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24551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 20, 2009, 12:59:10 PM
What do we make of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Susan Rice and BO get it wrong on: April 20, 2009, 12:53:48 PM
The BO love affair of international "law" continues unabated , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

Last week's statement on North Korea is binding only in the sense that it calls on member states "to comply fully" with their obligations under Resolution 1718, which bans sales of weapons, weapons parts and luxury goods to North Korea. Resolution 1718 is legally binding, but it has never been enforced. This speaks volumes about the sincerity of promises made at the U.N., and about the failure of the Obama Administration to win Security Council support for a serious response to North Korea's missile launch.
24553  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 20, 2009, 12:01:03 PM
Chad:  Thanks.

SG:  Thanks.

Amazing footage!
24554  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: O'Grady on: April 20, 2009, 11:44:45 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too bad Mr. Obama didn't have a copy of the late 1990s bestseller "The Perfect Latin American Idiot" as a gift for Mr. Chávez. Another way Mr. Obama could have neutralized the left would have been to announce a White House push for ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. That didn't happen either. He only promised to talk some more, a strategy that will offend no one and accomplish nothing. It is a strategy that sums up, to date, Mr. Obama's foreign policy for the region.
24555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 20, 2009, 10:48:05 AM
This point about the market's beliefs about FUTURE rates is key.
24556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: general orders; NC delegate WR Davie on: April 20, 2009, 09:56:37 AM
"[T]he hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."

--George Washington, General Orders, 23 August 1776

"So low and hopeless are the finances of the United States, that, the year before last Congress was obliged to borrow money even, to pay the interest of the principal which we had borrowed before. This wretched resource of turning interest into principal, is the most humiliating and disgraceful measure that a nation could take, and approximates with rapidity to absolute ruin: Yet it is the inevitable and certain consequence of such a system as the existing Confederation." --North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention William Richardson Davie (1756-1820)
24557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ahmadinejad to BO: Fellate me on: April 19, 2009, 08:16:31 PM
24558  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 08:07:37 PM
Your guro is still to clueless to figure out the URL for that , , ,
24559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: April 19, 2009, 11:55:10 AM
One of the scariest parts of all these is the meme that it was deregulation instead of govt meddling (the FMs, the CRA, negative interest rates, etc) that laid the groundwork for all this (see e.g. the professor's conclusion) has become accepted truth
24560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is BO's bug out about to throw the baby out with the bath water? on: April 19, 2009, 11:38:45 AM
Our man in Iraq reports:


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

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

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

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

Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar province, lies 110 km west of Baghdad.
SS (P)
24561  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 09:54:57 AM
So, what happened last night?
24562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 19, 2009, 09:39:37 AM

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


Here's an interesting clip that left me thinking.
24563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Turkey on: April 19, 2009, 09:14:48 AM
hope the link comes through live:

Presidents of Russia, Turkey adopt strategic declaration: “The presidents of Russia and Turkey adopted a joint declaration following talks in Moscow on Friday to promote ties and enhance bilateral friendship and partnership. Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived for his first four-day visit to Russia [in February]….They also vowed to move quicker in settling issues related to defense cooperation….Turkey receives about 65% of its gas from Russia, which is pumped via Ukraine and the Blue Stream pipeline that passes directly from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters on Friday that Russia could sign an energy contract worth more than $60 billion with Turkey on the construction of a nuclear power plant and power supplies to the country for the next 15 years. He said four reactors for a potential nuclear plant in Turkey could cost $18 billion-$20 billion….’I believe my current visit will open up a new page in the history of Russian-Turkish ties,’ Gul said.”
24564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 18, 2009, 10:26:14 PM
A fine time today:

a) Dos Triques

b) Kali Tudo:  Flying Bong Sao variations
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 4/15 Tea Tax Protests on: April 18, 2009, 09:43:06 PM
"2. The original tea parties were about taxation without representation, today's spending is the result of Democrats winning elections, so it's taxation with representation."

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

Furthermore there is the matter of gerrymandering and "campaign finance reform" creating one party, the Incumbent Party.  I don't have current numbers (anyone out there?) but for much of the 80s and 90s the incumbency rate of the House of Representatives was something like 97-98%.   shocked shocked shocked
24566  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 18, 2009, 05:09:30 PM
Now there's a Black Swan Event!   cheesy
24567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis!!! on: April 18, 2009, 05:04:16 PM
Think of it this way: China started out with about $1 trillion in cash, most of which was held in dollars. Then it looked at the yield on that cash (almost zero) and then they thought about all the money the Fed was printing, and all the commodities they would be buying in the future, and they figured they had too much exposure to dollars and not enough to commodities. Then they realized that if they tried to sell $1 trillion of dollar cash they could depress the dollar's value and thus undermine their entire holdings of dollar-denominated instruments. So they decided to move some money from dollar cash to copper. That is the equivalent of the world suddenly waking up and finding that its demand for dollar cash had declined, and its demand for exposure to commodities had increased. A relative price shift happens, and most of it shows up in an increased price for copper.

The world cannot get rid of all the dollar cash that exists out there, but any attempt to reduce dollar cash exposure must necessarily result in an increased price for the new object of affection. Money doesn't actually flow from one market to another, but changing desires to hold the money balances that exist do result in changes in relative prices.
24568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cavuto caught inflating? on: April 18, 2009, 01:16:41 PM
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gay Conservatives on: April 18, 2009, 12:42:07 PM
'There's a stereotype that if you're gay, you're liberal - and if you are a conservative, you're a bigot. Well, there are people like me who are gay and conservative, and we think it's important that we have a voice."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Minnesota on: April 18, 2009, 06:58:15 AM
Meanwhile, back in the Minnesota Senate recount, the three-judge panel reviewing the race has declared Democrat Al Franken the winner. Republican Norm Coleman intends to appeal to the state's Supreme Court, while Democrats and the press corps pressure him to surrender. We hope Mr. Coleman keeps fighting, because the outcome so far hangs on the fact that some votes have been counted differently from others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.
24571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Delay in lighter body armor on: April 18, 2009, 06:45:44 AM
WASHINGTON — The Army has promised to lighten the soldier’s load, and nowhere more urgently than in eastern Afghanistan, where the unforgiving terrain tests the stamina of troops whose weapons, body armor, rucksacks and survival gear can weigh 130 pounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Army has been driven to examine how to lighten the soldier’s load after years of adding heavier armor, night-vision goggles, rifle scopes, knives, water and food. A soldier on patrol carries, on average, 60 pounds of equipment, but in places like Afghanistan, where the terrain requires prolonged missions away from an operating base, the load can be doubled by the need for shelter, extra food, ammunition and other gear.
24572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 18, 2009, 05:56:22 AM
Still hoping for feedback on the veracity of my previous posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up to 20 foreign warships now patrol the waters off the Somali coast to safeguard major shipping lanes.
24573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 17, 2009, 10:38:11 PM
Unsourced.  Caveat lector:

Having spoken to some SEAL pals yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:
1. BHO wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.
So per our last email thread, I'm downgrading Oohbaby's performace to D-. Only reason it's not an F is that the hostage survived.
Read the following accurate account.
Philips’ first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn’t worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country’s Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors — and none was taken.
The guidance from National Command Authority — the president of theUnited States, Barack Obama — had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage’s life was in clear, extreme danger.
The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates — and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance fromWashington and a mandate from the commander in chief’s staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a “peaceful solution” would be acceptable.
After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on-scene commander decided he’d had enough. Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer — unnamed in all media reports to date — decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips’ back was a threat to the hostage’s life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.
Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.
There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday’s dramatic rescue of an American hostage.
Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in theIndian Ocean and declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president’s toughness and decisiveness.
Despite the Obama administration’s (and its sycophants’) attempt to spin yesterday’s success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort.
What should have been a standoff lasting only hours — as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location — became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.
24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chirs Matthews struggles with SEALs' "lucky" three shots on: April 17, 2009, 10:33:20 PM
24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now this is more like it!!! on: April 17, 2009, 12:48:46 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three others have been killed.

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

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

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

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

Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours.
24576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Exploiting class issues on: April 17, 2009, 12:41:09 PM
Its the NYTimes, so caveat lector:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.
24577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 17, 2009, 12:13:05 PM
Second post of the day:

The Americans Who Risked Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Rush Limbaugh III
24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams to J. Hancock on: April 17, 2009, 12:08:36 PM
"What a glorious morning this is!"

--Samuel Adams to John Hancock at the Battle of Lexington, Massachusetts, 19 April 1775
24579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That cheering crowd of soldiers on: April 17, 2009, 11:58:38 AM
Fauxbama Photo Event Generates Positive Coverage
According to Minority Report's Dave Hinz, "[T]hat wonderful cheering welcome that President Obama received with his unscheduled surprise visit to the troops in Iraq, was entirely a staged event." One Army sergeant described the event this way: "We were pre-screened, asked by officials 'Who voted for Obama?', and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up." As Hinz put it, "[P]olitical operatives from the Administration orchestrate a faux-cheering crowd of adoring military, right in front of the media covering the event."

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

It's not hard to believe that all the "journalists" tagging along on this assignment failed to mention this charade. But when covering the teleconference President Bush set up a couple of years ago with soldiers who were shown on camera, discussing who would take what question, all the media could say was "Scandal!" As for Obama, he must have learned from this comparison with a real commander in chief.
24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Making the old new again on: April 17, 2009, 12:40:11 AM
It's make-or-break time for many newspapers. Denver and Seattle recently lost dailies, the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times are both in bankruptcy, and owners of the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle threaten closure. One reader mourned the loss of her local newspaper in Connecticut by lamenting that she had gone from living in a city to living off just another exit on Interstate 95. As comedian Stephen Colbert put it last week, "The impending death of the newspaper industry: Where will they print the obituary?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Barney Frank's latest brainstorm on: April 17, 2009, 12:18:12 AM
Barney Frank's track record as a financial analyst is, shall we say, mixed. The House Financial Services Chairman said for years that a collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pose zero risk to taxpayers. For most people, a mistake of that magnitude would trigger introspection, if not humility. But not the sage of Massachusetts. He's cooking up another fantastic subsidy -- and like the last one, he swears taxpayers won't feel a thing. In his words, "it would cost the federal government zero." Uh oh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Fannie Mae debacle ought to be enough for any career, but Mr. Frank wants taxpayers to double down on his political guarantees. There are currently some $1.7 trillion in municipal bonds held by the public, and Barney thinks we can insure them at "zero cost." Considering the source, and the potential size of the bill, someone in Congress needs to sound the alarm
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Two wins; Prez ties his own hands on: April 17, 2009, 12:12:43 AM
It came as good news yesterday from Attorney General Eric Holder that the government isn't going to prosecute any Central Intelligence Agency officials who participated in the government's waterboarding interrogations. Mr. Holder cited the simple logic that it would be unfair to prosecute these officials for acts ruled legal at the time by the Justice Department. Mr. Holder also pointedly said the U.S would defend the CIA interrogators against attempted prosecutions from overseas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Gilder on Israel/Jews on: April 17, 2009, 12:05:25 AM
Gilder Telecosm Forum Member (4/13/09): George, Can you provide any update
on the timing of the release of your book on Israel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Gilder puts it, "The [Israel] test can be summarized by a few
questions: What is your attitude toward people who excel you in the
creation of wealth or in other accomplishments? Do you aspire to their
excellence or do you seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional
achievement or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down?"

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

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

Read on:
24584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Have you seen your doctor? on: April 17, 2009, 12:01:20 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Siegel, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center, is a Fox News medical contributor.
24585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 16, 2009, 07:20:17 PM
A very interesting piece Huss, worthy of reflection.  Nice find.
24586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNBC sweats BO-Bashing on: April 16, 2009, 03:40:23 PM

April 16, 2009 --

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, the insider said: "News of the meeting is starting to leak out and people are contacting a number of the on-air people to ask if they've been muzzled by GE."
24587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 16, 2009, 11:37:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Making of a Taliban Emirate in Pakistan
April 14, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, the negotiations between the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat region and Islamabad set a bad precedent, undermining any U.S. efforts to reach out to pragmatic Taliban in Afghanistan. Seeing the success of their counterparts in Swat, the Afghan Taliban are likely to insist that they will negotiate with their fellow Afghans only after Western forces leave the country. This means that Western forces are looking at a long conflict — one in which the jihadists, and not the United States and NATO, will have the advantage called Pakistan.
24588  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mas sobre Mumbai on: April 16, 2009, 10:22:07 AM
Mas sobre Mumbai. Que pensamos nosotros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Suarez
Traducido por Pablo T
Attached Images
Las armas son necesarias
Pero naides sabe cuando;
Ansina, si andas pasiando,
Y de noche sobre todo,
Debes llevarlo de modo
Que al salir, salga cortando.
Martín Fierro
24589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Capt. John Parker on: April 16, 2009, 10:09:11 AM
"Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here."

--Captain John Parker, commander of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts, on sighting British Troops (attributed), 19 April 1775
24590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Confucius say on: April 16, 2009, 12:27:17 AM
Confucius Says:



Man who scratch ass
Should not bite fingernails.


Man who eat many
Prunes get good run for money.


Baseball is wrong:
Man with four balls cannot walk.


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


Wife who put
Husband in doghouse soon find him in


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


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

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

Man who drive like
Hell, bound to get there.


Man who live in
Glass house should change clothes in


=0 D

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


Crowded elevator
Smell different to midget.
24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Indonesia on: April 15, 2009, 11:51:15 PM
Against a backdrop of Korean missile launches and violent protests in Thailand, those looking for a spot of calm in Asia may alight on an unlikely candidate: Indonesia. Largely peaceful parliamentary elections last week -- the third consecutive free elections since the end of Gen. Suharto's 32-year rule in 1998 -- reflect the strides made by a country that not so long ago was in danger of becoming a byword for chaos and random violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Dhume is a Washington-based writer and the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels With a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009).
24592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gerecht on: April 15, 2009, 11:46:36 PM
'The United States is not at war with Islam and will never be. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

Getty ImagesSo spoke President Barack Hussein Obama in Turkey last week. Following in the footsteps of the Bush administration, Mr. Obama wants to avoid labeling our enemy in religious terms. References to "Islamic terrorism," "Islamic radicalism," or "Islamic extremism" aren't in his speeches. "Jihad," too, has been banished from the official lexicon.

But if one visits the religious bookstores near Istanbul's Covered Bazaar, or mosque libraries of Turkish immigrants in Rotterdam, Brussels or Frankfurt, one can still find a cornucopia of radical Islamist literature. Go into the bookstores of Arab and Pakistani immigrant communities in Europe, or into the literary markets of the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent, and you'll find an even richer collection of militant Islamism.

Al Qaeda is certainly not a mainstream Muslim group -- if it were, we would have had far more terrorist attacks since 9/11. But the ideology that produced al Qaeda isn't a rivulet in contemporary Muslim thought. It is a wide and deep river. The Obama administration does both Muslims and non-Muslims an enormous disservice by pretending otherwise.

Theologically, Muslims are neither fragile nor frivolous. They have not become suicide bombers because non-Muslims have said something unkind; they have not refrained from becoming holy warriors because Westerners avoided the word "Islamic" in describing Osama bin Laden and his allies. Having an American president who had a Muslim father, carries the name of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, and wants to engage the Muslim world in a spirit of "mutual respect" isn't a "game changer." This hypothesis trivializes Islamic history and the continuing appeal of religious militancy.

Above all else, we need to understand clearly our enemies -- to try to understand them as they see themselves, and to see them as devout nonviolent Muslims do. To not talk about Islam when analyzing al Qaeda is like talking about the Crusades without mentioning Christianity. To devise a hearts-and-minds counterterrorist policy for the Islamic world without openly talking about faith is counterproductive. We -- the West -- are the unrivalled agent of change in the Middle East. Modern Islamic history -- including the Bush years -- ought to tell us that questions non-Muslims pose can provoke healthy discussions.

The abolition of slavery, rights for religious minorities and women, free speech, or the very idea of civil society -- all of these did not advance without Western pressure and the enormous seductive power that Western values have for Muslims. Although Muslims in the Middle East have been talking about political reform since they were first exposed to Western ideas (and modern military might) in the 18th century, the discussion of individual liberty and equality has been more effective when Westerners have been intimately involved. The Middle East's brief but impressive "Liberal Age" grew from European imperialism and the unsustainable contradiction between the progressive ideals taught by the British and French -- the Egyptian press has never been as free as when the British ruled over the Nile valley -- and the inevitably illiberal and demeaning practices that come with foreign occupation.

Although it is now politically incorrect to say so, George W. Bush's democratic rhetoric energized the discussion of representative government and human rights abroad. Democracy advocates and the anti-authoritarian voices in Arab lands have never been so hopeful as they were between 2002, when democracy promotion began to germinate within the White House, and 2006, when the administration gave up on people power in the Middle East (except in Iraq).

The issue of jihadism is little different. It's not a coincidence that the Muslim debate about holy war became most vivid after 9/11, when the U.S. struck back against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Many may have found Mr. Bush's brief use of the term "Islamofascism" to be offensive -- although it recalls well Abul Ala Maududi, a Pakistani founding father of modern Islamic radicalism, who openly admired European fascism as a violent, muscular ideology capable of mobilizing the masses. Yet Mr. Bush's flirtation with the term unquestionably pushed Muslim intellectuals to debate the legitimacy of its use and the cult of martyrdom that had -- and may still have -- a widespread grip on many among the faithful.

When Sunni Arab Muslims viewed daily on satellite TV the horrors of the Sunni onslaught against the Iraqi Shiites, and then the vicious Shiite revenge against their former masters, the debate about jihadism, the historic Sunni-Shiite rivalry, and the American occupation intensified. Unfortunately, progress in the Middle East has usually happened when things have gotten ugly, and Muslims debate the mess.

Iran's former president Mohammed Khatami, whom Bill Clinton unsuccessfully tried to engage, is a serious believer in the "dialogue of civilizations." In his books, Mr. Khatami does something very rare for an Iranian cleric: He admits that Western civilization can be morally superior to its Islamic counterpart, and that Muslims must borrow culturally as well as technologically from others. On the whole, however, he finds the West -- especially America -- to be an amoral slippery slope of sin. How should one talk to Mr. Khatami or to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the less curious but morally more earnest clerical overlord of Iran; or the Saudi royal family and their influential state-supported clergy, who still preach hatred of the West; or to the faithful of Pakistan, who are in the midst of an increasingly brutal, internecine religious struggle? Messrs. Khatami and Khamenei are flawlessly polite gentlemen. They do not, however, confuse civility with agreement. Neither should we.

It's obviously not for non-Muslims to decide what Islam means. Only the faithful can decide whether Islam is a religion of peace or war (historically it has been both). Only the faithful can banish jihad as a beloved weapon against infidels and unbelief. Only Muslims can decide how they balance legislation by men and what the community -- or at least its legal guardians, the ulama -- has historically seen as divine commandments.

Westerners can, however, ask probing questions and apply pressure when differing views threaten us. We may not choose to dispatch the U.S. Navy to protect women's rights, as the British once sent men-of-war to put down the Muslim slave trade, but we can underscore clearly our disdain for men who see "child brides" as something vouchsafed by the Almighty. There is probably no issue that angers militants more than women's rights. Advancing this cause in traditional Muslim societies caught in the merciless whirlwind of globalization isn't easy, but no effort is likely to bear more fruit in the long term than having American officials become public champions of women's rights in Muslim lands.

Al Qaeda's Islamic radicalism isn't a blip -- a one-time outgrowth of the Soviet-Afghan war -- or a byproduct of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. It's the most recent violent expression of the modernization of the Muslim Middle East. The West's great transformative century -- the 20th -- was soaked in blood. We should hope, pray, and do what we can to ensure that Islam's continuing embrace of modernity in the 21st century -- undoubtedly its pivotal era -- will not be similarly horrific.

We are fooling ourselves if we think we no longer have to be concerned about how Muslims talk among themselves. This is not an issue that we want to push the "reset" button on. Here, at least, George W. Bush didn't go nearly far enough.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
24593  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 15, 2009, 11:30:57 PM
Grateful to take my son from school this afternoon to go to the Tea Party tax protest  evil
24594  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: April 15, 2009, 11:12:27 PM
For the record, Tyler is also a DBMA Group Leader/Trainer and has trained with me privately in Switzerland as well as in the US.

I greatly enjoy the group that comes when Dog Rene hosts me and look forward to the next time.
24595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor on: April 15, 2009, 06:27:42 PM
When the Mexican Drug Trade Hits the Border
April 15, 2009

By Fred Burton and Ben West

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely monitoring the growing violence in Mexico and its links to the drug trade. In December, our cartel report assessed the situation in Mexico, and two weeks ago we looked closely at the networks that control the flow of drugs through Central America. This week, we turn our attention to the border to see the dynamics at work there and how U.S. gangs are involved in the action.

The nature of narcotics trafficking changes as shipments near the border. As in any supply chain, shipments become smaller as they reach the retail level, requiring more people to be involved in the operation. While Mexican cartels do have representatives in cities across the United States to oversee networks there, local gangs get involved in the actual distribution of the narcotics.

While there are still many gaps in the understanding of how U.S. gangs interface with Mexican cartels to move drugs around the United States and finally sell them on the retail market, we do know some of the details of gang involvement.

Trafficking vs. Distribution
Though the drug trade as a whole is highly complex, the underlying concept is as simple as getting narcotics from South America to the consuming markets — chief among them the United States, which is the world’s largest drug market. Traffickers use Central America and Mexico as a pipeline to move their goods north. The objective of the Latin American smuggler is to get as much tonnage as possible from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia to the lucrative American market and avoid interdictions by authorities along the way.

However, as narcotic shipments near the U.S.-Mexican border, wholesale trafficking turns into the more micro process of retail distribution. In southern Mexico, drug traffickers move product north in bulk, but as shipments cross the U.S. border, wholesale shipments are broken down into smaller parcels in order to hedge against interdiction and prepare the product for the end user. One way to think about the difference in tactics between trafficking drugs in Central America and Mexico and distributing drugs in the United States is to imagine a company like UPS or FedEx. Shipping air cargo from, say, New York to Los Angeles requires different resources than delivering packages to individual homes in southern California. Several tons of freight from the New York area can be quickly flown to the Los Angeles area. But as the cargo gets closer to its final destination, it is broken up into smaller loads that are shipped via tractor trailer to distribution centers around the region, and finally divided further into discrete packages carried in parcel trucks to individual homes.

Click to enlarge
As products move through the supply chain, they require more specific handling and detailed knowledge of an area, which requires more manpower. The same, more or less, can be said for drug shipments. This can be seen in interdiction reports. When narcotics are intercepted traversing South America into Mexico, they can be measured in tons; as they cross the border into the United States, seizures are reported in kilograms; and by the time products are picked up on the streets of U.S. cities, the narcotics have been divided into packages measured in grams. To reflect this difference, we will refer to the movement of drugs south of the border as trafficking and the movement of drugs north of the border as distributing.

As narcotics approach the border, law enforcement scrutiny and the risk of interdiction also increase, so drug traffickers have to be creative when it comes to moving their products. The constant game of cat-and-mouse makes drug trafficking a very dynamic business, with tactics and specific routes constantly changing to take advantage of any angle that presents itself.

The only certainties are that drugs and people will move from south to north, and that money and weapons will move from north to south. But the specific nature and corridors of those movements are constantly in flux as traffickers innovate in their attempts to stay ahead of the police in a very Darwinian environment. The traffickers employ all forms of movement imaginable, including:

Tunneling under border fences into safe houses on the U.S. side.
Traversing the desert on foot with 50-pound packs of narcotics. (Dirt bikes, ATVs and pack mules are also used.)
Driving across the border by fording the Rio Grande, using ramps to get over fences, cutting through fences or driving through open areas.
Using densely vegetated portions of the riverbank as dead drops.
Floating narcotics across isolated stretches of the river.
Flying small aircraft near the ground to avoid radar.
Concealing narcotics in private vehicles, personal possessions and in or on the bodies of persons who are crossing legally at ports of entry.
Bribing border officials in order to pass through checkpoints.
Hiding narcotics on cross-border trains.
Hiding narcotics in tractor trailers carrying otherwise legitimate loads.
Using boats along the Gulf coast.
Using human “mules” to smuggle narcotics aboard commercial aircraft in their luggage or bodies.
Shipping narcotics via mail or parcel service.
These methods are not mutually exclusive, and organizations may use any combination at the same time. New ways to move the product are constantly emerging.

Once the narcotics are moved into the United States, drug distributors use networks of safe houses, which are sometimes operated by people with direct connections to the Mexican cartels, sometimes by local or regional gang members, and sometimes by individual entrepreneurs. North of the border, distributors still must maneuver around checkpoints, either by avoiding them or by bribing the officials who work there. While these checkpoints certainly result in seizures, they can only slow or reroute the flow of drugs. Hub cities like Atlanta service a large region of smaller drug dealers who act as individual couriers in delivering small amounts of narcotics to their customers.

It is a numbers game for drug traffickers and distributors alike, since it is inevitable that smugglers and shipments will be intercepted by law enforcement somewhere along the supply chain. Those whose loads are interdicted more often struggle to keep prices low and stay competitive. On the other hand, paying heavy corruption fees or taking extra precautions to ensure that more of your product makes it through also raises the cost of moving the product. Successful traffickers and distributors must be able to strike a balance between protecting their shipments and accepting losses. This requires a high degree of pragmatism and rationality.

Local Gangs
While the Mexican cartels do have people in the United States, they do not have enough people so positioned to handle the increased workload of distributing narcotics at the retail level. A wide range of skill sets is required. Some of the tactics involved in moving shipments across the border require skilled workers, such as pilots, while U.S. gang members along the border serve as middlemen and retail distributors. Other aspects of the operation call for people with expertise in manipulating corrupt officials and recruiting human intelligence sources, while a large part of the process simply involves saturating the system with massive numbers of expendable, low-skilled smugglers who are desperate for the money.

The U.S. gangs are crucial in filling the cartel gap north of the border. Members of these border gangs typically are young men who are willing to break the law, looking for quick cash and already plugged in to a network of similar young men, which enables them to recruit others to meet the manpower demand. They are also typically tied to Mexico through family connections, dual citizenship and the simple geographic fact that they live so close to the border. However, the U.S. gangs do not constitute formal extensions of the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. Border gangs developed on their own, have their own histories, traditions, structures and turf, and they remain independent. They are also involved in more than just drug trafficking and distribution, including property crime, racketeering and kidnapping. Their involvement in narcotics is similar to that of a contractor who can provide certain services, such as labor and protection, while drugs move across gang territory, but drug money is not usually their sole source of income.

Click to enlarge
These gangs come in many shapes and sizes. Motorcycle gangs like the Mongols and Bandidos have chapters all along the southwestern U.S. border and, while not known to actually carry narcotics across the border into the United States, they are frequently involved in distributing smaller loads to various markets across the country to supplement their income from other illegal activities.

Street gangs are present in virtually every U.S. city and town of significant size along the border and are obvious pools of labor for distributing narcotics once they hit the United States. The largest of these street gangs are MS-13 and the Mexican Mafia. MS-13 has an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 members worldwide, about 25 percent of whom are in the United States. MS-13 is unique among U.S. gangs in that it is involved in trafficking narcotics through Central America and Mexico as well as in distributing narcotics in the United States. The Mexican Mafia works with allied gangs in the American Southwest to control large swaths of territory along both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. These gangs are organized to interact directly with traffickers in Mexico and oversee transborder shipments as well as distribution inside the United States.

Prison gangs such as the Barrio Azteca and the Texas Syndicate reach far beyond the prison fence. Membership in a prison gang typically means that, at one point, the member was in prison, where he joined the gang. But there is a wide network of ex-prisoner gang members on the outside involved in criminal activities, including drug smuggling, which is one of the most accessible ways for a gang member to make money when he is released from prison.

Operating underneath the big gang players are hundreds of smaller city gangs in neighborhoods all along the border. These gangs are typically involved in property theft, drug dealing, turf battles and other forms of street crime that can be handled by local police. However, even these gangs can become involved in cross-border smuggling; for example, the Wonderboys in San Luis, Ariz., are known to smuggle marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine across the border.

Gangs like the Wonderboys also target illegal immigrants coming across the border and steal any valuable personal items or cash they may have on them. The targeting of illegal immigrants coming into the United States is common all across the border, with many gangs specializing in kidnapping newly arrived immigrants and demanding ransoms from their families. These gangs are responsible for the record level of kidnapping reported in places like Phoenix, where 368 abductions were reported in 2008. Afraid to notify law enforcement out of a fear of being deported, many families of abducted immigrants somehow come up with the money to secure their family member’s release.

Drug distribution is by far the most lucrative illicit business along the border, and the competition for money leads to a very pragmatic interface between the U.S. border gangs and the drug cartels in Mexico. Handoffs from Mexican traffickers to U.S. distributors are made based upon reliability and price. While territorial rivalries between drug traffickers have led to thousands of deaths in Mexico, these Mexican rivalries do not appear to be spilling over into the U.S. border gangs, who are engaged in their own rivalries, feuds and acts of violence. Nor do the more gruesome aspects of violence in Mexico, such as torture and beheadings, although there are indications that grenades that were once part of cartel arsenals are finding their way to U.S. gangs. In dealing with the Mexican cartels, U.S. gangs — and cartels in turn — exhibit no small amount of business pragmatism. U.S. gangs can serve more than one cartel, which appears to be fine with the cartels, who really have no choice in the matter. They need these retail distribution services north of the border in order to make a profit.

Likewise, U.S. gangs are in the drug business to make money, not to enhance the power of any particular cartel in Mexico. As such, U.S. gangs do not want to limit their business opportunities by aligning themselves to any one cartel. Smaller city gangs that control less territory are more limited geographically in terms of which cartels they can work with. The Wonderboys in Arizona, for example, must deal exclusively with the Sinaloa cartel because the cartel’s turf south of the border encompasses the gang’s relative sliver of turf to the north. However, larger gangs like the Mexican Mafia control much broader swaths of territory and can deal with more than one cartel.

The expanse of geography controlled by the handful of cartels in Mexico simply does not match up with the territory controlled by the many gangs on the U.S. side. Stricter law enforcement is one reason U.S. border gangs have not consolidated to gain control over more turf. While corruption is a growing problem along the U.S. side of the border, it still has not risen to the level that it has in northern Mexico. Another reason for the asymmetry is the different nature of drug movements north of the border. As discussed earlier, moving narcotics in the United States has everything to do with distributing retail quantities of drugs to consumers spread over a broad geographic area, a model that requires more feet on the ground than the trafficking that takes place in Mexico.

Assassins’ Gate
Because the drug distribution network in the United States is so large, it is impossible for any one criminal organization to control all of it. U.S. gangs fill the role of middleman to move drugs around, and they are entrusted with large shipments of narcotics worth millions of dollars. Obviously, the cartels need a way to keep these gangs honest.

One effective way is to have an enforcement arm in place. This is where U.S.-based assassins come in. More tightly connected to the cartels than the gangs are, these assassins are not usually members of a gang. In fact, the cartels prefer that their assassins not be in a gang so that their loyalties will be to the cartels, and so they will be less likely to have criminal records or attract law enforcement attention because of everyday gang activity.

Cartels invest quite a bit in training these hit men to operate in the United States. Often they are trained in Mexico, then sent back across to serve as a kind of “sleeper cell” until they are tapped to take out a delinquent U.S. drug dealer. The frequency and ease with which Americans travel to and from Mexico covers any suspicion that might be raised.

The Gaps
The U.S.-Mexican border is a dynamic place, with competition over drug routes and the quest for cash destabilizing northern Mexico and straining local and state law enforcement on the U.S. side. Putting pressure on the people who are active in the border drug trade has so far only inspired others to innovate and adapt to the challenging environment by becoming more innovative and pragmatic.

And there is still so much we do not know. The exact nature of the relationship between Mexican cartels and U.S. gangs is very murky, and it appears to be handled on such an individual basis that making generalizations is difficult. Another intelligence gap is how deeply involved the cartels are in the U.S. distribution network. As mentioned earlier, the network expands as it becomes more retail in nature, but the profit margins also expand, making it an attractive target for cartel takeover. Finally, while we know that gangs are instrumental in distributing narcotics in the United States, it is unclear how much of the cross-border smuggling they control. Is this vital, risky endeavor completely controlled by cartels and gatekeeper organizations based in Mexico, or do U.S. gangs on the distribution side have more say? STRATFOR will continue to monitor these issues as Mexico’s dynamic cartels continue to evolve.
24596  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: April 15, 2009, 05:18:44 PM
Someone always is.
24597  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: April 15, 2009, 05:16:42 PM
The protective gear? 

No.  Its too sturdy.
24598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Letter to my bank on: April 15, 2009, 05:15:29 PM

Letter to my bank

Dear Sirs,

One of my checks was returned marked "insufficient funds". In view of current developments in the banking industry, does that refer to me or to you?

24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / History Review on: April 15, 2009, 11:33:01 AM
Timely history review ...

Ruthless, unconventional foes are not new to the United States of America. More than two hundred years ago the newly established United States made its first attempt to fight an overseas battle to protect its private citizens by building an international coalition against an unconventional enemy. Then the enemies were pirates and piracy. The focus of the United States and a proposed international coalition was the Barbary Pirates of North Africa.

Pirate ships and crews from the North African states of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers (the Barbary Coast) were the scourge of the Mediterranean. Capturing merchant ships and holding their crews for ransom provided the rulers of these nations with wealth and naval power. In fact, the Roman Catholic Religious Order of Mathurins had operated from France for centuries with the special mission of collecting and disbursing funds for the relief and ransom of prisoners of Mediterranean pirates.

Before the United States obtained its independence in the American Revolution, 1775-83, American merchant ships and sailors had been protected from the ravages of the North African pirates by the naval and diplomatic power of Great Britain. British naval power and the tribute or subsidies Britain paid to the piratical states protected American vessels and crews. During the Revolution, the ships of the United States were protected by the 1778 alliance with France, which required the French nation to protect "American vessels and effects against all violence, insults, attacks, or depredations, on the part of the said Princes and States of Barbary or their subjects."

After the United States won its independence in the treaty of 1783, it had to protect its own commerce against dangers such as the Barbary pirates. As early as 1784 Congress followed the tradition of the European shipping powers and appropriated $80,000 as tribute to the Barbary states, directing its ministers in Europe, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to begin negotiations with them. Trouble began the next year, in July 1785, when Algerians captured two American ships and the dey of Algiers held their crews of twenty-one people for a ransom of nearly $60,000.

Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, opposed the payment of tribute, as he later testified in words that have a particular resonance today. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote that in 1785 and 1786 he unsuccessfully "endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredation from them. I accordingly prepared, and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation." Jefferson argued that "The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical States to perpetual peace." Jefferson prepared a detailed plan for the interested states. "Portugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an association," Jefferson remembered, but there were "apprehensions" that England and France would follow their own paths, "and so it fell through."

Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America's minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, "I acknolege [sic] I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro' the medium of war." Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: "The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both." "From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money," Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, "it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them."

Jefferson's plan for an international coalition foundered on the shoals of indifference and a belief that it was cheaper to pay the tribute than fight a war. The United States's relations with the Barbary states continued to revolve around negotiations for ransom of American ships and sailors and the payment of annual tributes or gifts. Even though Secretary of State Jefferson declared to Thomas Barclay, American consul to Morocco, in a May 13, 1791, letter of instructions for a new treaty with Morocco that it is "lastly our determination to prefer war in all cases to tribute under any form, and to any people whatever," the United States continued to negotiate for cash settlements. In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty on Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli.

When Jefferson became president in 1801 he refused to accede to Tripoli's demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. The pasha of Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. As he declared in his first annual message to Congress: "To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . ."
The American show of force quickly awed Tunis and Algiers into breaking their alliance with Tripoli. The humiliating loss of the frigate Philadelphia and the capture of her captain and crew in Tripoli in 1803, criticism from his political opponents, and even opposition within his own cabinet did not deter Jefferson from his chosen course during four years of war. The aggressive action of Commodore Edward Preble (1803-4) forced Morocco out of the fight and his five bombardments of Tripoli restored some order to the Mediterranean. However, it was not until 1805, when an American fleet under Commodore John Rogers and a land force raised by an American naval agent to the Barbary powers, Captain William Eaton, threatened to capture Tripoli and install the brother of Tripoli's pasha on the throne, that a treaty brought an end to the hostilities. Negotiated by Tobias Lear, former secretary to President Washington and now consul general in Algiers, the treaty of 1805 still required the United States to pay a ransom of $60,000 for each of the sailors held by the dey of Algiers, and so it went without Senatorial consent until April 1806. Nevertheless, Jefferson was able to report in his sixth annual message to Congress in December 1806 that in addition to the successful completion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, "The states on the coast of Barbary seem generally disposed at present to respect our peace and friendship."

In fact, it was not until the second war with Algiers, in 1815, that naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the United States. European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. However, international piracy in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters declined during this time under pressure from the Euro-American nations, who no longer viewed pirate states as mere annoyances during peacetime and potential allies during war.
24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where's that store? on: April 14, 2009, 11:29:39 PM
Where's the gun store in Texas that's selling that machine gun?
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