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25001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: January 07, 2009, 11:16:41 AM
Whoops!  embarassed

Not sure what happened there-- what I meant to post was this:

Israel, Lebanon: Tehran Reins in Hezbollah
Stratfor Today » January 6, 2009 | 2143 GMT

Lebanese students in Beirut affiliated with Hezbollah protest Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 6Summary
While Israel has warned its people that a northern front with Lebanon could open up at the same time as the Israeli military is involved in the Gaza Strip, it appears Iran may be working to keep Hezbollah from opening a northern front.

Related Special Topic Page
Israel, Syria and Lebanon: A Tangled Web
As the Israel Defense Forces continued pounding Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, six Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon from the night of Jan. 5 through the morning of Jan. 6, reaching as far north as Sidon, according to the Lebanese army. The Israeli overflights occurred amid several warnings by the Israeli political and military leadership that another front could open up on Israel’s northern frontier with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As Stratfor previously wrote, neither Hezbollah nor Israel is looking for a fight right now. Israel, focused on paralyzing Hamas, does not want to spread its forces thin by confronting Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is content with limiting its support to Hamas to helping maintain the Palestinian group’s supply lines and commanding several Hamas units in Gaza City. A debate has been taking place inside Hezbollah, however, regarding how much more Hezbollah should be doing in this Gaza crisis. More radical elements are arguing that another confrontation with Israel is inevitable, and that the group would be better off battling Israel in a two-front war.

It now appears that Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran are making sure such a scenario does not occur. To this end, Said Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, visited Damascus and Beirut on Jan. 2-3. During his visit, he met with Hamas’ exiled leadership in Damascus, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Ahmad Jibril, chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). According to a Stratfor source whose information has not been verified, Jalili made it abundantly clear in his meetings that Iran would not authorize Hezbollah to get any more involved in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Iran’s apparent need to restrain Hezbollah from provoking Israel represents a very different picture from 2006, when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers in Lebanon were believed to have played a direct role in escalating the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah into an all-out war. At that time, Iran was looking to flex its muscles and demonstrate to the United States, Israel and its Sunni Arab rivals that it had Shiite militant proxies under its control that could unleash chaos at Tehran’s will unless certain Iranian demands were met on key issues, like Iraq.

Tehran has proved its point, and in the current scenario Iran does not have much to gain from an Israeli-Hezbollah war. Not only would Hezbollah run the risk of becoming crippled this time around by a better prepared Israel Defense Forces, but Iran is also at a delicate negotiating stage with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran’s main focus is on consolidating the gains it has made thus far in expanding Shiite power in Iraq; having its primary militant proxy in the Levant come under fire would thus do little to further Iranian interests at this time.

But Iran is not only worried about Hezbollah popping a shot across the border. Jalili, according to the source, also sought to ensure that Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC prevent radical Sunni militants milling about in Lebanon from launching a rocket attack on northern Israel. The Iranians apparently are concerned that these Sunni militants, the bulk of whom are either on the payroll of Syrian or Saudi intelligence, could attempt to drag Hezbollah into an all-out war with Israel. There are reportedly hundreds of Sunni sleeper cells in southern Lebanon, most of which are in the Palestinian refugee camps of Rashidiyye and Burj al-Shimali, with others sprinkled throughout several Sunni villages in the deep south.

While the probability of hostilities breaking out on Israel’s northern frontier remains low, there is still a chance for militants outside Iran’s and Hezbollah’s command to open up a new front. Iran does not appear to be taking any chances, but neither is Israel. If an attack is launched from the north, the Israelis will not hesitate to respond
25002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: January 07, 2009, 11:14:28 AM
Gresham's Law

Gresham’s Law Updated
By Paul Eidelberg

Some four centuries ago, English financier Sir Thomas Gresham formulated what has come to be known as “Gresham’s Law,” according to which coins having the least intrinsic value supplant coins having a higher intrinsic value.

Gresham’s Law is the dominant law in the domain of politics, where falsehoods and half-truths or “spin” drive out plain-spoken truths. The ideal of democratic politics is compromise and expedience as opposed to principles, and this seems to exclude truth.

Stated another way: politics is a struggle for power, and to gain power in a democratic society one must go with the mainstream, the center of the political spectrum, where vagueness trumps moral clarity.

Democracy’s political elites insist on your being a “moderate,” a “centrist,” a “pragmatist,” a “pluralist.” Why? Well, to put it plainly, there is no truth. In this democratic age, everything is “relative.”

To refute an opponent nowadays you don’t have to examine his opinions on logical and empirical grounds; it’s enough to call him a “right-winger” or a “hawk.” I say “right-winger” and “hawk” rather than “left-winger” and “dove” because left-wingers and doves dominate the media, including the media of education. Thus, if you are a critic of indiscriminate freedom or of a leveling egalitarianism, the democracy’s ruling elites label you a “reactionary” or a “fascist.” And if you are a critic of the Middle East “peace process,” they label you a “war-monger.”

This dishonest way of dealing with matters of life and death is typical of academics tainted by moral relativism. I have especially in mind morally neutral or “value-free” political scientists. Thus, in an op-ed piece appearing in The Jerusalem Post, one Hebrew University political scientist said that to require more than 51% in a referendum on whether Israel should withdraw from the Golan Heights is to succumb to “Kahanism.” The “reason”? It would render nugatory the votes of Israel’s Arab citizens! No direct comment on this example of intellectual dishonesty or of Gresham’s Law is necessary.

That falsehoods and half-truths are a commonplace in political science is indicated by the fact that political scientists never refer to any politician as “mendacious.” To do so is to make a “value-judgment” which “value-free” (or “worth-less”) political scientists must avoid if they are to be “objective” or “scientific.” A “value-free” political science must therefore be a “truth-free” political science, hence unscientific.

But since “value-free” or morally neutral political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that democratic political scientists are lackeys of democracy—understandably, for democracy endows them with academic freedom. You will never hear them criticizing democracy. This suggests that morally neutral political scientists identify with the Power Elite or Establishment. Indeed, they are part of the Establishment. There is dilemma here.
Morally neutral political scientists are by definition opposed to tradition, especially a religious-based tradition, which proclaims eternal truths and condemns falsehoods and half-truths.

Religion is therefore the main competitor of “value-free” or “truth-free” political science. This is why the political scientist alluded to above opposes an extraordinary majority on the Golan referendum issue—opposes it because it would be a manifestation of what he calls “Jewish exclusivity.” Which means he opposes Jewish peoplehood or nationhood. That’s the objective of those (including nominal or assimilated Jews) who advocate the establishment of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people.

Evident here is the operation of Gresham’s Law: the bad driving out the good. Notice, however, that insofar as political science is “value-free” or “truth-less,” it cheapens and undermines the values and truths of the society in which this political science holds sway. It renders all values equal, and it reduces truths to myths or are merely personal narratives. This is postmodern political science, and it is subversive.

But inasmuch as this political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that “value-free” or morally neutral political science is subversive of democracy. The same may be said of the news media insofar as their mandarins are the products of morally neutral political science. But wait!

Since the media are dominated by the Left; they are not at all morally neutral. Consider the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. A perusal of CNN or BBC reveals they are biased against Israel, which is to say they favor Hamas, a terrorist organization that uses women and children as human shields, an organization, moreover, whose Covenant calls for Israel’s eradication. Dominating these media, therefore, is not moral neutrality but moral reversal. Or to put it terms of Greshem’s Law, those who support Hamas would have the bad supplant the good.
25003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 07, 2009, 11:09:39 AM
Wednesday Chronicle
Vol. 09 No. 01
7 January 2009

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." --James Madison

Hope 'n' change: "The number one goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector." --Barack Obama on creating 600,000 new government jobs

"Potentially we've got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point. We're going to have to stop talking about budget reform. We're going to have to totally embrace it. It's an absolute necessity." --Barack Obama on "budget reform," by which he means slashing national defense spending

The Democrats finally have the country where they want it: "The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in. There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run." --Joe Biden

Life's rough: "I can't go to my own barbershop now. I've got to have my barber come to some undisclosed location to cut my hair." --Barack Obama

Everybody's innocent: "I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. ... As governor I am required to make this appointment." --Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on appointing professional narcissist Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat

Power play: "[T]here's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to. This goes back for generations. ...[There is] a cloud over anyone that comes from the state of Illinois being appointed by [Gov.] Blagojevich." --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Hurt feelings: "[Rick] Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair. If [Barack Obama] was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing, but being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect." --Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

"According to a just published report (from the Pew Research Center), more Americans today call themselves conservative than liberal, and the relative percentages in each category has hardly changed since George W. Bush was elected to his first term in 2000. Thirty-eight percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 21 percent as liberal, and 36 percent as moderate." --columnist Star Parker

"From the dawn of the Progressive Era, politicians have sought to minimize the Constitution whenever it got in the way. When the Supreme Court rejected President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs, he threatened to expand and pack the court with more progressive minds. Suddenly, what was previously unconstitutional became constitutional. After seventy years of emasculating the Constitution, it is time for politicians to respect it rather than roll it out as a media prop." --columnist Matt Mayer

"Republicans can be successful by having better ideas than Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats in the House and Senate, not by just being opposed to what the majority is proposing." --Rich Galen

"Bernard Madoff, who stands accused of bilking sophisticated investors out of $50 billion, is reported to have told two of his executives that his business was 'a giant Ponzi scheme.' Politicians go on and on about Wall Street 'greed' and 'irresponsibility.' But Madoff's scam was small compared to Ponzi schemes the government itself runs: Social Security and Medicare. In reality, our money, rather than being invested and kept in an actual 'trust fund,' is immediately given to current retirees in Social Security benefits or to their healthcare providers in Medicare benefits. The government's promise to pay for your retirement pension and medical care is just a promise. And a lie." --John Stossel

"It's often pointed out that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It's more than that. Hamas, with Iran's backing, is committed to Israel's violent destruction." --columnist Mona Charen

"A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt dangerous." --Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor." --American Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)

"Life is not holding a good hand; Life is playing a poor hand well." --Danish proverb

"Many of those who voted for [Barack Obama] either dismiss the terrorist threat, or believe none exists. Still worse, some think we should placate our enemies, not vanquish them. That's why a new report from Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff is more than a little disquieting. It suggests that the U.S. faces a real prospect of a serious terror attack sometime in the next five years, particularly from a biological weapon of some sort. 'The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremism has not abated,' Chertoff recently said. And that's not just rhetoric. The Homeland Security Threat Assessment for 2008-2013, leaked to the Associated Press late last week, predicts that terrorists will try some sort of biological weapon on the U.S. in the next five years -- an attack that could overwhelm our health care system, leading to devastating consequences for our economy. The report goes on to warn of outside terror groups such as al-Qaida using our porous borders and poor controls to place terrorist cells inside the United States. Sound unlikely? Recall that just two days before Christmas, five Muslim immigrants were convicted for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. It's already here. ... The worst thing that could happen, we fear, is that Obama comes in with a mandate to spend upward of $1 trillion on a stimulus package and then decides to at least partly finance it by cutting defense and anti-terror measures to the bone. There are already warning signs in Obama considering abandoning missile defense and other advanced defense systems, while our potential foes plunge full speed ahead. And his aides suggested the Pentagon's request for 30,000 more troops might be rejected. With Russia boosting its defense outlays by 40% while it builds its nuclear arsenal, China intent on having a blue-water navy to challenge the U.S., and the terrorist threat unabated, it wouldn't be wise to cut back on defense or anti-terrorist efforts right now." --Investor's Business Daily


Gag reflex kicking in: "The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games." --Washington Post reporter Eli Zaslow on Barack Obama's workout habits

Like, dude, he's so awesome: "We're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool. Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap. Don't you think?" --CBS's "Early Show" co-host Tracy Smith

You asked for it, you got it: "Obama has spent most of his vacation secluded in his oceanfront rental home, some days emerging only to get in that daily workout, where he always draws crowds. In an interview with 60 Minutes just after his election, Obama was already lamenting the loss of the simple things." --NBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie

Wouldn't want to "distract": "Obama's coming into office with a very ambitious agenda, and if you add together what's going on with [Bill] Richardson right now with the [Rod] Blagojevich scandal, is that going to be a distraction in the key early days?" --ABC anchor Dan Harris

Sad commentary: "Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America's three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq." --The New York Times

Newspulper Headlines:

Our New Year's Resolution: Watch More Television: "Reading Raises Property Taxes 5 Percent" --Reading (PA) Eagle

We Blame Global Warming: "Twin Cities Streets an Icy Mess; Who's to Blame?" --Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Not to Mention Guns and Religion: "In Tough Times, Americans Cling to Christmas Trees" --Reuters

Wow, That Is Turbulent!: "Oil Rises on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31 ++ "Oil Falls on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31

News You Can Use: "Forget the Economy: Killer Asteroids Could Pose Real Danger" --McClatchy Newspapers

Bottom Stories of the Day: "Obama-Inspired Hope Goes Only So Far in Kenya" --Los Angeles Times

(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)

Days of Our Lives -- Minnesota: "After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers around the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota." --wannabe comedian Al Franken

As the World Turns -- Illinois: "I am a United States senator. They can't stop me from doing my senatorial duties." --Illinois Senator-appointee Roland Burris with reference to the Senate Democrat leadership unwilling to allow him to be seated ++ "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained. I am not hesitating. I am now the junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Some people may want to question that and that is their prerogative." --Roland Burris

Young and the Restless -- New York: "I'm really coming into this as somebody who isn't, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party. ... I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. ... It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name. It's about my own work and what I've done with those values." --Caroline Kennedy, who is almost as eloquent as Barack Obama, on seeking Hillary Clinton's Senate seat **Kennedy used the words "you know" an astounding 168 times in this interview.

Strange comparisons: "I don't think it's appropriate. It's like putting, you know, [Dick] Cheney in charge of gun control. It's wrong ... it's just wrong." --co-host of "The View" Joy Behar on Barack Obama's choice of pastor Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration

"The destruction of the Jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in Gaza. Exactly as its Nazi mentors did to the Jews of Warsaw, Israel now bombs innocent civilians who have been imprisoned in concentration camps in Gaza! ... The Zionists look German! The Palestinians look like the Jews of Poland!" --"comedienne" Roseanne Barr

"Observes a perceptive author of a letter to the editor of the New York Times: 'It's amusing that Andrew M. Cuomo, who owes his whole career to his dad, may not get the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who owes her whole career to her husband) because David A. Paterson (who owes his whole career to his dad) may give it to Caroline Kennedy (who owes her whole career to her dad). You would think a state as large as New York could find someone who deserves something on his or her own." --Washington Times editor Wesley Pruden

"n the past few years, we have seen any number of rather obnoxious individuals called to our nation's capitol so that members of the House and Senate could grill them in front of the TV cameras. And while I would normally enjoy watching tobacco, oil and car company CEOs, along with steroid-using baseball cheats, publicly embarrassed, that's not how it's worked out. Instead, because the politicians are so disgustingly arrogant and self-righteous, it's hard not to view their victims in a sympathetic light. All I know is if I were ever guilty or even suspected of a crime, I would certainly want to be attacked by the likes of Christopher Dodd, Charles Schumer and Barney Frank." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

"A question for you in the Drive-By Media. Why do you think Israel would attack Gaza? Is it for their national treasure? Is it because they want all of the scientific discoveries that are being made by Hamas intellectuals?" --radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh

"Barack Obama's Hawaii vacation compound was ringed Monday by Palestinians who are angry about his support for Israel. You can imagine their disappointment. Not only is he the first black president, he's the first guy named Hussein to back Israel." --comedian Argus Hamilton

Jay Leno:

For the next two weeks, President-elect Barack Obama will be living full-time at a hotel right across the street from the White House. This is historic because this is the first time a Democrat has checked into a Washington hotel room under his own name.

Bernie Madoff has been charged with swindling people out of $50 billion. I don't want to say he's unpopular, but [over Christmas] as he was walking in New York, he passed a manger scene and Joseph threw a sandal at him.

Congress says they're looking into the Bernie Madoff scandal. So the guy who made $50 billion disappear, is being investigated by the people who made $750 billion disappear.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Vice President Dick Cheney said he is not a big fan of rap music. I was stunned by that. He gets driven around in a limo; he's surrounded by bodyguards; he shot a guy in the face -- he is a rap star!

25004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coming soon to a border near you-- MexiGaza on: January 07, 2009, 11:03:15 AM
Wednesday, 07 January 2009


The most likely existential security threat to the United States isn't likely to originate from southwest Asian terrorists or a conventional war with China. Instead, it will originate from Mexico's open source insurgency as:
The Mexican state becomes hollow and unable to maintain any semblance of control over its territory. Fiscal bankruptcy, driven by declining oil revenues and a global economic depression, will eliminate any remaining legitimacy it has with the countryside (already tenuous due to extreme income stratification).

The narco-insurgency in the northern provinces morphs into a national open source insurgency with thousands of small groups all willing to fight/corrupt/intimidate the government. Many, if not most, of these groups will be able to power themselves forward financially due to massive flows of money from black globalization. The result will be a diaspora north to the US to avoid the violence.
Economic failure, a loss of legitimacy and economic deprivation in the US creates an environment for the rapid proliferation of domestic groups willing to fight the government in order to advance their economic interests. Catalyzed by connections to Mexico's functional and lucrative bazaar of violence (read "Iraq's Bazaar of Violence" for more on how this works), these groups carve out their own territory in the US. Experience shows that once these groups gain a foothold, they become nearly impossible to defeat (although they can be co-opted).

Sam Dillon, writing for the NYTs, provides us with a good waypoint check on this scenario. Here is a good example of how quickly the infection can spread:

Jerez, a town of 60,000 a few miles northwest of Felipe Angeles in Zacatecas, was until recently a calm place, largely untouched by organized crime, said Abel Márquez Haro, a grocery wholesaler. But recently, scores of men driving Chevrolet Suburbans and carrying automatic rifles established a menacing presence, threatening residents on the street and extorting businesspeople. The identities of the men remain a mystery, but many people in the town say they assume they are traffickers who have abandoned another Mexican state, perhaps to avoid an army crackdown.

The article goes on to explain how these groups are targeting family members of immigrant workers in the US via kidnapping/extortion. The result has been that workers that would have normally returned during an economic downturn, aren't returning due to safety concerns (and many are trying to bring the rest of their families north to safety). NOTE: IF your are wondering how a global depression might impact national security, this is it (I suspect that the biggest hew and cry will be over how the fiscal crisis has led to the rapid defunding of hideously expensive conventional weapons systems, of no use to this threat). If you want spice, think about the implications of an economic collapse of Pakistan (needs to borrow), Russia (needs $70+ oil), and China (needs growth in US consumer spending).

Posted by John Robb on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 at 07:45 AM
25005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Hamas strategy on: January 07, 2009, 10:56:48 AM

JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.


Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.

Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.

Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.

The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.

In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.

The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.

Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.

With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.

The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.

With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.

Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.

Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.

Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.

It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.

Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
25006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 07, 2009, 10:43:38 AM

You ain't seen nothing yet!
25007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stability and oil production on: January 07, 2009, 10:40:13 AM
Iraq: Stability and Boosting Oil Production
Stratfor Today » January 7, 2009 | 0017 GMT

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-ShahristaniSummary
Iraq’s oil minister has announced a new tender for the development of 11 major energy fields. The tender is part of a plan to restore — and expand upon — Iraq’s status as a major energy exporter. Whether the plan succeeds, however, depends upon Baghdad’s ability to maintain domestic stability.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani on Dec. 31 announced a new international tender for the development of 11 major energy (mostly oil) fields as part of an effort to increase oil production. This second bid round comes six months after the first round of bidding was opened; six oil and two natural gas fields were offered for development in the first round. Al-Shahristani said developing the two sets of fields should allow Baghdad to increase production from its current 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to some 6 million bpd in the next four to five years. The Iraqi government plans to sign the contracts of the first round in mid-2009, while the second round is to be concluded by the end of the same year.

(click image to enlarge)

The 11 fields are Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Badrah, East Baghdad, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman, Najmah/Al-Qayara, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba (the last two are natural gas fields). Each field is in a politically sensitive area. Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba are located in southern provinces where rival Shiite factions are pitted against one another. The East Baghdad field in the capital is in a stronghold of the al-Sadrite movement. The Najmah/Al-Qayara field is in Ninawa province contested between the Kurds and the Sunnis. Khashm al-Ahmar and the Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman field is in the communally mixed Diyala province.

In addition to the domestic issues, three of the fields are jointly owned with neighboring Iran and Kuwait. Majnoon and Badrah are located on the Iran-Iraq border, while Siba is on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Developing them will require agreements between Iraq and its two neighbors, something that will be complicated by a row over oil fields that led to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and by Iranian interests in Iraq.

Political and security conditions allowing, the development of these fields could allow Iraq to re-emerge as a major oil-exporting state. Despite the global economic downturn, Iraq is the one place that could attract investment from global energy majors given the low cost of development and the potential for success.

As much as 80 percent of Iraq’s energy resources have long remained untapped. Whatever development took place occurred before the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein became president in 1979. From there onward, Iraq’s links to the wider world became constrained. The process began with the 1980-88 war with Iran and exacerbated in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Perhaps the worst period began with the 1991 Persian Gulf War and continued through twelve years of sanctions. The country then experienced nearly five years of insurgency in post-Baathist Iraq.

Together, this sequence of events took the country out of the select club of major oil exporters. This meant there is huge potential for increasing oil production, especially in the light of the technological developments that have taken place in the last three decades and the fact that Iraq has not barely been exposed to them.

The introduction of technology into the country will work well with the nature of Iraq’s oil fields - highly shallow and horizontal pool - and thus immensely facilitate development work. Unlike other oil fields around the world, which are deep below the surface and are in the vertical shafts, Iraq’s oil fields are in many ways large lakes that don’t require a whole lot of drilling. This aspect is extremely important from the point of view of the cost of enhancing production, which is why Iraq is the one place where the world’s energy majors are drawn to.

Having oil fields that require little work to begin production constitutes half the undertaking; being able to ship it is an equally important part of developing the energy sector. The world has many places — like Russia — where there is plenty of oil but where the fields are nowhere near any means of transport, which renders the project cost prohibitive. In Iraq, however, most of the fields are located near existing export points and other transit infrastructure. This means it does not require much effort to transport Iraqi crude.

Najmah/Al-Qayara and East Baghdad are not far from a pipeline running from Baghdad through Baiji to the tri-border area with Syria and Turkey. The Khashim al-Ahmar and Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman are a little west of the same line. Meanwhile, the pipeline from Basra to Hadith runs through the Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan field near Najaf and runs close to Gharraf. And the Halfaya, Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, and Siba are located very close to the pipeline network hubbed at Basra. This leaves Badrah as the only field that is far from any existing pipeline. But since it is close to East Baghdad, it can be linked to the pipeline running north from the capital.

Despite these logistical positives, two key factors have prevented energy majors from leaping at the opportunity since the U.S. move to effect regime-change. The first has been the lack of an internationally recognized government, and the second has been a multifaceted security problem.

The Petraeus strategy allowed the United States to collapse the Sunni insurgency from within in 2007, while U.S.-Iranian dealings took care of the Shiite militia problem. The prospect of violence remains, however, given ongoing Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Kurdish tensions. On the political front, the Shiite-dominated central government has considerably extended its writ in the country. Even so, numerous faultlines at both the intra- and inter-communal levels continue to threaten the gains made over the last two years.

The issue of autonomy, which pits the central government against the Kurdistan Regional Government — especially over energy — continues to prevent the enactment of a national hydrocarbon law. Furthermore, 2009 is an election year, with provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31 and parliamentary polls slated for later in the year. These votes are the next step in the process toward stabilizing the Iraqi state. If Iraq’s various stakeholders can move past these tensions, they will enhance the chances for success of the Oil Ministry’s plans to expand production.

Given the number of moving parts in the new Iraqi republic, any number of things could go wrong. But so long as Baghdad can maintain status quo in terms of Iraq’s relative security and stability, it stands a good chance to greatly exceed its past status as a major oil-exporting nation.
25008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: January 07, 2009, 09:34:55 AM
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 29 November 1802
25009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 09:33:31 AM
The depth and diversity of your knowledge continue to impress  cheesy  Very interesting.
25010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 07, 2009, 09:08:37 AM
Oh, I dunno, a country where the people have the right to defend themselves, including with guns; have the right to speak plainly about religious fascism; and have the right to not have the police hack in their personal correspondence and records without a warrant , , , little stuff like that.
25011  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 07, 2009, 09:04:57 AM
And like that corny ad of years ago about "No wine before its time", I am unable to hurry my editor.  Genius has its privileges  cheesy
25012  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:20:36 AM
"I have been working in some of the most dangerous night clubs and bars  in boston for the last 8 years. In that time I have seen with devastating consequence what happens when people are caught off guard when knives are involved in street violence. I have seen friends get stabbed, and friends die because of the ambush nature of knives on the street. And I can say that the mindset and skillsets that are cultivated with the DLO material have made the difference on those dark nights where I was truly scared for my life. I have put my life behind this material and I am still here typing this now so it gives you an understanding of how effective this material is. If you are going to put your life behind any training this is the place to start"

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
25013  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:17:10 AM

"I have been training with Kru Mark Dellogrotte for the past 9 years. I have helped train/sparred with some of the best names in the UFC. I have also had professional fight experience myself. I originally became aware of the Kali-Tudo block of material in 2002 and I have used both the techniques and theorys with success in my training/ sparring/ fighting. I believe that Guro Crafty has an amazing amount of material that will truly open eyes of the MMA community."

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
25014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 12:51:52 AM
I am quite sympathetic to the point about the unmeasured costs of industro-agriculture AND completely unpersuaded that putting the government in charge is a good idea.  Have you ever read PJ O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores"?  The chapter on the Dept of Ag in particular is quite devastating.

PJO'R wrote in the early Clinton years IIRC, and then the Gingrich Revolution nearly finished off the Dept of Ag, which would have been a tremendous blow for freedom, but in one of his worst of many bad moves, President Bush resurrected the Dept of Ag in order to buy mid-west farm votes.  It wasn't necessary politically, it was simply Republican corporate welfare.

Anyway, it is against this sense of things that I measure the idea of a 50 year plan.  Even Lenin and Stalin were humble enough to limit themselves to 5 years tongue     Right now it appears that we are about to see the human global warming hysteria of the eco-liberal fascist-MSM-academic matrix blown up.  The people who said in 1973 that we would be out of oil by 1993, and said the world was cooling, then that the world was warming and that we had to DO SOMETHING!  PUT GOVERNMENT IN CHARGE OF MANAGING THE CLIMATE OF THE PLANET!!! are now about to be wrong once again.

But BO is about to pass out trillions of dollars and I am shocked! absolutely shocked! that articles like this written by two guys who hope to get their fingers in the pie just like Halliburton did  evil would appear in the NYT. cheesy

Somehow the idea of a 50 year government plan for the management of dirt does not appeal , , ,

So what IS to be done?   One thing is to get out the word about the superior nutritional value of organic food.  Bring out the points about minerals and trace minerals missing from humans whose diet is industro-ag.  Look at how the organic food products are developing and deepening into the food chain.  People increasingly want this! 

Look for market driven analysis and solutions.
25015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 07, 2009, 12:29:56 AM
There's hope for you yet JDN  cheesy grin
25016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 06, 2009, 06:58:22 PM
Although it gets several of the big points right, on several levels what a nasty little piece that is.
25017  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Legal Issues in fighting crime on: January 06, 2009, 01:16:59 PM
New Jersey High Court Hears Witness Intimidation Case

Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Updated: January 6th, 2009 10:02 AM EDT

Most Read Most E-mailed E-mail Article Print Article
Associated Press Writer


New Jersey's highest court is grappling with one of the thorniest issues facing criminal justice today: what to do in cases where witnesses to a crime have been threatened or intimidated by defendants to the point where they refuse to testify in court.

The issue is a pressing one in areas where intimidation by gang members, drug dealers and other defendants is making potential witnesses afraid they or their loved ones will be harmed or killed if they take the stand.

The state Supreme Court in Trenton heard nearly two hours of arguments Monday on a case that deals with what the state Attorney General's Office calls "the greatest threat" to prosecution in gang, organized crime and domestic violence cases.

The state wants to be allowed let jurors hear the out-of-court statements of witnesses who have been threatened without presenting the witnesses themselves.

But defense lawyers argue that would not be fair to defendants, who have the Constitutional right to confront their accusers in court.

Deputy Attorney General Daniel Bornstein told the court he has read numerous media accounts of witnesses being intimidated or threatened around the state.

"It's gotten so bad that often entire communities are cowed into silence," he said.

Some prosecutor's offices now refuse to prosecute murder cases where there is only one witness, Bornstein said.

The remedy to that is for prosecutors to be allowed to introduce evidence of conversations a witness had with police or investigators outside of court, the state claims.

The case at issue involves a 2001 murder in Trenton.

Dionte Byrd and Freddie Dean Jr. were convicted in 2004 of murdering Charles "Minnesota Fats" Simmons in Simmons' apartment, and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 30 years.

Helping to convict them was the statement of Kenneth Bush, who told police he rode in a van to Simmons' apartment with Byrd and Dean - both of whom he said were armed - and was smoking crack in the back while they went inside.

Bush said he saw the duo run back to the van and later saw that Byrd had suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. He also said he heard both men discuss the shooting.

Bush refused to testify at trial, claiming he'd been threatened by Byrd and Dean, but the trial court permitted the state to elicit testimony about Bush's statement to police.

An appeals court overturned the convictions in 2007 on the grounds that Bush's statement was improperly admitted into evidence.

Byrd's attorney, Andrew Schneider, told the justices that in their attempt to get the rules changed, prosecutors are using "appeals to fear, anger and revenge - coincidentally the same emotions that get people into trouble."

Many of the justices worried about how to evaluate the reliability of any out-of-court statements that might be sought to be introduced at trials, even as they acknowledged that witness intimidation is a serious problem.

"There are countless cases where a witness gives a statement implicating a person in a crime, and when they get to court, they don't remember anything," said Justice Barry Albin. "There seems to be a climate of fear in certain areas where the witnesses are afraid for their lives to testify in court."

The U.S. Supreme Court allows out-of-court statements to be heard at trial under what is known as the "forfeiture-by-wrongdoing" rule - essentially, that defendants forfeit their Sixth Amendment right to confront a prosecution witness if they wrongfully cause the absence of that witness.

New Jersey's rules of evidence don't include a similar provision, though the state's brief in the Byrd case notes that "at least 31 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the forfeiture rule."

The New Jersey court gave no indication when it might issue a decision.
25018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 06, 2009, 12:51:29 PM

GOP: Bailouts R Not Us
New and Improved at the DNC
Harry Reid Climbs Down
Towards a Self-Selected Senate (Quote of the Day)
Vegetarians v. Madoff

Bush Mutiny

President Bush's handling of the economic crisis came in for sharp criticism during Monday's debate between candidates vying to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. Five of the six contenders said they would support a pending RNC resolution criticizing both the auto bailout and the bailout of the financial industry passed by Congress in September.

"The bailout was a bust. It should never have happened," former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele told the audience at the debate sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. "Republicans should have had a little bit more you-know-what to withstand the pressure. They didn't and we're paying for it. I absolutely support the resolution because it reflects the frustration of our base." Mr. Steele's position was seconded by four of the five other candidates vying for the RNC chairman's post.

The lone dissenter was Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman who has worked closely with the Bush administration. He said that "as a banker" he understood the problem better than the other candidates and it couldn't be summarized with "a simple yes or no answer." He did admit the bailouts have clearly created "a lot of problems."

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, told ABC News that the anti-bailout resolution was vital to get Republicans "back into the swing of having an opinion as a party" on an issue that involved "giving $750 billion of other people's money to people whose claim to fame is that they lost their money."

The election for RNC chairman, along with a vote on the anti-bailout resolution, will be held in Washington on January 29.

-- John Fund

Kaine League

President-elect Barack Obama will tap Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee this week. Any Republican who was hoping for a kinder, gentler opponent than outgoing DNC Chief Howard Dean had better think again.

Mr. Kaine will tackle the role on a part-time basis until January 2010, when he'll be out of a job as Virginia's governor and can assume the party chairmanship full-time. The post is a reward for an early Obama supporter who helped deliver the Old Dominion to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 50 years. Mr. Kaine is viewed as an up-and-comer and emblematic of a new breed of Democratic politicians who have succeeded by appealing to suburban voters -- often by stressing more middle-of-the-road social positions.

That occasional moderation should not, however, be confused with partisan meekness. If Mr. Kaine has become known for anything, it's his relish for an old-fashioned partisan brawl. He proved himself an able attack dog for Mr. Obama during the presidential campaign, jabbing at Senator John McCain and the Bush Administration. In Virginia, if anything, he's been criticized for engaging in too many political fights, which some voters see as a reason why he's failed to enact most of his campaign promises -- such as universal preschool, or more roads.

His aggressive style, in some ways, is similar to that of the gregarious Mr. Dean -- save one important way. Whereas Mr. Dean routinely got into scraps with his own party, Mr. Kaine is personally close to Mr. Obama and can be counted on to serve as a supporter of the new administration's agenda. As the GOP mulls its own choice to head the Republican National Committee, Mr. Kaine's appointment means Republicans had better prepare themselves for a feisty opponent with a track record of winning races in a state Republicans badly need if they hope to return to power.

-- Kim Strassel

Burris in the Saddle

Senate Democrats are working to tone down the threat of a spectacle over two disputed Senate seats. Apparently, no one wants the Senate's first day to become known for bitter and acrimonious argument.

Dispute aplenty is present in the fight over whether Roland Burris, who was appointed by scandal-tarred Illinois Rod Blagojevich, and Al Franken, the former comedian who narrowly won a recount in Minnesota, should be seated. Apparently Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to avoid having his preferred solution imposed on the Senate. He would like Mr. Burris blocked because he lacks a certificate of appointment from Illinois' Secretary of State, but wants Mr. Franken seated even though he lacks a certificate of election from Minnesota's Secretary of State. Lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman are mounting a court challenge against Mr. Franken's alleged recount victory that will block the issuance of an election certificate for weeks.

As for Mr. Burris, it has been amusing to watch Majority Leader Reid climb slowly down from his position that Mr. Burris's appointment by a politically tainted governor was illegitimate. Mr. Reid now says he is willing to "negotiate" over the matter of his eventual seating.

The reason is clear: Mr. Reid has been under intense pressure from members of the Congressional Black Caucus to seat Mr. Burris, who was not a player in Mr. Blagojevich's alleged pay-to-be-appointed scheme. Rep. Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat and former CBC chairman, put in blunt terms how much trouble Mr. Reid will be in if he ultimately denies Mr. Burris a seat. "I think race comes into it because the Senate lacks diversity," Mr. Payne told reporters. "It doesn't reflect America."

Mr. Reid has clearly realized that rejecting the Burris appointment outright might involve a high political price. The dispute, along with the issue of Al Franken's eligibility, will be referred to the Senate Rules Committee. That body will simply stall for time and hope events in Illinois and Minnesota play out in a way that reconciles conflicting Democratic priorities.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Like it or not, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has the legal authority to appoint Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, and Burris, the state's former attorney general, should be allowed to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. . . . Allowing the Senate to exclude Burris on any except the narrowest of grounds would create a dangerous precedent. It could open the door to the Senate or the House overturning the will of the people and excluding representatives under one or another pretext. If Burris -- whose appointment meets the legal test, no matter what you think of Blagojevich -- is not seated, other properly elected (or appointed) representatives also are at risk" -- Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernie Madoff, Tofu King

HONG KONG -- It didn't take long for Hongkongers to come up with a nickname for Bernard Madoff in their eminently punnable native Cantonese. "Mai dou fu" they call him, in a phrase that approximates the sound of his name in English. It means "sells tofu," and is even more biting since it includes an implied "instead of real meat" at the end.

Mr. Madoff's alleged scam seems to have hit Americans, and particularly Jewish investors and charities, the hardest. But it hasn't left Asia untouched. Among other victims, Nomura and Aozora, both Japanese financial institutions, have announced exposures in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And Mr. Madoff or his promoters reportedly took emergency jaunts through Asia trying to drum up fresh suckers as the fund was beginning to collapse.

Fortunately for those investors, they appear mostly to have ignored the pitch. Still, the scandal is rippling here in other ways. China's government has floated plans to crack down on domestic pyramid schemes by tightening enforcement of a 2005 law banning Ponzi-style rackets. They mean business: In November, China executed one man convicted of promising 60% returns to 10,000 investors who bought ant-breeding kits.

25019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Border webcams on: January 06, 2009, 12:49:42 PM
Border webcams
25020  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: January 06, 2009, 12:40:32 PM
25021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Is the UK still a free country? on: January 06, 2009, 12:36:55 PM
UK - Police set to step up hacking of home PCs


THE Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.

The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs.

They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.

The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.

Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.

Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.

A remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he “believes” that it is “proportionate” and necessary to prevent or detect serious crime — defined as any offence attracting a jail sentence of more than three years.

However, opposition MPs and civil liberties groups say that the broadening of such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated by a new act of parliament and court warrants.

They point out that in contrast to the legal safeguards for searching a suspect’s home, police undertaking a remote search do not need to apply to a magistrates’ court for a warrant.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said she would challenge the legal basis of the move. “These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home,” she said.

“The public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy.”

She said the move had parallels with the warrantless police search of the House of Commons office of Damian Green, the Tory MP: “It’s like giving police the power to do a Damian Green every day but to do it without anyone even knowing you were doing it.”

Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state.

He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a “key-logging” device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes.

“It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room,” he said.
Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect’s computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or “malware”. If the attachment was opened, the remote search facility would be covertly activated. Alternatively, police could park outside a suspect’s home and hack into his or her hard drive using the wireless network.

Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes. These include paedophiles, internet fraudsters, identity thieves and terrorists.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.

“To be a valid authorisation, the officer giving it must believe that when it is given it is necessary to prevent or detect serious crime and [the] action is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve,” Acpo said.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, agreed that the development may benefit law enforcement. But he added: “The exercise of such intrusive powers raises serious privacy issues. The government must explain how they would work in practice and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuse.”

The Home Office said it was working with other EU states to develop details of the proposals.
25022  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: January 06, 2009, 12:33:46 PM
Gracias por eso Omar.

He aqui el nuevo de Stratfor:
El Memorándum de la Seguridadde México: Enero. 5, 2008
 STRATFOR TODAY » El 5 de enero de 2009 | 2344 GMT

Fin del año de cierre

El año 2008 acabaron por ser un año sin precedentes en el combate de México contra cárteles de droga. Desafortunadamente para el gobierno, la mayor parte de estos registros son relacionados a la situación de la seguridad del país que empeora, no a ganancias de gobierno contra organizaciones criminales. La mayoría del en particular, 2008 fijo un nuevo registro para homicidios organizados de crimen-relacionó con unos 5.700 matanzas, más que doble el registro anterior de 2.700 alcanzado en 2007. El hecho que 2008 muertes cuenta sola para casi mitad el número total matado sobre los últimos cuatro años es un testamento a la violencia justo cuánta en México ha aumentado sobre el por delante de 12 meses.

Cambiar pautas geográficas de violencia en el último año también parte de punto culminante de los desafíos del gobierno mexicanos. En 2007, por ejemplo, mucha de la violencia ocurrida en los estados de Michoacan, Guerrero y Sinaloa, estados del sudoeste con poblaciones escasas, áreas y montañas rurales vastas que demostraron el territorio ideal almacenar y negociar embarques de droga recibidos en puertos costeros. Durante 2008, sin embargo, mucha de la violencia cambiada al norte: El unos 48 por ciento de todas matanzas durante los últimos 12 meses sucedió en chihuahua y estados de Baja California. Además, mucho de este el norte de violencia fue concentrado en ciudades urbanas grandes como Ciudad Juarez y Tijuana, que presenta operar extraordinariamente diferente ambientes para el ejército mexicano.

Mientras parte del fracaso del ejército mexicano controlar violencia en estas ciudades es relacionada para ser estirada delgado, también es relacionado a una falta relativa de operar de experiencia en ambientes urbanos, que requiere habilidades como asuntos civiles y cooperando más de cerca con aplicación de la ley local. Las tensiones crecientes entre el ejército y los gobiernos civiles han mostrado que el ejército todavía tiene mejoras para hacer — Las mejoras que son difíciles aún para el más profesional y fuerzas de mejor-financió EEUU en Iraq y Afganistán quite.

La perspectiva de estas tendencias que continúan en 2009 hace no esperó el momento oportuno bien para el gobierno mexicano. Mientras no hay indicación que la violencia pronto se estrechará lejos, será también clara que la violencia no puede continuar aumentar indefinidamente. Verdaderamente, el punta en la violencia en noviembre que dejó casi 1.000 muertos no se repitieron en diciembre, que registró 650 matanzas relacionadas al crimen organizado, un nivel más normal comparó a meses anteriores. No obstante, debido a la inestabilidad continua de la situación, está casi inevitable que el problema de crimen continuará representar una seguridad nacional primera concierne para el gobierno a través del año venidero, especialmente como el gobierno encara presiones de ciudadanos y negocios que son afectados.

Una Infracción Presidencial de Seguridad y el Ejército

Pocos detalles adicionales han surgido en las últimas dos semanas con respecto al diciembre. 26 revelación de un cartel penetration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s security team. La revelación vino como autoridades anunciaron el arresto de un mayor de ejército asignado al Cuerpo Presidencial del Guardia, uno de varias unidades militares responsables de la seguridad presidencial. La corrupción desenfrenada dada de México y el mucho personal que contribuyen a la seguridad presidencial, no son sorpresa que por lo menos uno de ellos quizás sea manchado. Una fuente mexicana del gobierno dijo Stratfor que el mayor no tuvo acceso a la información más de alto nivel con respecto a Calderon, aunque horario del viaje del presidente ha sido modificado como una precaución.

El arresto del mayor es un recordatorio de los muchos papeles de la seguridad que el ejército mexicano realiza hoy. Stratfor ha observado con frecuencia las limitaciones de las fuerzas armadas mexicanas, que fueron destacadas por la respuesta del ejército al December beheading of eight soldiers in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state. Mientras el incidente ha chispeado atrocidad entre muchos soldados, hay relativamente poco el ejército es capaz de hacer o dispuesto a hacer.

Inmediatamente después del incidente, los soldados en el estado de Guerrero sellaron carreteras y vehículos inspeccionados como ellos buscaron para esos responsable. Las tropas en Michoacan y estados de Morelos realizaron operaciones semejantes. A pesar del perfil alto del incidente, la respuesta del ejército ha sido limitada hasta ahora a desplegar a tropas de guarniciones locales, en comparación con algún cambio de frente a gran escala de fuerzas de en otra parte en el país. Una fuente de Stratfor aconsejó que la Defensa mexicana Secretariado está en el mirador para represalias no autorizadas por soldados contrariados. Mientras hace sentido estratégico para no cambiar de frente muchos a soldados a Guerrero simplemente a causa de soldados de ocho muertos, una respuesta percibida como débil por riesgos de la gente común del ejército que bajan la moral aun más. También demuestra parte de los muchos desafíos asociados con dependiendo del ejército a largo plazo.

Diciembre. 22
•   Un grupo de hombres armados abrió fuego en un partido en Turicato, estado de Michoacan, matando a un hombre y herir a dos mujeres.
•   The El cuerpo de un hombre no identificado con varios escopetazos fue encontrado con los ojos vendados y atado en las muñecas en Acolman, estado de México.
•   The El ejército mexicano anunció el arresto de Javier “El Java” Diaz Ramon en Cancun, estado de Quintana Roo. Diaz es un miembro pretendido del cártel de Golfo que está supuestamente encargado de operaciones de cártel en Quintana Roo y estados de Veracruz.
Diciembre. 23
•   Las fuerzas mexicanas del ejército retuvieron siete hombres y a una mujer en la posesión de rifles de asalto, las pistolas, la munición y más de $50.000 Guadalajara en efectivo cercano, estado de Jalisco. La mujer había ganado recientemente un desfile de la belleza de estado de Sinaloa.
•   A El grupo de personas en un camión despidió más de 100 series en Chalco, estado de México, matando a una persona e hiriendo otro.
Diciembre. 24
•   El subdirector de la seguridad pública en Zihuatanejo, estado de Guerrero, fue detenido junto con siete policías para proporcionar supuestamente la protección para un miembro de un grupo de pistoleros implicados en un tiroteo con el ejército mexicano fuerza el día antes.
•   The Los cuerpos de ocho personas no identificadas fueron encontrados en bolsas plásticas por una carretera rural Tuxtla Gutierrez cercano, estado de Chiapas. Por lo menos uno de los cuerpos mostró signos de tormento.
Diciembre. 25
•   La cabeza y el cuerpo carbonizada atado y con los ojos vendados de un hombre fueron encontrados fuera de una escuela en Acapulco, Guerrero.
•   Authorities En el estado de Guerrero encontró el cuerpo del coordinador público de la seguridad y el transporte de del de Coatlan Rio, estado de Morelos, que es pensado haber sido raptado diciembre. 17.
Diciembre. 26
•   Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez, un mayor en el ejército mexicano y un miembro del Cuerpo Presidencial de Guardia, fue informado detenido para vender la inteligencia en los movimientos y la ubicación de Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon a la organización del droga-trafico de drogas de Beltran Leyva.
Diciembre. 27
•   Un policía en Acapulco, estado de Guerrero, se murió después de que por lo menos un disparo armado de hombre él como él pasara por la calle.
•   Several Los hombres armados utilizaron camiones para bloquear una Ciudad de Kansas el sur de viajes de tren del puerto de Lazaro Cardenas México D.F. Los hombres continuaron para forzar su manera en varios de los coches de contenedor y quitar los bienes antes de huir la escena.
Diciembre. 28
•   Dos policías del estado en Aguascalientes, estado de Aguascalientes, se murió cuando un grupo de hombres armados en varios vehículos los disparó muchas veces. Un tercer agente fue disparo a la muerte en un ataque semejante en otra parte de la ciudad.
Diciembre. 30
•   Los residentes en Ixmiquilpan, estado de Hidalgo, retuvo a dos agentes federales por 17 horas para arrancar supuestamente dinero de emigrantes.
Diciembre. 31
•   Las fuerzas mexicanas del ejército informaron la captura de Alberto “La Fresa” Espinoza Barron, pensó ser un teniente de alto rango en la organización de crimen de La Familia.
•   More Que 40 miembros y los socios sospechados del cártel de Golfo fueron detenidos como parte de Considerar “del Proyecto de EEUU Administración Droga Aplicación, la Fase II.”
•   Authorities En el Ideal de Nuevo, estado de Durango, encontró los cuerpos de dos hombres que fueron secuestrados supuestamente por varios hombres armados.
Enero. 1
•   Los agentes federales que sirven una orden de registro en Torreon, estado de Coahuila, llegó a ser entró en un tiroteo de cuatro-hora con holed de pistoleros arriba en un piso franco. Cuatro agentes fueron heridos durante el incidente.
Enero. 2
•   Un convoy militar fue atacado en un área rural de estado de chihuahua, dejando a tres soldados heridos. Tres pistoleros se murieron cuando los soldados volvieron fuego.

25023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 06, 2009, 10:19:20 AM
With the choice of Clinton retread Panetta for CIA, one wonders what other retreads are in the pipeline. 

Anyone know what Monica Lewinsky is up to these days? cheesy
25024  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: East Coast Day of Hard Sparring on: January 06, 2009, 10:15:21 AM
I'm thinking you may find that choice of date has more undesirable consequences than you may realize , , , cheesy
25025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Priceless logic on: January 06, 2009, 10:06:25 AM
This guy gets the Big Chutzpah award. angry angry angry

srael has legitimised the killing of its children
The Times

January 6, 2009

Hamas: Israel has legitimised the killing of its children

Fighting intensified on the northern outskirts of Gaza City yesterday as a Hamas leader warned that the Islamists would kill Jewish children anywhere in the world in revenge for Israel’s devastating assault.

“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”

Mr Zahar made his first appearance since Israel launched its offensive. Dressed in a dark suit, he declared: “Victory is coming, God willing.”

As night fell on the territory, most of which is without electricity, the sky above Gaza was illuminated by explosions and flares from the pitched battle on Gaza City’s northern fringes, where Israeli tanks, helicopters and artillery fought to dislodge Hamas guerrillas. Witnesses said that the battle had, for the first time, spilled into Gaza City itself, where the head of Hamas’s armed wing warned that thousands of his fighters were waiting.

The Israeli military said last night that three of its soldiers were killed and 24 wounded by a shell from one of its own tanks in a battle near Gaza City.

Abu Obeida, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, made his first appearance on Gaza television, his face masked in a red and white scarf, to goad Israeli forces massed outside the teeming city of 400,000 people. “We have prepared thousands of brave fighters who are waiting for you in each corner of the street and will welcome you with fire and iron,” he said.

Despite growing international calls for a ceasefire, neither side has shown the slightest intention of backing down. Israel, supported by the outgoing Bush Administration in the United States, rejected European calls for an immediate ceasefire reiterated during a peace mission by President Sarkozy of France. Israel argues that it needs to break Hamas’s military capacity if a durable ceasefire is to be negotiated. “We cannot accept a compromise that will allow Hamas to fire \ against Israeli towns in two months’ time,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Mr Sarkozy last night.

Hamas, meanwhile, kept firing rockets into southern Israel, launching about 40 of its home-made Qassam rockets and more sophisticated Grad missiles. They again hit Beersheba, about 25 miles from Gaza. While Israeli forces have stormed into the northeastern area of the Strip, from where Hamas usually launches its projectiles, the Islamists have maintained their fire from within Gaza City.

Many analysts believe that Hamas wants to goad Israel into its stronghold, a hellish landscape for urban combat, which the Islamists have had 18 months to prime with booby traps, ambushes and tunnels.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli soldiers raided the house of a Hamas militant only to find three tunnels underneath through which their quarry escaped. It added that Hamas’s reports of kidnapping an Israeli soldier stemmed from an incident in which the soldier became separated from his unit and the militants tried to drag him down a tunnel. He escaped after a scuffle, it said.

Mr Sarkozy, part of a high-level EU effort in the region to negotiate a truce, told Israel that “the violence must halt”. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President and Fatah leader, whom he met in Ramallah yesterday, also called for an unconditional truce.

Mr Sarkozy ran foul of Hamas when he said that it must bear most of the blame for the increasingly miserable plight of the 1.5 million Gazans it rules over. “Hamas acted in an irresponsible and unforgiveable manner . . . Hamas is to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians,” he said. A Hamas spokesman accused Mr Sarkozy of “total bias” towards Israel.

Casualty figures

550 Palestinians have been killed in Operation Cast Lead

100 of the dead are children

2,500 Palestinians have been wounded

4 Israeli civilians have been killed since the operation began, and four Israeli soldiers. Seventy-seven soldiers have been injured

Source: Gaza medical services, Israel Defence Forces
25026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Too many laws on: January 06, 2009, 08:45:29 AM
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow."

--James Madison (likely), Federalist No. 62, 1788
25027  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 05, 2009, 02:45:13 PM
Ademas tengo entendido que el manejo de la industria petrolera venzolana por el ha sido pesimo y por eso que la produccion va a disminuir bastante.
25028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reality bites Bay Area in *ss on: January 05, 2009, 01:22:04 PM
Influx of black renters raises tension in Bay Area
Email this Story

Dec 30, 3:24 PM (ET)


ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) - As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.

In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.

Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.

"A lot of people are moving out here looking for a better place to live," said Karen Coleman, a mother of three who came here five years ago from a blighted neighborhood in nearby Pittsburg. "We are trying to raise our kids like everyone else. But they don't want us here."

City officials deny the allegations in the lawsuits, which were filed last spring and seek unspecified damages.

Across the country, similar tensions have simmered when federally subsidized renters escaped run-down housing projects and violent neighborhoods by moving to nicer communities in suburban Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But the friction in Antioch is "hotter than elsewhere," said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman Larry Bush.

An increasing number of poor families receiving federal rental assistance have been moving here in recent years, partly because of the housing crisis.

A growing number of landlords were seeking a guaranteed source of revenue in a city hard-hit by foreclosures. They began offering their Antioch homes to low-income tenants in the HUD Section 8 housing program, which pays about two-thirds of every tenant's rent.

Between 2000 and 2007, Antioch's black population nearly doubled from 8,824 to 16,316. And the number of Antioch renters receiving federal subsidies climbed almost 50 percent between 2003 and 2007 to 1,582, the majority of them black.

Longtime homeowners complained that the new arrivals brought crime and other troubles. In 2006, violent crime in Antioch shot up about 19 percent from the year before, while property crime went down slightly.

"In some neighborhoods, it was complete madness," said longtime resident David Gilbert, a black retiree who organized the United Citizens of Better Neighborhoods watch group. "They were under siege."

So the Antioch police in mid-2006 created the Community Action Team, which focused on complaints of trouble at low-income renters' homes.

Police sent 315 complaints about subsidized tenants to the Contra Costa Housing Authority, which manages the federal program in the city, and urged the agency to evict many of them for lease violations such as drug use or gun possession. Lawyers for the tenants said 70 percent of the eviction recommendations were aimed at black renters. The housing authority turned down most of the requests.

Coleman said the police, after a complaint from a neighbor, showed up at her house one morning in 2007 to check on her husband, who was on parole for drunken driving. She said they searched the house and returned twice more that summer to try to find out whether the couple had violated any terms of their lease that could lead to eviction.

The Colemans were also slapped with a restraining order after a neighbor accused them of "continually harassing and threatening their family," according to court papers. The Colemans said a judge later rescinded the order.

Coleman and four other families are suing Antioch, accusing police of engaging in racial discrimination and conducting illegal searches without warrants. They have asked a federal judge to make their suit a class-action on behalf of hundreds of other black renters. Another family has filed a lawsuit accusing the city's leaders of waging a campaign of harassment to drive them out.

Police referred questions to the city attorney's office.

City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland denied any discrimination on the part of police and said officers were responding to crime reports in troubled neighborhoods when they discovered that a large number of the troublemakers were receiving federal subsidies.

"They are responding to real problems," Nerland said.

Joseph Villarreal, the housing authority chief, said the problems in Antioch mirror tensions seen nationally when poor renters move into neighborhoods they can afford only with government help.

"One of the goals of the programs is to de-concentrate poverty," Villarreal said. "There are just some people who don't want to spend public money that way."

Tensions like those afflicting Antioch have drawn scholars and law enforcement officials to debate whether crime follows subsidized renters out of the tenements to the suburbs.

Susan Popkin, a researcher at the nonprofit Urban Institute, said she does not believe that is the case. But the tensions, she said, are real.

"That can be a recipe for anxiety," she said. "It can really change the demographics of a neighborhood."
25029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon is PO'd at DHS on: January 05, 2009, 01:13:16 PM
The Department of Homeland Security in Action
04 January 2009

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays.  This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up.  So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together.  She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families.  She didn’t come here for a job.  Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it.  She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Problems began when she entered the airport in Bangkok.  Aew had a one-way ticket to America, because we would travel back in the direction of the war before she would go home, but we did not know our exact itinerary, so she hadn't bought a round-trip ticket back to Thailand.  Before boarding the flight from Thailand to America, Northwest Airlines required Aew to buy a return ticket for 53,905 Thai bhat, or about $1,200 for a return ticket, else they would not let her board the flight.  Aew paid by her credit card and pushed on.  Understandably, it raises suspicions when a foreign national doesn't have a round-trip ticket in an age of massive illegal immigration -- even if that person is an educated professional with a home and career, and even though Aew has a ten-year visa to the United States.  Nevertheless, Aew paid approximately $1,200 for the return ticket, and so now had a return ticket. 

That is how it began.  She boarded the jet, eventually landed in Japan and then Minneapolis, before the final leg to Orlando.  While thousands of people have canceled trips to Orlando due to the failing economy, Aew was coming with cash to spend in Florida.  We would go to Disney, Kennedy Space Center and many other places; she'd be seeing the sights while I was meeting with military and other people in preparation for my upcoming return to Afghanistan for the long year ahead. 

I first met Aew in Indonesia during a break from the Iraq war.  I had gone to visit the site of the murder of my friend Beata Pawlak, who, along with about two hundred other people, was killed in a terrorist attack on the island of Bali.

After meeting in Indonesia, Aew and I stayed in touch.  We traveled at different times to Singapore, Great Britain, Thailand and Nepal.  Yet when Aew landed in Minneapolis, she was hustled away by an immigration officer.  After approximately 24 hours of exhausting travel, Aew was detained for about 90 minutes without cause, and as a result, she missed her connecting flight to Orlando.  She was brought into a small room where she saw a camera peering down.  The officer conducting the shakedown wore a name tag: "Knapp."  Five times she had traveled to China with zero problems, but Knapp grilled Aew with a long series of questions, rifling through her wallet, handling her credit cards and reading them carefully, questioning her piece by piece.  Her passport, thick with extra pages, showed stamps from countries around the world.  It contained the valid U.S. visa, and stamps and visas from countries she had traveled to, such as Great Britain, Japan, China, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand and Cambodia.  She had traveled to some of these countries on multiple occasions, always paying her own way.  She never had problems.  Not even in China.  We had toured Parliament together in London, on a private expedition led by Member of Parliament Adam Holloway.  Aew was very interested to see the Royal Family, and was beside herself when I met Lady Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who at that time read this website.  The British, including military officers, had treated her very well and she left with positive memories of Great Britian.

But that was Great Britain.  The American shakedown was just starting.  Her sister, Puk, was sending me SMS messages from Thailand, worried that Aew seemed to have disappeared.  I had bought Puk's daughters, North and Nurse, who are 8 and 9, a "talking globe" so they could track the travels of their Aunt Aew.  The last time I saw North and Nurse, we had taken them to the Chiang Mai zoo, and also to an elephant camp where the elephants paint.  Puk's husband, Bey, is a high-ranking Thai police officer who, as part of his duties, helps organize security for the Thai Royal Family. 

While the U.S. Immigration officer named Knapp rifled through all her belongings, Aew sat quietly.  She was afraid of this man, who eventually pushed a keyboard to Aew and coerced her into giving up the password to her e-mail address.  Officer Knapp read through Aew's e-mails that were addressed to me, and mine to her.  Aew would tell me later that she sat quietly, but “Inside I was crying.”  She had been so excited to finally visit America.  America, the only country ever to coerce her at the border.  This is against everything I know about winning and losing the subtle wars.   This is against everything I love about the United States.  We are not supposed to behave like this.  Aew would tell me later that she thought she would be arrested if she did not give the password.

The Government of the United States was reading the private e-mails of a U.S. citizen (me).  The Department of “Homeland Security” was at work, intimidating visitors with legitimate visas.  They had at least 24 hours to check her out before she landed in the United States.  What kind of security is this?  The Department of Homeland Security was at this moment more like the Department of Intimidation.

Officer Knapp called my phone as I was driving to the Orlando airport.  I was going to be there two hours early to make sure I would be on time, so that she had a warm welcome to my country.  But instead, Knapp was busy detaining Aew in Minneapolis and was on my cell phone asking all types of personal questions that he had no business asking.  Sensing that Aew was in trouble, I answered his questions.  Mr. Knapp was a rude smart aleck.  The call is likely recorded and that recording would bear out my claims.  This officer of the United States government, a grown man, had coerced personal information from a Thai woman who weighs 90 pounds.  I asked Aew later why she gave him the e-mail password, and she answered simply, "I was afraid," and “I thought I would be arrested.”

What could I say to alleviate any of this?  Could I say, "This is the U.S., nothing to be afraid of."?  The world already sees us as senseless bullies.  Aew might have been detained indefinitely; even I was concerned that the Department of Homeland Security might detain Aew for no reason.  Essentially, she had no rights.  They had already coerced her e-mail password out of her head through intimidation.

This does not make me feel safe: Our Homeland Security was focusing on a 40-year-old Thai bank officer while there are real bad guys out there. Thailand and the United States have had good relations for 175 years, and Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that is proud to say they are friends of the United States.  There are no threats to Americans from Thai people -- who, among other relevant things, are mostly not Muslims.  The King of Thailand was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard.  I have never seen the King with a gun; only a camera.  His 2009 New Year’s speech was also a call for peace.  The King and his family helped bring widespread education to Thailand, which created a special problem.  Today there are large numbers of highly educated, successful women looking for highly educated men.  I remember General (ret.) McCaffrey, our former drug Czar, telling me a couple of years ago that the King of Thailand was incredibly important in wiping out opium poppies in Thailand.  The King of Thailand is highly respected by the government of the United States.  He is a very good man. 

During World War II, when the Japanese encouraged the Thai people to fight us, the Thai government actually declared war on the United States and Great Britain.  But the Thai Ambassador in Washington refused to deliver the declaration of war.  The upshot was that the United States refused to declare war on Thailand, and the Thai people formed a resistance against the Japanese.

Thai people refused to fight Americans.  Instead, they attacked the Japanese.  Has our government had problems recently with 90-pound, 40-year-old Thai women?  Do they blow things up?  Aew doesn’t even know how to light a match.  She doesn’t smoke or drink, and is more upright than your average southern Baptist.  She can’t even curse and gets upset if she hears me say a bad word about someone.  “Michael!” she says, “Don’t say that!” 

When I discovered that she had missed her flight, after about 24 hours of travel thus far, I called immigration at Minneapolis and asked to speak with Officer Knapp.  Knapp got on the phone, but this time it was me questioning him.  Knapp told me it was legal to read e-mails.  I asked for his first name, but he was afraid to give his first name, which was rather strange for someone working within the confines of an airport where everyone has been searched for weapons.  Where I work, in a war zone, soldiers give their first and last names and face Taliban and al Qaeda heads up, man to man.  I write about al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups who kill thousands of people.  My name is Michael Yon.  My first name is Michael.  Mr. Knapp hides behind a badge bullying a woman whose only activities are Yoga, reading, travel, and telling me what is healthy and unhealthy to eat.  Knapp is a face of Homeland Security.  How many other officers at Homeland Security bully 90-pound women, but are afraid to give their own names? 

Knowing that Homeland Security officers are creating animosity and anxiety at our borders does not make me feel safer.  How many truly bad guys slip by while U.S. officers stand in small rooms and pick on little women?

I have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq on a trip with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and I can assure you that we can do better.  We do not have to violate human rights and insult our closest allies to maintain our security. 

Meanwhile, Aew had missed two flights; standby seats were full on the second flight, and I was considering flying from Florida to Minneapolis to get her myself.  I did not want Aew to have to sleep in the airport overnight.

I had intended to show Aew a bit of my country.  But it's taking a little while for her to get over her discomfort at being in America.  She was treated better in China.  So was I.
25030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Burris and Franken on: January 05, 2009, 11:43:47 AM

How Burris and Franken Became a Matched Set

There was a reason that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News yesterday he is willing to "negotiate" a solution to the seating of Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat appointed to take the vacant Senate seat held by Barack Obama until November.

"I'm an old trial lawyer," Mr. Reid said. "There's always room to negotiate." That's curious, given Mr. Reid's formerly adamant stance that Mr. Burris's appointment is fatally tainted because it was made by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

One explanation for Mr. Reid's flexibility may be the political heat Senate Democrats would take for failing to seat an African-American in a body that currently has no blacks as members. But another is that Democrats might face charges of hypocrisy if on the same day they refuse to seat Mr. Burris, they move to seat Democrat Al Franken as the senator from Minnesota. A key argument Democrats are using to justify not seating Mr. Burris is that the Illinois Secretary of State is refusing to issue a certificate of appointment. But Mr. Franken, who currently leads Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes, will lack a certificate of election from his state's Secretary of State when the Senate convenes tomorrow. While the state's canvassing board will likely declare Mr. Franken the winner today, Minnesota law holds that the Secretary of State can't certify Mr. Franken as the official winner until Mr. Coleman's expected legal challenge of the result is resolved.

But that hasn't stopped leading Democrats from moving to have Mr. Franken seated anyway. "With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota," New York Senator Chuck Schumer said yesterday, echoing comments made last week by Minnesota's own Senator Amy Klobuchar.

If Democrats want to seat Mr. Franken despite the cloud hanging over the disputed recount that gave him a narrow lead only last week, they will have trouble explaining why they are denying Mr. Burris his seat, even though he had no role in Governor Blagojevich's alleged attempts to sell a Senate appointment. That's why Senator Reid now says the Senate could accept Mr. Burris if the appointment were made by a new Illinois governor or by Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who is expected to become governor after Mr. Blagojevich is removed from office.

That says to me Mr. Quinn is being leaned on by Mr. Reid to signal that he would choose Mr. Burris if he becomes governor, thereby giving Democrats an out. But Mr. Quinn would simply be rubber-stamping the same choice that Senate Democrats thought unacceptable just last week. Senate Democrats should not be allowed to wiggle free of their previous position so easily, especially if they simultaneously try to seat Mr. Franken over the objections of Senate Republicans.
25031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 05, 2009, 11:42:46 AM
He Can Always Resume His Baseball Career

Warning signs that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson would have trouble in his confirmation hearings to become Barack Obama's Commerce Secretary had been multiplying for weeks. It doesn't surprise seasoned New Mexico political observers that the two-term governor withdrew from his chance to join Mr. Obama's cabinet yesterday.

Mr. Richardson was caught up in what has become a major grand jury investigation into possible connections between the state's awarding of a lucrative contract and sizeable contributions a California company made to political action committees created by Governor Richardson. While the governor himself has not been publicly implicated so far, many of his political employees have given testimony to the grand jury.

Aides to President-elect Obama are already blaming Governor Richardson for the mess, saying that when his staff was asked for information on the grand jury probe "nothing" was forthcoming. But that's exactly the kind of answer a team of vetters for a future president isn't supposed to accept.

The problems with Mr. Richardson should have been evident to anyone with experience in machine-run Chicago. "Corruption is a way of life in New Mexico," says local blogger and novelist S.J. Reidhead, who maintains that the state's Democratic Party has been controlled by a corrupt machine for many decades. Perhaps it takes someone like Mr. Obama's Chicago pals to imagine Mr. Richardson's tainted backyard wasn't worthy of asking blunt questions about.

Another sign Mr. Richardson was in trouble came only a few days after he was appointed Commerce Secretary last month. On December 16, he abruptly ended a news conference by refusing to answer questions about the grand-jury probe of his office. Trip Jennings of the New Mexican Independent reported that Mr. Richardson's "abrupt departure was out of character for a governor who usually lingers at the end of news conferences to shake hands and mingle with individuals in the room. But on Tuesday he never made eye contact with the reporters."

Mr. Richardson's departure leaves Mr. Obama with a political dilemma, as Hispanic groups are already demanding that the Commerce Department vacancy be filled with another prominent Latino. Mr. Obama may feel he has checked off that diversity box with his appointment of California Rep. Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. But he will face intense political pressure to make sure the Commerce Secretary post is held by an Hispanic too, especially since George W. Bush has had former Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez in the job for the last four years.

-- John Fund

Richardson's Flameout and the Bush DOJ

The international etiquette expert he put on his staff; the large entourage he travels with in seeming practice for an international leadership post; the welcoming of North Korean emissaries to New Mexico's governor's mansion to solidify his diplomatic credentials; the careful cultivation of Barack Obama, for which he earned the rebuke of "Judas" from Clinton acolyte James Carville -- all these gestures and extravagances have been for naught, it seems. Bill Richardson will not be winging his way to Washington in style in anticipation of a cabinet post in the Obama administration.

Federal investigators are looking into why Beverly Hills-based CDR Financial Products won a contract to oversee a New Mexico bond offering shortly after the company donated $100,000 to a political campaign Mr. Richardson was running in 2004 to register Hispanic and American Indian voters. It is still too early to know if the investigation will find credible evidence against the governor himself, but one detail will likely escape intense media scrutiny: The investigation is a vindication for the Bush White House in its decision two years ago to fire David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney for the district of New Mexico.

At the time, the firing of Mr. Iglesias and a handful of other U.S. attorneys became a hot button issue when Democrats and certain media outlets went wild with accusations that the White House was "playing politics" with law enforcement. Mr. Iglesias himself became a focal point in the controversy when it emerged that New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici had pushed for his firing after finding the U.S. attorney slow in investigating political corruption in the state.

Amid the controversy, the White House never filled Mr. Iglesias's post, allowing Mr. Iglesias's deputy to hold the position on an interim basis. But about a year ago, a panel of federal judges acted on its own to appoint Greg Fouratt, a veteran federal prosecutor and former officer in the U.S. Air Force with New Mexico roots. Mr. Fouratt's office isn't commenting on the current investigation, but his willingness to press forward is a clear indication that New Mexico now has a robust anti-corruption unit in its U.S. attorney's office, something it didn't seem to have under Mr. Iglesias.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day I

"[Fidel] Castro is as much a hero to the Left as [the late Chilean dictator Augusto] Pinochet was a bogeyman. At first blush, this is puzzling. Castro has executed 16,000 people and imprisoned more than 100,000 in labor camps. While liberals around the globe agonize over Guantanamo, they do not even know the names of the camps in Castro's gulag: Kilo 5.5, Pinar del Rio, Kilo 7, the Capitiolo, for children up to age 10 (political incorrectness can manifest itself at a very early age). Two million of Fidel's ungrateful subjects have fled his socialist paradise, more than 30,000 have died in the attempt. . . . Castro, who killed many times the number that Pinochet did -- and in cold blood -- remains a hero to the useful idiots of the western commentariat because murdering members of the bourgeoisie is just breaking eggs to make the Marxist omelet" -- Scottish columnist Gerald Warner, on the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.

Quote of the Day II

"Israel -- assuming it succeeds -- is doing the United States a favor by taking on Hamas now. . . . [A] defeat of Hamas in Gaza -- following on the heels of our success in Iraq -- would be a real setback for Iran. It would make it easier to assemble regional and international coalitions to pressure Iran. It might positively affect the Iranian elections in June. It might make the Iranian regime more amenable to dealing. With respect to Iran, Obama may well face -- as the Israeli government did with Hamas -- a moment when the use of force seems to be the only responsible option. But Israel's willingness to fight makes it more possible that the United States may not have to" -- New York Times columnist Bill Kristol.

How Burris and Franken Became a Matched Set

There was a reason that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News yesterday he is willing to "negotiate" a solution to the seating of Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat appointed to take the vacant Senate seat held by Barack Obama until November.

"I'm an old trial lawyer," Mr. Reid said. "There's always room to negotiate." That's curious, given Mr. Reid's formerly adamant stance that Mr. Burris's appointment is fatally tainted because it was made by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

One explanation for Mr. Reid's flexibility may be the political heat Senate Democrats would take for failing to seat an African-American in a body that currently has no blacks as members. But another is that Democrats might face charges of hypocrisy if on the same day they refuse to seat Mr. Burris, they move to seat Democrat Al Franken as the senator from Minnesota. A key argument Democrats are using to justify not seating Mr. Burris is that the Illinois Secretary of State is refusing to issue a certificate of appointment. But Mr. Franken, who currently leads Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes, will lack a certificate of election from his state's Secretary of State when the Senate convenes tomorrow. While the state's canvassing board will likely declare Mr. Franken the winner today, Minnesota law holds that the Secretary of State can't certify Mr. Franken as the official winner until Mr. Coleman's expected legal challenge of the result is resolved.

But that hasn't stopped leading Democrats from moving to have Mr. Franken seated anyway. "With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota," New York Senator Chuck Schumer said yesterday, echoing comments made last week by Minnesota's own Senator Amy Klobuchar.

If Democrats want to seat Mr. Franken despite the cloud hanging over the disputed recount that gave him a narrow lead only last week, they will have trouble explaining why they are denying Mr. Burris his seat, even though he had no role in Governor Blagojevich's alleged attempts to sell a Senate appointment. That's why Senator Reid now says the Senate could accept Mr. Burris if the appointment were made by a new Illinois governor or by Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who is expected to become governor after Mr. Blagojevich is removed from office.

That says to me Mr. Quinn is being leaned on by Mr. Reid to signal that he would choose Mr. Burris if he becomes governor, thereby giving Democrats an out. But Mr. Quinn would simply be rubber-stamping the same choice that Senate Democrats thought unacceptable just last week. Senate Democrats should not be allowed to wiggle free of their previous position so easily, especially if they simultaneously try to seat Mr. Franken over the objections of Senate Republicans.
25032  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 05, 2009, 11:24:35 AM
?Estoy corecto en pensar que eso implica el comienzo del fin del potencia economica del Chavismo?
25033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: January 05, 2009, 11:12:27 AM
"But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."

--Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781
25034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tax cuts bigger % of stimulus? on: January 05, 2009, 03:30:10 AM
WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer about $300 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts -- which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years -- is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated. It may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely more heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush's tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut -- the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush in 2003 -- contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

Republicans and business leaders hadn't seen specifics of the proposals Sunday night, but welcomed the idea of basing a bigger proportion of the stimulus plan on tax cuts. Their response suggests the legislation could attract relatively broad support, and it highlighted the Obama team's determination to win backing from varied interests.

Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), have warned against a careless stimulus plan that enables unfettered spending.

The largest piece of tax relief in the new plan would involve cuts for people who pay income taxes or who claim the earned-income credit, a refund designed to lessen the impact of payroll taxes on low- and moderate-income workers. This component would serve as a down payment on the "Making Work Pay" proposal Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, giving a credit of $500 per individual or $1,000 per family.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama said he would phase out a similar tax-credit proposal at around $200,000 per household, but aides said they haven't settled on an income cap for the latest proposal. This part of the plan is similar to a bipartisan initiative launched in early 2008, which sent out checks worth $131 billion.

Economists of all political stripes widely agree the checks sent out last spring were ineffective in stemming the economic slide, partly because many strapped consumers paid bills or saved the cash rather than spend it. But Obama aides wanted a provision that could get money into consumers' hands fast, and hope they will be persuaded to spend money this time if the credit is made a permanent feature of the tax code.

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. Obama aides note that businesses would have been able to claim most of the tax write-offs on future tax returns, and the proposal simply accelerates those write-offs to make them available in the current tax season, when a lack of available credit is leaving many companies short of cash.

A second provision would entice firms to plow that money back into new investment. The write-offs would be retroactive to expenditures made as of Jan. 1, 2009, to ensure that companies don't sit on their money until after Congress passes the measure.

Another element would offer a one-year tax credit for companies that make new hires or forgo layoffs, which could be worth $40 billion to $50 billion. And the Obama plan also would allow small businesses to write off a broad range expenditures worth up to $250,000 in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the limit is $175,000.

William Gale, a tax-policy analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the scale of the whole package is larger than expected. He called the business offerings a true surprise, since most attention has been focused on the spending side of the equation, especially the hundreds of billions of dollars being discussed for infrastructure and aid to state and local governments.

"On the other hand, it was hard to figure out how they were going to spend all that money in intelligent ways, so it makes sense to do more on the tax side," Mr. Gale said. His biggest question about the latest proposal concerns the credits for hiring new workers or refraining from layoffs. Much of that money would likely go to companies that would have hired more people anyway, he said, adding that it is impossible to know what firms would have done without such a credit.

Business lobbyists are pushing hard for Congress to allow companies that haven't paid corporate income taxes to get a break, too. Start-up companies, alternative-energy firms and large corporations that have been swallowing losses for years -- such as automotive and steel companies and some airlines -- have already begun lobbying for such "refundability."

They argue that a provision to claim losses on back taxes will have little effect on the economy if firms that need it most -- struggling companies that weren't obligated to pay any taxes -- can't benefit from a tax break.

Mr. Obama, however, doesn't back payments to companies that haven't paid taxes, aides said. Instead, businesses that haven't been paying taxes would be able to get payments from tax credits they would have taken in 2008 and 2009 for incentives offered by Congress, such as the production tax credit offered to renewable-energy firms. These amounts would likely be relatively small.

"We're working with Congress to develop a tax-cut package based on a simple principle: What will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private-sector jobs and strengthening the middle class?" said transition-team spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "We're guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests."

As these details are being worked out, Mr. Obama and his family left Chicago during the weekend for Washington. He will be on Capitol Hill Monday, first to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), then with the broader bipartisan leadership of Congress. The stimulus package will be front-and-center in those discussions.

Democratic leaders and Obama aides acknowledge that congressional Democrats' initial goal of passing the recovery package before Mr. Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration is unrealistic. Now, they hope for passage before the Feb. 13 congressional recess.

Republicans are already criticizing parts of the stimulus package. Sen. McConnell, speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," questioned one of the biggest items, which would send as much as $200 billion to states largely to expand the federal share of Medicaid, the health program for the poor. He suggested structuring that aid as a loan, saying it would encourage states to "spend it more wisely."

An array of business tax cuts could help overcome such GOP opposition, enabling the Democrats to present their plan as a balanced mix of tax cuts and spending. It also would likely encourage business interests to lobby hard for its enactment.

Mr. Obama's team has spoken of wanting to attract significant Republican support, not simply picking up votes from a Republican moderate or two.

Obama aides have already enlisted business groups to rally behind spending for public-works projects. Norman R. Augustine, a former chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp., will testify before the House Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee Wednesday in favor of an infusion of federal infrastructure spending. But the tax cuts may hold more sway with Republicans.

—Amy Chozick contributed to this article.
25035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Funny Business in Minnesota on: January 05, 2009, 03:17:33 AM
Strange things keep happening in Minnesota, where the disputed recount in the Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken may be nearing a dubious outcome. Thanks to the machinations of Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a meek state Canvassing Board, Mr. Franken may emerge as an illegitimate victor.

APMr. Franken started the recount 215 votes behind Senator Coleman, but he now claims a 225-vote lead and suddenly the man who was insisting on "counting every vote" wants to shut the process down. He's getting help from Mr. Ritchie and his four fellow Canvassing Board members, who have delivered inconsistent rulings and are ignoring glaring problems with the tallies.

Under Minnesota law, election officials are required to make a duplicate ballot if the original is damaged during Election Night counting. Officials are supposed to mark these as "duplicate" and segregate the original ballots. But it appears some officials may have failed to mark ballots as duplicates, which are now being counted in addition to the originals. This helps explain why more than 25 precincts now have more ballots than voters who signed in to vote. By some estimates this double counting has yielded Mr. Franken an additional 80 to 100 votes.

This disenfranchises Minnesotans whose vote counted only once. And one Canvassing Board member, State Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson, has acknowledged that "very likely there was a double counting." Yet the board insists that it lacks the authority to question local officials and it is merely adding the inflated numbers to the totals.

In other cases, the board has been flagrantly inconsistent. Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

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Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency.

And then there are the absentee ballots. The Franken campaign initially howled that some absentee votes had been erroneously rejected by local officials. Counties were supposed to review their absentees and create a list of those they believed were mistakenly rejected. Many Franken-leaning counties did so, submitting 1,350 ballots to include in the results. But many Coleman-leaning counties have yet to complete a re-examination. Despite this lack of uniformity, and though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Coleman request to standardize this absentee review, Mr. Ritchie's office nonetheless plowed through the incomplete pile of 1,350 absentees this weekend, padding Mr. Franken's edge by a further 176 votes.

Both campaigns have also suggested that Mr. Ritchie's office made mistakes in tabulating votes that had been challenged by either of the campaigns. And the Canvassing Board appears to have applied inconsistent standards in how it decided some of these challenged votes -- in ways that, again on net, have favored Mr. Franken.

The question is how the board can certify a fair and accurate election result given these multiple recount problems. Yet that is precisely what the five members seem prepared to do when they meet today. Some members seem to have concluded that because one of the candidates will challenge the result in any event, why not get on with it and leave it to the courts? Mr. Coleman will certainly have grounds to contest the result in court, but he'll be at a disadvantage given that courts are understandably reluctant to overrule a certified outcome.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, is already saying her fellow Democrats should seat Mr. Franken when the 111th Congress begins this week if the Canvassing Board certifies him as the winner. This contradicts Minnesota law, which says the state cannot award a certificate of election if one party contests the results. Ms. Klobuchar is trying to create the public perception of a fait accompli, all the better to make Mr. Coleman look like a sore loser and build pressure on him to drop his legal challenge despite the funny recount business.

Minnesotans like to think that their state isn't like New Jersey or Louisiana, and typically it isn't. But we can't recall a similar recount involving optical scanning machines that has changed so many votes, and in which nearly every crucial decision worked to the advantage of the same candidate. The Coleman campaign clearly misjudged the politics here, and the apparent willingness of a partisan like Mr. Ritchie to help his preferred candidate, Mr. Franken. If the Canvassing Board certifies Mr. Franken as the winner based on the current count, it will be anointing a tainted and undeserving Senator.

25036  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 04, 2009, 07:22:39 PM
I have a seminar or two in February (they should be listed on the seminar page) but if I am out of town, Frankfurter will cover for me.
25037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 04, 2009, 02:41:38 PM
Israel, Gaza: Gaza City Cut Off
January 4, 2009 | 1800 GMT

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Smoke rising from Gaza CityIsrael’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip expanded dramatically overnight and into Jan. 4. Thousands of Israeli troops and scores of tanks and armored vehicles reportedly have poured into the territory.

From the Qarni Crossing, a second major Israel Defense Forces (IDF) thrust reportedly has pushed all the way to the Mediterranean coast, cutting off Gaza City from the rest of the territory. Airstrikes on two bridges have further cut off northern Gaza from the south. Sky News reported some 150 tanks and armored vehicles massing in the former Israeli settlement of Netzarim, southwest of Gaza City — a force potentially large enough for a limited raid into the city itself.

(Click to enlarge map)
Whether the initial thrust from the northeastern corner of the territory was meant as a feint or remains an important axis of advance is unclear. The IDF does appear to have breached the border with Gaza in multiple locations, however, and is moving to surround Gaza City. Artillery fire there continued Jan. 4.

With some 30 soldiers reported wounded, reported IDF casualties have thus far been light, though fighting has been characterized as heavy at times. And Israeli troops have yet to attempt to enter places like Gaza City, where fighting will be more intense. Hamas claims to have captured two Israeli soldiers, but Israel has denied the claims. There have not yet been any reports of Hamas using its rumored anti-armor capabilities.

On the Palestinian side, airstrikes and artillery fire continued to take a higher toll, with nearly 20 deaths reported Jan. 4 at of the time of this writing. The Gaza Strip remains without power, and communications infrastructure has reportedly taken a big hit as well.

A Jan. 3 airstrike reportedly killed Zakaria al-Jamal, a battalion-level commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Al-Jamal reportedly was in charge of artillery rocket-launching squads in Gaza City. Other airstrikes attempted to kill Hamas commanders Husam Hamdan and Muhammad Maaruf, though Hamdan was wounded, not killed, and Maaruf’s fate has not been confirmed. Hamdan was targeted in Khan Younis along with Mohammed Hilo, who reportedly supervised the fabrication and employment of domestically made Qassam rockets there.

Rocket fire from Gaza into Israel continued Jan. 4, including strikes by 122 mm BM-21 Grad artillery rockets. There reportedly have been roughly 30 strikes thus far on Jan. 4. This is more than the number of rockets fired Jan. 3, but still lighter than the reported 40 or more strikes of Dec. 31, the day Iranian-made Fajr-3 artillery rockets reportedly were first used. The Hezbollah connection and the potential for a possible northern front remain developments to watch.
25038  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 04, 2009, 07:02:48 AM
My sentiments exactly.

I am grateful for everyone who comes here and helps make this forum the place that it is.  We grow stronger every day and I look forward to more of the same for 2009.

The Adventure continues!
25039  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: SEMINARIO DBMA EN MÉXICO MAYO 09 on: January 04, 2009, 06:57:30 AM
Maruicio et al:

!Estoy esperando esta de nuevo en el DF con muchas ganas!

La Aventura continua,
Marc/Crafty Dog
25040  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: January 04, 2009, 06:56:05 AM
Agradezco el ano 2008 en este foro y las fundaciones que hemos construido hacia un foro mejor.  Veo que 2009 sera' un ano de mucho crecimiento aqui'.
25041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: January 03, 2009, 11:03:54 PM
 smiley smiley smiley
25042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mercator: The Pope's views on homosexuality on: January 03, 2009, 10:28:25 AM
Gays angered by Pope’s stand on ecology
If we don't trash the physical environment, do we have a right to trash the moral environment?
If nominations for the best bright idea of 2008 are still open, I’m voting for Pope Benedict XVI’s  “ecology of man”. It goes without saying that this will not pass unchallenged. His intriguing suggestion surfaced in a speech to his staff a couple of days before Christmas -- and instantly the gay lobby had conniptions.

An Anglican priest in London, Giles Fraser, founder of the pro-gay Inclusive Church movement, told the London Times: “I thought the Christmas angels said, ‘Fear not’. Instead, the Pope is spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet. And that’s just absurd. As always, this sort of religious homophobia will be an alibi for all those who would do gay people harm.”

What did the Pope actually say?

He was discrete, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines. He said that the Church had a duty to “protect Man from destroying himself”. The Church “ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself” by gender-bending. True, it was a critique of homosexuality, but it was not based on the yuck factor or even primarily on the Bible.

He did not intend to insult gays, either. Even the gay Australian writer David Marr acknowledged that. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he scolded his over-sensitive buddies: “But poofs who love the planet more than themselves should acknowledge the pontiff was onto something here: not just saving homosexuals from their ‘own destruction’ but announcing a new role for the church defending ‘the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us’”.

Marr’s reaction suggests that the notion that man is part of the ecological web could be fruitful and persuasive. It could, in fact, lead to a better understanding of why homosexuality is wrong and a violation of human dignity.

But to grasp why, you have to read the original text,not just scraps from jaded Vatican journos. These were not just off-the-cuff remarks. Instead, they represent a consistent theme in Benedict’s teaching: that because nature has been created by God, it is rational, orderly and ultimately comprehensible. Hence it is possible to carry on a rational dialogue with people like David Marr.

This is an idea that Benedict visits again and again, and it is very similar to his critique of Islam in his Regensburg address a couple of years ago. In that controversial speech he declared that "The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby."

In his Christmas speech, Benedict plays the same tune. Human bodies, having been created by God, are evidence for an authentic sexual morality: “The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit, clearly means that their rational structures which, transcending the mathematical order, become almost palpable in our experience, bear within themselves an ethical orientation.” If the biology of male and female sexuality are complementary, there must be an ultimate reason for it. A rational person searches for that reason and draws ethical conclusions.

He also appeals to a principle that now seems self-evident, at least in the Western world: that we trash the environment at our peril. Why? Because “the earth is not simply our possession which we can plunder according to our interests and desires. It is rather a gift of the Creator who has designed its intrinsic laws and with this has given us the basic directions for us to adhere as stewards of his creation.”

Man, even though he has a spiritual element, is part of this ecology. He may not – he cannot – reshape himself without risking his own destruction, just as abusing the atmosphere, the earth or the sea could lead to catastrophe.

“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysics. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him.”

Admittedly, this will not be easy for supporters of homosexuality to accept. What they feel is that biology is less important than the longings of the heart, or the desire to conquer and manipulate nature. They are unwitting disciples of Francis Bacon, the English Renaissance philosopher who argued that the destiny of science and technology was to remake and triumph over nature. In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Benedict treated Bacon as an important figure, whose naïve enthusiasm for scientific progress ended up justifying the terrifying and destructive potential of modern technology. Not long ago Bacon was worshipped as a visionary thinker, but contemporary philosophers are less complimentary. They regard him as a forerunner of Western science’s continuing legacy of alienation, exploitation, and ecological oppression. Someday, the Pope hints, we will realise that the gay culture is just an extension of this.

The inescapable fact of human existence is that we are both rational and animal. As W.B. Yeats put it in one of his great poems, we live “sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal”. Even if our reason transcends it, we are as much part of the ecology as beetles and sea gulls. We can no more defy the laws of nature than they can.

Will the Pope's brief words, just a couple of dense paragraphs actually, convince people that homosexuality is “unnatural”? Absolutely not. But they could spark a realisation that it is inconsistent to demand respect for the laws of ecology with the single exception of man himself. When that philosophy was adopted by the Industrial Revolution, it turned forests into deserts, fields into wastelands and seas into stagnant ponds. Benedict wants us to see that the Sexual Revolution could do much the same.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet
25043  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Woman fights carjacking on: January 03, 2009, 10:21:39 AM
Woman fights carjacking:
25044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 03, 2009, 09:59:59 AM
San Antonio

When Judith Markelz took a job as program manager for the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at Fort Sam Houston, she thought she was signing up for a temporary position. The hope in 2003 was that the center here -- which coordinates care for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helps their families navigate the military's health-care system -- could close its doors within six months.

It's been five years now and Mrs. Markelz is still on the job.

In the interim, more than 4,000 wounded soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen have received treatment at the nearby Brooke Army Medical Center. Many of them have come through her door looking to find everything from books and movies to pass the time, to a place where members of their families can stay while they recuperate.

For wounded warriors, arriving at the center coincides with the start of a sometimes months-long, painful rehabilitation. Depression and boredom are common.

"They are amazing people, with strength beyond anything I have ever seen," Mrs. Markelz tells me. "They cry at night, but they don't cry during the day."

Mrs. Markelz is a counselor, activity director and surrogate mother to all the soldiers in the center. "This is a new group of young men and women," the former schoolteacher says. "We need to be meeting their needs in any way we can."

The facility, which has been renamed the Warrior and Family Support Center, is a multipurpose community room, refuge and second home for wounded soldiers and their families. Enter it, and you can't help being overwhelmed by the bravery of the young men and women in uniform, and the outpouring of support from religious groups, businesses and individual volunteers who enrich it.

But for years you also couldn't help notice that the facility was too small for the number it cares for -- crammed into a 1,200-square-foot office in a guest house on post. This was suitable, perhaps, for a "temporary" center, but inadequate for something that had become an integral part of the military's health-care system.

Private donors are already doing a lot to help recuperating soldiers in San Antonio. In recent years, two "Fisher Houses" were built near Brooke Army Medical Center by the Fisher House Foundation to give family members of injured soldiers a place to stay. And across the street from Mrs. Markelz's facility is the gleaming new Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art amputee and burn-victim rehabilitation facility built with private funds and donated to the Army.

"I'm not spiritual," Mrs. Markelz says when asked if she ever wondered whether the needs of her own facility would be met, "but there's magic in this room, and I don't know where it comes from. If I say something, if I say we're out of cookies, cookies walk in."

Les Huffman, a commercial developer, walked in one day in late 2006 and was overwhelmed -- by the spirit of the military personnel, by the devotion of the staff and volunteers, and by the obvious need for more space. Mr. Huffman and his brother Steve, sons of a career Air Force officer, decided to lead an effort to build larger quarters for the center.

In short order they created a nonprofit organization -- the Returning Heroes Home -- pulled together a board of directors, made a proffer to the Army, and started raising money. They sought input from the wounded soldiers, staff, doctors and rehabilitation specialists for the design.

The nonprofit raised $3.6 million in cash contributions and another $1.5 million worth of in-kind contributions that included 275 tons of limestone, computers, audio-visual equipment and more. More than 5,000 individuals, businesses and foundations donated in one way or another.

A little more than a year after breaking ground, the new Warrior and Family Support Center was complete. On Dec. 1, Mrs. Markelz began moving into her new 12,000-square foot home.

"The mission of this facility is to have an impact on the lives of these kids -- do something positive that's uplifting, get them out of the environment of depression in those barracks," Steve Huffman says.

A 24-foot Christmas tree stands in the lobby, decked with red, white and blue ornaments. Mrs. Markelz says, "It's not my new home. It belongs to the wounded warriors and their families. . . . It's not about me. They deserve it -- big time."

Critics ask why private efforts are needed, why the military isn't building these centers on its own. Paul Begala, for one, has said "t is an obscenity that a government that can find billions in no-bid contracts for Halliburton . . . cannot find a few million dollars to bind up the wounds of its heroes." Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) has sounded similar notes.

In Today's Opinion Journal


Harry Reid v. the ConstitutionCredit Default Swamp


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


The Weekend Interview: London's Mayor Issues a Challenge to Gordon Brown
– Matthew KaminskiObama Will Find the White House Is a Lonely Place
– Jay WinikLet's Commit to a Nuclear-Free World
– Dianne FeinsteinCross Country: Government Alone Can't Do Right by Our Wounded Soldiers
– Jonathan GurwitzBlame Television for the Bubble
– Jim SollischSteve Huffman offers a partial answer to these critics. He says that the government recognizes the needs of the troops, as evidenced by its huge investment in military medicine, but it has to prioritize its spending and can't always fill in the gaps.

"I like to paraphrase what Arnold Fisher [the driving force behind the Center for the Intrepid] said," Steve Huffman told me. "This is not about philanthropy, this is not a gift. It's an obligation. It's a partial repayment on a debt we owe these guys."

We live in an era of earmarks and ever-expanding bailouts where there is seemingly little that the government is incapable of doing. But you cannot earmark bravery or budget patriotism. And perhaps that is the best justification for what citizens -- and not government alone -- should do to aid those who have volunteered to defend their freedoms.

Through the Returning Heroes Home Foundation the Huffmans are now raising money to create fitness trails on property adjacent to center they've just built. Steve Huffman explains the motivations for all of his efforts this way, "This is the most important thing I've ever done in my life."

Mr. Gurwitz is an editorial board member of the San Antonio Express-News.
25045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 02, 2009, 11:50:09 PM
Generally I agree with BBG's comments.  The best explanation I have read of the Great Depression can be found in Jude Wanniski's "The Way the World Works".


Another clusterfcuk cometh:

Mortgage 'Cram-Downs' Loom as Foreclosures Mount

Mortgage lenders who wake up Thursday with a New Year's hangover are likely to face another headache soon: The effort to give bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite mortgages is gaining steam.
The banking industry hoped the mortgage "cram-down" measure died when Congress removed it from the $700 billion bailout bill that passed in October. But it has been gathering momentum in Democrat-controlled Washington, as evidence emerges that current voluntary foreclosure-prevention programs are falling short.
In a cram-down, a judge modifies a loan, often reducing principal so a borrower can afford it. Lenders hate it because they have to absorb ...
25046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 02, 2009, 12:24:05 PM
A good question.  Please answer it at
25047  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 02, 2009, 12:06:23 PM
Looking forward to seeing everyone at class tomorrow  smiley
25048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Afg: Bribes corrode trust on: January 02, 2009, 12:00:09 PM
Bribes Corrode Afghans’ Trust in Government

Published: January 1, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan — When it comes to governing this violent, fractious land, everything, it seems, has its price.

The mansions of Afghan officials in the Sherpur neighborhood of Kabul are a curiosity not only for their size, but also because government salaries are not very big.

Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost you $100,000.

Want to drive a convoy of trucks loaded with fuel across the country? Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off the Taliban.

Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About $25,000, depending on the judge.

“It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe,” Mohammed Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release. “Everything is possible in this country now. Everything.”

Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.

A raft of investigations has concluded that people at the highest levels of the Karzai administration, including President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are cooperating in the country’s opium trade, now the world’s largest. In the streets and government offices, hardly a public transaction seems to unfold here that does not carry with it the requirement of a bribe, a gift, or, in case you are a beggar, “harchee” — whatever you have in your pocket.

The corruption, publicly acknowledged by President Karzai, is contributing to the collapse of public confidence in his government and to the resurgence of the Taliban, whose fighters have moved to the outskirts of Kabul, the capital.

“All the politicians in this country have acquired everything — money, lots of money,” President Karzai said in a speech at a rural development conference here in November. “God knows, it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.”

The decay of the Afghan government presents President-elect Barack Obama with perhaps his most underappreciated challenge as he tries to reverse the course of the war here. Mr. Obama may be required to save the Afghan government not only from the Taliban insurgency — committing thousands of additional American soldiers to do so — but also from itself.

“This government has lost the capacity to govern because a shadow government has taken over,” said Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister. He quit that job in 2004, he said, because the state had been taken over by drug traffickers. “The narco-mafia state is now completely consolidated,” he said.

On the streets here, tales of corruption are as easy to find as kebab stands. Everything seems to be for sale: public offices, access to government services, even a person’s freedom. The examples mentioned above — $25,000 to settle a lawsuit, $6,000 to bribe the police, $100,000 to secure a job as a provincial police chief — were offered by people who experienced them directly or witnessed the transaction.

People pay bribes for large things, and for small things, too: to get electricity for their homes, to get out of jail, even to enter the airport.

Governments in developing countries are often riddled with corruption. But Afghans say the corruption they see now has no precedent, in either its brazenness or in its scale. Transparency International, a German organization that gauges honesty in government, ranked Afghanistan 117 out of 180 countries in 2005. This year, it fell to 176.

“Every man in the government is his own king,” said Abdul Ghafar, a truck driver. Mr. Ghafar said he routinely paid bribes to the police who threatened to hinder his passage through Kabul, sometimes several in a day.

Nowhere is the scent of corruption so strong as in the Kabul neighborhood of Sherpur. Before 2001, it was a vacant patch of hillside that overlooked the stately neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan. Today it is the wealthiest enclave in the country, with gaudy, grandiose mansions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Afghans refer to them as “poppy houses.” Sherpur itself is often jokingly referred to as “Char-pur,” which literally means “City of Loot.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about Sherpur is that many of the homeowners are government officials, whose annual salaries would not otherwise enable them to live here for more than a few days.


One of the mansions — three stories, several bedrooms, sweeping balconies — is owned by Abdul Jabbar Sabit, a former attorney general who made a name for himself by declaring a “jihad” against corruption.

Skip to next paragraph
Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
Farooq Farani has been trying to resolve a property dispute. An Afghan judge wants $25,000, but Mr. Farani has refused.
After he was fired earlier this year by President Karzai, a video began circulating around town showing Mr. Sabit dancing giddily around a room and slurring his words, apparently drunk. Mr. Sabit now lives in Canada, but his house is available to rent for $5,000 a month.

An even grander mansion — ornate faux Greek columns, a towering fountain — is owned by Kabul’s police chief, Mohammed Ayob Salangi. It can be had for $11,000 a month. Mr. Salangi’s salary is unknown; that of Mr. Karzai, the president, is about $600 a month.

Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, said the plots of land on which the mansions of Sherpur stand were doled out early in the Karzai administration for prices that were a tiny fraction of what they were worth. (Mr. Ghani said he was offered a plot, too, and refused to accept it.)

“The money for these houses was illegal, I think,” said Mohammed Yosin Usmani, director general of a newly created anticorruption unit.

Often, the corruption here is blatant. On any morning, you can stand on the steps of the Secondary Courthouse in downtown Kabul and listen to the Afghans as they step outside.

One of them was Farooq Farani, who has been coming to the court for seven years, trying to resolve a property dispute. His predicament is a common one here: He fled the country in 1990, as the civil war began, and returned after the fall of the Taliban, only to find a stranger occupying his home.

Yet seven years later, the title to Mr. Farani’s house is still up for grabs. Mr. Farani said he had refused to pay the bribes demanded by the judge in the case, who in turn had refused to settle his case.

“You are approached indirectly, by intermediaries — this is how it works,” said Mr. Farani, who spent his exile in Wiesbaden, Germany. “My house is worth about $50,000, and I’ve been told that I can have the title if I pay $25,000 — half the value of the home.”

Tales like Mr. Farani’s abound here, so much so that it makes one wonder if an honest man can ever make a difference.

Amin Farhang, the minister of commerce, was voted out of Mr. Karzai’s cabinet by Parliament earlier last month for failing to bring down the price of oil in Afghanistan as the price declined in international markets. In a long talk in the sitting room of his home, Mr. Farhang recounted a two-year struggle to fire the man in charge of giving out licenses for new businesses.

The man, Mr. Farhang said, would grant a license only in exchange for a hefty bribe. But Mr. Farhang found that he was unable to fire the man, who, he said, simply bribed other members of the government to reinstate him.

“In a job like this, a man can make 10 or 12 times his salary,” Mr. Farhang said. “People do anything to hang on to them.”

Many Afghans, including Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, place responsibility for the collapse of the state on Mr. Karzai, who, they say, has failed repeatedly to confront the powerful figures who are behind much of the corruption. In his stint as finance minister, Mr. Ghani said, two moments crystallized his disgust and finally prompted him to quit.

The first, Mr. Ghani said, was his attempt to impose order on Kabul’s chaotic system of private property rights. The Afghan government had accumulated vast amounts of land during the period of Communist rule in the 1970s and 1980s. And since 2001, the government has given much of it away — often, Mr. Ghani said, to shady developers at extremely low prices.

Much of that land has been sold and developed, rendering much of Kabul’s property in the hands of unknown owners. Many of the developers who were given free land, Mr. Ghani said, were also involved in drug trafficking.

When he proposed drawing up a set of regulations to govern private property, Mr. Ghani said, he was told by President Karzai to stop.

“ ‘Just back off,” he told me,’ ” Mr. Ghani said. “He said that politically it wasn’t feasible.”

A similar effort to impose regulations at the Ministry of Aviation, which Mr. Ghani described as rife with corruption, was met with a similar response by President Karzai, he said.

“Morally the question was, am I becoming the fig leaf to legitimate a system that was deeply corrupt? Or was I there to serve the people?” Mr. Ghani said. “I resigned.”

Mr. Ghani, who then became chancellor of Kabul University, is today contemplating a run for the presidency.

Asked about Mr. Ghani’s account on Thursday, Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said he could not immediately comment.  The corruption may be endemic here, but if there is any hope in the future, it would seem to lie in the revulsion of average Afghans like Mr. Farani, who, after seven years, is still refusing to pay.

“I won’t do it,” Mr. Farani said outside the courthouse. “It’s a matter of principle. Never. But, I don’t have my house, either, and I don’t know that I ever will.”

25049  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Once agin NJ seeks to regulate martial arts on: January 02, 2009, 11:49:21 AM

New Jersey Senator PAUL A. SARLO - District 36 (Bergen, Essex and Passaic) has proposed a State regulatory bill that would INCLUDE stringent regulation of YOUR martial arts school! (If you Live in New Jersey)

On October 6th, legislation was introduced in the State Senate that would place unnecessary and burdensome licensing requirements on New Jersey personal trainers and group exercise instructors (which is written to SPECIFICALLY include EVERY martial arts school owner in the state).

School Owners in New Jersey would face unrealistic and stifling measures that will put much undue financial strain on individual school owners, including State mandated and facilitated training. This bill is now in the Commerce Committee where legislators will discuss the financial impact of this regulation.

NAPMA has always lobbied for "self regulation" of our industry, and we have had a great track record of defeating such damaging regulation attempts.

If you live in New Jersey, Please click this link, and send your state representatives a message describing your concerns!

If you do NOT live in New Jersey, pay CLOSE attention to your state. If this bill passes in NJ, it could very well pave the way for more regulation and interference from other states. NAPMA will always represent the interests of it's members and it's industry, and continue the revolution of professionalism it began more than 14 years ago!!

Yours for Success!
Toby Milroy
Chief Operating Officer
NAPMA - National Association of Professional Martial Artists

Woof All:

Here is what I wrote a few years ago.  Please feel free to use any or all of it.

Crafty Dog

Recently there has been a push in the State of New Jersey to regulate martial arts. Originally it was pushed as protection from child molesters, but when it was pointed out that if that were the case then those regulated should be all who dealt with children, not martial arts. So now they're baaack, seeking to set up 5 bureaucrats to study things and make rules. This of course shows that "the children" had nothing to do with the original impulse to regulate. These 5 bureaucrats are the proverbial camel's nose and we must stop hit this initiation of yet another attack on our lives as a free people. So I will be writing yet again and ask you to do so as well. I know that many people are not sure of what to say and this hinders them from getting started. So, if you want to use any passages from this for "write-your-congressman" efforts, then DBIMA and Marc Denny waive copyright. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Do your part.

Crafty Dog

PS: Thanks to Jeff Finder for getting me going on this.


Concerning the proposal to regulate martial arts:
People who are not involved with the martial arts usually have no idea of the extraordinary breadth and depth of martial art world, both in its offerings and in the people who come to the arts and the reasons for which they come. My particular martial art comes from the Philippines, which has nearly 1,000 islands and 90 major dialects. The result is that not even the name of our art is agreed upon! In can be Kali, or Arnis, or Eskrima, or simply FMA (short for "the Filipino Martial Arts"). There are hundreds of styles within the FMA.

Similar diversity can be found in the Chinese Arts, even though it is all lumped together in the general public's mind as "kung fu". To a person in the martial art world, the statement "I practice kung fu." can properly be answered with the question "Which style?" Is it Wing Chun- a close quarter trapping system with mostly linear strikes? or Hung Gar a deep stance system with more emphasis on slashing strikes? or is it one of the northern Chinese systems with an emphasis on kicking? Or acrobatic Wu Shu? Or meditational Tai Chi? Similar variety can be found amongst the Malay cultures (Indonesian, Malaysian, southern Filipino) or the Japanese/Owkinowan systems. And what about the Indian systems? Or the European, e.g. France's Savate, or English quarterstaff? Martial arts is much more than a matter of the few names with which the American movie going public is familiar. Martial Arts is about the study of what to do about human aggression and the solutions are as various as the human condition.

Look at the array of reasons that people come to martial arts: Some come for fun, some come for fitness, some come for functionality as they percieve it, some come for moving meditation, some come to socialize. Some are young males looking to compete. Some are women looking for anti-rape skills, Some are big and strong, many are not. Some want to grapple, some want to strike. Some practice forms, some do not. Some are children looking to join the Ninja Mutant Turtles, some are prison guards and law enforcement officers with real and immediate practical needs.

The interaction of all these styles and the people who come to them also leads to a variety of organizational structures. Some of the very best teach in their back yards for pocket money, others have an independent school and may even support themnselves. Others have large organizations that are financially successful. Some offer belts, others do not. Some require the student to sign up for a period of time, others do not. Some require a testing of the skills (fighting/sparring) others do not. Of those who have impressive looking certifications, some are good and some are not. And ditto for those lacking certifications.

In my humble opinion, THERE IS NO WAY THIS INCREDIBLE VARIETY OF PEOPLE OR STYLES CAN BE FAIRLY OR COMPETENTLY REGULATED. The People's search of what is right for them, the "pursuit of happiness" of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution if you will, is most eminently something for the American way, the free market and its protection by the State in the area of defending against theft and fraud in their many forms. Giving the State the power to determine who may teach martial arts and how they may and may not be taught only lessens both the freedom of choice and of responsibility, but also as a practical matter is quite likely to lead well-known big organization styles to use this regulatory process to squeeze out competition and so deprive individuals who need or desire approaches outside of theirs.

Ultimately, the study of martial arts is, regardless of approach, is a study of aggression, how it is done and how to deal with it. The State is those areas of life which we as a people determine must be dealt with by force. The goal for us is to learn to deal with each other through voluntary interactions- free minds and free markets. When we or the State defend ourselves or the weak from attack, whether by foreign armies or by criminals, we lessen violence. When we make others do what we think is "a good idea" we increase it. Rather, We the People must say to the State, and to the Politicians, the IRS, the factions, the special interests, the computer generated governmental actions so seemingly beyond human control, DON'T EVEN GET STARTED, JUST LEAVE US ALONE.

Marc Denny
Co-founder: The Dog Brothers
Head Teacher
Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts.

25050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 02, 2009, 10:55:50 AM
Back in the 70s I subscribed to the Economist and still occasionally buy it when flying.  Its still a good magazine, but IMHO has drifted considerably towards fashionably wooly-headed thinking.  This piece IMHO displays that tendency.

JERUSALEM -- As Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip entered its seventh day Friday, fighter jets targeted homes of Hamas political leaders across the territory and some of the mosques they have been known to pray in, while Palestinians and Israelis on both sides of the border feared that they would join the growing list of casualties suffered in the conflict.

With Hamas vowing "a day of rage" in retaliation for the bombardment that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and wounded approximately 2,000 others, Israel sealed the West Bank, prohibiting the movement of the more than 3 million Palestinians living there to prevent what the army feared would be massive protests at the bloodshed. Four Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets, and dozens more injured in the week of fighting.

Palestinians survey destroyed houses following an Israeli air strike in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused the militant Hamas organization of holding the people of Gaza hostage Friday and said the U.S. continues to seek a "durable and sustainable" cease-fire.

Speaking to reporters in the White House driveway after a meeting with President George W. Bush, Ms. Rice also said that the U.S. remains "very concerned about the situation there and is working very hard with our partners around the world."

But she reiterated the Bush administration argument that any cease-fire must hinge on the willingness of Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. "We are working toward a cease-fire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo…where Hamas could launch rockets," she said.

Elsewhere across the Middle East, anger that has been building against the Israeli onslaught was expected to be channeled in fiery Friday sermons, leading to demonstrations and heightened tensions across the region.

In airstrike after airstrike early Friday, Israeli warplanes hit some 20 houses believed to belong to Hamas militants and members of other armed groups, Palestinians said.

In what appeared to be a new Israeli tactic, the military called at least some of the houses ahead of time to warn inhabitants of an impending attack. In some cases, it also fired a sound bomb to warn away civilians before flattening the homes with powerful missiles, Palestinians and Israeli defense officials said.

Israel launched the aerial campaign last Saturday in a bid to halt weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. The offensive has dealt a heavy blow to Hamas, but failed to halt the rocket fire. New attacks Friday struck apartment buildings in a southern Israeli city. No serious injuries were reported.

After destroying Hamas's security compounds, Israel has turned its attention to the group's leadership.

They said the Israelis either warned nearby residents by phone or fired a warning missile to reduce civilian casualties. Israeli planes also dropped leaflets east of Gaza giving a confidential phone number and e-mail address for people to report locations of rocket squads. Residents stepped over the leaflets.

Israel used similar tactics during its 2006 war in Lebanon.

Most of the targeted homes Friday belonged to activist leaders and appeared to be empty at the time, but one man was killed in a strike that flattened a building in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Three Israeli civilians and one soldier have also died in the rocket attacks, which have reached deeper into Israel than ever before, bringing one-eighth of Israel's population of seven million within rocket range.

One of the mosques destroyed Friday was known as a Hamas stronghold, and the army said it was used to store weapons. It also was identified with Nizar Rayan, the Hamas militant leader killed Thursday when Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on his home.

The hit on Mr. Rayan's home obliterated the four-story apartment building and peeled off the walls of others around it, carving out a vast field of rubble.

Mr. Rayan, 49, ranked among Hamas' top five decision-makers. A professor of Islamic law, he was known for his close ties to the group's military wing and was respected in Gaza for donning combat fatigues and personally participating in clashes against Israeli forces. He sent one of his sons on an October 2001 suicide mission that killed two Israeli settlers in Gaza.

Israel's military says the homes of Hamas leaders are being used to store missiles and other weapons, and it said the hit on Mr. Rayan's house triggered secondary explosions from the stockpile there.

Israeli defense officials said the military had called Mr. Rayan's home and fired a warning missile before destroying the building. That was impossible to confirm. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss military tactics.

Israel has targeted Hamas leaders many times in the past, but halted the practice during a six-month truce that expired last month.

Most of Hamas's leaders went into hiding at the start of Israel's offensive. Mr. Rayan, however, was known for openly defying Israel and in the past had led crowds to the homes of wanted Hamas figures -- as if daring Israel to strike and risk the lives of civilians.

The offensive hasn't halted rocket fire at Israel, and a barrage landed in the city of Ashkelon early Friday. Two rockets hit apartment buildings, lightly wounding one man, police said. Sirens warning Israelis to take cover when military radar picks up an incoming rocket have helped reduce casualties in recent days. The military said aircraft destroyed the three rocket launchers used to fire at Ashkelon.

Israel has been building up artillery, armor and infantry on Gaza's border in an indication the punishing air assault could continue with a ground incursion. At the same time, international pressure is building for a cease-fire that would block more fighting.

Israel appears to be maintaining an opening for the intense diplomatic efforts by leaders in the Middle East and, saying it would consider a halt to the fighting if international monitors were brought in to track compliance with any truce with Hamas.

But political jockeying in Israel appears to be complicating efforts to end the conflict. Rival camps in the ruling government -- both contesting a February general election to lead the country -- have signaled their backing for different negotiating tracks over a possible cease-fire.

The staff of Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister and longshot contender to lead the country, earlier in the week raised the possibility of a French-brokered, 48-hour lull in fighting with Hamas. That proposal was shot down Wednesday by Mr. Olmert and his second-in-command, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also running to lead the next government.

On Thursday, Ms. Livni was in Paris for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a push for international support for what she characterizes as Israel's fight against terror. Ms. Livni said Thursday that a temporary halt to hostilities in Gaza to allow in humanitarian supplies would be harmful to Israel.

"There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce," Ms. Livni said, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Concerned about protests, Israeli police said they would step up security and restrict access to Friday prayers at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque. Devout Muslims attend large, communal prayers on Fridays.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said thousands of police would be deployed throughout the city, and that only Palestinian men over the age of 50, along with women of all ages, would be permitted to enter. He also said that police were in contact with Muslim leaders to ensure things remain quiet.

The army also imposed a closure on the West Bank, barring nearly all of the area's more than two million Palestinians from entering Israel.

—Jay Solomon, Joshua Mitnick and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
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