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24901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2011, 06:21:45 PM
Whoa.  That's heavy.  shocked
24902  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 06:20:11 PM

In honor of my Jewish heritage, allow me to point out

24903  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto as a prison cook on: April 23, 2011, 06:17:42 PM
24904  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 12:27:48 PM
"Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said."

A submission hold blocks blood flow and does not attack the windpipe.  Not clear here whether the reporter grasps this distinction.  (Tangent: When I first moved to LA (1982) there was a political fuss over the disproportionate number of black people suffering drastic consequences from police holds that attacked the windpipe.  IIRC police chief Gates said something to the effect that that was because black people didn't have the same responses as "normal people", but I digress , , ,)

"Further, as pointed out, Montalvo was not in eminent danger (or any danger for that matter) when he initially saw Uhler. 
"The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.""

Are you saying that Montalvo has to be in "eminent danger", or imminent danger for that matter  evil cheesy to try to catch the bad guy?

24905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Misean Economics on: April 23, 2011, 12:16:17 PM
An internet friend writes:

I have a couple of thoughts on the subject of books, and how to more quickly gain exposure to the Austrian ideas.

First of all, probably the most important thing to grasp is the fundamental difference between Misean thought and the currently dominant neo-classical economists. The mainstream has tried to turn economics into an empirical science like physics. They believe they can observe the economic world, craft hypotheses to explain the observed phenomena, and then test those hypotheses by measuring how well they can forecast future events. Many people seem to think Popper's ideas about "falsification" are relevant for economic science. For economics and other social sciences, however, Mises argued that empiricism is an impossible process. Controlled experimentation is impossible in this realm, but more importantly man's actions are not determined by invariant physical facts -- as are the actions and reactions of inanimate objects.

Mises offered a completely different method of constructing economic science, a method that was employed and articulated by a number of great economists before Mises' time -- but one that Mises himself developed more fully and explicitly than anybody before him. So here is my suggestion for getting this idea painlessly and quickly: read Robert P. Murphy's new book "Lessons for the Young Economist". Murphy wrote this book for high school and even younger people, but I have read it cover to cover and it is not a baby's book. He keeps the vocabulary at an appropriate level, but that is a good thing; when reading Mises I find myself looking up word definitions several times per page. This book can be read very quickly, and in my opinion, presents the key ideas faithfully and very well.

I will attach the ePub to this email, but you can also download it and several other formats from the link above. If this doesn't appeal to you, there are other options, but I sincerely feel that reading this simple work quickly might be the most painless way to get the most important and fundamental concepts. Economics is a much simpler discipline than the high priests in the Fed would have us believe.

24906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Soviet Gulags on: April 23, 2011, 12:13:53 PM
The most remarkable thing about "The Way Back," the 2010 film by Peter Weir, was neither its protagonists (escapees from the Soviet gulag system who trekked thousands of miles to their freedom) nor the curious tale of the almost certainly fictional 1956 "memoir" that inspired it (Slawomir Rawicz's "The Long Walk"). No, what distinguished "The Way Back" was its depiction of life in Stalin's camps. There have been a handful of films on this topic, but, as observed Anne Applebaum, author of a fine 2004 history of the gulag, this was the first time it had been given the full Hollywood treatment. Hitler's concentration camps are a Tinseltown staple, but Stalin's merit barely a mention.

Publishers have been more even-handed. There are many books on Soviet terror, and some have won huge readerships. Yet, as Hollywood's cynics understand, the swastika will almost always outsell the red star. That's due partly to the perverse aesthetics of the Third Reich but also to a disconcerting ambivalence—even now—about what was going on a little further to the east. The slaughter of millions by Moscow's communist regime remains shrouded in benevolent shadow. The Soviet experiment is given a benefit of a doubt that owes nothing to history and far too much to a lingering sympathy for a supposedly noble dream supposedly gone astray.

A flurry of recent books on Soviet oppression—surely encouraged by the interest generated by Ms. Applebaum's "Gulag"—is thus to be welcomed. One of the best is edited by Ms. Applebaum herself. "Gulag Voices" (Yale, 195 pages, $25) is a deftly chosen anthology of writings by victims of Soviet rule. Some are published for the first time in English, most are by writers little known in the West and each is given a succinct, informative introduction. Above all, they help illustrate the duration, variety and range of Soviet despotism.

The Third Reich lasted for scarcely more than a decade. Most of those who died at its hands were slaughtered within the space of five years or so. The Soviet killing spree dragged on, however, from the revolutionary frenzy of 1917, through the terrible bloodbaths of the Stalin era, to the last violent spasms in 1991. The ultimate death toll may have been higher than that orchestrated by Hitler, but absolute annihilations like those envisaged by the Nazis were never on the agenda. Instead the nature of Soviet repression shifted back and forth over the years: sometimes more lethal, sometimes less, sometimes carefully targeted, sometimes arbitrary. The gulag itself was, as Ms. Applebaum notes, "an extraordinarily varied place." As the title of Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle" reminds us, Stalin's hell, like Dante's, was layered. And how it endured: The most recent account in "Gulag Voices" is an excerpt from Anatoly Marchenko's "My Testimony," a memoir from 1969 that highlighted the way that Stalinist cruelty had successfully survived the dead, officially disgraced, dictator.

"Gulag Voices" begins in 1928. Dmitry Likhachev, an old-style St. Petersburg intellectual, was arrested when his literary discussion group was deemed to be a hotbed of counterrevolutionary plotting. He served four years in the Solovetsky Islands, the beautiful northern archipelago that from 1923 hosted the first organized camps, the tumor that metastasized into the hideous "archipelago" of Solzhenitsyn's great metaphor.

Mr. Likhachev's contribution is followed by a sampling of what could be found within that wider archipelago. Misery, gang rape and murder co-exist with Potemkin parodies of "normal life"—an excerpt from Gustav Herling's "A World Apart" (1951) describes the arrangements for conjugal visits. Occasionally, the prisoners might even carry on approximations of a career within the camp as an engineer, doctor or, as Tamara Petkevich recounts in "Memoir of a Gulag Actress" (Northern Illinois, 481 pages, $35), a performer for audiences of fellow convicts.

Such recollections come, as Ms. Applebaum acknowledges, with their own bias. With the exception of Mr. Marchenko, who died in the course of a later sentence, the authors all survived. Millions were not so fortunate. And some of those lives had hardly begun. In the devastating "Children of the Gulag" (Yale, 450 pages, $35), Cathy A. Frierson and Semyon S. Vilensky chronicle the awful fate of those literally countless children whose parents had fallen foul of the rage of the Soviet state. Here, a gulag convict nurse recalls handing over a batch of prisoners' children for transfer to a "special home": "The worst happened: We'd given, according to the receipt, eleven healthy beautiful children, and not one of them was ever returned. Not a single one!" This was a story repeated again and again and again. And as for those who did survive, many were forced to accept a suspect, fragile existence in which, for decades, the knock on the door was never so far away.

That tension would have been familiar to many prisoners eventually freed from the gulag. "Gulag Voices" includes one account by the pseudonymous K. Petrus, describing his 1939 release into what Ms. Applebaum describes as "the strange ambiguity" of a life that was closer to limbo. The big cities were denied to most former inmates. Their families were broken. Many chose to remain near the camps that had once held them.

Tales of the Gulag
The Gulag Archipelago
By Alexander Solzhenitsyn

That "The Gulag Archipelago" had to be written says the worst about humanity. That it was written says the best. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) created an unanswerable indictment of the totalitarian regime under which he was still living and, no less critically, established that it had been poison from the start. As carefully researched as the difficult circumstances of its production would allow, "The Gulag Archipelago" is no dry roster of the dead but a work of passion and fury, underpinned by bleak humor and the hope (vain, it seems) that someday justice would be done.

Kolyma Tales
By Varlam Shalamov

Far less well-known than they should be, these short stories by Varlam Shalamov (1907-82) are terse, lightly fictionalized, partly autobiographical glimpses into the gulag's abyss. "Kolyma Tales" derives its name from the region in Russia's far northeast that played host to a vast forced labor complex, in which hundreds of thousands (at least) perished. Written in a style of ironic, hard-edged detachment and so spare and so crystalline that they sometimes tip over into poetry, the tales rest at the summit of Russian literary achievement.

Journey into the Whirlwind
By Eugenia Ginzburg

Rightly or wrongly, the Great Terror of 1937, an immense wave of violence that took down many who had either supported or benefited from the rise of the Soviet state, has come to be seen as the epitome of Stalinist despotism. Eugenia Ginzburg (1904-77) was among those expelled from a heaven under construction to a fully finished hell. "Journey Into the Whirlwind" remains a profoundly humane, wonderfully written first-hand account of arrest, imprisonment and exile into the gulag.

My Testimony
By Anatoly Marchenko

Eugenia Ginzburg was a member of the Soviet elite; Anatoly Marchenko (1938-86) was the opposite, the son of illiterate railway workers. "My Testimony," his description of life in the 1960s gulag, is matter-of-fact, something that only makes its horrors seem worse. Marchenko's gulag experience transformed him from everyman into dissident. The last of his many re-arrests was in 1980. Still imprisoned, he died from the effects of a hunger strike in 1986. Perestroika had just begun: too late, far too late.

Faithful Ruslan

By Georgi Vladimov

Moments of extraordinary beauty mark this haunting fable by Georgi Vladimov (1931-2003), told through the eyes of Ruslan, the most loyal of guard dogs. Abandoned by Master after their camp is closed down following Stalin's death, Ruslan patiently patrols the neighboring town waiting for the old order to return. It does, but only as a hallucination as Ruslan drifts into death after one final bloodletting. When Vladimov offered this novella for publication, though, it was rejected. Khrushchev had fallen and new masters were in charge. For real.

—Andrew Stuttaford

The fate of those who emerged is also a central concern of Stephen F. Cohen's "The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin" (Publishing Works, 224 pages, $22.95), a perceptive study of Khrushchev-era attempts to secure justice for Stalin's victims, the backsliding that followed and, finally, in the Glasnost years, the mass, too often posthumous "rehabilitations" of former prisoners—rehabilitations unaccompanied, however, by any realistic prospect that their tormentors would be brought to justice. Mr. Cohen was a frequent visitor to Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s and came to know some of those who had survived. His account is powerful and, often, very moving, marred only by traces of a belief in the impossible dream of a kinder, gentler Soviet Union, the will-o'-the-wisp that beguiled and destroyed Mikhail Gorbachev.

A very different (and highly unusual) perspective can be found in "Gulag Boss" (Oxford, 229 pages, $29.95) by Fyodor Mochulsky, the reminiscences of an engineer recruited by the NKVD (the Stalin-era secret police) to supervise forced labor in a Siberian camp. It was written during and after the U.S.S.R.'s implosion and ends with Mochulsky appearing to reject the methods, although not necessarily the ideology, of the system he served for so long. But he does so in the strained, awkward prose of a man unwilling to face up to what he had done. Mr. Mochulsky talks of disease, lack of food and other hardships, but the scale of the death toll that he must have witnessed is, at best, only there by implication. His overall tone is one of pained technocratic disappointment that the camp was so poorly run: He was a Speer, so to speak, not a Himmler. Yet Albert Speer served 20 years in jail. Mr. Mochulsky went on to enjoy a successful diplomatic and intelligence career and, in retirement, the luxury of modest regret.

And in those twilight years, he is unlikely to have been troubled by fears of prosecution. There has been no Bolshevik Nuremberg. Total defeat left Nazi horror open for all to see, but many Soviet archives remain closed, their tales of atrocity unpublished. The new books on the gulag cannot begin to redress the crimes they describe, but they can at least help history locate the facts with which it can pass the judgment that the victims and their jailers deserve.

—Mr. Stuttaford, who writes frequently about culture and politics, works in the international financial markets.
24907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH editorial on computer searches at the border on: April 23, 2011, 11:57:45 AM

The Supreme Court has never heard a case challenging the government’s authority to search a computer. It is time, after a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opened the way last month to vast government intrusion. It ruled that, without good reason to suspect evidence of a crime, border agents could seize a laptop and open a dragnet search of files, e-mails and Web sites visited.

The majority pats itself on the back for stopping “far short of ‘anything goes’ at the border,” since any intrusion must not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures.” But by not requiring the government to have a reason for seizing a computer or to say what it is searching for, a dissent notes, the majority “allows the government to set its own limits.” In other words, pretty much anything goes.

The government asked the court to create this precedent, though in this case it had genuine grounds for suspicion. When the defendant crossed from Mexico into Arizona, his criminal record as a child molester came up in a database. When the government looked for child pornography, it found plenty on his laptop. The government has a duty to secure the borders against this and other kinds of illegal material, including drugs and weapons.

Fourth Amendment law already gives border agents huge leeway, allowing them to search travelers and their belongings, without a warrant, proof of probable cause or suspicion of illegal activity. The Ninth Circuit decided that computers could be searched on site as part of those belongings. But this ruling allows the government to hold a laptop for weeks or even months, transport it away from the border and subject it to an intensive search.

The difference between the search of a briefcase’s physical space and a laptop’s cyberspace — a window into the user’s mind — is profound. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, the Fourth Amendment must protect just such “privacies of life.” It was 1928 when he warned that “ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences.”

Searching a computer is a major invasion of privacy — one that may be necessary to protect the country’s security. But there still must be limits and protections. It is now up to the Supreme Court to establish those limits.

24908  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Analyze this on: April 22, 2011, 11:38:35 PM
Crime victim uses submission hold, alleged burglar dies from injuries
By Steve Cofield
Martial arts choke holds are no joke. We've talked about that repeatedly after watching television and radio hosts asking MMA fighters to slap on the holds for a photo opportunity. The rear-naked or guillotine choke is a potentially lethal move if not treated with care. Just ask Alex Montalvo, who's in the center of a firestorm in New Jersey.

Back in July of 2010, Montalvo fought off a burglar, slapped on a submission hold and left Douglas Uhler unconscious on the street. Uhler never fully recovered and died yesterday at 19 years old.

On July 31 at 3:39 a.m. in Bridgewater, N.J., Montalvo and his wife heard their car alarm go off. The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.

With one punch, he knocked out Brian Johnston, 18. That's when Uhler emerged:

Uhler ran out from nearby bushes and shouted: "You want a piece of me, (expletive)?!"

Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said.

Uhler was taken to Somerset Medical Center and later treated at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. He never fully recovered from the injuries:

A once-strapping high school football player, Uhler spent his days in bed or in a wheelchair. He had to be fed through a tube, according to court records. He was non-vocal and unable to walk, sit or roll. He also had poor head control. Uhler had been in and out of several hospitals, including the Children's Specialized Hospital and the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

Back in December, a grand jury indicted Uhler and Johnston on third-degree burglary charges. Johnson pleaded guilty and is awaiting charges. The Uhler family wants Montalvo in a courtroom next, claiming he used excessive force to subdue their son.

"New Jersey law allows you to defend your physical self as well as your property," said Jenny Carroll, an associate professor at Seton Hall Law School. "You're allowed to kill people under certain circumstances, particularly self-defense. If I jump on you, you're allowed to do what is required to make me stop hurting you. But if I pause, you can't just start kicking me in the head."

Carroll said there are no clear-cut answers.

"Here's the trick in this case — did the homeowner exceed the need to protect his property?" she said. "If the kids are still in the process of taking the homeowner's property, then he has a right to defend his property and to use force. The prosecutor must decide whether the homeowner used justifiable force, and whether it was reasonable.

"Even in the heat of passion, if you're trying to subdue someone, it isn't reasonable to kill them," Carroll said.

The response to the story on has been heated.


Self Defense means you are in imminent danger. This man chased these teens down. They were running FROM him. This man needs to go to prison. He is not the hero vigilante some people here think he is!

The attempted theft did not directly lead to the confrontation, his chasing them down did. Any 12 men or women will know that difference.


So is it wrong to defend one's property? What if this kid got passed out in the sleeper hold and then later recovered and didn't die? The act of putting one in a sleeper hold that you find robbing your car in the middle of the night doesn't exactly seem punishable to can't punish based on result or consequence but should punish based on action. In my opinion he didnt' do anything wrong and most people would chase down any if they caught them red handed too.

Some commenters even pointed to the rise of MMA as a reason for this tragedy.


With the new popularity of MMA, every punk who has taken a martial arts class and learned how to throw a punch or put someone in a choke hold thinks they have the right to kick anyone's ass for any reason. We have a lot of unstable people walking around nowadays who are trained in the use of lethal force.

The Uhler family said their son had plans of attending William Patterson University, where he was looking to study sports medicine.

MMA skills used to fight crime took center stage in the last few months when UFC champion Jon Jones and his trainers subdued a burglar in Paterson, N.J. in late March. In mid-February, MMA fan Joe Lozito helped police catch an alleged serial stabber on a New York City Subway.

24909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: April 22, 2011, 05:39:37 PM
Ummm , , , ahem , , , have you read the previous post in this thread?  cheesy
24910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Tribal Gathering Fighter List on: April 22, 2011, 02:08:45 PM
Pretty Kitty should be getting to listing everyone from whom we have received registration forms in the next few days.
24911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: April 22, 2011, 02:05:35 PM
Sic'em Darrell!!!  evil

And coincidentally enough, the Mexicans have announced that they have retained counsel to look into suing American gun manufacturers.
24912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / As correctly called by our man formerly in Iraq on: April 22, 2011, 01:53:48 PM
24913  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / BJJ teacher defends LEO on: April 22, 2011, 10:21:39 AM
24914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Spending as a % of GDP on: April 22, 2011, 08:06:36 AM

Palo Alto, Calif.

Americans are clamoring for a fact-based debate about the budget, but the numbers they're hearing from Washington are terribly confusing. Here's an example: Speaking at a Facebook town hall meeting here on Wednesday, President Obama sometimes talked about saving $4 trillion, at other times $2 trillion, and he varied whether it was over 10 years or 12 years, never mentioning any one year.

A simple chart, like the one nearby, would greatly clarify the debate. It shows total federal government spending year-by-year for the two decades starting in the year 2000. Spending is shown as a percentage of GDP, which is a sensible and quite common way to assess trends: When the percentage rises, government spending rises relative to total income or total goods and services produced in our economy.

For the past decade, the chart shows the recent history of government spending. For the next decade—the window for the current budget—it shows three different spending visions for the future.

The uppermost line shows outlays under the official budget submitted by Mr. Obama to Congress on Feb. 14. The lowest line shows the House Budget Resolution submitted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on April 5, while the third line shows year-by-year outlays I estimated from the 12-year totals in the new budget proposed by the president on April 13.

The chart clearly reveals a number of important facts that are not coming up in town hall meetings. Most obvious is the huge bulge in spending in the past few years. In 2000 spending was 18.2% of GDP. In 2007 it was 19.6%. But in the three years since 2009 it's jumped to an average of 24.4%.

Second, and perhaps even more striking, the chart shows that Mr. Obama, in his budget submitted in February, proposed to make that spending binge permanent. Spending would still be more than 24% of GDP at the end of the budget window in 2021. The administration revealed its preference in the February budget for a much higher level of government spending than the 18.2% of GDP in 2000 or the 19.6% in 2007.

Third, the House budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) simply removes that spending binge—it gradually returns spending as a share of GDP back to a level seen only three years ago.

.View Full Image
..When I show people this chart they ask why Washington is even having the debate. They say: If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of GDP in 2007, why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021, when GDP will be substantially higher and with many opportunities for reforms and increased efficiencies? And if GDP and employment grow more quickly, as they would if private investment increased as a result of lower government spending and debt, then that 19% to 20% share of GDP could provide much more in the way of public goods.

Fourth, the chart shows that the second Obama administration budget, submitted a week after the Ryan House budget, is substantially different from the first administration budget. It is highly unusual for an administration to decide to submit a second budget, and the effect of this revision is to move the administration's spending vision closer to that of the House. But it still leaves a big chunk of the spending binge in place.

Fifth, and perhaps most important for economic growth, the chart shows that the House budget effectively deals with the deficit and brings the debt down as a share of GDP without a tax increase. Under the current tax system, revenues as a share of GDP were 18.5% in 2007, so that the budget deficit was only 1.1% of GDP that year. With higher real incomes moving people into higher tax brackets, it is quite likely that under the current tax system revenues will be higher as a share of GDP when the economy fully recovers, perhaps in the 19% to 20% range.

This means that the House budget plan, with spending in the same range, approximately balances the budget with no increase in taxes. This is good news for economic growth. In contrast, balancing the first or even the second Obama budget requires substantial tax increases—more than the administration has yet to propose.

Mr. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of "Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged and Worsened the Financial Crisis" (Hoover Press, 2009).

24915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: What the world sees in America on: April 22, 2011, 07:59:35 AM

I want to talk a little more this holiday week about what I suppose is a growing theme in this column, and that is an increased skepticism toward U.S. military intervention, including nation building. Our republic is not now in a historical adventure period—that is not what is needed. We are or should be in a self-strengthening one. Our focus should not be on outward involvement but inner repair. Bad people are gunning for us, it is true. We should find them, dispatch them, and harden the target. (That would be, still and first, New York, though Washington too.) We should not occupy their lands, run their governments, or try to bribe them into bonhomie. We think in Afghanistan we're buying their love, but I have been there. We're not even renting it.

Our long wars have cost much in blood and treasure, and our military is overstretched. We're asking soldiers to be social workers, as Bing West notes in his book on Afghanistan, "The Wrong War."

I saw it last month, when we met with a tough American general. How is the war going? we asked. "Great," he said. "We just opened a new hospital!" This was perhaps different from what George Patton would have said. He was allowed to be a warrior in a warrior army. His answer would have been more like, "Great, we're putting more of them in the hospital!"

But there are other reasons for a new skepticism about America's just role and responsibilities in the world in 2011. One has to do with the burly, muscular, traditional but at this point not fully thought-through American assumption that our culture not only is superior to most, but is certainly better in all ways than the cultures of those we seek to conquer. We have always felt pride in our nation's ways, and pride isn't all bad. But conceit is, and it's possible we've grown as conceited as we've become culturally careless.

View Full Image

Getty Images
.We are modern, they are not. We allow women freedom, they do not. We have the rule of law, they do not. We are technologically sophisticated, they are the Flintstones. We have religious tolerance. All these are sources of legitimate satisfaction and pride, especially the last. Our religious pluralism is, still, amazing.

I lately think of Charleston, S.C., that beautiful old-fashioned, new- fashioned city. On a walk there in October I went by one of the oldest Catholic churches in the South, St. Mary's, built in 1789. Across the street, equally distinguished and welcoming, was Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, a Jewish congregation founded in 1749. They've been across from each other peacefully and happily for a long time. I walked down Meeting Street to see the Hibernian Society, founded in 1801. My people wanted their presence known. In a brochure I saw how the society dealt with Ireland's old Catholic-Protestant split. They picked a Protestant president one year, a Catholic the next, and so on. In Ireland they were killing each other. In America they were trading gavels. What a country! What a place. What a new world.

We have much to be proud of. And we know it. But take a look around us. Don't we have some reasons for pause, for self-questioning? Don't we have a lot of cultural repair that needs doing?

Imagine for a moment that you are a foreign visitor to America. You are a 40-year-old businessman from Afghanistan. You teach a class at Kabul University. You are relatively sophisticated. You're in pursuit of a business deal. It's your first time here. There is an America in your mind; it was formed in your childhood by old John Ford movies and involves cowboy hats and gangsters in fedoras. You know this no longer applies—you're not a fool—but you're not sure what does. You land at JFK, walking past a TSA installation where they're patting the genital areas of various travelers. Americans sure have a funny way of saying hello!

You get to town, settle into a modest room at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. You're jet-lagged. You put on the TV, not only because you're tired but because some part of you knows TV is where America happens, where America is, and you want to see it. Headline news first. The world didn't blow up today. Then:

Click. A person named Snooki totters down a boardwalk. She lives with young people who grunt and dance. They seem loud, profane, without values, without modesty, without kindness or sympathy. They seem proud to see each other as sexual objects.

Click. "Real Housewives." Adult women are pulling each other's hair. They are glamorous in a hard way, a plastic way. They insult each other.

Click. Local news has a riot in a McDonalds. People kick and punch each other. Click. A cable news story on a child left alone for a week. Click. A 5-year-old brings a gun to school, injures three. Click. A show called "Skins"—is this child pornography? Click. A Viagra commercial. Click. A man tried to blow up a mall. Click. Another Viagra commercial. Click. This appears to be set in ancient Sparta. It appears to involve an orgy.

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

click here to order her book, Patriotic Grace
.You, the Kabul businessman, expected some raunch and strangeness but not this—this Victoria Falls of dirty water! You are not a philosopher of media, but you know that when a culture descends to the lowest common denominator, it does not reach the broad base at the bottom, it lowers the broad base at the bottom. This "Jersey Shore" doesn't reach the Jersey Shore, it creates the Jersey Shore. It makes America the Jersey Shore.

You surf on, hoping for a cleansing wave of old gangster movies. Or cowboys. Anything old! But you don't find TMC. You look at a local paper. Headline: New York has a 41% abortion rate. Forty-four percent of births are to unmarried women and girls.

You think: Something's wrong in this place, something has become disordered.

The next morning you take Amtrak for your first meeting, in Washington. You pass through the utilitarian ugliness, the abjuration of all elegance that is Penn Station. On the trip south, past Philadelphia, you see the physical deterioration that echoes what you saw on the TV—broken neighborhoods, abandoned factories with shattered windows, graffiti-covered abutments. It looks like old films of the Depression!

By the time you reach Washington—at least Union Station is august and beautiful—you are amazed to find yourself thinking: "Good thing America is coming to save us. But it's funny she doesn't want to save herself!"

My small point: Remember during the riots of the 1960s when they said "the whole world is watching"? Well, now the whole world really is. Everyone is traveling everywhere. We're all on the move. Cultures can't keep their secrets.

The whole world is in the Hilton, channel-surfing. The whole world is on the train, in the airport, judging what it sees, and likely, in some serious ways, finding us wanting.

And, being human, they may be judging us with a small, extra edge of harshness for judging them and looking down on them.

We have work to do at home, on our culture and in our country. A beautiful Easter to St. Mary's Church of Charleston, and happy Passover to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.

24916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Air drops , , , on: April 22, 2011, 07:37:14 AM
WAZA KHWA, Afghanistan—The U.S. military, using Google Earth and disposable parachutes, is escalating its airdrops to troops in isolated outposts, to avoid exposing ground convoys to ambushes and roadside bombs.

Around-the-clock Air Force drops of ammunition, fuel, food and water have doubled annually since 2006, reaching 60 million pounds of supplies last year.

The airdrops have taken on a new urgency with the surge in U.S. forces to almost 100,000 troops and the intensified threat from hidden explosives, which are often placed along known supply routes. Such booby-traps killed 268 American troops last year, up 60% from 2009, according to the Associated Press.

"It's our lifeline," says Army Capt. Cole DeRosa, a company commander in the 506th Infantry Regiment. "Without receiving aerial resupply, we would have no supply."

Capt. Cole's men operate out of a small base in Waza Khwa, in Paktika Province, some 30 miles from the Pakistan border. The only road connecting his position to a major supply depot threads through the Gwashta Pass, a Taliban haven featuring steep mountainsides that offer ideal cover for ambushers.

No U.S. ground convoy has attempted that dangerous trip in two years.

 Parachute drops of supplies to American forces in Afghanistan are increasingly common thanks to rough terrain and roads seeded with booby traps by the Taliban. WSJ's Michael M. Phillips reports from Waza Khwa.
.A dozen of the 18 Army positions in Paktika are supplied solely through parachute drops and helicopter lifts. Capt. Cole's artillery cannon arrived in slings hanging from the bellies of helicopters. Drums of diesel fuel for his vehicles and generators float down from the rear ramps of cargo planes flying overhead.

"You can mitigate the risk by just dropping those supplies rather than lining the vehicles up," says Col. Sean Jenkins of the 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, who commands all U.S. forces in the province.

The air crews prepare for each mission by studying a three-dimensional Google Earth image of the line of approach, giving them a moving, cockpit-window view of the ridges, rivers and villages they'll see as they near the drop zone.

The approach is slow and low, and sometimes the planes come under fire from insurgents on the ground. Unless the delivery is urgent, the pilots usually don't go around for a second run if they can't make the drop on the first pass. "We get one shot at it," says Lt. Col. Karl Stark, commander of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

When pinpoint accuracy is needed, crews use expensive satellite-guided parachutes that steer themselves to the drop zone.

In a low-tech innovation, soldiers from the 101st Airborne keep water, food and ammunition in black body bags, nicknamed speedballs, ready for immediate delivery by helicopter or parachute to troops running low during firefights.

"You don't want guys out there needing food, ammo and water, and it taking you an hour to get it to them," says Capt. Xavier Burrell of the 801st Brigade Support Battalion.

In most cases, however, the air crews use low-cost, disposable parachutes strapped to the top of small pallets of supplies. A single such pallet can hold four 55-gallon drums of fuel.

As they approach the drop zone, the crew lowers the rear ramp and the pilot tilts the plane's nose upwards. A pulley system yanks a blade through restraining straps that hold the cargo in place, and the pallets roll out of the back of the plane.

The parachutes open automatically; their ripcords are connected to a cable that runs along the inside of the fuselage.

Crewmen install a heavy metal protective barrier at the cockpit end of the cargo bay. They don't want tens of thousands of pounds of cargo slamming into the front of the plane if it inadvertently dives—instead of climbing—after the restraining straps have been cut.

When the bundles hit the ground, soldiers race out to collect the supplies, load them onto vehicles and burn the parachutes to prevent them from becoming useful finds for the Taliban.

About 3% of the bundles go wrong; the parachutes get tangled with each other or don't open fully, sending hundreds of gallons of fuel or water plunging to the ground.

Another concern is accuracy. Last year, an Italian crew accidentally dropped most of its load into a base in western Afghanistan. The bundles hit the gym, barracks and a medevac helicopter, but caused no injuries, according to Capt. John Gruenke, a U.S. Air Force officer who visited the site afterwards to help retrain the drop-zone crew.

In another case, special-operations troops on a steep hillside were only able to retrieve 10% of the supplies dropped to their location.

At Waza Khwa, the Army has the opposite problem. Capt. DeRosa's men have received so much fuel by airdrop that they have collected hundreds of empty metal drums. Now commanders are trying to figure out how to get them back to the supply depot to be reused.

24917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What would President McCain do? on: April 22, 2011, 07:32:10 AM
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John McCain, one of the strongest proponents in Congress of the American military intervention in Libya, said Friday that Libyan rebels fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi's troops are his heroes.

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee made the remark after arriving in Benghazi, a city that has been the opposition capital in the rebel-held eastern Libya.

Mr. McCain said he was in Benghazi "to get an on-the-ground assessment of the situation'' and planned to meet with the rebel National Transition Council, the de-facto government in the eastern half of the country, as well as members of the rebel military.

"They are my heroes,'' Mr. McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a local hotel in Benghazi. He was traveling in an armored Mercedes jeep and had a security detail. A few Libyans waved American flags as his vehicle drove past.

Mr. McCain's visit is the highest yet by an American official to the rebel-held east and a boost to anti-Gadhafi forces. Details of the trip were shrouded in secrecy due to heightened security in a country fiercely divided by the two-month-old anti-Gadhafi rebellion.

Mr. McCain's trip comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that President Barack Obama has authorized the use of armed Predator drones against forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi. It is the first time that drones will be used for airstrikes since the U.S. turned over control of the operation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on April 4.

The rebels have complained that NATO airstrikes since then have largely been ineffective in stopping Col. Gadhafi's forces.

Invoking the humanitarian disasters in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, Mr. McCain pressed for U.S. military intervention in Libya in February, weeks before the United Nations Security Council authorized military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone.

When Mr. Obama acted with limited congressional consultation, Mr. McCain defended the president, saying he couldn't wait for Congress to take even a few days to debate the use of force. If he had, "there would have been nothing left to save in Benghazi,'' the rebels' de-facto capital.

But as the U.S. handed operational control over to NATO—and withdrew U.S. combat aircraft—Mr. McCain criticized the administration.

"`For the United States to withdraw our unique offensive capabilities at this time would send the wrong signal,'' McCain said. He said the U.S. must not fail in Libya and said he spoke as someone experienced in a lost conflict, a reference to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Mr. McCain also has pushed for arming the rebels, saying the U.S. and its partners can't allow Col. Gadhafi to consolidate his hold on one section of the country and create a military deadlock.

24918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Should we stay or should we go , , , on: April 22, 2011, 07:29:52 AM
WASHINGTON—Senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been in negotiations about keeping some 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year's end, according to officials familiar with the talks.

But the discussions face political obstacles in both countries, and have faltered in recent weeks because of Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries, U.S. officials say.

A separate drawdown deadline is looming in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama wants to see a substantial U.S. troop reduction starting in July. Some U.S. commanders have cautioned against making reductions too quickly.

Underlining Obama administration concerns that U.S. forces have been stretched too thin, the White House has put strict constraints on American military involvement in Libya. On Thursday, the U.S. said it was sending armed drones to support operations in Libya, but the administration has stood firm against sending any ground troops.

In Iraq, top U.S. military officials believe that leaving a sizeable force beyond this year could bolster Iraqi stability and serve as a check on Iran, the major American nemesis in the region, officials said. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have echoed the concern that if the U.S. pulls out completely, Iran could extend its influence.

 Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad Thursday, urging Iraqi leaders to step up discussions soon if they want U.S. forces to stay beyond the end of 2011.

The timing is critical because the U.S. is scheduled to start drawing down remaining forces in late summer or early fall, and the military would have to assign new units months in advance to take their place.

While American defense officials have made clear they want to leave troops in Iraq, such a decision would require presidential approval. President Obama has yet to indicate publicly whether he would sign off on such a deal.

Mr. Obama could face a political backlash at home if he doesn't meet his campaign pledge to bring troops home from Iraq. If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq and violence there surges, the president could face tough questions, particularly from Republicans in Congress, about whether the U.S. misjudged Iraq's capabilities.

Administration officials say Iraqi security forces have been able to tamp down violence during previous troop reductions and express confidence they would be able to do so again.

Officials said final determinations have yet to be made about how large a U.S. military contingent could remain.

"We have conversations with the Iraqis constantly about security issues," an Obama administration official said. But the official added: "The Iraqis haven't made a request for us to keep troops, and we haven't offered."

Likewise, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi civilian officials have sent mixed messages about the future American military role in the country, U.S. officials say, a reflection of Iraq's delicate political dynamic after years of sectarian warfare.

Anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to unleash his militia and step up "resistance" if U.S. troops fail to leave as scheduled this year, his aides say.

Mr. Maliki's hold on power depends on the support from parliamentarians loyal to Mr. Sadr. Iraqi officials are also worried any plan to keep a sizeable number of U.S. troops could touch off protests that could bring down the government. Iraqi Embassy officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in recent months, demanding better basic services and an end to government corruption. Baghdad responded last week by imposing a ban on protests on the streets of the capital.

U.S. military officials are particularly concerned that Iraqis will stage massive protests in support of fellow Shiites in Bahrain. Bahrain's U.S.-backed ruling al-Khalifa family has cracked down on Shiite-dominated demonstrations there.

Advocates of keeping some U.S. troops in Iraq see the forces as a safety net to ensure Iraq doesn't slide back into sectarian warfare. The U.S. is particularly concerned about the volatile north, where Arab-Kurdish tensions remain high.

There are 47,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; they are assigned to training roles, not combat. At the height of the Iraq surge in October 2007 there were about 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq

If an agreement to keep 10,000 troops is reached, they would be tasked with helping Iraq maintain air sovereignty, providing medical evacuation assistance and training, and gathering intelligence on insurgents and Iranian agents. The extension could also let the U.S. keep advisers with Iraqi brigades.

At the end of the Bush Administration, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators reached a deal to gradually reduce the number of American troops in Iraq and withdraw them completely by the end of 2011. At the time, U.S. military officials said they assumed a new agreement would be reached that would allow some U.S. troops to remain.

The 10,000-troop deal under discussion represents a significant cut from an initial request made by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin. Gen. Austin had talked privately of wanting to keep at least 16,000 troops in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. But other military officials believed that figure would be too large for Baghdad to accept, and unpalatable to Mr. Obama, the officials said.

In a roundtable with reporters this month, Gen. Austin said he hadn't made a formal recommendation on how many troops should remain.

The Pentagon believes that, after years of training by the U.S. Army and Marines, Iraqis have a "solid grasp" on internal security, a U.S. official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies say al Qaeda in Iraq's capabilities have been diminished despite occasional high-profile attacks, security continues to improve, and sectarian tensions, for now, remain subdued.

The concern, the U.S. official said, is that the Iraqis have "very little ability to defend their borders." The U.S. believes Iraq will need help to stanch the flow of weapons and militants across the border with Iran, the official said.

Saudi Arabia has privately cautioned the Americans against a rapid withdrawal because of fears the country may not be able to maintain stability on its own, and because of concerns the departure will embolden Iran. Israel has also voiced concerns about possible instability.

"Any change on the eastern front could have implications for Israel's security," an Israeli official said, referring to Israel's border with Jordan, which neighbors Iraq.

The Iraqi military has little heavy weaponry and almost no combat air power. The U.S. is looking to sell Baghdad advanced radar systems that would allow Iraqis to better pinpoint incoming mortar, rocket and artillery fire, in addition to a proposed sale of F-16s, which would allow Iraq to patrol its skies.

Without additional American training, the Iraqis may not be able to maintain or effectively use the equipment they want to acquire after the U.S. troops are due to depart, U.S. officials say.

U.S. military officials hope continued assistance would be a powerful counterbalance to Tehran's attempts to draw Iraq into its sphere. Administration officials have said Iran continues to supply arms to its militia allies in Iraq. Iran denies this.

Some members of Congress have voiced concerns about the sale of sophisticated weaponry to the Iraqi military, on the grounds Baghdad may be aligning itself more closely to Iran.

24919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Walker of WI on Medicaid on: April 22, 2011, 07:20:47 AM
WHAT does Medicaid have in common with “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Lost in Space” and “Get Smart”? They all made their debut in 1965. Although we enjoy watching reruns of these classics, the television networks have updated their programming. The federal government should do the same.

In recent years Washington has taken an obsolete program, which covers health care for low-income Americans, and made it worse through restrictive rule-making that defies common sense. It is biased toward caring for people in nursing homes rather than in their own homes and neighborhoods. It lacks the flexibility to help patients who require some nursing services, but not round-the-clock care.

If we were designing a health insurance program for low-income families today, we would use a much different model to drive efficiency and innovation — one that recognizes that the delivery of health care is fundamentally personal and local.

Time and again states like Wisconsin have blazed the path in Medicaid — from giving individuals greater control over their care to expanding the use of electronic medical records — while the federal bureaucracy has lagged behind. Just now Washington is discovering accountable care organizations (networks of doctors and hospitals that share responsibility for caring for patients and receive incentives to keep costs down) and “medical homes” (a model in which one primary-care doctor takes the main responsibility for a patient).

Wisconsin has created a database of claims and payments that gathers information from all insurers, including private companies and the state Medicaid program. It allows people to compare cost and quality across providers. We have asked Washington to add its data to our database, but it has not done so.

We need to modernize not only Medicaid’s benefits and service delivery, but also its financing. In good times, the open-ended federal Medicaid match encourages states to overspend. Amazingly, the program is now viewed by some states as a form of economic development because each state can at least double its money for each dollar spent. That matching feature penalizes efficiency and thrift, since a reduction of $1 in state spending also means forfeiting at least one federal dollar, often more.

Medicaid in its present, outdated form is unsustainable. Without serious reform, it is unthinkable to add 16 million more people, as President Obama’s health care legislation would do. The White House budget would temporarily pay 100 percent of the costs of new Medicaid enrollees. As a result, many states would expand enrollment, deferring the hard decisions until the federal money goes away.

An alternative approach is to offer block grants for Medicaid, as my fellow Wisconsinite, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has urged. Why now support a block grant for Medicaid when similar proposals have failed?

First, we know from more than a decade of experience with welfare reform that switching from open-ended entitlements to block grants pushes both individuals and states to behave more responsibly.

Second, more than a decade of experience with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has vastly expanded coverage for children while being more flexible than Medicaid, shows the success of the block-grant model.

Third, there are already caps within Medicaid through so-called Section 1115 demonstration projects. It is through such projects, known as waivers, that innovative programs like BadgerCare in Wisconsin and MassHealth in Massachusetts (which President Obama says was his model for reform) were built. States from Arizona to Washington have also had waivers that capped federal liability for Medicaid. Their success shows that we can move beyond demonstration projects and let the federal government relinquish control over Medicaid.

Finally, some state officials oppose block grants because capped financing would bring the fiscal discipline they try desperately to avoid. But this discipline is precisely what is necessary to slow the rate of growth in health care costs. It is unlikely that doctors and hospitals will support authentic cost-saving measures as long as they believe there is more money coming from somewhere.

States are not merely “laboratories of democracy,” but also sovereign governments under our system of federalism. Unfortunately, the encroachment of the federal government in Medicaid threatens to reduce states to mere agents.

Block grants would bring a truce to the tug-of-wars between Washington and the states. This is the best option for Medicaid, facing a midlife crisis, to survive.

Scott Walker, a Republican, is the governor of Wisconsin.

24920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: April 22, 2011, 07:15:19 AM
Not entirely a bad thing for the Euros to experience what it takes to pull something off and to get a realistic reading of what they can and can not do.
24921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malkin on Trump and Kelo on: April 22, 2011, 07:13:19 AM

Don't be fooled by The Donald. Take it from one who knows: I'm a South Jersey gal who was raised on the outskirts of Atlantic City in the looming shadow of Trump's towers. All through my childhood, casino developers and government bureaucrats joined hands, raised taxes and made dazzling promises of urban renewal. Then we wised up to the eminent-domain thievery championed by our hometown faux free-marketeers.

America, it's time you wised up to Donald Trump's property redistribution racket, too.

Trump has been wooing conservative activists for months and flirting with a GOP presidential run -- first at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and most recently at a tea party event in South Florida. He touts his business experience, "high aptitude" and "bragadocious" deal-making abilities. But he's no more a standard-bearer of conservative values, limited government and constitutional principles than the cast of "Jersey Shore."

Too many mega-developers like Trump have achieved success by using and abusing the government's ability to commandeer private property for purported "public use." Invoking the Fifth Amendment takings clause, real estate moguls, parking garage builders, mall developers and sports palace architects have colluded with elected officials to pull off legalized theft in the name of reducing "blight." Under eminent domain, the definition of "public purpose" has been stretched like Silly Putty to cover everything from roads and bridges to high-end retail stores, baseball stadiums and casinos.

While casting himself as America's new constitutional savior, Trump has shown reckless disregard for fundamental private property rights. In the 1990s, he waged a notorious war on elderly homeowner Vera Coking, who owned a little home in Atlantic City that stood in the way of Trump's manifest land development. The real estate mogul was determined to expand his Trump Plaza and build a limo parking lot -- Coking's private property be damned. The nonprofit Institute for Justice, which successfully saved Coking's home, explained the confiscatory scheme:

"Unlike most developers, Donald Trump doesn't have to negotiate with a private owner when he wants to buy a piece of property, because a governmental agency -- the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority or CRDA -- will get it for him at a fraction of the market value, even if the current owner refuses to sell. Here is how the process works.

"After a developer identifies the parcels of land he wants to acquire and a city planning board approves a casino project, CRDA attempts to confiscate these properties using a process called 'eminent domain,' which allows the government to condemn properties 'for public use.' Increasingly, though, CRDA and other government entities exercise the power of eminent domain to take property from one private person and give it to another. At the same time, governments give less and less consideration to the necessity of taking property and also ignore the personal loss to the individuals being evicted."

Trump has attempted to use the same tactics in Connecticut and has championed the reviled Kelo vs. City of New London Supreme Court ruling upholding expansive use of eminent domain. He told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto that he agreed with the ruling "100 percent" and defended the chilling power of government to kick people out of their homes and businesses based on arbitrary determinations:

"The fact is, if you have a person living in an area that's not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it's local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make (an) area that's not good into a good area, and move the person that's living there into a better place -- now, I know it might not be their choice -- but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good."

Like most statist promises of bountiful job creation, government-engineered redevelopment math rarely adds up. Trump's corporations have backed casino industry bailouts and wealth-redistributing "tax-increment financing" schemes -- the very kind of taxpayer-subsidized interventions we've seen on a grand scale under the Obama administration.

Championing liberty begins at the local level. There is nothing more fundamental than the principle that a man's home is his castle. Donald Trump's career-long willingness to trample this right tells you everything you need to know about his bogus tea party sideshow.
24922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This is so bad it is hard to give it credence , , , on: April 22, 2011, 07:07:47 AM
I've not seen this elsewhere and in a sane world with a reasonably patriotic media it would be everywhere , , ,


Were there an award for the worst idea produced in Washington in recent days, there would be many worthy competitors, but I think I’d put my money on this one: Granting Russians the power to tell Americans whether we can or cannot shoot down missiles flying toward their intended victims.

Who would even consider such an idea? The Obama Administration -- or so it appears. In response, last week, 39 Republican Senators sent the President a strongly worded letter requesting his assurance, in writing, that he will not give Russia such “red-button” rights. The letter asks for reassurance, as well, that the Administration will not give Russia access to American missile defense information “including early warning, detection, tracking, targeting, and telemetry data, sensors or common operational picture data, or American hit-to-kill missile defense technology.”

Here’s how this came about: In recent months, the Obama administration, as part of its policy to “re-set” U.S. relations with Russia, has offered to integrate the Kremlin into both the American and the NATO ballistic missile defense systems. Last month, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said the Administration is “eager to begin a joint analysis, joint exercises, and sharing of early warning data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system.”

This month, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said his government was inclined to favor such cooperation but would “insist on only one thing … a red button push to start an anti-missile …” To 39 Republican senators, this sounded like an outrageous demand. How this sounded to President Obama and his national security team remains unclear.

In their letter, the Republican senators, led by Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill), make this larger point: “No American President should ever allow a foreign nation to dictate when or how the United State defends our country and our allies. In our view, any agreement that would allow Russia to influence the defense of the United States or our allies, to say nothing of a ‘red button’ or veto, would constitute a failure of leadership.”

They note, too, that Russia “has not halted its support for nuclear infrastructure or sophisticated arms of states such as Iran and Syria.” Finally, the senators ask the President to “share with Congress the materials on U.S. missile defense cooperation that have been provided to Russia, which heretofore the Departments of State and Defense have refused to provide.”

Senator Kirk also drafted a memo providing “context” for what he fears is the Administration’s eagerness to reveal to the Kremlin “some of our country’s most sensitive technology, collection assets and real-time intelligence.”

“Admitting the Russians into the most important and time-sensitive parts of our nation’s defense,” the memo argues, “is extremely risky and could present a fatal vulnerability… Providing Russia any access to US sensitive data would undermine the national security of the United States.”

Kirk lists a dozen recent cases of Russian espionage targeting the U.S. and about the same number of instances of Russian collaboration with Iran’s efforts to develop ballistic missiles. In addition, as “part of its assistance to Iran in building the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Russia has trained some 1,500 Iranian nuclear engineers, according to the Congressional Research Service.”

So to be clear: Russia is helping Iran develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them to its enemies – America, the “Great Satan” tops that list – while simultaneously “insisting” the US give Russian officials – for example, former KGB officer Vladimir Putin -- the power to decide whether Americans can defend themselves and their allies from Iranian attacks.

If President Obama sees such ideas as ludicrous, if this is not at all where he’s heading, he should say so. A brief letter would do. At least 39 Senators will be anxiously checking their mailboxes.

One addendum: In 1995, Lowell Wood, a respected astrophysicist involved with the Strategic Defense Initiation and affiliated with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, proposed a rather different model of international cooperation: “a world-wide missile defense based on space-based interceptors in which each of the sponsoring nations could independently elect to cause the system to block a missile launch coming from anywhere and headed to anywhere, but no nation could defeat or delay operation of the system if another nation had authorized it.”

In other words, all the participating nations would have the right to defend themselves – none would have a finger on a “red button” that would leave a target defenseless. This good idea – a global, space-based anti-missile umbrella -- won no awards at the time. Memo to the President: Why not revive it?
24923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Euro on: April 22, 2011, 06:59:26 AM
Europe's Libyan Dilemma Deepens

Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said on Wednesday that Western forces might need to increase their involvement in Libya. La Russa added that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would only leave power if forcibly removed, and that Rome would consider sending 10 military instructors to help train rebels. The pledge from La Russa comes after the United Kingdom announced it was sending 20 military advisers and France stated that it would also send military liaison officers.

Talk of deploying military advisers to Libya has sparked speculation that the Europeans are contemplating increased involvement in Libya on the ground. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing military intervention specifically prohibits ground-troop involvement for occupation, but by definition leaves open the possibility of ground forces being used for some undefined purpose.

The Libyan intervention has proved that international organization mandates and government rhetoric can shift from day to day. For example, two days prior to his Wednesday comments while in Rome, La Russa said while in the United States that it was too early to talk about sending advisers to Libya.

“The imposition of a no-fly zone and airstrikes are generally popular across the Continent, but once the question shifts to a ground-force intervention, Europeans are wary of Libya becoming their own Iraq.”
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground has continuously overtaken official statements and apparently firm policy stances. There are two reasons for this.

First, the Libyan intervention has no clear leader. While London and Paris have been the most vociferous about the need to intervene, their enthusiasm and capacity are not properly matched.

Second, the intervening countries clearly have regime change in mind as the ultimate goal, but have thus far limited their operations purely to the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the targeting of Gadhafi loyalist forces from the air. Regime change is not going to be effected from the air, and the use of fighter jets will not be able to prevent civilian casualties in urban areas. European countries leading the charge in Libya are therefore confronted with the reality that the forces they have brought to bear on Libya are incompatible with the political goals they want to achieve.

Nowhere is this incongruence between goals and military strategy and tactics more clear than in the ongoing situation in Misurata, a rebel-held city in western Libya that is besieged by Gadhafi forces. Rebels in Misurata asked for a ground force intervention on Tuesday to prevent being overtaken. But air power alone is not capable of preventing the city from being overrun, as was the case in Benghazi, where geography was more favorable.

Paris, London and Rome find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one end they want regime change and are faced with Misurata, which is beginning to look like the 21st century version of Sarajevo as it was besieged during the four-year Bosnian Civil War. Sarajevo symbolized the inability of the West, especially Europe, to change the situation on the ground in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The failure to evict Gadhafi from power and standing by while Misurata gets pounded presents a political problem, especially after so much political capital was spent in Paris and London on getting the intervention approved in the first place, specifically for the purpose of preventing civilian casualties. Yet again Europeans will look impotent and incompetent in foreign affairs, just as the Yugoslav imbroglio illustrated in the 1990s.

On the other hand, there does not seem to be any support in European countries for a ground intervention. The imposition of a no-fly zone and airstrikes are generally popular across the Continent, but once the question shifts to a ground-force intervention, Europeans are wary of Libya becoming their own Iraq. Especially dreaded is a scenario in which European forces become targets of a counterinsurgency, something the French in particular can vividly remember from their own experiences in the neighborhood.

Can a middle ground be found? Would a limited intervention made up of special operations forces, expeditionary forces and advisers save Misurata in the short term and help coalesce the Benghazi-based rebels into something akin to a fighting force in the longer term? As if on cue, British officials have confirmed that three ships carrying 600 marines are on their way to Cyprus. Their mission supposedly has nothing to do with Libya, and is a previously planned training exercise. But the location and timing are difficult to ignore and their position and capabilities as a naval infantry mean that they can be called upon in a contingency.

Some sort of a role for ground troops may very well be a scenario that the Europeans are beginning to seriously consider. If that is the case, and Gadhafi proves yet again to be difficult to dislodge with a token ground force contingent, Europe risks finding itself stuck in an ever-expanding mission in Libya that is increasingly difficult from which to extract itself.

24924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer and Trump on: April 21, 2011, 11:58:27 PM
Most evenings I watch the Brett Baier Report on FOX especially the 20 minutes or so of conversation at the end of the hour.  Charles Krauthammer is there most nights.

Recently the conversation has touched on Donald Trump and CK has mocked his candidacy.  So tonight, prompted by BB, CK told that Trump called him earlier today!  CK said DT handled himself well and seriously and assured CK that he was a serious man and that he is running.

We live in interesting times , , ,

The Adventure continues!
24925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: April 21, 2011, 11:54:45 PM
Glenn kicked ass on the Federal Reserve and Beranke tonight.
24926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TCOs on: April 21, 2011, 11:54:03 PM
Mexico’s TCOs Recognized as ‘Narco-terrorists’

By: Anthony Kimery

04/21/2011 ( 9:25am)


Testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee last week, William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter-narcotics and global threats, told lawmakers that the US is directly assisting Mexico’s military to carry out "counter-narcoterrorism missions."


Clearly, Wechsler was implying that Mexico’s narco-cartels, which Homeland Security Today has pointed out today have morphed into transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) – the same types of TCOs that elsewhere in the world directly support insurgent and Islamist terrorist organizations – have become terroristic by nature.


Wechsler disturbingly told lawmakers that "TCOs are becoming increasingly networked as they form relationships with each other and at times with insurgent or terrorist groups,” and that “these relationships range from tactical, episodic interactions at one end of the spectrum, to full narcoterrorism on the other. This ‘threat networking’ also undermines legitimate institutions in ways that create opportunities for other threats. TCOs are increasingly diversifying into other forms of criminal activity in order to spread risk and maximize potential profit. In some regions, for example, drug trafficking TCOs also engage in kidnapping, armed robbery, extortion, financial crime and other activities."


And these are the much broader criminal enterprises that Mexico’s TCOs are now engaged in, as Homeland Security Today has reported.


Wechsler said that with regard to “emerging threats closer to home, Mexico continues to confront escalating drug-fueled violence particularly along its northern border with the US  Gunmen associated with drug trafficking organizations routinely carry out sophisticated attacks against Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.”


Wechsler said “it is important to recognize that when we discuss the transnational nature of this threat, this includes criminal activities that take place outside as well as within the United States.  For instance, the influence of Mexican TCOs extends well beyond the Southwest border to cities across the country such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit. Unfortunately, coordination of domestic and international activities can be especially challenging. Such coordination is, however, also increasingly important in an age when criminal globalization, threat networking, and diversification are making distance and borders less important.”


“The Department of Defense’s counternarcotics support to Mexico is implemented primarily through US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and includes training, equipment and information sharing as well as indirect support to units of the Mexican armed forces with counter-narcoterrorism missions,” Wechsler stated. “We are also working with US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and USNORTHCOM to develop a joint security effort in the border region of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Most of DoD’s cooperation with Mexico falls under the Department’s counternarcotics program, and we expect to allocate approximately $51 million in FY2011 to support Mexico.”


“This allocation is a dramatic increase from previous funding levels for Mexico,” Wechsler noted, adding that “before 2009, for example, funding for Mexico was closer to $3 million a year.”


The escalation in funding and assistance highlights the equally escalating nature of the threat that the TCOs pose to the US homeland, according to US intelligence officials involved in understanding the ties between Mexican-based TCOs and Islamist terrorist organizations long established throughout Latin America, including Central America.


Continuing, Wechsler told the subcommittee that “Central America continues to face increasing pressure from drug trafficking and related violent crime, largely as a result of the progress that has been made by the governments of Mexico and Colombia in confronting these organizations.  A Congressional Research Service report published this March illustrated this graphically by mentioning that, despite the incredible drug-fueled violence in Mexico, the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants for all Central American nations is significantly higher (with the exception of Costa Rica). These trends are directly attributable to illicit trafficking of all forms of contraband such as drugs, weapons, bulk cash, counterfeit and stolen goods and persons.”


Wechsler stressed that “these law enforcement issues have important ramifications for the national security of Mexico, the nations of Central America and the United States. The Central American Citizen Security Partnership, announced by President Obama in El Salvador last month, seeks to ‘address the social and economic forces that drive young people toward criminality.’ The implication for DoD is that we will work even harder to broaden and deepen our interagency and international partnership approach and take a holistic view of security. As always, DoD will play a supporting role to the overall strategy, led by the White House and the State Department, avoiding any over-emphasis on military responses.”


Continuing, Wechsler said “I recently traveled to West Africa to get a first-hand look at a region where weak governance is increasingly being exploited by drug traffickers as they target the lucrative and growing European market for cocaine. This trend has a number of important national security implications, such as undermining governance and stability in the region and providing a funding stream to Western Hemisphere criminal organizations that traffic drugs to the United States.”


A short-term strategic analysis performed by the Pentagon several years ago concluded that the very situation that exists in Mexico today could cause this nation to become unstable and unravel, at which point it would pose a direct national security threat to the US mainland.


“Drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime have become a truly global phenomenon,” Wechsler stated, pointing out that “the globalization of the legitimate economy has benefitted the illicit economy in many of the same ways. Today, nearly every country in the world now suffers to some degree from illegal drug consumption, production, or drug-related corruption and violence. Where once DoD’s counternarcotics efforts were focused in the Western Hemisphere, today we are supporting counternarcotics activities worldwide - most notably in Afghanistan and with its neighbors, but also in places such as West Africa and Central and Southeast Asia.”


"The transnational illicit drug trade is a multi-faceted national security concern for the United States,” Wechsler stated. “The drug trade is a powerful corrosive force that weakens the rule of law in affected countries, preventing governments from effectively addressing other transnational threats, such as terrorism, insurgency, organized crime, weapons trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking and piracy."


Continuing, Wechsler said "many of the global and regional terrorists who threaten interests of the United States finance their activities with the proceeds from narcotics trafficking. The inability of many nations to police themselves effectively and to work with their neighbors to ensure regional security represents a challenge to global security. Extremists and international criminal networks frequently exploit local geographical, political, or social conditions to establish safe havens from which they can operate with impunity."



24927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Security, Surveillance issues on: April 21, 2011, 05:20:35 PM
Actually in my case it did not work and I waiting for the charge to show up on my cc so I can contest it.
24928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Boeing, SC, and the NLRB on: April 21, 2011, 01:43:08 PM
We knew that Big Labor had political pull at the Obama-era National Labor Relations Board, but yesterday's complaint against Boeing is one for the (dark) ages. By challenging Boeing's right to build aircraft in South Carolina, labor's bureaucratic allies in Washington are threatening the ability of states to compete for new jobs and investment—and risking the economic recovery to boot.

In 2009 Boeing announced plans to build a new plant to meet demand for its new 787 Dreamliner. Though its union contract didn't require it, Boeing executives negotiated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to build the plane at its existing plant in Washington state. The talks broke down because the union wanted, among other things, a seat on Boeing's board and a promise that Boeing would build all future airplanes in Puget Sound.

So Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. In October 2009, the company settled on South Carolina, which, like the 21 other right-to-work states, has friendlier labor laws than Washington. As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn't have "strikes happening every three to four years." The union has shut down Boeing's commercial aircraft production line four times since 1989, and a 58-day strike in 2008 cost the company $1.8 billion.

This reasonable business decision created more than 1,000 jobs and has brought around $2 billion of investment to South Carolina. The aerospace workers in Puget Sound remain among the best paid in America, but the union nonetheless asked the NLRB to stop Boeing's plans before the company starts to assemble planes in North Charleston this July.

View Full Image

Associated Press
A worker walks past one of Boeing's 787 Dreamliners at the production facility in Everett, Wash.
.The NLRB obliged with its complaint yesterday asking an administrative law judge to stop Boeing's South Carolina production because its executives had cited the risk of strikes as a reason for the move. Boeing acted out of "anti-union animus," says the complaint by acting general counsel Lafe Solomon, and its decision to move had the effect of "discouraging membership in a labor organization" and thus violates federal law.

It's hard to know which law he's referring to. There are plentiful legal precedents that give business the right to locate operations in right-to-work states. That right has created healthy competition among states and kept tens of millions of jobs in America rather than heading overseas.

Boeing has also expanded its operations in Puget Sound while building its South Carolina presence. Ultimately, the NLRB seems to be resting its complaint on the belief that Boeing spent nearly $2 billion out of spite, which sounds less like a matter of law than of campaign 2012 politics.

Boeing says it will challenge the complaint in an NLRB hearing in June, but Big Labor also has sway at the five-member board. Recall that President Obama gave a recess appointment last year to Craig Becker, a former lawyer for the Service Employees International Union who once wrote that the NLRB could impose "card check" rules for union organizing even without an act of Congress. Even a Democratic Senate refused to confirm him.

Beyond labor politics, the NLRB's ruling would set a terrible precedent for the flow of jobs and investment within the U.S. It would essentially give labor a veto over management decisions about where to build future plants. And it would undercut the right-to-work statutes in 22 American states—which is no doubt the main union goal here.

With a Republican House, Mr. Obama's union agenda is dead in Congress. But it looks like his appointees are determined to impose it by regulatory fiat—no matter the damage to investment and job creation.

24929  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Behind the curve; when the excrement hits the fan on: April 21, 2011, 01:22:17 PM
Woof All:

Earlier today the Security thread quoted

"But I feel that everyone worried about self-protection of any sort should spend time developing a lot of *OH CRAP!* reactions so that even blind-drunk, flu-ridden or carrying 4 bags of groceries, people have options."

In a similar vein while in Seattle last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing a few hours with Rory Miller (a well seasoned corrections officer and author of "Meditations on Violence: a comparison of martial arts training and real world violence").

Many of us in the martial arts world tend to not appreciate just how sudden, unexpected, and unbalancing many real world problems can be.  For example, earlier today Bandolero emailed me this:
with a "What would you do?"

This thread is for addressing the various aspects of dealing with being behind the curve in real world situations.


24930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Yemen on: April 21, 2011, 01:12:46 PM
In a rather terrifying way, that was rather funny GM.

Worth noting here IMHO is that the rationale for our efforts in Afpakia of preventing the return of AQ training bases for attacks upon the American homeland, is in tatters.  AQ now establishes training bases in Yemen, the Horn of Africa, (and with the help of President Baraq in Libya too?-- though this remains to be seen).  If we are not going to go in and stop them all (and I suspect no one here is calling for boots on the ground in Yemen!) then what is the point of going into just one (Afpakia)?

Our strategy is utterly incoherent.

Those who wish to comment on this point should please do so either on the US Foreign Policy thread or the Middle East/SNAFU thread.

24931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 21, 2011, 01:06:03 PM

I understand that many businesses do not actually pay the top rate (hat tip to Doug for pointing out the matter of State corporate tax rates on top of federal corp tax rates-- I had missed this in my thinking) but what I think you miss is that this is precisely how fascist economics works-- the state directs privately owned means of production.  The economy becomes increasingly less free and less efficient and the political culture more corrupt as businesses buy politicians and politicians extort and blackmail businesses.
24932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 21, 2011, 12:56:07 PM
And for his friend and mine, Bandolero.

If you think it suitable Bandolero, please let him know that we know of him and that he has our prayers.
24933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson editorial on: April 21, 2011, 12:51:22 PM
Time for Plan BPublished: April 20, 2011
LinkedinDiggMixxMySpacePermalink. A 14-year effort to negotiate an international treaty banning the production of nuclear weapons fuel is getting nowhere. Under the terms of the United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament, all 65 participants must agree. Pakistan, which is racing to develop the world’s fifth largest arsenal, is refusing to let the talks move forward.

It is clearly time for a new approach. So we are encouraged that the Obama administration has begun discussing with Britain and France and others the possibility of negotiating a ban outside the conference, much like the 2008 convention on cluster munitions and the 1997 land-mine treaty. While the United States, Russia and China still are not signatories — they should be — many others are, and the two agreements are credited with greatly diminishing, although not eliminating, the use of both weapons.

Russia and China, which must be part of any fissile material ban, are resisting the idea of ad hoc negotiations. They should tell Pakistan to let the conference do its job, or they should accept the alternative. China has particular influence as Pakistan’s longtime supplier of nuclear technology, including a fourth reactor for producing even more nuclear fuel.

Islamabad dug in its heels after the George W. Bush administration persuaded the international community to lift a ban on civilian nuclear trade with India. The ban remains in place for Pakistan.

India, unlike Pakistan, isn’t a serious proliferation risk. Still, the deal was deeply flawed. It did not require India — estimated to have at least 100 nuclear warheads — to halt fissile material production. And now that New Delhi can buy foreign uranium for its power reactors it can husband its domestic uranium for weapons.

Islamabad argues that the fissile material ban would further lock in a military advantage for India. Pakistan already has 95 or more deployed nuclear weapons, up from the mid- to high-70s two years ago. It should be less fixated on India and more focused on using scarce resources to educate its children and battle home-grown extremists. Along with the test ban treaty (which the Senate still must ratify), getting countries to stop producing fissile material is essential for curbing the world’s most lethal weapons. A ban would give the United States and others more leverage to pressure North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear efforts. Serious negotiations need to start now.

24934  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Israel May 6-7 on: April 21, 2011, 10:42:58 AM
Really looking forward to this!!!
24935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Islamist Militancy in a Pre- and Post-Saleh Yemen on: April 21, 2011, 10:29:50 AM
Islamist Militancy in a Pre- and Post-Saleh Yemen
April 21, 2011

By Reva Bhalla

Nearly three months have passed since the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, first saw mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but an exit from the current stalemate is still nowhere in sight. Saleh retains enough support to continue dictating the terms of his eventual political departure to an emboldened yet frustrated opposition. At the same time, the writ of his authority beyond the capital is dwindling, which is increasing the level of chaos and allowing various rebel groups to collect arms, recruit fighters and operate under dangerously few constraints.

The prospect of Saleh’s political struggle providing a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is understandably producing anxiety in Washington, where U.S. officials have spent the past few months trying to envision what a post-Saleh Yemen would mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula.

While fending off opponents at home, Saleh and his followers have been relying on the “me or chaos” tactic abroad to hang onto power. Loyalists argue that the dismantling of the Saleh regime would fundamentally derail years of U.S. investment designed to elicit meaningful Yemeni cooperation against AQAP or, worse, result in a civil war that will provide AQAP with freedom to hone its skills. Emboldened by the recent unrest, a jihadist group called the Abyan-Aden Islamic Army launched a major raid on a weapons depot in Ja’ar in late March, leading a number of media outlets to speculate that the toppling of the Saleh regime would play directly into the hands of Yemen’s jihadists.

Meanwhile, the opposition has countered that the Yemeni jihadist threat is a perception engineered by Saleh to convince the West of the dangers of abandoning support for his regime. Opposition figures argue that Saleh’s policies are what led to the rise of AQAP in the first place and that the fall of his regime would provide the United States with a clean slate to address its counterterrorism concerns with new, non-Saleh-affiliated political allies. The reality is likely somewhere in between.

The Birth of Yemen’s Modern Jihadist Movement

The pervasiveness of radical Islamists in Yemen’s military and security apparatus is no secret, and it contributes to the staying power of al Qaeda and its offspring in the Arabian Peninsula. The root of the issue dates back to the Soviet-Afghan war, when Osama bin Laden, whose family hails from the Hadramout region of the eastern Yemeni hinterland, commanded a small group of Arab volunteers under the leadership of Abdullah Azzam in the Islamist insurgency against the Soviets through the 1980s. Yemenis formed one of the largest contingents within bin Laden’s Arab volunteer force in Afghanistan, which meant that by 1989, a sizable number of battle-hardened Yemenis returned home looking for a new purpose.

They did not have to wait long. Leading the jihadist pack returning from Afghanistan was Tariq al Fadhli of the once-powerful al Fadhli tribe based in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan. Joining al Fadhli was Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, the spiritual father of Yemen’s Salafi movement and one of the leaders of the conservative Islah party (now leading the political opposition against Saleh). The al Fadhli tribe had lost its lands to the Marxists of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which had ruled South Yemen with Soviet backing throughout the 1980s while North Yemen was ruled with Saudi backing. Al Fadhli, an opportunist who tends to downplay his previous interactions with bin Laden, returned to his homeland in 1989 (supposedly with funding from bin Laden) with a mission backed by North Yemen and Saudi Arabia to rid the south of Marxists. He and his group set up camp in the mountains of Saada province on the Saudi border and also established a training facility in Abyan province in South Yemen. Joining al Fadhli’s group were a few thousand Arabs from Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan who had fought in Afghanistan and faced arrest or worse if they tried to return home.

When North and South Yemen unified in 1990 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yemen’s tribal Salafists, still trying to find their footing, were largely pushed aside as the southern Marxists became part of the new Republic of Yemen, albeit as subjugated partners to the north. Many within the Islamist militant movement shifted their focus to foreign targets — with an eye on the United States — and rapidly made their mark in December 1992, when two hotels were bombed in the southern city of Aden, where U.S. soldiers taking part in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia were lodged (though no Americans were killed in the attack). A rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy in January 1993 was also attempted and failed. Though he denied involvement in the hotel attacks, al Fadhli and many of his jihadist compatriots were thrown in jail on charges of orchestrating the hotel bombings as well as the assassination of one of the YSP’s political leaders.

But as tensions intensified between the north and the south in the early 1990s, so did the utility of Yemen’s Islamist militants. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh brokered a deal in 1993 with al Fadhli in which the militant leader was released from jail and freed of all charges in exchange for his assistance in defeating the southern socialists, who were now waging a civil war against the north. Saleh’s plan worked. The southern socialists were defeated and stripped of much of their land and fortunes, while the jihadists who made Saleh’s victory possible enjoyed the spoils of war. Al Fadhli, in particular, ended up becoming a member of Saleh’s political inner circle. In tribal custom, he also had his sister marry Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a member of the president’s Sanhan tribe in the influential Hashid confederation and now commander of Yemen’s northwestern military division and 1st Armored Brigade. (Mohsen, known for his heavily Islamist leanings, has been leading the political standoff against Saleh ever since his high-profile defection from the regime March 24.)

The Old Guard Rises and Falls

Saleh’s co-opting of Yemen’s Islamist militants had profound implications for the country’s terrorism profile. Islamists of varying ideological intensities were rewarded with positions throughout the Yemeni security and intelligence apparatus, with a heavy concentration in the Political Security Organization (PSO), a roughly 150,000-strong state security and intelligence agency. The PSO exists separately from the Ministry of Interior and is supposed to answer directly to the president, but it has long operated autonomously and is believed to have been behind a number of large-scale jailbreaks, political assassinations and militant operations in the country. While the leadership of the PSO under Ghaleb al Ghamesh have maintained their loyalty to Saleh, the loyalty of the organization as a whole to the president is highly questionable.

Many within the military-intelligence-security apparatus who fought in the 1994 civil war to defeat South Yemen and formed a base of support around Saleh’s presidency made up what is now considered the “old guard” in Yemen. Interspersed within the old guard were the mujahideen fighters returning from Afghanistan. Leading the old guard within the military has been none other than Mohsen, who, after years of standing by Saleh’s side, has emerged in the past month as the president’s most formidable challenger. Mohsen, whose uncle was married to Saleh’s mother in her second marriage, was a stalwart ally of Saleh’s throughout the 1990s. He played an instrumental role in protecting Saleh from coup attempts early on in his political reign and led the North Yemen army to victory against the south in the 1994 civil war. Mohsen was duly rewarded with ample military funding and control over Saada, Hudeidah, Hajja, Amran and Mahwit, surpassing the influence of the governors in these provinces.

While the 1990s were the golden years for Mohsen, the 21st century brought with it an array of challenges for the Islamist sympathizers in the old guard. Following the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, Saleh came under enormous pressure from the United States to crack down on al Qaeda operatives and their protectors in Yemen, both within and beyond the bounds of the state. Fearful of the political backlash that would result from U.S. unilateral military action in Yemen and tempted by large amounts of counterterrorism aid being channeled from Washington, Saleh began devising a strategy to gradually marginalize the increasingly problematic old guard.

These were not the only factors driving Saleh’s decision, however. Saleh knew he had to prepare a succession plan, and he preferred to see the next generation of Saleh men at the helm. Anticipating the challenge he would face from powerful figures like Mohsen and his allies, Saleh shrewdly created new and distinct security agencies for selected family members to run under the tutelage of the United States with the those agencies run by formidable members of the old guard. Thus the “new guard” was born.

The Rise of Saleh’s Second-Generation New Guard

Over the course of the past decade, Saleh has made a series of appointments to mark the ascendancy of the new guard. Most important, his son and preferred successor, Ahmed Ali Saleh, became head of the elite Republican Guard (roughly 30,000-plus men) and Special Operations Forces. Ahmad replaced Saleh’s half-brother, Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, as chief of the Republican Guard, but Saleh made sure to appease Mohammed by making him Yemen’s defense attache in Washington, followed by appointing him to the highly influential post of chief of staff of the supreme commander of the Armed Forces and supervisor to the Republican Guard.

The president also appointed his nephews — the sons of his brother Muhammad Abdullah Saleh (now deceased) — to key positions. Yahya became chief of staff of the Central Security Forces and Counter-Terrorism Unit (roughly 50,000 plus); Tariq was made commander of the Special Guard (which effectively falls under the authority of Ahmed’s Republican Guard); and Ammar became principal duty director of the National Security Bureau (NSB). Moreover, nearly all of Saleh’s sons, cousins and nephews are evenly distributed throughout the Republican Guard.

Each of these agencies received a substantial amount of money as U.S. financial aid to Yemen increased from $5 million in 2006 to $155 million in 2010. This was expected to rise to $1 billion or more over the next several years, but Washington froze the first installment in February when the protests broke out. Ahmed’s Republican Guard and Special Operations Forces worked closely with U.S. military trainers in trying to develop an elite fighting force along the lines of Jordan’s U.S.-trained Fursan al Haq (Knights of Justice). The creation of the mostly U.S.-financed NSB in 2002 to collect domestic intelligence was also part of a broader attempt by Saleh to reform all security agencies to counter the heavy jihadist penetration of the PSO.

Meanwhile, Mohsen watched nervously as his power base flattened under the weight of the second-generation Saleh men. One by one, Mohsen’s close old-guard allies were replaced: In 2007, Saleh sacked Gen. Al Thaneen, commander of the Republican Guard in Taiz. In 2008, Brig. Gen. Mujahid Gushaim replaced Ali Sayani, the head of military intelligence (Ali Sayani’s brother, Abdulmalik, Yemen’s former defense minister, was one of the first generals to declare support for the revolt against Saleh); The same year, Gen. Al Thahiri al Shadadi was replaced by Brig Gen. Mohammed al Magdashi as Commander of the Central Division; Saleh then appointed his personal bodyguard Brig. Gen. Aziz Mulfi as Chief of Staff of the 27th mechanized brigade in Hadramout. Finally, in early 2011, Saleh sacked Brig. Gen. Abdullah Al Gadhi, commander of Al Anad Base that lies on the axis of Aden in the south and commander of the 201st mechanized brigade. As commander of the northwestern division, Mohsen had been kept busy by an al Houthi rebellion that ignited in 2004, and he became a convenient scapegoat for Saleh when the al Houthis rose up again in 2009 and began seizing territory, leading to a rare Saudi military intervention in Yemen’s northern Saada province.

Using the distraction and intensity of the Houthi rebellion to weaken Mohsen and his forces, Saleh attempted to move the headquarters of Mohsen’s First Armored Brigade from Sanaa to Amran just north of the capital and ordered the transfer of heavy equipment from Mohsen’s forces to the Republican Guard. While Saleh’s son and nephews were on the receiving end of millions of dollars of U.S. financial aid to fight AQAP, Mohsen and his allies were left on the sidelines as the old-guard institutions were branded as untrustworthy and thus unworthy of U.S. financing. Mohsin also claims Saleh tried to have him killed at least six times. One such episode, revealed in a Wikileaks cable dated February 2010, describes how the Saleh government allegedly provided Saudi military commanders with the coordinates of Mohsen’s headquarters when Saudi forces were launching air strikes on the Houthis. The Saudis aborted the strike when they sensed something was wrong with the information they were receiving from the Yemeni government.

Toward the end of 2010, with the old guard sufficiently weakened, Saleh was feeling relatively confident that he would be able to see through his plans to abolish presidential term limits and pave the way for his son to take power. What Saleh didn’t anticipate was the viral effect of the North African uprisings and the opportunity they would present to Mohsen and his allies to take revenge and, more important, make a comeback.

(click here to enlarge image)

An Old Guard Revival?

Mohsen, 66, is a patient and calculating man. When thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sanaa in late March to protest against the regime, his 1st Armored Brigade, based just a short distance from the University of Sanaa entrance where the protesters were concentrated, deliberately stood back while the CSF and Republican Guard took the heat for increasingly violent crackdowns. In many ways, Mohsen attempted to emulate Egyptian Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi in having his forces stand between the CSF and the protesters, acting as a protector of the pro-democracy demonstrators in hopes of making his way to the presidential palace with the people’s backing. Mohsen continues to carry a high level of respect among the Islamist-leaning old guard and, just as critically, maintains a strong relationship with the Saudi royals.

Following his March 24 defection, a number of high-profile military, political and tribal defections followed. Standing in league with Mohsen is the politically ambitious Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, one of the 10 sons of the late Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, who ruled the Hashid confederation as the most powerful tribal chieftain in the country and was also a prominent leader of the Islah political party. (Saleh’s Sanhaan tribe is part of the Hashid confederation as well.) Hamid is a wealthy businessman and vocal leader of the Islah party, which dominates the Joint Meetings Party (JMP), an opposition coalition. The sheikh who, like Mohsen, has a close relationship with the Saudi royals, has ambitions to replace Saleh and has been responsible for a wave of defections from within the ruling General People’s Congress, nearly all of which can be traced back to his family tree. In an illustration of Hamid’s strategic alliance with Mohsen, Hamid holds the position of lieutenant colonel in the 1st Armored Brigade. This is a purely honorary position but provides Hamid with a military permit to expand his contingent of body guards, the numbers of which of recently swelled to at least 100.

Together, Mohsen and Sheikh Hamid have a great deal of influence in Yemen to challenge Saleh, but still not enough to drive him out of office by force. Mohsen’s forces have been gradually trying to encroach on Sanaa from their base in the northern outskirts of the capital, but forces loyal to Saleh in Sanaa continue to outman and outgun the rebel forces.

Hence the current stalemate. Yemen does not have the luxury of a clean, geographic split between pro-regime and anti-regime forces, as is the case in Libya. In its infinite complexity, the country is divided along tribal, family, military and business lines, so its political future is difficult to chart. A single family, army unit, village or tribe will have members pledging loyalty to either Saleh or the revolution, providing the president with just enough staying power to deflect opposition demands and drag out the political crisis.

Washington’s Yemen Problem

The question of whether Saleh stays or goes is not the main topic of current debate. Nearly every party to the conflict, including the various opposition groups, Saudi Arabia, the United States and even Saleh himself, understand that the Yemeni president’s 33-year political reign will end soon. The real sticking point has to do with those family members surrounding Saleh and whether they, too, will be brought down with the president in a true regime change.

This is where the United States finds itself in a particularly uncomfortable spot. Yemen’s opposition, a hodgepodge movement including everything from northern Islamists to southern socialists, are mostly only united by a collective aim to dismantle the Saleh regime, including the second-generation Saleh new guard that has come to dominate the country’s security-military-intelligence apparatus with heavy U.S.-backing.

The system is far from perfect, and counterterrorism efforts in Yemen continue to frustrate U.S. authorities. However, Saleh’s security reforms over the past several years and the tutelage the U.S. military has been able to provide to these select agencies have been viewed as a significant sign of progress by the United States, and that progress could now be coming under threat.

Mohsen and his allies are looking to reclaim their lost influence and absorb the new-guard entities in an entirely new security set-up. For example, the opposition is demanding that the Republican Guard and Special Forces be absorbed into the army, which would operate under a general loyal to Mohsen (Mohsen himself claims he would step down as part of a deal in which Saleh also resigns, but he would be expected to assume a kingmaker status), that the CSF and CTU paramilitary agencies be stripped of their autonomy and operationally come under the Ministry of Interior and that the newly created NSB come under the PSO. Such changes would be tantamount to unraveling the past decade of U.S. counterterrorism investment in Yemen that was designed explicitly to raise a new generation of security officials who could hold their own against the Islamist-leaning old guard. This is not to say that Mohsen and his allies would completely obstruct U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Many within the old guard, eager for U.S. financial aid and opposed to U.S. unilateral military action in Yemen, are likely to veer toward pragmatism in dealing with Washington. That said, Mohsen’s reputation for protecting jihadists operating in Yemen and his poor standing with Washington would add much distrust to an already complicated U.S.-Yemeni relationship.

Given its counterterrorism concerns and the large amount of U.S. financial aid flowing into Yemen in recent years, Washington undoubtedly has a stake in Yemen’s political transition, but it is unclear how much influence it will be able to exert in trying to shape a post-Saleh government. The United States lacks the tribal relationships, historical presence and trust to deal effectively with a resurgent old guard seeking vengeance amid growing chaos.

The real heavyweight in Yemen is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royals have long viewed their southern neighbor as a constant source of instability in the kingdom. Whether the threat to the monarchy emanating from Yemen drew its roots from Nasserism, Marxism or radical Islamism, Riyadh deliberated worked to keep the Yemeni state weak while buying loyalties across the Yemeni tribal landscape. Saudi Arabia shares the U.S. concern over Yemeni instability providing a boon to AQAP. The Saudi royals, which are reviled by a large segment of Saudi-born jihadists in AQAP operating from Yemen, is a logical target for AQAP attacks that carry sufficient strategic weight to shake the oil markets and the royal regime, especially given the current climate of unrest in the region. Moreover, Saudi Arabia does not want to deal with a dramatic increase in the already regular spillover of refugees, smugglers and illegal workers from Yemen should civil war ensue.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the United States may not entirely see eye to eye in how to manage the jihadist threat in Yemen. The Saudis have maintained close linkages with a number of influential Islamist members within the old guard, including Mohsen and jihadists like al Fadhli, who broke off his alliance with Saleh in 2009 to lead the Southern Movement against the regime. The Saudis are also more prone to rely on their jihadist allies from time to time in trying to snuff out more immediate threats to Saudi interests.

For example, Saudi Arabia’s current concern regarding Yemen centers not on the future of Yemen’s counterterrorism capabilities but on the al Houthi rebels in the north, who have wasted little time in exploiting Sanaa’s distractions to expand their territorial claims in Saada province. The Houthis belong to the Zaydi sect, considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam and heretical by Wahhabi standards. Riyadh fears Houthi unrest in Yemen’s north could stir unrest in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces of Najran and Jizan, which are home to the Ismailis, also an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Ismaili unrest in the south could then embolden Shia in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, who have already been engaged in demonstrations, albeit small ones, against the Saudi monarchy with heavy Iranian encouragement. Deputy AQAP leader Saad Ali al Shihri’s declaration of war against the al Houthi rebels on Jan. 28 may have surprised many, but it also seemed to play to the Saudi agenda in channeling jihadist efforts toward the al Houthi threat.

The United States has a Yemen problem that it cannot avoid, but it also has very few tools with which to manage or solve it. For now, the stalemate provides Washington with the time to sort out alternatives to the second-generation Saleh relatives, but that time also comes at a cost. The longer this political crisis drags on, the more Saleh will narrow his focus to holding onto Sanaa, while leaving the rest of the country for the Houthis, the southern socialists and the jihadists to fight over. The United States can take some comfort in the fact that AQAP’s poor track record of innovative yet failed attacks has kept the group in the terrorist minor leagues. With enough time, resources and sympathizers in the government and security apparatus, however, AQAP could find itself in a more comfortable spot in a post-Saleh scenario, likely to the detriment of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula.


24936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Elder on: April 21, 2011, 10:21:28 AM

Donald Trump isn't going to run for president.

He is rich, enjoys himself, says bold and often stupid things, trades his wife in for a younger model every few years, and calls Rosie O'Donnell a "big fat pig." What's not to like?

But President The Donald Trump? Really?!

He couldn't take the scrutiny. Given his swashbuckling life and the media's heightened scrutiny of things Republican, Trump would spend his entire campaign putting out fires. Whether it be shady-side-of-the-line business deals, "bimbo eruptions," tax shenanigans, enemies looking to get even, or Lord knows what else, he'd barely have time to round up enough B-listers to keep "Celebrity Apprentice" afloat.

Then there is the matter of his ideology -- as in, what exactly is it? Trump has alternately called Jimmy Carter the worst president ever, then George W. Bush the worst president ever, and now Barack Obama the worst president ever. This nouveau "conservative Republican" supported "universal health care"; advocated a tax on the rich; stood pro-choice on abortion; supported Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; called George W. Bush "evil"; proposed a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports; and has contributed more money to Democrats than to Republicans. Whew!

Like Ross Perot -- an earlier rich, thin-skinned businessman-turned-presidential-aspirant -- Trump barks out orders, says jump and expects people to do so. Doesn't work that way in politics. Try jabbing an index finger at an obnoxious New York Times reporter or a pesky rival Republican and saying, "You're fired!"

Nor will he run as an independent -- as he once threatened and then un-threatened to do. An indie candidacy would siphon votes away from the Republican candidate, requiring Trump to spend the rest of his life deflecting the blame for Obama's re-election. No fun being the next Ralph Nader, who, after costing Al Gore Florida and the presidency in '00, can't get a table at Chuck E. Cheese's.

This brings us to the only reason to pay attention to The Donald. He's turning over rocks the media can't even locate with a guide dog and a treasure map.

Take the "wacky" birther issue. Polls show that most Republicans question whether Obama was born in America. The Supreme Court calls this a "political question" and, therefore, outside of its power of judicial review. So legally, the birther issue is deader than Elvis. Besides, Obama's principal 2008 primary opponent, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, couldn't nail him on the issue. If there were something there, the hounds of the Clintons would have found it.

But are the "birther" folks wackier than the majority of Democrats who believe George W. Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11 or are unsure that he did?

Are the "birther" folks wackier than the majority of Democrats who believe that "Bush Lied, People Died" our way into the Iraq War or are unsure that he did?

Are they wackier than the majority of Democrats who, in 2008, held Bush responsible when gas prices hit $4 a gallon?

What's the point? When people are unhappy with a politician and/or his policies, they sometimes see the worst -- whether or not there is a factual basis. But the media do not even have a name for the Democratic equivalent of "birthers," despite these vicious, unsubstantiated and irresponsible accusations of Bush.

On the birther issue, however, there is at least some legitimate head scratching.

Hawaii's new governor, incensed over this "demonization" of Obama, vowed to put the issue to rest by releasing the relevant documents. Oops. The governor learned that under Hawaii's privacy laws, no one could obtain the records without a "tangible interest." Who could release the records? Barack Obama. And he apparently refuses to waive his right of privacy. This kind of thing fuels speculation and suspicion.

Trump, while he's at it, might want to turn his investigators onto Obama's academic records -- high school through Harvard Law -- which remain top-secret.

Trump might want to confirm or refute Obama's campaign assertion that he and his mother used food stamps -- a tale of hardship strangely missing from Obama's autobiography.

Trump might want to question members of Obama's former church to find out how, during his 20 years as a member, Obama managed to miss every single sermon in which his "spiritual adviser," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, shouted the anti-Semitic, anti-American, racist statements widely seen on YouTube.

We know Bush's grades. We know his brand of whiskey before he kicked it. We know he eats pork rinds. Dan Rather nuked his own career trying to prove Bush got high-hat treatment in the Texas Air National Guard -- a contention Rather still holds. But Obama? Nothing to see here.

No, the real story about Trump isn't Trump.

It's the pass given Obama by the media. Whether it's regarding Obama's birthplace, whether Obama personally heard Wright's racist and anti-Semitic sermons, or whether unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers wrote Obama's first book, Obama manages to avoid careful examination from the adoring media.

Trump would not be relevant -- if the media had been.
24937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: April 21, 2011, 10:10:41 AM
This point about the mix of short, middle, and long term rates is exactly right.
24938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 21, 2011, 10:06:49 AM

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that people/business can and will respond to differences in state tax policies, but that this does not apply to federal taxes because federal taxes reach everywhere?

If this is what you are saying I would point out that businesses can and do leave/invest elsewhere quite regularly, and given that the US now has the highest (or second after Japan?) business corp rates in the world (perhaps excluding third world irrelevancies) as we discuss this they are investing/creating jobs etc. elsewhere instead of here.
24939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Oil prices on: April 21, 2011, 10:00:30 AM
IMHO the article fails to mention the exceedlingly low margin requirements and understates the role of massive money supply increases by the Fed and elsewhere, but points out an interesting variable:
Oil prices are once again pushing the highs that they hit in mid-2008. There’s any number of factors behind it, from OPEC quota levels to constrictions in supply toward the problems with Iran or in Libya. What STRATFOR, however, sees as the single largest factor pushing oil prices higher is simply the fact that there are more players in the market now than were 10 years ago. Until the late 1990s, most participants in the oil future markets were what was called “commercial investors” — industrial is probably a better way to think of that — players who actually provide crude oil and take delivery of crude oil to the market. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s a new type of investor, noncommercial investors, was able to participate in the market in large volumes. This was made possible by changes in technology, the advent of Internet technology for example, that allowed investors at a retail level to participate in the market in a different sort of way — buying and trading crude oil futures without actually every intending on providing or taking delivery of the product. The advent of Internet technology took this to a completely new level, allowing a new magnitude of investors to participate.

These technological changes occurred at the same time that the Baby Boomers matured. Mature workers are preparing for retirement. The kids have gone; college is paid for; the house is probably paid for. And so they’re socking away their money for retirement. A lot of that money has made it into various energy funds, artificially increasing the demand for those products. The difference between the year 2000 and the year 2011 couldn’t be more stark. Right now noncommercial investors, or what we just think of as investors, now make up for 40 percent of long positions in the market. A 40 percent increase in participation in a market that’s as inelastic as crude oil is going to send prices higher. Now this isn’t the only factor and it doesn’t rule every day but it does provide a structural support for the market that didn’t exist there. Now what these people are not is speculators. Speculators are people who are specifically betting on the price of oil and perhaps even trying to force it in a particular direction. These are the people the Obama administration is not particularly fond of.

This is a completely different phenomena from what were seen as the secular shift in energy prices over the last decade. Now what this mass of new investors does is provide this huge amount of liquidity and income support for anyone who wants to invest in crude. They’re providing the basis actually for increasing supply in the long run. There is, however, several side effects. One of course is higher prices. Another one is that they are often betting in opposition to what fundamental trends are doing. So, for example, if you have a situation where prices are rising, industrial consumers of crude are doing everything they can to cut demand — they want to limit their price and exposure. Not so for investors. They see prices rising and want to jump on that bandwagon. And so you get these weird moves in the market often with prices swinging wildly from extreme to extreme.

The most dramatic impact, of course, is when the fundamentals ultimately do win at the end of the day. This happened in mid-2008 when prices were $140 a barrel. Industrial consumers simply couldn’t support that kind of price level in the world was tipping into recession on a global scale. But investors were still pushing the price up and when they realized the fundamentals were correcting everything sharply to the downside, their mass removal from the market led to a price collapse of roughly three quarters of value. But there’s an additional factor that is actually making all of the waters even murkier. Over the course of the last six years, global money supply has roughly doubled in size. When you have all four of the major currency blocs increasing their currency by such a huge volume, collectively, that money is going to go somewhere. So we’ve seen a huge amount of capital from this monetary expansion moving commodities of all sorts and first and foremost oil.

There’s no indication at present that authorities in any of the four major currency blocs are going to take appreciable moves to restrict investment into commodities in the near future. In fact, that would probably be detrimental to the efficient functioning of the markets. But the investors are having an impact. Prices are volatile. They do move sharply up as well as very sharply down and this is going to remain the state of affairs at least as long as this monetary expansion is in progress.

24940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 20, 2011, 06:40:17 PM
I get that, but this thread is for the dynamics of the Presidential race, not for the particulars of the various issues that will arise; otherwise this thread becomes a giant incoherent clusterfornication.  OTOH if we keep a discussion on tax rates on the Tax Policy thread then someone who wants to find that post on Hong Kong's tax rate policy for example will have a better chance of finding it.
24941  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 20, 2011, 06:36:53 PM
Grateful for a reminder today about , , , gratitude grin
24942  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Fighter Form on: April 20, 2011, 06:30:58 PM
24943  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Tribal Gathering Fighter List on: April 20, 2011, 06:29:53 PM

The form is up.  Please take care of this ASAP!

Thank you.

Crafty Dog
24944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 20, 2011, 06:28:02 PM
Lots of great stuff today on this thread, but it is a mystery to me why an extended discussion on tax rates would not be on the Tax thread  huh cheesy
24945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Car bomb issues on: April 20, 2011, 11:16:59 AM
Third post of the morning

The Perceived Car Bomb Threat in Mexico
April 13, 2011

By Scott Stewart

Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
On April 5, Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that a row of concrete Jersey barriers was being emplaced in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico. The story indicated that the wall was put in to block visibility of the facility, but being only about 107 centimeters (42 inches) high, such barriers do little to block visibility. Instead, this modular concrete wall is clearly being used to block one lane of traffic in front of the consulate in an effort to provide the facility with some additional standoff distance from the avenue that passes in front of it.

Due to the location and design of the current consulate building in Monterrey, there is only a narrow sidewalk separating the building’s front wall from the street and very little distance between the front wall and the building. This lack of standoff has been long noted, and it was an important factor in the decision to build a new consulate in Monterrey (construction began in June 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in January 2013).

The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey has been targeted in the past by cartels using small arms and grenades. The last grenade attack near the consulate was in October 2010. However, the Jersey barriers placed in front of the consulate will do little to protect the building against small arms fire, which can be directed at portions of the building above the perimeter wall, or grenades, which can be thrown over the wall. Rather, such barriers are used to protect facilities against an attack using a car bomb, or what is called in military and law enforcement vernacular a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).

That such barriers have been employed (or re-employed, really, since they have been used before at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey) indicates that there is at least a perceived VBIED threat in Mexico. The placement of the barriers was followed by a Warden Message issued April 8 by the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey warning that “the U.S. government has received uncorroborated information Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi.” It is quite possible that the placement of the barriers at the consulate was related to this Warden Message.

The Mexican cartels have employed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the past, but the devices have been small. While their successful employment has shown that the cartels could deploy larger devices if they decided to do so, there are still some factors causing them to avoid using large VBIEDs.

Some History

The use of IEDs in Mexico is nothing new. Explosives are plentiful in Mexico due to their widespread use in the country’s mining and petroleum sectors. Because of Mexico’s strict gun laws, it is easier and cheaper to procure explosives — specifically commercial explosives such as Tovex — in Mexico than it is firearms. We have seen a number of different actors use explosive devices in Mexico, including left-wing groups such as the Popular Revolutionary Army and its various splinters, which have targeted banks and commercial centers (though usually at night and in a manner intended to cause property damage and not human casualties). An anarchist group calling itself the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals and Humans has also employed a large number of small IEDs against banks, insurance companies, car dealerships and other targets.

Explosives have also played a minor role in the escalation of cartel violence in Mexico. The first cartel-related IED incident we recall was the Feb. 15, 2008, premature detonation of an IED in Mexico City that investigators concluded was likely a failed assassination attempt against a high-ranking police official. Three months later, in May 2008, there was a rash of such assassinations in Mexico City targeting high-ranking police officials such as Edgar Millan Gomez, who at the time of his death was Mexico’s highest-ranking federal law enforcement officer. While these assassinations were conducted using firearms, they supported the theory that the Feb. 15, 2008, incident was indeed a failed assassination attempt.

Mexican officials have frequently encountered explosives, including small amounts of military-grade explosives and far larger quantities of commercial explosives, when they have uncovered arms caches belonging to the cartels. But it was not until July 2010 that IEDs began to be employed by the cartels with any frequency.

On July 15, 2010, in Juarez, Chihuahua state, the enforcement wing of the Juarez cartel, known as La Linea, remotely detonated an IED located inside a car as federal police agents were responding to reports of a dead body inside a car. The attack killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. Shortly after this well-coordinated attack, La Linea threatened that if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation did not investigate and remove the chief of the Chihuahua state police intelligence unit — who La Linea claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation — the group would deploy a car bomb containing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives. The threat proved to be an empty one, and since last July, La Linea has deployed just one additional IED, which was discovered by police on Sept. 10, 2010, in Juarez.

The Sept. 10 incident bore a striking resemblance to the July 15 Juarez bombing. The device was hidden in a vehicle parked near another vehicle that contained a dead body that was reported to police. The Sept. 10 device appears to have malfunctioned, since it did not detonate as first responders arrived. The device was noticed by authorities and rendered safe by a Mexican military explosive ordnance disposal team. This device reportedly contained a main charge of 16 kilograms of Tovex, and while that quantity of explosives was far smaller than the 100-kilogram device La Linea threatened to employ, it was still a significant step up in size from the July 15 IED. Based upon the amount of physical damage done to buildings and other vehicles in the area where the device exploded, and the lack of a substantial crater in the street under the vehicle containing the device, the July 15 IED appears to have contained at most a couple of kilograms of explosives.

Seemingly taking a cue from La Linea, the Gulf cartel also began deploying IEDs in the summer of 2010 against law enforcement targets it claimed were cooperating with Los Zetas, which is currently locked in a heated battle with the Gulf cartel for control of Mexico’s northeast (see the map here for an understanding of cartel geographies). Between August and December 2010, Gulf cartel enforcers deployed at least six other IEDs against what they called the “Zeta police” and the media in such cities as Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state and Zuazua in Nuevo Leon. However, these attacks were all conducted against empty vehicles and there was no apparent attempt to inflict casualties. The devices were intended more as messages than weapons.

The employment of IEDs has not been confined just to the border. On Jan. 22, a small IED placed inside a car detonated near the town of Tula, Hidalgo state, injuring four local policemen. Initial reports suggested that local law enforcement received an anonymous tip about a corpse in a white Volkswagen Bora. The IED reportedly detonated when police opened one of the vehicle’s doors, suggesting either some sort of booby trap or a remotely detonated device.

The damage from the Tula device is consistent with a small device placed inside a vehicle, making it similar to the IEDs deployed in Juarez and Ciudad Victoria in 2010. The setup and the deployment of the IED in Tula also bear some resemblance to the tactics used by La Linea in the July 2010 Juarez attack; in both cases, a corpse was used as bait to lure law enforcement to the scene before the device was detonated. Despite these similarities, the distance between Tula and Juarez and the makeup of the cartel landscape make it unlikely that the same group or bombmaker was involved in these two incidents.

Car Bombs vs. Bombs in Cars

The IEDs that have been detonated by the Mexican cartels share a very common damage profile. The frames of the vehicles in which the devices were hidden remained largely intact after detonation and damage to surrounding structures and vehicles was relatively minor, indicating the devices were rather small in size. The main charges were probably similar to the device found in a vehicle recovered from an arms cache in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, on Sept. 10, 2010 — a liquor bottle filled with no more than a kilogram of commercial explosives.

In fact, most of the devices we have seen in Mexico so far have been what we consider “bombs in cars” rather than “car bombs.” The difference between the two is one of scale. Motorcycle gangs and organized crime groups frequently place pipe bombs and other small IEDs in vehicles in order to kill enemies or send messages. However, it is very uncommon for the police investigating such attacks to refer to these small devices as car bombs or VBIEDs. As the name implies, “vehicle borne” suggests that the device is too large to be borne by other means and requires a vehicle to convey it to the target. This means the satchel device that prematurely detonated in Mexico City in February 2008 or the liquor-bottle charge recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010 would not have been considered VBIEDs had they been detonated in vehicles. None of the devices we have seen successfully employed in Mexico has been an actual VBIED, as defined by those commonly used in Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan — or even Colombia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The only explosive device we have seen that even remotely approached being considered a VBIED was the 16-kilogram device discovered in Juarez in September 2010. This means that those who are referring to the devices deployed in Mexico as VBIEDs are either mistaken or are intentionally hyping the devices. Claiming that the cartels are using “car bombs” clearly benefits those who are trying to portray the cartels as terrorists. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, there are both political and practical motives for labeling the Mexican drug cartels terrorists rather than just vicious criminals.

That said, the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization and the Gulf cartel have demonstrated that they can construct small devices and remotely detonate them using cellphones, Futaba radio-control transmitters and servos (as have the still unidentified groups responsible for the Tula attack and the radio-controlled device recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010). Once an organization possesses the ability to do this, and has access to large quantities of explosives, the only factor that prevents it from creating and detonating large VBIED-type devices is will.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s in Colombia, powerful Colombian drug trafficking organizations such as the Medellin cartel used large-scale terrorist attacks in an effort to get the Colombian government to back off on its counternarcotics efforts. Some of the attacks conducted by the Medellin cartel, such as the December 1989 bombing of the Colombian Administrative Department of Security, utilized at least 450 kilograms of explosives and were incredibly devastating. However, these attacks did not achieve their objective. Instead, they served to steel the will of the Colombian government and also caused the Colombians to turn to the United States for even more assistance in their battle against the Colombian cartels.

A U.S. government investigator who assisted the Colombian government in investigating some of the large VBIED attacks conducted by the Medellin cartel notes that Medellin frequently employed Futaba radio-control devices in its VBIEDs like those used for model aircraft. A similar Futaba device was recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010, found wired to the explosives-filled liquor bottle inside the car. This may or may not provide the Mexican authorities with any sort of hard forensic link between the Mexican and Colombian cartels, but it is quite significant that the Futaba device was used in an IED in Mexico with a main explosive charge that was much smaller than those used in Colombia.

On April 1, 2011, the Mexican military discovered a large arms cache in Matamoros. In addition to encountering the customary automatic weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the military also seized 412 chubs (plastic sleeves) of hydrogel commercial explosives, 36 electric detonators and more than 11 meters of detonation cord. (The Mexican government did not provide photos of the explosives nor the weight of the material recovered, but chubs of gel explosives can range in size from less than half a kilogram to a couple of kilograms in weight.) This means there were at least a hundred kilograms of explosives in the cache, enough to make a sizable VBIED. Given that the cache was located in Matamoros and appears to have been there for some time, it is likely that it belonged to the Gulf cartel. This, like other seizures of explosives, indicates that the reason the Gulf cartel has used small explosive devices in its past attacks is not due to lack of explosives or expertise but lack of will.

Assessing the Threat

When assessing any threat, two main factors must be considered: intent and capability. So far, the Mexican cartels have demonstrated they have the capability to employ VBIEDs but not the intent. Discerning future intent is difficult, but judging from an actor’s past behavior can allow a thoughtful observer to draw some conclusions. First, the Juarez cartel has been hard-pressed by both the Mexican government and the Sinaloa Federation, and it is desperately struggling to survive. Despite this, the leaders of that organization have decided not to follow through with their threats from last July to unleash a 100-kilogram VBIED on Juarez. The Juarez cartel is not at all squeamish about killing people and it is therefore unlikely that the group has avoided employing VBIEDs for altruistic or benevolent reasons. Clearly, they seem to believe that it is in their best interests not to pop off a VBIED or a series of such devices.

Although the Juarez cartel is badly wounded, the last thing it wants to do is invite the full weight of the U.S. and Mexican governments down upon its head by becoming the Mexican version of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, which would likely happen should it begin to conduct large terrorist-style bombings. Escobar’s employment of terrorism backfired on him and resulted not only in his own death but also the dismantlement of his entire organization. A key factor in Escobar’s downfall was that his use of terrorism not only affected the government but also served to turn the population against him. He went from being seen by many Colombians as almost a folk hero to being reviled and hated. His organization lost the support of the population and found itself isolated and unable to hide amid the populace.

Similar concerns are likely constraining the actions of the Mexican cartels. It is one thing to target members of opposing cartels, or even law enforcement and military personnel, and it is quite another to begin to indiscriminately target civilians or to level entire city blocks with large VBIEDs. While the drug war — and the crime wave that has accompanied it — has affected many ordinary Mexicans and turned sentiment against the cartels, public sentiment would be dramatically altered by the adoption of true terrorist tactics. So far, the Mexican cartels have been very careful not to cross that line.

There is also the question of cost versus benefit. So far, the Mexican cartels have been able to use small IEDs to accomplish what they need — essentially sending messages — without having to use large IEDs that would require more resources and could cause substantial collateral damage that would prompt a public-opinion backlash. There is also considerable doubt that a larger IED attack would really accomplish anything concrete for the cartels. While the cartels will sometimes conduct very violent actions, most of those actions are quite pragmatic. Cartel elements who operate as loose cannons are often harshly disciplined by cartel leadership, like the gunmen involved in the Falcon Lake shooting.

So while the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey may be erecting Jersey barriers to protect it from VBIED attacks, it is likely doing so based on an abundance of caution or some bureaucratic mandate, not hard intelligence that the cartels are planning to hit the facility with a VBIED.

24946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: April 20, 2011, 11:12:35 AM
Is that 500+k number measuring the same thing as Beck's previously >2mil numbers?  (Granted it comes after nearly two weeks of GB substitutes such as Napolitano , , ,)
24947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 4/13 Stratfor on: April 20, 2011, 11:07:13 AM
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet in Paris on Wednesday over a dinner to discuss the situation in Libya, according to a French government source quoted by the AFP on Tuesday. The announcement comes after London and Paris leveled criticism at NATO, saying that the alliance was essentially not doing enough in Libya to have an impact on the ground. It also follows an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday where the European Union endorsed the basic outlines of an EU “military-humanitarian” mission that has no identified purpose or mission structure, but is the first foray into at least introducing the idea of a potential mission shift that would necessitate “boots on the ground.”

“The situation in Libya is quickly becoming Europe’s very own Middle East ‘quagmire.’”
The situation in Libya is quickly becoming Europe’s very own Middle East “quagmire,” to borrow the term used to describe the Iraqi and Vietnamese conflicts. France and the United Kingdom pushed for an intervention in Libya, but are now faced with a situation that has quickly devolved into a stalemate, with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi set to rule western Libya and with eastern Libya under some level of control of a yet undefined rebel movement, tangentially represented by the Libyan National Transition Council. The main distinction between where Europeans are today and where America was in Vietnam and Iraq is that the sunk costs of a ground commitment have not yet been made, which makes it easier, albeit politically unpalatable, for France and the United Kingdom to quit.

There are three primary reasons for the stalemate. First, the ultimate goal of the intervention, despite not being cited by the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the military operation, is regime change. However, this cannot be achieved solely via airstrikes. Second, the rebel forces that were supposed to provide the ground troops to topple Gadhafi and provide an element of authority following his ouster are inadequate as a fighting force. Third, while the strikes have not brought down Gadhafi or even prevented him from attacking Misurata, they have proved effective in preventing an eventual attack on Benghazi.

How did the Europeans find themselves in this predicament? France and the United Kingdom were emboldened by a slew of early Gadhafi loyalist defections and examples of relatively quick ousters of neighboring Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to pursue a limited military intervention in Libya. Their motivations were diverse, but what unites London and Paris today is that a stalemate in Libya will be perceived as a failure on the part of both, and Europe in general, to make and execute effective international security policy. This is an issue of reputation both regionally and domestically, particularly for Sarkozy, whose approval rating has not benefited from the overall popularity of the intervention among the French public.

France has, for example, begun leveling criticism against NATO primarily to absolve itself of the ineffectiveness of the current mission. On Tuesday alone, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and Foreign Minister Alain Juppe hinted at everything from the idea that certain NATO member states are preventing the French air force from conducting aggressive airstrikes, to the suggestion that the United States has removed its ground strike capacity too quickly and withdrawn into the background before the mission was accomplished.

The question now is where do the Europeans go from the current predicament. The statements from Paris seem to suggest that some sort of a stalemate is becoming acceptable and that the French government is working hard to absolve itself from responsibility of the failure to enact regime change, setting the stage to lay the blame on the less aggressive NATO allies.

Yet even a stalemate will not be easy to maintain. While it is true that with significant coalition airpower in place, Gadhafi will ultimately be unable to cross the desert that separates the Gulf of Sidra from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi (and all that is east of it), the problem remains that the rebels will not be completely secure. Enforcing some sort of a demilitarized zone would be largely ineffective. While it would be simple to place a small number of foreign troops on the main coastal highway, it is not as if Gadhafi loyalists would not be able to go through the desert south of the highway with small sabotage teams to harass the rebels’ command and control, as well, energy-producing facilities. Furthermore, foreign troops separating the two sides would become targets. This leaves the rebels holding on to the northeastern portion of the country with no safe link to the energy fields in the south. It also leaves Gadhafi in control of the western portion of the country with all the security implications that will have for the Mediterranean.

This leaves Europe where it started, almost 20 years to the day in the emerging conflict in the former Yugoslavia, with a reputation for not being able to resolve security problems in its own neighborhood. That is exactly the perception that Paris set out to change with an aggressive policy in Libya. Paris and London understand this, which is why they have the incentive to spread the blame to other NATO member states and to make sure that the stalemate is ultimately resolved. However, it is becoming clear that the only way to do the latter, considering the woeful inadequacy of rebel forces, is to engage in a war against Gadhafi via ground forces. This is why the issue is being floated via the yet undefined “military-humanitarian” missions and through various leaks to the European press. The Europeans are testing the public perception to the idea, while trying to bluff Gadhafi into thinking that the stakes are about to become higher.

The current state of affairs in Libya is ultimately the product of Europeans, and the United States along with them, having not pursued an aligned military strategy consistent with political goals. Military objectives were based on a loosely worded U.N. Security Council resolution that defined defending civilians as the primary goal of the intervention. Setting aside our argument that the real political goal has from the beginning been regime change, the military strategy wasn’t wholly capable of accomplishing the humanitarian goal either. This is primarily because the intervening countries placed an upper limit of how much effort they would exert in the pursuit of such a humanitarian goal. Namely, as was the case with Kosovo, no Western soldiers would be put in harm’s way in a ground invasion. This limit on effort merely meant that Benghazi was saved from Gadhafi’s heavy artillery so that Misurata could be destroyed through urban combat two weeks later.

24948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US border corruption on: April 20, 2011, 10:58:02 AM
Last week, Margarita Crispin, a female officer working on the border, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking $5 million in bribes for allowing vehicles with marijuana to come through her point of entry. Today we’re going to look at the increase in corruption cases along the U.S. and Mexican border.

In the last five years, nearly 80 U.S. border patrol and customs and border protection officers have been arrested for corruption. The up tick in the arrests along the border are in parallel to the enhanced physical security measures that have been put into place with the laser focus on border security efforts. For example, walls and fences had been built along the border, along with unmanned surveillance vehicles such as drones. On the technology front, very sophisticated license plate readers, which can very quickly identify cartel suspects or stolen automobiles, as well as the enhanced SIGINT capability, which is the intercept of text messages, cellular telephone calls and email between cartel suspects in Mexico and the United States. As a result of the enhanced physical security measures along the border, the cartels are operating as a foreign intelligence agency, utilizing the exploitation of human capital, human assets, people, to provide intelligence to their organizations.

From an exploitation perspective, cartels are utilizing the principle of MICE. The “M” in MICE stands for money, and as we look at the corruption cases on the border, clearly the bulk are as a result of money: paying bribes to law enforcement officers throughout the border. “I” is ideology and we don’t see that being used along the border. “C” is compromise, and we have seen evidence of that surfacing, primarily using sex as a tool to compromise law enforcement officers. “E” is for ego and in that case it is the promotion or looking at individuals that think they deserve a better position and haven’t gotten that inside their police department or government agency, but we haven’t seen a lot of ego being used along the border.

To recap, looking at the acronym of MICE, money and compromise are the primary drivers for the border corruption. The Above the Tearline aspect is there really needs to be an aggressive background investigation process engaged with any law enforcement personnel working the border, with routine and thorough updates. The polygraph can also play an important part here with a line of questioning focusing on finances, extravagant lifestyle, multiple vacations, as well as other kinds of suitability issues that could surface. The use of an updated background investigation process, combined with the polygraph, can be used to help stem the tide of corruption that appears to be increasing along the border

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24949  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Insane bike race in Chile on: April 20, 2011, 10:44:29 AM
24950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Passover on: April 20, 2011, 10:40:28 AM
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.

Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, "How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren't you good enough just as you are? Don't you know who you are?"

Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.

But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.

Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world. With unbounded light.

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