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24951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Salute to West Point on: January 04, 2010, 07:55:52 PM
Even in the age of emails, blogs and tweets, the formal letter can still command attention. Especially when it bears the signature of the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point—and congratulates the recipient on his appointment.

Along with hundreds of other anxious high-school seniors, my nephew opened such a letter over the Christmas holidays. For his family, it brought back many memories. Just about all of us live within an hour's drive of West Point. For most of our lives, the academy has been a beautiful backdrop: for football games, wedding receptions, the occasional drive up for lunch at the Thayer Hotel, and so on.

Now the beauty mixes with apprehension. For me it was brought home in 2006, when I attended the commencement as part of the president's entourage. Theirs was the first class to enter West Point after the attacks of Sept. 11. As I watched these happy graduates, I thought: In a few years, some of those celebrating today will not be with us. Thus far, alas, war has claimed two young men who received the gold bars of a second lieutenant that day: Lt. Nick A. Dewhirst, killed in Afghanistan; Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham, killed in Iraq.

Can my nephew comprehend the sacrifice he commits himself to? The critics say we romanticize war and hide the realities from those who will do the dying. I'm not so sure. At West Point this past autumn for a football game, I went to the refrigerator of a helicopter pilot-turned-instructor in search of a Diet Coke. On the door I found a yellow ribbon with the name of the officer's West Point roommate, an infantry captain named Doug DiCenzo who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad when his son was just 16 months old.

.On a campus where the cemetery includes the dead from two centuries of American wars, sobering reminders are everywhere: the young wife and children left behind, the good friends who do not make the trip home, the empty space at the reunion. The true glory of West Point is that all know the fear and cost of war but refuse to surrender to them.

Whether character can be taught is an age-old question; usually we refer to its being built. West Point does not pretend its cadets are immune from the normal temptations of our culture. After all, they come from the same towns and high schools other universities draw from. The difference is that at West Point, words such as duty, honor and country are spoken without irony—and a scandal is a scandal because behavior is still measured against standards.

A paper on the academy's Web site explains the honor code this way: "An officer who is not trustworthy cannot be tolerated; in some professions the cost of dishonesty is measured in dollars—in the Army, the cost is measured in human lives. The ability of West Point to educate, train and inspire outstanding leaders of character for our Army is predicated upon the functional necessity of honesty."

In other words, the promise is not that West Point will produce the next generation of Grants, MacArthurs, Eisenhowers or Petraeuses—though it will. The promise is more consequential. To the moms and dads of all those in uniform, West Point says: When America puts your sons and daughters in harm's way, they will be led by men and woman of character and ability.

In the days since my nephew's acceptance, the reaction has been interesting. Some are impressed. Others . . . well, let's just say the assumption often seems to be that a student chooses a service academy because he or she was not accepted anywhere better, or is going simply because it's free.

In my nephew's case, neither is true. His father and his father's father both served in the Navy; his other grandfather was a Marine. So his loved ones are a little saddened when we come across people apparently unable to process the idea that an intelligent young American with the world at his feet could be led by a sense of duty to West Point in a time of war.

When I look at my nephew, I can still see the baby I once lugged to the car in his carrier. A few springs from now, if he rises to this challenge as we know he will, I will sit in that stadium high above the Hudson as Timothy Dore, USMA Class of '14, takes his place in that long gray line. Around me that day will be thousands of other uncles, aunts, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents who are now, with great pride, passing around a letter from the West Point superintendent like the one my nephew received.

This academy is not for everyone. But the choice made by these young men and women makes this uncle want to salute.
24952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: False START on: January 04, 2010, 07:51:37 PM
The Obama Administration continues to negotiate with the Russians over a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), but one big question is whether it can get the result through the U.S. Senate. A group of Senators is telling the White House that it will have little or no chance of success unless it also moves ahead with nuclear-warhead modernization.

The warning comes in a recent letter from 40 Republican Senators and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman reminding the President of his legal responsibility under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to present budget estimates for modernizing U.S. nuclear forces along with any new Start pact.

The Senators are following the suggestions of the important, but too little publicized, recommendations of last year's Perry-Schlesinger commission on the safety and operations of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The bipartisan report noted, among other things, that the U.S. needs new warheads and nuclear research facilities. President Obama, in his utopian antinuclear mode, has opposed a new warhead despite widespread support for it at the Pentagon, from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on down.

Mr. Obama would be wise to take the warning seriously because he'll need 67 Senate votes to approve any arms-control treaty. Without modernization, it's unlikely that Senators will vote for the significant and probably unwise reductions in U.S. nuclear delivery vehicles that Mr. Obama is negotiating with the Russians.

However, we're not surprised to hear that the President is getting contrary political advice from his Vice President, Joe Biden, who is arguing that the White House should try to get the 67 votes on Start's merits alone. He wants to delay any nuclear modernization decision, holding it out as a carrot to offer Senators in return for ratifying the separate Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Senate rejected the test ban pact when Bill Clinton submitted it in 1999, but Mr. Obama hopes to do better with 60 Senate Democrats backed by his global disarmament agenda.

This wouldn't be the first time Mr. Biden has misjudged a vital security issue—recall his proposal to split Iraq into three parts. The deteriorating U.S. nuclear arsenal is emerging as a big security problem, and Start won't be an easy sell even with the money for warhead upgrades. Mr. Obama could have simply renewed the 1991 Start treaty and pocketed an early diplomatic victory. Instead, he has sought something more ambitious in support of his larger disarmament dreams, and the Russians are demanding a hard bargain in return.

.The U.S. has already agreed to steep cuts in its military arsenal, even before the Administration has come out with its Nuclear Posture Review and weapons modernization plan. Last week, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin raised the ante by saying he now wants the U.S. to abandon missile defenses as part of a new Start pact. The Obama Administration's decision to downsize missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic seems to have only emboldened the Russians to push for bigger concessions.

Another issue is verification. With Start's expiration December 5, Russia has pulled inspectors from a factory that's building the next generation of Russian ICBMs and scaled back electronic monitoring—called telemetry—of missile production and movements. The U.S. is trying to undo some of this in negotiations, but Senators will want to make sure that any fix isn't merely cosmetic. If the U.S. is going to reduce its missile and warhead numbers, we need to know what the Russians have in their arsenal.

The stakes here aren't merely whether Mr. Obama can get his treaties ratified; they concern the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Mr. Obama says he wants to stop nuclear proliferation but he will only encourage it if our allies begin to believe that the U.S. arsenal is either too small or too unreliable to protect them. Japan has already raised concerns, and with Mr. Obama unable or unwilling to stop either North Korean or Iranian nuclear ambitions, such worry will only spread.

Grand speeches about a world without nuclear weapons are crowd-pleasers at the U.N., but the U.S. Senate has an obligation to inspect the fine print before it ratifies any reduction in U.S. defenses. Senators shouldn't begin to consider a smaller arsenal until the Obama Administration takes the steps to ensure that our remaining weapons will work if we need them
24953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 04, 2010, 07:44:07 PM
The problem is this:

Due to the acclerating march of technology and its geometrically accelerating decline of its costs, it becomes possible to have an all seeing all recording Big Brother state.
24954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 04, 2010, 05:08:09 PM

That's very funny , , , and utterly non-responsive to the real issues presented.

With this we will be on the slippery slope to being watched all the time everywhere.

I didn't like this when I read Orwell's 1984, and I don't like it now. 

I don't think the Founding Fathers would put up with it ither.
24955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ targetting snipers back in UK on: January 04, 2010, 04:06:13 PM
Al-Qaeda target British soldiers returning from Afghanistan

British-based Islamist radicals are targeting Army soldiers - especially snipers - returning from fighting in southern Afghanistan, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:30AM GMT 03 Jan 2010
Soldiers from 12 Regiment Royal Artillery mark their return from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as they process through the streets of Blackpool.

In one case, a police armed response unit was called to the home of a sniper last September amid fears he was about to be murdered or abducted by al-Qaeda terrorists.

The Corporal, serving with a Scottish Regiment, was one of a two-man sniping team which shot dead 32 Taliban fighters during a six-month tour of Afghanistan.
The soldier – whom this newspaper has agreed not to name – was temporarily forced to leave home his wife and family after details of his service in Afghanistan were made public.

It can also be disclosed that a second sniper who recently returned home to the Glasgow area received death threats from suspected British-based al-Qaeda sympathisers after his personal details became known.

The threats were deemed so serious that an armed response unit was sent to his home in case terrorists tried to kidnap or kill him or members of his family.

Defence chiefs now see the situation as so serious that they have asked newspapers and broadcasters not to publicise the names or personal details of snipers serving in Helmand or of those who have recently returned.

It is understood that senior commanders believe Army snipers are being specifically targeted because they are often used to seek out and kill Taliban commanders.

In November, The Sunday Telegraph interviewed two snipers, who were not named for security reasons, serving in the reconnaissance platoon of the 1st battalion Grenadier Guards

Both soldiers had taken part in an ambush of a Taliban force as the insurgents prepared to attack a British patrol base.

The two snipers were used to initiate the ambush by shooting dead a Taliban commander who was positioning his troops prior to a planned dawn attack in the Nad-e'Ali area of central Helmand.

After more than 12 hours of fighting both soldiers said that believed that they had killed at least two insurgents each. One of the snipers also admitted that he had lost count of the number of insurgents he had killed since arriving in Helmand two months earlier but believed the number was "well into double figures".

But senior commanders requested that the two snipers not be identified in reports of the battle amid fears that the troops or their families might be attacked when they returned to Britain.

In January 2007, a plot by a Birmingham-based al-Qaeda cell to kidnap a British soldier and behead him was discovered.

The six-man cell was led by Paviz Khan, a 37-year-old father of three, who planned to kidnap a Muslim soldier and post a film of him being beheaded on the internet in a bid to deter other members of the faith from joining the British Army.

The plan was thwarted by a year-long surveillance operation by MI5 and members of the West Midlands counter-terrorist unit. Khan was later jailed for life.

A senior defence source said snipers were being targeted because theirs sole role in Afghanistan was to kill.

He added: "Sniping is a cold and calculating art. You have to be prepared to kill someone at a long range who may not be posing any direct threat to you. Every sniper who deploys to Helmand will return with several kills, many will be into double figures and this is something which is not lost on al-Qaeda or their sympathisers. Islamists would see targeting snipers as something is "acceptable" because they are killing a soldier who has killed one of their brothers."
24956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 04, 2010, 03:50:50 PM
Bomber Who Killed C.I.A. Staff Worked With Jordanian Intelligence

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The suicide bomber who killed seven
C.I.A. officers and one Jordanian intelligence officer last
week in southeastern Afghanistan was an asset of the
Jordanian intelligence service who had been brought to
Afghanistan to help hunt down top members of the Qaeda
network, according to a Western official briefed on the

Read More:
24957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother Eye in the Sky on: January 04, 2010, 03:46:58 PM
24958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 04, 2010, 12:06:01 PM
Again we see underlined the Stratfor point which seems so pivotal to me:

There is no way around the fact that the ANA and the ANP will be riddled with enemy agents; therefore it is doubly key that we infiltrate the enemy!!!  That mission did not seem to succeed here.  Can we have any hope in succeeding at this mission when both potential friends and the enemy have heard our President say we will begin leaving in 18 months?
24959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: January 04, 2010, 12:02:31 PM
No argument from me.

The Obama-Clinton policy on Honduras has been unusually incompetent and/or malicious.
24960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Brazil on: January 04, 2010, 11:22:31 AM
Until recently, the Obama administration assumed that Brazil and the United States were natural allies who shared many foreign policy interests, particularly in Latin America. Brazil, after all, is a friendly democracy with a growing market economy and Western cultural values.

It will soon be the fifth largest economy in the world. It recently discovered billions of barrels of petroleum in the deep waters off its coast and is an agricultural powerhouse. It has also made significant progress in eradicating poverty. It therefore seemed only natural to expect that as Brazil became "more like us," it would seek to play a more active and constructive role in this hemisphere, and that U.S. and Brazilian political and security interests would largely coincide.

This now seems like wishful thinking. On a number of important political and security issues, Washington and Brasilia recently have not seen eye to eye. Nor has Brazil shown much leadership in tackling the important political and security challenges facing the region.

One example is Brazil's role in UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). At a September meeting in Quito focused on regional security issues, topics not discussed included the multibillion-dollar arms race in the region, the granting of sanctuary and other forms of aid by Venezuela to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian narco-guerrilla group, and the growing nuclear cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Instead, Brazil joined UNASUR in criticizing Colombia for having agreed to allow the U.S. to use seven of its military bases for counterterrorist and counter narcotics activities inside Colombia.

The fact that Colombia has been under attack by an armed guerrilla group supported by some members of the Union was not considered relevant to the organization's decision to criticize Colombia for seeking help from Washington. Furthermore, none of the democratic countries in South America, including Brazil, has offered military or even rhetorical support to besieged Colombia.

Another example is Brazil's changing position concerning the importance of democratic governance. Both Brazil and the U.S. initially opposed the Honduran military's removal from office of the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, despite the fact that Mr. Zelaya had violated Honduras's constitution.

Brazil's interest in democracy in Honduras does not, however, extend to Cuba. Only weeks earlier, Brazil voted in the Organization of American States to lift the membership ban on Cuba—a country that has not held a democratic election in 50 years. This decision contradicted the organization's democratic charter.

Brazil also has never tried to mobilize support against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's use of democratic institutions to systematically destroy that country's democracy. On the contrary, Brazil's President Lula da Silva is supporting Venezuela's efforts to join Mercosur (a South American customs union), despite rules that limit membership to democratic countries.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Brazilian President Lula da Silva, right, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
.Finally, there is the issue of Brazil's apparent lack of concern regarding Iran's increasing penetration into Latin America through Venezuela. There are now weekly flights between Caracas and Tehran that bring passengers and cargo into Venezuela without any customs or immigration controls. Venezuela has also signed agreements with Iran for transferring nuclear technology, and there is speculation it is giving Iran access to Venezuelan uranium deposits.

Instead of expressing concern over Iran's activities in Latin America, Brazil is drawing closer to Tehran and hopes to expand its $2 billion bilateral trade to $10 billion in the near future. President Lula recently hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil. He reiterated his support for Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses, while insisting that there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Several conclusions can be drawn from Brazil's behavior. First, Brazil wants to prevent the U.S. from expanding its military involvement in South America, which Brazil regards as its sphere of influence. Second, Brazil much prefers working within multilateral institutions, rather than acting unilaterally.

Within these institutions, Brazil seeks to integrate all regional players, achieve consensus and avoid conflict and fragmentation—all worthy goals. But these are procedural, rather than substantive, goals.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Stated differently, Brazil's multilateral efforts in the region seem to value the appearance of leadership over finding real solutions to the growing political and security threats facing Latin America. These conclusions do not imply that the U.S. and Brazil have no overlapping interests, or that they cannot work together to solve particular regional or even global issues. They do mean Washington may need to rethink its assumptions regarding the extent to which Brazil can be relied on to deal with political and security problems in Latin America in ways that are also compatible with U.S. interests.

Ms. Purcell is the director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
24961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NK collapse? on: January 04, 2010, 11:19:47 AM
North Korea's nuclear program has preoccupied foreign policy makers for years, but it's not the only problem on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong Il's regime looks increasingly unstable and could collapse. That could lead to North Korea's reunification with the South and could present foreign leaders with the expensive task of modernizing the North's economy.

There are three plausible scenarios for a Korean reunification. One would be sudden and bloodless like what Germany experienced. The worst would be a reunification marked by the kind of violence Vietnam suffered. The third is somewhere between the first two and akin to the chaotic post-Communist transitions of Romania and Albania.

Any one of these outcomes would be expensive. The North's economy is in shambles. It collapsed in the 1990s amid a famine that likely killed hundreds of thousands of people. Fixing the economy will require new infrastructure, starting with the power grid, railway lines and ports. This alone will cost tens of billions of dollars. Few of the North's factories meet modern standards and it will take years to rehabilitate agricultural lands. The biggest expense of all will be equalizing North Koreans' incomes with their richer cousins in the South, whether through aid transfers or investments in education and health care.

Even the best-case German model will cause South Koreans heartburn. Despite the $2 trillion West Germany has paid over two decades, Bonn had it relatively easy in the beginning. East Germany's population was only one-quarter of West Germany's, and in 1989 East German per capita income was one-third of the West's. The two Germanies also had extensive trade ties.

North Korea's per capita income is less than 5% of the South's. Each year the dollar value of South Korea's GDP expansion equals the entire North Korean economy. The North's population is half the South's and rising thanks to a high birth rate. North and South also barely trade with each other. To catch up to the South, North Korea will need more resources than East Germany required if living standards on both sides of the peninsula are to be close to each other.

More than a dozen reports by governments, academics and investment banks in recent years have attempted to estimate the cost of Korean unification. At the low end, the Rand Corporation estimates $50 billion. But that assumes only a doubling of Northern incomes from current levels, which would leave incomes in the North at less than 10% of the South.

At the high end, Credit Suisse estimated last year that unification would cost $1.5 trillion, but with North Korean incomes rising to only 60% of those in the South. I estimate that raising Northern incomes to 80% of Southern levels—which would likely be a political necessity—would cost anywhere from $2 trillion to $5 trillion, spread out over 30 years. That would work out to at least $40,000 per capita if distributed solely among South Koreans.

Who would foot such a bill? China is the greatest supporter of the current regime in Pyongyang, with trade, investment and economic assistance worth $3 billion a year. Even if that flow continues, it's only a fraction of the $67 billion a year needed to equal $2 trillion over 30 years. Japan is willing to pay $10 billion in reparations for having colonized the North in the 20th century, but that too would barely make a dent.

That leaves international institutions like the World Bank as well as South Korea and the United States. Building a modern economy in North Korea would be a wise investment in peace and prosperity in North Asia. Policy makers need to think about where that money will come from and how it should be spent to minimize the risk of wasting it in post-reunification confusion.

Mr. Beck is the Pantech Research Fellow at Stanford University and teaches at American University and Ewha Womans University.
24962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2006: Napolitano on the Patriot Act on: January 04, 2010, 11:06:41 AM
I am in a conversation wherein someone has asserted the following article.  Is the article sound or not?  Why?  Thanks for the help:
Congress Has Assaulted Our Freedoms in the Patriot Act

by Andrew P. Napolitano

The compromise version of the Patriot Act to which House and Senate conferees agreed last week and for which the House voted yesterday is an unforgivable assault on basic American values and core constitutional liberties. Unless amended in response to the courageous efforts of a few dozen senators from both parties, the new Patriot Act will continue to give federal agents the power to write their own search warrants – the statute’s newspeak terminology calls them "national security letters" – and serve them on a host of persons and entities that regularly gather and store sensitive, private information on virtually every American.

Congress once respected the Fourth Amendment until it began cutting holes in it. Before Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1977, Americans and even non-citizens physically present here enjoyed the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. That Amendment, which was written out of a revulsion to warrants that let British soldiers look for any tangible thing anywhere they chose, specifically requires that the government demonstrate to a judge and the judge specifically find the existence of probable cause of criminal activity on the part of the person whose property the government wishes to search. The Fourth Amendment commands that only a judge can authorize a search warrant.

FISA unconstitutionally changed the probable cause of criminality requirement to probable cause of employment by a foreign government, hostile or friendly. Under FISA, if the government can demonstrate the foreign agency or employment status of the person whose things it wishes to search, the secret FISA court will issue the search warrant.

But even FISA respects constitutional liberty, since it prohibits prosecutions based on evidence obtained from these warrants. Thus, if a FISA warrant reveals that the embassy janitor is really a spy who beats his wife, he would not and could not be prosecuted for either crime because the evidence of his crimes was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a judicial finding of probable cause of criminal activity. Instead of being prosecuted, he would be deported.

A year later in 1978, cutting yet another hole in the Fourth Amendment, Congress revealed its distaste for fidelity to the Constitution and its ignorance of the British government’s abuse of the colonists by enacting the Orwellian–named, Right to Financial Privacy Act. This statute, for the first time in American history, let federal agents write their own search warrants, but limited the subjects of those warrants to financial institutions. Just like FISA, it recognized the unconstitutional nature of evidence obtained by a self-written search warrant, and banned the use of such evidence in criminal prosecutions.

In 1986, Congress continued to cut. It disregarded yet again the Fourth Amendment’s protection of privacy when it enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which allowed federal agents to serve self-written search warrants on collectors of digital financial data, but continued to recognize that evidence thus obtained was constitutionally incompetent for criminal prosecution purposes.

The deepest cut came on October 15, 2001 when Congress enacted the Patriot Act. With minimal floor debate in the Senate and no floor debate in the House (House members were given only 30 minutes to read the 315 page bill), Congress enacted this most unpatriotic rejection of privacy and constitutional guarantees. Together with its offspring the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2004 and the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, the Patriot Act not only permits the execution of self-written search warrants on a host of new subjects, it rejects the no-criminal-prosecution protections of its predecessors by requiring evidence obtained contrary to the Fourth Amendment to be turned over to prosecutors and mandating that such evidence is constitutionally competent in criminal prosecutions.

The new version of the Patriot Act which the Senate will debate this weekend purports to make all of this congressional rejection of our history, our values, and our Constitution the law of the land.

So, if your representative in the House has voted, or your Senators do vote, for the House/Senate conference approved version, they will be authorizing federal agents on their own, in violation of the Constitution, and without you knowing it, to obtain records about you from your accountant, bank, boat dealer, bodega, book store, car dealer, casino, computer server, credit union, dentist, HMO, hospital, hotel manager, insurance company, jewelry store, lawyer, library, pawn broker, pharmacist, physician, postman, real estate agent, supermarket, tax collectors, telephone company, travel agency, and trust company, and use the evidence thus obtained in any criminal prosecution against you.

Why would Congress, whose members swore to uphold the Constitution, authorize such a massive evasion of it by the federal agents we have come to rely upon to protect our freedoms? Why would Congress nullify the Fourth Amendment–guaranteed right to privacy for which we and our forbearers have fought and paid dearly? How could the men and women we elect to fortify our freedoms and write our laws so naïvely embrace the less-freedom-equals-more-security canard? Why have we fought for 230 years to keep foreign governments from eviscerating our freedoms if we will voluntarily let our own government do so?

The unfortunate answer to these questions is the inescapable historical truth that those in government – from both parties and with a few courageous exceptions – do not feel constrained by the Constitution. They think they can do whatever they want. They have hired vast teams of government lawyers to twist and torture the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment to justify their aggrandizement of power to themselves. They vote for legislation they have not read and do not understand. Their only fear is being overruled by judges. In the case of the Patriot Act, they should be afraid. The federal judges who have published opinions on the challenges to it have all found it constitutionally flawed.

The Fourth Amendment worked for 200 years to facilitate law enforcement and protect constitutional freedoms before Congress began to cut holes in it. Judges sit in every state in the Union 24/7 to hear probable cause applications for search warrants. There is simply no real demonstrable evidence that our American-value-driven-constitutional-privacy-protection-system is in need of such a radical change.

A self-written search warrant, even one called a national security letter, is the ultimate constitutional farce. What federal agents would not authorize themselves to seize whatever they wished? Why even bother with such a meaningless requirement? We might as well let the feds rummage through any office, basement, computer, or bedroom they choose. Who would trust government agents with this unfettered unreviewable power? The Framers did not. Why would government agents bother going to a judge with probable cause seeking a search warrant if they can simply write their own? Big Brother must have caught on because federal agents have written and executed self-written search warrants on over 120,000 unsuspecting Americans since October 2001.

Is this the society we want? Have we ultimately elected a government to spy on all of us? The Fourth Amendment is the lynchpin of our personal privacy and individual dignity. Without the Fourth Amendment’s protections, we will become another East Germany. The Congress must recognize this before it is too late.

December 16, 2005

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel, and the author of Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws.
24963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The biggest losers on: January 04, 2010, 10:36:45 AM
Happy New Year, readers, but before we get on with the debates of 2010, there's still some ugly 2009 business to report: To wit, the Treasury's Christmas Eve taxpayer massacre lifting the $400 billion cap on potential losses for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the limits on what the failed companies can borrow.

The Treasury is hoping no one notices, and no wonder. Taxpayers are continuing to buy senior preferred stock in the two firms to cover their growing losses—a combined $111 billion so far. When Treasury first bailed them out in September 2008, Congress put a $200 billion limit ($100 billion each) on federal assistance. Last year, the Treasury raised the potential commitment to $400 billion. Now the limit on taxpayer exposure is, well, who knows?

The firms have made clear that they may only be able to pay the preferred dividends they owe taxpayers by borrowing still more money . . . from taxpayers. Said Fannie Mae in its most recent quarterly report: "We expect that, for the foreseeable future, the earnings of the company, if any, will not be sufficient to pay the dividends on the senior preferred stock. As a result, future dividend payments will be effectively funded from equity drawn from the Treasury."

The loss cap is being lifted because the government has directed both companies to pursue money-losing strategies by modifying mortgages to prevent foreclosures. Most of their losses are still coming from subprime and Alt-A mortgage bets made during the boom, but Fannie reported last quarter that loan modifications resulted in $7.7 billion in losses, up from $2.2 billion the previous quarter.

The government wants taxpayers to think that these are profit-seeking companies being nursed back to health, like AIG. But at least AIG is trying to make money. Fan and Fred are now designed to lose money, transferring wealth from renters and homeowners to overextended borrowers.

Even better for the political class, much of this is being done off the government books. The White House budget office still doesn't fully account for Fannie and Freddie's spending as federal outlays, though Washington controls the companies. Nor does it include as part of the national debt the $5 trillion in mortgages—half the market—that the companies either own or guarantee. The companies have become Washington's ultimate off-balance-sheet vehicles, the political equivalent of Citigroup's SIVs, that are being used to subsidize and nationalize mortgage finance.

This subterfuge also explains the Christmas Eve timing. After December 31, Team Obama would have needed the consent of Congress to raise the taxpayer exposure beyond $400 billion. By law, negative net worth at the companies forces them into "receivership," which means they have to be wound down.

Unlimited bailouts will now allow the Treasury to keep them in conservatorship, which means they can help to conserve the Democratic majority in Congress by increasing their role in housing finance. With the Federal Reserve planning to step back as early as March from buying $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, Team Obama is counting on Fan and Fred to help reflate the housing bubble.

That's why on Christmas Eve Treasury also rolled back a key requirement of the 2008 bailout—that Fan and Fred begin shrinking the portfolios of mortgages they own on their own account, which total a combined $1.5 trillion. Risk-taking will now increase, so that the government can once again follow Barney Frank's infamous advice that the companies "roll the dice" on subsidies for affordable housing.

All of which would seem to make the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie the world's most overpaid bureaucrats. A release from the Federal Housing Finance Agency that also fell in the Christmas Eve forest reports that, after presiding over a combined $24 billion in losses last quarter, Fannie CEO Michael Williams and Freddie boss Ed Haldeman are getting substantial raises. Each is now eligible for up to $6 million annually.

Freddie also has one of the world's highest-paid human resources executives. Paul George's total compensation can run up to $2.7 million. It must require a rare set of skills to spot executives capable of losing billions of dollars.

Where is Treasury's pay czar when we actually need him? You guessed it, Fannie and Freddie are exempt from the rules applied to the TARP banks. The government gave away the game that these firms are no longer in the business of making profits when it announced that the CEOs will be paid entirely in cash, though it is discouraging that practice at other big banks. Who would want stock in the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

Meanwhile, these biggest of Beltway losers continue to be missing from the debate over financial reform. The Treasury still hasn't offered its long-promised proposals even as it presses reform on banks that played a far smaller role in the financial mania and panic. Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and ranking Republican Richard Shelby recently issued a joint statement on their "progress" toward financial regulatory reform, but their list of goals also doesn't mention Fannie or Freddie.

Since Mr. Shelby has long argued for reform of these government-sponsored enterprises, their absence suggests that Mr. Dodd's longtime effort to protect Fan and Fred is once again succeeding. It would be worse than a shame if, having warned about the iceberg for years, Mr. Shelby now joins Mr. Dodd in pretending that these ships aren't sinking.

In today's Washington, we suppose, it only makes sense that the companies that did the most to cause the meltdown are being kept alive to lose even more money. The politicians have used the panic as an excuse to reform everything but themselves.
24964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran expands its target list on: January 04, 2010, 10:34:12 AM
The nagging question of the nuclear age has been what if a madman gets hold of an atomic bomb? That question is about to be answered as Iran's defiance puts it on a collision course with the West.

On Nov. 4, 2009, Israeli commandos intercepted an Antiguan-flagged ship 100 miles off the Israeli coast. It was carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran and bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah with 40,000 rockets and missiles that will likely rain on Israeli cities—and even European cities and U.S. military bases in the Middle East—if Iran is attacked. Our 200,000 troops in 33 bases are vulnerable. Shortly before this weapons seizure, Hamas test-fired a missile capable of striking Israel's largest city, Tel Aviv.

Iran is capable of disrupting Persian Gulf shipping lanes, which could cause the price of oil to surge above $300 a barrel. Iran could also create mayhem in oil markets by attacking Saudi oil refineries. Moreover, Iran possesses Soviet made SS-N-22 "Sunburn" supersonic antiship missiles that it could use to contest a naval blockade.

Iran could unleash suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan or, more ominously, activate Hezbollah sleeper cells in the U.S. to carry out coordinated attacks nationwide. FBI, CIA and other U.S. officials have acknowledged in congressional testimony that Hezbollah has a working partnership with Mexican drug cartels and has been using cartel smuggling routes to get personnel and contraband into the U.S.

While Iranian centrifuges continue to produce low-enriched uranium, the mullahs and their henchmen have been carrying out a campaign of deception. In October 2009, Iran rejected a plan to ship its low-enriched uranium out of country, primarily to Russia and France, to be highly enriched and then sent back to Iran for "peaceful medical purposes."

On Nov. 28, 2009, reacting to increased pressure from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran warned it may pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would seriously undermine international attempts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Two days later, Iran announced plans to build 10 new nuclear plants within six years.

In another sphere, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are openly cooperating to "oppose world hegemony," as Mr. Ahmadinejan has said, while weekly flights between Iran and Venezuela are not monitored for personnel and cargo. Meanwhile, Russia is building an arms plant in Venezuela to produce AK-103 automatic rifles and finalizing contracts to send 53 military helicopters to the country.

I have seen this play before. In 1983, I was the Marine commander of the U.S. Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Beirut, Lebanon. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Lebanon contingent trained and equipped Hezbollah to execute attacks that killed 241 of my men and 58 French Peacekeepers on Oct. 23, 1983.

Today, Hezbollah directly threatens Israel, destabilizes Lebanon, and undercuts the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords. Something similar is underway in Venezuela. Remember Hezbollah used the Beirut truck-bomb model for the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992 and the July 18, 1994 attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association that killed 85 and wounded 200.

The man directly responsible for those bombings was the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. He is listed on Interpol's most wanted list and was a key operative in the 1983 attacks on peacekeepers in Lebanon. In August 2009, he was named Iran's minister of defense. He succeeded Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, who was the commander of the IRGC Lebanon contingent and the chief organizer of the 1983 Beirut bombings. Both have Beirut peacekeepers' blood on their hands and are the same key leaders who today are orchestrating Iranian deception and defiance as they march lock-step toward their ultimate goal—nuclear weapons.

Col. Geraghty, USMC (Ret.), is the author of "Peacekeepers at War; Beirut 1983—The Marine Commander Tells His Story" (Potomac Books, 2009).
24965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: As usual Krugman get it *ss backwards on: January 04, 2010, 10:26:31 AM
That 1937 Feeling Recommend
Published: January 3, 2010

Here’s what’s coming in economic news: The next employment report could show the economy adding jobs for the first time in two years. The next G.D.P. report is likely to show solid growth in late 2009. There will be lots of bullish commentary — and the calls we’re already hearing for an end to stimulus, for reversing the steps the government and the Federal Reserve took to prop up the economy, will grow even louder.

But if those calls are heeded, we’ll be repeating the great mistake of 1937, when the Fed and the Roosevelt administration decided that the Great Depression was over, that it was time for the economy to throw away its crutches. Spending was cut back, monetary policy was tightened — and the economy promptly plunged back into the depths.

This shouldn’t be happening. Both Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Christina Romer, who heads President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, are scholars of the Great Depression. Ms. Romer has warned explicitly against re-enacting the events of 1937. But those who remember the past sometimes repeat it anyway.

As you read the economic news, it will be important to remember, first of all, that blips — occasional good numbers, signifying nothing — are common even when the economy is, in fact, mired in a prolonged slump. In early 2002, for example, initial reports showed the economy growing at a 5.8 percent annual rate. But the unemployment rate kept rising for another year.

And in early 1996 preliminary reports showed the Japanese economy growing at an annual rate of more than 12 percent, leading to triumphant proclamations that “the economy has finally entered a phase of self-propelled recovery.” In fact, Japan was only halfway through its lost decade.

Such blips are often, in part, statistical illusions. But even more important, they’re usually caused by an “inventory bounce.” When the economy slumps, companies typically find themselves with large stocks of unsold goods. To work off their excess inventories, they slash production; once the excess has been disposed of, they raise production again, which shows up as a burst of growth in G.D.P. Unfortunately, growth caused by an inventory bounce is a one-shot affair unless underlying sources of demand, such as consumer spending and long-term investment, pick up.

Which brings us to the still grim fundamentals of the economic situation.

During the good years of the last decade, such as they were, growth was driven by a housing boom and a consumer spending surge. Neither is coming back. There can’t be a new housing boom while the nation is still strewn with vacant houses and apartments left behind by the previous boom, and consumers — who are $11 trillion poorer than they were before the housing bust — are in no position to return to the buy-now-save-never habits of yore.

What’s left? A boom in business investment would be really helpful right now. But it’s hard to see where such a boom would come from: industry is awash in excess capacity, and commercial rents are plunging in the face of a huge oversupply of office space.

Can exports come to the rescue? For a while, a falling U.S. trade deficit helped cushion the economic slump. But the deficit is widening again, in part because China and other surplus countries are refusing to let their currencies adjust.

So the odds are that any good economic news you hear in the near future will be a blip, not an indication that we’re on our way to sustained recovery. But will policy makers misinterpret the news and repeat the mistakes of 1937? Actually, they already are.

The Obama fiscal stimulus plan is expected to have its peak effect on G.D.P. and jobs around the middle of this year, then start fading out. That’s far too early: why withdraw support in the face of continuing mass unemployment? Congress should have enacted a second round of stimulus months ago, when it became clear that the slump was going to be deeper and longer than originally expected. But nothing was done — and the illusory good numbers we’re about to see will probably head off any further possibility of action.

Meanwhile, all the talk at the Fed is about the need for an “exit strategy” from its efforts to support the economy. One of those efforts, purchases of long-term U.S. government debt, has already come to an end. It’s widely expected that another, purchases of mortgage-backed securities, will end in a few months. This amounts to a monetary tightening, even if the Fed doesn’t raise interest rates directly — and there’s a lot of pressure on Mr. Bernanke to do that too.

Will the Fed realize, before it’s too late, that the job of fighting the slump isn’t finished? Will Congress do the same? If they don’t, 2010 will be a year that began in false economic hope and ended in grief.
24966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Real Motives on: January 04, 2010, 07:23:33 AM
Real Motives
By Tzvi Freeman

No person can know his own inner motives.

He may be kind because kindness brings him pleasure.

He may be wise because wisdom is music to his soul.

He may become a martyr burned in fire because his nature is to defy, his nature is to be fire.

When can you know that your motives are sincere? Only when it is not within your nature to do this thing.

And how do you know that it is not within your nature? Only when you travel two opposite paths at once.

24967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Whoops! Not so good after all. on: January 03, 2010, 09:27:13 PM

She's no victim, after all.
A Queens teenager who stabbed a man to death in a subway was facing manslaughter charges Tuesday night after cops said she was to blame in the Christmas Eve fracas.
Cyan Brown, 16, was originally portrayed as a plucky victim who stabbed Thomas Winston, 29, in self-defense after a group of men tried to attack her.
"She was the main aggressor, without a doubt," a police source told The Daily News.
Brown got into a shouting match with Winston after one of her male friends bumped into him on an F train at the 21st St.-Queensbridge station.
Winston, who was with a group of pals, asked the man to apologize, setting off a confrontation that apparently spilled on to the sidewalk in front of a chicken joint.
"You could say excuse me," the slain man said, according to cops.
That's when Brown, who lives in the nearby Queensbridge Houses, got involved in the battle of words.
"She takes over, gets mouthy," the source said.
Moments later, she pulled a knife and stabbed Winston, cops said.
"She reaches in her bag, takes out a weapon, lunges at him and cuts him," the source said.
Winston's friends chased after Brown and tried to drag her off the F train - but she escaped.

Witnesses told cops it appeared the teen was fleeing from a gang of aggressive men.
Brown's mom later told reporters her daughter was protecting herself from the men who tried to fondle her when she stabbed Winston.
Cops also bought the self-defense claim up to a point but after further investigation, they poked holes in that account of the stabbing.
Brown turned herself in for questioning Tuesday afternoon at the 114th Precinct. She is expected to be arraigned today on manslaughter and weapons charges.
"We located an eyewitness to the stabbing," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said, adding that the witness picked Brown out of a lineup. "As a result, she has been arrested."

Winston was the father of a baby girl.

He was living in a homeless shelter and he was trying to turn his life around, his family said.

Relatives portrayed him as a peaceful person who never should have been killed on his way to get a subway train.

"When you stab somebody in the heart it should be murder first-degree," said his aunt, Diane Greenspan.

"I hope justice will be served."
24968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / "He had his Art" (c DBI) on: January 03, 2010, 09:22:48 PM
Copyrighted.  Share only by posting this URL elsewhere please. 

He Had His Art
written by Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
(c DBInc)

Several years back, a man I had fought at a "Dog Brothers Gathering" went out behind his school and blew his brains out.  He was involved in intense law enforcement work and I was told that his marriage was ending.  He left two daughters and a separated wife.

He was a part of the extended Inosanto Tribe as well the Dog Brothers tribe and so I mentioned it to Guro Inosanto.  He was surprised, and instantly exclaimed "How could he have done that?  He had his Art!"

As I tried explaining how perhaps there had been gremlins planted or unleashed by his work, and that perhaps he had cracked as his family was breaking up, Guro seemed to not even care what the reasons were-- he had his Art and why had he not turned to it?

I certainly had no answer in his case, but began to reflect upon the Art and its larger role in life.

At its core level, martial arts is about Love, the belief that you (and those you wish to protect) are worthy of defending from the Aggression of others.

So what is Aggression for?

In DBMA we often look at things through a lens of evolutionary biology-psychology and speak of the three reasons for Aggression: Territory, Hierarchy, and Reproduction.  There is much value in this perspective-- but we do not experience our lives in terms of evolution.

We experience our lives as individuals living the time we have.  As men, this usually means we are The Protector.  The Protector faces a great dichotomy-- he must be ready to connect with his Darkness in order to neutralize or defeat the Darkness of others-- and at the same time be conscious of his own Shadow tricking him into being the Problem instead of the Solution.  The greater this dichotomy, the profounder the transformation that results from balancing its halves successfully.

Thus, as a natural person living with our Intelligence and our Animal Natures in service of our Heart, (I refer here to the three corners of the triangle of the DBMA emblem: "Mind, Heart & Balls") we come to "the three H's of Bando: Hurting, Healing, and Harmonizing".

Typically we come to the Art seeking to learn how to Hurt.  In the process of learning to do so, we too are hurt, and thus develop the need to Heal ourselves.  With this beginning experience of our own mortality, with empathy we learn to see others as no different from us.  From there, an Awareness is available which takes us through a portal to different way of seeing things.  It is to realize that the darkness we recognize in others, named by Carl Jung  "the Shadow", is also within us, and those with whom we conflict the most have a Shadow most like our own --a truly annoying and
challenging thought this is!  Yet, by so doing we bring consciousness to our solutions to Aggression.  As Jung said in the words opening the first video in our first series, "The idea is not to imagine figures of light, but to
make the darkness conscious."

The Art becomes seen not as a matter of doing Aggression well, but of dealing well with it-which may or may not be a matter of doing it "better" than The Other.  In other words, we become increasingly able to engage with others in a Harmonious way, and become increasingly inaccessible to hostile intentions, provocations or neurosis on the part of others.

And the more grounded we are in this space, the clearer and more effective we should be in our will to act when circumstances require-and as surely as no one beats everyone, equally sure it is that there can be times and places beyond one's ability to harmonize.  If the flying fickle finger of Fate puts you on Flight 93, it is time to say "Lets Roll."

Those who dedicate their lives to protecting others (soldiers, policemen, prison guards, etc) deal with those with whom efforts at harmonization may well be suicidal.  These Protectors face the dichotomy in particularly acute form.  I remember a conversation with my good friend and hero, Dogzilla - a federal prison guard.  We were speaking as we often do, of his life at work. He runs the kitchen (a truly weapon intense environment) and is on the cell extraction team-particularly high adrenal jobs both.  "How do you do it, day after day, keeping alert surrounded by bad men with nothing better to do for the next 20 years than to study you for weakness and opportunity to exploit it?  How do you go into a cell to extract a criminally insane man in a psychotic killing state and drag him out without becoming that?"  I asked him.

"That's not the hardest part" he answered.  "The hardest part is getting in my truck at the end of the day and not going off on all the jerks on the road and going home to my wife and little girl and walking in the door in a state of love."

"So how do you do it?"

"I have my Art.  (Those words again!)  I go out back and train.  I train to be able to move through a room full of men looking to take me down and kill or make me pregnant and get out the door at the far side of the room and make it home to my family.  I enter into the space where I am capable of whatever it takes.  When I am done tuning up my body, when I am done discharging all the fear and all the unexpressed anger, and I know that I have trained with what Don Juan called 'impeccability', then my workout is done and I am ready for both my job and for my family."
24969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Embassies closed on: January 03, 2010, 09:42:28 AM
Pay attention to the part about two that were released from Gitmo

SAN'A, Yemen – The U.S. and Britain closed their embassies in Yemen on Sunday in the face of al-Qaida threats, after both countries announced an increase in aid to the government to fight the terror group linked to the failed attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas.

The confrontation with al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen has gained new urgency since the 23-year-old Nigerian accused in the attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told American investigators he received training and instructions from the group's operatives in Yemen. President Barack Obama said Saturday that the al-Qaida offshoot was behind the attempt.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the American Embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, was shut Sunday because of "indications al-Qaida is planning to carry out an attack against a target inside of San'a, possibly our embassy."

"We're not going to take any chances" with the lives of embassy personnel, Brennan said. A statement on the embassy's Web site announcing the closure did not say how long it would remain closed.

In London, Britain's Foreign Office said its embassy was closed for security reasons. It said officials would decide later whether to reopen it on Monday.

The closure comes as Washington is dramatically stepping up aid to Yemen to fight al-Qaida, which has built up strongholds in remote parts of the impoverished, mountainous nation where government control outside the capital is weak.

Over the weekend, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. general who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced that Washington this year will more than double the $67 million in counterterrorism aid that it provided Yemen in 2009. On Saturday, Petraeus met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss coordination in the fight against al-Qaida.

Britain announced Sunday that Washington and London will fund a counterterrorism police unit in Yemen. Britain will also host a high-level international conference Jan. 28 to come up with an international strategy to counter radicalization in Yemen.

The U.S. also provided intelligence and other help to back two Yemeni air and ground assaults on al-Qaida hide-outs last month, reported to have killed more than 60 people. Yemeni authorities said more than 30 suspected militants were among the dead.

The U.S. has increasingly provided intelligence, surveillance and training to Yemeni forces during the past year, and has provided some firepower, a senior U.S. defense official has said. Some of that assistance may be through the expanded use of unmanned drones, and the U.S. is providing funding to Yemen for helicopters and other equipment. Officials, however, say there are no U.S. ground forces or fighter aircraft in Yemen.

On Thursday, the embassy sent a notice to Americans in Yemen urging them to be vigilant about security.

Yemeni security officials said over the weekend that the country had deployed several hundred extra troops to Marib and Jouf, two mountainous eastern provinces that are al-Qaida's main strongholds in the country and where Abdulmutallab may have visited. U.S. and Yemeni investigators have been trying to track Abdulmutallab's steps in Yemen, which he visited from August until Dec. 7. He was there ostensibly to study Arabic in San'a, but he disappeared for much of that time.

Yemeni media also reported that the coast guard was increasing patrols to stop any incoming militants after an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group in Somalia, al-Shabab, claimed last week that it would send its fighters to help the terror group's offshoot there.

Al-Qaida fighters have dramatically increased their presence in Yemen over the past year, taking advantage of the San'a government's weak control over much of the country. Tribes hold sway over large areas, and many of them are discontented with the central government and have given refuge to al-Qaida fighters, both Yemenis and other Arabs coming from Saudi Arabia or war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, was the scene of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Yemeni government worked with Washington to crack down on al-Qaida figures on its soil.

But the terror group has rallied, announcing in January 2009 the creation of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, grouping fighters from Yemen and neighboring Saudi Arabia. The leader of the group, Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, is a Yemeni who was once close to bin Laden, and two Saudis who were released from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2007 and 2006 have taken up senior roles — Said al-Shihri, the group's deputy leader, and Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, seen as its theological adviser.

The Yemeni government, meanwhile, has been tied down battling two separate internal rebellions in the north and south. The various conflicts and the country's poverty and lack of resources have raised fears that instability could deepen.

Located at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen straddles a strategic maritime crossroads at the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the access point to the Suez Canal. Across the Gulf is Somalia, an even more tumultuous nation where the U.S. has said al-Qaida militants have been increasing their activity. Yemen also borders Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil producer.

There have been a spate of assaults on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

In an attack in September 2008, gunmen and two vehicles packed with explosives attacked the U.S. Embassy, killing 19 people, including an 18-year-old American woman and six militants. None of those killed or wounded were U.S. diplomats or embassy employees. Al-Qaida in Yemen claimed responsibility.

In March 2008, three mortars missed the U.S. Embassy and crashed into a high school for girls nearby, killing a security guard. In March 2003, two people were shot dead and dozens more were wounded as police clashed with demonstrators trying to storm the embassy.

Last January, gunmen in a car exchanged fire with police at a checkpoint near the embassy, hours after the embassy received threats of a possible attack by al-Qaida. Nobody was injured. In April, embassy personnel were put on a one-week lockdown, barred from leaving their homes or the embassy after al-Qaida suicide bombings that targeted South Korean visitors.

As recently as July, security was upgraded in San'a after intelligence reports warned of attacks planned against the U.S. Embassy.

24970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen on: January 03, 2010, 09:22:43 AM
We kick of this thread with a POTH piece by an FBI agent. 

Scenes From the War on Terrorism in Yemen
Published: January 2, 2010

The evidence that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen had a role in the failed Christmas Day bombing of an American passenger jet has led some to declare that Yemen is the new front in the war against the terrorist organization. But the truth is, Yemen has been a front in that war since at least Oct. 12, 2000, when Al Qaeda blew up the Navy destroyer Cole, killing 17 American sailors, in the port of Aden. The explosives for the bombing were bought in Yemen. And the attackers and their accomplices were predominantly Yemenis. Indeed, after the attack, terrorists in Qaeda camps in Afghanistan would march and chant, “We, the Yemenis, destroyed the Cole.”

As the F.B.I. case agent for the Cole investigation from 2000 to 2005, I spent years with colleagues in Yemen hunting down those responsible, and we unraveled an entire Qaeda network in the country.

Even before the Cole attack, Yemen was linked to terrorist acts. Most of the people who executed the 1998 East African embassy bombings either traveled through Yemen or used fraudulent Yemeni passports. Almost two years after the Cole, Qaeda terrorists based in Yemen struck the Limburg, a French oil tanker, off the coast of Yemen. Qaeda terrorists in Yemen also helped facilitate the attacks of 9/11. Fahd al-Quso, a Yemeni Qaeda member who confessed to me his role in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, also admitted to ferrying money to a Qaeda operative known as Khallad who was part of an important 9/11 planning meeting in Malaysia.

As recently as this past August, an assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of interior in charge of security, was plotted in Yemen. The explosive mixture that the suicide bomber used in that attack was the same one that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to ignite on the passenger jet over Detroit — and in each case the terrorist hid the mixture in his underwear.

Yemen is a very appealing base for Al Qaeda for various reasons. From its position at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the country has convenient access to Al Qaeda’s main theaters of battle, including Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Its borders are unsecured, and tribal groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda control many regions, so terrorists can move freely into, out of and around the country. And guns and explosives are readily available from Yemen’s thriving arms market.

The country’s tribal nature also makes it a relatively easy place for Al Qaeda to operate. Yemen has a weak government and powerful regional tribes, which in many ways operate as mini-governments free of central control. In addition, the government is struggling to contain both a secessionist movement in the south and a rebellion in the north. Rampant poverty and illiteracy make it easy for Al Qaeda to buy local support and manipulate Yemenis into believing its propaganda.

When I was in Yemen, I found many extremely capable officials in law enforcement and intelligence who were dedicated to stopping Al Qaeda. With their help, and with support from American intelligence and military agencies, our F.B.I. team was able to arrest and prosecute in a Yemeni court people responsible for the Cole bombing and for planning other attacks. By the time we left Yemen, in 2005, those terrorists were in prison.

Later, however, some of them “escaped,” and others were given clemency. Jamal al-Badawi, for example, a Qaeda terrorist who confessed to me his role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, was sentenced to death by a Yemeni judge in 2004. But in 2006, he “escaped” from jail, only to turn himself in the next year — in a deal that released him from prison on a promise of good behavior. Today, Mr. Quso, the confessed Cole bomber, is not only free, he’s giving interviews and re-establishing himself as a terrorist operative.

During the past year, in an ominous sign of Yemen’s rising importance to Al Qaeda, the Saudi branch of the organization merged with the Yemeni branch to form a single terrorist group for the entire peninsula. Known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, it is based in Yemen and headed by a Yemeni, Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi, who served as a close aide to Osama bin Laden. Mr. Wahishi “escaped” from jail with Mr. Badawi.

Some Yemeni government officials highly value their relationship with the United States, which provides financial aid and military training. During our investigation of the Cole bombing, when the American government made it clear to the Yemenis that they expected full cooperation, the Yemenis who were dedicated to justice were given free rein and those with extremist ties were sidelined. After the trials were over and the terrorists made it out of jail, Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., flew to Yemen to complain, but there was little further protest by the United States. We dropped the ball.

A year and a half ago, when I briefed a bipartisan group of Senate staff members on Yemen, I warned that unless the American government sent a united message to the Yemenis to act against Al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the Cole would remain free and there would be future attacks against the United States connected to Yemen. Today, the terrorists behind the Cole are still free, and an attack connected to Yemen has been attempted.

It is possible to defeat Al Qaeda in Yemen without sending American troops. Now that the Yemenis are once again acting against Al Qaeda by striking the terrorist group’s bases and killing or apprehending many of its members, the United States must show that it has learned to stay focused and hold Yemeni officials accountable. This time, the terrorists must be permanently locked up, not allowed to escape or receive pardons. The most important sign of Yemen’s sincerity will be when those with the blood of 17 American sailors on their hands are all brought to justice in the way they deserve.

Ali H. Soufan was an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005.
24971  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Un cuento on: January 03, 2010, 09:05:48 AM
En 1977 un amigo mio, un Chilango, y yo fuimos de aventura.  Llegando a San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas nos hicimos amigos de dos gringas.  Fuimos de caballo en el bosque por el dia.  Esta noche fuimos caminando.  Ellas fueron muy gueras, vestidas en pantalones muy cortas y camisetas , , , apretadas.  Cuatro tipos decidieron apoderarse de ellas.  Hubo gran pelea.  Yo, usando mi evilla como manople logre' nuestra salida.  Ellos gritaron "Vamos al coche por la pistola".  Llegando al zocola, decimos al policia "!Hay 4 tipos persiguiendonos con una pistola!"  Los 4 llegaron.  El policia, quien fue un transito armado con solo un desarmador (para quitar las placas de coches estacionados mal) se huyo'.    Fortunadamente los cuatro no tenian pistola, fueron armados con botellas y antena de coche.  Hubo otra pelea, y nosotros (las dos gringas, mi amigo chilango, y yo) nos encenaron en el cuartel de policia mientras los cuatro trataron de romper la puerta, la cual apoye' yo con mi pie y hombro.

Despues de varios eventos alli desmasiado largos para contar aqui, salimos por la ventana detras-- pero fue en el momento que la policia llegaron en numeros, viendonos saliendo por su ventana shocked cheesy  Por la cual nos echaron en la prision.  Mientras buscaban mordida para permitirnos salir, pasabamos tres dias en el prision-- donde tuvimos varias aventuras.

Al salir, fuimos a Huatulco y nos emborrachabamos.
24972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Food Stamps on: January 03, 2010, 08:44:41 AM

Living on Nothing but Food Stamps

Published: January 2, 2010
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — After an improbable rise from the Bronx projects to a job selling Gulf Coast homes, Isabel Bermudez lost it all to an epic housing bust — the six-figure income, the house with the pool and the investment property.

“Without food stamps we’d probably be starving,” said Rex Britton, who has had trouble finding paving work and lives with his girlfriend, Amy Freeman. More Photos »

The Safety Net
Zero Income
With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Now, as she papers the county with résumés and girds herself for rejection, she is supporting two daughters on an income that inspires a double take: zero dollars in monthly cash and a few hundred dollars in food stamps.

With food-stamp use at a record high and surging by the day, Ms. Bermudez belongs to an overlooked subgroup that is growing especially fast: recipients with no cash income.

About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data collected by The New York Times. In declarations that states verify and the federal government audits, they described themselves as unemployed and receiving no cash aid — no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay.

Their numbers were rising before the recession as tougher welfare laws made it harder for poor people to get cash aid, but they have soared by about 50 percent over the past two years. About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.

“It’s the one thing I can count on every month — I know the children are going to have food,” Ms. Bermudez, 42, said with the forced good cheer she mastered selling rows of new stucco homes.

Members of this straitened group range from displaced strivers like Ms. Bermudez to weathered men who sleep in shelters and barter cigarettes. Some draw on savings or sporadic under-the-table jobs. Some move in with relatives. Some get noncash help, like subsidized apartments. While some go without cash incomes only briefly before securing jobs or aid, others rely on food stamps alone for many months.

The surge in this precarious way of life has been so swift that few policy makers have noticed. But it attests to the growing role of food stamps within the safety net. One in eight Americans now receives food stamps, including one in four children.

Here in Florida, the number of people with no income beyond food stamps has doubled in two years and has more than tripled along once-thriving parts of the southwest coast. The building frenzy that lured Ms. Bermudez to Fort Myers and neighboring Cape Coral has left a wasteland of foreclosed homes and written new tales of descent into star-crossed indigence.

A skinny fellow in saggy clothes who spent his childhood in foster care, Rex Britton, 22, hopped a bus from Syracuse two years ago for a job painting parking lots. Now, with unemployment at nearly 14 percent and paving work scarce, he receives $200 a month in food stamps and stays with a girlfriend who survives on a rent subsidy and a government check to help her care for her disabled toddler.

“Without food stamps we’d probably be starving,” Mr. Britton said.

A strapping man who once made a living throwing fastballs, William Trapani, 53, left his dreams on the minor league mound and his front teeth in prison, where he spent nine years for selling cocaine. Now he sleeps at a rescue mission, repairs bicycles for small change, and counts $200 in food stamps as his only secure support.

“I’ve been out looking for work every day — there’s absolutely nothing,” he said.

A grandmother whose voice mail message urges callers to “have a blessed good day,” Wanda Debnam, 53, once drove 18-wheelers and dreamed of selling real estate. But she lost her job at Starbucks this year and moved in with her son in nearby Lehigh Acres. Now she sleeps with her 8-year-old granddaughter under a poster of the Jonas Brothers and uses her food stamps to avoid her daughter-in-law’s cooking.

“I’m climbing the walls,” Ms. Debnam said.

Florida officials have done a better job than most in monitoring the rise of people with no cash income. They say the access to food stamps shows the safety net is working.

“The program is doing what it was designed to do: help very needy people get through a very difficult time,” said Don Winstead, deputy secretary for the Department of Children and Families. “But for this program they would be in even more dire straits.”

But others say the lack of cash support shows the safety net is torn. The main cash welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, has scarcely expanded during the recession; the rolls are still down about 75 percent from their 1990s peak. A different program, unemployment insurance, has rapidly grown, but still omits nearly half the unemployed. Food stamps, easier to get, have become the safety net of last resort.


“The food-stamp program is being asked to do too much,” said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington advocacy group. “People need income support.”

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Food stamps, officially the called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, have taken on a greater role in the safety net for several reasons. Since the benefit buys only food, it draws less suspicion of abuse than cash aid and more political support. And the federal government pays for the whole benefit, giving states reason to maximize enrollment. States typically share in other programs’ costs.

The Times collected income data on food-stamp recipients in 31 states, which account for about 60 percent of the national caseload. On average, 18 percent listed cash income of zero in their most recent monthly filings. Projected over the entire caseload, that suggests six million people in households with no income. About 1.2 million are children.

The numbers have nearly tripled in Nevada over the past two years, doubled in Florida and New York, and grown nearly 90 percent in Minnesota and Utah. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, one of every 25 residents reports an income of only food stamps. In Yakima County, Wash., the figure is about one of every 17.

Experts caution that these numbers are estimates. Recipients typically report a small rise in earnings just once every six months, so some people listed as jobless may have recently found some work. New York officials say their numbers include some households with earnings from illegal immigrants, who cannot get food stamps but sometimes live with relatives who do.

Still, there is little doubt that millions of people are relying on incomes of food stamps alone, and their numbers are rapidly growing. “This is a reflection of the hardship that a lot of people in our state are facing; I think that is without question,” said Mr. Winstead, the Florida official.

With their condition mostly overlooked, there is little data on how long these households go without cash incomes or what other resources they have. But they appear an eclectic lot. Florida data shows the population about evenly split between families with children and households with just adults, with the latter group growing fastest during the recession. They are racially mixed as well — about 42 percent white, 32 percent black, and 22 percent Latino — with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.

The expansion of the food-stamp program, which will spend more than $60 billion this year, has so far enjoyed bipartisan support. But it does have conservative critics who worry about the costs and the rise in dependency.

“This is craziness,” said Representative John Linder, a Georgia Republican who is the ranking minority member of a House panel on welfare policy. “We’re at risk of creating an entire class of people, a subset of people, just comfortable getting by living off the government.”

Mr. Linder added: “You don’t improve the economy by paying people to sit around and not work. You improve the economy by lowering taxes” so small businesses will create more jobs.

With nearly 15,000 people in Lee County, Fla., reporting no income but food stamps, the Fort Myers area is a laboratory of inventive survival. When Rhonda Navarro, a cancer patient with a young son, lost running water, she ran a hose from an outdoor spigot that was still working into the shower stall. Mr. Britton, the jobless parking lot painter, sold his blood.

Kevin Zirulo and Diane Marshall, brother and sister, have more unlikely stories than a reality television show. With a third sibling paying their rent, they are living on a food-stamp benefit of $300 a month. A gun collector covered in patriotic tattoos, Mr. Zirulo, 31, has sold off two semiautomatic rifles and a revolver. Ms. Marshall, who has a 7-year-old daughter, scavenges discarded furniture to sell on the Internet.

They said they dropped out of community college and diverted student aid to household expenses. They received $150 from the Nielsen Company, which monitors their television. They grew so desperate this month, they put the breeding services of the family Chihuahua up for bid on Craigslist.

“We look at each other all the time and say we don’t know how we get through,” Ms. Marshall said.


(Page 3 of 3)

Ms. Bermudez, by contrast, tells what until the recession seemed a storybook tale. Raised in the Bronx by a drug-addicted mother, she landed a clerical job at a Manhattan real estate firm and heard that Fort Myers was booming. On a quick scouting trip in 2002, she got a mortgage on easy terms for a $120,000 home with three bedrooms and a two-car garage. The developer called the floor plan Camelot.

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

“I screamed, I cried,” she said. “I took so much pride in that house.”
Jobs were as plentiful as credit. Working for two large builders, she quickly moved from clerical jobs to sales and bought an investment home. Her income soared to $180,000, and she kept the pay stubs to prove it. By the time the glut set in and she lost her job, the teaser rates on her mortgages had expired and her monthly payments soared.

She landed a few short-lived jobs as the industry imploded, exhausted her unemployment insurance and spent all her savings. But without steady work in nearly three years, she could not stay afloat. In January, the bank foreclosed on Camelot.

One morning as the eviction deadline approached, Ms. Bermudez woke up without enough food to get through the day. She got emergency supplies at a food pantry for her daughters, Tiffany, now 17, and Ashley, 4, and signed up for food stamps. “My mother lived off the government,” she said. “It wasn’t something as a proud working woman I wanted to do.”

For most of the year, she did have a $600 government check to help her care for Ashley, who has a developmental disability. But she lost it after she was hospitalized and missed an appointment to verify the child’s continued eligibility. While she is trying to get it restored, her sole income now is $320 in food stamps.

Ms. Bermudez recently answered the door in her best business clothes and handed a reporter her résumé, which she distributes by the ream. It notes she was once a “million-dollar producer” and “deals well with the unexpected.”

“I went from making $180,000 to relying on food stamps,” she said. “Without that government program, I wouldn’t be able to feed my children.”
24973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fak Ap, part two on: January 03, 2010, 08:14:45 AM

II.c - Why doesn't the Pakistani Army fight the Taleban? - Bad Reasons

The Panjabi Generals of the Pakistani Army remember 1971 vividly. They carry deep emotional scars from that humiliating surrender to the Indian Army and the split of Pakistan. They have sworn to not let that happen again. They also began a campaign to pay back India by trying to separate Kashmir from India.

They got their chance in 1979 when America poured its resources into Pakistan to create a Pashtun force to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis used American money, American weapons, American expertise to train the Pashtuns into a fighting force. When the Russians left Afghanistan, Pakistan, in a few years, moved the Pashtun Taleban into Afghanistan. This made Afghanistan a Pakistani vassal and gave Pakistan its much desired strategic depth against India.

Since that period, the Pakistani Generals have viewed the Pashtun Taleban as a critical ally and a weapon to be used against India without exposing the Pakistani Panjabi Army to India's retaliation. This role makes the Pashtun Taleban a strategic asset of Pakistan's Panjabi Army and such strategic assets are not given up regardless of whatever pressure America decides to use.

Besides, due to its deeply ingrained anti-India mindset, the Pakistani Army will not even consider moving its core Panjabi divisions from the Indian border. That would signal utter defeat of their dreams and of their strategy of the past 38 years.

Remember that the Panjabi Generals created the Pashtun Taleban, fed it and built it to its current state. They simply refuse to believe that their child would turn on them. They also refuse to believe that they would not be able to squash the Taleban if they really chose to do so.

The Pakistani Panjabis have deep racial contempt for the Pashtuns. They consider the Pashtuns to be illiterate, uneducated, mountain hilly-billies who are way beneath the cultured Panjabis with their literary traditions. Pakistani Panjabis, beginning with their founder Jinnah, used Islam as a banner to unite the poor but never believed in it themselves. The Pakistani Panjabi Generals claim their heritage from the British Army and still carry on the scotch-drinking, non-religious traditions of the British Generals.

Unfortunately, America relies on these Pakistani Panjabi Generals for support as well as knowledge and insight. Admiral Mullen, America's highest military officer, says that he trusts Pakistan's General Kiyani totally and implicitly.

Both America and Pakistan seem to have forgotten the lessons of Iran. America trusted the Shah of Iran implicitly and totally. America believed that the Shah, with his large, American supplied army, would be able quell any rebellion in Iran. The Shah of Iran remained supremely confident until he found out that his army would not fire on his people. Then, one day, he left Iran forever.

We fear the same in Pakistan. The racial contempt of the Pakistani Panjabi Generals is making them blind to the realities on the ground. The Pashtun Taleban are getting Panjabi recruits and building a Panjabi Taleban sub-movement. This combination is rapidly making inroads into rural Panjab and seems poised to take over some semi-urban areas in Panjab.

When they succeed, the Pakistani Panjabi Generals will find that their soldiers are not willing to fire on their rural Panjabi brothers. Then, the Panjabi Generals will leave Pakistan to go to their estates outside Pakistan. Nawab Sharif, Panjab's civilian landlord leader, will run back to Saudi Arabia and Asif Zardari, the Sindhi President, will return to London. America will then exit Pakistan as it exited Iran 30 years ago.

II.D. - America's conception of Taleban a murderous, fanatical Islamic organization

You have to admit that the behavior of the Taleban fits the murderous and fanatical label. Their actions against women have revolted people in Pakistan and around the world. Special Envoy Holbrooke described the Taleban as "murderous" in a CNN interview last week.

But labels can blind people and countries to the underlying reality. The Taleban are not stupid, illiterate crazies as the Pakistani Panjabis and Americans think. The Taleban leaders are extraordinarily intelligent men who understand tactics and strategy. Their game plan combines military tactics with social, religious and media tactics to win hearts & minds besides winning on the ground.

They use their brand of Islam as a way of influencing society, winning recruits and keeping them loyal. They understand that love of land and love of customs is a powerful force. They use Islam as a cry against the secular civil society of Pakistan. This is similar to the "anti secular-progressive culture-warrior" cry of right-wing American opinionators like Bill O'Reilly.

The Taleban are smart. They retreat very quickly when they realize they have made a mistake. The Taleban leaders realized that they made a big mistake when their followers flogged a woman in public. Their media spokesman immediately clarified that this bad behavior was triggered by the presence of "western white women who have entered Pakistan to fight". The New York Times might scoff at this explanation but it does make sense in conservative Pashtun territory. This is sort of like liberal Europeans scoffing at the "American crudity" of Bill O'Reilly.

II.e - The return of Aurnagzeb's model

The Mughal dynasty of Delhi faced the problem of governing a predominantly Hindu population. One extreme model was the "respect for all religions" model of Akbar, called by history as the Greatest Mughal. The other extreme model was that of was his grandson, Aurangzeb.

Every reader of this blog has heard of the Taj Mahal, the greatest monument to love in the world. A few readers might know the name of Shah Jahan, the ruler who built the Taj Mahal. But, very few readers are likely to have heard of his son, Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb revolted against his father Shah Jahan and his elder brother Dara ShuKoh, the Crown Prince. He won the battle, imprisoned Shah Jahan and killed Dara ShuKoh as well as all his other brothers. Then, Aurangzeb created his model for ruling India.

He was a practicing Muslim but not a fanatic. But his actions seemed fanatical. Like all right-wingers, he ruled to gain the abiding loyalty of his base, the right wing Islamists. He even imposed a tax on non-Muslims called the "Jeeziya", simply for being non-Muslims in his kingdom. He tried to destroy temples but stopped when he realized he was going too far.

The Taleban approach is based on the Aurangzeb model. It has a deep and historical resonance in the entire Indian Subcontinent, let alone Pashtunistan. It evokes memories of the days when the Pashtuns dominated India. A couple of weeks ago, we read a story that the Taleban have imposed the Jeeziya tax of Aurangzeb on the Sikh community in Pashtunistan, a tax for simply being Sikh in Taleban country. Aurangzeb's model worked for him in North India. Who is to say that his model would not work for the Taleban in Pakistan?

So, when America and Pakistan feel racial and cultural contempt for the Taleban, they should watch out. Decisions based on racial and cultural superiority often exact a steep price in war.

Recall that the French despised Ho-Chi-Minh and the Vietnamese racially and culturally. They expressed disdain for this savage "who would teach military strategy to the country of Napoleon". Unless our history is wrong, Ho-Chi-Minh defeated the French Army in the decisive battle of Dien-Bien-Phu. The French left Vietnam in disgrace and America entered Vietnam to inherit French racism and the French outcome.

III. An Immediate, Legal, Globally Acceptable, Cost-Effective and Simple Solution to the Af-Pak Problem

To solve a problem, we often need to go to its genesis. The Af-Pak problem originated in 1893 with the partition of Afghanistan. The solution begins there.

III.a - A Legal, Globally Acceptable, Political Solution

Afghanistan is a protectorate and an ally of America. Nato is involved in Afghanistan and the UN backs this effort. It is time for the United States to back the legal stand of Afghanistan that the 1893 Treaty between British India and Afghanistan is ex parte (because British India does not exist any more) and hence invalid.

America can then push for the reunification of North and South Afghanistan. This will enable America to take the war to the Taleban strongholds in South Afghanistan or Pashtunistan.

America is the ethnic, spiritual, economic and military successor to England. America is ideally placed to invalidate the 1893 British treaty.

England and Continental Europe will support this solution. This solution is in Russia's interests and after some face-saying gestures, Russia will support it. Saudi Arabia, which is getting increasingly worried about the Taleban, will support this solution and so will the Emirates, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern states.

This solution benefits Iran strategically and Iran would support this solution. Iran would get a greater influence in a moderate united Afghanistan than in a virulently anti-Shia Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.

The only obstacle could be China. This solution would possibly cut off China's land access to the Persian Gulf through Pakistan. But, given the global stakes involved, China would abstain from opposing this solution.

It is not generally known that the majority of the Pashtuns in Pashtunistan do not support Islamic fundamentalism. Recall that in the last election, the Pashtuns voted for secular, non-religious parties in Pashtunistan and not for the Islamic parties. Unification of Pashtunistan with Afghanistan and the consequent unification of the Pashtun society on both sides of the Durand Line would be a dream come true for the Pashtuns.

This support of the Pashtuns would be the greatest strength of this legal solution. It will help the Obama Administration finally solve the Af-Pak problem by winning the hearts and minds of the Pashtun people.

The UN ratification of the unification of Afghanistan would be a legal globally acceptable political solution to the Af-Pak problem.

III.b - A Cost-Effective, Quick, Decisive Military Solution

Special Envoy Holbrooke said last week on CNN that the Frontier Corps of Pakistan was originally created by the British. He is correct.

The British created the Pashtun Frontier Corps when they gained legal control of Pashtunistan from the 1893 Durand Treaty. The Frontier Force kept control and peace in Pashtunistan and served as a military liaison between the British Indian Army and the tribal elders of Pashtunistan. This military-administrative-social structure continued until the Pashtun Taleban destroyed it recently. They did so by killing many of the tribal elders, waging attacks on the Frontier Corps and by scaring the administrators into obeying the Taleban.

The American Military and Nato should, after the above legal deal, take immediate control of the Frontier Corps. US Special Forces and US Military Advisors should then guide and train the Frontier Corps. The American Air Force and its Airborne Predators should fly over Pashtunistan legally, take out Taleban strongholds and kill Taleban leaders on sight.

This is the model that allowed America to destroy the Taleban regime in Afghanistan without putting American boots on the ground. In that war, the boots on the ground were those of the Afghan National Alliance. They were advised by US Special Forces and supported by American precision air power. In Pashtunistan, the Frontier Corp would play the role played by the Northern Alliance in North Afghanistan.

The support of the local Pashtuns would provide ample local intelligence just as the support of the north Afghani people provided intelligence during the 2001 war against the Taleban in Afghanistan.

The 2001 war in North Afghanistan was quick, decisive and highly cost-effective. We are convinced that a 2009 war in Pashtunistan would be just as quick, decisive and cost-effective.

Once America and Nato seize military control of Pashtunistan, the Taleban insurgency would be encircled like in Iraq. Then, the David Petraeus strategy can be put into effect in Pashtunistan with the support and participation of the Pashtun tribal elders. Pashtunistan can then be made peaceful as was done in Iraq.

III.c - What About Pakistan?

The political leaders of Pakistan would be in tacit support of this solution. Nawab Sharif's economic interests and political base are in Pakistani Panjab. He stands to lose it all if the Taleban take control of rural Panjab.

Asif Zardari is a Sindhi. He is also a wealthy businessman. He has no interest in maintaining control of Pashtunistan. He would be a big supporter, at least in private, of this solution.

The silent majority in Pakistan would probably oppose an imposed American solution but would accept a globally backed UN solution supported by the Middle Eastern countries. We believe that the average Pakistani Panjabi is angry at the Pashtun Taleban, holds them in racial contempt and is petrified at the thought of being governed by them. So, we believe that the silent majority of Pakistani Panjabis and the Sindhis would support a globally backed unification of Afghanistan.

This leaves the Generals of Pakistan. This solution would end their dreams of strategic depth against India and would create a fear of Indian encirclement via a partnership between a United Afghanistan and India.

But, we are convinced that the Pakistani Panjabi Generals would not oppose a global solution backed by America, Saudi Arabia and the UN. They would not survive if they did so. After all, this solution would leave their empire in Pakistani heartland unchanged and undamaged.

America, Europe and Saudi Arabia can promise substantial civil aid to Pakistan's Panjab and Sindh provinces for their support of the globally acceptable solution. As a result, this solution might finally bring both peace and prosperity to this troubled land.

IV. Is this Solution rapidly becoming obsolete?

As we have said before, the Taleban leaders are not dumb. They remember how their rule in North Afghanistan came to an abrupt end in 2001.

The solution we have proposed may be new to the American Establishment but it will not come as a surprise to the Taleban leaders. They know such a solution would work and work quickly. So, they are rapidly moving to make this solution obsolete.

How? By using a variation of the Donald Rumsfeld dictum. The Taleban are rapidly making the problem bigger, much much bigger.

They are doing so by moving their soldiers and supporters into urban provinces like Buner that border Pakistani Panjab and into Panjab itself. By gaining sanctuary and support in Pakistani Panjab, the Taleban are making the problem so big that it might remain unsolvable.

The Pakistani people might support the cessation of Pashtunistan and the resultant occupation of Pashtunistan by American Military. But, they will not support any occupation of Pakistani Panjab, the society's heartland. The Taleban know this and that is why they are rapidly moving into Pakistani Panjab. The Pakistani Panjabi Generals know this and that is why they allow the Taleban to encroach into Panjab.

V. Final Choice that might be forced upon the Obama Administration

"Speed Kills" is a favorite line of John Madden (the great NFL coach and TV Sports Analyst). The Obama Administration is moving ahead with slow, deliberate planning in their Af-Pak analysis, while the Taleban is moving with great speed to implement its plan. So far, the Taleban speed is killing the chances of success of the Obama Initiatives.

Soon, we fear, the Obama Administration would be faced with two alternatives:

Leave Af-Pak to its own misery and take the risk of being attacked in the American homeland OR
Get into a military confrontation with the Taleban inside Pakistan and with the Pakistani Military.
The first choice would be far worse than Vietnam and the second choice would be far worse than Iraq.

Send your feedback to
24974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 03, 2010, 08:13:54 AM
From time to time I receive thoughtful reads from a friend in India.  India tends to have a lot more and a lot deeper knowledge of the players involved and the history of how things came to be.  IMHO this piece deserves serious consideration.
Some fresh perspectives on the Fak-Ap problem..

This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the US Congress that the situation in Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”. These are strong words. A “mortal threat” to the security of America, we would think, would require a serious military and strategic response.

That is why we titled our article as we did. Frankly, we were not impressed with Clinton's outburst and neither were Pakistan's Panjabi Generals.

Then Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that relations with the United States will be threatened unless Islamabad combats the rise of the Taleban. This was serious. After all, Pakistan's Panjabi Army survives on American aid and so the Pakistani generals pretended to comply.

They told their friends in the Taleban leadership to withdraw from their new foray into the Buner province (70 miles from Pakistan's capital) and the Taleban made a public show of its "withdrawal". But, this was only for media consumption.

The American Newspapers and TV shows covered the new Taleban foray extensively and superficially. This coverage showed the total lack of understanding or insight into the Af-Pak problem and the type of urgent solutions needed. This prompted us to write this detailed article and propose the only solution that we think will work.

This position paper features the following sections:

I. The Genesis of the Af-Pak problem
II. Misconceptions, Ignorance and Denial in Pakistan and America
III. An Immediate, Legal, Globally Acceptable, Cost-Effective and Simple Solution to the Af-Pak Problem
IV. Is this Solution rapidly becoming obsolete?
V. Final Choice that might be forced upon the Obama Administration

I. The Genesis of the Af-Pak Problem
The Af-Pak situation began in 1893 when the British-led Indian Army conquered South Afghanistan (the part of Afghanistan below the Khyber Pass) and forced the partition of Afghanistan into North and South. Under the 1893 Treaty, the Afghan King was forced to accede to annexation of South Afghanistan by British-India. Today's border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still called the "Durand Line" after Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of British India (see map below left).

When the British left India in 1947, Pakistan inherited the possession of South Afghanistan and the Af-Pak problem was created.

In 1949, Afghanistan declared the 1893 Treaty as ex parte and therefore invalid. Today, Afghanistan does NOT recognize the Durand Line as the legal border and claims all of South Afghanistan (or Pashtunistan as it is popularly called) as an integral part of Afghanistan.

(Pink - Baluch, Green - Pashtuns, Grey - Panjabis, Yellow-Sindhi)

(Durand's Partition of Afghanistan)

The map on the right above shows the ethnic composition of the territory controlled by today's Pakistan. The area in green is the real Pashtun-i-stan or the land of the Pashtuns. This is today the home of the Pashtun Taleban and virtually all of it is under Taleban control. In this article, we refer to the section in green when we refer to Pashtunistan.

From 1947 to 1979, Pashtunistan remained quiet. Actually in 1947, a popular non-violence movement spread through Pashtunistan under the leadership of Badshah Gaffar Khan, popularly called "Sarhad-Gandhi" or "Gandhi-on-the-border". Gaffar Khan wanted his province to become a part of India in 1947 but Nehru, in another act of utter, arrogant stupidity, refused.

So, Pakistan took over Pashtunistan and began the transformation of the non-violent movement into a movement subordinated to the interests of Pakistani Panjabis.

Then, in 1979, America entered the province and flooded it with weapons. Brezinsky toured the province and exhorted the Pashtuns to fight a holy war against the Russian Army that had occupied North Afghanistan. Under American leadership and with American encouragement, angry young men poured into Pashtunistan from all over the Muslim Middle East to fight the Russians. The rest, as they say, is history.

II. Misconceptions, Ignorance and Denial in Pakistan and America

From what we read or hear on TV, the American Media and the American Establishment lack the basic understanding of the nature of the Taleban and remain in total denial about the real problem. Virtually all American commentators are European-American and their frame of reference is the British frame of reference. Notable Pakistani journalists like Ahmad Rashid use this ignorance to sway opinion towards Pakistani interests and notable South Asian journalists like Fareed Zakaria continue to pander to the European-American line of thinking.

II.a - The Taleban Fight movement is a Racial conflict and NOT a Religious Conflict
Look at the ethnic map of Pakistan (above right). The fight in Pakistan is a war between the Green and the Grey; between the Pashtuns of Pashtunistan (or NWFP as Pakistan calls it) and the Panjabis of Pakistani Panjab. These are distinct ethnic groups that have fought wars for more than 2,000 years. Pakistani Panjabis are an Indian ethnic people while the Pashtuns are a mixed breed of Indian, Iranian, Tajik, Uzbek and even Greek blood (going back to post-Alexander days).

Both ethnic groups are Sunni Muslims and so the Pashtun-Panjabi struggle is not a religious struggle but a racial struggle. Panjabis dominate Pakistan, its Government and its all-controlling Army. They have deep contempt for the uneducated Pashtun mountain people.

The main aim of the Pashtun Taleban used to be to reconquer North Afghanistan and unite all of Afghanistan under Pashtun rule. The American presence in North Afghanistan and the determination of the Obama Administration have convinced the Taleban that America will not leave Kabul.

So the Pashtun Taleban have decided move south towards the plains of Pakistani Panjab, a much richer prize than impoverished Afghanistan. They now believe that control of Pakistani Panjab is possible and they have a game plan to win this prize.

The Taleban now controls virtually all of the green area of Pashtunistan. They began this control in the mountain regions called FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas - see map below left), consolidated this control, made peace deals with the Pakistani Panjabi Army and then slowly but surely began the same game further south into the NWFP or the more urban parts of Pashtunistan (see map below left).

Last week, they entered the border province of Buner, 70 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan in Panjab, setting off the alarms in the Obama Administration. Control of Buner would enable the Pashtun Taleban to cut off the road link between Islamabad and Peshawar, the capital of NWFP.

II.b - Why doesn't the Pakistani Army fight the Taleban? - Good Reasons

In 1947, Pakistan was created to comprise of West Pakistan (today's Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today's Bangladesh), separated by over a 1,000 miles of Indian territory. The Pakistani Panjabis had racial contempt for the more eastern Pakistani Bengalis. This racial superiority led to draconian rule by the Panjabis over Bengalis and fostered a deep anger in the Pakistani Bengalis.

In 1971, the Bengalis of Pakistan began a struggle for greater political rights and autonomy. The Pakistani Panjabi Army retaliated with a brutal campaign that backfired. The struggle for autonomy morphed into a struggle for independence and eventually dragged India into a war with Pakistan. This war created the independent state of Bangladesh and split up Pakistan.

The Pakistani Panjabi Army recognizes the parallels between today's Pashtun movement and the 1971 Bengali movement. They also understand the racial element of this struggle and are trying to tone it down.

This is why Pakistan only deploys the pre-dominantly Pashtun para-military force (called the Frontier Corps) against the Taleban. In other words, Pakistani Army is using its Pashtun regiments to fight the Pashtun Taleban. Unfortunately, the Frontier Corps is a poor cousin of the Pakistani Army, poorly trained and poorly armed. The soldiers of the Frontier Corps come from the same villages that the Pashtun Taleban come from. So, their sympathies are with the Pashtun Taleban, their brothers and not with their Panjabi masters.

The Pakistani Generals have NOT deployed its core Panjabi Divisions against the Taleban, despite the major advances made by the Taleban recently. They know fully well that if they do, they risk a full-scale Pashtun-Panjabi civil war, like the 1971 Bengali-Panjabi civil war. We are sympathetic to their point of view.

This is why the Pakistani Panjabi Army prefers to appease the Pashtun Taleban by signing peace deals with them and by ceding huge tracts of Pashtun territory to Taleban's control.
24975  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Corrections and Prison on: January 02, 2010, 06:58:20 PM
There have been many entries on the LEO thread, but it occurs to me to give "Corrections and Prison" its own thread.

We kick things off with this:
24976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who will inflitrate whom? on: January 02, 2010, 05:56:29 PM
I forget exactly when I posted it, but Stratfor had what I thought to be a profound insight:  The ANA and the ANP WILL be inflitrated by the enemy.  The question is whether we can infiltrate the enemy?  With President Obama having declared that we will begin leaving in 18 months, the apparent answer is "no". cry angry
24977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This thing is not a done deed yet on: January 02, 2010, 05:52:00 PM


Updated January 02, 2010

Senate Dem Asks South Carolina's Top Attorney to 'Call Off the Dogs'

A Democratic senator from Nebraska who played a crucial role in getting health care legislation passed in the Senate last month has asked South Carolina's top attorney to "call off the dogs" -- a reference to the state official's threat to challenge the constitutionality of the bill.

In a phone call Thursday, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., urged South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to reconsider, Politico reported. McMaster is  the head of a group of 13 GOP state attorneys general who are threatening to file a lawsuit against the Senate health care bill.

Nelson asked McMaster to "call off the dogs," according to a copy of the memo sent by McMaster's chief of staff to other GOP state attorneys general detailing the call and obtained by Politico.

The attorneys general are challenging the constitutionality of a Medicaid provision in the bill that they say benefits Nebraska at the expense of other states.

The deal Nelson cut with Senate Democratic leaders to gain his critical vote would exempt Nebraska from having to pay for the coverage of new enrollees into its Medicaid program and leave the tab with the federal government -- a move expected to cost Uncle Sam $100 million over the next 10 years.

But Nelson told McMaster that the deal wasn't his idea and that the same Medicaid exemption would be offered to every state, according to the memo.

McMaster told Nelson that the state attorneys were seeking to remove the Nebraska Medicaid provision from the bill and that "he saw no way that he -- nor any of the state attorneys general " will support extending the provision to every state, the memo said.

24978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT/POTH on: January 02, 2010, 10:31:10 AM
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Taliban militants underscored their determination on Friday to prevent Pakistani citizens from forming armed militias to keep them at bay, as a suicide bomber rammed a truck loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives into families and children crowded on a playground in the northwest.

Local authorities said they had little doubt that the village, Shah Hassan Khel, was chosen because residents were forming a pro-government militia. The village sits at the edge of the tribal area of South Waziristan, where the military opened an offensive to break up Taliban strongholds in October.

The bombing killed at least 89 people and wounded scores more, making it one of the deadliest in a string of suicide attacks that have killed more than 500 Pakistanis since October. The blast was so powerful that it left a number of victims buried under rubble, and the authorities were uncertain exactly how many had died.

The strike was all the more devastating, as the bomber did not choose the most obvious target: a meeting under way of local leaders of the new militia. Instead, he drove his double-cabin pickup truck into the middle of a nearby playing field where teams were playing volleyball. The explosion collapsed homes surrounding the field.

“When we came out, there was a plume of smoke and dust,” said Gul Janan, a member of the pro-government militia, who, along with its other dazed members, had been bruised but not seriously wounded when the roof collapsed on the mosque where they were meeting. They emerged to find their village ravaged.

“Nothing was visible,” Mr. Janan said in a telephone interview. “It was a huge bombing.”

The attack was the latest retaliation for the Pakistani military’s offensive in nearby South Waziristan that had driven the Taliban out of their longstanding sanctuary and into other parts of the Pashtun-dominated northwest.

Militants have intensified their attacks since the offensive began in October, with suicide bombing in major cities, including the military garrison city of Rawalpindi; the capital, Islamabad; the nation’s financial center, Karachi; and Peshawar, the hub of the northwest frontier.

The Pakistani military has also expanded its operations the past year, with offensives in Swat, Buner, South Waziristan and other parts of the northwest. But they have found it impossible to contain militants.

The Taliban fighters have spread far afield and pushed farther into the settled areas of the country, where they carry out attacks with ease, including regions bordering the tribal areas, like the village hit Friday. In those areas, they routinely fight government forces and citizen militias for supremacy.

Militia leaders increasingly have become principal targets, as the Taliban aim to undercut a vulnerable but critical component of the government’s strategy to supplement badly outgunned and underfinanced police forces with the citizen posses.

Two anti-Taliban militia leaders have been killed in the past week in Bajaur — one kidnapped and beheaded and the other killed by a roadside bomb — as Taliban forces have regained strength in the northernmost part of the country’s tribal areas.

“The terrorists are losing the battle and that’s why they have turned to terrorizing the civilians,” said the information minister for North-West Frontier Province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

The attack on Friday was clearly also, in the view of local officials, specific retribution for the villagers’ willingness to throw their lot in with the government and organize an anti-Taliban militia.

Mr. Janan said militants were angry with the residents of Shah Hassan Khel for forming what the local people called a “peace committee” to fend off the insurgents.

“They are thugs who claim to be Taliban,” he said of the militants. “They kidnap people for ransom.”

He said that when the attack occurred, the peace committee “was in session to devise a strategy on how to deal with the militants.” Then the blast caved in the roof at the mosque where they were meeting. “Luckily, save for minor bruises, none of us were seriously wounded,” he said.

But he said the bomber drove into a vulnerable crowd of hundreds. “There were a lot of people there watching a match between two local teams,” Mr. Janan said.

The peace committee members and officials in the larger district that includes the village, Lakki Marwat, had been marked men for weeks. They received calls from militants in North Waziristan demanding that they abandon the peace committee, or they would be killed.

Two weeks ago, militants sent a suicide bomber to kill the political leader in Lakki Marwat as he received guests at home. The bomber got close, and many people could have been killed, but the bomber tripped before he could reach his target, setting off part of the bomb and killing only himself.

The United States has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to go after militants based in North Waziristan, including the Taliban network run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who uses the area to stage his insurgency against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Americans commanders consider eliminating sanctuaries in North Waziristan to be critical to the success of President Obama’s troop escalation.

So far the demand has been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, which, along with the intelligence services, has long regarded the Haqqanis as assets to exert influence in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military says it has its hands full already with its operation in South Waziristan. But many of the militants it was fighting there have simply moved and are now being sheltered by groups in North Waziristan.

Mr. Hussain, the provincial information minister, suggested that they, too, should now be targets. He called for limited operations to flush out militants from their remaining strongholds in the tribal areas.

“The military has done well in South Waziristan,” he said, “but it’s time to go after the militants who have taken shelter in other places.”

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Islamabad, Pakistan. Pir Zubair Shah contributed reporting from Islamabad.
24979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Euro trade on: January 02, 2010, 10:15:09 AM
The Obama Administration and its European allies are currently looking at a menu of "focused sanctions" on Iran and its leadership. A month ago they were obsessing over China and Russia's cooperation on indubitably innocuous U.N. Security Council sanctions. In both cases, they have the wrong target in mind. Security Council resolutions and focused sanctions serve as public relations window-dressing. Europe is the key to any meaningful behavior-modifying sanctions on Iran. The continued focus on Russia and China's intransigence is allowing Europe to stay under the radar.

Iran has been under three Security Council sanctions in the past decade, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has prospered and the plight of the average Iranian has deteriorated. The IRGC, which in 2007 was designated by the U.S. Congress as a terrorist organization, planned and instigated a coup during the recent Iranian elections and bear responsibility for the murder, rape, and oppression of the Iranian people.

According to Mohsen Sazegara, one of the co-founders of the IRGC and current researcher and democracy activist residing in the U.S., the IRGC controls the fundamentals of Iran's economy, with over 800 companies involved in shipping and ship-building, banking, energy, chemicals, heavy construction and machinery, electricity, transport equipment, and import of tear gas for oppressing mass demonstrations. The IRCG's most recent foray into Iran's business activities was the purchase of a 51% share in the Iranian Telecommunications Company for $8 billion, effectively gaining control of all Iranian communications with the outside world.

Who is Iran's main business partner? In 2008 the EU was—in its own words—the "first trade partner of Iran," with imports and exports totalling €25.4 billion ($36.4 billion) followed by China, Japan, and South Korea. The €14.1 billion in European exports to Iran last year, up 1.5% from 2007, included mainly machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals and even dual-use telecommunications equipment responsible for tracking and imprisoning protesters. Of the €11.3 billion in European imports from Iran, 90% is energy-related. Germany, France and Italy top the list, the former two also members of the team involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Yet despite the IRGC's deep involvement in the Iranian economy, the Associated Press reported shortly after the June elections that Daniel Bernbeck, head of the German-Iranian Industry Group, said that "doing business in Iran is a far cry from doing business with the government itself....I see no moral question here at all. We are not doing business with Iran, but with Iranian companies. We are not supporting the government."

In the past two decades Europe's refrain has been that trade keeps the doors of communications open and allows them to openly discuss the nuclear issue and human rights violations. In a 2007 interview with Deutsche Welle magazine, Mechtild Rothe, vice president of the European Parliament, said that "relations with Iran have not reached a point where economic interests should need to suffer. I think it would be much better to negotiate—to speak with each other."

The people of Iran have now spoken loud and clear about their democratic aspirations. The EU, however, continues to pursue its economic interests, save for a range of toothless feel-good statements. As recently as October, the National Iranian Oil Company announced that "negotiations [on the South Pars Gas field] with Shell and Repsol [Spanish firm] in recent weeks have gone in the desired direction and efforts are being made to take action as quickly as possible given the mutual interests in this field." France's Total has also resumed discussions with the Iranian government on another phase of the South Pars Gas field. The AP also reported that, when asked if France would recommend that French businesses scale back trade with Iran, foreign ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux "wouldn't say yes or no".

Since the post-election crackdown discredited Europe's so-called "open doors of communications" strategy, Europeans are now hiding behind the slogan that scaling back business with the IRGC hurts average Iranians. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the New York Times after the elections that "sanctions weigh in particular on the middle levels of society, but especially on the disadvantaged ones."

In 1968, Archbishop Desmond Tutu responded poignantly to similar criticism on sanctioning South Africa and its impact on the poor: "Moral Humbug," he said. "There is no room for neutrality. Are you on the side of oppression or liberation? Are you on the side of death or life? Are you on the side of good or evil?"

The Europeans and the Obama Administration should finally recognize that their interest in deterring a nuclear Iran coincides with the Iranian people's democratic aspirations. The perpetrator in common is the IRGC. Yet the AP also reported Mr. Desagneaux as saying in June that "the current election crisis shouldn't be lumped in with the standoff over Iran's nuclear program." The IRGC is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's and the Iranian government's power base, and European trade is enhancing the growth of IRGC's web of companies. Flush with cash, the IRGC has taken over the development of the country's nuclear program, support for insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon, as well as systematic oppression of the Iranian people. Mr. Sazegara indicates that the Iranian government spent $15 million just to assemble demonstrators on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. hostage crisis.

Why is Washington not more forceful in restraining European trade with Iran? After the passing of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2007, which legally penalizes companies investing more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector, the EU countries (according to the Congressional Research Service) threatened formal counter-action in the World Trade Organization. A New York Times op-ed by John Vinocur quoted German business newspaper Handelsblatt as saying: "What's needed concerning Iran trade isn't giving in to United States and Israeli pressure."

Despite other valiant efforts by the U.S. Treasury Department, Stratfor Intelligence reports that "no company has ever been officially sanctioned by the United States for dealing with Iran. More often than not the U.S. executive branch will sign waivers for foreign firms… to avoid a serious spat with a firm's country of origin." Under Section 4c and 9c of ILSA, the president may waive sanctions if the violating company's country of origin agrees to impose economic sanctions on Iran, or if it is deemed in the national interest of the U.S.

The prevailing wisdom is that Europe needs Iran for its energy needs and is unable to cut off trade in a recessionary environment. The German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce has been quoted as saying that sanctions on Iran could result in the loss of 10,000 German jobs. Iran ranks as EU's fifth supplier of crude oil after Russia, Norway, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has already stood up to Iran by supporting Saad Hariri's election in Lebanon at the expense of the Iran-supported Hezbollah. It was also the only Arab country to vote in favor of the recent U.N. Resolution blasting the human rights situation in Iran. Saudi Arabia can step in, as it has done at least once in the past, to fill the oil vacuum created by sanctioning the IRGC.

The IRGC needs nuclear weapons technology to survive and firmly anchor its regional influence. To peacefully weaken the IRGC's muscle, Europe has no choice but to act now and cut off their source of capital. If Europe waits too long, it will be faced with an irreversible regional conflict in the Middle East, further exacerbating the current economic crisis. Furthermore, the Iranian blogosphere is buzzing about firms trading with the IRGC, and Mr. Sazegara and his colleagues are compiling a list of companies for mass boycotts. Europe should note that Iranians won't fast forget countries that thwart their march toward democracy and freedom.

Ms. Ameri is the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, U.S. representative to the 60th U.N. General Assembly and the U.S. public delegate to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
24980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: NY, Columbia, Eminent Domain on: January 02, 2010, 10:10:47 AM
second post

New York

Columbia University is one of New York's largest landowners, and perhaps the one with the most to gain from the state's power to seize private property. But in a surprise ruling in early December, a state court struck down the city's attempt to take private land in West Harlem and give it to the university. Now that case is becoming an important beachhead in the fight over eminent domain.

Columbia wants the land as part of its 17-acre plan to build a research and academic facility. A decade ago it started acquiring as much of the land as it could. In recent years, however, a few holdouts were impossible to dislodge. The university turned to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a public company that has the power to compel landowners to sell through eminent domain.

Columbia contends that its academic center will upgrade the neighborhood, create 6,900 jobs, and make immense contributions in biotechnology and health research. There is little reason to doubt any of these assertions. Columbia is one of the nation's leading research institutions and New York City's seventh-largest private employer.
.But should its importance entitle the university to take property owned by others?

Nick Sprayregen, a 47-year-old businessman, says no. He owns Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, which is located in a brick building inside the footprint of Columbia's project. The business was started by his father in 1980, and he intends to pass it along to his children. So he joined a lawsuit to keep his land. He claims that taking his property would violate the state's constitution. The state can seize land that is considered blighted, but he argues that his neighborhood is sound and had been steadily improving before Columbia launched its expansion plans. He notes that there are excellent new restaurants that have sprung up in the neighborhood, and there are also nice artist studios and lofts, rehabilitated, city-owned apartment buildings, and successful manufacturers.

He acknowledges there is some blight but blames Columbia for it. As recently as August 2002, data prepared by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young for New York City's Economic Development Corporation showed that 54 of the 67 lots in question were in good, very good or fair condition. In November 2007, a study by AKRF Consultants reached a dramatically different conclusion—that the area was "substantially unsafe, unsanitary, substandard, and deteriorated."

What happened, argues Mr. Sprayregen, was that Columbia had increased its ownership or control from a handful of properties in 2001 to 51% in 2007 and 91% of the area today. Along the way it let the properties decay by erecting ugly scaffolding, pushing out commercial tenants, and allowing trash to pile up.

In all, Mr. Sprayregen put 10,000 pages of documents into the court record to show that West Harlem was not blighted before Columbia began its plans. "Is it fair to reward a private entity for its own bad conduct, its own role in producing neighborhood deterioration?" he asks.

State Supreme Court Justice James Catterson seems to agree with Mr. Sprayregen that it isn't. In ruling against Columbia on Dec. 3, he wrote that the use of eminent domain "to benefit a private elite education institution is violative of the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution, of the New York Constitution, and the 'first principles of the social contract.'"

Judge Catterson also wrote that "the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia."

Judge Catterson's decision sets up a conflict that will likely shape how eminent domain is used in the future. Just a week before he issued his ruling, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, decided in Goldstein et al. v. Urban Development Corporation that ESDC could seize private property in Brooklyn and hand it over to Forest City Ratner, a private developer.

That case was a big setback for private property advocates, who had spent years trying to curtail the use of eminent domain and who got a bump in public support after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London (2005) that states could seize private land as part of private development projects.

Now, in the wake of Judge Catterson's ruling, the state's Court of Appeals will likely have to take the issue up again if the case is appealed. Perhaps this time it will impose strict limits on when the power of eminent domain can be used.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat and chairman of the committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, doesn't want to leave it to the courts. He held one public meeting on Judge Catterson's ruling before Christmas and is planning a second this coming week. He also fired off a letter to Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson asking him not to appeal Judge Catterson's ruling, and to impose a "statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain" until the state legislature can pass legislation that specifies how the power can be used.

The governor hasn't decided what to do, but he doesn't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines forever. With two conflicting court decisions and a brewing controversy, the legislature will almost certainly pass something that will force him to choose sides.

If Judge Catterson's ruling stands, Mr. Sprayregen he says he will keep running his business. He once told me, "I can coexist with Columbia. Why can't Columbia coexist with me?"

Ms. Vitullo-Martin is director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Regional Plan Association.
24981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Health Care bill is Unconstitutional on: January 02, 2010, 10:01:58 AM
President Obama's health-care bill is now moving toward final passage. The policy issues may be coming to an end, but the legal issues are certain to continue because key provisions of this dangerous legislation are unconstitutional. Legally speaking, this legislation creates a target-rich environment. We will focus on three of its more glaring constitutional defects.

First, the Constitution does not give Congress the power to require that Americans purchase health insurance. Congress must be able to point to at least one of its powers listed in the Constitution as the basis of any legislation it passes. None of those powers justifies the individual insurance mandate. Congress's powers to tax and spend do not apply because the mandate neither taxes nor spends. The only other option is Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

Congress has many times stretched this power to the breaking point, exceeding even the expanded version of the commerce power established by the Supreme Court since the Great Depression. It is one thing, however, for Congress to regulate economic activity in which individuals choose to engage; it is another to require that individuals engage in such activity. That is not a difference in degree, but instead a difference in kind. It is a line that Congress has never crossed and the courts have never sanctioned.

In fact, the Supreme Court in United States v. Lopez (1995) rejected a version of the commerce power so expansive that it would leave virtually no activities by individuals that Congress could not regulate. By requiring Americans to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service, Congress would be doing exactly what the court said it could not do.

Some have argued that Congress may pass any legislation that it believes will serve the "general welfare." Those words appear in Article I of the Constitution, but they do not create a free-floating power for Congress simply to go forth and legislate well. Rather, the general welfare clause identifies the purpose for which Congress may spend money. The individual mandate tells Americans how they must spend the money Congress has not taken from them and has nothing to do with congressional spending.

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Associated Press
Barack Obama.
.A second constitutional defect of the Reid bill passed in the Senate involves the deals he cut to secure the votes of individual senators. Some of those deals do involve spending programs because they waive certain states' obligation to contribute to the Medicaid program. This selective spending targeted at certain states runs afoul of the general welfare clause. The welfare it serves is instead very specific and has been dubbed "cash for cloture" because it secured the 60 votes the majority needed to end debate and pass this legislation.

A third constitutional defect in this ObamaCare legislation is its command that states establish such things as benefit exchanges, which will require state legislation and regulations. This is not a condition for receiving federal funds, which would still leave some kind of choice to the states. No, this legislation requires states to establish these exchanges or says that the Secretary of Health and Human Services will step in and do it for them. It renders states little more than subdivisions of the federal government.

This violates the letter, the spirit, and the interpretation of our federal-state form of government. Some may have come to consider federalism an archaic annoyance, perhaps an amusing topic for law-school seminars but certainly not a substantive rule for structuring government. But in New York v. United States (1992) and Printz v. United States (1997), the Supreme Court struck down two laws on the grounds that the Constitution forbids the federal government from commandeering any branch of state government to administer a federal program. That is, by drafting and by deliberate design, exactly what this legislation would do.

The federal government may exercise only the powers granted to it or denied to the states. The states may do everything else. This is why, for example, states may have authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance but the federal government does not. It is also the reason states may require that individuals purchase car insurance before choosing to drive a car, but the federal government may not require all individuals to purchase health insurance.

This hardly exhausts the list of constitutional problems with this legislation, which would take the federal government into uncharted political and legal territory. Analysts, scholars and litigators are just beginning to examine the issues we have raised and other issues that may well lead to future litigation.

America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government. The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised. If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality.

Mr. Hatch, a Republican senator from Utah, is a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Blackwell is a senior fellow with the Family Research Council and a professor at Liberty University School of Law. Mr. Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.
24982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: States and the Stimulus on: January 02, 2010, 10:00:06 AM
Remember how $200 billion in federal stimulus cash was supposed to save the states from fiscal calamity? Well, hold on to your paychecks, because a big story of 2010 will be how all that free money has set the states up for an even bigger mess this year and into the future.

The combined deficits of the states for 2010 and 2011 could hit $260 billion, according to a survey by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ten states have a deficit, relative to the size of their expenditures, as bleak as that of near-bankrupt California. The Golden State starts the year another $6 billion in arrears despite a large income and sales tax hike last year. New York is literally down to its last dollar. Revenues are down, to be sure, but in several ways the stimulus has also made things worse.

First, in most state capitals the stimulus enticed state lawmakers to spend on new programs rather than adjusting to lean times. They added health and welfare benefits and child care programs. Now they have to pay for those additions with their own state's money.

For example, the stimulus offered $80 billion for Medicaid to cover health-care costs for unemployed workers and single workers without kids. But in 2011 most of that extra federal Medicaid money vanishes. Then states will have one million more people on Medicaid with no money to pay for it.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
 .A few governors, such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Perry of Texas, had the foresight to turn down their share of the $7 billion for unemployment insurance, realizing that once the federal funds run out, benefits would be unpayable. "One of the smartest decisions we made," says Mr. Daniels. Many governors now probably wish they had done the same.

Second, stimulus dollars came with strings attached that are now causing enormous budget headaches. Many environmental grants have matching requirements, so to get a federal dollar, states and cities had to spend a dollar even when they were facing huge deficits. The new construction projects built with federal funds also have federal Davis-Bacon wage requirements that raise state building costs to pay inflated union salaries.

Worst of all, at the behest of the public employee unions, Congress imposed "maintenance of effort" spending requirements on states. These federal laws prohibit state legislatures from cutting spending on 15 programs, from road building to welfare, if the state took even a dollar of stimulus cash for these purposes.

One provision prohibits states from cutting Medicaid benefits or eligibility below levels in effect on July 1, 2008. That date, not coincidentally, was the peak of the last economic cycle when states were awash in revenue. State spending soared at a nearly 8% annual rate from 2004-2008, far faster than inflation and population growth, and liberals want to keep funding at that level.

A study by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Seattle found that "because Washington state lawmakers accepted $820 million in education stimulus dollars, only 9 percent of the state's $6.8 billion K-12 budget is eligible for reductions in fiscal year 2010 or 2011." More than 85% of Washington state's Medicaid budget is exempt from cuts and nearly 75% of college funding is off the table. It's bad enough that Congress can't balance its own budget, but now it is making it nearly impossible for states to balance theirs.

These spending requirements come when state revenues are on a downward spiral. State revenues declined by more than 10% in 2009, and tax collections are expected to be flat at best in 2010. In Indiana, nominal revenues in 2011 may be lower than in 2006. Arizona's revenues are expected to be lower this year than they were in 2004. Some states don't expect to regain their 2007 revenue peak until 2012.

So when states should be reducing outlays to match a new normal of lower revenue collections, federal stimulus rules mean many states will have little choice but to raise taxes to meet their constitutional balanced budget requirements. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi.

This is the opposite of what the White House and Congress claimed when they said the stimulus funds would prevent economically harmful state tax increases. In 2009, 10 states raised income or sales taxes, and another 15 introduced new fees on everything from beer to cellphone ringers to hunting and fishing. The states pocketed the federal money and raised taxes anyway.

Now, in an election year, Congress wants to pass another $100 billion aid package for ailing states to sustain the mess the first stimulus helped to create. Governors would be smarter to unite and tell Congress to keep the money and mandates, and let the states adjust to the new reality of lower revenues. Meanwhile, Mr. Perry and other governors who warned that the stimulus would have precisely this effect can consider themselves vindicated.
24983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: January 01, 2010, 10:13:45 PM
Official: Danish police stop attack on cartoonist

That peaceful religion of peace is at it again:

Official: Danish police stop attack on cartoonist

By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press Writer Jan M. Olsen, Associated Press Writer 4 mins ago

COPENHAGEN – Police foiled an attempt to kill an artist who drew cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the Muslim world, the head of Denmark's intelligence service said Saturday.

Jakob Scharf, who heads the PET intelligence service, said a 28-year-old Somalia man was armed with an ax and a knife when he attempted to enter Kurt Westergaard's home in Aarhus shortly after 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday.

The attack was "terror related," Scharf said in a statement.
"The arrested man has according to PET's information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaida leaders in eastern Africa," he said.

Scharf said without elaborating that the man is suspected of having been involved in terror related activities during a stay in east Africa. He had been under PET's surveillance "although this has no connection with cartoonist Kurt Westergaard," he said.

Police shot the Somali man in a knee and a hand, authorities said. Preben Nielsen of the police in Aarhus, where the attack took place, said the suspect was seriously injured but his life was not in danger.

The Somalia man, who had a staying permit in Denmark, was to be charged Saturday with attempted murder for trying to kill Westergaard and a police officer, Scharf said.

It was unclear whether the suspect managed to actually get inside the home of the 75-year-old cartoonist in Denmark's second largest city.

Westergaard, who had his 5-year-old grandson on a sleepover, called police and sought shelter in a specially made safe room in the house, Nielsen said. Police arrived two minutes later and tried to arrest the assailant, who wielded an axe at a police officer. The officer then shot the man.

Westergaard was "quite shocked" but was not injured, Nielsen said.
Westergaard remains a potential target for extremists nearly five years after he drew caricatures including one of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

The drawings printed in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily in 2005, triggered an uproar a few months later when Danish and other Western embassies in several Muslim countries were torched by angry protesters who felt the cartoons had profoundly insulted Islam.

Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

Westergaard, whose provocative cartoon thrust Denmark into the midst of an international crisis, has been exposed to death threats and an alleged assassination plot.

Throughout the crisis, then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen distanced himself from the cartoons but resisted calls to apologize for them, citing freedom of speech and saying his government could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmark's press.
24984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: January 01, 2010, 07:29:30 AM
24985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 29 on: January 01, 2010, 06:37:46 AM
"If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia in the same body ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29
24986  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 31, 2009, 07:07:23 PM
Wow shocked

I bet she was grateful for you too!
24987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prepper on: December 31, 2009, 01:03:31 PM
Haven't had a chance to look at these yet, but they come recommended:
24988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: December 31, 2009, 12:48:28 PM
24989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Disinfo on: December 31, 2009, 12:43:33 PM
Deciphering Disinformation
AN INTER PRESS SERVICE (IPS) REPORT emerged Monday in which a former CIA official claims that a widely circulated document describing Iran’s nuclear weapons plans was fabricated. The document in question appeared in the Times of London on Dec. 14 and cited an “Asian intelligence source” who allegedly provided the newspaper with “confidential intelligence documents” on how Iran was preparing to run tests on a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion.

Former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi, however, claims in the IPS interview that the Rupert Murdoch publishing empire — which includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post in addition to the Times of London — has been used frequently by the Israelis and occasionally by the British government to plant false stories to exaggerate the Iranian nuclear threat. Giraldi has been credited in the past with exposing disinformation campaigns by the previous U.S. administration that were designed to bolster claims that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from Niger.

Disinformation campaigns are common practice in the world of intelligence. Diplomatic negotiations, economic sanctions and military strikes are all tools of statecraft that require a considerable amount of political energy. In the grey areas of intelligence, however, policymakers have a relatively low-cost option of directly shaping the perceptions of their target audience through carefully calibrated disinformation campaigns. U.S. administrations, for example, often use The New York Times and The Washington Post for leaks while Israel tends to rely on British media outlets like the Times of London to plant stories that support their policy objectives.

“It takes a jolt like this to get Washington to go back to the drawing board and re-examine its assessments on Iran.”
We don’t know if the document on the neutron initiator was completely fabricated, but we do know that these leaks serve a very deliberate political purpose. Israel clearly has an interest in building up the Iranian nuclear threat. The United States has pledged to do its part to neutralize the Iranian nuclear program, and Israel has every incentive to drive the United States toward action. Although they share an interest in eliminating the Iranian nuclear program, each side has very different perceptions of the urgency of the threat and the timetable upon which it must be addressed.

Giraldi’s counter-leak, on the other hand, plays into the interests of the Obama administration. President Obama has no interest in getting pushed into a military conflict with Iran and wants to buy time to deal with the issue. By discrediting intelligence that has influenced the U.S. net assessment on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Giraldi could quite effectively send the U.S. intelligence community into a tailspin. Obama can then raise the issue of faulty intelligence to gain more time and room to maneuver with Israel. After all, Israel would have a much more difficult time making the case to Washington that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its nuclear weapons program if the United States can argue that the intelligence supporting that assumption is resting on fabricated evidence.

It takes a jolt like this to get various policymakers and intelligence officials in Washington to go back to the drawing board and re-examine their assessments on Iran. And Iran’s nuclear progress is not the only issue in question. Western media outlets and certain U.S. non-governmental institutions are spreading the perception that the opposition movement in Iran has gained considerable momentum and that the Iranian regime is on the ropes. Again, we have to take into account the use of disinformation campaigns. There are a lot of people around the world and in Washington that have an interest in painting the perception of an Iranian regime teetering on the edge of collapse. Twitter, YouTube and a handful of mostly U.S.- and Europe-based reformist Web sites, backed by upper-class Iranian expatriates no less, are a useful way to spread this perception.

But the facts on the ground appear to suggest otherwise. The Dec. 27 Ashura protests, described by many (including our own Iranian sources) as the big showdown between the regime and the opposition, were far more revealing of the marginalization of the opposition and the endurance of the Iranian regime than what many Western media outlets have led their viewers to believe. The protests have failed to break the regime’s tolerance level and have in fact empowered the regime, however fragmented, to crack down with greater force. This is broadly the view we have held since the June protests, but we, like many other intelligence organizations, are also in the process of reviewing our net assessment on Iran. The process is a painfully meticulous one, but one that requires great discipline and, of course, an ability to recognize multiple disinformation campaigns at work.
24990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Army Report on: December 31, 2009, 12:36:53 PM
Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan

Published: December 30, 2009
In the fall of 2003, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, decided on a new strategy. Known as counterinsurgency, the approach required coalition forces to work closely with Afghan leaders to stabilize entire regions, rather than simply attacking insurgent cells.

An American B-52 headed back to continue a bombing run at Tora Bora, a crucial battle in Afghanistan, in December 2001.

But there was a major drawback, a new unpublished Army history of the war concludes. Because the Pentagon insisted on maintaining a “small footprint” in Afghanistan and because Iraq was drawing away resources, General Barno commanded fewer than 20,000 troops.
As a result, battalions with 800 soldiers were trying to secure provinces the size of Vermont. “Coalition forces remained thinly spread across Afghanistan,” the historians write. “Much of the country remained vulnerable to enemy forces increasingly willing to reassert their power.”

That early and undermanned effort to use counterinsurgency is one of several examples of how American forces, hamstrung by inadequate resources, missed opportunities to stabilize Afghanistan during the early years of the war, according to the history, “A Different Kind of War.”

This year, a resurgent Taliban prompted the current American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, to warn that the war would be lost without an infusion of additional troops and a more aggressive approach to counterinsurgency. President Obama agreed, ordering the deployment of 30,000 more troops, which will bring the total American force to 100,000.

But as early as late 2003, the Army historians assert, “it should have become increasingly clear to officials at Centcom and D.O.D. that the coalition presence in Afghanistan did not provide enough resources” for proper counterinsurgency, the historians write, referring to the United States Central Command and the Department of Defense.

“A Different Kind of War,” which covers the period from October 2001 until September 2005, represents the first installment of the Army’s official history of the conflict. Written by a team of seven historians at the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and based on open source material, it is scheduled to be published by spring.

The New York Times obtained a copy of the manuscript, which is still under review by current and former military officials.

Though other histories, including “In the Graveyard of Empires” by Seth G. Jones and “Descent Into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, cover similar territory, the manuscript of “A Different Kind of War” offers new details and is notable for carrying the imprimatur of the Army itself, which will use the history to train a new generation of officers.

The history, which has more than 400 pages, praises several innovations by the Pentagon, particularly the pairing of small Special Operations Forces teams with Afghan militias, which, backed by laser-guided weapons, drove the Taliban from power.

But, once the Taliban fell, the Pentagon often seemed ill-prepared and slow-footed in shifting from a purely military mission to a largely peacekeeping and nation-building one, fresh details in the history indicate.

“Even after the capture of Kabul and Kandahar,” the historians write, “there was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social and economic stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the message from senior D.O.D officials in Washington was for the U.S. military to avoid such efforts.”

In one telling anecdote from 2004, the history describes how soldiers under General Barno had so little experience in counterinsurgency that one lieutenant colonel bought books about the strategy over the Internet and distributed them to his company commanders and platoon leaders.

In another case, a civil affairs commander in charge of small-scale reconstruction projects told the historians that he had been given $1 million in cash to house and equip his soldiers but that bureaucratic obstacles prevented him from spending a penny on projects. It took months to reduce the red tape, the historians say.

The historians also say that such anecdotes underscore the resourcefulness of commanders faced with unclear guidance and inadequate resources. But limited manpower still had an impact on operations, the history indicates.

When the Taliban was on the run in the spring of 2002, Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the incoming commander of American forces, traveled to Washington seeking guidance. The message conveyed by the Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Jack Keane, was, “Don’t you do anything that looks like permanence,” General McNeill recalled. “We are in and out of there in a hurry.”

Largely as a result of that mandate, General McNeill took only half of his headquarters command from the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. But as the conflict became more complicated, requiring diplomatic and political operations as well as military ones, General McNeill lacked enough planning personnel, the history suggests. He was replaced in 2003 by an even smaller headquarters unit, the history says.

The lack of resources was also apparent in the training of Afghan security forces, the history shows.

Early in the war, the training program was hampered by poor equipment, low pay, high attrition and not enough trainers. Living conditions for the Afghan army were so poor that Maj. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry likened them to Valley Forge when he took command of the training operation in October 2002.

“The mandate was clear and it was a central task, but it is also fair to say that up until that time there had been few resources committed,” Mr. Eikenberry, now the ambassador to Afghanistan, told the historians, referring to the army training program.

The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon.

First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.

Second, military planners were concerned about Afghanistan’s long history of resisting foreign invaders and wanted to avoid the appearance of being occupiers. But the historians argue that this concern was based partly on an “incomplete” understanding of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

Third, the invasion of Iraq was siphoning away resources. After the invasion started in March 2003, the history says, the United States clearly “had a very limited ability to increase its forces” in Afghanistan.

The history provides a detailed retelling of the battle of Tora Bora, the cave-riddled insurgent redoubt on the Pakistan border where American forces thought they had trapped Osama bin Laden in December 2001. But Mr. bin Laden apparently escaped into Pakistan along with hundreds of Qaeda fighters.

The historians call Tora Bora “a lost opportunity” to capture or kill Mr. bin Laden. But they concluded that even with more troops, the American and Afghan forces probably could not have sealed the rugged border. And they deemed the battle a partial success because it “dealt a severe blow to those Taliban and Al Qaeda elements that remained active in Afghanistan.”

The history also recounts well-known battles like Operation Anaconda, in eastern Afghanistan in spring 2002. The history ends in the fall of 2005, when many American officials still felt optimistic about Afghanistan’s future. Postponed parliamentary elections were held that fall, but Taliban attacks were also on the rise.

“It was clear that the struggle to secure a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan was not yet won,” the history concludes.
24991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stansberry Research on: December 31, 2009, 12:23:06 PM
This year, I've heard how tough it is for folks to get work and make ends meet. But not in Washington. The following facts should make you madder than a hornet's nest hit by a baseball bat. When I started reading this stuff, I wanted to go to Washington and fire the whole lot of 'em.

First, the government is posting data about the stimulus money spending on the website for all to see. It's part of the new transparency theme from Obama's team. Hah. If this is the stuff it's willing to disclose, I'd hate to know what it's hiding.

One group I trust, the nonprofit investigative news outlet ProPublica, has organized the "recovery" data by state and reported stimulus spending per capita in places around the country.

In most states, the numbers are kind of boring... per capita (per person) spending exceeds $1,000 in only 15 states, and the average of those 15 is $1,241. In the other 35 states, the amount is closer to $900 a head.

However, in D.C., per capita spending totals $5,276.84. Yep, you read that right. Spending in D.C. is at least four times higher than the next 15 states and nearly six times higher than the other 35 states. This means in the area surrounding the capital, thousands of bureaucrats are feeding themselves from the taxpayer trough. They're taking our hard-earned money and spending it on questionable programs.

Consider this outrage: Last summer, internships in D.C. paid city youths for essentially doing nothing. The government gave several hundred disadvantaged kids "internships" to come and learn about politics and the capital. They were supposed to show up every day, check in, and shadow some politicos. Apparently, over the whole summer, only a couple showed up out of hundreds, yet they all got paid. Imagine the lessons they learned. It's a mockery of the ethics of hard work and responsibility.

But it gets worse. The newspaper USA Today reports that before the recession started, the Department of Transportation employed only one person earning more than $170,000 a year. (I might argue even one is too many). Today, more than 1,690 people there earn more than $170,000.

That's not a typo... In 18 months, the government has increased the number of people in one federal department making more than $170,000 by hundreds of thousands of percent. While the average American worries about making ends meet, these federal bureaucrats are taking more and more of our tax dollars. Moreover, I don't understand how there needs to be more than a few people at the Department of Transportation making that kind of money, yet there are thousands of them.

Look, the average federal worker makes $71,206 versus $40,331 in the private sector. I think this is absurd. And the counterargument from the government affairs director at a federal employees union is laughable. It's "because the government employs skilled people," he told the USA Today.

Take the Secret Service. They couldn't keep two party-crashers out of the president's home – I'm sure you heard how a couple walked into a White House State Dinner uninvited and unchallenged at the door. It turns out, hundreds of these sorts of security lapses have gone on under the Secret Service's watch.

Folks, please listen... This nonsense will lead to higher and higher taxes. Unless we tell people in power to stop the nonsense immediately, things will go from bad to worse really quickly. I can't spend more than I earn. Neither can you. What makes lazy government bureaucrats think it works differently when they're spending someone else's money?

I encourage you to do what I do and write your local and national elected officials and tell them to stop spending our hard-earned money and start cutting taxes so people can get back to work. And also remember in upcoming election cycles to vote for people who will be fiscally responsible (we'll try and keep track of this for the 2010 elections). Sitting around and doing nothing about it is simply condoning the behavior.

And finally, I'm often asked if things I do work. Honestly, I don't know because it's hard to test something like writing my elected officials. But unless they know you are mad about government spending and money wasting, there's no chance they'll pull their snouts from Washington's feed trough.


If you don't believe me that taxes will skyrocket across states, cities, and municipalities soon, then just look at what's happening at public airport authorities. I recently rented a car from the Minneapolis airport... I paid a 56% tax on the rental. Seriously... here's my car rental bill:

Base Rate $65
Facility Fee $9.75
Recovery Fee $6.82
Rental Tax $4.03
Vehicle Rental Fee $3.25
Energy Recovery Fee $3
Loyalty Charge $3
Sales Tax $ 6.90
Total Charge $101.75
 That $36.75 equates to a 56% tax rate on the $65 the rental company charges. Think about that for a moment, a 56% tax! And it all reflects pass-along fees and taxes imposed by the airport authority, a state government entity.

Local governments are hurting for money so badly they're dreaming up new ways to raise revenues and that means fees and taxes for everything.

I suspect this sort of taxation will get worse. In many states, income and real estate tax revenues are plummeting... that means taxing consumption – on things like rental cars, gasoline, and even college tuition – is one of the few options left.

Let's hope the Feds don't get any ideas.
24992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; Federalist 46 on: December 31, 2009, 10:30:54 AM
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of." --James Madison, Federalist No. 46
24993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli approach on: December 30, 2009, 10:10:52 PM

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, 'So far, so good'. Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different." 
24994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: December 30, 2009, 12:19:05 PM
24995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Newt Gingrich on: December 30, 2009, 12:15:03 PM
Newt Gingrich in fine form:
24996  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 30, 2009, 12:05:54 PM
Grateful that I get to do what I do.
24997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 29, 2009, 11:38:35 PM
U.S. Had Information Before Christmas of a Terror Plot

Two officials said the United States government had
intelligence from Yemen before Christmas that leaders of a
branch of Al Qaeda there were talking about "a Nigerian"
being prepared for a terrorist attack.

Read More:
24998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters: Lying to our selves on: December 29, 2009, 11:19:26 PM
As usual, there's little doubt what Ralph Peters thinks:

Updated: Tue., Dec. 29, 2009, 5:52 PM

Lying to ourselves

Last Updated: 5:52 PM, December 29, 2009

Posted: 12:45 AM, December 29, 2009

On Christmas Day, an Islamist fanatic tried to blow up an airplane whose passengers were mostly Christians. And we helped.

Our government gets no thanks for preventing a tragedy. Only the bomber's ineptitude preserved the lives of nearly 300 innocents.

How did we help Umar Abdulmutallab, a wealthy Muslim university graduate who decided that Allah wanted him to slaughter Christians on their most joyous holiday?

By continuing to lie to ourselves. Although willing -- at last -- to briefly use the word "terror," yesterday President Obama still refused to make a connection between the action, the date and Islam.

Was it just a ticketing accident that led to a bombing attempt on Christmas? Was it all about blackout dates and frequent-flyer miles?

It wasn't. You know it. And I know it. But our government refuses to know it. Despite vast databases crammed with evidence, our leaders -- of both parties -- still refuse to connect Islamist terrorism with Islam.

Our insistence that "Islam's a religion of peace" would have been cold comfort to the family members of those passengers had the bomb detonated as planned.

Abdulmutallab's own father warned our diplomats that his son had been infected by Islamist extremism. Our diplomats did nothing. Why? Because (despite a series of embassy bombings) the State Department dreads linking terrorism to Islam.

Contrast our political correctness with Abdulmutallab's choice of Christmas for his intended massacre. Our troops stand down on Muslim holidays. A captive terrorist merely has to claim that a soldier dog-eared a Koran, and it's courts-martial all around.

We proclaim that the terrorists "don't represent Islam." OK, whom do they represent? The Franciscans? We don't get to decide what's Islam and what isn't. Muslims do. And far too many of them approve of violent jihad.

It gets worse. Instead of focusing on the religious zeal and inspiration of our enemies and how such motivations change the game, our "terrorism experts" agonize over whether such beasts as Abdulmutallab or Maj. Hasan, the Fort Hood assassin for Allah, are really members of al Qaeda or not.

As a Sunday Post editorial pointed out, al Qaeda's far more than a formal organization; it's an idea, a cause. If a terrorist says he's al Qaeda, he is, even if he doesn't have a union card from Jihadi Local 632.

We're dealing with a global Muslim movement, not a Masons' lodge.

And that "global" aspect is especially worrying. Despite limited Special Operations strikes beyond our recognized combat zones, we still don't accept the nature of the threat from jet-set jihadis. Our leaders and our military are obsessed with holding ground in Afghanistan -- even though al Qaeda's growth areas are in Yemen and Africa.

We voluntarily tie ourselves down, while our enemies focus on mobility. Worse, we've convinced ourselves that development aid (the left's all-purpose medicine) is the key to defeating al Qaeda.

That's utter nonsense. Abdulmutallab's a rich kid. He didn't come from a deprived background, bearing the grievances of the slum. He's a graduate of a top English university. And Osama bin Laden's from a super-rich family. How does building a footbridge in Afghanistan deter them?

Most of our home-grown Islamist terrorists hail from middle-class families -- such monsters as Maj. Hasan or the Virginia virgin-chasers under arrest in Pakistan (where jail conditions are a lot worse than at Guantanamo -- can't we just leave 'em there?).

This isn't a revolt of the wretched of the earth. These terrorists are the Muslim-fanatic versions of Bill Ayers and the Weathermen, pampered kids unhappy with the world. Al Qaeda's big guns are re- belling against privilege. There's a lot of Freud in this fundamentalism.

Spoiled brats remade their god in their own vengeful image. And we have to kill them. This one really is a zero-sum game.

We're not just fighting men but a plague of faith. Until Washington accepts that, we'll continue to reap a low return on our investments of blood and treasure.

On Christmas Day, a Muslim fanatic attempted to butcher hundreds of Christians (dead Jews would've been a bonus). Our response? Have airport security analyze the contents of grandma's mini-bottle of shampoo -- we don't want to "discriminate."

With our lies, self-deception and self-flagellation, we're terror's little helpers.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."
24999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TSA looking to unionize? on: December 29, 2009, 10:17:46 AM
No idea as to the reliability of this site:
25000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: December 29, 2009, 10:04:52 AM
An additional offering from my friend:

Now here is the actual public law that these Executive Orders have modified:

You will note that it was passed in 1945 and does not solely address Interpol. It actually affects ALL international organizations (I can think of the World Bank, the U.N., and the International Red Cross off the top of my head):

For the purposes of this title, the term ‘‘international organization’’ means a public international organization in which the United States participates pursuant to any treaty or under the authority of any Act of Congress authorizing such participation or making an appropriation for such participation, and which shall have been designated by the President through appropriate Executive order as being entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions, and immunities herein provided.

So it would seem that all affected international organizations have had all the rights accorded by the public law EXCEPT Interpol. Now Interpol has all the rights and priviliges all these other organizations have enjoyed all along.

I fail to see the evil.
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