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25051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: December 20, 2009, 07:54:36 AM
I fear even with a major Tea Party type of a groundswell in the coming elections, deep lasting damage has been done.  Without such a groundswell, I fear we ARE done.
================
An e-conversation amongst some friends:

Crocodile Tears For Primary Care
The Top 10 Most Overblown Health Stories of the Past Decade
By Richard N. Fogoros, M.D., About.com Guide

Updated December 08, 2009

About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board

 

We are in the midst of a contentious debate over the future of our healthcare system, in which the opposing parties find almost nothing in common. But there is one thing everybody agrees upon - Republicans and Democrats, Keynsians and Reaganites, Buckeyes and Wolverines alike. Namely, robust primary care medicine is the backbone of healthcare, and whatever else we may end up doing, we need to re-invigorate primary care and restore it to the position of central importance it deserves.

To the notion that primary care medicine is vitally important to American patients, DrRich says hooray. To the notion that anyone with authority in our healthcare system actually wants to fix primary care, however, DrRich says hooey.
The fact of the matter is that in recent years, our healthcare system has taken exquisite pains to make primary care a completely untenable proposition for American doctors. Consider the plight of the modern primary care physician (PCP):

 

Their pay is determined arbitrarily by Acts of Congress, not by what they’re worth to their patients or to the market, and indeed in this way PCPs have a lot in common with workers in the old Soviet collectives.
They are directed to “practice medicine” by guidelines handed down from on high; guidelines which, being forcibly based on what is called “evidence-based medicine,” necessarily address the average response of some large group of patients to the treatment being considered and do not allow much if any latitude for an individual patient’s needs; and which are often promulgated less to assure the excellent care of patients than to further the agenda of various interest groups, professional, governmental and otherwise.
They are limited to 7.5 minutes per "patient encounter," and the content of those 7.5 minutes is scripted in advance by Pay for Performance checklists, strictly limiting any exchanges between doctor and patient that do not meet the approved agenda.
Their every move must be carefully documented according to incomprehensible rules, on innumerable forms and documents, that confound patient care but that greatly further the convenience of healthcare accountants and other stone-witted bureaucrats.
They are expected to operate flawlessly under a system of federal rules, regulations and guidelines that cover hundreds of thousands of pages distributed in countless volumes that are never available in any readily accessible form, and if they fail to do so, they are guilty of the federal crime of healthcare fraud. Furthermore, the specific meanings of these rules, regulations and guidelines are not merely opaque and difficult to ascertain, but indeed they are fundamentally indeterminate. So, PCPs operate under a massive quantum cloud of rules as best they can, but their actual status (regarding healthcare fraud) is, like Schrodinger’s cat, fundamentally unknowable - until the “box is opened” (typically through criminal prosecution), whereupon the meaning of the rules is finally crystallized in a court of law, and doctors who had been practicing in good faith find that they have at least a 50- 50 chance (like the cat) of learning that they are actually professionally dead.
Worst of all, PCPs have been charged with the duty of covertly rationing their patients’ healthcare at the bedside, and they have been pressed to nullify the classic doctor-patient relationship, by the healthcare bureaucracy that determines their professional viability, by the United States Supreme Court, and by the bankrupt, new-age ethical precepts of their own profession.

The healthcare system has (intentionally, DrRich argues) rendered primary care medicine such a soul-wrenching, personally and professionally demeaning endeavor that it has pushed most PCPs beyond mere anger, frustration, or resignation. Most American PCPs over the age of 50 with any measurable degree of self-respect are desperately looking for a way to retire early, and the ones under 50 are looking for some feasible way to change careers. Current medical trainees have learned to avoid primary care in droves.

The idea that the central authorities of healthcare are going to cede back to PCPs any degree of professionalism or independent thought - when strictly controlling the behavior of PCPs is Job One in their effort to reduce costs, and when they've worked so hard to put the PCPs where they've now got them - is laughable.

 

The plan, DrRich believes, is to give PCPs a few perks - a small increase in their paltry pay, for instance - to entice them to not to quit just yet, while they "train up" a new class of professionals who eventually will take over the job of primary care from the physicians, and who (they think) will be more malleable and controllable than physicians ever could be. At the moment, nurse practitioners have been identified as a likely PCP replacement.

 

Indeed, the House healthcare reform bill (HR 3692, Section 1303) specifically enumerates nurse practitioners as members of the category "PCPs" (a term now defined as "primary care practitioner," and not "primary care physician"). So soon, nurses will be, by law, functionally equivalent to doctors practicing primary care.

 

DrRich happens to greatly admire nurses, counts some of them among the finest healthcare professionals he has known, and believes that nurses' commitment to doing what's best for patients is at least equivalent to physicians'. Furthermore, he is convinced that nurses can function just fine as primary care practitioners, as the central authorities have now fashioned that profession. To the degree that nurses will chafe less than doctors at the forced restrictions, they may even function better.

 

Indeed, DrRich's respect for nurses is so great that he predicts most of them will forego the opportunity to become PCPs for the same reason doctors are - doing this job as it is now laid out, they will find, is an insult to their professional integrity.

But whether the central planners' vision comes to pass or not, DrRich finds their current lamentations for the plight of PCPs (a plight they engineered) to be just a tad disingenuous, and certainly overblown.
 


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  ==============================

  I was talking to a urologist from an academic center in St. Louis whose wife is an internist.  He stated that his wife made $90000 and his wife's NP made $95000 and that the only way that most of the primary care physicians get by in the academic centers is by being the spouse of the specialty physicians.  One of the many problems with our system is that instead of insuring that everyone has access to a minimum level of care, at least for the Medicare population, the make sure that no one has access to the maximum level of care.  For a physician to accept Medicare payments as a non-participating physician, they are limited to billing 115% of the Medicare fee schedule, which makes it hardly worth the trouble and added financial risk that the payment from Medicare which will go to the patient in that situation doesn't get passed back to the physician but covers some other essential needs for the patient like cigarettes and cellphone service.  In order to completely break from the Medicare system and work on a cash basis, a physician cannot even see Medicare patients for 2 years.  The bar is set so high for withdrawal that it is difficult to make a living while you are waiting for the 2 years to pass.  You also have to have a fairly well to do clientele to make that scheme work.  The free market has been stripped from the healthcare system.  You can be the very best of your specialty but get paid no more than some slub who barely made it out of training.

John
=====================
"""The free market has been stripped from the healthcare system"""
 
Healthcare has been surviving - for decades - under a price control regime.  Government pricing of medical services is hiding under the pretense of being based on a "scientific" approach, but that's bullsh*t.  In reality it's arbitrary, decided by a few bureaucrats sitting on a committee.  Over time this, of course, resulted in huge dislocations.
 
Real reform would be a combination of tort reform (which would be a good first step in a fight against the culture of defensive medicine), AND massive deregulation.  Instead, we are due for even more pervasive regulation.
 
As far as Primary Care is concerned, I think that over the next few years we will experience a shortage which will be severe beyond anyone's expectations.  Think about it -- Traditionally, aging Docs would continue working in their practice well into their 60's, 70's and even 80's.  They would slow down, work part time, fewer hours, BUT - they would continue working.  The way things stand today, it is hard to make a living in private practice even when one works full blast.  Forget about part time low volume work.  All those older baby boomer docs will have no choice but to retire - in large numbers.       
 
The way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if the government will use the shortages as an exuse for a total takeover.  Collectivist solutions appear to be shockingly acceptable and even popular... these days.
 
Ol' Fred Hayek must be turning in his grave.
================

"The free market has been stripped from the healthcare system."


I am sure there exist individual exceptions, many here included, but doctors have no one to blame but themselves for this turn of affairs. Really, if true, it could not happen to a more deserving profession. Their greed, insensitivity, and rude and imperious treatment of their patients (read: customers) begged to be countered.


And now it has, or is. Good.

=============
The Anti Nationalized Health Care Resource
The problem with the U.S. Health Care system is a combination of third party payments, government regulations and an artificial limited supply of doctors. Since the average person does not directly pay for their health care they do not care about the costs. Medical insurance encourages unnecessary procedures and waste due to the illusion of it being "free" via a co-pay. In a true free market, direct price competition would drive down prices and encourage others to enter the market, further reducing costs. The problem is government regulation and organizations such as the AMA (American Medical Association) have created an artificial scarcity of doctors, limiting the supply. This is done by limiting the number of medical schools, medical licenses and increasing requirements. Thus the excessive demand cannot be met by normal market forces. Most people are well aware that a limited supply of a good or service increases it's value (cost). Few are aware that attempting to restrict a good or service's price (price controls) limits it's supply causing shortages. It is thus impossible for government controls to either increase the supply of medical care or lower it's price. Government can only "fix" the U.S. health care system by getting out of the way.


===========
D.

   If that is truly the way you feel then you must have had some bad doctors, but one of the reasons that physicians are in the place they are in is because they generally are not greedy and are sensitive to their patient's needs.  We have been more interested in our patient's welfare than the economics of medicine.  One of the dilemma's in my practice is whether to continue seeing Medicaid and Indigent patients in our office.  We have always done so  because there was enough fat in the system to soften the blow even though we knew we were taking a loss, but if the Medicare cuts come through then we will probably have to stop seeing those patients.  We are the only game in town and they will have to travel 50 miles to the state hospital for care even though they as a group are the least likely to be able to afford transportation.  In my experience, at least in my town, the rude, greedy, insensitive physician is the exception as opposed to the rule.  I am sorry that you have become so jaded against my profession.

J.
25052  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: December 20, 2009, 07:43:40 AM
I was rewatching Rua vs. Machida yesterday and saw Rua use the same Zirconia type punch he used to knock out Chuck Liddell.  Here too it was more of a hook than a jab and here too he did not cut the corner to complete the diamond, but I do submit is as an example of the underlying principle.
25053  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 20, 2009, 07:40:34 AM
Grateful for a chance.
25054  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: December 20, 2009, 07:39:40 AM
At the moment it looks like this thing may not be dead afterall , , , The Adventure continues!!!
25055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Where's our spine? on: December 18, 2009, 02:34:49 PM
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. Text  .In his Inaugural address, President Obama promised the world's dictators—with Iran plainly in mind—that he would "extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Here's a status report on the mullahs' knuckles:

• Weapons of mass destruction. On Wednesday, Iran tested a new version of its Sajjil-2 medium-range ballistic missile, a sophisticated solid-fuel model with a range of 1,200 miles—enough to target parts of Eastern Europe.

Also this week came news that Western intelligence agencies have an undated Farsi-language document titled "outlook for special neutron-related activities over the next four years." It concerns technical aspects of a neutron initiator, which is used to set off nuclear explosions and has no other practical application. The document remains unauthenticated, and Iran denies working on a nuclear weapon. But it squares with accumulating evidence, from the International Atomic Energy Agency and other sources, that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons design and uranium enrichment.

• Support for terrorists. Iran also continues to supply Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons and money, and there's reason to suspect the help extends to Colombia's terrorist FARC. Centcom Commander David Petraeus told ABC News Wednesday that Iran "provides a modest level of equipment, explosives and perhaps some funding to the Taliban in western Afghanistan." As for Iraq, he says, "there are daily attacks with the so-called signature weapons only made by Iran—the explosively formed projectile, forms of improvised explosive devices, etc."

• Political gestures. Isolated regimes sometimes signal their desire for better relations through seemingly small gestures: ping-pong tournaments, for instance. Tehran has taken a different tack.

On Monday, it announced that three American hikers arrested along its border with Iraq in July would be put on trial. The charge? "Suspicious aims." New charges were also brought last month against Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was already sentenced to at least 12 years in prison on espionage charges. The regime has been going after other foreign nationals, including French teacher Clotilde Reiss, who is living under house arrest in the French embassy in Tehran. Christopher Dickey notes in Newsweek that "since [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad took over four years ago, some 35 foreign nationals or dual nationals have been imprisoned for use as chump change in one sordid deal or another."

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
.• Diplomacy. In October, the U.S. and its allies offered to enrich Iran's uranium in facilities outside the country, supposedly for the production of medical isotopes. The idea was that doing so would at least reduce Iran's growing stockpile of uranium and thus postpone the day when it would have enough to rapidly build a bomb.

Tehran finally came back with a counterproposal late last week, in which no uranium would leave Iranian soil. Even Hillary Clinton admits it's a nonstarter: "I don't think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of positive response from the Iranians," the Secretary of State told reporters.

Given those remarks, we would have imagined that Mrs. Clinton would take it as good news that on Tuesday the House voted 412-12 in favor of a new round of unilateral sanctions on Iran. The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act would forbid any company that does energy business with Iran from having access to U.S. markets.

Instead, last week Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg wrote to Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry urging that the Senate postpone taking up the House bill. "I am concerned that this legislation, in its current form, might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts," wrote Mr. Steinberg.

So let's see: Iran spurns every overture from the U.S. and continues to develop WMD while abusing its neighbors. In response, the Administration, which had set a December deadline for diplomacy, now says it opposes precisely the kind of sanctions it once promised to impose if Iran didn't come clean, never mind overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. For an explanation of why Iran's behavior remains unchanged, look no further.
25056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 17, 2009, 06:11:49 PM
Second post

NOTE the UAV capability upgrades:  "By next spring, a single pod on a UAV could track 13 separate people as they leave a meeting place. The capability will expand to 65 people by 2012 and eventually to perhaps as many as 150 image feeds from a single UAV combat air patrol."



Black UAV Performs In Afghanistan
Dec 11, 2009

David A. Fulghum and Bill Sweetman
The U.S. has been flying a classified, stealthy, remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan. That single fact reveals the continued development of low-observable UAVs, hidden aspects of the surveillance buildup in Afghanistan, the footprint of an active “black aircraft world” that stretches to Southwest Asia, and links into the Pentagon’s next-generation recce bomber.

The mystery aircraft—once referred to as the Beast of Kandahar and now identified by the U.S. Air Force as a Lockheed Martin Skunk Works RQ-170 Sentinel—flew from Kandahar’s airport, where it was photographed at least twice in 2007. It shared a hangar with Predator and Reaper UAVs being used in combat operations. On Dec. 4, three days after declassification was requested, Aviation Week revealed the program on its web site. Like Predator and Reaper, the Sentinel is remotely piloted by aircrews—in this case the 30th Reconnaissance Sqdn. (RS) at Tonopah Test Range Airport in the northwest corner of the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The confirmation came the same week as the Air Force’s top intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) officer called for a new, stealth, jet-powered strike-reconnaissance aircraft that can meet the requirements of both irregular and conventional conflicts and strategic, peacetime information-gathering.

The demands of fighting an irregular war do not change the critical operational need for a stealthier, strategic-range, higher-payload, strike-reconnaissance aircraft, says Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, deputy chief of staff for ISR.

The battle will be to balance the way the military wants to fight in Afghanistan now against how it wants to fight elsewhere in the future. Air Force officials want to keep those two needs from becoming widely divergent points in geography, technology and operational techniques. For the next 18 months, about 150,000 U.S. and allied troops will try to break the offensive capabilities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghan istan, and new technologies will be brought into play.

“Don’t get enamored with current conditions,” Deptula cautions. “We don’t know what the future will bring.” While operations in Afghanistan will be “more complex than ever,” the future is “not only going to be about irregular warfare.”

Beyond 2011, the Air Force’s first priority and the destination of the next dollar to be spent “if I were king for a day,” Deptula says, “would be for long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike. That’s the number-one need.

“We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has,” he notes. “We can’t walk away from that capability.”

A next-generation design would be equally important as a stealthy ISR platform to greatly extend—through speed, endurance and stealth—the capability produced by putting electro-optical and infrared sensor packets on the B-1 and B-52 bombers for precise attacks on fleeting targets in Southwest Asia.

Surveillance aircraft can see a lot more (farther and better) with long-wave infrared if the platform can operate at 50,000 ft. or higher. The RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135W Rivet Joint and E-8C Joint Stars are all limited to flying lower than 30,000 ft. Moreover, the multispectral technology to examine the chemical content of rocket plumes has been miniaturized to fit easily on a much smaller aircraft. Other sensors of interest are electronically scanned array radars, low-probability-of-intercept synthetic aperture radars and signals intelligence.

In fact, combat in Afghanistan could have—if well planned—direct benefits for conventional wars. The target set for the new surge campaign includes “cohesive units without chains of command” that the U.S. and its allies need to “dominate and win [against] across the spectrum” of conflict, Deptula says.

That then brings the focus back to what has been going on at Tonopah.

The 30th RS falls under Air Combat Command’s 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., home of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 training and remote operations facilities. Tonopah is where classified projects—such as the F-117 fighter—are kept when they are still secret but have grown to a point where they cannot be easily accommodated at the Air Force’s “black” flight-test center at Groom Lake. Its operations are restricted by the need to prevent personnel cleared into any one program from observing other “sight-sensitive” test aircraft. The squadron was activated as part of the 57th Operations Group on Sept. 1, 2005, and a squadron patch was approved on July 17, 2007. The activation—although not the full meaning of the event—was noted among those who watch for signs of activity in the classified world.

The RQ-170 is a tailless flying wing design from Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs. It has a single engine and pronounced compound sweep on the leading and trailing edges. It is difficult to estimate the aircraft’s size, but one report suggests that the wingspan is similar to that of the Reaper at 66 ft. The high degree of blending and center-body depth would suggest a greater takeoff weight and thrust than the RQ-3 DarkStar, Lockheed Martin’s earlier stealth UAV, which was powered by a 1,900-lb.-thrust Williams FJ44 engine and weighed 8,500 lb.

A number of features suggest that the RQ-170 is a moderately stealthy design, without the DarkStar’s or Northrop Grumman X-47B’s extreme emphasis on low radar cross section (RCS). The leading edges do not appear to be sharp—normally considered essential for avoiding strong RCS glints—and it appears that the main landing gear door’s front and rear edges are squared off rather than being notched or aligned with the wing edges.

In addition, the exhaust is not shielded by the wing, and the wing is curved rather than angular. That suggests the Sentinel has been designed to avoid the use of highly sensitive technologies. As a single-engine UAV, vehicle losses are a statistical certainty. Ultra-stealthy UAVs—such as the never-completed Lockheed-Boeing Quartz for which DarkStar was originally a demonstrator—were criticized on the grounds they were “pearls too precious to wear”—because their use would be too restricted by the risk of compromising technology in the event of a loss.

The medium-gray color, similar to the Reaper’s, is a clue to performance. At extreme altitudes (above 60,000 ft.), very dark tones provide the best concealment even in daylight because there is little lighting behind the vehicle while it is illuminated by light scattered from moisture and particles in the air below it. The RQ-170 is therefore a mid-altitude platform, unlikely to operate much above 50,000 ft. This altitude also would have simplified the use of an off-the-shelf engine. General Electric has been working on a classified variant of its TF34 engine that appears to fit the thrust range of the RQ-170.

The overwing housings for sensors or antennas are also significant. One could accommodate a satcom antenna; but if both housed sensors, they would cover the entire hemisphere above the aircraft.

An Air Force official tells Aviation Week that the service has been “developing a stealthy, unmanned aircraft system [UAS] to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces.

“The fielding of the RQ-170 aligns with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s request for increased . . . ISR support to the Combatant Commanders and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz’s vision for an increased USAF reliance on unmanned aircraft,” says the memorandum prepared for Aviation Week by the Air Force.

The RQ-170 designation is a correct prefix but numerically out of sequence to avoid obvious guesses of the program’s existence. Technically, “RQ” denotes an unarmed aircraft rather than the MQ prefix applied to the armed Predator and Reaper. A phrase in the memorandum, “support to forward-deployed combat forces,” when combined with visible details that suggest a moderate degree of stealth (including a blunt leading edge, simple nozzle and overwing sensor pods), suggests that the Sentinel is a tactical, operations-oriented platform and not a strategic intelligence-gathering design.

With its moderately low-observable design, the aircraft would be useful for flying along the borders of Iran and peering into China, India and Pakistan to gather useful information about missile tests and telemetry, as well as garnering signals and multispectral intelligence.

The RQ-170 has links to earlier Skunk Works designs such as the experimental DarkStar and Polecat. “DarkStar didn’t die when Lockheed Martin [retired the airframe],” said a former company executive last week. “It just got classified.”

Following the landing of a damaged Navy EP-3E in China in early 2001, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called a classified, all-day session of those with responsibilities for “sensitive reconnaissance operations” (AW&ST June 4, 2001, p. 30). They discussed how to avoid embarrassing and damaging losses of classified equipment, documents or aircrews without losing the ability to monitor the military forces and capabilities of important nations such as China. Their leading option was to start a new stealthy, unmanned reconnaissance program that would field 12-24 aircraft. Air Combat Command, which was then led by Gen. John Jumper, wanted a very-low-observable, high-altitude UAV that could penetrate air defense, fly 1,000 nm. to a target, loiter for 8 hr. and return to base.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a UAV described as a derivative of DarkStar was being prepared and was said by several officials to have been used operationally in prototype form (AW&ST Mar. 15, 2004, p. 35; July 7, 2003, p. 20).

“It’s the same concept as DarkStar; it’s stealthy and it uses the same apertures and data links,” said an Air Force official at the time. “Only it’s bigger,” said a Navy official. “It’s still far from a production aircraft, but the Air Force wanted to go ahead and get it out there.” The classified UAV’s operation caused consternation among U-2 pilots who noticed high-flying aircraft operating within several miles of their routes over Iraq. Flights of the mysterious aircraft were not coordinated with those of other manned and unmanned surveillance units.

There is great interest in how the U.S. now leverages its black- and white-world UAVs and remotely piloted aircraft to maintain a watch over the vast and rugged areas of Afghanistan that NATO’s force of about 100,000 troops will be unable to patrol. The revitalized conflict in Afghanistan will be largely a ground war with airpower serving as flying artillery and as a wide-ranging reconnaissance force.

Emphasis will be attached to manned MC-12W and unmanned surveillance and light-attack aircraft. New technologies such as the Gorgon Stare ISR pod will address ground commanders’ insatiable desire for full-motion video. By next spring, a single pod on a UAV could track 13 separate people as they leave a meeting place. The capability will expand to 65 people by 2012 and eventually to perhaps as many as 150 image feeds from a single UAV combat air patrol.

Along with its new ISR products, the U.S. will be providing close air support and helicopter airlift to its allies.

“I don’t know exactly when the NATO forces or non-U.S. forces will be flowing,” says Gates. “We do have some private commitments. There will be some additional announcements, I expect, [after the] London conference in January on Afghanistan.”

The rough plan so far is to divide operational responsibilities between the allies in the north and west and the U.S. in the east and south. The allies are expected to total “a brigade or two” comprising about 3,500-4,000 troops each, says Gates. Training of the Afghan troops will focus on partnering in combat with international personnel, rather than on basic training.

With Guy Norris in Los Angeles.

Illustration by Gregory Lewis/AW&ST
25057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: December 17, 2009, 06:11:23 PM
second post

NOTE the UAV capability upgrades:  "By next spring, a single pod on a UAV could track 13 separate people as they leave a meeting place. The capability will expand to 65 people by 2012 and eventually to perhaps as many as 150 image feeds from a single UAV combat air patrol."



Black UAV Performs In Afghanistan
Dec 11, 2009

David A. Fulghum and Bill Sweetman
The U.S. has been flying a classified, stealthy, remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan. That single fact reveals the continued development of low-observable UAVs, hidden aspects of the surveillance buildup in Afghanistan, the footprint of an active “black aircraft world” that stretches to Southwest Asia, and links into the Pentagon’s next-generation recce bomber.

The mystery aircraft—once referred to as the Beast of Kandahar and now identified by the U.S. Air Force as a Lockheed Martin Skunk Works RQ-170 Sentinel—flew from Kandahar’s airport, where it was photographed at least twice in 2007. It shared a hangar with Predator and Reaper UAVs being used in combat operations. On Dec. 4, three days after declassification was requested, Aviation Week revealed the program on its web site. Like Predator and Reaper, the Sentinel is remotely piloted by aircrews—in this case the 30th Reconnaissance Sqdn. (RS) at Tonopah Test Range Airport in the northwest corner of the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The confirmation came the same week as the Air Force’s top intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) officer called for a new, stealth, jet-powered strike-reconnaissance aircraft that can meet the requirements of both irregular and conventional conflicts and strategic, peacetime information-gathering.

The demands of fighting an irregular war do not change the critical operational need for a stealthier, strategic-range, higher-payload, strike-reconnaissance aircraft, says Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, deputy chief of staff for ISR.

The battle will be to balance the way the military wants to fight in Afghanistan now against how it wants to fight elsewhere in the future. Air Force officials want to keep those two needs from becoming widely divergent points in geography, technology and operational techniques. For the next 18 months, about 150,000 U.S. and allied troops will try to break the offensive capabilities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghan istan, and new technologies will be brought into play.

“Don’t get enamored with current conditions,” Deptula cautions. “We don’t know what the future will bring.” While operations in Afghanistan will be “more complex than ever,” the future is “not only going to be about irregular warfare.”

Beyond 2011, the Air Force’s first priority and the destination of the next dollar to be spent “if I were king for a day,” Deptula says, “would be for long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike. That’s the number-one need.

“We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has,” he notes. “We can’t walk away from that capability.”

A next-generation design would be equally important as a stealthy ISR platform to greatly extend—through speed, endurance and stealth—the capability produced by putting electro-optical and infrared sensor packets on the B-1 and B-52 bombers for precise attacks on fleeting targets in Southwest Asia.

Surveillance aircraft can see a lot more (farther and better) with long-wave infrared if the platform can operate at 50,000 ft. or higher. The RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135W Rivet Joint and E-8C Joint Stars are all limited to flying lower than 30,000 ft. Moreover, the multispectral technology to examine the chemical content of rocket plumes has been miniaturized to fit easily on a much smaller aircraft. Other sensors of interest are electronically scanned array radars, low-probability-of-intercept synthetic aperture radars and signals intelligence.

In fact, combat in Afghanistan could have—if well planned—direct benefits for conventional wars. The target set for the new surge campaign includes “cohesive units without chains of command” that the U.S. and its allies need to “dominate and win [against] across the spectrum” of conflict, Deptula says.

That then brings the focus back to what has been going on at Tonopah.

The 30th RS falls under Air Combat Command’s 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., home of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 training and remote operations facilities. Tonopah is where classified projects—such as the F-117 fighter—are kept when they are still secret but have grown to a point where they cannot be easily accommodated at the Air Force’s “black” flight-test center at Groom Lake. Its operations are restricted by the need to prevent personnel cleared into any one program from observing other “sight-sensitive” test aircraft. The squadron was activated as part of the 57th Operations Group on Sept. 1, 2005, and a squadron patch was approved on July 17, 2007. The activation—although not the full meaning of the event—was noted among those who watch for signs of activity in the classified world.

The RQ-170 is a tailless flying wing design from Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs. It has a single engine and pronounced compound sweep on the leading and trailing edges. It is difficult to estimate the aircraft’s size, but one report suggests that the wingspan is similar to that of the Reaper at 66 ft. The high degree of blending and center-body depth would suggest a greater takeoff weight and thrust than the RQ-3 DarkStar, Lockheed Martin’s earlier stealth UAV, which was powered by a 1,900-lb.-thrust Williams FJ44 engine and weighed 8,500 lb.

A number of features suggest that the RQ-170 is a moderately stealthy design, without the DarkStar’s or Northrop Grumman X-47B’s extreme emphasis on low radar cross section (RCS). The leading edges do not appear to be sharp—normally considered essential for avoiding strong RCS glints—and it appears that the main landing gear door’s front and rear edges are squared off rather than being notched or aligned with the wing edges.

In addition, the exhaust is not shielded by the wing, and the wing is curved rather than angular. That suggests the Sentinel has been designed to avoid the use of highly sensitive technologies. As a single-engine UAV, vehicle losses are a statistical certainty. Ultra-stealthy UAVs—such as the never-completed Lockheed-Boeing Quartz for which DarkStar was originally a demonstrator—were criticized on the grounds they were “pearls too precious to wear”—because their use would be too restricted by the risk of compromising technology in the event of a loss.

The medium-gray color, similar to the Reaper’s, is a clue to performance. At extreme altitudes (above 60,000 ft.), very dark tones provide the best concealment even in daylight because there is little lighting behind the vehicle while it is illuminated by light scattered from moisture and particles in the air below it. The RQ-170 is therefore a mid-altitude platform, unlikely to operate much above 50,000 ft. This altitude also would have simplified the use of an off-the-shelf engine. General Electric has been working on a classified variant of its TF34 engine that appears to fit the thrust range of the RQ-170.

The overwing housings for sensors or antennas are also significant. One could accommodate a satcom antenna; but if both housed sensors, they would cover the entire hemisphere above the aircraft.

An Air Force official tells Aviation Week that the service has been “developing a stealthy, unmanned aircraft system [UAS] to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces.

“The fielding of the RQ-170 aligns with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s request for increased . . . ISR support to the Combatant Commanders and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz’s vision for an increased USAF reliance on unmanned aircraft,” says the memorandum prepared for Aviation Week by the Air Force.

The RQ-170 designation is a correct prefix but numerically out of sequence to avoid obvious guesses of the program’s existence. Technically, “RQ” denotes an unarmed aircraft rather than the MQ prefix applied to the armed Predator and Reaper. A phrase in the memorandum, “support to forward-deployed combat forces,” when combined with visible details that suggest a moderate degree of stealth (including a blunt leading edge, simple nozzle and overwing sensor pods), suggests that the Sentinel is a tactical, operations-oriented platform and not a strategic intelligence-gathering design.

With its moderately low-observable design, the aircraft would be useful for flying along the borders of Iran and peering into China, India and Pakistan to gather useful information about missile tests and telemetry, as well as garnering signals and multispectral intelligence.

The RQ-170 has links to earlier Skunk Works designs such as the experimental DarkStar and Polecat. “DarkStar didn’t die when Lockheed Martin [retired the airframe],” said a former company executive last week. “It just got classified.”

Following the landing of a damaged Navy EP-3E in China in early 2001, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called a classified, all-day session of those with responsibilities for “sensitive reconnaissance operations” (AW&ST June 4, 2001, p. 30). They discussed how to avoid embarrassing and damaging losses of classified equipment, documents or aircrews without losing the ability to monitor the military forces and capabilities of important nations such as China. Their leading option was to start a new stealthy, unmanned reconnaissance program that would field 12-24 aircraft. Air Combat Command, which was then led by Gen. John Jumper, wanted a very-low-observable, high-altitude UAV that could penetrate air defense, fly 1,000 nm. to a target, loiter for 8 hr. and return to base.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a UAV described as a derivative of DarkStar was being prepared and was said by several officials to have been used operationally in prototype form (AW&ST Mar. 15, 2004, p. 35; July 7, 2003, p. 20).

“It’s the same concept as DarkStar; it’s stealthy and it uses the same apertures and data links,” said an Air Force official at the time. “Only it’s bigger,” said a Navy official. “It’s still far from a production aircraft, but the Air Force wanted to go ahead and get it out there.” The classified UAV’s operation caused consternation among U-2 pilots who noticed high-flying aircraft operating within several miles of their routes over Iraq. Flights of the mysterious aircraft were not coordinated with those of other manned and unmanned surveillance units.

There is great interest in how the U.S. now leverages its black- and white-world UAVs and remotely piloted aircraft to maintain a watch over the vast and rugged areas of Afghanistan that NATO’s force of about 100,000 troops will be unable to patrol. The revitalized conflict in Afghanistan will be largely a ground war with airpower serving as flying artillery and as a wide-ranging reconnaissance force.

Emphasis will be attached to manned MC-12W and unmanned surveillance and light-attack aircraft. New technologies such as the Gorgon Stare ISR pod will address ground commanders’ insatiable desire for full-motion video. By next spring, a single pod on a UAV could track 13 separate people as they leave a meeting place. The capability will expand to 65 people by 2012 and eventually to perhaps as many as 150 image feeds from a single UAV combat air patrol.

Along with its new ISR products, the U.S. will be providing close air support and helicopter airlift to its allies.

“I don’t know exactly when the NATO forces or non-U.S. forces will be flowing,” says Gates. “We do have some private commitments. There will be some additional announcements, I expect, [after the] London conference in January on Afghanistan.”

The rough plan so far is to divide operational responsibilities between the allies in the north and west and the U.S. in the east and south. The allies are expected to total “a brigade or two” comprising about 3,500-4,000 troops each, says Gates. Training of the Afghan troops will focus on partnering in combat with international personnel, rather than on basic training.

With Guy Norris in Los Angeles.

Illustration by Gregory Lewis/AW&ST
25058  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: December 17, 2009, 02:53:16 PM
Haven't a clue.  Until I see something serious from these folks, its hard to take this seriously.
25059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Time has come on: December 17, 2009, 11:35:53 AM
Alexander's Essay – December 17, 2009

The Time Has Come
"It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth -- and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. ... Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not?" --Patrick Henry
The 2008 presidential election was much more than a referendum on the two candidates; it was a referendum on the ability of a majority of Americans voters to discern between one candidate who possessed the character and integrity of a statesman, and one who did not.

A year ago, a majority of our countrymen were hoodwinked into electing a charlatan with dubious credentials to the highest constitutional office in the land. Since then, millions of Americans who had become complacent about the Leftist threat to our liberty have begun to realize that our Constitution is now suffering an unprecedented assault.

There were those of us who realized in 2004 -- back when Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry let him take center stage at the Democrat National Convention -- that Barack Hussein Obama was a Marxist. Nonetheless, too many of our countrymen were lulled into believing that no leftist politico with such abhorrent extra-constitutional views on the role of government could rise to be president of the United States.

The awakening that has occurred since November of '08 is like nothing I have witnessed since the first election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. After the economic and foreign policy disasters created by the Carter administration, Americans were stirred to action. Yes, the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 resulted in a conservative takeover of the House two years later, but Clinton was far more moderate than Obama, and his election didn't inspire millions of Americans to arm themselves for the first time.

That Obama's election inspired a wave of conservative activism is good news.

The great news is that since last November, millions of Americans have joined our ranks.

And the momentum continues unabated.

I knew we were turning a corner a few months back, when an establishment Republican, typical of most such Republicans, told me that Obama's health care proposal "amounts to socialism." This same fellow told me a year earlier that calling Obama a Socialist was just too severe. When I reminded him of his earlier admonishment, he said simply, "My eyes are now open."

If Barack Obama has given us one thing of value, it is the opportunity to clearly discern between Left and Right, between rule of men and Rule of Law. He is the quintessential socialist, and his domestic and foreign policies present a contrast between tyranny and liberty that has rarely been so apparent. Many who have been hitherto reluctant to rise on behalf of liberty or have been too comfortable to be concerned by such conflict, are now making an ever-louder stand.

Benjamin Franklin aptly noted, "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Indeed.

Obama is the personification of Leftist philosophy and dogma, and in a turn of irony, for the clarity he has provided to that end we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Despite the fact that the Leftists in media and academia have had a stranglehold on public opinion, seating one of their own as president, which they believe is a great prize, may well be their undoing.

The once noble Democrat Party is now led by those who have turned the wisdom of their iconic leaders upside down.

Then: "My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." --John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961

Now: "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you."

Then: "I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." --Martin Luther King, Address from the Lincoln Memorial, 1963

Now: "I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the content of their character but by the color of their skin."

Today, Democrat Party Leftists deride the notion of individual rights. Instead, they advocate the supplanting of individual liberty with statism.

They promote the notion of a living constitution rather than the authentic Constitution our Founders established.

They despise free enterprise and advocate socialist redistribution of wealth, the ultimate goal of which is to render all people equally poor and dependent upon the state.

They loathe our military and our national sovereignty, and they propose to replace it with treaties that establish supranational governmental legal and policing authorities.

They detest traditional American values, and they support all manner of behavior resulting in social entropy.

Being debated right now is whether an additional 17 percent of the U.S. economy is going to be nationalized under ObamaCare, and whether the rest of the economy is going to be shackled by cap-and-trade taxes in addition to a plethora of other job-eliminating taxes on private sector employers.

Would it surprise you to know that, while Democrat impositions on lending practices are largely responsible for the fact that millions of Americans are now out of work, the number of government "workers" making over $100,000 per year has increased 30 percent since the beginning of the current recession? There are more than 10,000 bureaucrats earning more than $150,000 annually, and the average federal salary is $71,206, not including generous government benefits, while the average private sector salary is $40,331.

Obama and his Democrat Congress have endowed future generations, unless soon reversed, not with liberty but with historically unprecedented levels of debt, which will enslave them to hyperinflation.

Conservatives and liberals can argue various policy points ad nauseam, but the question Americans are asking in greater numbers is this: Are we a nation governed by Rule of Law or the contemporaneous opinions of men?

History provides us with repeated evidence that the terminus of nations that are governed by men rather than laws is tyranny. In the last century alone, hundreds of millions have been enslaved under statist dictators such as Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, Mao, Kruschev, Pol Pot, Ho Chi, Idi Amin, Castro, Hussein, Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Chavez, Hu Jintao and others. Who might be next?

Surely not us?

Obama has clearly delineated the difference between individual rights and statism, between free enterprise and socialism.

Alexander Hamilton said, "In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend."

Today, more and more Americans are returning to the core principles upon which our nation was founded, which made it the freest and most productive in history. There is a renewed commitment to support and defend Essential Liberty.

John Adams wrote: "Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue. These amiable passions are the 'latent spark' ... If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?"

I believe that a supermajority of us are fully capable of understanding the truth, if given the right information and opportunity.

As Thomas Paine noted, "Such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

Of course, Barack Obama and his liberal lawmaking brethren have done us great harm this past year, and it may take several election cycles, or a revolution, to turn that around. But, the fields are being plowed and seeds sown.

Ronald Reagan delivered an enduring challenge to conservatives entitled "A Time for Choosing": "You and I are told we must choose between a left or right," Reagan said, "but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."

Patriots, the time has come to choose.

Reagan also outlined a plan for "The New Republican Party," stating, "The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and that we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations -- found through the often bitter testing of pain, or sacrifice and sorrow."

If Republicans want to regain majority status, the RNC must purge those who have forsaken the first principles of conservatism for power. In their stead they must lift up those who are devoted to the Rule of Law and Essential Liberty, those who incorporate Reagan's charge, and that of generations of Patriots before him. They must back real conservatives instead of arrogant pretenders (see Toomey v. Specter). Short of bold new leadership, what remains of the Republican Party will end up on the trash heap of political irrelevance.

Patriots take heart: Do not wither during these difficult times. For as George Washington advised, "We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."

Indeed, the next several years will be a vital test for Patriots and our countrymen. Let us choose to persevere, to make our cause that of all men, to make no peace with oppression.

In 1776, Peter Muhlenberg delivered a sermon, concluding, "There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time has now come." He removed his clerical robes and set out to command the 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army.

Patriots, we have great opportunity before us, and once again the time has come to fight for it.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US
25060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Obsession on: December 17, 2009, 10:56:10 AM
Every Democratic president since FDR has failed to pass national health insurance. The current legislation in Congress is likely the last chance to enact it.
By DANIEL HENNINGER

If President Obama's health-care initiative fails, there is no longer a rationale for being a liberal in the United States. Everything else on liberalism's to-do list is footnotes.

Passing national health insurance has obsessed every Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt. Even Harry Truman, for some conservatives a model of "moderate" Democratic politics, wanted it. Looking back, Truman wept and warned: "I've had some bitter disappointments as President, but the one that has troubled me most, in a personal way, has been the failure to defeat the organized opposition to a national compulsory health insurance program. But this opposition has only delayed and cannot stop the adoption of an indispensable federal health insurance plan."



No other issue has consumed more political energy in the U.S. than "health-care reform." Congress's half-year preoccupation with health care is only the latest blip in the Democrats' long march to a public option.

As we head to the final act, one element of this history stands out: The liberals' repeated failure to get it done.

The Democratic Mecca—a real national health insurance system available to all—has always encountered stiff resistance in Congress, notably as now from moderate Democrats. In the 1960s, Senate Finance Chairman Russell Long (of Mary Landrieu's Louisiana) railed publicly against Medicare's costs but as now, questions about cost were obliterated.

Frustrated at the failure to pass their "National Health Insurance" bill during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, the Democrats ratcheted back from the Euro-style idea of FDR and Truman to a plan that would cover only Social Security beneficiaries, the elderly. This was Medicare.

Medicare failed all its initial votes in 1960. A compromise known as Kerr-Mills, which limited federal coverage to the "indigent" elderly, passed the Senate by a vote of 91-2. Many said then that Kerr-Mills addressed the U.S.'s main problem, which was medicine for the poor. Ronald Reagan supported Kerr-Mills, arguing that people "worth millions of dollars" shouldn't be getting health care paid for by government.

For Democratic liberals, a lot is never enough. With John Kennedy's election, they resubmitted Medicare for the elderly regardless of income.

The Democrats still couldn't pass a health-care entitlement on the scale of Social Security. The politics they threw into the effort was massive. They put 20,000 elderly in Madison Square Garden to hear JFK's oratory. Rallies were held in 45 cities. Organized labor ran campaigns against members of the Ways and Means Committee in their home districts. For all this, in July 1962 the Senate voted 52-48 against Medicare. JFK denounced the vote on TV.

It is a familiar story that Lyndon Johnson got Medicare passed as part of the Kennedy legacy. But for LBJ in 1965, the political planets were in perfect alignment. He had an overwhelming victory in the 1964 presidential campaign and huge congressional majorities. He had a robust economy, a gift of the Kennedy tax cut passed in early 1964. Also, no House hearings were held that year on the 296-page bill, which Democratic Sen. Philip Hart of Michigan complained was "one of the most complex set of social security amendments ever brought before this body."

Oh, and let us not overlook the party's concurrent quest for money transfers. In a moment of glee over the 1965 bill, Rep. Phil Burton of California, a member of the liberal pantheon, intoned: "All in all, our fair state and its people in the first year will be favored to the tune of some $550 million, a not modest sum." (Norms of spending "modesty" have changed since.)

The Democrats' persistent problems with this issue, including the Clintons' Health Security Act in 1994, suggests a victory for ObamaCare is no sure thing.

Nearly every defeat of broad public health coverage has come amid some turbulence that scared the public or politicians.

For Truman it was the Korean War. For JFK it was a recession, Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis. Walter Lippmann wrote of JFK that a too-confident president was exceeding the public's reach. The Social Security Administration's own history of the Kennedy effort notes, "Some experts still had doubts about the reliability of the cost estimates for the bill."

Now Democrats say this vote is about "history." No, it's about their history. As with past failures to federalize health care, the air in 2009 is full of static—high unemployment, Afghanistan, a terrorist prison in Illinois and a petulant White House. The Democrats' familiar problems with the politics of universal health care have turned the bill into one of the most degraded legislative exercises in congressional history. Left-wing Dems like Howard Dean are screaming "kill" the Senate bill, suggesting a progressive Jonestown over it. Public support is below 40%.

This is probably the final death struggle for universal health care. They may let Harry Reid's Senate seat itself go down in the bloodbath over the 70-year obsession. Anyone remotely opposed to this idea had better step forward. History says ObamaCare isn't a done deal til the fat lady votes.

Write to henninger@wsj.com
25061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: B+? on: December 17, 2009, 10:02:22 AM
By KARL ROVE
Barack Obama has won a place in history with the worst ratings of any president at the end of his first year: 49% approve and 46% disapprove of his job performance in the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll.

There are many factors that explain it, including weakness abroad, an unprecedented spending binge at home, and making a perfectly awful health-care plan his signature domestic initiative. But something else is happening.

Mr. Obama has not governed as the centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder he promised to be. And his promise to embody a new kind of politics—free of finger-pointing, pettiness and spin—was a mirage. He has cheapened his office with needless attacks on his predecessor.

Consider Mr. Obama's comment in his interview this past Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes" that the Bush administration made a mistake in speaking in "a triumphant sense about war."



This was a slap at every president who rallied the nation in dark moments, including Franklin D. Roosevelt ("With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph"); Woodrow Wilson ("Right is more precious than peace and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts"); and John F. Kennedy ("Any hostile move anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we are committed . . . will be met by whatever action is needed").

This kind of attack gives Mr. Obama's words a slippery quality. For example, he voted for the bank rescue plan in September 2008 and praised it during the campaign. Yet on Dec. 8 at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Obama called it "flawed" and blamed "the last administration" for launching it "hastily."

Really? Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner designed it. If it was "flawed," why did Mr. Obama later nominate Mr. Bernanke to a second term as Fed chairman and make Mr. Geithner his Treasury secretary?

Mr. Obama also claimed at Brookings that he prevented "a second Great Depression" by confronting the financial crisis "largely without the help" of Republicans. Yet his own Treasury secretary suggests otherwise. In a Dec. 9 letter, Mr. Geithner admitted that since taking office, the Obama administration had "committed about $7 billion to banks, much of which went to small institutions." That compares to $240 billion the Bush administration lent banks. Does Mr. Obama really believe his additional $7 billion forestalled "the potential collapse of our financial system"?

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web atRove.com. Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

Mr. Obama continued distorting the record in his "60 Minutes" interview Sunday when he blamed bankers for the financial crisis. They "caused the problem," he insisted before complaining, "I haven't seen a lot of shame on their part" and pledging to put "a regulatory system in place that prevents them from putting us in this kind of pickle again."

But as a freshman senator, Mr. Obama supported a threatened 2005 filibuster of a bill regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He doesn't show "a lot of shame" that he and other Fannie and Freddie defenders blocked "a regulatory system" that might have kept America from getting in such a bad pickle in the first place.

The president's rhetorical tricks don't end there. Mr. Obama also claimed his $787 billion stimulus package "helped us [stem] the panic and get the economy growing again." But 1.5 million more people are unemployed than he said there would be if nothing were done.

And as of yesterday, only $244 billion of the stimulus had been spent. Why was $787 billion needed when less than a third of that figure supposedly got the job done?

Mr. Obama also alleged on "60 Minutes" that health-care reform "will actually bring down the deficit" (which people clearly know it will not). He said his reform reduces "costs and premiums for American families and businesses" (though they will be higher than they would otherwise be). And he claimed 30 million more people will get coverage through "an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses" to purchase insurance (though 15 million of them are covered by being dumped into Medicaid and don't get private insurance).

Mr. Obama may actually believe it when he says, "I think that's a pretty darned good outcome" and congratulates himself that he could succeed where "seven presidents have tried . . . [and] seven presidents have failed."

But voters seem to have a different definition of success. And they are tiring of the president's blame shifting and distortions.

Mr. Obama may believe, as he told Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview, that he deserves a "solid B+" for his first year in office, but the American people beg to differ. A presidency that started with so much promise is receiving unprecedentedly low grades from the country that elected him. He's earned them.

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).
25062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: December 17, 2009, 09:57:25 AM
After getting my chain yanked a few times too many, I recently asked to be released from the deal , , , so naturally they both said yes to the release AND expressed interest in the project once again , , , after they are done with their current one , , ,
25063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Drones hacked for $26 on: December 17, 2009, 08:50:14 AM
I posted this in Military Science as well.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126102247889095011.html





DECEMBER 17, 2009
Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
$26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected


By SIOBHAN GORMAN, YOCHI J. DREAZEN and AUGUST COLE

WASHINGTON -- Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America's enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

The drone intercepts mark the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas. They also point to a potentially serious vulnerability in Washington's growing network of unmanned drones, which have become the American weapon of choice in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Obama administration has come to rely heavily on the unmanned drones because they allow the U.S. to safely monitor and stalk insurgent targets in areas where sending American troops would be either politically untenable or too risky.

The stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies.

U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.

In the summer 2009 incident, the military found "days and days and hours and hours of proof" that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups, the person said. "It is part of their kit now."

A senior defense official said that James Clapper, the Pentagon's intelligence chief, assessed the Iraq intercepts at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and concluded they represented a shortcoming to the security of the drone network.

"There did appear to be a vulnerability," the defense official said. "There's been no harm done to troops or missions compromised as a result of it, but there's an issue that we can take care of and we're doing so."

Senior military and intelligence officials said the U.S. was working to encrypt all of its drone video feeds from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but said it wasn't yet clear if the problem had been completely resolved.

Some of the most detailed evidence of intercepted feeds has been discovered in Iraq, but adversaries have also intercepted drone video feeds in Afghanistan, according to people briefed on the matter. These intercept techniques could be employed in other locations where the U.S. is using pilotless planes, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, they said.

The Pentagon is deploying record numbers of drones to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration's troop surge there. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who oversees the Air Force's unmanned aviation program, said some of the drones would employ a sophisticated new camera system called "Gorgon Stare," which allows a single aerial vehicle to transmit back at least 10 separate video feeds simultaneously.

Gen. Deptula, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said there were inherent risks to using drones since they are remotely controlled and need to send and receive video and other data over great distances. "Those kinds of things are subject to listening and exploitation," he said, adding the military was trying to solve the problems by better encrypting the drones' feeds.

The potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control. The U.S. government has known about the flaw since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn't know how to exploit it, the officials said.

Last December, U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered copies of Predator drone feeds on a laptop belonging to a Shiite militant, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter. "There was evidence this was not a one-time deal," this person said. The U.S. accuses Iran of providing weapons, money and training to Shiite fighters in Iraq, a charge that Tehran has long denied.

The militants use programs such as SkyGrabber, from Russian company SkySoftware. Andrew Solonikov, one of the software's developers, said he was unaware that his software could be used to intercept drone feeds. "It was developed to intercept music, photos, video, programs and other content that other users download from the Internet -- no military data or other commercial data, only free legal content," he said by email from Russia.

Officials stepped up efforts to prevent insurgents from intercepting video feeds after the July incident. The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes. Additional concerns remain about the vulnerability of the communications signals to electronic jamming, though there's no evidence that has occurred, said people familiar with reports on the matter.

Predator drones are built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego. Some of its communications technology is proprietary, so widely used encryption systems aren't readily compatible, said people familiar with the matter.

In an email, a spokeswoman said that for security reasons, the company couldn't comment on "specific data link capabilities and limitations."

Fixing the security gap would have caused delays, according to current and former military officials. It would have added to the Predator's price. Some officials worried that adding encryption would make it harder to quickly share time-sensitive data within the U.S. military, and with allies.

"There's a balance between pragmatics and sophistication," said Mike Wynne, Air Force Secretary from 2005 to 2008.

The Air Force has staked its future on unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones account for 36% of the planes in the service's proposed 2010 budget.

Today, the Air Force is buying hundreds of Reaper drones, a newer model, whose video feeds could be intercepted in much the same way as with the Predators, according to people familiar with the matter. A Reaper costs between $10 million and $12 million each and is faster and better armed than the Predator. General Atomics expects the Air Force to buy as many as 375 Reapers.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at siobhan.gorman@wsj.com, Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com and August Cole at august.cole@dowjones.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1
25064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Drones hacked for $26 on: December 17, 2009, 08:49:26 AM
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126102247889095011.html





DECEMBER 17, 2009
Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
$26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected


By SIOBHAN GORMAN, YOCHI J. DREAZEN and AUGUST COLE

WASHINGTON -- Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America's enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

The drone intercepts mark the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas. They also point to a potentially serious vulnerability in Washington's growing network of unmanned drones, which have become the American weapon of choice in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Obama administration has come to rely heavily on the unmanned drones because they allow the U.S. to safely monitor and stalk insurgent targets in areas where sending American troops would be either politically untenable or too risky.

The stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies.

U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.

In the summer 2009 incident, the military found "days and days and hours and hours of proof" that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups, the person said. "It is part of their kit now."

A senior defense official said that James Clapper, the Pentagon's intelligence chief, assessed the Iraq intercepts at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and concluded they represented a shortcoming to the security of the drone network.

"There did appear to be a vulnerability," the defense official said. "There's been no harm done to troops or missions compromised as a result of it, but there's an issue that we can take care of and we're doing so."

Senior military and intelligence officials said the U.S. was working to encrypt all of its drone video feeds from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but said it wasn't yet clear if the problem had been completely resolved.

Some of the most detailed evidence of intercepted feeds has been discovered in Iraq, but adversaries have also intercepted drone video feeds in Afghanistan, according to people briefed on the matter. These intercept techniques could be employed in other locations where the U.S. is using pilotless planes, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, they said.

The Pentagon is deploying record numbers of drones to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration's troop surge there. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who oversees the Air Force's unmanned aviation program, said some of the drones would employ a sophisticated new camera system called "Gorgon Stare," which allows a single aerial vehicle to transmit back at least 10 separate video feeds simultaneously.

Gen. Deptula, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said there were inherent risks to using drones since they are remotely controlled and need to send and receive video and other data over great distances. "Those kinds of things are subject to listening and exploitation," he said, adding the military was trying to solve the problems by better encrypting the drones' feeds.

The potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control. The U.S. government has known about the flaw since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn't know how to exploit it, the officials said.

Last December, U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered copies of Predator drone feeds on a laptop belonging to a Shiite militant, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter. "There was evidence this was not a one-time deal," this person said. The U.S. accuses Iran of providing weapons, money and training to Shiite fighters in Iraq, a charge that Tehran has long denied.

The militants use programs such as SkyGrabber, from Russian company SkySoftware. Andrew Solonikov, one of the software's developers, said he was unaware that his software could be used to intercept drone feeds. "It was developed to intercept music, photos, video, programs and other content that other users download from the Internet -- no military data or other commercial data, only free legal content," he said by email from Russia.

Officials stepped up efforts to prevent insurgents from intercepting video feeds after the July incident. The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes. Additional concerns remain about the vulnerability of the communications signals to electronic jamming, though there's no evidence that has occurred, said people familiar with reports on the matter.

Predator drones are built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego. Some of its communications technology is proprietary, so widely used encryption systems aren't readily compatible, said people familiar with the matter.

In an email, a spokeswoman said that for security reasons, the company couldn't comment on "specific data link capabilities and limitations."

Fixing the security gap would have caused delays, according to current and former military officials. It would have added to the Predator's price. Some officials worried that adding encryption would make it harder to quickly share time-sensitive data within the U.S. military, and with allies.

"There's a balance between pragmatics and sophistication," said Mike Wynne, Air Force Secretary from 2005 to 2008.

The Air Force has staked its future on unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones account for 36% of the planes in the service's proposed 2010 budget.

Today, the Air Force is buying hundreds of Reaper drones, a newer model, whose video feeds could be intercepted in much the same way as with the Predators, according to people familiar with the matter. A Reaper costs between $10 million and $12 million each and is faster and better armed than the Predator. General Atomics expects the Air Force to buy as many as 375 Reapers.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at siobhan.gorman@wsj.com, Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com and August Cole at august.cole@dowjones.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1
25065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: December 17, 2009, 12:17:09 AM
I am already at (well, beyond) all reasonable time limits on what I put into this forum.  Any chance I could persuade someone to write up a daily summary of the show M-F to help kick off conversation?
25066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China and the brewing Iranian Crisis on: December 16, 2009, 11:52:03 PM
This could have gone on the Nuclear War thread too , , ,

China and the Brewing Iranian Crisis
PRESSURE CONTINUED TO BUILD in the showdown over Iran’s nuclear program, with the end-of-the-year deadline approaching for international negotiations to yield concrete results or have Iran face U.S.-led sanctions (or possibly military strikes). Attempting to underscore the urgency of the matter for Israel, head of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin claimed Tuesday that Tehran has gathered enough materials in the past year to build a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, conflicting reports have emerged in the past two days about a planned face-to-face meeting of the P-5+1 group of major negotiators — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany. The meeting was allegedly to be held on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Dec. 18 or in Brussels on Dec. 22, but has been replaced with a conference call scheduled for the latter date. Interestingly, all reports agree that the change of plans came at the behest of Chinese diplomats, who have thus far played a neutral role in the negotiations. It is unclear whether the Chinese adjusted the meeting for genuine scheduling reasons or to avoid U.S. demands to adopt sanctions against Iran. With the deadline weeks away and Iranian defiance already fully demonstrated, perhaps Beijing felt it would be doing everyone a favor by deemphasizing a meeting doomed to produce no results.

“China’s interests require that it not incur the wrath of superior outside forces.”
Regardless, the uncertainty raises the subject of China’s involvement in the brewing Iranian crisis. China’s core interests lie in maintaining regime stability and internal security, primarily through a steadily growing economy that keeps its massive population fed and employed. In foreign policy, this interest means promoting international trade that benefits the export-driven Chinese economy, while taking trade-conducive, non-confrontational stances on controversies and developing a wide range of diplomatic partners.

More importantly, China’s interests require that it not incur the wrath of superior outside forces — for instance, the United States — that could deal crushing blows to the economy, whether through trade barriers against Chinese exports or naval power that could threaten critical supply lines of energy and raw materials.

Given these core interests, Beijing’s stance on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and South Asia makes sense. Beijing is content with the current configuration of U.S. forces in the region, as the wars and subsequent surges in Iraq and Afghanistan keep the United States tied down and constrained. Though ultimately the U.S. Navy, not land forces, poses the chief threat against China, the two wars nevertheless ensure that Washington continues the status quo with China rather than create unnecessary distractions for itself. This enables China to focus on managing its growing economy and allaying internal socio-political tensions without the United States breathing down its neck.

The Iranian crisis, however, poses a far less predictable threat than the Afghan surge. Beijing has repeatedly stated that it prefers diplomatic solutions and rejects sanctions and war. The Chinese have maintained this standard line throughout the latter part of 2009 when it became clear that a crisis — including a higher potential for U.S. and Israeli military strikes against Iran — was just around the corner. At the same time, Beijing participated in the latest round of negotiations (initiated by the Obama administration). Beijing has urged Iran to cooperate, and has endorsed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s resolution against Iran’s defiance of nuclear transparency.

In other words, the Chinese are playing it both ways. On one hand, they do not want war — or sanctions stringent enough to trigger war — that would further destabilize the inherently unstable Middle East. This is especially true of the Persian Gulf, the source of most of China’s crude oil. The commerce-threatening nature of any Iranian war would put pressure on China’s energy-hungry economy during an exceedingly inauspicious economic period.

On the other hand, the Chinese are not particularly fond of nuclear proliferation that would also destabilize the region, so they nudge Iran to negotiate. If the United States were to strike a deal with Russia bringing Moscow into a gasoline sanctions regime against Iran, then China would not make itself conspicuous (or anger the United States) by resisting. At present, however, the United States has not met Russia’s demands, and Russia has refused to join in sanctions. Therefore, China cannot be blamed for dashing Washington’s efforts. Beijing can claim there is no international consensus and continue to call for further dialogue.

The Chinese position is to gauge which way the wind is blowing and only then set off in that direction. It will not go out on a limb for Iran, nor will it do so for Israel or the United States. China is watching and waiting — a tactic it shares with Iran, the United States and Russia. The Israelis alone find the situation increasingly unbearable — and yet the Israelis have a guarantee from the United States to do something about Iran. There can be no doubt that a crisis is building.
25067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 16, 2009, 12:40:04 PM
IMHO he never lived up to some key campaign promises, but ever since he lost on his initiatives (e.g. redistricting, challenging state union power, were 2 REALLY good and important ones) he has been utterly pussywhipped by his wife's crowd and his disease to please them.  He IS a Democrat.    No respect left from me.
25068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Proof! We went into the Iraq for oil! on: December 16, 2009, 09:29:49 AM
Oilman Bush went into Iraq for the oil!  Here's proof!

====================

Iraq's oil auction hits the jackpot

Russia and China were the big winners in the latest auction of Iraq's oil rights, as was the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; United States companies were conspicuous by their absence. If the oil starts to flow as now promised, the next few years should see the rise of a relatively wealthy, Shi'ite-controlled Iraq, friendly with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Does this make Maliki the new Saddam Hussein? - Pepe Escobar (Dec 15, '09)

 
Surprises aplenty in  selloff
The impression that the West would renew its dominance of the Iraqi oil extraction industry has been shattered with the latest auction of oil rights, with Russia's Lukoil leading the winning bids. Other successful parties include interests from as far afield as Malaysia and Angola. - Robert M Cutler (Dec 15, '09)
 
25069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Small Arms Treaty on: December 16, 2009, 09:22:23 AM
I'm not familiar with the group that sent me this missive, but this matter of end-running our Second Amendment via an international treaty has been bandied about before and apparently is now gaining traction.

=======================
Dear fellow patriot,

With willing one-world accomplices in Washington, D.C., gun-grabbers around the globe believe they have it made.

In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just announced the Obama Administration would be working hand in glove with the UN to pass a new “Small Arms Treaty.”

Disguised as legislation to help in the fight against “terrorism,” “insurgency” and “international crime syndicates,” the UN Small Arms Treaty is nothing more than a massive, GLOBAL gun control scheme.

Ultimately, the UN’s Small Arms Treaty is designed to register, ban and CONFISCATE firearms owned by private citizens like YOU.

That’s why it’s vital you sign the special petition I’ve made up for your signature that DEMANDS your U.S. Senators vote AGAINST ratification of the UN’s “Small Arms Treaty!”

So far, the gun-grabbers have successfully kept the exact wording of their new scheme under wraps.

But looking at previous versions of the UN “Small Arms Treaty,” you and I can get a good idea of what’s likely in the works.

If passed by the UN and ratified by the U.S. Senate, the UN “Small Arms Treaty” would almost certainly FORCE national governments to:

*** Enact tougher licensing requirements, making law-abiding citizens cut through even more bureaucratic red tape just to own a firearm legally;

*** CONFISCATE and DESTROY ALL “unauthorized” civilian firearms (all firearms owned by the government are excluded, of course);

*** BAN the trade, sale and private ownership of ALL semi-automatic weapons;

*** Create an INTERNATIONAL gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun CONFISCATION.
So please click here to sign the petition to your U.S. Senators before it’s too late!

You see, this is NOT a fight we can afford to lose.

Ever since it’s founding almost 65 years ago, the United Nations has been hell-bent on bringing the United States to its knees.

To the petty dictators and one-worlders who control the UN, the U.S. isn’t a “shining city on a hill” -- it’s an affront to their grand totalitarian designs for the globe.

These anti-gun globalists know that so long as Americans remain free to make our own decisions without being bossed around by big government bureaucrats, they’ll NEVER be able to seize the worldwide oppressive power they crave.

And the UN’s apologists also know the most effective way to finally strip you and me of ALL our freedoms would be to DESTROY our gun rights.

That’s why it’s vital you act TODAY!

The truth is, there’s no time to waste.

You and I have to be prepared for this fight to move FAST.

The fact is, the last thing the gun-grabbers in the U.N. and in Washington, D.C. want is for you and me to have time to react and mobilize gun owners to defeat this radical legislation.

They’ve made that mistake before, and we’ve made them pay, defeating EVERY attempt to ram the “Treaty on Small Arms” into law since the mid-1990s.

But this time, time won’t be on our side.

In fact, we’re likely to only have a few days or weeks to defeat the treaty.

Worse, there’s no longer any pro-gun Republican Senate to kill ratification of the treaty.

There’s no longer any Republican in the White House who has stated opposition to the treaty.

And you and I know good and well how Germany, Great Britain, France, Communist China or the rest of the anti-gun members of the United Nations are going to vote.

So our ONE AND ONLY CHANCE of stopping the UN’s “Small Arms Treaty” is during the ratification process in the U.S. Senate.

As you know, it takes 67 Senate votes to ratify a treaty.

With 40 Republicans, that should be easy, right?

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, you know just as well as I do that not all the remaining Republicans in the Senate are “pro-gun” in any sense of the term.

Second, even with the partisan rancor in Washington, D.C., many GOP Senators get “queasy” about killing treaties for fear of “embarrassing” the President -- especially with “international prestige” at stake.

They look at ratifying treaties much like approving Presidents’ Supreme Court nominees.

And remember, there were NINE Republicans who voted to confirm anti-gun Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

A dozen more GOP Senators only voted against Sotomayor after receiving massive grassroots pressure from the folks back home.

So if we’re going to defeat the UN’s “Small Arms Treaty” we have to turn the heat up on the U.S. Senate now before it’s too late!

That’s exactly where this petition comes in.

So won’t you click here to sign IMMEDIATELY?

And also, if you can, I hope you’ll agree to make a generous contribution of $200, $150, $100 or even just $35.

With your generous contribution, I’ll immediately begin contacting Second Amendment supporters through mail, phones and e-mail to turn up the heat on targeted U.S. Senators.

Tops on the list are the “usual suspects” like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lindsay Graham and the rest of the weak-kneed Republicans in the Senate whose votes we can never count on.

I also want to begin contacting gun owners in states represented by key Democrats -- like Senators John Tester and Max Baucus of Montana, Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

And finally, I’ve designed a “special” hard-hitting program especially for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to let Nevada gun owners know exactly what he and his anti-gun pals have planned for you and me.

Facing a tough reelection in 2010, Senator Reid knows he’s already skating on thin ice with Nevada voters.

So you and I could end up putting the final nail in his political coffin -- if I can pull out all the stops.

Direct mail.  Phones.  E-mail.  Blogs.  Billboards.  Guest editorials.  Press conferences.  Hard-hitting newspaper, radio and TV ads.  The whole nine yards.

Of course, if I can raise enough resources, my goal is to expand this full program to ALL our target states.

But that’s not going to be cheap, and we may not have much time.

In fact, if we’re going to defeat the UN’s so-called “Small Arms Treaty,” we have to start NOW!

So please click here to sign the petition to your U.S. Senators.

And if you possibly can, please agree to make a contribution of $200, $150, $100, or even just $35.

Every petition and every dollar count in this fight.

So please sign the petition and include your most generous contribution of $200, $150, $100 or $35 TODAY.

In Liberty,

Dudley Brown
Executive Director
National Association for Gun Rights

P.S.  The Obama Administration just announced they would be working hand in glove with the UN to pass a new GLOBAL, “Small Arms Treaty.”
25070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Washington, 1796 on: December 16, 2009, 07:28:50 AM
"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Washington, 1796
25071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / an enemy vision of heaven on: December 16, 2009, 06:32:27 AM
second post of the day

Sent this by a friend in India:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ohbFuTEDes&NR=1
 
The video in urdu, shows pictures of heaven, with rivers of milk and beautiful maidens. Pix are from the compound of Baitullah Mehsud, where they train individuals to blow themselves up, or to perform jihad. These are shown to 15-17 year old's to induce them to embrace the 72 virgins...
25072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jihad.com on: December 16, 2009, 06:24:54 AM
www.jihad.com
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: December 15, 2009

Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the “Virtual Afghanistan” now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West. Whatever surge we do in the real Afghanistan has no chance of being a self-sustaining success, unless there is a parallel surge — by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders — against those who promote violent jihadism on the ground in Muslim lands and online in the Virtual Afghanistan.

Last week, five men from northern Virginia were arrested in Pakistan, where they went, they told Pakistani police, to join the jihad against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They first made contact with two extremist organizations in Pakistan by e-mail in August. As The Washington Post reported on Sunday: “ ‘Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online,’ a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official said. ... ‘Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the Internet,’ said Evan Kohlmann, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites.”

The Obama team is fond of citing how many “allies” we have in the Afghan coalition. Sorry, but we don’t need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas, which, thanks to the Virtual Afghanistan, are now being spread farther than ever before.

Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things — namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims — “infidels,” who do not submit to Muslim authority — but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most “legitimacy” in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups, telling them: “We’ll arrest if you do it to us, but if you leave us alone and do it elsewhere, no problem.”

How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few. Where was the outrage last week when, on the very day that Iraq’s Parliament agreed on a formula to hold free and fair multiparty elections — unprecedented in Iraq’s modern history — five explosions set off by suicide bombers hit ministries, a university and Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts, killing at least 127 people and wounding more than 400, many of them kids?

Not only was there no meaningful condemnation emerging from the Muslim world — which was primarily focused on resisting Switzerland’s ban on new mosque minarets — there was barely a peep coming out of Washington. President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did.

“What Muslims were talking about last week were the minarets of Switzerland, not the killings of people in Iraq or Pakistan,” noted Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. “People look for red herrings when they don’t want to look inward, when they don’t want to summon the moral courage to produce the counter-fatwa that would say: stabilizing Iraq is an Islamic duty and bringing peace to Afghanistan is part of the survival of the Islamic umma,” or community.

So please tell me, how are we supposed to help build something decent and self-sustaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan when jihadists murder other Muslims by the dozens and no one really calls them out?

A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.

Arab and Muslims are not just objects. They are subjects. They aspire to, are able to and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world. If we want a peaceful, tolerant region more than they do, they will hold our coats while we fight, and they will hold their tongues against their worst extremists. They will lose, and we will lose — here and there, in the real Afghanistan and in the Virtual Afghanistan.
25073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: December 15, 2009, 10:05:50 PM
The plot thickens!  The game is afoot Watson!
25074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda CBS at work on: December 15, 2009, 07:03:42 PM


http://newsbusters.org/blogs/kyle-drennen/2009/12/14/cbs-anti-muslim-propaganda-blame-u-s-homegrown-terrorism
25075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Venezuela-Iran on: December 15, 2009, 01:44:54 PM
Here's one from the Department of We Are The World: Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the U.N.'s climate summit in Copenhagen. Say what you will about these two gentlemen—the support for terrorists, the Holocaust denial, the suppression of civil liberties—at least nobody can accuse them of being global warming "deniers."

On the contrary, the two leaders, who met in Caracas last month for at least the 11th time, have been nothing if not cooperative when it comes to environmentally friendly and carbon-neutral technologies. Bicycles, for instance: In 2005, Chávez directed his government to "follow seriously the project of manufacturing Iranian bicycles in Venezuela." An Iranian dairy products plant (no doubt ecologically sensitive) also set up shop hard on the Colombian border, in territory controlled by Colombia's terrorist FARC.

Ahmadinejad and Chávez: A new document sheds light on this radioactive relationship.

Then there was the tractor factory Iran built in Ciudad Bolivar. In January, the Associated Press reported that Turkish authorities had seized 22 containers going to Venezuela from Iran labeled "tractor parts." What they contained, according to one Turkish official, "was enough to set up an explosives lab."

But perhaps the most interesting Iranian venture is a supposed gold mine not far from Angel Falls, in a remote area known as the Roraima Basin. The basin straddles Venezuela's border with neighboring Guyana, where a Canadian company, U308, thinks it has found the "geological look-alike" to Canada's Athabasca Basin. The Athabasca, the company's Web site adds, "is the world's largest resource of uranium."

In 2006, Chávez publicly mocked suspicions of nuclear cooperation with Iran, saying it "shows they have no limit in their capacity to invent lies." In September, however, Rodolfo Sanz, Venezuela's minister of basic industries, acknowledged that "Iran is helping us with geophysical aerial probes and geochemical analyses" in its search for uranium.

The official basis for this cooperation seems to be a Nov. 14, 2008 memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' ministers of science and technology and given to me by a credible foreign intelligence source. "The two parties agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear technology," reads the Spanish version of the document, which also makes mention of the "peaceful use of alternative energies." Days later, the Venezuelan government submitted a paper to the International Atomic Energy Agency on the "Introduction of a Nuclear Power Programme." (Online readers can see the memoranda for themselves in their Farsi and Spanish versions. One mystery: The Farsi version makes no mention of nuclear cooperation.)

Iran would certainly require large and reliable supplies of uranium if it is going to enrich the nuclear fuel in 10 separate plants—an ambition Ahmadinejad spelled out last month. It would also require an extensive financial and logistical infrastructure network in Venezuela, not to mention unusually good political connections. All this it has in spades.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Mary O'Grady: Revolutionary Anti-Semitism
Robert M. Morgenthau: The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
Warren Kozak: The Missiles of October
.Consider financing. In January 2008, the Bank of International Development opened its doors for business in Caracas. At the top of its list of its directors, all of whom are Iranian, is one Tahmasb Mazaheri, former governor of the central bank of Iran. As it turns out, the bank is a subsidiary of the Export Development Bank of Iran, which in October 2008 was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for providing "financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics."

Or consider logistics. For nearly three years, Venezuelan airline ConViasa has been flying an Airbus 340 to Damascus and Tehran. Neither city is a typical Venezuelan tourist destination, to say the least. What goes into the cargo hold of that big plane is an interesting question. Also interesting is that in October 2008 the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also sanctioned by Treasury, announced it had established a direct shipping route to Venezuela.

Finally, there are the political connections. What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela's military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

Forty-seven years ago, Americans woke up to the fact that a distant power could threaten us much closer to home. Perhaps it's time Camelot 2.0 take note that we are now on course for a replay.
25076  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: Iran-Venezuela on: December 15, 2009, 01:43:22 PM
Here's one from the Department of We Are The World: Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the U.N.'s climate summit in Copenhagen. Say what you will about these two gentlemen—the support for terrorists, the Holocaust denial, the suppression of civil liberties—at least nobody can accuse them of being global warming "deniers."

On the contrary, the two leaders, who met in Caracas last month for at least the 11th time, have been nothing if not cooperative when it comes to environmentally friendly and carbon-neutral technologies. Bicycles, for instance: In 2005, Chávez directed his government to "follow seriously the project of manufacturing Iranian bicycles in Venezuela." An Iranian dairy products plant (no doubt ecologically sensitive) also set up shop hard on the Colombian border, in territory controlled by Colombia's terrorist FARC.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 
Ahmadinejad and Chávez: A new document sheds light on this radioactive relationship.
.Then there was the tractor factory Iran built in Ciudad Bolivar. In January, the Associated Press reported that Turkish authorities had seized 22 containers going to Venezuela from Iran labeled "tractor parts." What they contained, according to one Turkish official, "was enough to set up an explosives lab."

But perhaps the most interesting Iranian venture is a supposed gold mine not far from Angel Falls, in a remote area known as the Roraima Basin. The basin straddles Venezuela's border with neighboring Guyana, where a Canadian company, U308, thinks it has found the "geological look-alike" to Canada's Athabasca Basin. The Athabasca, the company's Web site adds, "is the world's largest resource of uranium."

In 2006, Chávez publicly mocked suspicions of nuclear cooperation with Iran, saying it "shows they have no limit in their capacity to invent lies." In September, however, Rodolfo Sanz, Venezuela's minister of basic industries, acknowledged that "Iran is helping us with geophysical aerial probes and geochemical analyses" in its search for uranium.

The official basis for this cooperation seems to be a Nov. 14, 2008 memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' ministers of science and technology and given to me by a credible foreign intelligence source. "The two parties agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear technology," reads the Spanish version of the document, which also makes mention of the "peaceful use of alternative energies." Days later, the Venezuelan government submitted a paper to the International Atomic Energy Agency on the "Introduction of a Nuclear Power Programme." (Online readers can see the memoranda for themselves in their Farsi and Spanish versions. One mystery: The Farsi version makes no mention of nuclear cooperation.)

Iran would certainly require large and reliable supplies of uranium if it is going to enrich the nuclear fuel in 10 separate plants—an ambition Ahmadinejad spelled out last month. It would also require an extensive financial and logistical infrastructure network in Venezuela, not to mention unusually good political connections. All this it has in spades.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Mary O'Grady: Revolutionary Anti-Semitism
Robert M. Morgenthau: The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
Warren Kozak: The Missiles of October
.Consider financing. In January 2008, the Bank of International Development opened its doors for business in Caracas. At the top of its list of its directors, all of whom are Iranian, is one Tahmasb Mazaheri, former governor of the central bank of Iran. As it turns out, the bank is a subsidiary of the Export Development Bank of Iran, which in October 2008 was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for providing "financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics."

Or consider logistics. For nearly three years, Venezuelan airline ConViasa has been flying an Airbus 340 to Damascus and Tehran. Neither city is a typical Venezuelan tourist destination, to say the least. What goes into the cargo hold of that big plane is an interesting question. Also interesting is that in October 2008 the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also sanctioned by Treasury, announced it had established a direct shipping route to Venezuela.

Finally, there are the political connections. What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela's military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

Forty-seven years ago, Americans woke up to the fact that a distant power could threaten us much closer to home. Perhaps it's time Camelot 2.0 take note that we are now on course for a replay.
25077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: December 15, 2009, 01:28:10 PM
Dear Marc,

If you think our representatives in Washington, DC are disregarding the will of the people now, wait until you see what President Obama will try to pull off in Copenhagen this week.

You see, the very thing the U.S. Senate refuses to do here at home - mandate a costly cap and trade energy tax system in the name of saving the world -- President Obama is telling the world at the Copenhagen Climate Summit that he can do it on his own through the Environmental Protection Agency. Even though that would be "taxation without representation," the President must believe that his noble intentions can override the rules of our constitutional system.

So, this week, as the Obama administration prepares to sign an international agreement that our own Senate would likely never ratify, we're running a full page ad in the COP15Post, the go-to English language paper of the Copenhagen Summit, with this simple reminder:

In America, "We the People" govern, and without our approval through our Senators, President Obama has no constitutional authority to bind the United States to any international agreement whatsoever.

It's so basic a Constitutional fact that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) recently wrote in a letter to President Obama: "As you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country."1

Take a look at our ad by clicking the image below.




While other governments represented in Copenhagen may be able to ignore the will of their people, that's not how it works in America.

And to demonstrate how "we the people" govern in America, we're giving you and every American Solutions member an opportunity to sign your name onto the ad. You can do that by going here.

With a small dona tion of $5 or more to help pay for the ad, your name will be added to it.

If anyone is able to make a donation of $200 or more, we will make sure your signature is much more prominent, like John Hancock's on the Declaration of Independence. We will limit this to the first ten people to make such a donation.

Please add your name right away.   

Thanks for helping us send the message that "We the People" govern in America.

Sincerely,

Vince Haley
Vice President for Policy
American Solutions

1Senator Webb Letter to the White House, November 25, 2009.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Paid for by American Solutions for Winning the Future. Not authorized by any candidate, or candidate committee. Not printed at government expense. www.AmericanSolutions.com

To unsubscribe from future mailings, click here: info@americansolutions.com?subject=unsubscribe
25078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslims at West Point on: December 15, 2009, 11:00:50 AM
Muslims at West Point
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8409270.stm
25079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bruce Schneier on: December 15, 2009, 08:23:42 AM
      Eric Schmidt on Privacy



Schmidt said:

     I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't
     want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first
     place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is
     that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this
     information for some time and it's important, for example, that we
     are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is
     possible that all that information could be made available to the
     authorities.

This, from 2006, is my response:

     Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're
     doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

     We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We
     are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private
     places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals,
     sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret
     lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

     [...]

     For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under
     threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our
     own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes,
     constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future
     -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us,
     by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private
     and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything
     we do is observable and recordable.

     [...]

     This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from
     us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam
     Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive
     eye into our personal, private lives.

     Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus
     privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny,
     whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under
     constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny.
     Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus
     privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of
     a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even
     when we have nothing to hide.

Schmidt's remarks:
http://gawker.com/5419271/google-ceo-secrets-are-for-filthy-people

My essay on the value of privacy:
http://www.schneier.com/essay-114.html

See also Daniel Solove's "'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other
Misunderstandings of Privacy."
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565
25080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The vast left wing conspiracy: BO's friends, appts, and running dogs on: December 14, 2009, 08:50:10 PM
We'll see how long this stays out of the memory hole.  No doubt we can count on the Pravdas to keep track of this developing story.
25081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: December 14, 2009, 08:35:56 PM
 cool cool cool
25082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 14, 2009, 01:16:31 PM
Second post of the day

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2009/10/11/
25083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And yet more lies and fraud on: December 14, 2009, 12:09:31 PM
Second entry of the morning

WSJ

=============

ObamaCare's core promise—better quality care for everyone at lower costs—is being exposed as an illusion as it degenerates into the raw exercise of political power. Naturally, the White House and its media booster club are working furiously to prop up this fiasco, especially on cost control.

As Obama budget director Peter Orszag put it at a revealing media breakfast earlier this month, the Senate bill does everything the experts recommend to "get at the underlying drivers of health-care costs." While he admitted that "we don't know enough" to produce results right away, the key is to encourage "continuous improvement" through pilot programs and demonstration projects. Cost containment will actually take "years to decades," Mr. Orszag conceded.

The torch was then passed to Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic Monthly, David Leonhardt of the New York Times and editorial writers for the New England Journal of Medicine, among others. Last week the New Yorker ran a 5,000-word apologia from Atul Gawande, who likewise owned up to the fact that there is "no master plan for dealing with the problem of soaring medical costs," only "a battery of small scale experiments." Keep in mind, this is an argument in favor of ObamaCare.

They might have piped up earlier: What they're finally admitting is that all the grandiose talk about "bending the curve" used for months to sell ObamaCare really comes down to their hope that bureaucratic improvisation will make a difference over the long term. Yet the liabilities of the greatest social spending program in American history will be added to the budget almost immediately, and what happens if Mr. Orszag's technocratic revolution doesn't work as promised? Or rather, when it doesn't?

Forgotten in ObamaCare's march-to-the-sea campaign is that during the transition and early on, the White House was divided on whether to pursue health reform at all. Opponents included Larry Summers, worried about the economy and deficits, and David Axelrod, worried about the politics. Another faction led by Tom Daschle preached from the conventional social-equity church of liberalism.

Mr. Orszag proposed another option, citing academic research observing that as much as 30% of health spending is "waste" that doesn't affect outcomes. He argued the country could save $700 billion a year without harming quality—more than enough to pay for universal coverage.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Peter Orszag.
.Thus cost control migrated from Orszag theory to free political lunch. Mr. Gawande wrote an influential New Yorker essay on the topic in June, and the theme shaped both the case for a new entitlement and especially the appeal to potential opponents in business.

But then Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf testified in July that "the curve is being raised," given that ObamaCare lacks "the sort of fundamental changes" necessary to tamp down costs. Meanwhile, it became clear that Mr. Orszag's favored research was always more nuanced and qualified than his pose of papal infallibility. One of his main gurus, Jonathan Skinner, mused recently that "the key lesson" from a new study challenging some of his findings "is how little we know about the science of health-care delivery."

Well, sure. A field as dynamic and innovative as U.S. medicine, in which costs are largely driven by new technologies and better ways of caring for patients, is rife with complexities and uncertainties. But no one bothered to strike that note of caution when Washington was hopped up on a cost-control gambit that was too painless to be true.

The new cost-control apologists concede that there isn't any actual plan for controlling costs: Throw enough speculative policies against the wall, they say, and some breakthrough will stick. Yet Mr. Orszag's no-less-confident predecessors spent decades trying to pull down Medicare spending with little to no success. Technocracy rarely if ever works as intended. Mr. Gawande points to the case study of U.S. farm policy, and if politically sacrosanct agriculture subsidies and rural price-supports are the best to hope for, then what's the worst?

More relevant examples include Medicare's "relative value" payment scale, which was designed in 1985 by the Harvard economist William Hsiao to encourage more primary care. That's this year's rallying cry too. "Diagnosis-related groups" were introduced into Medicare in 1983 to alleviate hospital cost growth, and what a monumental success that turned out to be. With only brief periods of relatively slower growth, nominal Medicare spending has risen on average at an annual rate of 9.6% since 1980. Over the same period total Medicare spending has grown 13-fold, climbing from 1.2% of the economy to 3.2% today.

Congress lacks the stomach for serious cost control in any case. One policy Mr. Orszag favors—Medicare penalties for hospitals that re-admit certain patients—is limited to only three conditions in the Senate bill, and the penalties are trivial.

Another—a putatively independent commission that is supposed to enforce cost cutting—is barred from going after costs incurred by doctors and hospitals, which leaves out more than half of Medicare spending. Earlier this year Mr. Orszag got into a heated debate with Henry Waxman over such a commission at a dinner party hosted by Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, precisely because the House baron enjoys the political power that flows from controlling health spending.

Even if Mr. Orszag's Princeton and Yale Ph.D.s really do cook up some hope-and-a-prayer savings plan, it will invariably offend one constituency or another and Congress will block it. Thereupon the political class will do what it always does when costs run over: Tighten price controls across the board, before moving on to denying patient access to costly treatments that will be defined as "wasteful." That is, ration care.

"Basically everything that has been put forward in health policy discussions for a decade is in this bill," Mr. Orszag said on a conference call shortly before Thanksgiving. He then asked critics pointedly: "What specifically else would you do?"

Hmmm. One liberal sage noted in a 2007 paper that "four decades of empirical research" have shown that insulating people through third-party insurance coverage "from the full cost of health care has been responsible for anywhere from 10% to 50% of the large increase in health expenditures." Ultimately, he concluded, increasing cost-sharing would give individuals a direct stake in more prudent purchasing, as opposed to today's invisible health dollars that vanish as more expensive premiums, foregone wages and higher taxes.

Those are the words of Jason Furman, now the White House deputy economic director who seems to have been put into witness protection. Every serious health economist in the country recommends reforming the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance, perhaps by converting it to a deduction or credit. Cost control will never stick unless it is extricated from politics and transferred to individuals to make their own trade-offs.

Such reforms were ruled out by union opposition, so the Senate gestures at them with a 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, on the theory that two wrongs will make a right. But this untargeted tax will simply raise the cost of coverage for all workers in a given pool—it's too clever by 40%—while doing nothing to stem the distortions from first-dollar, third-party insurance.

No doubt there are efficiencies to be had in health care, and maybe Mr. Orszag has even identified some of them. But all of his bright ideas could be taken for a whirl without adding trillions of new liabilities to the federal balance sheet. And the bad faith of the White House and its acolytes is breathtaking.

The White House hawked a permanent entitlement expansion on flimsy and speculative theories that its own partisans now admit—albeit when it is nearly too late—aren't more substantive than the triumph of hope over experience, while simultaneously writing off the one policy that has been effective in the real world. The cost control mantra of ObamaCare was always a political bill of goods, and its result will be the opposite of its claims: poorer quality care at higher costs.


25084  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto on BL, WC, etc on: December 14, 2009, 12:01:26 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxr0s1zCyl8&feature=sub
25085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: More accounting fraud on: December 14, 2009, 11:41:15 AM
By SCOTT HARRINGTON
The public is growing wary of the cost of ObamaCare. Yet there is one budget-busting provision that hasn't received the attention it deserves: a new long-term care entitlement.

Known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or Class Act, this entitlement is in both the House and Senate bills and was a top priority of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. It would provide at least $50 a day toward home or institutional care, equipment and supplies, or home improvements to assist the daily living of those who are enrolled. It is also a significant part of the reason that Democrats claim that ObamaCare is fiscally responsible, but this turns out to be a short-term budget ruse.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the House and Senate health-care bills will reduce federal deficits over the next 10 years by $138 billion and $130 billion, respectively. The lion's share of the savings, $101.6 billion and $72.5 billion, would be realized by the long-term care program.

How can a new entitlement reduce deficits? With budget accounting, the program will pile up more revenues than its costs. But only in the short run. In the long run, it will blow a hole in the federal budget.

Private long-term care insurance works like other insurance policies. Those who buy policies pay premiums over a prolonged period of time. The premiums pay for the benefits they may eventually receive and cover the benefits for those who need immediate care.

To make sure that a premium paid today can pay for a benefit promised for tomorrow, an insurer determines the amount it will need for future benefits, marks that amount as a liability, and puts aside funds to pay for it. An insurer also creates an additional pool of capital to act as a buffer, just in case.

That isn't how the Class Act would work. The House and Senate bills stipulate that premiums would be calculated to cover benefit payments over a 75-year horizon without federal subsidies. And the bills do authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services to adjust premiums and benefits to maintain solvency. But CBO and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have identified parts of the program that will subject it to considerable financial risk.

First, those who enroll would likely be more apt to need care and will be more expensive to cover than those who buy private insurance. To cover its costs, the program would have to charge more than private insurers.

On Friday, CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster said in a memo on the (less costly) Senate version of the program that premiums would be set so high they would discourage healthier people from buying in. As the healthy stayed on the sidelines, the program would have to charge more to those who did enroll. This in turn would price more people out of the program, risking what the memo called an "insurance death spiral."

Mr. Foster does project the program will lower the federal deficit in its first decade (by $39 billion and $38 billion for the House and Senate bills respectively, much less than the CBO estimates). But neither CMS nor the CBO include in their 10-year projections the program's future liabilities. Of course, that's exactly when the government will have to make good on its promises, putting pressure on the federal budget. Why? Because unlike private insurance, the program won't invest its early surpluses.

Instead the program will hand over its revenues to the feds, who will promptly spend it. In return, the program's administrators would receive federal IOUs, just as Medicare and Social Security do. But these are nothing more than liabilities that have to be repaid, either by taxes or borrowing.

Under the House bill, CBO projects that the entitlement would bring in $123 billion in premiums from 2010-2019 and pay out only $20 billion in benefits. CBO also projects that the Senate's version would generate $88 billion in premiums and $14 billion in benefits.

But in a letter late last month to Sen. Tom Harkin, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf explained that while the Class Act would likely reduce federal budget deficits during 2020-2029, it would do so "by smaller amounts than in the initial decade."

By the third decade, CBO says the program would pay more in benefits than it received in premiums and what it saved Medicaid (which currently pays for long-term care for millions of elderly). Mr. Elmendorf concludes that "the programs would add to budget deficits in the third decade—and in succeeding decades—by amounts on the order of tens of billions of dollars for each 10-year period." These long-term demands on the Treasury would coincide with shortfalls in Medicare and Social Security projected to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Sen. Kennedy notwithstanding, it is hard not to conclude that a major motivation for the Class Act is to make ObamaCare look fiscally better over CBO's official 10-year budget horizon. Without the new long-term care program, CBO's projected deficit reductions for the House and Senate bills would be $36 billion and $58 billion, respectively, rather than $138 billion and $130 billion. This makes the overall Democratic reform look fiscally more responsible than it really is. The real danger comes after 10 years, when the long-term care program will increase deficits and create even greater pressure for government rationing of medical care.

Mr. Harrington is professor of health-care management and insurance and risk management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

25086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Pak supply line to Afg on: December 14, 2009, 11:17:22 AM
Pakistan: The Supply Line Dilemma
Stratfor Today » December 14, 2009 | 1310 GMT

Summary

Rumors have been circulating that the Obama administration will approve
unilateral military action deeper into Pakistani territory beyond the tribal
belt. A potential backlash to such a strategy is the disruption of already
vulnerable U.S. and NATO supply lines running through Pakistan.

With U.S. President Barack Obama's revised Afghan strategy now under way,
rumors have been spreading rapidly in both Washington and Islamabad that the
Obama administration will approve drone strikes and other types of
unilateral U.S. military action deeper into Pakistani territory beyond the
tribal belt. These discussions are indeed taking place, but U.S. officials
are also taking a hard look at the potential backlash of such a strategy -
particularly, the threat to already-vulnerable U.S. and NATO supply lines
running through Pakistan.

The primary mission that Obama has assigned to U.S. Central Command is to
neutralize al Qaeda - a mission that encompasses pursuing high-value
jihadist targets in the region, knocking the momentum out of the Taliban
insurgency and training Afghan security forces to help shoulder the
counterterrorism burden. Obama has also articulated a plan to initiate a
drawdown of forces from the region as early as the summer of 2011, depending
on conditions on the ground. That means that the United States needs
results, and has a strategic need to see those results sooner rather than
later.

This is an extremely worrying prospect for Pakistan. To escape pressure from
U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has shifted its safe-havens to
the tribal areas in Pakistan's rugged northwest periphery with the help of
select Taliban allies. If a large part of the U.S. mission is to defeat al
Qaeda, then the United States can be expected to have very little regard for
the Durand Line that divides the Pashtun lands between Afghanistan and
Pakistan.

The CIA and U.S. Special Forces already have a track record in carrying out
covert, cross-border activity in Pakistan, ranging from human intelligence
operations to unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against high-value targets,
such as Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) leader Baitullah Mehsud. These operations
cause Pakistan extraordinary unease, and to add insult to injury, the drones
fly out of bases in Pakistan itself. In June 2008, a U.S. airstrike targeted
a Pakistani paramilitary checkpoint in Mohmand Agency in the northwestern
tribal area, which the Pakistani military continues to believe was
deliberate targeting by their supposed ally. The United States crossed a
line with Islamabad, however, in September 2008 when it went beyond the
tribal belt and launched its most overt full-scale raid against high-value
Taliban and al Qaeda targets hiding out in a town in South Waziristan. That
attack ended up killing 20 people and sparked a public backlash, as
Pakistani citizens charged the government and military with selling out
Pakistan's national sovereignty to Washington.

Pakistan decided at that point that it would have to resort to the one tool
that gives Islamabad enormous leverage over Washington: control over U.S.
and NATO supply lines. The United States currently depends almost
exclusively on Pakistan to transport mostly non-lethal supplies (such as
food, fuel and building materials) for troops fighting the war in
Afghanistan. This may not be the safest route, but Pakistan does offer the
shortest and most logistically viable supply lines into landlocked
Afghanistan. The Pakistani supply lines originate in Karachi and then split
into two separate routes. The longer and more commonly-used northern route
passes through Sindh, Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Khyber Pass to the
Torkham border crossing into central and northern Afghanistan. The shorter,
southern route passes through Sindh to the Balochistan-Chaman border
crossing into southern Afghanistan.



(click here for STRATFOR Interactive map on attacks targeting U.S.-NATO
supply lines)

Following the September 2008 U.S. operation in South Waziristan, U.S. and
NATO logistics teams ran into trouble at the port of Karachi. Within several
days of the strike, Pakistani authorities suddenly demanded that the
logistics teams would have to fill out all their paperwork in Urdu, and that
it would be up to Pakistani authorities to determine whether their Urdu was
up to Pakistani standards to allow supplies to pass through. The disruption
lasted a few days. This was essentially Pakistan's way of signaling to the
United States that it was not going to tolerate unilateral U.S. military
action in Pakistan and that the consequences of such action would be a
supply cut-off to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has since caused sporadic disruptions to the supply lines, usually
by citing security concerns and closing the border crossings at Torkham and
Chaman for days at a time. And though Pakistan has been battling its own
jihadist insurgency for several years now, militant attacks on the supply
lines only picked up at the end of 2008 when U.S.-Pakistani tensions were
running particularly high following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. This
phenomenon has been discussed among officials in New Delhi and Washington,
though no evidence has been presented to demonstrate a direct link between
the sudden uptick in attacks and an increase of U.S. pressure on Pakistan.
Pakistan-based jihadists have their own incentive to wreak havoc on
U.S./NATO supply lines into Afghanistan, but Pakistan's murky militant
landscape could also provide the Pakistani military and intelligence
services with the means to disrupt the supply lines should the political
need arise.


Now that the United States is pursuing a more aggressive posture in
targeting high-value militants on Pakistani soil, the Pakistani military and
government have an even greater strategic incentive to hold U.S./NATO supply
lines hostage. Pakistan and the United States cannot agree to disagree on
their definitions of "good" versus "bad" Taliban. While Pakistan is serious
about pursuing TTP militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani state,
it does not want to incur the backlash of pursuing those militants and
allies of al Qaeda whose focus is on Afghanistan, most notably the Haqqani
network and Hafiz Gul Bahadir in North Waziristan, Maulvi Nazir in South
Waziristan, and the Mullah Omar-led group of Afghan Taliban in the Pashtun
belt of Balochistan. Pakistan's intelligence services have a delicate
network of alliances to maintain within each of these networks, and from
Islamabad's point of view, strikes by U.S. Hellfire missiles do not
particularly help in this regard.

Pakistan is particularly concerned about the United States going beyond the
tribal areas and pursuing militants closer to the Pakistani core. While the
Pakistani public has become more or less tolerant of drone strikes in FATA,
the idea of a U.S. drone going after Mullah Omar in Balochistan province is
another matter entirely. FATA is an autonomous region, where the writ of the
Pakistani state does not reach very far. Balochistan, in spite of its own
separatist tendencies, is still an integral piece of the Pakistani state.
The public backlash from the September 2008 attack in South Waziristan was
notable - to the point where even the Pakistani army chief gave orders to
Pakistani forces to fire on U.S. drones - but U.S. military operations in
Balochistan would trigger a much more intense and violent response.

And then there is the issue of Punjab - the Pakistani heartland - where the
population, military, industry and agriculture are concentrated. Several TTP
attacks in the past week have taken place in Punjab, with the most recent
suicide attack against an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) facility in
Multan. Though the Pakistani Taliban has nowhere near the support network in
Punjab than it has in the Pashtun-dominated northwestern tribal badlands,
these attacks are spreading fears that the TTP has activated a preexisting
social support network of radical Islamists in southern Punjab. The last
thing the Pakistani military wants is to be drawn into military operations
in the Pakistani core, but the Pakistani military cannot afford to see U.S.
operations expand to Punjab. Such a possibility, though remote, would cause
a major crisis of confidence within an already embattled military, whose
loss of internal coherence would pose a direct threat to the survival of the
state.

The United States is thus caught in a dilemma. On one hand, it's on a tight
timeline to achieve results in defeating al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan
so that it can move on to other pressing issues beyond South Asia. On the
other hand, the means that the United States would use in defeating al Qaeda
run a good chance of seriously destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed ally
whose cooperation is essential to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

The United States has begun tackling this dilemma by depriving Pakistan of
at least some of the leverage it holds through the supply lines. Washington
has been in negotiations with Moscow for roughly a year to develop a
supplemental supply line through the former Soviet Union, and is now at a
point where the two are working on the details of an agreement to transport
U.S. and NATO supplies from the Latvian port of Riga through Russia and into
Afghanistan. This is one of several alternate routes, but any route through
the Central Asian states or through Ukraine and Romania would still require
the White House to deal with the Kremlin, a lesson the United States learned
the hard way. The supplemental supply routes through the former Soviet Union
cannot replace the routes through Pakistan, and are resting on an extremely
shaky political foundation. After all, Russia is more than happy to make
Washington more dependent on Moscow for its mission in Afghanistan since the
Kremlin would then have the ability to cut the supply line whenever
U.S.-Russian political negotiations go south.

Even as plans are in the works for a supplemental supply line through the
former Soviet Union, Washington knows there is still no going around
Pakistan. Between a raging jihadist insurgency, an economy in turmoil and a
government on the verge of collapse, Pakistan is already under a great deal
of pressure. An increase in U.S. military operations on Pakistani soil going
beyond the tribal badlands could well be the final straw. The United States
is thus in a quandary: How does it achieve its goals on the western
periphery of Pakistan without creating anarchy in its core? Pakistani
authorities are now tasked with making the United States understand just how
fragile their situation is, and if those appeals don't work, Pakistan's
alternate plan will likely be to hold U.S./NATO supply lines hostage.
25087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Whole Food Republicans on: December 14, 2009, 11:05:13 AM
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I think this piece makes some very good points.
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By MICHAEL J. PETRILLI
The Republican Party is resurgent—or so goes the conventional wisdom. With its gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, an energized "tea party" base, and an administration overreaching on health care, climate change and spending, 2010 could shape up to be 1994 all over again.

Maybe. The political landscape sure looks greener than it did a year ago, when talk of a permanent Democratic majority was omnipresent. But before John Boehner starts measuring the drapes in the Speaker's office, or the party exults about its possibilities in 2012, it's worth noting that some of the key trends driving President Barack Obama's strong victory in 2008 haven't disappeared. Republicans need to address them head-on if they want to lead a majority party again.

There are the depressing numbers on young voters (two-thirds of whom voted for Mr. Obama), African-Americans and Latinos (95% and 67% went blue respectively). But these groups have voted Democratic for decades, and their strong turnout in 2008's historic election wasn't replicated this fall, nor is it likely to be replicated again.

The voting patterns of the college-educated is another story. This is a group that, slowly but surely, is growing larger every year. About 30% of Americans 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree; in 1988 that number was only 20% and in 1968 it was 10%.

As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here's the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s.

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David Gothard
 .Some in the GOP see this trend as an opportunity rather than a problem. Let the Democrats have the Starbucks set, goes the thinking, and we'll grab working-class families. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, for instance, wants to embrace "Sam's Club" Republicans. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee pitched himself in 2008 as the guy who "looks like your co-worker, not your boss." Even Mitt Romney blasted "Eastern elites." And of course there's Sarah Palin, whose entire brand is anti-intellectual.

To be sure, playing to personal identity is hardly novel, nor is it crazy. Bill Bishop and other political analysts have noted that people's politics are as much about their lifestyle choices as their policy positions. Republicans live in exurbs and small towns, drive pick-up trucks or SUVs, go to church every Sunday, and listen to country music. Well-heeled Democrats live in cities and close-in suburbs, drive hybrids or Volvos, hang out at bookshops, and frequent farmers' markets. These are stereotypes, of course, but they also contain some truth.

Widening this cultural divide has long been part of the GOP playbook, going back to Nixon's attacks on "East Coast intellectuals" and forward to candidate Obama's arugula-eating tendencies. But with the white working class shrinking and the educated "creative class" growing, playing the populism card looks like a strategy of subtraction rather than addition. A more enlightened approach would be to go after college-educated voters, to make the GOP safe for smarties again.

What's needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate "Whole Foods Republicans"—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)

What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There's no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation.

So how to woo these voters to the Republican column? The first step is to stop denigrating intelligence and education. President George W. Bush's bantering about being a "C" student may have enamored "the man in the street," but it surely discouraged more than a few "A" students from feeling like part of the team.

The same is true for Mrs. Palin's inability to name a single newspaper she reads. If the GOP doesn't want to be branded the "Party of Stupid," it could stand to nominate more people who can speak eloquently on complicated policy matters.

Even more important is the party's message on divisive social issues. When some Republicans use homophobic language, express thinly disguised contempt toward immigrants, or ridicule heartfelt concerns for the environment, they affront the values of the educated class. And they lose votes they otherwise ought to win.

The races in Virginia and New Jersey show what can happen when the GOP sticks to its core economic message instead of playing wedge politics. Both Republican candidates won majorities of college-educated voters. Their approach attracted Sam's Club Republicans and Whole Foods Republicans alike.

It's good news that America is becoming better educated, more inclusive, and more concerned about the environment. The Republican Party can either catch this wave, or watch its historic opportunity for "resurgence" wash away with the tides.

Mr. Petrilli is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a frequenter of the Whole Foods Market in Silver Spring, Md.

25088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Roger Scruton on: December 14, 2009, 10:45:08 AM
"The USA has descended from its special position as the principled guardian of Western civilization and joined the club of sentimentalists who have until now depended on American power. In the administration of President Obama we see the very same totalitarian sentimentality that has been at work in Europe, and which has replaced civil society with the state, the family with the adoption agency, work with welfare, and patriotic duty with universal 'rights.' The lesson of postwar Europe is that it is easy to flaunt compassion, but harder to bear the cost of it. Far preferable to the hard life in which disciplined teaching, costly charity, and responsible attachment are the ruling principles is the life of sentimental display, in which others are encouraged to admire you for virtues you do not possess. This life of phony compassion is a life of transferred costs. Liberals who wax lyrical on the sufferings of the poor do not, on the whole, give their time and money to helping those less fortunate than themselves. On the contrary, they campaign for the state to assume the burden. The inevitable result of their sentimental approach to suffering is the expansion of the state and the increase in its power both to tax us and to control our lives. As the state takes charge of our needs, and relieves people of the burdens that should rightly be theirs -- the burdens that come from charity and neighborliness -- serious feeling retreats. In place of it comes an aggressive sentimentality that seeks to dominate the public square. I call this sentimentality 'totalitarian' since -- like totalitarian government -- it seeks out opposition and carefully extinguishes it, in all the places where opposition might form. Its goal is to 'solve' our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the 'victims,' who have a 'right' to state support. The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity, with the new and intransigent problems fostered by the state...." --columnist Roger Scruton
25089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Patriot Post Brief on: December 14, 2009, 10:38:54 AM
Brief · Monday, December 14, 2009

The Foundation
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson

Liberty
"I reread ['Atlas Shrugged'] recently and was stunned. It was as if [Ayn] Rand had seen the future. Writing half a century ago, she predicted today's explosion of big government in shockingly accurate detail. The 'Preservation of Livelihood Law.' The 'Equalization of Opportunity Law.' The 'Steel Unification Plan.' Don't these sound like laws passed by the current Congress? All were creations of Rand's villain, Wesley Mouch, the evil bureaucrat who regulates business and eventually drives the productive people out of business. Who is today's Wesley Mouch? Barney Frank? Chris Dodd. Tim Geithner? ... 'Atlas' is still a big bestseller today. This year, it reached as high as NO. 15 on Amazon's bestseller list. Pretty amazing. Clearly there's some magic in 'Atlas Shrugged.' The Library of Congress once asked readers which books made the biggest difference in their lives. 'Atlas' came in second, after the Bible. ... The embrace of freer markets has lifted more people out of the misery of poverty than any other system -- ever. The World Bank says that in just the last 30 years, half a billion people who once lived on less than $1.25 a day have moved out of poverty. But now, Wesley Mouch -- I mean, Congress and the bureaucrats -- tell us they are going to 'fix' capitalism, as if their previous 'fixes' didn't hamstring the free market and create the problems they propose to solve. Who are they kidding? Rand had it right. She learned it the hard way in Soviet Russia. What makes a country work is leaving people free -- free to take risks, to invent things -- and to keep the rewards of their work. Critics say Ayn Rand promotes selfishness. I call it 'enlightened self interest.' When free people act in their own self-interest, society prospers." --columnist John Stossel

Insight
"The [U.S.] Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals ... it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government ... it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen's protection against the government." --author and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

Bill of Rights Anniversary
Tomorrow, Dec. 15, is the 218th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke's 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of "property" (in the Latin context, proprius, or one's own "life, liberty and estate"); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state's Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is, Patriots should remain vigilant in the fight for our rights.
25090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH editorial on: December 14, 2009, 09:19:15 AM
An exhibit in the legal reasoning of liberal fascism from todays Pravda on the Hudson-- the New York Times:
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A New York State appellate court has misguidedly put a roadblock in the way of Columbia University’s expansion plans, ruling that the state misused eminent domain to help Columbia assemble the land it needs. This decision conflicts with the relevant law and will make it much harder for the university to move ahead with a project that would benefit the surrounding neighborhood and the entire city.

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Times Topics: Columbia University | Eminent DomainColumbia is outgrowing its Morningside Heights campus and is planning a major expansion north into West Harlem that would include school buildings, laboratories and publicly accessible open space. It would allow the school to better pursue its important missions of education and research. It would also provide the community with jobs and amenities, including widened, pedestrian-friendly streets and space for local artists.

To secure enough land, the university is relying in part on the Empire State Development Corporation’s eminent domain power, compelling holdout commercial property owners to sell. Several of the holdouts sued, arguing that the use of eminent domain was illegal.

In a weakly reasoned decision, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court agreed, by a 3-to-2 vote. The majority took the peculiar position that there is no civic purpose behind Columbia’s decision to expand.

The decision is completely out of step with eminent domain law, including a recent 6-to-1 decision from the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. That court ruled that Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, a commercial development, can use eminent domain to secure land to build new housing and a basketball arena for the Nets. That was the right decision, and the case for Columbia is even stronger.

The civic purpose in the Columbia expansion is clear, given the contributions it would make to education, the job market and community life. The Empire State Development Corporation also made a thoroughly defensible decision that eminent domain was appropriate given the blighted condition of the land at issue, between 125th and 133rd Streets near the Hudson River.

The university says it intends to move forward on a center for interdisciplinary neuroscience, which would be built on land it already owns. But it is regrettable that much of the project is now stalled. The Court of Appeals should hear the case on an expedited schedule and reverse the Appellate Division’s ruling.
25091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: December 14, 2009, 08:57:42 AM
BBG et al:

Please break down for me in SUPER simplistic terms the case for and against the meliting glaciers line of thought:

Thank you,
Marc
25092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Noah Webster, 1787 on: December 14, 2009, 08:37:58 AM
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States." --Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787
25093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 13, 2009, 05:23:28 PM
Oil drilling equipment. From North Korea? Pull the other one, Sergei.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/world/asia/14thai.html?hp
December 14, 2009

Crew of Detained Plane Denies Knowledge of Arms

By THOMAS FULLER and NICE POJANAMESBAANSTIT

BANGKOK — In their first interview since being detained by Thai authorities, the crew of a cargo aircraft traveling from North Korea said Sunday that they did not know they had been transporting an arsenal of rockets, grenade launchers and other unidentified weapons weighing at least 30 tons.

“They said it was oil drilling equipment,” said Viktor Abdullayev, the plane’s co-pilot. “That’s what the manager told us,” he said referring to his employer, a civilian cargo company from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Officials in Thailand did little over the weekend to shed light on the perplexing seizure of the aircraft, offering only rudimentary details about the plane, its crew and its cargo.

The five-man crew is to be charged in court Monday with possession of weapons of war, in a case that may shed light on the shadowy business of global arms trafficking — and in North Korea’s role, in particular.

Thai authorities said the weapons were seized after a tip from American officials, and said the shipment appeared to violate a United Nations arms embargo but did not provide a detailed accounting of the armaments, which will undergo a more thorough inspection Tuesday.

Thailand was acting, it said, under United Nations Resolution 1874, which was passed in June in response to nuclear tests in North Korea. The resolution is effectively an arms embargo covering the transport of heavy weaponry to and from North Korea. Such weapons sales are one of the few ways the country has been able to earn foreign currency.

The resolution, which builds on a previous resolution from 2006, calls on countries to “inspect and destroy” certain categories of weapons bound to or from North Korea, including large-caliber artillery, missiles and missile spare parts.

No major seizures of weapons have been made public since the passage of the resolution. This summer, the United States Navy tracked a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying banned cargo for about three weeks, and the ship eventually turned back to its home port without incident.

Speaking in rudimentary English, Mr. Abdullayev and his colleagues said they started their current mission in Ukraine, picked up cargo in North Korea and were traveling back to Ukraine via Thailand, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates. They declined to say in which of those locations the cargo was meant to be delivered.

Mr. Abdullayev, who said he was from Kazakhstan, said it never occurred to him to inquire about the cargo. “I have no interest in what I carry,” he said. “Like a truck driver: just keep driving.”

Panitan Wattanayagorn, the Thai government spokesman, said in an interview that the aircraft, a Russian-made Ilyushin 76, which is registered in Georgia, had come through Bangkok twice — both on the way and during the return trip from North Korea. The aircraft was searched on the return journey after Thai authorities were tipped off by American officials that the aircraft might be carrying weapons. The crew was detained and the cargo confiscated but not immediately. The crew had enough time to buy six large bottles of beer at a duty-free shop, which were confiscated from them in the detention center where they are now being kept.

Mr. Panitan denied reports that the Friday stopover in Bangkok was an emergency landing.

“It was a scheduled landing to refuel the plane,” Mr. Panitan said.

Analysts have questioned why an aircraft carrying an illicit payload would land and refuel at an airfield in Bangkok — Don Muang airport — that is also used by the Thai military. The choice of Thailand as a refueling station is also peculiar considering the country’s close military ties with the United States.

“There’s much more to this story than what has been made public so far,” said Bertil Lintner, an author who has written extensively on North Korea. “Why would you refuel in Thailand?” If the aircraft had landed in neighboring Myanmar, which is ruled by generals friendly to the North Korean regime, “there would have been no problem,” Mr. Lintner said.

Among the many theories discussed on Thai Web sites and in the media here is that the Ilyushin was forced to land by the Thai air force as it crossed Thai airspace. In the interview the crew said they had landed in Bangkok to refuel.

Further details may emerge in the coming days as the cargo is examined and the crew members appear in court. The weapons have been transported to an air force base in central Thailand and will be more closely analyzed by experts on Tuesday, Mr. Panitan said.

Four of the crew members were from Kazakhstan, including the captain, Ilyas Issakov, Mr. Abdullayev, Alexandr Zrybney and Vtaliy Shurmnov, all co-pilots. Mikhail Prtkhou, a fourth co-pilot is from Belarus.

Mr. Issakov, the captain, said he had traveled to Thailand before for both business and pleasure.

All five men have been barred from making phone calls or reading newspapers. During the interview in a detention center late Sunday, Mr. Abdullayev requested help from a reporter to obtain a clothes iron because he said he wanted to appear presentable in court.
25094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Learning from the Soviets on: December 13, 2009, 05:20:42 PM
I rarely read, still less often quote from Pravda Newspeak, yet this article seems thoughtful.
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Learning From the Soviets
By Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova | NEWSWEEK
Published Dec 11, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Dec 21, 2009
Talk to Russian veterans of Afghanistan and it's hard not to think that they're rooting for the U.S. to lose. For these proud men, seeing NATO succeed at a job they botched would deepen the humiliation of defeat. Easier to affirm that if the Soviets couldn't win there, no one can. "We did not succeed and you will not either," says Gen. Victor Yermakov, who commanded Soviet forces in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1983. "They didn't trust us. They won't trust you." Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, who served in Afghanistan under the occupation and has just completed a four-year term as Russia's envoy in the country, is no more optimistic. "We tried to impose communism. You are trying to impose democracy," he says. "There is no mistake made by the Soviet Union that the international community has not repeated."


Such unrelenting bearishness is hardly encouraging, and there are undeniably echoes of the Soviet experience in President Barack Obama's new Afghan surge. Obama is doubling down on his attempt to do what no foreign power ever has: defeat an Afghan insurgency and leave behind a stable and legitimate local regime. The Soviets' misadventures in Afghanistan—begun 30 years ago this Christmas Eve—faced many similar challenges: managing tribal politics, stemming support for insurgents from over the border in Pakistan, creating a credible government in Kabul and viable local security forces, and containing civilian casualties. Yet the differences are equally profound, and they suggest that America may just manage to succeed where Russia failed—in part by learning from its own and the Soviets' mistakes.




Moscow's troubles in Afghanistan started nearly the moment the war began, with a deluge of international condemnation far stronger than the Soviet leaders ever expected. The U.S. imposed trade sanctions and boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Obama today finds himself in a very different position. The NATO campaign enjoys wide international support—including from Russia, in spirit at least.
But the most important difference between then and now is that the Taliban isn't backed by a superpower supplying it with money and deadly weapons. That makes it a far less formidable enemy than the mujahedin of the 1980s, who were enthusiastically supported and armed by the U.S. and Pakistan. Washington suspects, with reason, that many of the old insurgents still fighting today—notably Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani—are getting covert support from elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. But even if that's true, the ISI's current involvement is nothing like that of the old days, not least because Pakistan's civilian government officially opposes the Taliban and had even made sporadic attempts to fight it. A generation ago, Stinger missiles, supplied to the rebels in large numbers after 1986 thanks to a campaign by U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, effectively robbed the Soviets of their air superiority. Today's Taliban has no such technological advantage, and few friends. As a result, "the Americans are in a much better position than we ever were," says Yuri Krupnov, director of Russia's Institute of Regional Development, which promotes Russian-Afghan ties. "This will not be a second Vietnam."
Another reason he's probably right is that NATO is proving better at learning from Moscow's mistakes than the Soviets were. Take civilian casualties. Initial military victory came almost effortlessly for both the Soviets and NATO. But both powers soon stepped on the same rake: losing hearts and minds by accidentally hitting civilian targets. Yermakov recalls ordering his troops to mine the irrigation channels around the town of Gardez in 1983. Many dushmany (a pejorative local term for the mujahedin) were blown up, but so were channels essential for local farmers. "At one point our aviation destroyed half of Kandahar because somebody did not get the right instructions," says Alexander Shkirando, a fluent Pashto and Farsi speaker who spent 10 years in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a political and military adviser. NATO has made similar blunders—notably two bombings of wedding parties in Kunduz and Uruzgan—but on nothing like the same scale. The exact number of Afghan civilian casualties during the Soviet campaign is hard to come by, but estimates range from 700,000 to more than a million. According to the United Nations, combined civilian deaths directly and indirectly caused by the latest war range from 12,000 to 30,000.
The Americans have been careful to avoid the wanton brutality of the Soviets not only on the battlefield but in their treatment of prisoners too. Even before U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal commissioned a review earlier this year, the Abu Ghraib scandal of 2004 led to an improvement in the treatment of detainees at the U.S. interrogation camp at Bagram. And as dire as conditions at Bagram may have been, they were nothing compared with the abuse committed by the Soviets' proxy force of Afghan secret police, who murdered at least 27,000 political prisoners at their notorious detention center at Pul-e-Charkhi. Russians like to compare the Soviet and U.S. occupations: Krupnov asks, "Who is more imperialist, the Soviets or the Americans?" In reality, however, there's a world of difference in the two armies' behavior.
The Soviets tried a surge of their own in 1984–85, boosting troop levels to 118,000 to clear rebel areas like the lower Panjshir Valley and the strategic road to Khost. But it didn't work. The mujahedin would "melt away like mist," recalls Paulius Purickis, an ethnic Lithuanian draftee who served as a sergeant. "We were never able to engage them in a head-on battle," he says. General McChrystal hopes to avoid that problem with the extra troops being made available to him, which will allow him to "clear and hold" whole provinces, with small forward posts used to befriend and gather intelligence from locals.
The Soviets also tried to win hearts and minds, of course. But they left that job to the KGB, with dismal results. Today, rather than run a network of secret torture centers as the Soviets' proxy Mohammad Najibullah did, President Hamid Karzai has set himself up as a defender of the rights of Afghans detained in U.S.-run prisons, something that plays well with the population.
The Soviets also bungled the process of building relations with tribal leaders. Vasily Kravtsov spent 12 years in Afghanistan, rising to become the ranking KGB officer in Kandahar responsible for establishing an Afghan security and intelligence service in the area. Pashtun tribal politics were Kravtsov's specialty, and the bane of his life. The problem was, in part, a communist agenda to enlighten the Afghans by replacing religious schools with secular ones and to undermine the authority of local mullahs. "We made stupid ideological mistakes," says Gen. Ruslan Aushev, one of the most decorated Russian commanders of the Afghan war. "We told the Muslim people that religion was the opium of the masses!" U.S. officials have tried to be more culturally sensitive: as McChrystal put it in a recently leaked report, the American military is shifting away from "an excessively defensive posture to enable the troops to engage with the Afghan people."
Perhaps the closest parallel—and the area with the most lessons for Washington today—is in how to shore up the local government. And here again there is reason for optimism. Moscow's puppet Najibullah was weak and unpopular and ended up hanging from a lamppost soon after his patrons went home. Karzai is also little loved. But for all his troubles, he's in a far better position than his predecessor, for despite electoral gerrymandering and allegations of corruption, Karzai is still more popular than any other politician in the country.
That's a huge asset, for getting local government right is probably the ultimate key to success or failure. To do that, Washington should probably make a point of ignoring the Russians' advice. Today Russian veterans insist that the main reason for their failure was their attempt to impose a foreign mindset on an age-old system of tribal alliances: "Forget your ideas of bringing democracy there," says Yermakov. But communism wasn't the real problem, and neither is democracy. Indeed, democracy may be the solution. Najibullah's government fell not because it was secular and socialist but because it disintegrated under the twin evils of tribalism and corruption. Moscow grafted a veneer of communism onto a narrow, repressive, and widely hated Pashtun tribal clique that was no match for the mujahedin. This suggests that the key today is to support a government that's as inclusive, democratic, and accountable as possible. That means doing everything in Washington's power to get Karzai to clean up his act. The United States, with its rapid adaptation, has already shown it is in better shape than any previous invader to win the Afghan war on the ground. The challenge now is to also avoid repeating Russia's mistakes on the way out—and to become the first foreign force to leave Afghanistan in better shape than it found it.
Find this article at
http://www.newsweek.com/id/226412
© 2009
25095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sudan on: December 13, 2009, 02:38:23 PM
In his Oslo address Thursday, President Obama mulled the trade-offs in dealing with repressive regimes. "There's no simple formula here," he said. "But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time."

From Nobel theory, we move to practice in Sudan. As a candidate, Mr. Obama stood with the human rights champions of Darfur and pledged tougher sanctions and a possible no-fly zone if a Sudanese regime infamous for genocide didn't shape up. His tone has changed in office.

Unveiled in October, the Administration's Sudan policy emphasized carrots for the regime to ease up in Darfur and implement a peace deal in southern Sudan; any sticks were relegated to a secret annex. The President's special envoy to Sudan, retired Major General Scott Gration, was reluctant even to allude to tougher sanctions. He said that "cookies" and "gold stars" are preferable to threats and that Darfur was experiencing only "remnants of genocide."

President Omar al-Bashir, whose Islamist National Congress Party took power in a 1989 coup, got the message and decided to test the limits of this new indulgence. Almost immediately the regime hardened its stance on implementing the peace accord. Brokered by the Bush Administration in 2005, the deal calls for political reforms, including free parliamentary elections now scheduled for April, and a referendum on independence for the south in two years. Long before the ethnic cleansing in Darfur turned into a Hollywood cause célèbre, a two-decade war between the Muslim north and the Christian and oil-rich south took two million lives.

On Monday, police in the capital Khartoum beat and arrested opposition leaders who were pressing parliament to adopt the necessary laws to hold the April elections. Time is running out to pass them. The Bashir regime now refuses to overhaul the national security and criminal laws as also stipulated in the 2005 deal. Its recalcitrance means the election and referendum, assuming both come off, would be tainted. This could in turn end up restarting the civil war.

At the same time, the preference for diplomacy over pressure has encouraged the hard men in Khartoum to stoke the flames in Darfur, ignoring an arms embargo and challenging the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force there.

In the man-bites-dog story of the year, the U.N. last week took the Obama Administration to task over its lax efforts to enforce the arms embargo, while praising the Bush Administration. "In contrast to that leadership of 2004 and 2005, the United States appears to have now joined the group of influential states who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions protect Darfurians," Enrico Carisch, who was the top U.N. investigator of violations of the arms embargo until October, said in written testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa.

The Sudanese aren't even the hardest of cases. Concerted American pressure forced this regime to cut ties with al Qaeda in the 1990s, end aerial bombing and support for slave-hunting militias in the south and accept the 2005 peace deal.

Mr. Obama can summon up tough rhetoric. "Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy—but there must be consequences when those things fail," he said in Oslo. But the world's rogues might be forgiven for missing the nuances. So far, they've seen only the engaging side of this American President.
25096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Meir Dagan on: December 13, 2009, 02:28:52 PM
Newspeak is often quite a Pravda, even in this article there are whiffs of it, but the article seems interesting to me nonetheless.

====================

Iran’s Worst Enemy
Israel's top spymaster will stop at nothing to prevent a nuclear Iran. Even at the expense of other threats.
By Ronen Bergman | NEWSWEEK 

Published Dec 12, 2009

From the magazine issue dated Dec 21, 2009

Even among Israel's tough security chiefs, Meir Dagan has always been known for his raw nerve. As a military trainee he would wander around the base during his off hours flinging a knife at trees and telephone poles like a circus entertainer, one fellow soldier recalls. He earned one of his first decorations as a young commando in Gaza, for snatching a live grenade from the hands of an enemy fighter. Long-haired and confident, Dagan would sometimes bring his pet Doberman, Paco, along on raids. His propensity for solving problems by force continued even after he retired from the military. He was leading a task force on terrorist financing in 2001 when his men told him they had discovered a European bank being used to channel money from Iran to Hamas. "We have the address, no?" Dagan asked his intel officers, according to a participant in the meeting, who asked not to be named for fear of angering Dagan. "Burn it down!" The horrified intelligence officers stalked out of the room in protest. (Dagan declined any comment for this story.)

Soon afterward Dagan was brought in to rejuvenate the Mossad, Israel's storied foreign intelligence serv-ice. Eight years later, after a string of covert successes attributed to the agency, he has become the country's longest-serving and most influential spy chief. His men revere him (an affection that does not extend to all their bosses, according to a recent internal survey cited by Mossad sources); even Israel's civilian leaders heed his strategic advice. But critics say his influence has been achieved at a cost: Dagan, 64, has systematically reoriented the Mossad to focus almost exclusively on what he (and most Israelis) see as the dominant threat to the country—Iran. He views almost all of Israel's national-security challenges through that prism.

 
The Israeli government's single-minded focus on Tehran has caused friction with the Obama administration, which is seeking to engage Iran and to promote a deal with the Palestinians. Publicly there is no rift: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program diplomatically, as long as harsh sanctions are imposed if no progress is shown. But the threat of a unilateral Israeli attack remains on the table—and while that threat may give the Americans leverage in talks with Tehran, an actual attack might well invite Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia.

Dagan is not arguing for a quick strike. In fact, he recently pushed back to 2014 his estimate of the date when the Islamic Republic might have the means to build and launch nuclear weapons. But his uncompromising focus on Iran at the least reinforces Netanyahu's hawkish bent. One French intelligence officer, who didn't want to be identified discussing internal Israeli politics, describes Dagan as a "tailwind" carrying Netanyahu toward military action.

As the Iranian threat has grown and Israel's political leaders have been damaged by scandal and the 2006 war with Hizbullah in Lebanon, Dagan has become one of the most powerful figures in the country. He was appointed by then–prime minister Ariel Sharon after a period of retrenchment for the Mossad, and has done much to restore the agency's reputation for ruthless efficiency. His men are considered responsible for two of the Jewish state's highest-profile recent successes: the assassination of the notorious Hizbullah mastermind Imad Mugniyah in Damascus last year, and the discovery of a key piece of intelligence that led to the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor that fall. When news leaked out this September that intel agencies had discovered a previously unknown uranium--enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Qum, Dagan's men quietly got the credit, although it was the Americans who made the announcement. Netanyahu occasionally travels to Dagan's office for briefings, rather than the other way around. (A Netanyahu spokesman also declined to comment.)

That kind of favoritism has irked rivals in Israel's intel establishment. They argue that his focus on Iran has led to a diversion of resources from more immediate threats. "Why is Iran more dangerous than Syria?" asks one Military Intelligence officer, who did not want to be identified criticizing Dagan. "[Syria] has an enormous army on Israel's border, and chemical weapons that could destroy this country." Some Israeli strategists argue that Damascus should be more aggressively courted, in an effort to encourage President Bashar al-Assad to sever his ties to Tehran. Dagan, on the other hand, holds that peace talks with Assad's regime are a waste of time as long as Iran remains Syria's dominant partner.

Dagan's powerful persona may be overcompensation for an early life marked by danger and deprivation. He was born in 1945 on the floor of a freezing freight car making its way from Siberia to Poland. His family, whose name was originally Huberman, fled to Israel when he was 5, on a ship that nearly sank in a storm. Meir stood on the deck wearing a life vest and gripping an orange, convinced that he was not long for this world.

Dagan dropped out of high school to try out for the Israeli military's prestigious commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, but didn't make the cut. (At Military Intelligence headquarters they complain that Dagan still nurses resentment over the slight.) Dagan eventually enlisted in an armor unit, where his sense of the existential dangers to his country only grew. "We suddenly found ourselves in a constant series of wars," he recalled to a journalist in 1999.

In 1970 Sharon, then head of the Israeli military's Southern Command, tapped the 25-year-old Dagan to command a unit of elite special-forces troops operating in the Gaza Strip. On one occasion, according to Israeli press accounts, Dagan and some of his men dressed as Palestinians, entered Gaza on a fishing boat, met with a group of PLO fighters, and killed them all. The unorthodox commando methods of the unit, called Sayeret Rimon, helped reduce terrorist attacks inside Israel significantly, but some of Dagan's men later recounted tales of atrocities: shooting Palestinians in the back and then claiming that they had tried to escape, according to one allegation. Dagan was never charged, however, and he defended himself to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in 1999, insisting that the Rimon years were not a "Wild West period … We never believed that killing women and children was permissible." Still, he added, "orders to open fire were different then. There were fewer restrictions."

At the time, the Mossad was entering its heyday. American spies found the agency's help indispensable during the Cold War. (CIA operatives were astounded when the Israelis managed to procure a Soviet MiG-21 for inspection in the mid-1960s.) By the early 1970s, when Palestinian terrorist organizations became the Mossad's biggest challenge, the agency had acquired a reputation for deadly proficiency; its operatives eliminated PLO fighters around the world, including several of those responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

But the agency's influence declined in the 1980s and 1990s as violence flared inside the occupied territories (which are the responsibility of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic-security service, and the military). When then–Mossad chief Danny Yatom ordered an assassination attempt in 1997—sending operatives to Amman to inject a lethal poison into the ear of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal—the plot went badly awry and the director was forced to resign. Yatom's successor, Efraim Halevy, tolerated few risks. European and American spies began complaining that the Israelis no longer had much to offer on the international intel exchange. Although the agency's budget is a state secret, a source in the Finance Ministry says funding in the Halevy years fell by about 25 percent.

Dagan brought his flamethrower approach to the Mossad in 2001, shortly after the second intifada erupted. Dagan had worked on Sharon's campaign the previous year, but the prime minister wasn't just showing gratitude: he wanted an antidote to the timid directors of the 1990s. Dagan had plenty of military experience but had never served in the Mossad, making it easier to shake the place up. He quickly upended the organization internally and began tangling with Israel's other intelligence agencies.

His approach earned him enemies. In the intelligence world the first and toughest fight is always the battle over budgets. Dagan competes for scarce resources and influence with Israel's Military Intelligence and Shin Bet, among others. In a brazen power grab, the Mossad director began ordering his subordinates to stonewall the other agencies. Dagan appointed an enforcer code-named "Mr. A," whose job was to frustrate rivals in MI. According to Mossad and MI sources who did not want to be identified discussing interagency frictions, the tension grew so unbearable that MI officers began avoiding Mossad headquarters. They taunted Mr. A by calling him by his real name.

Dagan was also making enemies inside the Mossad. He became known for inspecting field stations without notice and shouting at the agents, "What have you done for me lately?" His tantrums sparked waves of resignations. "Let them go," the director once scoffed, according to a source who spoke to him. "We can start from the beginning." Dagan slashed the Mossad's list of targets, announcing that the agency would dedicate most of its resources to only two threats: Iran and terrorism from abroad—meaning primarily the Iranian-backed groups Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. "The list must be short," he said. "If we continue pretending we can do everything, in the end we won't do anything."

Dagan's single-minded focus quickly began to show results. American and Israeli agents discovered in late 2002 that Iran had been working with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to build an enrichment facility in Natanz. The information was leaked to an Iranian opposition group called the National Council of Resistance, which released it in 2003, causing an international furor. Later, unexplained accidents began plaguing the Iranian nuclear project, delaying the enrichment process. Scientists started disappearing, labs caught on fire, and aircraft connected to the effort mysteriously fell from the sky. Intelligence sources, who declined to be identified discussing covert operations, say Mossad had a hand in several of these incidents. As Dagan's successes multiplied, so did his budget. Now, "whatever we want, we get," says one senior Mossad officer who recently retired but prefers not to speak publicly about the agency.

Yet as Dagan's power base has expanded, some Israelis have begun to worry that the Mossad director has acquired too much political influence. Dagan developed close ties to neoconservative policymakers in the United States during the Bush-Cheney years, and Dagan's critics charge that the Mossad's intelligence estimates are being tailored to fit the director's personal views, just as Bush advisers were accused of "stovepiping" evidence to suit their agenda. In particular, Dagan's hardline position on Syria echoes the warnings of Bush-era neocons that Assad's regime is hopelessly devoted to Tehran. A European intelligence officer who was stationed in Israel several years ago recalls the Mossad boss trashing colleagues who argued for engaging Damascus. "I was under the impression that he felt like he reflected White House policy," the intelligence officer says.

That said, Dagan's dark view of the Iran threat is widely shared. German, French, and British intelligence agencies all sided with him when he disputed the CIA's 2007 National Intelligence Estimate downplaying Tehran's nuclear program. And in Israel, where political influence has always been tied up with military valor, it's not surprising that his voice would be heeded in the circles of power. He was appointed to make the Mossad more aggressive, and has succeeded. What remains to be seen is whether in the long run his aggression will be more dangerous to Israel or to its enemies.

Bergman, senior political and military analyst for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author ofThe Secret War With Iran.
25097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dry Run? De-sensitization? on: December 13, 2009, 01:27:48 PM
 Another Dry Run? United Flight 227 - Dec 10, 2009

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http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/17836

It happened again on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, less than a month after the incident aboard AirTran Flight 297.
United Airlines Flight 227, scheduled to depart Denver International Airport at 1:50 pm Wednesday for Los Angeles was disrupted when several passengers who were described as Middle Eastern in appearance, confirmed by this investigator to be a group of Muslims traveling together, were removed from that aircraft due to suspicious behavior that originated in the terminal and continued to the airplane. Their behavior was consistent in some respects to the behavior of the Muslim passengers aboard AirTran Flight 297 on November 17, 2009 that caused a flurry of controversy over its legitimacy, and the now infamous case of the “Flying Imams” of 2006.



According to information obtained by this investigator, seven men of Middle Eastern appearance, boarded flight 227. Two took their seats in coach, while five took their seats in the first class section of the plane. At a critical pre-flight point, the individuals appeared to act in concert with one another, changing seats and moving stowed luggage to very specific areas of the aircraft, often having to move the stowed bags of other passengers to do so. They disobeyed or otherwise ignored the admonitions of the flight attendants to remain seated.

Their behavior was so overt and so apparently choreographed, according to our sources, that the flight crew demanded the passengers be removed from the aircraft. One report found on 9News in Denver quoted John Sloan, a passenger aboard that flight:

“I have never seen flight attendants so scared in my life. Everything turned out OK, but it was not a very good feeling..”


Following the removal of the passengers, officials brought a bomb-sniffing dogs aboard the aircraft, focusing of the first class section of the plane. Subsequent to the search that found nothing, the offending passengers were removed from the flight and rebooked on another aircraft to their destination. According to federal officials, no criminal investigation is being launched into this incident, which was described as a “customer service” matter.

Early this morning, this investigator spoke to a law enforcement source in Denver who is intimately familiar with the incident. Many details have not been publicly reported about this incident, although it is clear that there is an agenda at play. Based on information obtained from this source and others relating to the previous flights disrupted by the deliberate behavior of Muslim passengers, it is clear that the airline industry, as well as the sensibilities of normal Americans, is under attack through Islamic ideological jihad. Additional information will be provided once our investigation is complete.
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Correlation from a Denver-based news outlet:

http://www.9news.com/news/article.as...8639&catid=222

DENVER - It's not entirely clear why some passengers were removed from a plane at Denver International Airport on Wednesday. United Airlines issued a statement suggesting that the passengers were "re-accommodated" onto another flight.

A spokesperson for the Denver Police Department confirms to 9NEWS that Denver Police officers were called to DIA on Wednesday, but declined to elaborate any further.

Flight 227 left DIA bound for Los Angeles nearly three hours late. It was scheduled to depart at 1:50 p.m., but ended up leaving at 4:32 p.m.
"Our crew followed recognized, industry standard procedures and re-accommodated some passengers on another flight. We are investigating this matter," read a Thursday morning statement from United. A United spokesperson declined to elaborate any further as well.

The United crew apparently noticed certain patterns they are trained to spot. Sources tell NBC News airline employees are trained to look for certain behaviors such as how a ticket is paid for, how often passengers get up to use the restroom, and even who their traveling companions are.

A spokesperson for the FBI, Kathy Wright, confirmed to 9NEWS that federal investigators were originally called to the scene after receiving a call on a "possible suspicious incident." Wright said eventually "we determined that it was not an FBI matter."

Passengers say a bomb-sniffing dog was brought onto the plane and passengers in the first-class cabin we're asked to go back to coach for a brief amount of time according to passengers on the plane.

John Sloan of Oxnard, California, was on board the flight on Wednesday.
"I have never seen flight attendants so scared in my life. Everything turned out OK, but it was not a very good feeling. It would have been nice to have been updated though this process," he told 9NEWS by phone.

Sloan says seven men were escorted off of the plane. Two of them were sitting in coach. The other five were sitting in first-class, he says. All were re-booked onto another flight according to United.

Sloan says the men were attempting to change seats with other passengers. Another passenger, who doesn't want his name used, says the men were also trying to move luggage while the plane was getting ready to push back.

Passengers tell 9NEWS all of the men looked to be "Middle Eastern," but United will not confirm the identity of the seven men.

Nothing criminal was found, and the flight was allowed to continue on to California.

Passengers also tell 9NEWS that former head coach of the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan, was seated in first class while this was all going on. Shanahan could not be reached for comment, and a spokesperson for the former coach simply told 9NEWS that he was "out of town."

There have been no arrests and investigators say there is no criminal investigation in connection to the incident.

If you have any information about what happened on Flight 227 on Thursday, please e-mail us at chris.vanderveen@9news.com.

(Copyright KUSA*TV, All Rights Reserved)
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http://www.nationalterroralert.com/u...ys-flight-297/


" A similar thing happened recently at the Pershing Square station in downtown LA. I was with one of my best friends waiting for the subway back to Union Station when a group of about 10 Middle Eastern men came onto the platform. I just thought they were going to a Mosque somewhere or another religious event. They all had backpacks and my friend thought they may be tourists. Well anyway, the subway came and the police did a routine sweep of the cars and we were waiting to board. I kept looking at the men and they were all splitting up from each other and going into different subway cars. I suddenly got very nervous and pulled my friend back out of the subway car. I didn’t explain but said we had to get out of there. I took a picture of the men as we rushed out of area. Nothing happened of course but I was very nervous thinking it could be a dry run or something. I contacted the LAPD and emailed them the picture I took of the men, I never heard anything back. I just found it funny that these men all walked down to the subway together, stood and talked to one another, and then split up into all different cars when it came time to board the subway."
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25098  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pre-order form on: December 13, 2009, 11:21:15 AM
Pre-order form!

http://dogbrothers.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=39&products_id=151
25099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An opinion piece on: December 13, 2009, 10:14:59 AM
Any comments?
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To Beat Al Qaeda, Look to the East

By SCOTT ATRAN
Published: December 12, 2009

IN testimony last week before Congress, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, insisted that President Obama’s revised war strategy will “build support for the Afghan government,” while Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander there, vowed that it will “absolutely” succeed in disrupting and degrading the Taliban.

Confidence is important, but we also have to recognize that the decision to commit 30,000 more troops to a counterinsurgency effort against a good segment of the Afghan population, with the focus on converting a deeply unpopular and corrupt regime into a unified, centralized state for the first time in that country’s history, is far from a slam dunk. In the worst case, the surge may push General McChrystal’s “core goal of defeating Al Qaeda” further away.

Al Qaeda is already on the ropes globally, with ever-dwindling financial and popular support, and a drastically diminished ability to work with other extremists worldwide, much less command them in major operations. Its lethal agents are being systematically hunted down, while those Muslims whose souls it seeks to save are increasingly revolted by its methods.

Unfortunately, this weakening viral movement may have a new lease on life in Afghanistan and Pakistan because we are pushing the Taliban into its arms. By overestimating the threat from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we are making it a greater threat to Pakistan and the world. Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan are unlike Iraq, the ancient birthplace of central government, or 1960s Vietnam, where a strong state was backing the Communist insurgents. Afghanistan and Pakistan must be dealt with on their own terms.

We’re winning against Al Qaeda and its kin in places where antiterrorism efforts are local and built on an understanding that the ties binding terrorist networks today are more cultural and familial than political. Consider recent events in Southeast Asia.

In September, Indonesian security forces killed Noordin Muhammad Top, then on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted terrorist list. Implicated in the region’s worst suicide bombings — including the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings in Jakarta last July 17 — Noordin Top headed a splinter group of the extremist religious organization Jemaah Islamiyah (he called it Al Qaeda for the Malaysian Archipelago). Research by my colleagues and me, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department, reveals three critical factors in such groups inspired by Al Qaeda, all of which local security forces implicitly grasp but American counterintelligence workers seem to underestimate.

What binds these groups together? First is friendship forged through fighting: the Indonesian volunteers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan styled themselves the Afghan Alumni, and many kept in contact when they returned home after the war. The second is school ties and discipleship: many leading operatives in Southeast Asia come from a handful of religious schools affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah. Out of some 30,000 religious schools in Indonesia, only about 50 have a deadly legacy of producing violent extremists. Third is family ties; as anyone who has watched the opening scene from “The Godfather” knows, weddings can be terrific opportunities for networking and plotting.

Understanding these three aspects of terrorist networking has given law enforcement a leg up on the jihadists. Gen. Tito Karnavian, the leader of the strike team that tracked down Noordin Top, told me that “knowledge of the interconnected networks of Afghan Alumni, kinship and marriage groups was very crucial to uncovering the inner circle of Noordin.”

Consider Noordin Top’s third marriage, which cemented ties to key suspects in the lead-up to the recent hotel bombings. His father-in-law, who founded a Jemaah Islamiyah-related boarding school, stashed explosives in his garden with the aid of another teacher at the school. Using electronic intercepts and tracing family, school and alumni ties, police officers found the cache in late June 2009. That discovery may have prompted Noordin Top to initiate the hotel attacks ahead of a planned simultaneous attack on the residence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, John Jay College and the University of Michigan, is the author of the forthcoming “Listen to the Devil"

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In addition, an Afghan Alumnus and nephew of Noordin Top’s father-in-law was being pursued by the police for his role in a failed plot to blow up a tourist cafe on Sumatra. Unfortunately, Noordin Top struck the hotels before the Indonesian police could penetrate the entire network, in part because another family group was still operating under the police radar. This group included a florist who smuggled the bombs into the hotels and a man whose eventual arrest led to discovery of the plot against the president. Both terrorists were married to sisters of a Yemeni-trained imam who recruited the hotel suicide bombers, and of another brother who had infiltrated Indonesia’s national airline.

Had the police pulled harder on the pieces of social yarn they had in hand, they might have unraveled the hotel plot earlier. Still, their work thwarted attacks planned for the future, including that on the president.
Similarly, security officials in the Philippines have combined intelligence from American and Australian sources with similar tracking efforts to crack down on their terrorist networks, and as a result most extremist groups are either seeking reconciliation with the government — including the deadly Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao — or have devolved into kidnapping-and-extortion gangs with no ideological focus. The separatist Abu Sayyaf Group, once the most feared force in the region, now has no overall spiritual or military leaders, few weapons and only a hundred or so fighters.

So, how does this relate to a strategy against Al Qaeda in the West and in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Al Qaeda’s main focus is harming the United States and Europe, but there hasn’t been a successful attack in these places directly commanded by Osama bin Laden and company since 9/11. The American invasion of Afghanistan devastated Al Qaeda’s core of top personnel and its training camps. In a recent briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. case officer, said that recent history “refutes claims by some heads of the intelligence community that all Islamist plots in the West can be traced back to the Afghan-Pakistani border.” The real threat is homegrown youths who gain inspiration from Osama bin Laden but little else beyond an occasional self-financed spell at a degraded Qaeda-linked training facility.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq encouraged many of these local plots, including the train bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In their aftermaths, European law and security forces stopped plots from coming to fruition by stepping up coordination and tracking links among local extremists, their friends and friends of friends, while also improving relations with young Muslim immigrants through community outreach. Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have taken similar steps.

Now we need to bring this perspective to Afghanistan and Pakistan — one that is smart about cultures, customs and connections. The present policy of focusing on troop strength and drones, and trying to win over people by improving their lives with Western-style aid programs, only continues a long history of foreign involvement and failure. Reading a thousand years of Arab and Muslim history would show little in the way of patterns that would have helped to predict 9/11, but our predicament in Afghanistan rhymes with the past like a limerick.

A key factor helping the Taliban is the moral outrage of the Pashtun tribes against those who deny them autonomy, including a right to bear arms to defend their tribal code, known as Pashtunwali. Its sacred tenets include protecting women’s purity (namus), the right to personal revenge (badal), the sanctity of the guest (melmastia) and sanctuary (nanawateh). Among all Pashtun tribes, inheritance, wealth, social prestige and political status accrue through the father’s line.

This social structure means that there can be no suspicion that the male pedigree (often traceable in lineages spanning centuries) is “corrupted” by doubtful paternity. Thus, revenge for sexual misbehavior (rape, adultery, abduction) warrants killing seven members of the offending group and often the “offending” woman. Yet hospitality trumps vengeance: if a group accepts a guest, all must honor him, even if prior grounds justify revenge. That’s one reason American offers of millions for betraying Osama bin Laden fail.

Afghan hill societies have withstood centuries of would-be conquests by keeping order with Pashtunwali in the absence of central authority. When seemingly intractable conflicts arise, rival parties convene councils, or jirgas, of elders and third parties to seek solutions through consensus.

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After 9/11, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, assembled a council of clerics to judge his claim that Mr. bin Laden was the country’s guest and could not be surrendered. The clerics countered that because a guest should not cause his host problems, Mr. bin Laden should leave. But instead of keeping pressure on the Taliban to resolve the issue in ways they could live with, the United States ridiculed their deliberation and bombed them into a closer alliance with Al Qaeda. Pakistani Pashtuns then offered to help out their Afghan brethren.

American-sponsored “reconciliation” efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban may be fatally flawed if they include demands that Pashtun hill tribes give up their arms and support a Constitution that values Western-inspired rights and judicial institutions over traditions that have sustained the tribes against all enemies.

THE secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, suggest that victory in Afghanistan is possible if the Taliban who pursue self-interest rather than ideology can be co-opted with material incentives. But as the veteran war reporter Jason Burke of The Observer of London told me: “Today, the logical thing for the Pashtun conservatives is to stop fighting and get rich through narcotics or Western aid, the latter being much lower risk. But many won’t sell out.”

Why? In part because outsiders who ignore local group dynamics tend to ride roughshod over values they don’t grasp. My research with colleagues on group conflict in India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories found that helping to improve lives materially does little to reduce support for violence, and can even increase it if people feel such help compromises their most cherished values.

The original alliance between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was largely one of convenience between a poverty-stricken national movement and a transnational cause that brought it material help. American pressure on Pakistan to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their sanctuary gave birth to the Pakistani Taliban, who forged their own ties to Al Qaeda to fight the Pakistani state.

While some Taliban groups use the rhetoric of global jihad to inspire ranks or enlist foreign fighters, the Pakistani Taliban show no inclination to go after Western interests abroad. Their attacks, which have included at least three assaults near nuclear facilities, warrant concerted action — but in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan. As Mr. Sageman, the former C.I.A. officer, puts it: “There’s no Qaeda in Afghanistan and no Afghans in Qaeda.”

Pakistan has long preferred a policy of “respect for the independence and sentiment of the tribes” that was advised in 1908 by Lord Curzon, the British viceroy of India who established the North-West Frontier Province as a buffer zone to “conciliate and contain” the Pashtun hill tribes. In 1948, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, removed all troops from brigade level up in Waziristan and other tribal areas in a plan aptly called Operation Curzon.

The problem today is that Al Qaeda is prodding the Pakistani Taliban to hit state institutions in the hopes of provoking a full-scale invasion of the tribal areas by the Pakistani Army; the idea is that such an assault would rally the tribes to Al Qaeda’s cause and threaten the state. The United States has been pushing for exactly that sort of potentially disastrous action by Islamabad. But holding to Curzon’s line may still be Pakistan’s best bet. The key in the Afghan-Pakistani area, as in Southeast Asia, is to use local customs and networks to our advantage. Of course, counterterrorism measures are only as effective as local governments that execute them. Afghanistan’s government is corrupt, unpopular and inept.

Besides, there’s really no Taliban central authority to talk to. To be Taliban today means little more than to be a Pashtun tribesman who believes that his fundamental beliefs and customary way of life are threatened. Although most Taliban claim loyalty to Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar, this allegiance varies greatly. Many Pakistani Taliban leaders — including Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by an American drone in August, and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud — rejected Mullah Omar’s call to forgo suicide bombings against Pakistani civilians.

In fact, it is the United States that holds today’s Taliban together. Without us, their deeply divided coalition could well fragment. Taliban resurgence depends on support from those notoriously unruly hill tribes in Pakistan’s border regions, who are unsympathetic to the original Taliban program of homogenizing tribal custom and politics under one rule.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Taliban were to sever ties to Mr. bin Laden if he became a bigger headache to them than America. Al Qaeda may have close relations to the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taliban leader living in Pakistan, and the Shabi Khel branch of the Mehsud tribe in Waziristan, but it isn’t wildly popular with many other Taliban factions and forces.

Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban are interested in their homeland, not ours. Things are different now than before 9/11. The Taliban know how costly Osama bin Laden’s friendship can be. There’s a good chance that enough factions in the loose Taliban coalition would opt to disinvite their troublesome guest if we forget about trying to subdue them or hold their territory. This would unwind the Taliban coalition into a lot of straggling, loosely networked groups that could be eliminated or contained using the lessons learned in Indonesia and elsewhere. This means tracking down family and tribal networks, gaining a better understanding of family ties and intervening only when we see actions by Taliban and other groups to aid Al Qaeda or act outside their region.

To defeat violent extremism in Afghanistan, less may be more — just as it has been elsewhere in Asia.
25100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH on: December 13, 2009, 10:06:41 AM
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Published: December 12, 2009
The government is increasingly monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for tax delinquents, copyright infringers and political protesters. A public interest group has filed a lawsuit to learn more about this monitoring, in the hope of starting a national discussion and modifying privacy laws as necessary for the online era.

Law enforcement is not saying a lot about its social surveillance, but examples keep coming to light. The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that state revenue agents have been searching for tax scofflaws by mining information on MySpace and Facebook. In October, the F.B.I. searched the New York home of a man suspected of helping coordinate protests at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh by sending out messages over Twitter.

In some cases, the government appears to be engaged in deception. The Boston Globe recently quoted a Massachusetts district attorney as saying that some police officers were going undercover on Facebook as part of their investigations.

Wired magazine reported last month that In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, has put money into Visible Technologies, a software company that crawls across blogs, online forums, and open networks like Twitter and YouTube to monitor what is being said.

This month the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law sued the Department of Defense, the C.I.A. and other federal agencies under the Freedom of Information Act to learn more about their use of social networking sites.

The suit seeks to uncover what guidelines these agencies have about this activity, including information about whether agents are permitted to use fake identities or to engage in subterfuge, such as tricking people into accepting Facebook friend requests.

Privacy law was largely created in the pre-Internet age, and new rules are needed to keep up with the ways people communicate today. Much of what occurs online, like blog posting, is intended to be an open declaration to the world, and law enforcement is within its rights to read and act on what is written. Other kinds of communication, particularly in a closed network, may come with an expectation of privacy. If government agents are joining social networks under false pretenses to spy without a court order, for example, that might be crossing a line.

A national conversation about social networking and other forms of online privacy is long overdue. The first step toward having it is for the public to know more about what is currently being done. Making the federal government answer these reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests would be a good start.
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