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25101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 13, 2011, 06:13:05 PM
We seem to be wandering a bit from the subject of this thread  smiley but we are dogs and we do that sometimes  grin

That said, nuclear needs to take into account the external diseconomies both actual and possible attendant to the technology.  Ask Japan, Russia, and Pennsylvania.
25102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 13, 2011, 11:26:57 AM
LA is a major population center, but public transportation simply is not viable here.
25103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 65 year old found alive ten miles at sea on: March 13, 2011, 11:25:53 AM
25104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 13, 2011, 10:47:00 AM
Well, I would distinguish its government and its people; the latter I gather have rather positivie feelings about the US, though they may wonder about BO's lack of verbal support for their freedom when they were trying to take the streets. 

Also, lets keep in mind here the alternatives e.g. depending on Russia and Pakistan for our logistical supply chains for our war in Afpakia. 

Also, and I am winging it here (Ya, as always, please jump in) but would not this course of action strengthen the Balochs in their dealings with Islamabad and Teheran?

As for a spear in the heart of Iran, I'm all ears:  What do you have in mind?
25105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 13, 2011, 10:30:06 AM
Well, duh, and we aided Saddam Hussein against Iraq too.

My intended point is that despite the bad background between our countries, that when interests convene, perhaps deals can be made. 
25106  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 13, 2011, 10:27:59 AM
Prayers for the people of Japan.
25107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 13, 2011, 10:09:28 AM
Very interesting Ya.

IIRC, Iran was very helpful against the Taliban/AQ in the early days after 911.
25108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Caroline Glick on: March 12, 2011, 06:45:28 PM
CG once again shows herself to be an unusually astute observer and analyst:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is stuck between a diplomatic rock and a political hard place. And his chosen means of extricating himself from the double bind is only making things worse for him and for Israel.

Diplomatically, Netanyahu is beset by the Palestinian political war to delegitimize Israel and the Obama administration’s escalating hostility. That hostility was most recently expressed during President Barack Obama’s meeting with American Jewish leaders on March 1. Insinuating that Israel is to blame for the absence of peace in the Middle East, Obama scolded Jewish leaders, telling them to “search your souls” over Israel’s seriousness about making peace.

Obama’s newest threat is that through the socalled Middle East Quartet, (Russia, the UN, the EU and the US), the administration will move towards supporting the Palestinian plan to declare statehood. That state would include all of Judea and Samaria, Gaza and eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem. Since it would not be established in the framework of a peace treaty with Israel, and since its leaders reject Israel’s right to exist, “Palestine” would be born in a de facto state of war with Israel.

To credit this threat, Obama has empowered the Quartet to supplant the US as the mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Buoyed by Obama, Quartet representatives and American and European officials have beaten a steady path to Netanyahu’s door over the past several weeks. Their message is always the same: If Israel does not prove that it is serious about peace by giving massive, unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians, then they will abandon all remaining pretense of support for Israel and throw their lot in completely with the Palestinians.

For the past year and a half Netanyahu’s policy for dealing with Obama’s animosity has been to try to appease him by making incremental concessions.

Netanyahu’s rationale for acting in this manner is twofold. First, he has tried to convince Obama that he really does want peace with the Palestinians. Second, when each of his concessions is met with further Palestinian intransigence, Netanyahu has argued that the disparity between Israeli concessions and Palestinian rejectionism and extremism demonstrates that it is Israel, not the Palestinians, that should be supported by the West.

To date Netanyahu’s concessions have included his acceptance of Palestinian statehood and the two-state paradigm for peace; his temporary prohibition on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria; his undeclared prohibition on Jewish building in Jerusalem; his undeclared, open-ended prohibition of Jewish building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem after his temporary building ban expired; his agreement to drastically curtail IDF counterterror operations in Judea and Samaria; his move to enact an undeclared abatement of law enforcement against illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem; and his decision to enable the deployment of the US-trained Palestinian army in Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu’s declaration of support for Palestinian statehood required his acceptance of the Palestinian narrative. That narrative blames the absence of peace on Israel’s refusal to surrender all of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Having effectively accepted the blame for the absence of peace, Netanyahu has been unable to wage a coherent political counteroffensive against the Palestinian political war.

Now, in a bid to head off Obama’s newest threat to use the Quartet to back the Palestinians’ political war against Israel, Netanyahu is considering yet another set of unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians.

For the past week and a half, Netanyahu has been considering a new “diplomatic initiative.”

According to media reports, he is weighing two options. First, he may end IDF counterterror operations in Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria.

Such a move would involve compromising all of the IDF’s military achievements in the areas since 2002, when it first targeted the Palestinian terror factories from Hebron to Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield.

The second option he is reportedly considering involves announcing his acceptance of a Palestinian state with non-final borders. Such a move would render it difficult if not impossible for Israel to conduct counterterror operations within those temporary borders. It would also make it all but impossible for Israel to assert its sovereign rights over the areas.

Supporters of this initiative argue that not only will it stave off US pressure; it will strengthen Netanyahu’s political position at home. Recent polls show that Netanyahu’s approval numbers are falling while those of his two main rivals – opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Foreign Minister and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman are rising.

Netanyahu reportedly believes that by moving to the Left, he will be able to take support away from Livni and so regain his position as the most popular leader in the country. Given this assessment, Netanyahu’s supporters argue that making further concessions to the Palestinians is a winwin prospect. It will strengthen Israel diplomatically and it will strengthen him politically.

Sadly for both Israel and Netanyahu, this analysis is completely wrong.

Since Obama came into office, he has consistently demonstrated that no Israeli concession will convince him to support Israel against the Palestinians.

So, too, the fact that every Israeli concession has been met by Palestinian intransigence has had no impact on either Obama or his European counterparts. Netanyahu correct claims that the Palestinians’ intransigence shows they are not interested in peace is of interest to no one.

And it is this lack of interest in Palestinian intransigence rather than Palestinian intransigence itself that is remarkable. What it shows is that Obama and his European counterparts don’t care about achieving peace. Like the Palestinians, all they want is more Israeli concessions.

Since taking office, Obama has only supported Israel against the Palestinians twice. The first time was last December. After months of deliberate ambiguity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the administration opposes the Palestinian plan to unilaterally declare independence.

Then last month the administration grudgingly vetoed the Palestinian-Lebanese draft Security Council resolution condemning Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

In both cases, the administration’s actions were not the result of Israeli appeasement, but of massive congressional pressure. Congress issued bipartisan calls demanding that the administration torpedo both of these anti-Israel initiatives.

What this this shows is that Netanyahu’s strategy for contending with Obama is fundamentally misconstrued and misdirected. Obama will not be moved by Israeli concessions. The only way to stop Obama from moving forward on his anti- Israel policy course is to work through Congress.

And the most effective way to work through Congress is for Netanyahu to abandon his current course and tell the truth about the nature of the Palestinians, their rejection of Israel, their anti- Americanism and their support for jihadist terror.

At the same time, Netanyahu must speak unambiguously about Israel’s national rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, our required security borders, and about why US national security requires a strong Israel.

The stronger the case Netanyahu makes for Israel, the more support Israel will receive from the Congress. And the more support Israel receives from the Congress, the more Obama will be compelled to temper his anti-Israel agenda.

As for domestic politics, Netanyahu’s attempt to appease Obama is a major cause of his falling approval numbers among voters. Likud voters do not expect him to outflank Livni from the Left.

They voted for Likud and not Kadima because they recognized that Kadima’s leftist policies are dangerous and doomed to failure.

Kadima’s recent increase in domestic support owes more to the breakup of the Labor Party than to Netanyahu’s failure to carry out Kadima’s policies of territorial surrender and diplomatic kowtowing to the UN, EU and Obama. The main beneficiary of Likud’s eroding support has been Leiberman.

While Netanyahu has maintained his allegiance to the false, failed, unpopular-outside-of-themedia “peace with the Palestinians” paradigm in the foolish hope of winning over Obama, Leiberman has seized control of the Right’s political agenda. While Netanyahu accepts the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership that rejects Israel’s right to exist, Leiberman presents himself as the leader of the majority of Israelis who oppose the Left’s agenda of land for war.

Moreover, when Netanyahu shunts aside his own party’s most popular politicians such as Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon in favor of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he demoralizes his party faithful and his voters.

And not only does Barak hurt Netanyahu with voters, this week he took an ax to Israel’s most important diplomatic asset – congressional support.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Barak said that Israel may ask Congress to increase US military support for Israel by $20 billion. Given the US’s economic woes, and Congress’s commitment to massive budget cuts, at best Barak’s statement represented a complete incomprehension about the basic facts of US domestic politics. At worst, it was a supremely unfriendly act towards Israel’s friends in Congress who are trying to maintain the current level of US military aid to Israel in the face of a popular push to slash the foreign aid budget.

Beyond that, the plain fact is that Barak’s statement was wrong. Israel’s steady economic growth and its recently discovered natural gas fields should make it possible for Israel to decrease the military aid it receives from the US. This is true even though the revolutions in Egypt and throughout the Arab world will require Israel to massively increase its defense budget.

If Netanyahu is serious about surmounting his diplomatic and political challenges, his best bet is to abandon his present course altogether. The most effective way to defend Israel against Obama is to boldly assert, defend and implement a unilateral Israeli plan.

Netanyahu himself gave the broad outlines for such a plan this week when he stated that to defend itself, Israel will need to maintain perpetual control over the Jordan Valley. If Netanyahu were to announce a plan to apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and the major blocs of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, he would accomplish several things at once. He would advance Israel’s national interests rather than the Palestinians’ interests against Israel. He would force the US and Europe to discuss issues that are grounded in strategic rationality rather than leftist- Islamist ideology. Finally, he would take back the leadership of his own political camp from Leiberman and augment his political power domestically.

So, too, if Netanyahu fired Barak and replaced him with Ya’alon, he would energize his political supporters in a way he has failed to do since taking office.

Netanyahu is reportedly considering unveiling his new diplomatic initiative in a speech before Congress in May. If he were to use that venue to unveil this plan and also announce a plan to wean Israel off US military aid within three years, not only would he blunt Obama’s power to threaten Israel. He would secure popular US support for Israel for years to come.

And if he did that, he would restore the Israeli voters’ support for his leadership and stabilize his government through the next elections.
25109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 12, 2011, 06:34:18 PM

I'd be curious of your take on the interesting piece you post.

FWIW my initial reaction is that we are profoundly foolish to put ourself in a position of relying on the Russians (which applies to relying upon them now for rides into space too!) and that the southern root, higher costs or not, makes much more sense-- including the tangential benefits of having money flowing to/through Georgia, which must be feeling rather lonely after the Russian invasion.

@those who have been here a while:  Is there someone who can find my post about "the Crafty Dog" strategy for Afpakia?  I'd be really curious to get Ya's take on it because several of its strands are a result of my trying to think about interesting materials he sent me previously.

Abruptly changing subjects, here's this little item which portends so well  rolleyes for our strategy , , ,

Afghanistan: Karzai Requests NATO Operations End
March 12, 2011 1552 GMT
U.S.-led NATO forces must end operations in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai stated March 12, Iran's Press TV reported. More than 70 civilians were reported dead following NATO fighting near the city of Asadabad, causing increased tensions between Kabul and Washington, according to Karzai.
25110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Japan's Earthquake on: March 12, 2011, 06:24:23 PM
Amen to that.

Japanese Government Confirms Meltdown
March 12, 2011 | 2148 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
The Japanese Disaster: Full Coverage
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said March 12 that the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core, Japanese daily Nikkei reported. This statement seemed somewhat at odds with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s comments earlier March 12, in which he said “the walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode.”

NISA’s statement is significant because it is the government agency that reports to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. NISA works in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission. Its role is to provide oversight to the industry and is responsible for signing off construction of new plants, among other things. It has been criticized for approving nuclear plants on geological fault lines and for an alleged conflict of interest in regulating the nuclear sector. It was NISA that issued the order for the opening of the valve to release pressure — and thus allegedly some radiation — from the Fukushima power plant.

NISA has also overseen the entire government response to the nuclear reactor problems following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It is difficult to determine at this point whether the NISA statement is accurate, as the Nikkei report has not been corroborated by others. It is also not clear from the context whether NISA is stating the conclusions of an official assessment or simply making a statement. However, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, also said that although it had relieved pressure, nevertheless some nuclear fuel had melted and further action was necessary to contain the pressure.

If this report is accurate, it would not be the first time statements by NISA and Edano have diverged. When Edano earlier claimed that radiation levels had fallen at the site after the depressurization efforts, NISA claimed they had risen due to the release of radioactive vapors.

25111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This is very bad , , , on: March 12, 2011, 08:20:24 AM
25112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: March 12, 2011, 08:15:52 AM
Demand for Mexican Security Firms’ Services Soars
Friday, March 11, 2011 | Borderland Beat Reporter Buggs

Mexico’s private security companies saw demand for their services soar 25 percent in 2010 due to a surging crime rate and requests for protective service by businesses and individuals during the Christmas holidays, an industry association said. 
Security companies’ payrolls grew about 25 percent last year because of rising demand in parts of the country that are doing well economically, the 150-member National Association of Private Security and Associated Industry Executives said.

“Housing units, shopping centers, security for trucks and bodyguards were the segments with the highest volume,” the trade group said.

Association members saw demand for security services rise in the states of Mexico, Nuevo Leon, Guerrero, Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, Puebla, Morelos and Michoacan, as well as in the Federal District, the trade group said.

Security was expanded by clients affected by burglaries, the theft of merchandise from shopping centers and department stores, truck hijackings and kidnappings.  Security firms have grown by offering a complete portfolio of services, ranging from security guards to risk analysis and the installation of security systems, association president Arnulfo Garibo said.

Providing protection for cargo trucks is the area with the fastest-growing demand because security firms helped prevent more than 300 highway robberies, association spokesman David Garcia said.  Robberies fell 70 percent, Garcia said, adding that security firms worked with other industries and used satellite monitoring, armor plating and logistics techniques to protect trucks.

Source: EFE

25113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Japan on: March 12, 2011, 08:13:19 AM
Japanese Official Confirms Explosion at Nuclear Plant

Japanese officials said on Saturday there had been an
explosion at a nuclear power plant following Friday's huge
earthquake, blowing off the roof of the structure and causing
a radiation leak of unspecified proportions.

The chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano confirmed earlier
reports of an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Read More:
25114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: Possible Japan meltdown? on: March 12, 2011, 02:22:10 AM
Red Alert: Japan Warns of Possible Nuclear Meltdown
March 12, 2011 | 0619 GMT
Japanese officials are cautioning that a nuclear meltdown may occur at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant near the town of Okuma. According to Japan’s Jiji Press, some of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after the reactor’s water levels dropped through evaporation. A fire engine is currently pumping water into the reactor and the water levels are recovering, according to an operator of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the plant. A TEPCO spokesman said the company believes the reactor is not melting down or cracking and that workers are currently attempting to raise the water level.

If a meltdown takes place — essentially the core of the reactor overheating and damaging the fuel rods themselves — it would be the first since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the Three Mile Island incident in 1979.

The Fukushima Daiichi power plant was shut down automatically on March 11 due to the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that hit Japan. The on-site diesel backup generators also shut down about an hour after the event, leaving the reactors without power and thus without the ability to cool down the core. Japanese officials were operating the cooling system via battery power and were flying in batteries by helicopter to keep the temperature regulated.

An unchecked rise in temperature could cause the core to essentially turn into a molten mass that could burn through the reactor vessel. This may lead to a release of an unchecked amount of radiation into the containment building that surrounds the reactor. This building could be breached if enough pressure builds, or, in this case, if the containment building was already breached through the earlier effects of the earthquake.

At the moment, it would appear that Japanese authorities are still trying to contain the reaction inside the reactor. That indicates that the core has not completely melted and that the reaction has not yet gotten out of hand. However, the situation could quickly become uncontrollable and the added water being pumped into the reactor could rapidly evaporate if the temperatures rise too quickly to be cooled off.

25115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Saudi protests, rubber bullets on: March 11, 2011, 11:49:21 PM
Middle East Tensions Rise With Saudi Protest

Simmering tensions in the predominantly Shiite area of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province boiled to the surface Thursday, when riot police fired what were reportedly rubber bullets on a demonstration of up to 800 people in the town of Qatif. Though no one was killed, and only a few were reportedly injured, the Saudi security forces proved true to authorities’ pledge earlier in the week that protests in the Kingdom are banned and will not be tolerated.

The incident briefly caused oil prices to spike after having dipped earlier in the day as nervous investors reacted over reports of shots fired at protesters in the main oil-producing region of the world’s largest petroleum producer. The fear was that the same style of protests that first erupted in Tunisia, expanding across much of the Middle East and flaring up in Bahrain, had now finally spread to Saudi Arabia. Though there have been a handful of minor demonstrations in the Eastern province in recent weeks, this was the first time clashes had erupted with security forces. It happened just a day before planned, nationwide demonstrations were scheduled on Facebook. One such group has attracted more than 30,000 members (an unknown number of whom actually reside in Saudi Arabia) in its attempt to replicate the “Day of Rage” that Egypt’s pro-democracy movement made famous after noon prayers on Jan. 28.

“There will undoubtedly be people taking to the streets in Saudi Arabia on Friday. The question is, how many? And, even more importantly, will the security forces be able to clamp down without bloodshed?”
March 11 will be the first major test of whether Saudi Arabia is truly immune to the contagion that helped to overthrow Tunisia and Egypt’s presidents, and now has regimes in Bahrain and Yemen feeling pressured. Certainly, the House of Saud is taking the potential for unrest seriously, as the royal family has seen that the failure to do so in other countries often ended badly. The regime, unsurprisingly, has responded by combining the carrot with the stick, implementing a series of economic concessions in recent weeks aimed at ameliorating popular grievances, in addition to arresting those encouraging its citizens to protest and urging the clergy, Consultative Council and religious police to remind the nation that public demonstrations are prohibited.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged people on Wednesday to remember that dialogue is the solution to social grievances, not protest, and warned that Riyadh had increased security forces in potential trouble spots to clamp down on anyone that failed to take note. Though the Eastern province – home to the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s Shia, who make up an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s population – is the area considered by many to be the most likely to experience significant unrest, there are locations across the country that have been named in advance by the online organizers of the March 11 demonstrations. This includes Jeddah, Riyadh, Jezan and even Mecca.

Undoubtedly, there will be people taking to the streets on Friday. The question is, how many? And, even more importantly, will the security forces be able to clamp down without bloodshed?

Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran, is hoping that the answers to those questions will be “a lot” and “no.” Tehran is suspected to be responsible for much of the unrest in Bahrain, and knows that the Shia of the eastern Arabian Peninsula are taking note of the developments across the causeway in the Saudi kingdom. Whether or not the Iranians have significant links in the Shiite zones of Saudi Arabia is unknown, but that doesn’t change the fact that Tehran has an interest in the situation becoming hectic there.

Saudi Arabia is a unique case when compared to other Arab states that have been affected by the Tunisian contagion. It will be much more challenging to enact political change there than in other countries because the royal family is able to use its immense oil wealth to pacify dissent, and blunt popular support for those who think the royal family should give way to a constitutional monarchy. In addition, the Sunnis are a majority in the kingdom, meaning that this is no Bahrain. It is also noteworthy that the royal family has more than 5,000 princes across the country, thus Saudi Arabia is not being run by a top-heavy power structure that is out of touch with popular sentiment.

March 11 is only the first of two planned “Days of Rage,” the second being March 20. But as Friday prayers are always an easier way to organize protests in the Muslim world due to the volume of people already out on the streets, all eyes should be on the Arabian Peninsula.

25116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 11, 2011, 05:50:34 PM
STRATFOR CEO George Friedman says the world’s focus should be on the Persian Gulf, not Libya. The latest signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain point to a potentially serious crisis.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Colin: While Europe and NATO appear tremulous and uncertain, the chances of global intervention in Libya seem unlikely. But why is the media focused on Gadhafi when real trouble is brewing in the Persian Gulf?

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman. George, NATO has met, the EU has met, Obama has spoken, but it seems that in Libya at least the chances of intervention are close to zero. Until at least there is a humanitarian crisis and that looks like being Europe’s problem.

George: Well, certainly Europe has a deeper interest in Libya than the United States does and I think the United States really does not want to lead the intervention into Libya and then find themselves criticized by the Europeans. I mean one thing you have to understand, when you intervene in a violent situation, your soldiers will make mistakes and innocent people will be killed. And an intervention that stops the violence is simply a fantasy. So if you go in on the ground, even if you go in in the air, you’re going to wind up in a situation where people will be killed, they will be killed by your troops and some of the people that will be killed will not be the enemy — will be people who are innocent bystanders and so on. And I think the American position is pretty much let the Europeans carry the burden on this, and the Europeans of course might not have the means really, nor the appetite for it, so everybody will stand by.

Colin: And, of course, the Europeans have got the refugee problem. The media is preoccupied with Libya and Gadhafi, but this is not the only trouble spot. In many ways, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia might be more significant.

George: Well, I mean, what’s really happened here is that Libya has the foreign correspondence and CNN covering it. And so this has become the spot, but far more significant is the Persian Gulf where Bahrain has been in a standstill crisis, if you will — a country with a majority Shiite population facing a Sunni government. And now we hear reports that gunfire has broken out in eastern Saudi Arabia with Saudi Arabian forces firing on Shiite demonstrators there too. So now we’re talking about problems all up and down the west bank of the Persian Gulf. It is turning into something that appears to be Shiite versus Sunni — very different from the issues that are being raised in North Africa. And clearly this involves the rivalry between the two main players in the region which is the Iranians, who will undoubtedly support the Shiites, and the Saudis, who are terrified of rising Shiite power backed by the Iranians.

Colin: Now, the Persian Gulf is an area America really does have to worry about.

George: The Iranians have rising influence in Iraq and what is going on in the Persian Gulf, if not directly tied to what’s happening in Iraq, certainly supports that. It’s interesting that countries like Oman, Qatar, Kuwait — all of which have American facilities — have had all of these instabilities, if you will, arise. Now Saudi Arabia as well. We are looking at a serious crisis and, compared to the stakes of the Persian Gulf — from the oil market to the strategic significance — Libya is really a side game. And one of the things that really I think the United States is concerned about is that, while publicly they are going to have to address the question of Moammar Gadhafi killing his own citizens, as if somehow anyone ever thought that Moammar Gadhafi was anything but a thug for the past many years and decades. We have a real problem which could change the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and in some ways globally. And the gunfire that we’ve seen in Saudi Arabia I think is extremely significant — we don’t know how it will play out — but right now it is certainly far more troublesome that anything happening in Libya.

Colin: What kind of contingency planning will now be going on in the Pentagon?

George: Well I mean the problem is what kind of forces are available to plan with. The United States obviously has its Air Force, it also has the Navy, but its ability to influence events on the western literal of the Persian Gulf is limited. Certainly the United States is not in a position to intervene on the ground and any intervention on the ground will probably be counterproductive. So I suspect most of the planning that’s going on is to make certain that the Straits of Hormuz remain opened and hope that nothing happens in those countries that are oil exporters to disrupt the oil markets because the effect that will have the world economy and the recovery from 2008.

Colin: But, should that happen, the United States has its troops tied down elsewhere, it’s got its Navy and Air Force of course, but the Europeans probably will not do anything, so it will be a real mess.

George: It is an enormous mess but I am certain that the Europeans will pass a strong resolution and hold a press conference. I mean it is really interesting to watch the Europeans deal with the Libyan crisis not because it’s a crucial crisis but because I mean here is a case where the Europeans, who always talk about soft power, are facing a situation where soft power really isn’t going to work, and now have to face the question of their collective responsibility for a country like Libya that is clearly within the area of responsibility of European powers, and where the United States will play a supporting role, if any.

So the countries like France, Germany and Italy bear the primary responsibility in this area. They are the major, particularly Italy is the major investor there and have maintained relations so it will be interesting to see how the Europeans come out in their self-conception after this crisis because here is a case where clearly the European responsibility is primary, clearly the Europeans cannot agree a common course. I think this is another blow from the NATO side to the blow that has been struck in 2008 by the financial crisis on the EU side. European institutions are under tremendous strain. But all of that is subsidiary ultimately to the question of whether oil gets out of the Straits of Hormuz, which certainly is not in danger yet at this point but is always dangerous when crises occur when major oil supplies are involved.

Colin: George, I’ll watch out for those Brussels press conferences. George Friedman there ending this week’s Agenda. Join us again next time.

Click for more videos

25117  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / ?Como se ve las acciones del BATF en Mexico? on: March 11, 2011, 12:57:14 PM,0,2534184.story
25118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mexican response to BATF clusterfcuk. on: March 11, 2011, 12:56:01 PM,0,2534184.story
25119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arab Myths & Realities on: March 10, 2011, 11:44:42 PM
WASHINGTON, DC – With Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in Egypt – widely considered to have one of the region’s most stable regimes until only recently – and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi clinging to power in Libya, there is no clear end in sight to the turmoil sweeping across the Arab world. Protests have already toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, leaving other Arab countries faced with widespread discontent.

The unrest caught most people by surprise – both inside and outside the region – and has fundamentally upended at least five conventional beliefs about the Arab world.

Arabs don’t go into the street. Before the protests began in Egypt and Tunisia, many people argued that there was no real urgency to political reform, and that those who were calling for change did not understand the public mood – things weren’t as bad as the dissidents made them out to be. This line of thinking led governments to believe that Arabs would not demonstrate in large numbers and demand change. In each country, rapid reform was seen as detrimental to national interests.

This argument clearly is no longer tenable. No one predicted what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, which means that no Arab country is immune. Governments don’t have the luxury of waiting forever, and they can no longer use the myth of popular quiescence to avoid initiating the necessary reforms that will address the public’s underlying grievances.

Economic liberalization should precede political reform. Arab governments – and many Westerners – claimed that privatization and other economic reforms should be given priority over political change. But, while it is easy to argue that citizens want bread before freedom, economic liberalization came without a system of checks and balances, and thus largely resulted in neither bread nor freedom.

Instead, the benefits of privatization and other initiatives went largely to political and business elites. As a result, Arabs have come to view liberalization and globalization negatively. It is clear by now that economic reform must be coupled with political reform, so that institutional mechanisms of accountability are developed to monitor any excesses and ensure that benefits are made available to all. Governments have been quick to believe that the protests are fundamentally about high prices and unemployment, but the issue that unites Arab discontent is inadequate governance.

Closed systems are necessary to prevent Islamists from taking power. The West is often afraid that democracy will give Islamists the opening they need to gain control – a fear that Arab regimes exploit to justify maintaining closed political systems. But Islamists did not play a big role in Egypt or Tunisia, and they are not expected to lead any of the new governments that are formed – though they are an important part of Arab societies and should play a role in their emerging regimes.

So it is untrue that the only viable alternative to unrelenting absolutist rule must be Islamist. The protests are clearly the result of ordinary citizens becoming fed up with corruption, the lack of any semblance of rule of law, and arbitrary treatment. There is an opportunity here to start developing pluralistic systems where not only Islamists, but also other parties and discourses can play a role.

Elections equal democracy. No one is fooled by this claim anymore. In order to maintain their dominance, Arab governments have relied on flawed laws and elections that don’t produce strong parliaments or lead to real change. Indeed, in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, government and parliament alike were unpopular. Throughout the region, elections have been used to create a façade of democracy aimed at impressing citizens and the outside world while insulating the regimes from pressure for genuine reform.

The Arab public, however, will no longer accept the status quo. People will not be satisfied with economic handouts or cosmetic changes in governance; they are demanding real change that puts their country on a clear path toward democracy.

The international community has no role to play. While the reform process should certainly be homegrown, the United States and the rest of the international community can encourage democratic development without imposing it from afar. President Barack Obama rejected many of the policies of the George W. Bush administration that were seen as trying to force democracy on Arab countries. But the subsequent silence on democratization aggravated – though it certainly did not cause – the unraveling of the Arab reform process in the last few years.

The US and the West can discuss with Arab countries how political reform should be carried out in a way that would contribute to greater openness and opportunities for power-sharing. The West should not sacrifice these objectives for others; if allies ultimately lose power in popular revolts, such a tradeoff would not have furthered the West’s interests, to say the least.

The unfolding events grabbing headlines around the world have shattered key myths about the Arab world. These countries’ people need to start gradual, sustained, and serious political reform now. At the dawn of a new Arab era, it is up to them to build new, open political systems that can head off the looming threat of escalating crises.

Marwan Muasher, former foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Jordan, is Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a senior fellow at Yale University. He is the author of The Arab Center.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
25120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not exactly on point , , , on: March 10, 2011, 11:41:58 PM
VIENNA – What happens after the euphoria of revolution fades? Today’s Eastern Europe, some two decades after the revolutions of 1989, may offer a salutary warning for today’s defiant and jubilant Arab youth that they must remain vigilant.

Ever since I left Romania for exile in 1986, my returns have been rare and tense. Although the schedule for my most recent trip was overwhelming, and offered little real contact with ordinary people, I could still grasp – from daily newspapers, TV programs, and conversations with friends – the profound economic, political, and moral crisis engulfing the country. Mistrust and anger toward a corrupt and inefficient political class, coupled with skepticism about democracy – even nostalgia for communism – is to be found nowadays not only in Romania, but also in some other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some 70% of Romanians reportedly now claim to regret the death of Comrade Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose summary execution in 1989 elicited general enthusiasm. Of course, the source of such an astonishing finding is difficult to trust, like everything else in Romanian politics, but the vulgar and radical coarsening of public discourse – now peppered with old-new xenophobic elements – is clear enough.

I was offered a taste of this as a guest on a well-respected TV cultural program. I was amused that the debate focused not on my books, but on issues like the “Jewish cultural mafia” and the “exaggerated” anti-Semitism of past and present Romania. My interviewer was kinetic, taking over the dialogue with insinuations and personal interventions. I assumed that I was supposed to be provoked into unguarded comments, a method that fashionable TV journalists everywhere use nowadays.

But I faced a new surprise the following week, when, on the same TV program, the hostess was rather passive towards her guest, a militant journalist turned mercenary journalist, as he confessed his admiration for Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the “Captain” of the Iron Guard, the far-right Orthodox terrorist organization of the pre-war years. The journalist considered Codreanu a “Romantic hero.”

A group of Romanian intellectuals, including me, protested in an Open Letter against this effort to rehabilitate a murderer and propagandist of hate and xenophobia. Romanian TV answered promptly that it understood that victims of anti-Semitic crimes might feel hurt by such a program, but that the program had not promoted this kind of propaganda, offering the bizarre interview with me the previous week as proof of the channel’s good faith.

But the debate didn’t end there. Soon after, the national committee for the media condemned the program. And soon after that, some leading intellectuals condemned the national committee’s condemnation as an affront to freedom of speech.No one mentioned the danger of inciting an already radicalized audience. In fact, the responses from members of the public to these controversies were mostly of a vulgar nationalistic and anti-Semitic tone.

Romania is not alone, of course, in reliving this dark comedy. Revitalization of the extreme right in Hungary and the rise of “National Bolshevism” in Russia, where Tolstoy is now re-condemned by the Orthodox Church as a proto-communist, suggest a deeper and more pervasive atavistic longing.

I was reminded of my last class at Bard College before my trip to Romania. We were discussing Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Commenting on the moment when “Asiatic cholera” kills the great and troubled writer Gustav von Aschenbach, a brilliant Asian student pointed out that Mann related the disease to the “pestilence” of the Ganges delta, which traversed China and Afghanistan, Persia and Astrakhan, and “even Moscow,” before reaching Europe through the “city of the lagoon.” She noted with gravity today’s migrations from poor to prosperous countries, the globalization of evil, the contradictions and conflicts of modernity, the angry terrorist response to it, and the contrast between a rational, pragmatic West and a more idealistic and superstitious East, prone to religious fanaticism and political extremism.

It was a relief to listen to my student’s well-articulated opinions and to see in her the hope of a new, cosmopolitan generation. But her example was also an unavoidable reminder of the great dangers of our time.

I needed that hope, for what I saw in Eastern Europe had depressed me as much as what I was seeing in the United States, my adopted homeland. For someone who lived through two totalitarian systems, it is almost unbearable to contemplate America’s decline. Although we refugees, immigrants, exiles, and outcasts do not boast ad infinitum that “we are the best,” as many Americans do, we still believe that the US remains a powerful guarantor of freedom and democracy, and we consider its incoherence part of its liberty.

For far different reasons, the US, and the entire world, seems condemned to simplification of thought, action, and feeling in the service of immediate, quotidian efficiency. Of course, art and culture can offer a respite from the oversimplifications of our age – a respite that we need more than ever if we are to reckon with the destiny behind and before us. But we also need modesty about ourselves and our societies.

Some years ago, I proposed that every country should add to its monuments to heroism some monuments to its national shame. After all, guilt is as significant as courage in any human enterprise. To remember and reflect on how we have wronged other people and nations may benefit a country’s citizens as much as celebrating great deeds. Monuments to shame would not resolve the insoluble problems of humanity’s fate on Earth, but they might slow the advance of its dark side – in Eastern Europe, the Arab world, and everywhere else.

Norman Manea’s latest novel, Vizuina (The Lair) was published in Romania in 2010 and will appear soon in Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the US, and several other countries.

Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences, 2011.

25121  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Teachers, Schools, and Training Partners on: March 10, 2011, 11:34:37 PM
Darvis:  My pleasure speaking with you.

James: Get in touch with Rob Crowley, the host of my upcoming Seattle seminar-- see the relevant thread on this forum for contact info.
25122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A section of the Patriot Act on: March 10, 2011, 11:32:54 PM

Anyone familiar with this issue?
25123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 10, 2011, 11:27:36 PM
For the record, if I am not mistaken, Kundoz is an American convert.
25124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Euro perception of Biden's Russian visit on: March 10, 2011, 11:26:24 PM
The European Perception of Biden's Russian Visit

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden began his official visit to Russia on Wednesday by meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, to be followed by a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Prior to his visit, Biden made a half-day stopover in Helsinki, where he met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen and had a working lunch with Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi.

The Finland visit was relatively low-key — the main topic of discussion was the economy and not strategic matters — and amounted to little more than a refueling stop on Biden’s way to Moscow. The highlight of Biden’s trip is the U.S.-Russian relationship and the subsequent visit to Moldova. During Biden’s previous European visits, he concentrated on Washington’s relationship with its Central European allies. Europe, particularly Western Europe, does not play a minor role in the complex relationship between Washington and Moscow.

“Germany and France are not engaging Russia for the sake of transforming Russia into some sort of liberal democracy — that is merely the explanation given to the United States and Central Europe — but because it is in their national and economic interests to do so.”
Core Europe — as Germany and France refer to their European Union leadership duo along with the surrounding Western European countries — has for the past 16 months been preoccupied by the eurozone sovereign crisis that has already claimed Greece and Ireland and could require a Portuguese bailout by the end of March. Despite this general preoccupation, France and Germany have increased their engagement with Russia in several ways. First, Paris and Berlin lobbied for Moscow to be included as a “strategic partner” during the negotiations for NATO’s Strategic Concept, essentially the alliance’s mission statement, to the chagrin of Central European — former Soviet sphere — member states. Second, France has stood firm regarding plans to sell Mistral helicopter-carrier amphibious assault ships to Russia, despite criticism from the same Central European states, especially the Baltics. Third, Germany has in the last few weeks boosted its military relationship with Russia, with German defense contractor Rheinmettal offering to build a training center in Russia, and only days ago concluding a contract to provide Moscow with armor plating.

From the perspective of Germany and France, Russia is no longer the existential threat that it was during the Cold War. Russia is in fact a lucrative business partner. Central Europe’s fears of a Russian resurgence are therefore bad for business. Russia needs to be engaged via trade and business, which will lead to an internal transformation of Russia to be more like Europe. Or at least that is the view that German government officials circulate regarding their dealings with Russia, arguing that the “soft power” of trade and economic links will lead to a change in attitude toward Russia. Whether Berlin and Paris actually believe that story is largely irrelevant; it is a useful explanation — especially when talking to American officials and the media — recounting why they are pursuing a relationship with Russia that is counter to the interests of their fellow NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe.

A central tenet of this argument is the supposed leadership style difference between Medvedev and Putin. Most Western European officials genuinely believe that Medvedev, were he actually powerful enough, would have a different leadership prerogative that would be more favorably inclined toward the West. However, European officials also play up the supposed differences between Medvedev and Putin as an explanation for why they are so earnestly engaging Russia. The argument goes something like this: Business contacts and technology transfers that boost Russia’s ongoing modernization efforts will favor Medvedev and increase his standing in the leadership pantheon of the Kremlin. Therefore, Europe should continue to engage Moscow, and the United States and Central Europe should not stand in its way, since aggression will only turn Russia inward.

The problem with this logic, however, is that Europeans operated the same way even with Putin and even immediately after Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008. Germany and France are not engaging Russia for the sake of transforming Russia into some sort of a liberal democracy — that is merely the explanation given to the United States and Central Europe — but because it is in their national and economic interests to do so.

A good example of this dynamic is precisely the negotiations for Russia’s inclusion as a NATO “strategic partner.” Europeans argued that this was a monumental development since Russia committed in the text of the NATO Strategic Concept to a number of supposed benchmarks on democracy and rule of law. However, it is not clear anyone in Paris or Berlin takes Moscow’s commitments seriously.

Meanwhile, Russia knows how to play the game with Western Europe. Specifically, it knows how to show hints of internal “reform” to satisfy the “soft power” complex of Europe. But at the same time, it is using its enhanced military relationship with France and Germany as a way to counter American influence in countries like Poland and Romania. Moscow feels that it doesn’t necessarily have to respond to every U.S. encroachment in Poland with a tit-for-tat counter — Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to counter U.S. Patriot missile battery deployment for example — but instead by further developing a relationship with Germany and France and showing both the United States and Central Europe that it is a serious player on the continent.

This obviously begs the questions: What does the future hold for NATO? And how do Paris and Berlin intend to manage their supposed obligations to fellow NATO member states with economic interests with Russia?

25125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 10, 2011, 08:15:48 PM
Exactly so, expecially when the contraband is 50 caliber and the recipient is in another country spiral into narco-anarchy/war.
25126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 10, 2011, 08:13:08 PM
Andrew:  If you are reading this thread too, then I would submit the proposition that these efforts at physical intimidation are another aspect of liberal (American use of the word here) fascism.
25127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 10, 2011, 08:10:22 PM
a) I will take a look at Project Syndicate

b) We disagree substantially on Keynesianism, but this is not the thread for that conversation.  I will grant that by itself Keynesianism is not economic fascism, but submit the proposition that it is being used by progressives for that purpose.  I'm not sure to what you 3, 5, and 7% numbers refer,

c) "Yes you would make your debt bigger, only by the smallest of margins".  Forgive me, but this is factually profoundly inaccurate.

d) The Stiglitz piece is mostly correct-- and quite unKeynesian wink  I would quibble on this though:

"while free-market ideology dissuaded regulators from intervening to stop reckless lending."

Not quite.  The reckless lending was multiplied immeasurably by the Federal Government, via mortage the guarantees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (and also the legal pressures to lend to the unqualified of the Community Reinvestment Act.)  This is a fundamental point without which no analysis is complete.  See the other housing thread nearby for extensive discussion of all this.


"Securitization – putting large numbers of mortgages together to be sold to pension funds and investors around the world – worked only because there were rating agencies that were trusted to ensure that mortgage loans were given to people who would repay them. Today, no one will or should trust the rating agencies, or the investment banks that purveyed flawed products (sometimes designing them to lose money)."

Again, this leaves out the fundamental role of the Federal Government's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Lets continue this on another thread more suited to our conversation.

25128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet more on the BATF sting operation on: March 10, 2011, 04:58:35 PM

Grassley Requests Investigation of ATF’s Fast and Furious Policy be Removed from the Justice Department Inspector General

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said that he did not have confidence that the Justice Department Inspector General’s office could produce a report that the public would view as frank and unbiased in its investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) policy of letting guns “walk” along the Southwest border—a policy that may have contributed to the death of a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent.

In a letter today to Kevin Perkins, the head of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Grassley cited several conflicts that lead him to believe that the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice cannot be seen as completely disinterested and independent.

“There are certainly better and more independent ways to conduct this investigation. To have an acting Inspector General’s office lead an investigation like this one just won’t pass the smell test,” Grassley said. “The fact that the Inspector General did not take this whistleblower’s allegations seriously enough to even call him back raises a lot of red flags for me.”

Grassley’s concerns outlined in his letter are:

1. The Inspector General position at the Justice Department is currently vacant. Any acting Inspector General is ill-equipped to take on an entrenched bureaucracy and challenge senior officials with tough questions.

2. The Justice Department Inspector General’s office was made aware of the allegations brought forward by ATF Agent John Dodson shortly after Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death. The Inspector General failed to respond to Dodson’s numerous attempts to contact the office until Grassley’s staff notified the office.

3. ATF officials have cited an Office of the Inspector General report as one of the factors that prompted the shift to a riskier strategy of letting guns be trafficked rather than arresting straw buyers.

Grassley began looking into allegations brought forward by Dodson, and more than a dozen other ATF agents, after the Justice Department Inspector General failed to investigate. The agents indicated that their supervisors kept them from stopping gun traffickers with the normal techniques that had been successfully used for years. They instead were ordered to only watch and continue gathering information on traffickers instead of arresting them as soon as they could. In the meantime, the guns were allowed to fall into the hands of the bad guys even as agents told supervisors that it could not end well. Many of the guns have subsequently been found in firefights along the border, including a December 14, 2010 firefight where Terry was killed.

Grassley’s requests for information have gone unanswered about what transpired at the ATF and the Department of Justice during the time when Terry was killed and the policies instituted during Project Gunrunner that allowed guns to be sold to known straw purchasers and moved across the border without intervention.
25129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Democratic Socialism on: March 10, 2011, 04:44:16 PM
Democratic Socialism
Political Consequence of the Looming Debt Bomb Shockwave
"I place economy among the first and most important virtues and public debt as the greatest dangers to be feared." --Thomas Jefferson

Socialist EvolutionParaphrasing the noted economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek, Future Freedom Foundation President Jacob Hornberger wrote, "There is no difference in principle, between the economic philosophy of Nazism, socialism, communism, and fascism and that of the American welfare state and regulated economy."

Not only is there no economic distinction between socialist systems in different political wrappers, ultimately there is no consequential societal distinction between Marxist Socialism, Nationalist Socialism, or the most recent incarnation of this beast, Democratic Socialism. The conclusion of socialism by any name, once it has replaced Rule of Law with the rule of men, is tyranny.

Noted Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, no stranger to the consequences of statism, wrote, "Socialism of any type leads to a total destruction of the human spirit."

Democratic Socialism, like Nationalist Socialism, is nothing more than Marxist Socialism repackaged. Likewise, it seeks a centrally planned economy directed by a single-party state that controls economic production by way of regulation and income redistribution. The success of Democrat Socialism depends upon supplanting Essential Liberty -- the rights "endowed by our Creator" -- primarily by refuting such endowment.

So what do these observations have to do with the current state of economic and political affairs in our great nation? Unfortunately, more than most Americans currently realize.

However discomforting this fact might be, there is abundant and irrefutable evidence that Barack Hussein Obama and his socialist cadre are endeavoring to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" by planting a debt bomb, the future shockwave of which, they surmise, will break the back of free enterprise. From the ashes of that cataclysm, Obama and his ilk envision restructuring our nation as the USSA.

If you think such assertions are just rhetorical hyperbole, think harder.

As the direct result of Obama's "economic recovery plan," the central government budget forecast for the current fiscal year includes a historic $1.65 trillion deficit. Given the economic consequences of continued growth in unfunded government spending (including ObamaCare), the potential inflation on our immediate horizon (prompted primarily by increasing energy costs), and diminished confidence in the U.S. dollar, the deficit proportion of fiscal-year 2012's $3.73 trillion budget will set yet another appalling record.

More perilous for consumers is the potential for "stagflation," a remnant from the Carter era that combines static or decreasing wages (stagnant economic growth) with increasing commodity prices (inflation).

In February alone, Obama's central government accrued a record $223 billion deficit for one month. To put this in perspective, that single-month deficit exceeds the entire 2007 budget deficit under George W. Bush -- you know, the one that was Demo-gogued during the 2008 campaign cycle.

Republicans scraped together a few more cuts for their feeble $61 billion in proposed 2011 budget reductions, but Obama and his Senate Democrats declared they would approve only $4.7 billion in additional cuts. "Do we want jobs?" asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). "If we do, then we simply cannot pass the plan the Tea Party has already pushed through the House."

Indeed, the Senate voted down the House budget, which was to be expected. Reid went so far as to declare it "mean-spirited." Obama's Senate protagonist, John Kerry, defined the meager Republican cuts as an "ideological, extremist, reckless statement" that "would contribute to the reversal of our recovery. It might even destroy our recovery."

Since Democrats have lambasted and voted against any cuts proposed by Republicans, the Republican "leadership" should stand true to last fall's elections and propose those deep cuts promised on the campaign trail.

What is needed, if we're to have jobs in five years, is $4.7 billion in additional cuts for every day of this year's budget, and those that follow. There are budget solutions, but these require political courage and resolve, a rare commodity in our nation's Capital.

"Deficit spending," concluded Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (1987-2006), "is simply a scheme for the hidden confiscation of wealth." And that is precisely the prescription necessary to establish Democratic Socialism.

If the future shock of this debt bomb set by Obama and his Useful Idiots does not yet cause you considerable heartburn, consider the implication of these statistics: Of total U.S. wages and employee benefits paid in 2010, 35 percent were paid by the central government as wages, or in fulfillment of entitlement programs. Read that again and let it sink in.

In 1960, wages and entitlement program distributions by the central government were 10 percent of total U.S wages and benefits. Over the next 40 years, that figure doubled to 20 percent. In just one decade since, that figure has increased to 35 percent, with the baby boomer wave yet to fully draw on government income and social services. This explains, in part, why federal spending has increased from $1.86 trillion in 2001 to $3.82 this year. Social welfare spending alone has increased by $514 billion since Obama took office.

Some 8 percent of the total work force is government employed, which is to say that the remaining 27 percent of government wages and benefits doled out by the welfare state is the foundation for Democratic Socialism.

Both political parties are resorting to tired old political formulas when asked about the challenge of balancing the national budget. Both suggest that it will take more than a decade -- a pathetic excuse that we have heard for decades. (As for those claims of surpluses in the Clinton years resulting from the economic growth set in motion during the Reagan years: not so when one takes into account the Social Security "lock box IOUs.")

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) concludes, "It is very difficult to balance the budget within 10 years without cutting seniors' benefits now, and as I said before, our vision of entitlement reform will protect today's seniors and those nearing retirement."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) insists, "We're not going to [have a balanced budget] in 10 years, but we have to be on a very considered path to get there, certainly, within the next decade and a half or two decades."

Any pretense that Obama has any intention of balancing the budget is spurious, as the smallest estimated annual deficit that his budget will run during the next decade is $615 billion.

Meanwhile, he continues to recycle these prevarications: "Not only were we able to yank this economy out of the recession, not only were we able to get this economy going again, but in the last 15 months we've seen the economy add jobs. We didn't just rescue the economy; we put it on the strongest footing for the future."

As it stands now, Congress is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends and our national debt is now at $14 trillion, which is about 97 percent of our nation's gross domestic product (economic production) in 2010.

So what are the political consequences when the money runs out, when the lenders withdraw, when the smoke clears and the mirrors shatter from the debt bomb shockwave?

Some will settle for the institution of Democratic Socialism.

However none should underestimate the potential groundswell of protest across our nation, composed primarily of legions of Patriots fully capable of intervening on behalf of the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution.

If those elected to national office, regardless of political affiliation, fail to abide by their oaths to Support and Defend our Constitution, particularly its limitations on the central government which have been disregarded for much of the last century, then we, the people, will restore the integrity of our Constitution, as is our right and obligation. Rest assured, there will come a time for choosing as outlined by Ronald Reagan, and that time must come.

One might recall that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were the product of civil disobedience and revolution against a lesser form of tyranny than that imposed today. In the words of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

For those whom such notions offend, I offer these words of parting from Samuel Adams: "If ye love wealth better than Liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!"

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

25130  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 3/28/11 Guro Crafty in Gardena on: March 10, 2011, 04:25:07 PM

DATE:   Monday, March 28, 2010
TIME:    6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
PLACE:  South Bay Jeet Kune Do Academy
             Nakaoka Community Center Auditorium
             1670 West 162nd Street
             Gardena, California
COST:   $25.00 cash only
CONTACT:  David Cheng at
TOPIC:  Stickgrappling and Short Stick/Palm Stick

Please bring a pair of escrima sticks and a palm stick/short stick.
25131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / French outmacho BO on: March 10, 2011, 04:05:51 PM
The French government said on March 10 that it would recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council as the sole representative of the Libyan people. It will soon move its ambassador to Benghazi from Tripoli. This comes as French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would call for airstrikes against Libyan forces at the March 11 EU Council meeting.

France has been one of the most vociferous supporters of a no-fly zone in Libya. However, the issue for French involvement is the capacity of Paris to enforce such a zone on its own. The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is the only aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea at the moment. However, its (around) 35 aircraft alone would be insufficient to set up the initial zone. Therefore, the question is: To what extent can France enforce the zone on its own?

The logic for the call to an intervention is largely a domestic one for Paris. Initially, France took a lot of criticism for how it responded to the wave of protests in Tunisia and Egypt. France’s then-Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, took a lot of criticism not only for vacationing in Tunisia by flying in a private jet of a businessman close to the regime, but also for offering the regime help from French security forces in repressing its protesters three days before the Tunisian president fled the country. Sarkozy ultimately had to replace Alliot-Marie with veteran Alain Juppe. The replacement was a considerable embarrassment for Sarkozy and for the French government. Therefore, one aspect of the logic for France’s support of a no-fly zone is the compensatory for the earlier lack of clarity on French policy toward change in the Middle East.

Another reason for the support of the no-fly zone is, of course, the French role in EU affairs. With Germany’s rising clout in economic and political policy of the eurozone and the wider European Union, Paris wants to maintain its leadership in foreign affairs and any military initiatives of the Europeans. Therefore, leadership on this issue is very important for Paris. Furthermore, what aids Paris in its diplomatic push for a no-fly zone is an actual lack of interest in Libya.

That is not to say France has no interest in the country; it does import 10 percent of its oil from Libya. However, it has nowhere near the level of interest in Libya as its Mediterranean neighbor, Italy, has, which imports about 20-25 percent of its oil from the North African state. Therefore, France has less of a need to hedge its policy toward the Gadhafi regime. It can be far more forceful in supporting an intervention because it is not as worried as Italy about its energy assets and investments in Libya.

Ultimately, Paris understands that no one is going to ask France to enforce a no-fly zone on its own. It is comforted by the fact Germany and Italy are very carefully considering their steps, and France knows that it can essentially support an aggressive interventionist approach without being called to do it on its own. This gives France considerable liberty in how its treats the Libyan situation, and it allows Sarkozy to gain political points at home.

25132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: March 10, 2011, 03:58:40 PM
VERY interesting CCP.

"Unknown and unannounced to the public, monies were indiscriminately withdrawn from the PFRS and used to pay for Whitman's tax cuts and to balance the state budget."

This caught my eye.  How can this be?

25133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi police fire on Protesters on: March 10, 2011, 03:49:07 PM
Red Alert: Saudi Police Fire On Protesters In Oil Hub
March 10, 2011 | 1946 GMT
Saudi police have reportedly opened gunfire on and launched stun grenades at several hundred protesters March 10 rallying in the heavily Shiite-populated city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.

The decision to employ violence in this latest crackdown comes a day before Friday prayers, after which various Saudi opposition groups were planning to rally in the streets. Unrest has been simmering in the Saudi kingdom over the past couple weeks, with mostly Sunni youth, human rights activists and intellectuals in Riyadh and Jeddah campaigning for greater political freedoms, including the call for a constitutional monarchy. A so-called “Day of Rage” of protests across the country has been called for March 11 by Facebook groups Hanyn (Nostalgia) Revolution and the Free Youth Coalition following Friday prayers.

What is most critical to Saudi Arabia, however, is Shiite-driven unrest in the country’s Eastern Province. Shiite activists and clerics have become more vocal in recent weeks in expressing their dissent and have been attempting to dodge Saudi security forces. The Saudi regime has been cautious thus far, not wanting to inflame the protests with a violent crackdown but at the same time facing a growing need to demonstrate firm control.

Yet in watching Shiite unrest continue to simmer in the nearby island of Bahrain, the Saudi royals are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of Shiite uprisings cascading throughout the Persian Gulf region, playing directly into the Iranian strategic interest of destabilizing its U.S.-allied Arab neighbors. By showing a willingness to use force early, the Saudi authorities are likely hoping they will be able to deter people from joining the protests, but such actions could just as easily embolden the protesters.

There is a strong potential for clashes to break out March 11 between Saudi security forces and protesters, particularly in the vital Eastern Province. Saudi authorities have taken tough security measures in the Shiite areas of the country by deploying about 15,000 national guardsmen to thwart the planned demonstrations by attempting to impose a curfew in critical areas. Energy speculators are already reacting to the heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region, but unrest in cities like Qatif cuts directly to the source of the threat that is fueling market speculation: The major oil transit pipelines that supply the major oil port of Ras Tanura — the world’s largest, with a capacity of 5 million barrels per day — go directly through Qatif.

25134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Scalia objects on: March 10, 2011, 11:08:27 AM
Maybe Prof Big Dog will comment?
One rough measure of how any Supreme Court term is going is to track the decibel level of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinions. In a case last week, the question was whether statements made to the police by a shooting victim as he lay bleeding to death in the parking lot of a Detroit gas station were properly used at trial to obtain a murder conviction of the man he named as the gunman.

The court’s answer, by a vote of 6 to 2, was yes. Writing for the majority in the case, Michigan v. Bryant, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that what was all-important was the context in which the police-victim interaction occurred. Rather than trying to obtain a dying man’s testimony for later use in a courtroom, she said, the police were urgently investigating what they believed to be an “ongoing emergency,” someone with a gun on the loose on the streets of Detroit. Under that view of the facts, the victim’s statements were not “testimonial,” meaning that their use at trial did not violate the defendant’s right under the Sixth Amendment to “confront” an accuser who was unavailable for cross-examination.

That conclusion enraged Justice Scalia. Of course the police officers knew they were gathering evidence for potential use at trial, he objected, and to maintain otherwise was “so transparently false that professing to believe it demeans this institution.” With this decision, the Supreme Court “makes itself the obfuscator of last resort,” he complained. A “gross distortion of the facts,” “utter nonsense,” and “unprincipled” were a few of the other zingers the dyspeptic justice aimed at Justice Sotomayor’s opinion.

Granted, Justice Scalia has long been the court’s leading champion of a categorical view of the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause, one that admits of only the narrowest of exceptions to a defendant’s right to face his accuser. And no less than any other member of the court, Justice Scalia doesn’t like to lose. (The other dissenter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, notably did not join Justice Scalia’s opinion, instead filing a bland two-paragraph one of her own. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate.) But what strategic sense could lead a justice to administer such a public thrashing to a junior colleague?

Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little.

.I was reminded of how, in a crucial abortion case years ago, Justice Scalia lashed out at Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for refusing to provide a fifth vote for an outcome that would have left Roe v. Wade a hollow shell. It was the Webster case in 1989. Justice Scalia was then only in his third term on the court. Justice O’Connor, the court’s only female member, had written critically of Roe v. Wade in earlier opinions. But she found this case an inappropriate vehicle for overturning the decision. When the right case came along, she said pointedly, “there will be time enough to re-examine Roe. And to do so carefully.”

With the result he desired having slipped from his grasp, a furious Justice Scalia wrote in a separate opinion that Justice O’Connor’s position was “irrational” and “cannot be taken seriously.” Would he have aimed those particular put-downs at a male colleague? Maybe. As the ensuing years have demonstrated, male colleagues, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have not escaped Justice Scalia’s barbs. He recently described a majority opinion by Justice Alito as incoherent and as displaying such sleight of hand as to be worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. But in the innocence of 1989, the insults he delivered to Justice O’Connor appeared shocking.

They also proved wildly inefficacious. Just three years later, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice O’Connor did “carefully” consider whether to retain the constitutional right to abortion and voted with four other justices to do so.

In fact, I can’t think of an example of one of Justice Scalia’s bomb-throwing opinions ever enticing a wavering colleague to come over to his corner. Certainly his angry prediction in a dissenting opinion three years ago that granting habeas corpus rights to the Guantánamo detainees “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed” did not lead Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, author of the majority opinion in that case, Boumediene v. Bush, to switch sides. Publishing such an inflammatory statement once it was clear that it would not shake the majority loose was an exercise in self-indulgence that could serve only to undermine the court’s own legitimacy.

So the question raised by Justice Scalia’s most recent intemperate display remains: what does this smart, rhetorically gifted man think his bullying accomplishes?

It’s a puzzle. But having raised the question, I will venture an answer. Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little. Nearly every time he has come close to achieving one of his jurisprudential goals, his colleagues have either hung back at the last minute or, feeling buyer’s remorse, retreated at the next opportunity.

The area of property rights is a prime example. A 1992 Scalia opinion, Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, had raised the prospect that even temporary restrictions on a land owner’s right to develop property can amount to a “taking” for which the owner is entitled to compensation, as if the government had physically seized possession of the property. But within a decade, the court was backing away from this unsettling position, treating the Lucas decision as an exception rather than a rule.

Justice Scalia did have a moment of triumph with his majority opinion three years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, interpreting the Second Amendment to convey an individual right to own a gun, at least for a law-abiding person, in the home, for self-defense. Because so few jurisdictions have stringent gun-control laws of the sort that the ruling invalidated, it remains to be seen whether the Heller decision will have much practical impact. Just last week, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected a Heller-based constitutional challenge to the federal prohibition on gun use by convicted felons.

Justice Scalia’s real shining moment had come four years earlier, on the subject of the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause. His opinion in Crawford v. Washington ushered in a revolution in criminal procedure. While under the Supreme Court’s prior approach, statements by unavailable witnesses could be admitted at trial if a judge deemed the statements sufficiently “reliable,” the Crawford decision established a contrary bright-line rule: confrontation means confrontation. If a statement was “testimonial” in character and the witness could not appear in court, the statement stayed out unless the defendant had an earlier opportunity for cross-examination. Speaking for seven justices, Justice Scalia said that this was the only interpretation of the confrontation clause that was true to the original understanding of the Constitution’s framers.

The Crawford opinion left open the crucial question of what kinds of statements were “testimonial.” A series of decisions drawing various distinctions followed. Two years ago, to the consternation of prosecutors around the country, another Scalia opinion held that the affidavits of crime laboratory technicians, attesting to a substance’s identity as an illegal drug, were testimonial, inadmissible unless the individual analyst appeared at trial or had previously been available for cross-examination. “This case involves little more than the application of our holding in Crawford v. Washington,” Justice Scalia wrote in this case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Not all his colleagues were persuaded. His margin shrank to 5 to 4, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer in dissent.

Like Justice Alito, Justice Sotomayor is a former prosecutor. She replaced Justice David H. Souter, a reliable member of the Scalia majority in these cases. A new case, argued last week, gives the court an opportunity to revisit the Melendez-Diaz precedent if a new majority is so inclined. The question in the new case, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, is whether for confrontation clause purposes a laboratory supervisor who did not actually perform the analysis is an acceptable substitute for the individual technician.

Which brings us to last week’s decision and dissent in Michigan v. Bryant. While Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion purported to accept Crawford as binding precedent, the opinion is suffused with an attitude of pragmatism. In the originalist cosmos of Antonin Scalia, pragmatism has no place. With the highest achievement of his originalist jurisprudence now in peril, fear as well as anger was palpable in his dissenting opinion as he suggested that the majority was not only wrong but was composed of hypocrites.

“Honestly overruling Crawford would destroy the illusion of judicial minimalism and restraint,” he said, wondering aloud whether the court instead was now embarked on a course that would, through “a thousand unprincipled distinctions,” resurrect the old “reliability” test “without ever explicitly overruling Crawford.”

This Friday, March 11, is Justice Scalia’s 75th birthday. It doesn’t promise to be a happy one.

25135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bahrain on: March 10, 2011, 10:43:43 AM
Tuesday, March 8, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Bahrain's Shiite Split

A recently formed Bahraini Shiite opposition coalition issued a joint statement Tuesday in which it vowed to push for the creation of a republic in Bahrain. As Bahrain has been governed by the al-Khalifa Sunni monarchy for more than two centuries, this is quite a bold aspiration, and eclipses the demands issued by the protest movement thus far. Until now, the predominately Shiite protesters have called for the resignation of the government and other political reforms, but not outright regime change.

The coalition, dubbed the “Coalition for a Republic,” is made up of three Shiite groups: the Haq Movement, the Wafa Movement and the lesser-known London-based Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement. It does not include the more moderate Al Wefaq Movement, which is significant. Al Wefaq is not only the leading Shiite opposition party (it won 18 of the 40 seats in the lower house during the 2006 elections, though it walked out in protest after the crackdown on demonstrators in February), it also has been the leading player in the opposition coalition that the government has sought to engage for the past several weeks. Though the protesters on the streets have proven that they are not all Al Wefaq followers (many are devoted supporters of the Haq Movement’s founder, Hassan Mushaima), it is still widely believed that Al Wefaq has more support with Bahrain’s Shia.

“The emergence of the ‘Coalition for a Republic’ gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from the more moderate Al Wefaq.”
There is now an open split in the Bahraini Shiite community, with one side (led by Al Wefaq) continuing with calls for Bahrain’s prime minister to step down and for the Sunni monarchy to grant the majority Shiite population a greater share of political power, and the other (led by Haq and Wafa) calling for a complete toppling of the monarchy.

The trait that the Haq and Wafa factions have in common is that they are likely both operating under varying levels of influence from Iran, which is the object of immense suspicion these days in Manama’s royal court (not to mention Riyadh’s). As the protector of Shia throughout the Persian Gulf region, Tehran has an interest in fomenting instability wherever a significant Shiite population exists in a country run by Sunnis. Bahrain, situated in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, fits the bill, as roughly 70 percent of its residents are Shia. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Bahraini regime has lived in a constant state of unease in relation to its eastern neighbor. But the presence of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet is a nice reminder to Tehran that Bahrain has friends in high places.

Though there is no explicit evidence that Iran is behind the creation of this new hard-line Shiite coalition, Tehran is known to have ties to its leader, Mushaima, while the founder and leader of Wafa, Abdulwahab Hussein, is also known for his more extreme viewpoints. The emergence of the “Coalition for a Republic” gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from that of the more moderate Al Wefaq.

It would be presumptuous to believe that Iran has total influence over every Shiite opposition group throughout the region. That said, Iran has learned over the years how to effectively play the divisions within these Shiite camps to its advantage, thereby multiplying its options and acting as a spoiler to rival countries with competing interests. This has been exemplified in Iraq, where Iran has a relationship with myriad Shiite actors, from more independent-minded nationalists like Muqtada al-Sadr to more traditional Iranian allies like Ammar al-Hakim. There is a lot of utility in maintaining influence over multiple factions of dissent in a neighboring country, which leads STRATFOR to believe that the creation of this new coalition may be the first signs of a (likely milder) version of the “Iraqization” of the Bahraini Shia. Mushaima (or perhaps eventually Hussein) would play a similar role to al-Sadr; Al Wefaq would mimic the role of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

While the existence of two competing Shiite groups allows Iran more tools with which to influence the events in Bahrain, a split in the Shiite opposition also allows the al-Khalifas (and by extension, the Saudis) an opportunity to try to weaken the protest movement. Al Wefaq will play a central role in this strategy to have a decent chance of success. Though Al Wefaq could always decide that it would rather unite with those calling for an overthrow of the regime, it proved in its decision not to boycott the 2006 parliamentary elections that it is willing to sacrifice some of its principles if it means advancing its political goals.

25136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 10, 2011, 10:43:07 AM
PIMCO's Gross is a highly regarded heavy hitter and what he says is watched closely.

I see the market is down about 180 right now; will we crack down through 12,000?
25137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: McCain-Kerry bill on: March 09, 2011, 10:23:51 PM

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Sens. John McCain and John Kerry are circulating proposed legislation to create an "online privacy bill of rights," according to people familiar with the situation, a sign of bipartisan support for efforts to curb the Internet-tracking industry.

John McCain
.Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, are backing a bill that would require companies to seek a person's permission to share data about him with outsiders. It would also give people the right to see the data collected on them. The bill is expected to be introduced ahead of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing next Wednesday on online privacy.

The move comes amid widening scrutiny of the tracking industry. In the past year, The Wall Street Journal's "What They Know" series has revealed that popular websites install thousands of tracking technologies on people's computers without their knowledge, feeding an industry that gathers and sells information on their finances, political leanings and religious interests, among other things.

In another sign of Washington's efforts to regulate tracking, the Obama administration is moving to fill two key jobs related to privacy policy. People familiar with the matter said the administration is in talks with Jules Polonetsky, who currently heads the Future of Privacy Forum, an industry-funded think tank, to run a new privacy office in the Commerce Department. Mr. Polonetsky was previously chief privacy officer at online-advertising companies AOL Inc. and DoubleClick, now part of Google Inc.

John Kerry
.Daniel Weitzner, a Commerce Department official who pushed for creation of the agency's new privacy office, is expected to become deputy chief technology officer in the White House, where he would oversee a privacy task force, the people familiar with the matter said.

Sen. McCain's endorsement of privacy legislation adds a prominent Republican voice to the issue, indicating that concern over Internet tracking crosses party lines.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission urged Congress to authorize creation of a "do-not-track" system, modeled after the do-not-call list that governs telemarketers. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced such a bill in January.

The draft Kerry-McCain bill would create the nation's first comprehensive privacy law, covering personal-data gathering across all industries. That was a key recommendation of a recent Commerce Department's report, developed in part by Sen. Kerry's brother Cameron, the department's general counsel. Current laws cover only the use of certain types of personal data, such as financial and medical information.

Experience WSJ professional
 Editors' Deep Dive: Five Aspects of Online Privacy
DOJ Pushes for ISPs to Retain User Logs
Marketers Step Up Self-Regulation Practices
 The National Law Journal
Privacy and Online Data Collection at a Crossroads  Access thousands of business sources not available on the free web. Learn More  The Kerry-McCain bill would cover data ranging from names and addresses to fingerprints and unique IDs assigned to individuals' cellphones or computers. It would also establish a program to certify companies with high privacy standards. Those companies would be allowed to sell personal data to outsiders without seeking permission in each instance.

A spokeswoman for Sen. McCain confirmed that the two senators were "in discussion" but said "we don't have anything to announce at this time." A spokeswoman for Sen. Kerry declined to comment.

Last week, Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns said he would introduce draft privacy legislation soon, although his approach would largely allow the industry to continue many current practices.

Speaking at the Technology Policy Institute, Rep. Stearns said his proposal would allow the FTC to approve a five-year self-regulatory program that would encourage companies to offer more information to consumers about how they were being tracked. "The goal of the legislation is to empower consumers to make their own privacy choices," he said.

Read more:
25138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Medicaid on: March 09, 2011, 10:14:11 PM
Across the country, cash-strapped states are leveling blanket cuts on Medicaid providers that are turning the health program into an increasingly hollow benefit. Governors that made politically expedient promises to expand coverage during flush times are being forced to renege given their imperiled budgets. In some states, they've cut the reimbursement to providers so low that beneficiaries can't find doctors willing to accept Medicaid.

Washington contributes to this mess by leaving states no option other than across-the-board cuts. Patients would be better off if states were able to tailor the benefits that Medicaid covers—targeting resources to sicker people and giving healthy adults cheaper, basic coverage. But federal rules say that everyone has to get the same package of benefits, regardless of health status, needs or personal desires.

These rules reflect the ambition of liberal lawmakers who cling to the dogma that Medicaid should be a "comprehensive" benefit. In their view, any tailoring is an affront to egalitarianism. Because states are forced to offer everyone everything, the actual payment rates are driven so low that beneficiaries often end up with nothing in practice.

Dozens of recent medical studies show that Medicaid patients suffer for it. In some cases, they'd do just as well without health insurance. Here's a sampling of that research:

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.• Head and neck cancer: A 2010 study of 1,231 patients with cancer of the throat, published in the medical journal Cancer, found that Medicaid patients and people lacking any health insurance were both 50% more likely to die when compared with privately insured patients—even after adjusting for factors that influence cancer outcomes. Medicaid patients were 80% more likely than those with private insurance to have tumors that spread to at least one lymph node. Recent studies show similar outcomes for breast and colon cancer.

• Major surgical procedures: A 2010 study of 893,658 major surgical operations performed between 2003 to 2007, published in the Annals of Surgery, found that being on Medicaid was associated with the longest length of stay, the most total hospital costs, and the highest risk of death. Medicaid patients were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital than those with private insurance. By comparison, uninsured patients were about 25% less likely than those with Medicaid to have an "in-hospital death." Another recent study found similar outcomes for Medicaid patients undergoing trauma surgery.

• Poor outcomes after heart procedures: A 2011 study of 13,573 patients, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that people with Medicaid who underwent coronary angioplasty (a procedure to open clogged heart arteries) were 59% more likely to have "major adverse cardiac events," such as strokes and heart attacks, compared with privately insured patients. Medicaid patients were also more than twice as likely to have a major, subsequent heart attack after angioplasty as were patients who didn't have any health insurance at all.

• Lung transplants: A 2011 study of 11,385 patients undergoing lung transplants for pulmonary diseases, published in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, found that Medicaid patients were 8.1% less likely to survive 10 years after the surgery than their privately insured and uninsured counterparts. Medicaid insurance status was a significant, independent predictor of death after three years—even after controlling for other clinical factors that could increase someone's risk of poor outcomes.

In all of these studies, the researchers controlled for the socioeconomic and cultural factors that can negatively influence the health of poorer patients on Medicaid.

So why do Medicaid patients fare so badly? Payment to providers has been reduced to literally pennies on each dollar of customary charges because of sequential rounds of indiscriminate rate cuts, like those now being pursued in states like New York and Illinois. As a result, doctors often cap how many Medicaid patients they'll see in their practices. Meanwhile, patients can't get timely access to routine and specialized medical care.

The liberal solution to these woes has been to expand Medicaid. Advocacy groups like Families USA imagine that once Medicaid becomes a middle-class entitlement, political pressure from middle-class workers will force politicians to address these problems by funneling more taxpayer dollars into this flawed program.

President Barack Obama's health plan follows this logic. Half of those gaining health insurance under ObamaCare will get it through Medicaid; by 2006, one in four Americans will be covered by the program. A joint analysis from the Republican members of the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce Committees estimates that this will force an additional $118 billion in Medicaid costs onto the states.

We need an alternative model. One option is to run Medicaid like a health program—rather than an exercise in political morals—and let states tailor benefits to the individual needs of patients, even if that means abandoning the unworkable myth of "comprehensive" coverage.

Democratic and Republican governors are pleading with the president for flexibility to do just this. At least so far, this has been a nonstarter with an Obama health team so romanced by Medicaid's cozy fictions that it neglects the health coverage that Medicaid really offers, and the indecencies it visits on the poor.

Dr. Gottlieb is a clinical assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

25139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two from the WSJ: Who are these people? on: March 09, 2011, 09:24:46 PM
"America is always talking about democracy and we want democracy to come to Bahrain. . . . We want them to practice what they preach, that's all."

–Mohammed Ansari, Bahraini

Sometimes it's a heavy load, being America.

And it won't stop unless some day the United States finds a reason to unburden itself of the heavy lift posed by the world's aspiring peoples. With the Middle East protests, we may be there.

Less than a week into the massive Cairo street demonstrations, a prominent U.S. foreign policy expert pushed back against supporting them: "No one really knows a great deal about the protesters."

When all at once the people of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Bahrain, Algeria and even Iran (a Feb. 20 protest by tens of thousands was barely noticed) summoned the courage to take to the streets for greater freedom, the U.S. foreign-policy establishment seemed like stunned deer staring into the incandescent images on television and wondering, Who are these people?

The U.S. needs to produce more than rhetoric on behalf of 10 active democracy protests in the Middle East.

Writing on behalf of de minimis support for the Libyans in these pages Tuesday, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said: "It is one thing to acknowledge Moammar Gadhafi as a ruthless despot, which he has demonstrated himself to be. But doing so does not establish the democratic bona fides of those who oppose him." A little digging surely would find something similar said in 1770 about the Massachusetts rabble.

The we-have-no-clue-who-they-are excuse is utterly lame. Scholars at places like the American Enterprise Institute, the Carnegie Middle East Center and elsewhere have been writing in detail for years about these people, pleading with the policy establishment to recognize how volatile the "stability" status quo had become.

It's clear, however, from the tortured, unfocused U.S. reaction to these events that policy toward these nations below the level of kings had become a second-level priority. How did so many people become an afterthought?

The reason, in a phrase, is the Arab-Israeli peace process. It sucked the oxygen out of thinking about the Middle East. With every secretary of state dutifully saddling up to solve the endless riddle, the "peace process" reduced everything and everyone in the region to spear-carriers for this obsession. The populations of unemployed youth building and festering across the region became an inconsequential blur, an Arab lumpenproletariat. "We don't know who they are." And whoever they were had to wait until some U.S. president harvested another Nobel Prize by "solving" the Palestinian problem.

Well, they didn't wait. They exploded in January 2011.

None of this is to gainsay the interests of the world economy in the region. But America's leaders should not let that become an excuse to forget who they are and where they came from. Soviet-era dissidents have said and written that among the things that sustained them was that their heads were filled with the ideas drawn from America's freedoms.

What a mess the Founding Fathers and Continental Army made for the grinders at the State Department, this week producing exquisite calibrations of America's interests. We now read in news analyses and opinion columns long lists of reasons why helping the Libyan rebels would backfire. What this means is that U.S. intervention won't come until, as in Srebrenica or Kosovo, Gadhafi's killings escalate from mere slaughter to mass murder. Europe acquiesced in the Balkan genocide, but the U.S. could not, an important distinction of global status.
What is happening here is not just another crisis to work through the bureaucracies until the storm passes. The stakes for the U.S. in how these uprisings are resolved extend beyond the Middle East. They've put on the table the core arguments the U.S. will need to mount in its defense against the competitive challenge of China's market authoritarianism. If U.S. timidity is seen as U.S. acquiescence to a system of "reformed" Middle East autocracies, the debate between the American and Chinese models is over. The world's people will see, rightly, that the Chinese are winning the argument, and the U.S. will spend the next 50 years watching other nations back away from its system.

"Defining moment" may be an overworked phrase, but this one qualifies. With these protests, the trains of history have left the station. The U.S. needs to issue a more public, unequivocal statement of support for authentic representative government. And find an active policy to go with it.

Only a U.S. president can lead this fight. But he has to (truly) believe in it. There is a school of thought, popular around the Obama foreign-policy team, that the world would be better off without the myth of American exceptionalism and burdens like these that come with it. If this government can't summon more than rhetoric or a U.N. resolution on behalf of 10 up-and-running democratic movements in the Middle East, that exceptionalism will wither. I'm guessing the world won't be better for it.


America's response to the Libyan crisis is stuck in repeat mode. The Obama Administration keeps insisting that a "full spectrum of possible responses" are in play to stop Moammar Gadhafi's war on his people. And in virtually the next breath, it rules out one credible option after another.

An egregious example concerns the possible supply of military assistance to Libyan rebels. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that "providing weapons" to the opposition was among a "range of options." The next day State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley shot this option down.

"It would be illegal for the United States to do that," Mr. Crowley said, citing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, which sanctions the Gadhafi regime and only passed with U.S. support on February 26. "It's quite simple. In [the resolution] there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya."

One question is how the State Department allowed such a resolution to pass in the first place. President Obama has said he wants Gadhafi to leave, yet his own diplomats negotiate and approve a U.N. embargo that reduces his options in achieving that goal. Why are we still paying Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular should understand that arms embargoes always benefit the better armed side in a conflict. This had terrible consequences in Bosnia during her husband's Presidency in the 1990s, when the Muslims couldn't fight back against Serb militias stocked with weapons from Belgrade. Likewise in Libya, opposition forces seem to be outgunned on the ground and vulnerable from the air. Multiple air strikes were reported yesterday in Ras Lanuf, an oil port in eastern Libya, and Gadhafi's tanks have been leveling the western city of Zawiya.

Security Council resolutions are open to interpretation, so it's also revealing that Mrs. Clinton's spokesman chose to accept an especially broad reading of the Libyan embargo. The relevant paragraph of Resolution 1970 bans "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libya Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals . . . of aircraft, arms and related material of all types." The resolution also forbids "technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities."

By Mr. Crowley's reading, the resolution covers any military support whatsoever by America or anyone else to the forces of the provisional opposition council set up in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. In other words, America's hands are tied by the U.N.

But another reasonable reading would distinguish between the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, another name for the Gadhafi regime, and the territory of Libya. The rebels don't recognize the regime. Nor does the U.S. now that it has called for Gadhafi to leave power. The resolution doesn't explicitly say the "territory of Libya." This would leave the door open for Washington and its allies to supply the opposition with arms and still abide by the letter of the Security Council.

The next paragraph of Resolution 1970 offers another out for the U.S. It permits "supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, and related technical assistance or training." Protection can be defined in various ways to cover the needs of the rebel forces and the civilian population.

We don't think the U.S. should ever let the U.N. control its actions, but we suggest these loopholes because the Obama Administration puts so much stock in the U.N.'s legal imprimatur. The White House may finally have retained some new lawyers, because yesterday Mr. Carney tried to split the difference with State: "We believe that the arms embargo contains within it the flexibility to allow for a decision to arm the opposition, if that decision were made."

Once the lawyers have been satisfied, maybe the Administration will even make a decision.
25140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Muslims vs. Coptics on: March 09, 2011, 09:14:32 PM
CAIRO—Clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims have killed more than a dozen people in recent days in Egypt, heightening a sense that the country's postrevolutionary euphoria is yielding to enduring problems including sectarian violence, poverty and misogyny.

Coptic Christians angry at the burning of a church clashed late Tuesday with thousands of Muslims in a largely Coptic Christian neighborhood near Egypt's capital. At least 13 died and more than 100 wounded in a four-hour clash, said witnesses and the state news agency.

The fighting between different religious groups came just hours after several hundred men roughed up female demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark International Women's Day and demand expanded rights and opportunities.

In a separate tussle on Tahrir Square, the nerve center of Egypt's recent revolt, scores of Egyptian troops and men armed with sticks moved Wednesday night into the square and forced out several hundred protesters who had camped there for the past few days. Dozens of people were hurt, witnesses said.

The military's move came amid growing frustration that life hasn't yet gotten back to normal after President Hosni Mubarak ceded power a month ago following massive nationwide protests.

Various groups have continued taking to the streets to press their grievances. Workers have mounted strikes demanding their bosses be fired and salaries raised. Many police are reluctant to return to duty, fearing attacks by citizens angry at years of police corruption and alleged torture, and at police attacks on protesters during last month's pro-democracy uprising.

Egypt's economy, meanwhile, is struggling to regain its footing after virtually all businesses shut down amid protests. Some state-run banks and companies remain closed, as does the stock market.Advertising has dried up as companies hoard money.

"Another 60 days and the economy will go bust," says Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom, one of the biggest publicly held companies in the Middle East.

Egypt's latest sectarian unrest began last week after a mob of Muslims—furious over a rumored romance between a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman—torched a church near Helwan, an industrial city outside Cairo, witnesses said.

On Tuesday, groups of Christians blocked highways around Cairo to protest the incident, snarling traffic and fraying nerves. The events leading to the day's fatal clash began around 2 p.m. in the Cairo suburb of Manshiyet Nasser, a destitute enclave known to many as "garbage city" for a population of mostly Copts who collect and sift through waste throughout the city.

Protesters in Manshiyet Nasser blocked a small bus on a main thoroughfare. Its angry driver stormed into a surrounding neighborhood and returned with dozens of young, mostly Muslim men, one protest participant said Wednesday.

Angry youths soon joined both sides. By late afternoon, some 2,000 Muslims and 500 Christians had gathered, said Rifaat Atif, a Christian pharmacist who said he saw the escalation.

Young men set fire to a recycling factory and several apartments, witnesses said. Some witnesses said Egyptian soldiers stood by, watching. Others, producing shotgun shells they said were recovered from the scene, said soldiers opened fire on Christian protesters.

An officer among nearly 100 soldiers patrolling the site Wednesday said the military has maintained neutrality in recent events and denied troops fired on Christian youth. Most casualties, he said, had occurred before military troops arrived.

"What have we gotten from this revolution?" asked Mr. Atif, the pharmacist. "We don't trust the army anymore. The money has stopped. There's no security."

Hundreds of Christians have also held noisy protests in front of the country's state television building for the past four days, demanding that the interim government act forcefully to defend the rights of Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10% of the population.

The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, appointed last week, held its first cabinet meeting Wednesday, saying it was following reports of the sectarian violence with concern.

For the most part, Muslims and Christians have enjoyed cordial relations in Egypt, which has the Middle East's largest Christian population. But 2010 saw an unusual uptick in tension.

The year began with a shooting outside a church in Upper Egypt on Coptic Christmas that killed six worshippers and a Muslim security guard. Starting in the summer, Salafi Muslims began regular demonstrations outside churches in Alexandria and Cairo against the Coptic Church. The Salafis—who follow an ultra-conservative form of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia—accused the church of having kidnapped two Christian woman who were rumored to have tried to convert to Islam.

On New Year's Day in 2011, a bombing at an Alexandria church killed 23 people.

Adding to sense of looming trouble is Egypt's economy. The stock market was slated to reopen March 6 but a mob of angry retail investors demanded it remain shut until activity in the rest of the economy picks back up, avoiding what the protesters said would be unnecessarily large losses now.

Mr. Sawiris and others want the market opened right away, saying the closed exchange is contributing to an overall sense of unease. "There are no guts in the government. Everyone is scared of mobs right now," he said.

In a statement, Mr. Sharaf's cabinet called on citizens to go back to work and "to delay factional protests and strikes so the government can return stability that would allow the national economy to overcome these difficult times."

Write to David Luhnow at

25141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Asylum issues on: March 09, 2011, 09:11:56 PM
EL PASO, Texas—Journalist Emilio Gutierrez and thousands of other Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S. want protection they say their government can't provide. But, for the U.S., granting such requests carries practical and political risks.

Mr. Gutierrez, who accuses the Mexican military of threatening him, is part of a growing community of asylum seekers, largely centered around El Paso. The latest is Marisol Valles, the former police chief of Mexican border town Práxedis G. Guerrero, who fled to the U.S. last week from the town where her predecessor had been beheaded by drug traffickers.

Some experts say the asylum requests put the U.S. in a thorny position, caught between human-rights goals of supporting those in danger and standing by Mexico, a key ally who says it is capable of protecting its own citizens.

Since Mexico opened its war on drug cartels in 2006, its relationship with the U.S. has grown closer. The two countries now share intelligence, coordinate border security and are linked by a $1.4 billion U.S.-sponsored aid package known as the Mérida Initiative aimed at strengthening Mexican institutions' fight against organized crime.

"When you're granting asylum, you're admitting in effect that the government is going to persecute someone, or is too weak to give that person protection from others who could," said Stephen Legomsky, an asylum expert at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

And with violence that has killed more than 34,000 people in Mexico since 2006, many see a potential for a rise in asylum requests if the U.S. appears amenable to them.

Other practical concerns work against asylum seekers. For example, many arrive in the U.S. without paperwork and find themselves under the same scrutiny and procedures as immigrants who are caught crossing illegally.

Among the pending asylum cases are those of a family of an activist slain by unknown attackers and a television cameraman who was once kidnapped by a drug cartel and says the government can't stop it from happening again. Getting asylum in the U.S. isn't easy for Mexicans. In 2010, Mexicans made 3,231 asylum requests and the U.S. granted 49; the previous year, 2,816 requests were made with 62 granted.

Mr. Gutierrez's case is particularly charged because of his accusations against the military.

Last year, Mexico received $450 million in drug-fighting aid from the Mérida Initiative that directed much of the money toward its military. One requirement: The Mexican military must have no record of human-rights abuses or a portion of the funds will be withdrawn.

Mr. Gutierrez, 47 years old, worked as a journalist in northern Mexico for more than 25 years before he sought asylum in the U.S. in 2008.

In 2005, he wrote an article about accusations that soldiers had broken into rooms at a hotel in a small border town and stolen items including jewelry and food.

After the story was published, the journalist says he was threatened by a man who identified himself as a colonel and another whom he recognized as a general. "They said I'd written three articles about the military and there would not be a fourth," he said.

Mr. Gutierrez stopped writing about the military. But he launched complaints about his treatment, one which was published in an unsigned front-page story describing the incident and a second that was filed with Mexico's human-rights commission.

In 2008, the Mexican government sent the military into northern border areas and Mr. Gutierrez says his troubles returned.

One night in May that year, he says soldiers broke down his door unexpectedly and began what they said was a search for drugs and weapons. Nothing was found, but he says he was warned to "behave himself."

His newspaper published a front-page story on the incident and photos of the damage. A few months later, Mr. Gutierrez says a friend who was dating a soldier said that his life was in danger.

Shortly after, Mr. Gutierrez and his 15-year-old son crossed into the U.S., telling border guards that he wanted asylum. He and his son were separated and put into detention centers. Mr. Gutierrez was held for eight months, and his son for two. After being released, the two moved to Las Cruces, N.M., an hour's drive from El Paso.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security appointed a prosecutor to the case to argue that Mr. Gutierrez should be deported back to Mexico. The agency declined to comment on the case.

Mexico's military, in response to written questions, said it is aware of the complaints, but has found no evidence of wrongdoing and isn't pursing an investigation.

Mr. Gutierrez's case is set to be determined by an immigration judge next year.

"I will be killed if I go back to Mexico," Mr. Gutierrez said on a recent day at a law office a short drive from the border.

Write to Nicholas Casey at

25142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wash. Times: Sliming Rep King's hearings, and on: March 09, 2011, 09:02:29 PM

"To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character." --Alexander Hamilton

Editorial Exegesis

Maybe there's a reason for being aware of radical Islam"Rep. Peter King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings this week on Muslim extremism in the United States. The Obama administration and other pro-Islamic activists argue that because the vast majority of American Muslims aren't violent extremists, Congress has no business examining the growing numbers who are. This redirection is tantamount to saying that because most people are law-abiding, the police should ignore the study of criminal psychology. Mr. King's planned hearings will shine a bright light on a challenge the Obama administration has studiously ignored, with fatal results. Overlooking the motives of Muslim terrorists has become an O Force obsession. ... The Obama administration persistently has stricken the concept of Islamic extremism -- whether foreign or domestic -- from U.S. public policy. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security drafted a Domestic Extremist Lexicon that listed Jewish extremism as a threat and described various strands of purportedly dangerous Christian extremism but made no mention of any form of Muslim extremism. This document was pulled along with other questionable Homeland Security publications once their contents became public. The February 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review discussed terrorism and violent extremism but didn't refer to radical Islam in any context. Likewise, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review avoids any terminology related to Islam. Mr. King's hearings are a useful step toward opening up the debate on the pressing problem of domestic Islamic extremism. Mr. Obama's inexplicable tendency to turn aside from the question has harmed the ability of the United States to deal with this threat." --The Washington Times

An Obama administration strategy for building contacts in Muslim communities is taking heat from the left and the right, amid increasing concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorism.

Under the program, which extends one begun under President George W. Bush, U.S. law-enforcement officials meet frequently with Muslim groups to discuss their concerns about discrimination. The hope is that such outreach prevents extremist recruitment of young men by showing good will alongside efforts to investigate plots.

"Striking the right tone in countering violent extremism is something we have to be very careful about," said B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, who undertakes activities such as attending Ramadan fast-breaking dinners and helping Muslim Americans navigate the immigration bureaucracy.

Many conservatives blast the efforts as ineffective and even dangerous. "There's a whole political correctness that has suppressed discussion" of Islamic radicalization, said Steven Emerson, whose Investigative Project on Terrorism has published articles on radicalization among U.S. Muslims.

Thursday's Schedule for King Hearing
Rep. Keith Ellison (D. Minn.),believed to be first Muslim member of Congress.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.,), active on religious and terrorism issues.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, physician and former Navy officer.

Abdirizak Bihi, director, Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, whose nephew traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab and was killed.

Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, a Muslim convert, allegedly killed a soldier in a shooting attack at an Arkansas military-recruiting center.

Leroy Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff, active on outreach efforts in Muslim communities.

Source: House Homeland Security Committee
.Some Muslims, meanwhile, think the outreach is cover for recruiting spiesand doesn't fit with harder-edged tactics such as sting operations. "The FBI's activities are sending a troubling mixed message to the community," said Farhana Khera, president of a San Francisco legal group called Muslim Advocates, which warns Muslim Americans against speaking to law enforcement without a lawyer present.

The program is likely to come up at a House hearing Thursday on Muslim radicalization. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), who is overseeing the hearing, said he largely supported the outreach efforts and that the "overwhelming number of Muslims are good Americans." But he said he was concerned by what he described as a general lack of cooperation with federal law enforcement in Muslim communities.

The administration argues that even as it investigates alleged plots it must show an effort to address Muslim grievances—in part to undercut propaganda from radical groups overseas that say the U.S. is conducting a war on Islam. Mr. Jones, who helps coordinate efforts with agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, speaks of a balancing act between pursuing potential terrorists and showing goodwill toward a suspicious community.

In Minneapolis, the Somali community became a focus of concern after 20 young Somali-American men allegedly traveled to Somalia to join the al Shabaab Islamist group. Young Somalis in particular are "a little more cynical," Mr. Jones said. "They see an opportunity for the government to develop them as massive snitch networks." He said one way to avoid spying concerns is to "wall off" his investigative attorneys from the outreach efforts.

In Michigan, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said meeting with local Muslim groups had helped federal officials send the message that they're here "to protect your rights." Last year, she met with Yemeni-American community leaders to explain how to pack airplane luggage, after two Michigan men of Yemeni descent taped bottles of Pepto-Bismol to cellphones in their checked bags—apparently for tidiness—, inadvertently triggering fears of a bombing plot.

Ms. McQuade brought Muslim American speakers to a meeting with federal immigration agents to educate the agents about potential cultural misunderstandings. One lesson, she said, was that "if someone is averting eye contact, it's not [necessarily] that they are trying to avoid questions or are guilty of something. It's that in their culture, making eye contact is not polite."

Robert Spencer, who runs Jihad Watch, which focuses on Islamic extremism, critiques the outreach effort as "completely fruitless," saying it hasn't resulted "in any significant Islamic efforts to rein in radicals in their community." The program also gets a measure of criticism from some counter-radicalization experts who support outreach but say it shouldn't be led by law-enforcement agencies. Maajid Nawaz, a former jihadist sympathizer in the U.K. who now campaigns against radicalization, says Western countries should reduce their reliance on security agencies to break through to suspicious Muslim communities. "Securitizing a counter-radicalization strategy is unhelpful," Mr. Nawad said at a January speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Officials admit the balancing act can be tricky. At a December dinner in Portland, Ore., Attorney General Eric Holder combined warm words for Ms. Khera of Muslim Advocates and a pledge to defend Muslims against hate crimes with a defense of a sting operation that had led to the arrest of a Somali-American accused of plotting to bomb a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony held in the city. "Those who characterize the FBI's activities in this case as 'entrapment' simply do not have their facts straight," he said at the dinner.

The Justice Department says there have been 49 U.S. citizens, mostly Muslims, charged in international terrorism probes since the beginning of 2009. U.S. officials are especially worried about recruitment by international terror groups of citizens whose U.S. passports allow them easy access to other countries and re-entry to the U.S.

Under pressure from conservative lawmakers, the FBI cut off most contacts with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy group. Federal investigators had found ties between the group's officials and several men convicted in 2008 of providing funds to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the U.S. calls a terrorist group. The council disputes the allegations of terrorism ties and says it is a mainstream body.

25143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 09, 2011, 08:38:05 PM
Well, those of who believe in the will of Baraq and his minions to Machiavellian machinations, might suspect they are looking to create a crisis from which they can take advantage; that they will seek to leverage their campaign against American gun rights by creating a treaty with Mexico and/or the UN.  OTOH others of us might simply believe in the remarkable capabilities of government, espeically the BATFE, for stupidity.

Both sides have ample raw material for their suspicions.
25144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 09, 2011, 08:33:55 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, March 09, 2011 -- 8:00 PM ET

Wisconsin Senate Advances Bill Opposed by Unions

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to
strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public
workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's
missing Democrats.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks
ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members
present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's so-called "budget
repair bill" -- a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million
budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that
spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the
legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which
spends no money, and a special conference committee of state
lawmakers approved the bill a short time later.

Read More:
25145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, we can sleep easy now, VP Biden is on the job! on: March 09, 2011, 05:56:48 PM

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the official part of his two-day tour to Moscow today. It is his first visit to Russia since taking office. The trip comes at a very interesting time in which Russian-U.S. relations are pretty ambiguous after the so-called “reset” in 2009. All the hostilities and differences of years past still remain.

Vice President Biden is someone that Moscow watches very closely. This is because of a 2009 speech Biden gave at the Munich conference in Bucharest in which he blasted the Russians for maintaining a Soviet mentality in attempting to dominate Eurasia. Since then, there was the so-called “reset” in which Russia and the United States pulled back from being overtly aggressive into attempting to show that relations were warmer and that there was more flexibility and they could work together and cooperate on many issues.

The main reasons for the so-called “reset” are: first, Russia was becoming more comfortable in its dominance over the former Soviet states that it could change tactics. Russia could start moving back and forth between being unilaterally hostile to more cooperative in order to use each tactic depending on what worked best for the relationship at that time. At the same time, the United States was becoming dangerously entrenched in the Islamic theater to the point where it pretty much couldn’t give any focus or bandwidth into its relationship and issues in Eurasia. It got to the point to where the United States needed Russia to help out with certain issues in the Islamic theater, such as Iran and Afghanistan. But the problem is that all the differences of pasts still remain.

The number one issue between Russia and the United States is the division of their power and dominance in Eurasia. Russia, as I said, has dominated the former Soviet states but it has also in recent years created a strategic bargain with Germany and France, creating this very powerful axis across the European continent. At the same time, the United States has created a very solid alliance with not only Poland but the Central Europeans. This is geographically divided Europe. Not only that, it has started to divide and bleed over into NATO relations — seeing a fracture along the exact same geographic lines between Russian issues and Russian influence in the United States’ power.

So the question is what happens when the United States starts wrapping up in the next few years its focus on the Islamic theater and actually has the ability to turn back into Eurasia? What happens to all the differences that have been put aside that will naturally lead to a conflict between the United States and Russia once again? This is the question which Biden is discussing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This is the issue in which the United States is starting negotiations with Russia before things lead back to an overt conflict. This is not an easy discussion, a simply resolvable discussion or one in the short term, but it is the issue that will define Eurasia as a whole as well as NATO itself for the coming years.

25146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lets see, what else happened in 2008 , , ,? And "Ve knw nothing , , ," on: March 09, 2011, 05:46:46 PM
25147  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Man bites dog; burglar calls police on: March 09, 2011, 02:51:42 PM
25148  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Case Study: 2 vs. 3 on: March 09, 2011, 02:31:19 PM
Its been a while since we have analyzed an event:
25149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What fun! Juan Williams on the new NPR fiasco LOL on: March 09, 2011, 01:54:42 PM
25150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FOX: Truth? We don't need no stinkin' truth! ??? on: March 09, 2011, 10:51:27 AM

Is this but a local affiliate or is this the big FOX News?

Either way, it looks quite bad.

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