after years of the sheep farmers using the tried and  true methods of shooting and/or trapping the predators, the Labor Government (Peter Garrett - Environmental Minister), the NSW Forestry Service and the Greens had a 'more humane' solution.
What they proposed was for the animals to be captured alive, the males would then be castrated and let loose again. Therefore the population would be controlled.
This was ACTUALLY proposed to the NSW Sheep farmers Association and Farming Association by the Federal Government and the NSW Forestry Service.  All of the sheep farmers thought about this amazing idea for a couple of minutes. Finally, one of the old boys in the back of the conference room stood up, tipped his hat back and said, ‘Mr Garrett, son, I don't think you understand our problem. Those dingo’s ain't f*****' our sheep - they're eatin' 'em.'

You should have been there to hear the roar of laughter as Mr  Peter Garrett and the members of the NSW Forestry Service and  the  Greens  left the meeting very  "sheepishly".
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / All dogs go to heaven on: May 25, 2010, 03:02:45 PM
Rottweiler destroyed for mauling owner may have been helping her
By Brie Zeltner, The Plain Dealer
May 18, 2010, 5:57PM

Courtesy Baker familyCarolyn Baker CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- A Rottweiler destroyed for mauling its 63-year-old owner in Cleveland Heights in February, may have been trying to help drag the woman to safety, after all.

Carolyn Baker collapsed in her driveway after a heart attack, Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller said Tuesday. The ailing woman had gone outside in only a nightgown to bring her 140-pound dog, Zeus, into the house.

The death was caused by a natural collapse, Miller said. "The dog was trying to help her, really. There were very few actual dog bites, it was mostly [signs of] pawing," he said.

Baker's family had said they believed Zeus was a hero, and the wounds were part of the 9-year-old dog's devoted rescue attempts. The family did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Baker's underlying heart disease was the main cause of her death, Miller said. She had suffered a recent stroke and heart attack, according to her family.

Hypothermia also contributed to Baker's death, Miller said. She was outside for several hours before the dog barked enough to wake a neighbor. Zeus was confined at Pepperidge Kennels in Bedford after the incident.

Cleveland Heights Municipal Court ordered the dog be destroyed on April 2, deeming it vicious and dangerous to society.

That decision was based on testimony from police officers and a neighbor, the dog's behavior report from the kennel, and from an oral report from a pathologist, listing '"severe dog bites" as contributing to her death.

While Miller said the description was accurate, he also said that the injuries the dog caused looked a lot worse than they actually were.

"It's our theory that she went down for a natural reason and then the dog was kind of tugging on her and some bleeding occurred that by itself may not have been fatal," Miller said.

Dr. Krista Pekarski, who completed the autopsy and gave the report, was not available for comment.

Cpt. Ron Salcer said the dog was deemed vicious based on the severity of Baker's wounds and because the dog regurgitated part of the woman's bra about a week after it was impounded.

"[It] shows that he was very aggressive if he would bite and chew to the point that he would take off her brassiere and swallow it," Salcer said.

The Baker family was notified of the court hearing where Zeus' fate was decided, but did not attend, said police Chief Martin Lentz.

Baker, who had suffered two strokes in the past 15 years, could move only slowly and with difficulty, her son Rinaldo said at the time of her death.

She did not usually bring the dog inside on her own and the family did not know she had left the house that night.

Baker's husband, Ricardo, found Carolyn Baker about 3 a.m. on Feb. 7. Depressions and blood in the snow marked a trail from the garage, where Zeus was being kept, to the back door, where she was found.
24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: May 25, 2010, 10:37:27 AM
"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." --John Adams, Defense of Constitutions, 1787
24584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / a research resource on: May 25, 2010, 10:27:10 AM
This comes recommended to me as a research resource
24585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baseline budgeting on: May 25, 2010, 08:45:00 AM
IMHO one of the most important things in making it difficult to understand and measure what the hell is going on is "baseline budgeting" under which a smaller than previously "planned" increase is called a "cut".

If someone can find a good definition/explanation of BB and post it here it would be appreciated.
24586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Battle Scarf on: May 24, 2010, 10:51:29 PM
Of course grin

And no doubt it will make its appearance in a future DBMA DVD  grin
24587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: May 24, 2010, 10:50:10 PM
It might be (but note we already do have a Self Defense Law thread)

Actually I opened this thread today because it seemed like GM, who posts often over on the P&R thread and sometimes on this forum and our SCH forum as well, had something that needed its own thread.  I put it here in Martial Arts with the idea that as those dedicated to being Protectors, we should have a place to further our understanding of how our legal system works.

For example, GM's idea (maybe he will make it tomorrow) concerned how our criminal justice system is increasingly adversely affected by the bursting of the Government Finance bubble.  All the legal theory is the world is all nice and good, but we also need to know what happens when there isn't enough money for the DA to take on all deserving matters.

As is always the case, the concept of the thread will be fairly elastic  wink
24588  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: May 24, 2010, 10:43:57 PM
"Tomorrow is promised to no one."
24589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Knife and Anti Knife on: May 24, 2010, 10:42:48 PM
Perhaps also worth mentioning is that our "Kali Tudo"(tm) game known as "the Four Headed Snake" of which the Dracula Variations is a subset, is based upon double icepick knife.
24590  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Knife and Anti Knife on: May 24, 2010, 10:41:17 PM
Woof All:

As I discuss in the vid-clip "Knife Ruminations" on our website, I have a certain reluctance to teach offensive knife openly.  I'm not sure this makes sense in a world of guns, but it seems to me that training offensive knife calls to the darkness is a special way.

The Die Less Often material is ANTI-knife and is intended to give the best odds possible against the most like kind of attack in the American environment: Crazed forehanded thrusting (and slashing) either untrained or trained, as in the Prison Sewing Machine variations.  My thought here is that the bad guys already know these things, and that I help the cause of the good to help good people acquire a more realistic sense of what they might really face.

This is an example of the DBMA teaching principle "Teach Primal Probabilities First".

In that context of course there needs to be a block of material to respond to the Ice Pick Caveman based attacks.  I have had a couple of random techniques that I like, but frankly the material was not up to the standard that I think I achieved with the anti PSM material.  While part of the challenge was to maintain the "Consistency across categories" concept so as to minimize reaction time, the simple fact was that I did not have a matrix and grid the way I do with the anti-PSM material , , , until today. 

Of course the material will need to be pressure tested further, but two seasoned students and I aired things out fairly well today and my doggy nose tells me that today was a moment of satori.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty

PS:  This past Friday I had a very intriguing day being trained in the very interesting Piper Knife system of South Africa.  One of the moves that I learned on Friday appears in the new anti-Ice Pick Caveman material.
24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kiss and Tell coming , , , eventually on: May 24, 2010, 07:13:48 PM
24592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: May 24, 2010, 06:57:00 PM
 shocked shocked angry
24593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 24, 2010, 12:23:28 PM
It has been just over a year now since Pakistan began its military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat district. Since then, the military has set upon the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, launching operations from the north and south, converging on the militant stronghold of Orakzai agency. Military operations have been slowly progressing in Orakzai for the past two months. While Orakzai is key turf for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the showdown is still set for North Waziristan, a theater in which the Pakistanis are slowly building their forces for a final push.

Pakistan has made significant headway against the Islamist militant insurgency that presented the country with an existential challenge in early 2009. Squaring off against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani military launched offensives against militant strongholds in Swat district in late April 2009 and has kept up the momentum ever since. During the summer of 2009, the military expanded operations into Dir, Malakand, Buner and Shangla districts and then began going after core TTP turf when it launched operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). First the military struck from the northern agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, and in October 2009, after much anticipation, it began pushing from the south though South Waziristan.

(click here to enlarge image)
While all of these missions are ongoing, troops are not staying long in any of the districts before moving on to the next one in order to prevent the TTP or its militant associates from settling down and getting comfortable in any one spot. Pakistani troops are stretched thin across the country’s tribal region, largely because of the operational model that the military is using. Under the model, the military announces that operations are about to commence in a certain area, then civilians are allowed out and sent to camps to live until it is safe to return. Once the area is declared cleared of noncombatants, the military launches air and artillery strikes to “soften up” militant targets. After a few days of bombardment, ground troops go in and remove any remaining militants.

Days after an area is cleared of militants, the military moves on, leaving behind a small contingent of soldiers to provide security as the area residents return home, among whom, invariably, are militants who continue to carry out attacks against civilian and government targets — albeit at a slower and typically less damaging pace. In this environment, the military works to build up a civil government that can control the town on its own without the military providing security.

The result is that the primary population centers and transportation infrastructure are under the control of the government, while militants maintain a presence in the more rural areas, where they can regroup, gather their strength and push back once the military leaves. Thus it is the establishment of civil authority and long-term security that is essential in consolidating and sustaining what is initially achieved through military force.

It is important to the Pakistani government to establish security as quickly as possible because its military is needed elsewhere. After securing the edges of the FATA, the Pakistani military now has its sights set on the central FATA agencies of Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai. Of these three, Orakzai is proving to be the most difficult for the Pakistani military, as Kurram and Khyber have social networks that make it more difficult for militants to thrive there: Kurram agency is made up of mostly Shia — sectarian rivals to the Sunni TTP — and Khyber agency is home to many powerful allies of Islamabad who are being recruited to assist the Pakistani government.

(click here to enlarge image)
Orakzai, however, is the TTP’s second home. With the denial of South Waziristan to the TTP as their primary sanctuary, Orakzai agency is now the most permissive environment to the TTP leadership. Orakzai, after all, is where former TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud rose to power. TTP militant leaders evacuated agencies like South Waziristan following the military operation there and took up residence in Orakzai and North Waziristan. The TTP in Orakzai (led by Aslam Farooqi) had strongholds in Daburai, Stori Khel, Mamozai and numerous other, smaller towns. The TTP was able to regularly harass agency authorities in Kalaya, preventing them from enforcing the writ of the government in Orakzai. Other jihadist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad also had training and base camps in Orakzai. These groups carried out suicide attacks in Punjab province which terrorized the Pakistani population in late 2009 and early 2010, but these attacks have slowed in 2010, largely because of the offensive operations the Pakistani military has engaged in over the past year.

Unlike Kurram and Khyber agencies, Orakzai is home to tribes such as the Mamozai group, which is very loyal to the TTP and hence much more hostile to the Pakistani state. This hostility could be seen on May 19, when more than 200 unidentified militants believed to be tribesmen stormed a military outpost in northwest Orakzai agency, killing two Pakistani soldiers. The TTP typically does not mass fighters in such large numbers and send them against Pakistani military targets — their resources are simply far too limited. More common TTP tactics include suicide bombings and small-unit assaults. The May 19 assault was more likely the work of local tribesmen sympathetic to the TTP, and it was hardly the first time such an assault happened in Orakzai agency. On April 19, more than 100 tribesmen raided a checkpoint in Bizoti. This raid was beaten back by Pakistani forces, but such large raids against the Pakistani military are not as common elsewhere in the FATA, indicating that different fighting forces exist there.

This kind of local support only compounds the other problems that the Pakistani military is facing in Orakzai. For one thing, the Pakistani military is working with fewer resources. In Swat, the military deployed 15,000 troops and in South Waziristan it had more than 25,000 troops on the ground. But in Orakzai, the military has deployed only five battalions — approximately 5,000 troops. And this number becomes increasingly spread out as the operation unfolds.

The military also faces the challenge of geography in Orakzai, as it does in most other agencies in Pakistan’s tribal belt. The most inhabitable region of Orakzai, known as “lower Orakzai,” stretches from Stori Khel in the northeast to Mamozai in the southwest. This stretch of land is a lower-elevation valley (still above 5,000 feet), with Kalaya as its largest city. Stori Khel is at the mouth of the valley, which broadens out to the west. To the east the valley rises up to form mountains higher than 10,000 feet, an area known as “upper Orakzai.” Upper Orakzai agency is lightly inhabited in the narrow, mountainous section between Stori Khel and Darra Adam Khel. The only way out of upper Orakzai is through primitive roads south to Kohat. Population picks back up farther east in the frontier regions of Peshawar and Kohat, where Highway N-55 follows the Indus River, creating major population centers like Darra Adam Khel. This mountainous core between Stori Khel and Darra Adam Khel provides a natural fortress and plenty of hideouts for militants. Darra Adam Khel is also a hub for weapons manufacturing, and the black and gray markets there supply Taliban forces throughout the Pakistani tribal areas.

On March 24, to counter the militants in Orakzai, the Pakistani military launched operation Khwakh Ba De Sham northeast of the main valley in the area of Feroz Khel and Stori Khel. Ground operations were preceded and accompanied by air operations, with the air force striking known militant buildings and paving the way for ground forces to move in and kill or capture remaining militants. Residents largely fled to Khyber and Kohat, with militants occasionally attacking them as they were preparing to leave. The military moved generally from northeast to southwest, clearing the towns of Mishti, Bizoti, Daburai and finally Mamozai. Meanwhile, forces in Kurram and Kohat agencies (specifically along the roads to Kohat and Hangu) worked to seal the border to prevent militants from streaming south to avoid the military operation.

The focus of the Orakzai operation now is in the very northwest corner of agency (where tribal militants raided the military outpost on May 19), which means that the core valley of Orakzai has been cleared. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) began returning to Stori Khel in early May, but militant attacks at IDP repatriation checkpoints have slowed the process and indicated that the areas may not be cleared, contrary to what the Pakistani military has claimed.

The next phase of the Orakzai operation (which actually began last week) is targeting upper Orakzai, east of Stori Khel. The military has already begun artillery shelling and airstrikes against militant hideouts in the area, where operations will be complicated by the more mountainous terrain and conservative Muslim villages whose inhabitants are hardened against outside influence. The high ridges and narrow valleys of upper Orakzai typify the fractured Pakistani terrain which is not easily controlled by Islamabad. It is here where militants can more easily hold and influence small, isolated villages, find sanctuary and thrive as a militant movement.

The next step in Pakistan’s broader counterinsurgency, however, is shaping up to be North Waziristan. The United States has been pushing the Pakistanis to move into the region and the Pakistanis have signaled that they will — on their own timetable. Pakistani troops have engaged in minor operations along North Waziristan’s border over the past six months, but they have yet to go in full force as they did in South Waziristan and the other FATA agencies. Most of the militants who fled South Waziristan are believed to be in North Waziristan now, making it the new home of the TTP, especially after Orakzai is cleared. But this home will not be the same as South Waziristan or Orakzai, where the TTP enjoyed generous local support. North Waziristan is wild country, where a number of both local and transnational jihadists are hiding from the Pakistani government or whoever else may be looking for them.

However, the TTP and transnational jihadists do not control any territory outright in North Waziristan. The authority in this lawless region lies with warlord groups like the Hafiz Gul Bahadur organization and the Afghan Taliban-linked Haqqani network. Neither of these groups intends to attack the Pakistani state, and Islamabad goes to great lengths to maintain neutral relations with both. This means that the TTP and other jihadist elements that have been moving into North Waziristan over the past six months are guests there, and it is unclear how long they will be welcome. Conversely, Bahadur and Haqqani are not keen on the idea of Pakistani troops moving into the area, so we would expect to see a great deal of political bargaining and a negotiated settlement between Islamabad and Bahadur and Haqqani over what actions to take against militants in North Waziristan.
24594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 24, 2010, 11:11:45 AM

This is an important point.  May I offer for you to kick things off?
24595  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Criminal Justice system on: May 24, 2010, 11:10:48 AM
Woof All:

We have a threads for Self-defense law, LEO issues, and Corrections/Prison issues, but I am thinking that we may have need of a thread dedicated to the unique issues pertaining to our criminal justice legal system.

Crafty Dog
24596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: May 24, 2010, 08:24:38 AM
Republican candidate Rand Paul's controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act unsettled GOP leaders this week, but they reflect deeply held iconoclastic beliefs held by some in his party, and many in the tea-party movement, that the U.S. government shook its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago.

Mr. Paul and his supporters rushed to emphasize that his remarks did not reflect racism but a sincerely held, libertarian belief that the federal government, starting in the Roosevelt era, gained powers that set the stage for decades of improper intrusions on private businesses.

Mr. Paul, the newly elected GOP Senate nominee in Kentucky, again made headlines Friday when he told ABC's "Good Morning America" that President Barack Obama's criticism of energy giant BP and of its oil-spill response was "really un-American."

That followed a tussle over the landmark civil-rights law, which Mr. Paul embraced after suggesting Wednesday that the act may have gone too far in mandating the desegregation of private businesses. Late Friday, NBC said that Mr. Paul had cancelled a scheduled appearance on the Sunday morning show "Meet the Press,'' a rare development in the history of the widely watched political program. The network said it was asking Mr. Paul to reconsider.

In tea-party circles, Mr. Paul's views are not unusual. They fit into a "Constitutionalist" view under which the federal government has no right to dictate the behavior of private enterprises. On the stump, especially among tea-party supporters, Mr. Paul says "big government" didn't start with President Obama, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s or the advance of central governance sparked by World War II and the economic boom that followed.

He traces it to 1937, when the Supreme Court, under heated pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, upheld a state minimum-wage law on a 5-4 vote, ushering in the legal justification for government intervention in private markets.

Until the case, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court had sharply limited government action that impinged on the private sector, infuriating Mr. Roosevelt so much that he threatened to expand the court and stack it with his own appointees.

Following his comments on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Rand Paul said Friday morning President Obama's criticism of BP has sounded "really un-American." WSJ's Jerry Seib joins the News Hub to discuss the latest controversy and the political damage of Paul's recent comments.
."It didn't start last year. I think it started back in 1936 or 1937, and I point really to a couple of key constitutional cases… that all had to do with the commerce clause," Mr. Paul said in an interview before Tuesday's election, in which he defeated a Republican establishment candidate, hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.).

Mr. Paul has said that, if elected, one of his first demands will be that Congress print the constitutional justification on any law is passes.

Last week, Mr. Paul encouraged a tea-party gathering in Louisville to look at the origins of "unconstitutional government." He told the crowd there of Wickard v. Filburn, a favorite reference on the stump, in which the Supreme Court rejected the claims of farmer Roscoe Filburn that wheat he grew for his own use was beyond the reach of federal regulation. The 1942 ruling upheld federal laws limiting wheat production, saying Mr. Filburn's crop affected interstate commerce. Even if he fed his wheat to his own livestock, the court reasoned, he was implicitly affecting wheat prices. If he had bought the wheat on the market, he would subtly have raised the national price of the crop.

"That's when we quit owning our own property. That's when we became renters on our own land," Mr. Paul told the crowd.

In an interview, Mr. Paul expressed support for purely in-state gun industries, in which firearms are produced in one state with no imported parts and no exports. Guns produced under those circumstances can't be subjected to a federal background check, waiting period or other rules, he reasons.

"I'm not for having a civil war or anything like that, but I am for challenging federal authority over the states, through the courts, to see if we can get some better rulings," he said.

To supporters, such ideological purity has made the Bowling Green ophthalmologist a hero.

"He's going back to the Constitution," said Heather Toombs, a Louisville supporter who came to watch him at a meet-and-greet at a suburban home last week. "He's taking back the government."

But to Democrats, some Republicans and even some libertarians, Mr. Paul's arguments seem detached from the social fabric that has bound the U.S. together since 1937. The federal government puts limits on pollutants from corporations, monitors the safety of toys and other products and ensures a safe food supply—much of which Mr. Paul's philosophy could put in question.

David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, said that in many ways Americans are freer now than they were in any pre-1937 libertarian Halcyon day. Women and black citizens can vote, work and own property. "Micro-regulations" that existed before the Supreme Court shift, which controlled trucking, civil aviation and other private pursuits, are gone.

"Sometimes he talks the way libertarians talk in political seminars," Mr. Boaz said of Mr. Paul. "There are not really many people who want to reverse Wickard, but there are many professors who could make a good case for it."

"Rand Paul apparently has a deeply held conviction that corporations should be allowed to do what they see fit without oversight or accountability," Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Mr. Paul's Democratic opponent in the Senate contest, said Friday.

Mr. Paul's views differ from those of the Republican Party on some fundamental matters. Mr. Paul opposes the anti-terrorism PATRIOT Act, which he says infringes on civil liberties. He opposed the war in Iraq and says any war cannot be waged unless and until Congress formally declares it. And he has expressed misgivings about the nation's drug laws.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R, Ariz.) told the newspaper Politico that Mr. Paul's civil rights comments were comparable to "a debate like you had at 2 a.m. in the morning when you're going to college. But it doesn't have a lot to do with anything."

—Jean Spencer and Douglas A. Blackmon contributed to this article.
Write to Jonathan Weisman at
24597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / On Rand Paul on: May 24, 2010, 07:19:00 AM
second post of the day, from the POTH op-ed page

The Principles of Rand Paul
Published: May 23, 2010
No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency.

This was all that Rand Paul needed to admit, after his victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, when NPR and Rachel Maddow asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “As a principled critic of federal power,” he could have said, “I oppose efforts to impose Washington’s will on states and private institutions. As a student of the history of segregation and slavery, however, I would have made an exception for the Civil Rights Act.”
But Paul just couldn’t help himself. He had to play Hamlet, to hem and haw about the distinction between public and private discrimination, to insist on his sympathy for the civil rights movement while conspicuously avoiding saying that he would have voted for the bill that outlawed segregation.

By the weekend (and under duress), he finally said it. But the tap-dancing route he took to get there was offensive, tone deaf and politically crazy.

It was also sadly typical of the political persuasion that Rand Paul represents.

This persuasion shouldn’t be confused with the Tea Party movement, whose inchoate antideficit enthusiasms Paul rode to victory last Tuesday. Nor is it just libertarianism in general, a label that gets slapped on everyone from Idaho milita members to Silicon Valley utopians to pro-choice Republicans in Greenwich.

Paul is a libertarian, certainly, but more importantly he’s a particular kind of a libertarian. He’s culturally conservative (opposing both abortion and illegal immigration), radically noninterventionist (he’s against the Iraq war and the United Nations), and so stringently constitutionalist that he views nearly everything today’s federal government does as a violation of the founding fathers’ vision.

This worldview goes by many names, including “paleoconservatism,” “the old right” and “paleolibertarianism.” But its adherents — Paul and his father, Ron, included — view themselves as America’s only true conservatives, arguing that the modern conservative movement has sold out to both big government and the military-industrial complex.

Instead of celebrating the usual Republican pantheon, paleoconservatives identify with the “beautiful losers” of American history, to borrow a phrase from the paleocon journalist Sam Francis — the anti-imperialists who opposed the Spanish-American War, the libertarians who stood athwart the New Deal yelling “stop,” the Midwestern Republicans who objected to the growth of the national security state after World War II. And they offer an ideological synthesis that’s well outside either political party’s mainstream — antiwar and antiabortion, against the Patriot Act but in favor of a border fence, and skeptical of the drug war and the welfare state alike.

In an age of lockstep partisanship, there’s a lot to admire about this unusual constellation of ideas, and its sweeping critique of American politics as usual. There’s a reason that both Rand and Ron Paul have inspired so much visceral enthusiasm, especially among younger voters, while attracting an eclectic cross-section of supporters — hipsters and N.R.A. members, civil libertarians and Christian conservatives, and stranger bedfellows still.

The problem is that paleoconservatives are self-marginalizing, and self-destructive.

Like many groups that find themselves in intellectually uncharted territory, they have trouble distinguishing between ideas that deserve a wider hearing and ideas that are crankish or worse. (Hence Ron Paul’s obsession with the gold standard and his son’s weakness for conspiracy theories.)

Like many outside-the-box thinkers, they’re good at applying their principles more consistently than your average partisan, but lousy at knowing when to stop. (Hence the tendency to see civil rights legislation as just another unjustified expansion of federal power.)

And like many self-conscious iconoclasts, they tend to drift in ever-more extreme directions, reveling in political incorrectness even as they leave common sense and common decency behind.

It isn’t surprising that two of the most interesting “paleo” writers of the last few decades, Francis and Joseph Sobran, ended their careers way out on the racist or anti-Semitic fringe. It isn’t a coincidence that the most successful “paleo” presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, opposes not only America’s interventions in Iraq, but the West’s involvement in World War II as well. It isn’t surprising that Ron Paul kept company in the 1990s with acolytes who attached his name to bigoted pamphleteering.

And it shouldn’t come as a shock that his son found himself publicly undone, in what should have been his moment of triumph, because he was too proud to acknowledge the limits of ideology, and to admit that a principle can be pushed too far.
24598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What could go wrong with this? on: May 24, 2010, 07:12:45 AM

A POTH Editorial

Few Americans know what a “medical loss ratio” is, but a fierce struggle over how to calculate it under the new health care reform law will determine how much insurers must spend on patient care and how much they can retain for administration and profits. This is but one of many battles that will emerge as federal and state regulators develop regulations to implement reform.

The new law requires health insurers, starting in 2011, to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of the premiums they collect on medical services or activities that improve the quality of care. (That percentage is the medical loss ratio.) The remainder can be allocated to profits or administrative activities that do not directly benefit patients, such as marketing, overhead and salaries.

The law leaves plenty of room for finagling over what can be counted as a quality improvement activity. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which is helping the administration develop standards, is being lobbied by insurers to adopt a broad definition and by consumer advocates to keep it narrow.

Some insurers are clearly overreaching. They argue that much of the cost of setting up networks of providers should count as quality improvement, because they check the credentials and disciplinary records of doctors. They want to include programs to root out fraud or overbilling because they probably weed out some bad doctors as well. And they would include the cost of programs, including precertification, that judge whether care is covered and appropriate. All these look like activities whose primary purpose is to reduce costs for the insurer with quality at best a secondary issue.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the commerce committee, says his staff has found that insurers are already reclassifying many administrative costs as medical expenses to create the appearance of a higher medical loss ratio. He is rightly urging a rigorous standard.

Sensible boundaries can surely be drawn. Health information technology that improves patient care by preventing drug interactions should clearly count, but technology that primarily streamlines business operations should not. Programs that help manage and coordinate the care given chronically ill patients should count, but programs that review whether doctor-recommended services are covered should not.

Regulators will have to find an approach that prevents insurers from gaming the system while encouraging them to spend money on meaningful measures to improve quality — a major goal of the reform law.
24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Reps ask "Why us?" on: May 24, 2010, 07:02:10 AM
It's POTH, so caveat lector:

Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too
Published: May 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington.

There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned.
Republicans are working to find a balance between simply running against Democrats and promoting a specific alternative agenda. And they are struggling with how to integrate the passions of the Tea Party movement — with its anti-government ideology, anti-incumbent bent and often-rough political edges — into the Republican Party apparatus.

This week, House Republicans are beginning a program they call “America Speaking Out.” Their message is that lawmakers will be listening to their supporters over the summer, not simply dictating an agenda. In the fall, Republican leaders said, they plan to turn the ideas into specific policy proposals for the next Congress.

A series of events last week prompted a re-examination among Republicans of where the party stands less than six months before the midterm elections. In Pennsylvania, a Republican House candidate, Tim Burns, lost a special election by 8 points in a swing district of the sort the party needs to capture to have a shot of regaining the majority. And in a Republican primary for a Senate seat from Kentucky, Rand Paul, a leading emblem of the Tea Party, won a commanding victory.

“Democrats still need to be really worried,” said Joe Gaylord, a Republican strategist who helped guide the party’s sweeping Congressional victories in 1994. “But there has to be a message that we are for something, and that if you elect Republicans, there will be some change.”

For much of the first 16 months of the Obama administration, Republicans have unified around an opposition to the president’s agenda, trying to stop nearly every proposal. But that allowed Democrats to brand their rivals as obstructionists who were unwilling to compromise, setting off second-guessing among Republicans about whether they needed to do more. As the fall election comes into sharper view, the party faces the burden of introducing plans that appeal to its base without alienating independent voters.

Republicans continue to have much in their favor, and over all appear to be in a stronger position than Democrats. They continue to benefit from a widespread sense among voters that government has gotten too expansive, with Mr. Obama’s health care bill as Exhibit A. The economic recovery remains tepid, with unemployment still high.

Republicans raised more money than Democrats last month, a reflection of the optimism about the potential for gains in November among the party’s contributors. And the party did pick up a House seat in Hawaii on Saturday in a special election in a district that is heavily Democratic — two rival Democrats split their party’s vote — but Democrats expressed confidence they would win the seat back in November.

While Democrats also face challenges motivating their base this year, the Democratic margin of victory in the House race in Pennsylvania suggests that the party may enjoy organizational capabilities that Republicans do not.

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has said that anything short of taking back the House would be a failure. And since the setback in Pennsylvania last week, there has been decided concern in Republican circles that perhaps they were too optimistic.

“You’ve got a country that is in a surly mood and is skeptical of incumbents generally,” said Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. “But some people have put the expectations so high, even if Republicans do reasonably well this fall, it could look like we haven’t done as well as we should have.”

The defeat in Pennsylvania not only helped alter the perception of the battle for control of Congress, but also prompted a review of how effective Mr. Sessions’s committee has been executing its on-the-ground campaign efforts.

“There is going to be a holistic assessment of what went wrong in the race and what we can learn from it,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican. “We have to face the fact that these are going to be very tough races.”

Thomas M. Reynolds, the former New York congressman who headed the Republican campaign operation in 2004 and 2006, said the party needed to better balance local issues with appeals that take into account the national climate.

“We still have an angry electorate that both Democrats and Republicans face,” Mr. Reynolds said, “and our candidates need to talk about what matters at home and what they are going to do about it from an unpopular Washington.”

In the House, Republicans must capture 40 additional seats to win control from Democrats. In the Senate, strategists on both sides believe the prospects of Republicans winning 10 seats to take control remain slim.


Page 2 of 2)

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is, the Republican Party brand is still pretty weak,” said Phil Musser, a Republican strategist. “We need an overhaul, and there is a big opportunity to rebrand around a few unifying themes besides just opposition to Obama.”

As many primary elections give way to the fall campaign, Republicans face a host of broader, thematic questions.
Should the party, for example, seek to nationalize the election? Should it direct candidates to demonize Mr. Obama or Speaker Nancy Pelosi the way Democrats demonized former President George W. Bush in 2006, or the way some Tea Party leaders are demonizing Mr. Obama? Will the legislative achievements of Democrats in recent months — the health care measure and presumably a financial regulation bill — permit Democrats to argue that Washington can get something done, or will the substance of the legislation provide a target for those who argue against the expansion of government?

Some Republicans say they cannot win races by focusing on Democratic leaders, an approach that failed for Republicans in the Pennsylvania race as it did for them nationally in 2008. “It didn’t work then and it isn’t working now,” said Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho.

Rob Jesmer, the executive director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he thought that given Mr. Obama’s popularity, it was critical for Senate candidates to run against the Democratic agenda, rather than just Mr. Obama himself.

At the same time, there is also increasing pressure on Republicans to come up with some sort of governing agenda to offer Americans an idea of what they would do should they win control of Congress, echoing what Republicans did in 1994 through the “Contract With America.”

But some party officials are wary of such an approach, saying it would allow Democrats to turn attention away from attacks on their own stewardship of Congress. A compromise was reached through the “America Speaking Out” tour, which is set to begin Tuesday.

“It’s a remarkable situation, given where things were a year ago, where Republicans clearly have an opportunity to do really well,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who concentrates on Congressional races. “The door is open in terms of potential. But we have to answer the question, Why us?”
24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jindal threatens action on: May 24, 2010, 06:57:00 AM
I feel sick in my stomach at the ever growing disaster. 

Is BP doing all that it can? 

Should the Feds be doing more?

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