Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT/POTH on Stuxnet
on: September 24, 2010, 03:25:36 PM
September 23, 2010
Cyberwar Chief Calls for Secure Computer NetworkBy THOM
FORT MEADE, Md. — The new commander of the military’s cyberwarfare
operations is advocating the creation of a separate, secure computer network
to protect civilian government agencies and critical industries like the
nation’s power grid against attacks mounted over the Internet.
The officer, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, suggested that such a heavily
restricted network would allow the government to impose greater protections
for the nation’s vital, official on-line operations. General Alexander
labeled the new network “a secure zone, a protected zone.” Others have
nicknamed it “dot-secure.”
It would provide to essential networks like those that tie together the
banking, aviation, and public utility systems the kind of protection that
the military has built around secret military and diplomatic communications
networks — although even these are not completely invulnerable.
For years, experts have warned of the risks of Internet attacks on civilian
networks. An article published a few months
the National Academy of Engineering said that “cyber systems are the
‘weakest link’ in the electricity system,” and that “security must be
designed into the system from the start, not glued on as an afterthought.”
General Alexander, an Army officer who leads the military’s new Cyber
Command, did not explain just where the fence should be built between the
conventional Internet and his proposed secure zone, or how the gates would
be opened to allow appropriate access to information they need every day.
General Alexander said the White House hopes to complete a policy review on
cyber issues in time for Congress to debate updated or new legislation when
it convenes in January.
General Alexander’s new command is responsible for defending Defense
Department computer networks and, if directed by the president, carrying out
computer-network attacks overseas.
But the military is broadly prohibited from engaging in law enforcement
operations on American soil without a presidential order, so the command’s
potential role in assisting the Department of Homeland
the Federal Bureau of
the Department of Energy in the event of a major attack inside the United
States has not been set down in law or policy.
“There is a real probability that in the future, this country will get hit
with a destructive attack, and we need to be ready for it,” General
Alexander said in a roundtable with reporters at the National
here at Fort Meade in advance of his Congressional testimony on Thursday
“I believe this is one of the most critical problems our country faces,” he
said. “We need to get that right. I think we have to have a discussion about
roles and responsibilities: What’s the role of Cyber Command? What’s the
role of the ‘intel’ community? What’s the role of the rest of the Defense
Department? What’s the role of D.H.S.? And how do you make that team work?
That’s going to take time.”
Some critics have questioned whether the Defense Department can step up
protection of vital computer networks without crashing against the public’s
ability to live and work with confidence on the Internet. General Alexander
said, “We can protect civil liberties and privacy and still do our mission.
We’ve got to do that.”
Speaking of the civilian networks that are at risk, he said: “If one of
those destructive attacks comes right now, I’m focused on the Defense
Department. What are the responsibilities — and I think this is part of the
discussion — for the power grid, for financial networks, for other critical
infrastructure? How do you protect the country when it comes to that kind of
attack, and who is responsible for it?”
As General Alexander prepared for his testimony before the House Armed
Services Committee, the ranking Republican on the panel, Howard P. McKeon of
California, noted the Pentagon’s progress in expanding its cyber
But he said that “many questions remain as to how Cyber Command will meet
such a broad mandate” given the clear “vulnerabilities in cyberspace.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri, said that
“cyberspace is an environment where distinctions and divisions between
public and private, government and commercial, military and nonmilitary are
blurred.” He said that it is important “that we engage in this discussion in
a very direct way and include the public.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Rare Earth Minerals
on: September 24, 2010, 02:58:31 PM
China increasing economic leverage by limiting 'rare earths' exports
, , ,that it will hold a Chinese fishing boat captain for another
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010; 10:36 PM
China's recent move to limit exports of minerals critical in the manufacture of a vast array of products such as missiles, car batteries, cellphones, lasers and computers is stoking alarm that its domination of the industry could give it enhanced leverage over the United States.
On Thursday, some traders of "rare earths," 17 minerals that are used in small portions in almost every advanced industrial product, reported that China, which controls 97 percent of the industry, had halted the export of anything that contained traces of the minerals to Japan. The Chinese government denied the allegation.
The purported export ban was linked to a dispute between the two countries over an island chain called the Senakus in Japanese and Diaoyu islands in Chinese. Japan has detained the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel over a collision at sea with a Japanese coast guard ship. On Thursday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao demanded that Japan release the boat captain immediately. China also announced that it had arrested four Japanese near a Chinese military installation.
Analysts and manufacturers said regardless of whether China has indeed blocked these exports to Japan, the incident underscored China's increasing economic leverage and its seeming willingness to try to translate that into political power.
This summer, China's Commerce Ministry said that total exports of rare earths would be capped at about 30,300 metric tons - a 40 percent drop compared with last year. Most of that tonnage has already been shipped.
"The most important issue here is that China is able to wield power like this," said Ed Richardson, the vice president of Thomas & Skinner, a magnet maker in Indianapolis. "Just the reports that they might have done something like this has sent a chill through the industry. Here you have an incident over a fishing boat and this topic comes up. It's startling."
Only in the past year has the issue begun to receive significant attention in Washington. In April, the Government Accountability Office reported that it could take as long as 15 years to rebuild the U.S. rare earth industry. The GAO report also found components in U.S. defense systems that use Chinese sources for rare earth materials. And it determined that the Defense Department had "not yet identified national security risks or taken departmentwide action to address rare earth material dependency." The Defense Department, however, is studying this issue, and a report is slated to be delivered this month.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Science and Technology approved legislation that would provide funds for research and development of rare earths technologies as a first legislative step to break China's monopoly.
"Rare earth materials are essential for our country's technological competitiveness and our national security, yet China is cornering the market and we are falling behind," said Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), who wrote the legislation.
For years, China has worked to dominate the rare earths industry. Starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, China flooded the world with cheap rare earths. It sold neodymium and samarium, which form the basis of extraordinarily powerful magnets needed for precision-guided missile systems and the batteries used in hybrid or electric vehicles. It mined europium, which forms the basis of the high-efficiency lighting industry; lanthanum, without which it would be difficult to refine gas; and cerium, which is used to polish the glass on computer screens and cellphones.
China's prices were so low that it led the once-biggest mine in the world - Mountain Pass in California - to shut its operations in 2002 after allegations of environmental violations at the facility.
"In the Western world, people were happy to give the Chinese this job," said Jaakko Kooroshy, an analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. "Mining rare earths is a dirty business. It is environmentally really dangerous. There's radioactivity involved."
From mining, China moved up to refining and advanced metallurgy. They drove rare earths refiners out of the market. They obtained patents for downstream work. They bought magnet makers around the world. They offered to massively overpay for three Japanese firms that dominate the production of magnets for computer hard drives. They made a run at Richardson's firm as well.
"We're an employee-owned operation," Richardson said, "so if they'd bought us up and shipped us to China . . . well, let's just say it wouldn't have sat well with the employees here."
Today, China dominates not just the mining but also the refining of rare earths, and the profits are enormous. Prices of several minerals have jumped 200 percent in the months since China announced it was limiting exports.
Western countries and firms have been slow to respond to the challenge that China posed to key industries from defense to energy to information technology, said Jon Hykawy, an analyst at Byron Capital.
In the 1990s, as China sold cheap rare earths around the world, the United States, which used to stockpile rare earths for its defense industry, sold off its stocks and watched as its industry dismantled what was once a complete supply chain. Europe never maintained a strategic stash. Only Japan understood the challenge and several years ago began setting aside significant quantities of the minerals.
"We never really acknowledged that the Chinese were in a race to dominate this industry even though they publicly stated it," Hykawy said.
China is already being sued at the World Trade Organization by the United States, the European Union and Mexico for export restrictions on raw materials, including some rare earth minerals. The U.S. trade representative is also considering filing a separate case purely on rare earths, U.S. officials said. And in industry, Molycorp Metals is working to reopen the California mine.
In June, the European Union issued its own report on rare earths that predicted that the minerals would become increasingly rare. While the United States has focused on China's increasing leverage over its national defense, the EU report reflected worries that China would control the core of green technology in the future.
"This is the first time that the Chinese openly used rare earths as a geopolitical bargaining chip," said Kooroshy in a telephone interview from The Hague. "They have built up a monopoly until now, but they have been very civil about it. They say things like, 'You don't need to be afraid. We're a reliable supplier.' But now the message is clear. It's: 'Look, guys, we're your most important economic partner, and we want you to change the way you deal with us.'"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallout from Draw Muhommad Day
on: September 24, 2010, 02:47:25 PM
A Tale of Two Journalists
Molly Norris used to have a life and a career in Washington, as a cartoonist for
Seattle Weekly, an alternative paper. But not any longer. She has now -- at the
urging of the FBI -- gone underground, forfeiting her identity and her job. Is
Norris a criminal? No. She just had the poor judgment to draw a cartoon entitled
"Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," which led to the issuance of a fatwa -- or Islamic
death sentence -- against her. Perhaps she had forgotten the 11th Commandment: Make
fun of Christians and Jews all you want, but thou shall not inflame Muslim ire.
The fatwa was issued by imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a man The New York Times described in
October 2001 as "a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and
West." Al-Awlaki, who was born in the United States and headed a mosque in Virginia,
is now conducting his dirty work from a hiding place in Yemen.
Barack Obama has remained silent on this matter, conspicuously so because only
recently he lectured all of us on the freedoms afforded by this country. Of course
that was in relation to the building of the Cordoba House mosque two blocks from
Ground Zero (http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/08/20/digest/
). When it comes to
the injustice that has befallen an average American like Molly Norris, he has
nothing to say.
While some in the field of journalism are threatened with death for making a joke,
others are rewarded for their hatred. Recall Helen Thomas, the poster child for
women in journalism, who was canned after making incendiary comments at a conference
celebrating Jewish heritage. Thomas' statement that Jews should "get the hell out of
) and "go home" to
Poland, Germany, America and "everywhere else" was caught on tape so that not even
leftists could defend her.
Even after her weak apology, no one would touch her with a 10-foot pole. No one,
that is, except the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Next month the
90-year-old Thomas will be given a lifetime-achievement award at CAIR's Leadership
Conference & 16th Annual Fundraising Banquet in Arlington, Virginia. Clearly, her
final flourish as a "journalist" was appreciated by someone.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO job creation program at work
on: September 24, 2010, 02:45:59 PM
Income Redistribution: Cost per Job 'Created' Is Sky High
History shows that there are two foolproof ways to drive up costs: increase demand
or involve the government. For the latest illustration of the latter, just look
west. According to reports recently released by Los Angeles City Controller Wendy
Greuel, for the $111 million in stimulus funds received by two L.A. departments,
only 55 jobs have been created. That's a whopping $2 million spent per job. Greuel
says that eventually the departments will create or save (those infamous words
again) 264 jobs, but even that would still keep the price per job at $420,000, far
higher than what the workers will receive.
Explaining the preposterous price tags, Investor's Business Daily
) notes that
part of the money "goes to the capital costs and profit of the contractors. But much
of it also gets absorbed into the normal process of government contracting" (read:
bureaucracy). Even Greuel admits
) the numbers are
disappointing, stating, "With our local unemployment rate over 12 percent we need to
do a better job cutting the red tape and putting Angelenos back to work."
Of course, the Obama administration still wants to convince us that the stimulus is
working. It seems that while Americans are stretching dollars to make ends meet,
Washington is stretching our patience with its tales of economic growth, job
creation and recovery.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: September 23, 2010, 09:57:42 PM
China says 4 Japanese filmed military targets
From Associated Press
September 23, 2010 9:32 PM EDT
BEIJING (AP) — China is investigating four Japanese suspected of illegally filming military targets and entering a military zone without authorization, state media reported amid a tense diplomatic spat between Beijing and Tokyo over a fishing boat collision near disputed islands.
China's state-run Xinhua News Agency cited state security authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang as saying they had "taken measures" against the four Japanese "after receiving a report about their illegal activities." There was no elaboration.
The authorities accuse the Japanese of entering a military zone without authorization in Hebei province, the capital of which is Shijiazhuang.
The brief report late Thursday night did not say whether the four Japanese are in detention.
The four men are believed to be employees of Fujita Corp., a Tokyo-based construction and urban redevelopment company.
"We are pretty certain they are our employees," said Fujita spokesman Yoshiaki Onodera. "But we have not spoken with them, so we don't know how they came to be questioned."
Onodera said he could not confirm Japanese media reports saying that the men were preparing a bid on a project to dispose of abandoned chemical weapons from World War II.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received word from the Chinese government Thursday night about the incident. It did not have further details, including whether the men had been arrested or merely questioned.
The news could further sour relations that have deteriorated badly since earlier this month when Japan arrested a Chinese captain whose fishing boat collided with Japanese coast guard vessels near a string of islands in the East China Sea. Called Diaoyu or Diaoyutai in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, the islands are controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by China. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are regularly occupied by nationalists from both sides.
Japan extended the detention of the Chinese captain Sunday, and Beijing reacted quickly, suspending high-level contacts with Tokyo and ruling out a meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan during U.N. meetings in New York this week.
On Tuesday, Wen threatened "further action" against Japan if it did not release the Chinese captain immediately.
Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday urged the two powers to quickly resolve the dispute and a military official said that Washington was committed to strongly supporting Japan, one of America's closest allies in the Pacific.
At a Pentagon news conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said the U.S. was tracking the situation closely and hoped that diplomatic efforts would ease tensions soon.
"And obviously we're very, very strongly in support of ... our ally in that region, Japan," Mullen told reporters.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates added "and we would fulfill our alliance responsibilities," without offering more specifics.
But besides hoping that tensions ease between China and Japan, Mullen said "we haven't seen anything that would, I guess, raise the alarm levels higher than that."
The dispute faces a test on Sept. 29, the deadline by which Japanese prosecutors must decide whether to charge the Chinese captain. Fourteen crew members and the boat have been returned.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zuchinni vs. bear
on: September 23, 2010, 09:42:34 PM
Montana woman fends off bear attack with zucchini
This image provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office shows the zucchini used by a Montana woman to fend off a bear attack Thursday Sept. 23, 2010 in Frenchtown, Mont. The woman was stirred after midnight by a tussle in the backyard of her home near Frenchtown, Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli said. She went to investigate and found a 200-pound black bear attacking one of her two dogs, a 12-year-old collie.
From Associated Press
September 23, 2010 8:06 PM EDT
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman fended off a bear trying to muscle its way into her home Thursday by pelting the animal with a large piece of zucchini from her garden.
The woman suffered minor scratches and one of her dogs was wounded after tussling with the 200-pound bear.
The attack happened just after midnight when the woman let her three dogs into the backyard for their nighttime ritual before she headed to bed, Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli said. Authorities believe the black bear was just 25 yards away, eating apples from a tree.
Two of the dogs sensed the bear, began barking and ran away, Maricelli said. The third dog, a 12-year-old collie that wasn't very mobile, remained close to the woman as she stood in the doorway of the home near Frenchtown in western Montana.
Before she knew what was happening, the bear was on top of the dog and batting the collie back and forth, Maricelli said.
"She kicked the bear with her left leg as hard as she could, and she said she felt like she caught it pretty solidly under the chin," Maricelli said.
But as she kicked, the bruin swiped at her leg with its paw and ripped her jeans.
The bear then turned its full attention to the woman in the doorway. She retreated into the house and tried to close the door, but the bear stuck its head and part of a shoulder through the doorway.
The woman held onto the door with her right hand. With her left, she reached behind and grabbed a 14-inch zucchini that she had picked from her garden earlier and was sitting on the kitchen counter, Maricelli said.
She threw the vegetable. It bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
The woman called for help from a relative staying with her. They found the collie outside, unable to move, and took it to a veterinarian.
The dog appeared to be fine on Thursday, but the vet was keeping it for observation, Maricelli said.
The woman did not need medical attention for the scratches on her leg, though she got a tetanus shot as a precaution, Maricelli said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials set up a trap in an attempt to capture the bear, the agency said in a statement.
Besides the nearby fruit trees, there wasn't anything on the woman's property that would attract a bear into the backyard, like garbage or livestock feed, wildlife officials said.
Maricelli interviewed the woman, but said the sheriff's office was complying with her wish not to identify her.
"She was very, very shaken, and it kind of took the humor portion out of it for me," Maricelli said. "She said it had this horrific growl and was snarling.
"(But) she can see the humor in it, and she wanted the story put out so the local residents can take precautionary measures," he added.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM continues to make me money
on: September 23, 2010, 09:23:44 PM
As predicted by GM:
China Blocks Export of Crucial Minerals to Japan as Dispute Escalates
Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s
detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese
government has placed a trade embargo on all exports to Japan
of a crucial category of minerals used in products like
hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.
Chinese customs officials are halting all shipments to Japan
of so-called rare earth elements, industry experts said on
GM is the one who got me looking into the Rare Earth Metals hypothesis (e.g. the Dines Newsletter) and I have positions in PALL (up roughly 20%, TIE up roughly 70%, MCP up roughly 65% in only a few weeks, and REE up 12% in three days. Today's news probably caused the strong pops in REE and MCP and these pops will ratchet back as the situation with the Japanese presumably clarifies, but nonetheless the thesis that China will use its powerful leverage with these indispensable minerals seems now to be proven.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nudge
on: September 22, 2010, 08:53:19 PM
Glenn has been on a kick about Cass Sunstein being the most dangerous man in America because of his notion that "We are all Homer Simpson and need the State to nudge us into what is good for us" and CS writes a goodly amount of the regulations and that the net result is a tremendous threat to freedom
I just wish he would come up with better examples than Michelle Obama calling for carrots or fruit to be the default side order to protein instead of french fries. Lets face it, America is a seriously FAT FAT FAT country and defending stupidity in eating is not really a very shrewd tip of the spear for the cause against being manipulated and controlled by the State.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan
on: September 22, 2010, 08:48:29 PM
Afghanistan is Iran's Mexico
We travel low profile and today I went without my good camera gear. Was told that the Iranians sometimes shoot into Afghanistan and that my big camera might draw fire. Iranians have a huge opium addiction which is not helped by the fact that their neighbor is the biggest drug dealer on the planet. The Iranians have built a wall. I was told that they some times chase smugglers a short distance into Afghanistan and that Afghan border guards will fire back when Iranians fire in. My Afghan cell phone connection dropped but I picked up an Iranian cell carrier.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: September 22, 2010, 06:34:52 PM
I am in West Virginia at the moment on a hotel business center connection i.e. I do not have my usual time and resources available. I just watched today's Brett Baier Report and I gather that Woodward has a new book out called "Obama's Wars" and in it the President is quoted directly as demanding a two year exit strategy from the generals lest he "lose the Democratic Party". In other words the Dems yowls against Bush in 2004, and BO's martial cries that Iraq was the wrong war and Afg the right and good war were an utter crock of excrement.
Of course this comes as no surprise to readers and players in this forum, but BO has now been caught in his own words that all his declarations that Afg is an essential war of national defense are either a lie to get him elected or that he is willing to lose this essential war of national defense in order to keep the support of the Democratic Party.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Cuba, Venezuela, and China
on: September 21, 2010, 07:08:06 AM
A Change of Course in Cuba and Venezuela?
September 21, 2010
By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla
Strange statements are coming out of Cuba these days. Fidel Castro, in the course of a five-hour interview in late August, reportedly told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
Once that statement hit the headlines, Castro backtracked. Dressed in military uniform for the first time in four years (which we suspect was his way of signaling that he was not abandoning the revolution), he delivered a rare, 35-minute speech Sept. 3 to students at the University of Havana. In addition to spending several minutes on STRATFOR’s Iran analysis, Castro addressed his earlier statement on the Cuban model, saying he was “accurately quoted but misinterpreted” and suggesting that the economic model doesn’t work anymore but that the revolution lives on.
Castro, now 84, may be old, but he still seems to have his wits about him. We don’t know whether he was grossly misinterpreted by the reporter during the earlier interview, was acknowledging the futility of the Cuban model and/or was dropping hints of a policy shift. Regardless of what he did or did not say, Castro’s reported statement on the weakness of the revolution was by no means revolutionary.
Sustaining the Revolution
There is little hiding the fact that Cuba’s socialist economy has run out of steam. The more interesting question is whether the Cuban leader is prepared to acknowledge this fact and what he is prepared to do about it. Castro wants his revolution to outlive him. To do so, he must maintain a balance between power and wealth. For decades, his method of maintaining power has been to monopolize the island’s sources of wealth. All foreign direct investment in Cuba must be authorized by the government, the most important sectors of the economy are off-limits to investors, foreign investors cannot actually own the land or facilities in which they invest, the state has the right to seize foreign assets at any time and foreign investors must turn to the government for decisions on hiring, firing and paying workers. Under such conditions, the Cuban leadership has the ultimate say on the social welfare of its citizens and has used that control to secure loyalty and, more important, neutralize political dissent.
But that control has come at a cost: For the revolution to survive — and maintain both a large security apparatus and an expensive and inefficient social welfare system — it must have sufficient private investment that the state can control. That private investment has not been forthcoming, and so the state, unable to cope with the stresses of the economy, has had to increasingly concern itself with the viability of the regime. Since Soviet subsidies for Cuba (roughly $5 billion per year) expired in the early 1990s, Cuba has been seeking an injection of capital to generate income while still trying to leave the capitalists out of the equation in order to maintain control. There is no easy way to resolve this paradox, and the problem for Castro in his advanced age is that he is running out of time.
Many Cubans, including Castro, blame the island’s economic turmoil on the U.S. embargo, a politically charged vestige of the Cold War days when Cuba, under Soviet patronage, actually posed a clear and present danger to the United States. There is a great irony built into this complaint. Castro’s revolution was built on the foundation that trade with the imperialists was responsible for Cuba’s economic turmoil. Now, it is the supposed lack of such trade that is paralyzing the Cuban economy. History can be glossed over at politically opportune times, but it cannot so easily be forgotten.
What many seem to overlook is how Cuba, in spite of the embargo, is still able to receive goods from Europe, Canada, Latin America and elsewhere — it is the state-run system at home that remains crippled and unable to supply the island’s 11 million inhabitants. And even if U.S.-Cuban trade were to be restored, there is no guarantee that Cuba’s economic wounds would be healed. There are a host of other tourist resorts and sugar and tobacco exporters lining the Caribbean coastlines aside from Cuba, which has largely missed the boat in realizing its economic potential. In other words, the roots of Cuba’s economic troubles lie in Cuba, not the United States.
But Cuba is in the midst of a political transition, and Fidel will eventually pass the revolution on to his (not much) younger brother, Raul. If Fidel is the charismatic revolutionary, able to sustain a romanticized political ideology for decades in spite of its inherent contradictions, Raul is the bureaucratic functionary whose primary purpose at this point is to preserve the regime that his brother founded. This poses a serious dilemma for 79-year-old Raul. Not only does he lack the charisma of his older brother, he also lacks a strong external patron to make Cuba relevant beyond Cuba itself.
It must be remembered that the geographic location of Cuba, which straddles both the Yucatan Channel and Straits of Florida, gives it the potential to cripple the Port of New Orleans, the United States’ historical economic outlet to the world. If these two trade avenues were blocked, Gulf Coast ports like New Orleans and Houston would be, too, and U.S. agricultural and mineral exports and imports would plummet.
Cuba has been able to pose such a threat and thus carry geopolitical weight only when under the influence of a more powerful U.S. adversary such as the Soviet Union. Though the Castros maintain relations with many of their Cold War allies, there is no middle, much less great, power right now with the attention span or the will to subsidize Cuba. Havana is thus largely on its own, and in its loneliness it now appears to be reaching out to the United States for a solution that may not hold much promise.
While Fidel has been making statements, Raul has been fleshing out a new economic strategy for Cuba, one that will lay off 500,000 workers — 10 percent of the island’s workforce. The idea is to develop private cooperatives to ease a tremendous burden on the state and have implementation of this plan in progress by March 2011. This is an ambitious deadline considering that Cuba has little to no private industry to speak of to absorb these state workers. The feasibility of the proposed reforms, however, is not as interesting as the message of political reconciliation embedded in the plan. Alongside talk of Raul’s economic reforms, Cuba has been making what appear to be political gestures to Washington through the release of political prisoners. But these gestures are unlikely to be enough to capture Washington’s attention, especially when Cuba is neither a significant geopolitical threat nor a great economic opportunity in the eyes of the United States. Cuba needs something more, and that something could be found in Venezuela.
The Cuban-Venezuelan Relationship
Cuba and Venezuela face very similar geographic constraints. Both are relatively small countries with long Caribbean coastlines and primarily resource-extractive economies. While Venezuela’s mountainous and jungle-covered borderlands to the south largely deny the country any meaningful economic integration with its neighbors, Cuba sits in a sea of small economies similar to its own. As a result, neither country has good options in its immediate neighborhood for meaningful economic integration save for the dominant Atlantic power, i.e., the United States. In dealing with the United States, Cuba and Venezuela basically have two options: either align with the United States or seek out an alliance with a more powerful, external adversary to the United States.
Both countries have swung between these two extremes. Prior to the 1959 revolution, the United States dominated Cuba politically and economically, and although relations between the two countries began to deteriorate shortly thereafter, there were still notable attempts to cooperate until Soviet subsidies took hold and episodes like the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco sunk the relationship. Likewise, until the 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela had long maintained a close, mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. With U.S. urging, Venezuela flooded the markets with oil and busted the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, helping bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. That energy cooperation continued with the U.S. sale of Citgo in the 1990s to Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA, a deal designed to hardwire Venezuela into the U.S. energy markets. Venezuela obtained a guaranteed market for its low-grade crude, which it couldn’t sell to other countries, while the United States acquired an energy source close to home.
For most of the past decade, Cuba and Venezuela have found themselves in a unique position. Both now have adversarial relationships with the United States, and both lack strong allies to help them fend off the United States. As a result, Cuba and Venezuela have drawn closer together, with Cuba relying on Venezuela primarily for energy and Venezuela turning to Cuba for its security expertise.
In trying to rebuild its stature in the region, Cuba has taken advantage of the Venezuelan regime’s rising political and economic insecurities as it set about entrenching itself in nearly all sectors of the Venezuelan state. Cuban advisers, trainers and protectors can be found everywhere from the upper echelons of Venezuela’s military and intelligence apparatus to the ports and factories. Therefore, Cuba has significant influence over a Venezuela that is currently struggling under the weight of stagflation, a precarious economic condition that has been fueled by an elaborate money-laundering racket now gripping the key sectors of the state-run economy. With the country’s electricity, food, energy and metals sectors in the most critical shape, power outages, food shortages and alarmingly low production levels overall are becoming more difficult for the regime to both contain and conceal. This might explain why we are now seeing reports of the Venezuelan regime deploying military and militia forces with greater frequency, not only to the streets but also to the dams, power plants, warehouses, food silos and distribution centers.
Venezuela’s open-door policy to Cuba was intended to bolster the regime’s security, but Cuba’s pervasiveness in Venezuela’s government, security apparatus and economy can also become a threat, especially if Cuba shifts its orientation back toward the United States. Cuba may now be in a position to use its influence in Venezuela to gain leverage in its relationship with the United States.
Washington’s Venezuela Problem
The list of U.S. complaints against Venezuela goes well beyond Chavez’s diatribes against Washington. Venezuela’s aggressive nationalization drive, contributions to narco-trafficking (in alleged negligence and complicity) and suspected support for Colombian rebel groups have all factored into the United States’ soured relationship with Venezuela. More recently, the United States has watched with growing concern as Venezuela has enhanced its relationships with Russia, China and, especially, Iran. Venezuela is believed to have served as a haven of sorts for the Iranians to circumvent sanctions, launder money and facilitate the movement of militant proxies. The important thing to note here is that, while Cuba lacks allies that are adversarial to the United States, Venezuela has them in abundance.
For the United States to take a real interest in signals from Havana, it will likely want to see Cuba exercise its influence in Venezuela. More precisely, it will want to see whether Cuba can influence Venezuela’s relationship with Iran.
We therefore find it interesting that Fidel Castro has been making moves recently that portray him as an advocate for the Jews in opposition to the Iranian regime. Castro invited Goldberg, an influential member of the Jewish lobby in the United States, to his hacienda for an interview in which he spent a great deal of time criticizing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his insensitivity to the Jewish people and their history. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” Castro said. “I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” He added: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” Then, Castro asked Goldberg and Sweig to accompany him to a private dolphin show at the National Aquarium of Cuba in Havana. They were joined by local Jewish leader Adela Dworin, whom Castro kissed in front of the cameras.
Following Fidel’s uncharacteristically pro-Jewish remarks, Chavez, who has echoed his Iranian ally’s vituperative stance against Israel, held a meeting with leaders of Venezuela’s Jewish community on Sept. 18 in which he reportedly discussed their concerns about anti-Semitic remarks in the media and their request for Venezuela to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel. That same week, Venezuela’s state-run Conviasa Airlines, which has had an unusually high number of accidents and engine failures in recent days, cancelled its popular Tuesday roundtrip flight route from Caracas to Damascus to Tehran. This is a flight route frequented by Iranian, Lebanese, Syrian and Venezuelan businessmen and officials (along with other sorts trying to appear as ordinary businessmen). The route has come under heavy scrutiny by the United States due to a reinvigorated U.S. sanctions campaign against Iran and U.S. concerns over Hezbollah transit through Latin America. When STRATFOR inquired about the flight cancellations, we were told by the airline that the cancellations were due to maintenance issues but that flights from Caracas to Damascus would be re-routed through Madrid. The Iran leg of the route, at least for now, is out of operation. Whether Cuba is intending to reshape Venezuela’s relationship with Iran and whether these Venezuelan moves were taken from Cuban cues is unknown to us, but we find them notable nonetheless.
A Chinese Lifeline for Caracas?
Each of these seemingly disparate developments does not make much sense on its own. When looked at together, however, a complex picture begins to form, one in which Cuba, slowly and carefully, is trying to shift its orientation toward the United States while the Venezuelan regime’s vulnerabilities increase as a result. An insecure and economically troubled Venezuela will need strong allies looking for levers against the United States. Russia will sign a defense deal here and there with Venezuela, but it has much bigger priorities in Eurasia. Iran is useful for hurling threats against the United States, but it has serious economic troubles of its own that rival even those of Venezuela. China so far appears to be the most promising fit, although that relationship carries its fair share of complications.
China and Venezuela have signed a deal for Beijing to loan $20 billion to Caracas in exchange for crude-oil shipments and stakes in Venezuelan oil fields. The two are also discussing multibillion-dollar deals that would entail China investing in critical areas, such as Venezuela’s dilapidated electricity grid. China doesn’t have much interest in paying the exorbitant cost of shipping low-grade Venezuelan crude halfway around the world, but it is interested in technology to develop and produce low-grade crude. In many ways, China is presenting itself as the lifeline to the Venezuelan regime. Whether all these deals reach fruition remains a big question, and how far Beijing intends to go in this relationship with Caracas will matter greatly to the United States. A Chinese willingness to go beyond quid pro quo deals and subsidize Venezuela could lead to Chinese investments threatening existing U.S. energy assets in Venezuela, potentially giving Beijing leverage against Washington in the U.S. backyard. But subsidizing countries is not cheap, and China has not yet shown a willingness to take a more confrontational stance with the United States over Venezuela.
After claiming to have received the first $4 billion installment of the $20 billion loan from China, Chavez said China is lending the money because “China knows that this revolution is here to stay.” Like Cuba, Venezuela may not have the economic heft to back up its revolutionary zeal, but it is finding useful friends of the revolution in China. In this time of need, Venezuela’s challenge lies in finding allies willing to cross the threshold from economic partner to strategic patron.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Time for Tea
on: September 20, 2010, 03:00:55 PM
This fact marks our political age: The pendulum is swinging faster and in shorter arcs than it ever has in our lifetimes. Few foresaw the earthquake of 2008 in 2006. No board-certified political professional predicted, on Election Day 2008, what happened in 2009-10 (New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts) and has been happening, and will happen, since then. It all moves so quickly now, it all turns on a dime.
But at this moment we are witnessing a shift that will likely have some enduring political impact. Another way of saying that: The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.
PM Report: How the Tea Party Is Shaking Up the GOP
News Hub: Tea Party Considers Future
Tea Party Movement's Risks for Republicans
.Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party's innovative, broad-based network: "In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists," there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals "move the movement." Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. "In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale."
Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: "The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history." "It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties." "Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement."
So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is "the reason we even have the Tea Party movement," shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that "ran up deficits" and gave us "open borders" and "Medicare Part D and busted budgets."
Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They're "angry." They're "antiestablishment," "populist," "anti-elite." All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, "They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed."
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.I see two central reasons for the tea party's rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.
But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.
Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: "Hey, it coulda been 29!" But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like eight. Instead it's 28.
For conservatives on the ground, it has often felt as if Democrats (and moderate Republicans) were always saying, "We should spend a trillion dollars," and the Republican Party would respond, "No, too costly. How about $700 billion?" Conservatives on the ground are thinking, "How about nothing? How about we don't spend more money but finally start cutting."
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.What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward five inches. And they believe tea party candidates will do that.
The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the tea party: They know what time it is. It's getting late. If we don't get the size and cost of government in line now, we won't be able to. We're teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn't "big spending" anymore. It's ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.
So there's a sense that dramatic action is needed, and a sense of profound urgency. Add drama to urgency and you get the victory of a tea party-backed candidate.
That is the context. Local tea parties seem—so far—not to be falling in love with the particular talents or background of their candidates. It's more detached than that. They don't say their candidates will be reflective, skilled in negotiations, a great senator, a Paul Douglas or Pat Moynihan or a sturdy Scoop Jackson. These qualities are not what they think are urgently needed. What they want is someone who will walk in, put her foot on the conservative end of the yardstick, and make everything slip down in that direction.
Nobody knows how all this will play out, but we are seeing something big—something homegrown, broad-based and independent. In part it is a rising up of those who truly believe America is imperiled and truly mean to save her. The dangers, both present and potential, are obvious.
A movement like this can help a nation by acting as a corrective, or it can descend into a corrosive populism that celebrates unknowingness as authenticity, that confuses showiness with seriousness and vulgarity with true conviction. Parts could become swept by a desire just to tear down, to destroy.
But establishments exist for a reason. It is true that the party establishment is compromised, and by many things, but one of them is experience. They've lived through a lot, seen a lot, know the national terrain. They know how things work. They know the history. I wonder if tea party members know how fragile are the institutions that help keep the country together.
One difference so far between the tea party and the great wave of conservatives that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 is the latter was a true coalition—not only North and South, East and West but right-wingers, intellectuals who were former leftists, and former Democrats. When they won presidential landslides in 1980, '84 and '88, they brought the center with them. That in the end is how you win. Will the center join arms and work with the tea party? That's a great question of 2012.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto on useful idiot Kristof
on: September 20, 2010, 02:53:06 PM
By JAMES TARANTO
It would appear that the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof read our column Thursday on "Islamic affirmative action," thought the concept might be unclear to some people, and decided to offer himself up as an example. If we had wanted to satirize the attitude, we could hardly have done better than his column in yesterday's Times titled "Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry."
Here's how it begins:
Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.
That's reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I'm going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.
Kristof's central example of "the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness" is the wave of reader complaints against the Portland (Maine) Press Herald over a Sept. 11 human-interest story on local Muslims celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, which led to a groveling apology from the paper's editor-publisher.
As we noted Thursday, there is no reason to think that the complaining readers were bigots or nuts. The worst that can be said about them is that they were a bit ignorant: They mistook a coincidence of timing for Islamic affirmative action. (This misunderstanding might have been avoided if the Press Herald's Eid story had explained the workings of the Islamic calendar and this coincidence with Sept. 11.)
James Taranto on Kristof's apology.
.Kristof draws a false and offensive equivalence between Islamic extremists and American "extremists." The latter, when something in the newspaper offends them, complain in a "courteous and polite" fashion, according to the Portland editor. The former, as in the case of cartoonist Molly Norris, issue religious edicts threatening death. (President Obama, champion of the First Amendment for Muslims, remains conspicuously silent about Norris's plight.)
We agree with Kristof that the Portland publisher's apology was a pathetic overreaction. But no one is in hiding as a result of the complaining Mainers--not the publisher, not the reporter who wrote the story, not the Muslim leader who was profiled in the Sept. 11 piece and "said that as an American Muslim, he has a sense of belonging that eclipses the hostility of the Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Quran," according to the Press Herald.
The important thing to understand here is that Islamic affirmative action only incidentally concerns Islam or Muslims. It is really about the moral exhibitionism of liberal elitists like Kristof, who love trumpeting their enlightenment and open-mindedness and sneering at the sensibilities of ordinary Americans. It never occurs to them that in doing so, it is they who are acting like bigots.
Like moral idiots, too. Consider this passage from Kristof's column:
Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.
How balanced, how even-handed. Kristof condemns extremists on both sides! Except that "their" extremist is a mass murderer, while "ours" merely talked about engaging in offensive symbolic speech. Kristof doesn't note that Jones's Koran-burning plan was condemned by almost all Americans, or that whatever harm it did could have been ameliorated had the media--including Kristof's paper--refrained from publicizing it.
In another attempt at balance, Kristof acknowledges a string of Islamic outrages: "theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God's bidding." He does not list any comparable actions by American "extremists," because there aren't any.
But I've also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.
I'm sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.
Fair enough. But what about gentle American souls--the kind of people who take offense at the idea of building a fancy "Islamic center" adjacent to the site of an Islamic supremacist atrocity, or who complain politely to a newspaper that offends their sensitivities? In slandering them as bigots, nuts and extremists, Kristof lumps them in with al Qaeda. He owes Americans, not Muslims, an apology.
Islamic Group Honors Non-Muslim Jew-Hater
While Molly Norris lives in fear for her life, Helen Thomas is set to make a public appearance next month, the Hill reports:
[American journalism's crazy old aunt in the attic] will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is honoring Helen Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent and now 90 years old, at its Leadership Conference and 16th Annual Fundraising Banquet on Oct. 9 in Arlington, Va.
Helen Thomas is not Muslim; like President Obama, she is reported to be a Christian. So why is CAIR honoring her lifetime of "achievement"? Well, remember her parting message to Jews: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. . . . They should go home." It is difficult to understand CAIR's decision to honor Thomas as anything other than an endorsement of these hateful views.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: September 20, 2010, 10:36:36 AM
Brief · September 20, 2010
"When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson
"We are faced today with two different roads, one of which follows the path of liberty set
by our Founders in the Constitution, and one of which diverges from that path and leads us down the road to tyranny. There are two different warring camps within our society, and the ongoing battle between those camps has been graphically illustrated in recent primary elections and by the vicious fight over the nationalization of our healthcare system. On one side are those of us, including the members of the Tea Party movement, who work hard to support their families, who love their country, and who understand and revere a document that has stood firm for 223 years to guide us. These ordinary, everyday Americans rightly fear the unprecedented growth in the size and power of the federal government. They are angry over the unsustainable and uncontrollable growth of federal spending and the federal deficit that will inevitably lead to financial ruin. They are appalled over the contempt shown by so many in the other camp for our governing document, the Constitution. ... That other camp is made up of politicians who recognize no limits on their power, their liberal activist allies in the judiciary, and members of the media, Hollywood, and academia, who have been stretching, bending, and chipping away at the Constitution for decades. They welcome a tyranny of elites who can govern however they see fit without being checked and limited by what they view as an 'anachronistic' document and the parochial views of the American people. After all, they know what is best for all of us. They should control our lives and our economy. ... There is a growing movement throughout America to reinvigorate the tree of liberty, a tree whose trunk is the Constitution, whose limbs are the Bill of Rights, and whose leaves are the new sons and daughters of liberty who embody the same spirit that infused our Founders. On Constitution Day, let Americans rededicate themselves to securing 'the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity' by actively working to preserve the Constitution of the United States." --former Attorney General Edwin Meese
"We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, 'The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.' We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth." --Ronald Reagan
Opinion in Brief
"[One of the] central reasons for the Tea Party's rise ... is the yardstick. ... Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking -- more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking -- a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction. But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality -- with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy -- has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point. Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: 'Hey, it coulda been 29!' But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like 8. Instead it's 28. ... What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward 5 inches. And they believe Tea Party candidates will do that." --columnist Peggy Noonan
"Writing in 1962, [economist Milton Friedman] noted that 'conditions have changed,' as we 'now have several decades of experience with governmental intervention.' Indeed, it was clear then, way back in 1962, that free economies vastly outperform managed economies. And that was before the collapse of the Soviet/central-planning model, the economic explosion resulting from the Reagan-Thatcher tax cuts, the repudiation of Keynes even in Britain, the bankruptcy of the European welfare state, the rise of the Asian Tigers, and more. What was obvious in 1962 was beyond obvious in 2008 -- or should have been. And yet, Friedman sensed a lingering threat, one that hadn't sauntered off into the night. It was a 'subtle' threat, not from enemies outside but from do-gooders inside. He warned of an 'internal threat' from those professing 'good intentions and good will who wish to reform us,' who 'are anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and confident of their own ability to do so.' It's so subtle that Americans voted for such reform, or 'change,' decisively, on November 4, 2008, without even knowing it, giving the threat vigor. Thus, the managers and planners are in charge, with their hands on the ship of state, seizing the resources that feed the most dynamic, prosperous engine that capitalism and freedom ever produced. The Invisible Hand has been waved off by the visible hands of the reformers. And they are spending us into oblivion." --author and professor Dr. Paul Kengor
"From 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, until 1940, when the first Social Security checks were paid out, Americans did not receive income from the federal government unless they were pensioned veterans or employees of the government itself. For 164 years, Americans took care of themselves and their own families. With the Social Security Act, they began to slide into government dependency. Today, thanks to Social Security, a majority of Americans over 65 rely on the federal government for a majority of their income. Thanks to Medicare, enacted in 1965, American seniors now rely on the federal government for their health care, too. If Congress does not repeal Obamacare, virtually all Americans will soon depend on government for their health care. We will no longer be a free and self-reliant people -- we will be a government-dependent people." --CNSNews editor Terrence Jeffrey
Re: The Left
"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: 'Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone....' Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years? Give me a break! Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That's a fraction of 1 percent in each case. Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year's allocation. But that's not what bureaucrats mean. 'They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year's spending,' Coulson writes. 'What they're doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having.' So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. 'Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars),' Coulson says. Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions." --columnist John Stossel
Faith & Family
"Surrender on gay marriage is surrender on marriage -- which is surrender on the family and, ultimately, surrender on civilization. ... This unwillingness to fight for the family, on which civilization depends, is another sign of the failure of modern conservatism. The right can win a thousand battles against big government and lose the war for America's future, if it surrenders on marriage and the family. America's social traumas -- illegitimacy, juvenile crime, drug abuse, female-headed-households -- can all be traced back to the decline of the family: which started with the Great Society in the '60s, accelerated with no-fault divorce in the '70s, continued with the rise of cohabitation, and reached its culmination with strange-sex marriage. ... Unfortunately, many conservative intellectuals have lost sight of a crucial fact: American exceptionalism rests on three pillars -- faith, family and freedom. Remove any one, and the entire structure collapses. ... Without the family, it doesn't matter how many times we defeat socialism (nationalized health-care, government take-over of business, soaring deficits, redistributionism), in the end, we lose -- which is why the left has made same-sex marriage its priority, and why it is less tolerant of dissent here than anywhere else. Conservatives who don't understand this, understand nothing." --columnist Don Feder
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Survey by Elaph shows surprising results
on: September 20, 2010, 08:58:22 AM
Islam's Encounters With America
A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, saw 58% object to the building of the WTC mosque.
By FOUAD AJAMI
From his recent travels to the Persian Gulf—sponsored and paid for by the State Department—Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf returned with a none-too-subtle threat. His project, the Ground Zero Mosque, would have to go on. Its cancellation would risk putting "our soldiers, our troops, our embassies and citizens under attack in the Muslim world."
Leave aside the attempt to make this project a matter of national security. The self-appointed bridge between America and the Arab-Islamic world is a false witness to the sentiments in Islamic lands.
Deputy Editorial Page Editor Bret Stephens and Editorial Board member Matthew Kaminski on the plan for a 'Mosque at Ground Zero,' and Senior Editorial Writer Joseph Rago reports on the Missouri results.
The truth is that the trajectory of Islam in America (and Europe for that matter) is at variance with the play of things in Islam's main habitat. A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, gave a decided edge to those who objected to the building of this mosque—58% saw it as a project of folly.
Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a "tolerant" or a "bigoted" society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country.
This is remarkable. The ground burned in the Arab-Islamic world over the last three decades. Sly preachers and their foot soldiers "weaponized" the faith and all but devoured what modernists had tried to build in the face of difficult odds. The fury has not burned out. Self-styled imams continue to issue fatwas that have made it all but impossible for Arabs and Muslims to partake of the modern world. But from this ruinous history, there has settled upon countless Muslims and Arabs the recognition that the wells are poisoned in their midst, that the faith has to be reined in or that the faith will kill, and that the economic and cultural prospects of modern Islam hang in the balance.
To this kind of sobriety, Muslim activists and preachers in the diaspora—in Patterson, N.J., and Minneapolis, in Copenhagen and Amsterdam—appear to be largely indifferent. They are forever on the look-out for the smallest slight.
Islam in America is of recent vintage. This country can't be "Islamic." Its foundations are deep in the Puritan religious tradition. The waves of immigrants who came to these shores understood the need for discretion, and for patience.
It wasn't belligerence that carried the Catholics and the Jews into the great American mainstream. It was the swarm of daily life—the grocery store, the assembly line, the garment industry, the public schools, and the big wars that knit the American communities together—and tore down the religious and ethnic barriers.
There is no gain to be had, no hearts and minds to be won, in Imam Rauf insisting that Ground Zero can't be hallowed ground because there is a strip joint and an off-track betting office nearby. This may be true, but it is irrelevant.
A terrible deed took place on that ground nine years ago. Nineteen young Arabs brought death and ruin onto American soil, and discretion has a place of pride in the way the aftermath is handled. "Islam" didn't commit these crimes, but young Arabs and Muslims did.
There is no use for the incantation that Islam is a religion of peace. The incantation is false; Islam, like other religions, is theologically a religion of war and a religion of peace. In our time, it is a religion in distress, fought over, hijacked at times, by a militant breed at war with the modern world.
Again, from Elaph, here are the thoughts of an Arab writer, Ahmed Abu Mattar, who sees through the militancy of the religious radicals. He dismisses outright the anger over the "foolish and deranged" Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn copies of the Quran. "Where is the anger in the face of dictatorships which dominate the lives of Arabs from the cradle to the grave? Would the Prophet Muhammad look with favor on the prisons in our midst which outnumber the universities and hospitals? Would he take comfort in the rate of illiteracy among the Arabs which exceeds 60%? Would he be satisfied with the backwardness that renders us a burden on other nations?"
The first Arabs who came to America arrived during the time of the Great Migration (1880-1920). Their story is told by Gregory Orfalea in his book, "The Arab Americans: A History" (2006). The pioneers were mostly Christians on the run from the hunger and the privations of a dying Ottoman empire. One such pioneer who fled Lebanon for America said he wanted to leave his homeland and "go to the land of justice." Ellis Island was fondly named bayt al-hurriya (the house of freedom). It was New York, in the larger neighborhood of Wall Street, that was the first home of the immigrants.
Restrictive quotas and the Great Depression reduced the migration to a trickle. This would change drastically in the 1950s and '60s. The time of Islam in America had begun.
It was in 1965, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf tells us, that he made his way to America as a young man. He and a vast migration would be here as American identity would undergo a drastic metamorphosis.
The prudence of days past was now a distant memory. These activists who came in the 1990s—the time of multiculturalism and of what the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "disuniting of America"—would insist on a full-scale revision of the American creed. American liberalism had broken with American patriotism, and the self-styled activists would give themselves over to a militancy that would have shocked their forerunners. It is out of that larger history that this project at Ground Zero is born.
There is a great Arab and Islamic tale. It happened in the early years of Islam, but it speaks to this controversy. It took place in A.D. 638, the time of Islam's triumphs.
The second successor to the Prophet, the Caliph Omar—to orthodox Muslims the most revered of the four Guided Caliphs for the great conquests that took place during his reign—had come to Jerusalem to accept the city's surrender. Patriarch Sophronius, the city's chief magistrate, is by his side for the ceremony of surrender. Prayer time comes for Omar while the patriarch is showing him the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The conqueror asks where he could spread out his prayer rug. Sophronius tells him that he could stay where he was. Omar refuses, because his followers, he said, might then claim for Islam the holy shrine of the Christians. Omar stepped outside for his prayer.
We don't always assert all the "rights" that we can get away with. The faith is honored when the faith bends to necessity and discretion.
Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Part of struggle against corrupt officials in Bell CA
on: September 20, 2010, 08:53:08 AM
By TAMMY AUDI
BELL, Calif.—Infuriated residents of this small southern California city made a national name for themselves when they ousted three municipal officials after revelations of high six-figure salaries. Lesser known is that Bell's citizen revolution is being run from an Islamic community center.
Taxpayer outrage has washed away the wariness that once separated the working-class Roman Catholic and Protestant Latinos who make up Bell's majority and a quietly flourishing minority of Shi'ite Muslims. The nascent unity in Bell—where 100 people meet regularly at the El-Hussein Center about the ongoing scandal—comes amid controversies in other U.S. cities over the construction or expansion of Islamic institutions.
More than 100 residents met last week in Bell, Calif.'s El-Hussein center. The banner in back, in Arabic, proclaims love for and acceptance of God.
"We're all victims here," said Ali Saleh, a Muslim resident and member of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which hosts the community meetings. "Sad to say, but that's what's bringing us together."
A Pew Research report released last month showed 30% of Americans have a positive view of Islam, compared with 42% who held a positive view in 2005. Muslim-American leaders have urged Muslims to counter that image by becoming more visibly involved in political life, but with limited success. Bell has the potential to become the kind of turnaround Muslim-Americans are after as the nation debates their place in American society.
Bell's former city manager, one of the officials forced out, took home nearly $800,000 a year in pay, and some part-time city council members earned $100,000. Alleging fraud and conspiracy, the state is suing current and former Bell officials.
Tightly packed across just two square miles, Bell is among several small cities tucked amid the sprawling industrial areas southeast of Los Angeles. It's wedged between four freeways, commercial railway lines and a concrete-lined stretch of the Los Angeles River. In the 1950s and '60s, Bell's population exploded.
Longtime Bell residents say white residents began to leave Bell in the 1960s for more spacious suburbs in neighboring Orange County. Race riots in Los Angeles drove more whites away. By 2000, says the U.S. Census, 90% of Bell's 37,000 population identified as Latino.
For most Bell residents, the community meetings that started at the Islamic center in early August are the first real contact they've had with a Muslim community that has been in the city for at least four decades.
"Since I was a little girl, I remember going to school with the Muslim children and they really kept to themselves," said Cynthia Rodriguez, a 29-year-old mother and lifelong resident of Bell.
She was nervous the first day she walked into the El-Hussein Center, unsettled by the unfamiliar images and Arabic writing. But "disgust and fury" at city officials outweighed her fear.
Then someone offered her a chair. Now, she attends every meeting and is getting to know some of her Muslim neighbors for the first time.
Bell's Muslims, numbering between 1,000 and 2,000, are Lebanese immigrants who fled civil war in their country in the 1970s and began arriving from the same village, called Yaroun.
They took jobs in the garment industry, bought homes, and built the mosque and community center. Some Lebanese immigrants opened clothing shops in the area and picked up Spanish to communicate with their largely Latino customer base.
Bell's Muslims said they felt an affinity with their Latino neighbors, if not a closeness. Both groups are immigrants who worked at low-wage jobs or opened small businesses, and both groups sent money to family in their home countries. Even soccer connected them "They work hard, we work hard. Everybody is just working and taking care of their kids" said Mr. Saleh. Bell's Muslims didn't get involved with local politics because "we just concentrated on our families and work," Mr. Saleh said.
But some began to feel it was time for a change in Bell. Last year, another local Muslim named Ali Saleh ran for city council. Then anonymous fliers appeared with images of the candidate's head on the body of a radical Muslim cleric, with New York's burning Twin Towers and a message: "Vote NO Muslims." Mr. Saleh lost.
At a recent city council meeting, the 35-year-old Mr. Saleh, who was born and raised in Bell, stood in front of the city council and a packed house of rowdy Bell residents.
"You told me you were running to protect your people from people like me," Mr. Saleh said, addressing Luis Artiga, a former opponent in the city council race who won the seat. "Let me tell you, these are all my people!" Mr. Saleh shouted to sustained cheering and applause. "Whether they're Arab, whether they're Mexican, whether they Salvadoran, Guatamalan, we are all one." He then repeated his words in Spanish.
After attending the most recent meeting at the El-Hussein Center, Mr. Artiga, a local pastor of a Southern Baptist church, said he regretted what he said during the campaign and that he had nothing to do with the fliers portraying Mr. Saleh as a terrorist. He and Mr. Saleh shook hands.
The new unity in Bell may soon be tested, however. The community association faces some criticism for its political ties and motives.
But as they have opened up to Bell, Muslim community members said, the response has been mostly positive. Recently a local grocer that caters to Latinos called the Islamic center to ask about stocking Halal items— food that meets Islamic dietary standards.
Muslim leaders say no one has bothered them about their mosque or community center until recently, when they received a letter that read "All I need to know about Islam I learned from 9-11"—from an anonymous sender in Texas.
The meetings at the center are conducted in Spanish and English, with the doors to the center thrown open to the evening air. At a recent meeting, more than 150 residents filled rows of green plastic chairs. Their bored children fidgeted in the back of the room, munching on churros and sipping hot chocolate under stacks of the Quran.
Meanwhile, 76-year-old Robert Mackin, who has lived in Bell since 1941, angry that city council members hadn't stepped down, shouted at the interim city attorney: "What about the crooks you still work for?"
Unsatisfied, Mr. Mackin walked toward a row of bearded Muslim men and shook their hands. "Good question, good question," one of the men told him.
Mr. Mackin said he has learned a few things about Islam as he had attended the meetings at the community center. He said he wasn't sure about one photograph on the wall until one young Muslim man told him it was Mecca. The same young man had asked him whether he was "Christian or Catholic."
"Well I laughed and said 'I'm Catholic but Catholics are Christians'," recalled Mr. Mackin. "He was young, and I guess he didn't know. Anyway, we're all learning."
Write to Tammy Audi at Tamara.Audi@wsj.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010
on: September 20, 2010, 02:07:18 AM
An outstanding day!!! 45 fighters; the Gathering went over four hours-- without having kept count I am quite positive that this Gathering had the largest number of fights ever/highest number of fights per fighter ever.
So much to say that , , , I am speechless in the wordless state for now , , , and so will remain silent for now.
"Higher consciousness through harder contact."(c)
PS: Those who were accepted into or ascended within the Tribe, please post on the Dog Brothers Tribe thread reminding me.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Balkans, Macedonia, Bulgaria
on: September 18, 2010, 11:48:39 PM
Radical Islam on rise in Balkans, raising fears of security threat to Europe
Published September 18, 2010
| Associated Press
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — An online music video praising Osama bin Laden has driven home a troubling new reality: A radical brand of Islam embraced by al-Qaida and the Taliban is gaining a foothold in the Balkans.
"Oh Osama, annihilate the American army. Oh Osama, raise the Muslims' honor," a group of Macedonian men sing in Albanian, in video posted on YouTube last year and picked up by Macedonian media this August. "In September 2001 you conquered a power. We all pray for you."
Although most of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority are Muslims, they have generally been secular. But experts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country's Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.
It's a trend seen across the Balkans and has raised concerns that the region, which includes new European Union member Bulgaria, could become a breeding ground for terrorists with easy access to Western Europe. Many fear that radicalized European Muslims with EU passports could slip across borders and blend into society.
At the center of the issue is the Wahhabi sect, an austere brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia and practiced by bin Laden and the Taliban.
"Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years," said Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in Macedonia's Islamic community. He said Wahhabis were establishing a permanent presence in Macedonia where none existed before, and that "they are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria."
It is the first time a high-ranking official in the former Yugoslav republic's Islamic community has agreed to speak openly about the presence and threat of radical Islam.
In Bulgaria, nearly one-sixth of the population of 7.6 million are Muslims who adhere to conventional Sunni beliefs. Ethnic peace has been maintained in the last 20 years. As elsewhere in the Balkans, however, Wahhabi incursions have led to a struggle for control of religion and Islamic community-owned property.
Large amounts of money, allegedly from Muslim organizations abroad, have been spent in Bulgaria since the mid-1990s for more than 150 new mosques and so called "teaching centers" to spread Wahhabism.
According to Bulgaria's former chief mufti, Nedim Gendzhev, some Muslim organizations were aiming to create a "fundamentalist triangle" formed by Bosnia, Macedonia and Bulgaria's Western Rhodope mountains. Local newspaper reports say radical Islam is being preached in different cities and villages in southern and northeastern Bulgaria.
In 2003, Bulgarian authorities shut down a number of Islamic centers on the grounds they allegedly belonged to Islamic groups financed mainly by Saudi Arabians that possibly also had links to "radical organizations" such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Official statements said that the centers were shut down "to prevent terrorists getting a foothold in Bulgaria."
However, centers where radical brands of Islam are preached continue to to crop up in the country, said political analyst Dimitar Avramov.
"Along with the three official Muslim schools, there are at least seven other which are not registered and not controlled by the state," he said, adding that in the last 20 years some 3,000 young Muslims have graduated from these schools.
In neighboring Serbia last year, 12 Muslims — allegedly Wahhabis — from the tense southern Sandzak region were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for planning terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia's 1992-95 independence war.
In Bosnia, the issue of Wahhabi influence is one of the most politically charged debates, with Bosnian Serbs maintaining there is a huge presence of Wahhabis in the country and Muslim Bosniaks downplaying the issue and at times claiming it does not exist.
Juan Carlos Antunez, a Spanish military specialist in religious extremism with years of experience in Bosnia, estimates there are about 3,000 people in Bosnia who have embraced this interpretation of Islam and only a small fraction of them are a potential security threat.
In a study prepared for the Sarajevo-based Center for Advanced Studies in May, Antunez argued that Bosnia's official Islamic Community has been successful in curbing Wahhabi influence. Although it did not aggressively ostracize the Wahhabis, it strictly controls the appointments of imams in mosques and lecturers in Islamic educational institutions in the country.
Ahmet Alibasic, a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, said most Wahhabis in Bosnia refrain from criticizing the Islamic Community and were even calling for unity among Muslims.
"Their influence reached its peak in 2000, but it has since started falling and it continues to fall," Alibasic said, adding that measures taken by Bosnian authorities after 9/11 had a significant effect as the movement began to lose power after the closure and banning of several Islamic, mostly Saudi-backed, charities which funded the movement.
In Albania, the issue is also charged. Ilir Kulla, former head of the government's department on religious issues, insisted the Wahhabis had not caused any problems in Albania.
Kulla said hundreds of young Albanian men had been educated in universities in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, and were now mosque leaders, but that there had been no attempt by Wahhabis to challenge the leadership of the country's Muslim Community, which he insisted was still moderate.
But in Macedonia, the increasing clout of radical Islam is causing a rift in the country's Muslim community, with a power struggle developing within the country's official Islamic Religious Community between the moderate mainstream and the emerging Wahhabi wing.
"A destructive, radical and extremist current has appeared with an intention of taking over the lead of the Islamic religious community," Selimovski said.
Authorities in Macedonia are reluctant to confirm any threat of radical Islam in the country. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, did acknowledge that "radical groups and their followers are being closely observed."
Last year, three ethnic Albanian brothers originally from Macedonia were implicated — along with a Jordanian, a Turk and a Kosovo Albanian living in the U.S. — in an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Army's Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is used largely to train U.S. reservists bound for Iraq.
"Macedonia is part of the international coalition in the fight against terrorism and it cannot be excluded from the responsibility to observe and respond to any possible activity or emerging of terrorists," Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told the AP.
Moderate Muslims say the Wahhabi sect now controls five mosques in Skopje even though the Islamic Religious Community has suspended the man they claim is the sect's leader, Ramadan Ramadani, as imam of the Isa Beg mosque in Skopje, and prohibited him from organizing prayers.
But Ramadani, who has launched a petition seeking supporters to overturn the current Community leadership, rejects any accusation of radicalism, saying his opponents are scaremongering.
"They need my name to have somebody to frighten people," Ramadani said. "I do not know any individuals or structures here that could be defined as Wahhabi. It is the attempt of political labeling and stigmatizing people who want reforms."
Ramadani insisted that Macedonia's Islamic community had nothing to do with the online song supporting bin Laden, and denied Macedonian media reports that it had been played in mosques there.
"Bin Laden is nothing for the Muslims in Macedonia," Ramadani said. "He is not our hero."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A thoughtful read sent by an Indian friend
on: September 18, 2010, 11:45:05 PM
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 4:39 AM
Subject: fak-ap solution ?
An Afghan bone for Obama to chew on
By M K Bhadrakumar
When Robert Blackwill, who was former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's deputy as national security adviser and George W Bush's presidential envoy to Iraq, took the podium at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank in London on Monday to present his "Plan B" on Afghanistan, readers of the Wall Street Journal would have wondered what was afoot.
Blackwill is wired deep into the bowels of the US establishment, especially the Pentagon headed by Robert Gates. And the IISS prides itself as having been "hugely influential in setting the intellectual structures for managing the Cold War". Thus, the setting on Monday was perfect.
Blackwill has remarkable credentials to undertake exploratory
voyages into the trajectory of US foreign policy. In a memorable opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in March 2005 titled "A New Deal for New Delhi", he accurately predicted the blossoming of the US-India strategic partnership. He wrote:
The US should integrate India into the evolving global non-proliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state ... Why should the US want to check India's missile capability in ways that could lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India? ... We should sell advanced weaponry to India ... Given the strategic challenges ahead, the US should want the Indian armed forces to be equipped with the best weapons systems ... To make this happen, the US has to become a reliable long-term supplier, including through co-production and licensed manufacture arrangements.
Blackwill's construct almost verbatim did become US policy. Again, in December 2007 he penned a most thoughtful article titled "Forgive Russia, Confront Iran". He wrote:
To engage Russia, we need to substantially change our current policy approach to Moscow ... This is not to underrate the difficulties of interacting with Moscow on its external policies and its often-raw pursuit of power politics and spheres of influence ... But there are strategic priorities, substantive trade-offs and creative compromises that Western governments should consider. The West needs to adopt tactical flexibility and moderate compromise with Moscow.
Again, he hit the bull's eye in anticipating the US's reset with Russia. So, an interesting question arises: Is he sprinting indefatigably toward a hat-trick?
There can be no two opinions that the crisis situation in Afghanistan demands out-of-the-box thinking. Blackwill's radically original mind has come up with an intellectual construct when hardly 10 weeks are left for US President Barack Obama to take the plunge into his Afghanistan strategy review.
Blackwill foresees that the US's Afghan counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy is unlikely to succeed and an accommodation of the Taliban in its strongholds becomes inevitable in the near future. The current indications are that the process is already underway. (See Taliban and US get down to talks Asia Times Online, September 10, 2010.)
The Blackwill plan probes the downstream of this "accommodation". Blackwill flatly rules out a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as that would be a "strategic calamity" for regional stability, would hand over a tremendous propaganda victory to the world syndicate of Islamist radicals, would "profoundly undermine" the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and would be seen as a failure of US leadership and strategic resolve.
Therefore, he proposes as a US policy goal a rationalization of the tangled, uneven Afghan battlefield so that it becomes more level and predictable and far less bloody, and enforcement of the game can come under new ground rules.
Prima facie, it appears scandalous as a plan calling for the "partition" of Afghanistan, but in actuality it is something else. In short, US forces should vacate the Taliban's historic strongholds in the Pashtun south and east and should relocate to the northern, central and western regions inhabited by non-Pashtun tribes.
Blackwill suggests the US should "enlist" the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras to do more of the anti-Taliban resistance, instead of COIN. And the US should only take recourse to massive air power and the use of special forces if contingencies arise to meet any residual threats from the Taliban after their politicalaccommodation in their strongholds.
A striking aspect of the Blackwill plan is that it is rooted in Afghan history and politics, the regional milieu and the interplay of global politics. Since 1761, Afghanistan has survived essentially as a loose-knit federation of ethnic groups under Kabul's notional leadership. The plan taps into the interplay of ethnicity in Afghan politics. The political reality today is that the Taliban have come to be the best-organized Afghan group and they are disinterested in a genuinely broad-based power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.
Unsurprisingly, the non-Pashtun groups feel uneasy. Their fears are not without justification insofar as the erstwhile anti-Taliban Northern Alliance has disintegrated and regional powers that are opposed to the Taliban, such as Russia, Iran and India, have such vastly divergent policy objectives (and priorities) that they cannot join hands, leave alone finance or equip another anti-Taliban resistance.
The Kabul government headed by President Hamid Karzai is far too weak to perform such a role. (Blackwill, curiously, doesn't visualize Karzai surviving.) According to Blackwill's plan, the US offers itself as the bulwark against an outright Taliban takeover. It envisages the US using decisive force against any Taliban attempt to expand beyond its Pashtun strongholds in the south and east, and to this end it promises security to non-Pashtun groups.
If it works, the plan could be a geopolitical coup for the US. It quintessentially means the US would hand over to the Taliban (which is heavily under the influence of the Pakistani military) the south and east bordering Pakistan while US forces would relocate to the regions bordering Central Asia and Iran.
The US would be extricating itself from fighting and bloodshed, while at the same time perpetuating its military presence in the region to provide a security guarantee to the weak Kabul government and as a bulwark against anarchy and extremism - on the pattern in Iraq.
The US's and NATO's profile as real-time providers of regional security and stability can only boost their influence in Central Asian capitals.
Seemingly recent random "happenings" mesh with Blackwill's plan, including:
A base to be built for US special forces in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The expansion of the air bases at Bagram and Shindand.
The overhaul of the massive Soviet-era air base in Termez by the US and NATO.
An agreement between the German Bundeswehr and the Uzbek government regarding Termez as a stop-off point for NATO military flights.
Fresh deployments of US special forces in Kunduz.
The US's parleys with non-Pashtun leaders in Berlin.
Mounting pressure on Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai to vacate Kandahar
(Blackwill said in an interview with the British Telegraph newspaper last week, "How many people really believe that Kandahar is central to Western civilization? We did not go to Afghanistan to control Kandahar.")
As a seasoned diplomat, Blackwill argues that China and Russia will choose to be stakeholders in an enterprise in which Washington underwrites Central Asia's security. True, China and Russia will be hard-pressed to contest the US's open-ended military presence in Afghanistan that is on the face of it projected as the unfinished business of the "war on terrorism". Central Asian states will be delighted at the prospect of the US joining the fight against creeping Islamism from Afghanistan.
The Blackwill plan brilliantly turns around the Taliban's ascendancy since 2005, which had occurred under Pakistani tutelage and, in retrospect, thanks to US passivity.
Blackwill admits that his plan "would allow Washington to focus on four issues more vital to its national interests: the rise of Chinese power, the Iranian nuclear program, nuclear terrorism and the future of Iraq".
Without suffering a strategic defeat, the US would be able to extricate itself from the war while the drop in war casualties would placate US opinion so that a long-term troop presence (as in Iraq) at the level of 50,000 or so would become sustainable. This was exactly what General David Petraeus, now the top US man in Afghanistan, achieved in Iraq.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Attention Fighters: Shirt colors
on: September 18, 2010, 01:01:45 AM
I know lots of us like black shirts, but if both fighters are wearing a black shirt it makes the fight footage very hard to follow if the range closes. If you can, please wear some other color, or bring a non-black shirt as well as a black shirt.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: How many jobs does $111million create?
on: September 17, 2010, 05:28:15 PM
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Left Angeles Times (POTB) GOP ditches CO gov. candidate
on: September 16, 2010, 04:20:05 PM
Republican Party ditches GOP nominee for Colorado governor
Dan Maes won the primary, but the party is withdrawing its support, saying the 'tea party' candidate is not running a professional campaign.
Reporting from Denver —
The Republican Party is walking away from Dan Maes, a small-time businessman and political novice with "tea party" backing who captured Colorado's GOP gubernatorial nomination, scrambling the race less than seven weeks before election day.
Maes has been disavowed by pillars of the Republican establishment — including former Sen. Hank Brown and current U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. The chairman of the state Republican Party flatly said Maes is not running a professional campaign and called on him to drop out before ballots were printed Sept. 3. The Republican Governors Assn. refuses to help fund his campaign.
Several tea party groups have withdrawn their backing after it was revealed that Maes misrepresented how he left a Kansas police department, incurred record campaign fines and called Denver's bike-swap program a United Nations plot.
The question now is who will benefit from Maes' hemorrhaging support — his Democratic opponent, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, or former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running as a third-party candidate because he thinks Maes is unelectable?
"What may happen is that, with a bit of time, Tancredo becomes viewed as the other major candidate," said Kenneth Bickers, a political scientist at the University of Colorado, who added that he is still reeling from the latest twists in the race. "I didn't see this coming 10 days ago."
Janet Rowland, a Mesa County commissioner who is active in the tea party movement, was one of nearly two dozen Republicans who announced recently that they were switching allegiance to Tancredo.
She said in an interview that this is the first time she hasn't backed a GOP nominee. The entire saga, she added, is a cautionary tale for the insurgent tea party.
"There is a belief by people who are fed up with government that, if they get somebody who hasn't been in politics, they will somehow be more pure," Rowland said.
Maes spokesman Nate Strauch said the establishment's abandonment of the candidate was worrisome.
"The Republican Party in the state has a very specific process for how it chooses its nominees," Strauch said. "It's a process that Dan Maes won fair and square." To turn around and say the votes of those 200,000 people who voted for him "don't count, to reward someone who circumvented the process, sets a dangerous precedent."
Strauch added that many tea party groups still supported Maes.
Maes was a long shot in the Republican primary, up against former Rep. Scott McInnis. He touted himself as a successful businessman, but tax records showed that some years he made little money. A supporter said Maes asked her for help paying his mortgage. He received a record $17,000 campaign fine for paying himself more than $40,000 from his campaign contributions for mileage.
Still, when McInnis acknowledged that he plagiarized a paper on water issues that he was paid $300,000 to write, Maes' support surged. He won the nomination by about 1% of the primary vote.
Two weeks later, the Denver Post reported that Maes' story about how he left a small-town Kansas police department was false. Maes had said he was fired because he had been working undercover for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but Kansas officials said Maes never worked for them.
Right away, prominent Republicans began calling for Maes to drop out of the race before ballots were printed, including state party Chairman Dick Wadhams. Maes refused. He raised only $50,000 in August — less than a quarter of Tancredo's haul and an eighth of Hickenlooper's.
In an interview, Wadhams noted that Maes is still the party's nominee but worried that he has yet to assemble a professional campaign team. "To run a real, competitive race in Colorado, you have to have a real campaign," Wadhams said.
Strauch said Maes was not planning to hire any political professionals: "He won the nomination on a shoestring and he's using a similar strategy in the general."
Bay Buchanan, a veteran Washington, D.C.-based operative who is now Tancredo's campaign manager, contended that the onetime congressman, best known for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, is the only real conservative opposition to Hickenlooper. "We've had enormous movement in the last five to six days," she said last week.
Hickenlooper spokesman George Merritt said the Democratic nominee "is focused on creating jobs, finding ways to support Colorado business, and promoting education."
Former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart, who teaches at the University of Colorado-Denver, said that as the GOP nominee, Maes will inevitably receive a large number of votes in November and split the conservative electorate, handing Hickenlooper a victory.
"Tancredo is whistling past the graveyard," Hart said. "What's interesting about the race is the disarray in the [Republican] party in general. It sought to embrace the tea party movement. When it did, it bought a whole lot of trouble."firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on Delaware's O'Donnell
on: September 16, 2010, 02:23:03 PM
Karl Rove: “I think the questions about why she had a problem for five years with paying her federal income taxes, why her house was foreclosed on and put up for a sheriff’s sale, why it took 16 yers for her to settle her college debt and get her diploma after she went around for years claiming she was a college graduate — these and other troubling sort of personal background things, she thinks she has explained them. I think she’s got to — I think a lot of voters in Delaware are going to want more than she’s offering to them right now.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cartoonist goes into hiding at FBI's insistence
on: September 16, 2010, 02:17:06 PM
‘Draw Mohammad’ Cartoonist Goes Into Hiding at FBI's Insistence
Published September 16, 2010
May 19: Pakistani students gather to demonstrate against a Facebook page amid anger over a page on the social networking site which encourages users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Seattle cartoonist whose work sparked the controversial "Everybody Draw Mohammed Page" on Facebook has gone into hiding at the advice of the FBI, the newspaper that published her comics said Wednesday.
Molly Norris has moved and changed her name following a call by U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, The Seattle Weekly said. Awlaki reportedly said she was a "prime target" for execution and that her "proper abode is hellfire."
"You may have noticed that Molly Norris' comic is not in the paper this week," the newspaper said. "That's because there is no more Molly."
"The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, 'going ghost': moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.
"She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program -- except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab," the newspaper said.
Norris drew a cartoon in April to protest the decision by the cable TV channel Comedy Central to cancel an episode of the popular show "South Park" over its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit.
In her cartoon, Norris satirically proposed making May 20 "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."
Soon after, A fan page turned up on Facebook but Norris wrote on her since-shuttered website that said she had nothing to do with it.
"I did NOT 'declare' May 20 to be 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,'" she said, adding that her idea was satire that was "taken seriously, hijacked and made viral."
"I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off," she said.
Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the "Draw Mohammed" page led to Facebook being temporarily blocked in Pakistan and sparked angry street protests.
In July, an English-language Al Qaeda magazine, "Inspire," in an article attributed to Awlaki, the radical Yemeni cleric, said Norris "should be taken as a prime target of assassination."
Awlaki, who is based in Yemen, rose to prominence last year after it emerged he had communicated by email with Major Nidal Hasan, a US army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13.
Agence France Presse contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Twas the night before elections
on: September 16, 2010, 01:47:05 PM
November 2, 2010
Gift wrap them and send them all home
'Twas the night before elections
And all through the town
Tempers were flaring
Emotions all up and down!
I, in my bathrobe
With a cat in my lap
Had cut off the TV
Tired of political crap.
When all of a sudden
There arose such a noise
I peered out of my window
Saw Obama and his boys
They had come for my wallet
They wanted my pay
To give to the others
Who had not worked a day!
He snatched up my money
And quick as a wink
Jumped back on his bandwagon
As I gagged from the stink
He then rallied his henchmen
Who were pulling his cart
I could tell they were out
To tear my country apart!
'On Fannie, on Freddie,
On Biden and Ayers!
On Acorn, On Pelosi'
He screamed at the pairs!
They took off for his cause
And as he flew out of sight
I heard him laugh at the nation
Who wouldn't stand up and fight!
So I leave you to think
On this one final note-
IF YOU DONT WANT SOCIALISM
GET OUT THERE & VOTE!!!!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Constitution Day
on: September 16, 2010, 10:49:46 AM
Alexander's Essay – September 16, 2010
The Enshrinement of Essential Liberty
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ... Done...the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven." --George Washington and the delegates
The U.S. ConstitutionOn 17 September of every year, we observe Constitution Day in recognition of the anniversary of that venerable document's signing by our nation's Founders.
In our household, we observe it further because it is the date of birth of my eldest son.
I suppose there really is no such thing as coincidence, because this young man, like his younger sister and brother, proudly represents the promise of Liberty for the next generation. He is an outspoken advocate for both Liberty and constitutional Rule of Law (could be in his genes). He is a student leader, young scholar and great sportsman. A week ago, he completed his Eagle Scout project. He is interested in serving our nation and initiating that service as a cadet in one of our military academies.
I am, of course, proud of each of my children, but that pride is about much more than the delight of a father.
Our nation is under siege, and the Socialist regime of Barack Hussein Obama has proven to be a more subversive threat to freedom than that of any sitting president in our nation's history.
Much of the burden of the damage already done by this odious regime will be shouldered by the next generation, including my children, and it will take clear-headed young conservatives in their generation to hold the line against tyranny.
Like millions of other American Patriots, especially parents, I am of the same opinion as Thomas Paine on the matter of passing our burden to them: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."
Just one short election cycle past, a majority of Americans were duped into voting for a childish and flimsy promise of "hope and change." What the nation received instead was a perilous attempt by a small cadre of elite Leftists to "fundamentally transform the United States of America."
To arm yourself with the right intellectual ammo to reverse that transformation, I invite you to read any or all of these collected essays outlining the Liberty proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence, and enshrined in our nation's Constitution. After all, if we are to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," we must first know precisely what it is we're defending.
Start with Essential Liberty, a brief but comprehensive essay on the origins of Liberty: On December 16th, 1773, "radicals" from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.
A 'Living Constitution' for a Dying Republic: For its first 150 years (with the notable exception Marbury v. Madison in 1803), our Constitution stood as our Founders, and more importantly, "the people," intended -- as is -- in accordance with its original intent. In other words, it was interpreted exegetically rather than eisegetically, textually as constructed, not as could be re-interpreted by later generations of jurists.
Our Sacred Honor ... to Support and Defend: The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..." The Constitution also prescribes the following oath to be taken by the president-elect: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The First Statement of Conservative Principles: It took the election of a "community organizer" and ideological Socialist, Barack Hussein Obama, to launch a popular resurgence of interest in constitutional Rule of Law and the First Principles upon which our nation was founded, and not a moment too soon.
On American Patriotism: American Patriots will not stand idly by while the last vestiges of Liberty succumb to tyranny. In Jefferson's words, "Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."
The Brushfires of Freedom: "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men." --Samuel Adams
The 'Tea Party' Movement: "The people of the U.S. owe their Independence & their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings." --James Madison
Tea Party Primer
Our quintessential field guide for the Tea Party movement, Tea Party Primer, is immediately available individually, in small quantity or as a bulk purchase. Inexpensively priced for wide distribution, the Tea Party Primer's purpose is to be a catalyst for the restoration of our Constitution's integrity and mandate for Rule of Law! All purchases at The Patriot Shop support our Mission of Service to America's Armed Forces.
When Debating a Liberal, Start With First Principles: Rule Number One: You must define the debate in terms of First Principles, which is to say, you must be able to articulate those principles. "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson
The Patriot Declaration: We are American Patriots, defenders of First Principles and Essential Liberty... The Patriot Declaration is not a petition. It is a "Declaration of Cause and Necessity" and stands on its own as a resolution of intent for all who sign it. Just as important, it serves as due notice for those who would abandon their oath to "Support and Defend the Constitution" and abuse their office to the detriment of individual liberty and states' rights.
Finally, I invite you to observe Constitution Day by visiting The Patriot's outstanding Historic Documents repository for the complete texts of our nation's most significant formative documents, and to see our excellent selection of constitutional items at The Patriot Shop.
This week, as our family celebrates the birthday of my firstborn son, we are reminded of the challenges he, his siblings and their peers will face in future generations. We pray that the upcoming midterm election will reflect a great public awakening to the perilous threats to liberty we now face, and foretell a trend to restore the integrity of our Constitution. Let us resolve this Constitution Day to arm and rearm ourselves with the First Principles necessary to defend Essential Liberty.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pants on the ground!
on: September 16, 2010, 08:46:23 AM
Court Rules Police Can Pull Up Suspects' Saggy Pants
1,193 Views 39 Comments Minneapolis Star Tribune via YellowBrix
September 15, 2010
ST. PAUL, MN – White Castle, weed and baggy pants. It has all the elements of a comedy, but throw in a concealed handgun, a suspected drug deal and a wardrobe malfunction, and it’s a Minnesota Court of Appeals case that even compelled a judge to quote an “American Idol” audition.
St. Paul police officer Kara Breci and her partner spotted a possible drug deal in a car at a White Castle parking lot in November 2008. They ordered the men out of their vehicle and told them to put their hands in the air. That’s when suspect Frank Irving Wiggins’ baggy pants, already dangerously low at the knees, fell to the pavement.
Breci hoisted the jeans and found a .38-caliber pistol inside the front pocket. Wiggins was eventually convicted of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person and sentenced to five years in prison. He challenged the legality of the pants-hoisting, with the case ultimately landing at the state Court of Appeals.
“This case requires us to determine the constitutionality of a novel police procedure which, as far as we can tell, has never been reviewed on appeal by this court or any other,” wrote Judge Kevin G. Ross in an opinion filed Tuesday.
Breci and her partner encountered Wiggins and another man in a car in a high drug-activity area. A third man popped into the backseat. His hands were suspiciously slider-free.
“No one in the car appeared to be eating,” Ross wrote.
The officers approached, and the backseat passenger admitted that a plastic bag contained marijuana. That’s when the men were ordered out, and the pants fell.
Breci felt the gun through Wiggins’ pants and asked him about it. He denied knowing what it was. Breci removed the gun.
Wiggins, 24, later tried to suppress the gun evidence in his case before district court, citing unlawful seizure and pat-search, but was denied.
Ross wrote that the circumstances of the drug search would “lead a reasonable officer to suspect that Wiggins was engaging in a drug deal,” and that Breci’s actions were not unconstitutional.
The judge wrote that Breci’s actions weren’t a search, but “incidental contact.”
“Perhaps [Breci] decided to raise Wiggins’ pants to afford him a bit of dignity regardless of her planned search,” Ross wrote in the opinion. “Or perhaps she wanted to avoid the risk of contacting his genitalia through his underwear during her pat-search.”
Breci’s actions were intended to provide Wiggins with privacy, not deprive him of it, as a search would, Ross wrote. “We acknowledge that one might be offended by an officer’s realigning of his pants: It is the sort of thing that one usually prefers to do for himself,” the decision read. "Wiggins argues that affirming the district court would encourage officers to trample the privacy of young people who participate in this baggy-pants fashion trend. The concern is unwarranted.
“We are confident that our opinion will not be misconstrued to suggest that an officer can freely meddle with a person’s clothes to the refrain, ‘Pants on the ground, pants on the ground’…”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Times: NFL concussion raises questions
on: September 16, 2010, 08:42:20 AM
On Sunday afternoon, more than 28 million people were watching Fox’s national broadcast when the Philadelphia Eagles’ Stewart Bradley rose woozily, stumbled and then collapsed onto the turf. The Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman expressed concern and even horror. Players waved frantically for medical assistance.
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David Maialetti/Philadelphia Daily News
Eagles Coach Andy Reid, left, checking on linebacker Stewart Bradley during the second quarter. Bradley returned to the game less than four minutes after collapsing on the field.
Less than four minutes later, Bradley, a linebacker, was sent back into the game.
Only at halftime was his injury diagnosed as a concussion.
The Eagles said afterward that they did not permanently remove Bradley at the time of his injury — per new N.F.L. rules — because their sideline exam revealed no concussion and also because no medical person saw either the hit Bradley took or his collapse to the turf.
Considering that doctors and trainers are well represented on N.F.L. sidelines and that the league has made concussion awareness an issue this season, the Eagles’ handling of Bradley’s injury raises a stark question: If a concussion this glaring can be missed, how many go unnoticed every fall weekend on high school and youth fields, where the consequences can be more serious, even fatal?
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, only 42 percent of high schools in the United States have access to a certified athletic trainer, let alone a physician, during games or practices. In some poorer rural communities, concussed players are taken to doctors with no experience with head injuries. Youth leagues with players as young as 8 and 9 rarely, if ever, have any medical personnel on hand; when a child is hurt, a parent, assuming one is present, walks out on the field, scoops up the child and carries him or her off.
The cost of hidden head trauma among children was driven home Monday, also in Philadelphia, as a University of Pennsylvania lineman who hanged himself in April, Owen Thomas, was found to have died with the same progressive brain disease found in more than 20 N.F.L. players. Playing since age 9, Thomas never had a reported concussion; his disease silently developed either through injuries he did not report or by thousands of subconcussive blows that accumulated over time.
Research suggests that 10 percent to 50 percent of high school football players will sustain a concussion each season, with as many as 75 percent of those injuries going unreported and unnoticed.
“Here in Rhode Island we have a state law that an athletic trainer must be at contests, but most schools are in violation,” Dr. John P. Sullivan, the University of Rhode Island’s sports psychologist, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “The risk is real.”
Dawn Comstock of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is the nation’s principal researcher of injuries among all high school athletes, having overseen the collecting of data that suggest about 70,000 concussions occur each year in high school football. Those that are reported, that is.
“We have very little about what happens to high school brains during these hits,” Comstock said. “We have no idea at all what’s happening in kids’ brains while they’re on the youth field or community rec field.”
There have been improvements in the three years that concussions have received national attention. More than a dozen states have passed laws requiring education for coaches and requiring clearance from an appropriate medical professional before a child is allowed to return to his or her sport. (The laws often cover only public schools, however.) At Norman High School in Oklahoma last month, when a sophomore walked into the coach’s office and asked if he could try out for the team, within 15 seconds he was handed a two-page information sheet regarding concussions that he and his parents had to sign before he could play.
“That’s new this year,” the coach, Greg Nation, said. “It’s really changed.”
Acknowledging the league’s impact on young athletes, the N.F.L. asked a skeptical Congress and public to view its protocol changes last year as proof of its commitment to lead concussion awareness efforts.
N.F.L. players now must be removed for the rest of the day after a concussion is diagnosed; an independent doctor must clear the player before he can return; and a new poster warns players of head injuries with stunningly strong language. That placard even concludes, “Young Athletes Are Watching.”
Yet, when the entire football world saw the Eagles put Bradley at significant safety risk by not properly diagnosing his concussion, it only emphasized the crisis that exists in high school and youth football, where almost no one is watching at all.
Last year, the N.F.L. requested and received praise for producing the first public-service announcement geared toward educating young players about the dangers of concussions. This week it has delivered a different, less scripted, message.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / excerpt from "The Evolution of God"
on: September 16, 2010, 08:39:02 AM
Here is the exegis Wright mentions in my previous post-- I am left with wondering whether Muslims define Christians concept of Jesus as polytheism:
* * *
Right-wing Web sites devoted to showing the “truth about Islam” array searing verses that seem to show the Koran offering a nearly unlimited license to kill. (A few years after 9/11, a list of “the Koran’s 111 Jihad verses” was posted on the conservative Web site freerepublic.com.) But the closer you look at the context of these verses, the more limited the license seems.
The passage most often quoted is the fifth verse of the ninth sura, long known to Muslims as the “Sword verse.” It was cited by Osama bin Laden in a famous manifesto issued in 1996, and on first reading it does seem to say that bin Laden would be justified in hunting down any non-Muslim on the planet. The verse is often translated colloquially—particularly on these right-wing Web sites—as “kill the infidels wherever you find them.”
This common translation is wrong. The verse doesn’t actually mention “infidels” but rather refers to “those who join other gods with God”—which is to say, polytheists. So, bin Laden notwithstanding, the “Sword verse” isn’t the strongest imaginable basis for attacking Christians and Jews.
Still, even if the Sword verse wasn’t aimed at Christians and Jews, it is undeniably bloody: “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush.” It seems that a polytheist’s only escape from this fate is to convert to Islam, “observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms.”
But the next verse, rarely quoted by either jihadists or right-wing Web sites, suggests that conversion isn’t actually necessary: “If any one of those who join gods with God ask an asylum of thee, grant him an asylum, that he may hear the Word of God, and then let him reach his place of safety.” After all, polytheists are “people devoid of knowledge.”
And the following verse suggests that whole tribes of polytheists can be spared if they’re not a military threat. If those “who add gods to God” made “a league [with the Muslims] at the sacred temple,” then “so long as they are true to you, be ye true to them; for God loveth those who fear Him.” For that matter, the verse immediately before the Sword verse also takes some of the edge off it, exempting from attack “those polytheists with whom ye are in league, and who shall have afterwards in no way failed you, nor aided anyone against you.”
In short, “kill the polytheists wherever you find them” doesn’t mean “kill the polytheists wherever you find them.” It means “kill the polytheists who aren’t on your side in this particular war.”
Presumably, particular wars were the typical context for the Koran’s martial verses—in which case Muhammad’s exhortations to kill infidels en masse were short-term motivational devices. Indeed, sometimes the violence is explicitly confined to the war’s duration: “When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them, and of the rest make fast the fetters. And afterwards let there either be free dismissals or ransomings, till the war hath laid down its burdens.”
Of course, if you quote the first half of that verse and not the second half—as both jihadists and some western commentators might be tempted to do—this sounds like a death sentence for unbelievers everywhere and forever. The Koran contains a number of such eminently misquotable lines. Repeatedly Muhammad makes a declaration that, in unalloyed form, sounds purely belligerent—and then proceeds to provide the alloy. Thus: “And think not that the infidels shall escape Us! . . . Make ready then against them what force ye can, and strong squadrons whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy.” Then, about thirty words later: “And if they lean to peace, lean thou also to it; and put thy trust in God.”
If the Koran were a manual for all-out jihad, it would deem unbelief by itself sufficient cause for attack. It doesn’t. Here is a verse thought to be from the late Medinan period: “God doth not forbid you to deal with kindness and fairness toward those who have not made war upon you on account of your religion, or driven you forth from your homes: for God loveth those who act with fairness. Only doth God forbid you to make friends of those who, on account of your religion, have warred against you, and have driven you forth from your homes, and have aided those who drove you forth.”
Besides, even when enmity is in order, it needn’t be forever: “God will, perhaps, establish good will between yourselves and those of them whom ye take to be your enemies: God is Powerful: and God is Gracious.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Wright: The Meaning of the Koran
on: September 16, 2010, 08:33:40 AM
Robert Wright is the author of two wonderful books I have read on evolutionary psychology, The Moral Animal and Non-Zero Sum, and also "The Evolution of God" which I have not read. His thoughts here are of a different tenor than most of what we see on this forum concerning Islam, but are none the less worthy for consideration for it.
The Meaning of the Koran
By ROBERT WRIGHT
Test your religious literacy:
Which sacred text says that Jesus is the “word” of God? a) the Gospel of John; b) the Book of Isaiah; c) the Koran.
The correct answer is the Koran. But if you guessed the Gospel of John you get partial credit because its opening passage — “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God” — is an implicit reference to Jesus. In fact, when Muhammad described Jesus as God’s word, he was no doubt aware that he was affirming Christian teaching.
Extra-credit question: Which sacred text has this to say about the Hebrews: God, in his “prescience,” chose “the children of Israel … above all peoples”? I won’t bother to list the choices, since you’ve probably caught onto my game by now; that line, too, is in the Koran.
I highlight these passages in part for the sake of any self-appointed guardians of Judeo-Christian civilization who might still harbor plans to burn the Koran. I want them to be aware of everything that would go up in smoke.
But I should concede that I haven’t told the whole story. Even while calling Jesus the word of God — and “the Messiah” — the Koran denies that he was the son of God or was himself divine. And, though the Koran does call the Jews God’s chosen people, and sings the praises of Moses, and says that Jews and Muslims worship the same God, it also has anti-Jewish, and for that matter anti-Christian, passages.
The regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.
.This darker side of the Koran, presumably, has already come to the attention of would-be Koran burners and, more broadly, to many of the anti-Muslim Americans whom cynical politicians like Newt Gingrich are trying to harness and multiply. The other side of the Koran — the part that stresses interfaith harmony — is better known in liberal circles.
As for people who are familiar with both sides of the Koran — people who know the whole story — well, there may not be many of them. It’s characteristic of contemporary political discourse that the whole story doesn’t come to the attention of many people.
Thus, there are liberals who say that “jihad” refers to a person’s internal struggle to do what is right. And that’s true. There are conservatives who say “jihad” refers to military struggle. That’s true, too. But few people get the whole picture, which, actually, can be summarized pretty concisely:
Reading the scripture.The Koran’s exhortations to jihad in the military sense are sometimes brutal in tone but are so hedged by qualifiers that Muhammad clearly doesn’t espouse perpetual war against unbelievers, and is open to peace with them. (Here, for example, is my exegesis of the “sword verse,” the most famous jihadist passage in the Koran.) The formal doctrine of military jihad — which isn’t found in the Koran, and evolved only after Muhammad’s death — does seem to have initially been about endless conquest, but was then subject to so much amendment and re-interpretation as to render it compatible with world peace. Meanwhile, in the hadith — the non-Koranic sayings of the Prophet — the tradition arose that Muhammad had called holy war the “lesser jihad” and said that the “greater jihad” was the struggle against animal impulses within each Muslim’s soul.
Why do people tend to hear only one side of the story? A common explanation is that the digital age makes it easy to wall yourself off from inconvenient data, to spend your time in ideological “cocoons,” to hang out at blogs where you are part of a choir that gets preached to.
Makes sense to me. But, however big a role the Internet plays, it’s just amplifying something human: a tendency to latch onto evidence consistent with your worldview and ignore or downplay contrary evidence.
This side of human nature is generally labeled a bad thing, and it’s true that it sponsors a lot of bigotry, strife and war. But it actually has its upside. It means that the regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.
After all, the adherents of a given religion, like everyone else, focus on things that confirm their attitudes and ignore things that don’t. And they carry that tunnel vision into their own scripture; if there is hatred in their hearts, they’ll fasten onto the hateful parts of scripture, but if there’s not, they won’t. That’s why American Muslims of good will can describe Islam simply as a religion of love. They see the good parts of scripture, and either don’t see the bad or have ways of minimizing it.
So too with people who see in the Bible a loving and infinitely good God. They can maintain that view only by ignoring or downplaying parts of their scripture.
For example, there are those passages where God hands out the death sentence to infidels. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to commit genocide — to destroy nearby peoples who worship the wrong Gods, and to make sure to kill all men, women and children. (“You must not let anything that breathes remain alive.”)
As for the New Testament, there’s that moment when Jesus calls a woman and her daughter “dogs” because they aren’t from Israel. In a way that’s the opposite of anti-Semitism — but not in a good way. And speaking of anti-Semitism, the New Testament, like the Koran, has some unflattering things to say about Jews.
Devoted Bible readers who aren’t hateful ignore or downplay all these passages rather than take them as guidance. They put to good use the tunnel vision that is part of human nature.
All the Abrahamic scriptures have all kinds of meanings — good and bad — and the question is which meanings will be activated and which will be inert. It all depends on what attitude believers bring to the text. So whenever we do things that influence the attitudes of believers, we shape the living meaning of their scriptures. In this sense, it’s actually within the power of non-Muslim Americans to help determine the meaning of the Koran. If we want its meaning to be as benign as possible, I recommend that we not talk about burning it. And if we want imams to fill mosques with messages of brotherly love, I recommend that we not tell them where they can and can’t build their mosques.
Of course, the street runs both ways. Muslims can influence the attitudes of Christians and Jews and hence the meanings of their texts. The less threatening that Muslims seem, the more welcoming Christians and Jews will be, and the more benign Christianity and Judaism will be. (A good first step would be to bring more Americans into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening.)
You can even imagine a kind of virtuous circle: the less menacing each side seems, the less menacing the other side becomes — which in turn makes the first side less menacing still, and so on; the meaning of the Abrahamic scriptures would, in a real sense, get better and better and better.
Lately, it seems, things have been moving in the opposite direction; the circle has been getting vicious. And it’s in the nature of vicious circles that they’re hard to stop, much less reverse. On the other hand, if, through the concerted effort of people of good will, you do reverse a vicious circle, the very momentum that sustained it can build in the other direction — and at that point the force will be with you.
Postscript: The quotations of the Koran come from Sura 4:171 (where Jesus is called God’s word), and Sura 44:32 (where the “children of Israel” are lauded). I’ve used the Rodwell translation, but the only place the choice of translator matters is the part that says God presciently placed the children of Israel above all others. Other translations say “purposefully,” or “knowingly.” By the way, if you’re curious as to the reason for the Koran’s seeming ambivalence toward Christians and Jews:
By my reading, the Koran is to a large extent the record of Muhammad’s attempt to bring all the area’s Christians, Jews and Arab polytheists into his Abrahamic flock, and it reflects, in turns, both his bitter disappointment at failing to do so and the many theological and ritual overtures he had made along the way. (For a time Muslims celebrated Yom Kippur, and they initially prayed toward Jerusalem, not Mecca.) That the suras aren’t ordered chronologically obscures this underlying logic.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH editorial
on: September 16, 2010, 08:22:54 AM
Pravda on the Hudson's take on things:
Democratic operatives are ablaze with excitement over the victory of two particularly dubious Tea Party candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, envisioning smoother paths to victory in the races for governor in New York and United States senator in Delaware. But for voters of all stripes, Tuesday’s primaries should illuminate the growling face of a new fringe in American politics — and provide the incentive for level-headed voters to become enthusiastic about the midterm election.
Republican leaders have to decide if they want the tiny fraction of furious voters who have showed up at the primary polls to steer them into the swamp for years ahead. They have a chance to repudiate the worst of the Tea Party crowd and show that they can govern without appealing to the basest political instincts. So far, they have preferred to greedily capitalize on the nuclear energy in the land without considering its destructive effects.
Democrats, especially beleaguered incumbents and the White House, need to counter the toxic message of the Tea Party so voters have an alternative.
For both parties and certainly the broad swath of independent voters, defeating this new crop of Tea Party nominees has become imperative to avoid the sense of national embarrassment from each divisive and offensive utterance, each wacky policy proposal.
Take the new Republican nominee for United States senator from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell. She founded a group called the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, with a curious focus on sexual purity, and claimed there was scientific evidence that God created the world in six 24-hour periods. She lied for years about being a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, having earned a degree only in recent weeks, 17 years after she left campus. She has no steady source of income and has a substantial trail of unpaid bills, battles with the Internal Revenue Service and questionable use of campaign donations for personal expenses.
Ms. O’Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a veteran congressman and example of the moderate and conciliatory approach that Northeast Republicans once brought to Washington. Her campaign ridiculed him for being 71 years old with a history of heart problems. Ms. O’Donnell called Mr. Castle “unmanly.”
Or consider Carl Paladino, the Republicans’ new nominee for governor of New York, who has transfigured the state’s justifiable disgust with Albany into a malevolent snarl at the world. It is one thing to promise to shake up state government; it is very much another to thuggishly proclaim that he intends to clean up Albany “with a baseball bat” and turn the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, upside down to get his blood flowing and then send him “to Attica.” This is the man who has vowed to send welfare recipients to state prisons to pick up their checks and be given lessons in hygiene. He has defended an ally’s comparison of Mr. Silver to Hitler or the Antichrist and is known for forwarding e-mail messages to friends with racist or pornographic images.
In both cases, the Republican establishment did everything possible to avoid having the party be represented by these two, lest the link to the Tea Party become evident. Karl Rove, long the party’s tactical mastermind, dismissed Ms. O’Donnell as “nutty.”
But, in fact, the party’s hopes for retaking Congress are deeply bound up with the fate of Tea Party candidates across the country, and the party’s leaders have done little to distance themselves from the extremism that now constitutes mainstream conservative policy.
When the House Republican leader, John Boehner, voiced a possible compromise on tax cuts, he was immediately shouted down by other party officials and pilloried as weak by right-wing blogs. Mr. Rove noted that Ms. O’Donnell is unlikely to win in November, possibly preventing the Republicans from taking over the Senate. He is now a pariah himself in those same circles.
On Wednesday, Mr. Boehner invited Tea Party activists to help “drive the debate” in Washington and shape the legislative agenda. That invitation act should be a dose of adrenaline to dispirited Democrats, independents and mainstream Republican voters who had not fully grasped the stakes in November’s election.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury
on: September 16, 2010, 08:17:01 AM
Brian Wesbury is an outstanding economist (supply side school) with a superb track record, which is why i post the following although I find it to be remarkably glib:
Unfunded Liabilities And Cheap Stocks
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein
Despite cries of "uncertainty" that reverberate through the financial markets, U.S. equities remain grossly undervalued. Risk premiums are exceedingly high. Too high!
In total, S&P 500 companies reported after-tax annualized earnings of $716 billion in the second quarter and had a market capitalization of $9.3 trillion. In other words, for every $100 in market value, the companies in the S&P 500 were generating $7.70 in after-tax profits--an "earnings yield" of 7.7%.
Comparing that earnings yield to the 10-year Treasury yield (currently 2.8%) reveals a gap of nearly five percentage points, the largest such gap since the late 1970s. And with profits expected to continue their upward climb, this gap is highly likely to increase even more in the next few quarters.
Relative to bonds, stocks are undervalued by a considerable margin. So what's holding investors back? Why are bond flows continuing to outpace equity flows?
One reason is fear of government spending. Current deficits and future deficits related to Social Security and Medicare are one reason. Every dollar the government spends must eventually be paid for by taxpayers. If these higher future taxes confiscate enough corporate profits, then the market will reflect that fact today with lower prices. So is the market discounting these costs accurately? Let's crunch the numbers.
The Trustees report for Social Security and Medicare estimates the present value of all unfunded entitlement benefits are roughly $50 trillion. On the same present value basis, this is equal to 3.8% of future GDP. In other words, rather than taxing 19% of GDP (as the Congressional Budget Office predicts for 2012-'13), total tax revenue would need to climb to 22.8% of GDP--an increase in tax revenues of 20% from everyone and everything that the federal government already taxes. In other words, a 10% tax rate will need to rise to 12%.
Of course everyone realizes that a 20% tax hike would never generate 20% more revenue. A dynamic model would forecast slower economic growth and more unemployment if the government hiked taxes by this much. This is why some are advocating benefit cuts. But, for our purpose here (analyzing the impact of paying for unfunded liabilities) we assume tax hikes are the only method used.
A 20% increase in corporate taxes as well as taxes on capital gains and dividends, would reduce total returns to shareholders by roughly 11%. This would reduce the earnings yield (currently 7.7%) to about 6.9%--more than 4 percentage points above current 10-year Treasury yields.
Don't take this the wrong way. We are certainly not advocating a massive tax hike to fix Social Security and Medicare. Raising tax rates will hurt the economy. Moving to private accounts would be our preferred solution. But the current level of fear about the costs of fixing these entitlement problems is out of proportion to reality. Things are far from perfect, but the stock market is grossly undervalued.
Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly column for Forbes. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Unrest in Kashmir
on: September 16, 2010, 07:17:46 AM
Civilian Unrest, Not Militancy, in Indian-Controlled Kashmir
Indian authorities deployed thousands of additional federal police personnel across the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday to enforce a curfew, and all flights to Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, were canceled due to security fears. The move comes a day after 18 protesters were killed in police shootings — the worst violence in three months of protests in the region. Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony called the situation “very serious” and said that an all-party meeting would be held in New Delhi on Wednesday. After the meeting, Antony said, the government will decide whether to partially lift a 20-year-old emergency law that many in Kashmir despise: the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which protects army and paramilitary troops from prosecution and gives them sweeping powers to open fire, detain suspects and confiscate property.
Unrest involving the Muslim majority community in the Kashmir Valley region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is not new. Demonstrations by the Muslim community opposing Indian rule in the region have been routine in recent years but were contained by Indian authorities. The latest wave of protests, however, is being described as the worst unrest since the beginning of the uprising in 1989. Certainly, the current round of protests is the longest period of street agitation in the region, and its staying power has forced the Indian government to acknowledge that the situation is no longer business as usual.
“The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary.”
The region of Kashmir normally is seen as the main point of contention in the historic conflict between South Asia’s two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan. Within this context, the key issue is seen as Pakistani-backed Islamist militant groups fighting India in Kashmir and in areas far south of the western Himalayan region. Even though the insurgency that broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s and early 1990s was an indigenous phenomenon, it very quickly became an issue of Pakistani-sponsored Islamist militancy.
The Pakistani-backed militancy reached a climax in the mini-war between India and Pakistan during the summer of 1999 in the Kargil region along the line of control dividing Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. The Pakistani move to try to capture territory on the Indian side of the border failed, and then the post-Sept. 11 global atmosphere made it increasingly difficult for Pakistan to use its Islamist militant proxies against India, particularly in Kashmir. By 2007, Pakistan was in the throes of a domestic insurgency waged by Islamist militants. Then, in November 2008, elements affiliated with the one of the largest Pakistan-based Kashmiri Islamist militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, staged attacks in the Indian financial hub, Mumbai.
The Mumbai attacks brought India and Pakistan very close to war, which was avoided via mediation by the United States. More importantly, though, it became clear to Islamabad that not only could it no longer back militants staging attacks in India, it also had to make sure that militants acting independent of the Pakistani state were curbed. Otherwise, it was risking war with India.
Within months of the Mumbai crisis, the Pakistanis were forced into a position where they had to mount a major counterinsurgency offensive in their own northwestern areas that had come under the control of Taliban rebels. As a result, Islamabad is no longer employing militancy as its main tool against India. In fact, Indian officials are saying that Pakistan has changed its strategy and, rather than backing militant groups, is stoking civilian unrest — which brings us back to the problem in Kashmir.
The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary. There are mass protests and rioting that is much harder to control than militancy. Militant activity can easily be painted as a foreign-backed (read Pakistani-backed) threat, which India achieved rather successfully by containing the militancy in Kashmir. But public agitation, which is indigenous in nature, is not easily dismissed as a Pakistani-backed movement. Furthermore, a violent military response to militant attacks is easier to justify than a violent response to civilian unrest.
Of course, Pakistan is exploiting the issue to its advantage, but that is very different from actually engineering the unrest from the ground up. This explains New Delhi’s concern and the dilemma it faces. India will have to address a new, more sophisticated threat to its authority in Kashmir with a new, more sophisticated response. Pakistan will have an advantage in Kashmir in the meantime. India also faces international pressure over Kashmir, because the crackdowns make India look bad, yet New Delhi has been trying not to internationalize the conflict since it wants to deal with Kashmir on its own terms.