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25151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: September 06, 2007, 10:51:04 AM
Counterinsurgency Comeback
By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
September 6, 2007; Page A17

Events have vindicated the claims of those who argued that President Bush's "surge" strategy in Iraq could work. Security, the sine qua non for ultimate success, has improved. This is especially true in Anbar and other Sunni-dominated provinces where the Sunni sheiks, who may have previously supported al Qaeda, have concluded that the Americans are now the "strongest tribe" in the region and have turned against their erstwhile allies.

 
Gen. Creighton Abrams watches during ceremonies transferring U.S. river patrol boats to the South Vietnamese Navy, Oct. 10, 1969.
This is an important development. Of course, success also depends on the actions of the U.S. Congress and the behavior of the Iraqi government. But the military element is important. Advocates of the surge argued that militarily, success would depend less on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq than on how they were used. Under Gen. David Petraeus, they have been used correctly to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations. What perhaps is not fully appreciated is the significant cultural change that his approach represents.

Some years ago, the late Carl Builder of Rand wrote a book called "The Masks of War," in which he demonstrated the importance of the organizational cultures of the various military services. His point was that each service possesses a preferred way of fighting that is not easily changed. Since the 1930s, the culture of the U.S. Army has emphasized "big wars." But this has not always been the case.

Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. Army was a constabulary force that, with the exception of the Mexican and Civil Wars, specialized in irregular warfare. Most of this constabulary work was domestic, the Indian Wars representing the most important case. But the U.S. Army also successfully executed constabulary operations in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, which involved both nation-building and counterinsurgency.

The seeds of a conceptual transformation of the Army were sown after the Civil War by Emory Upton, an innovative officer with an outstanding Civil War record. Graduating from West Point in 1861, he was a brevet brigadier general by the end of the war. He later became a protégé of William Tecumseh Sherman and when Sherman became general in chief of the Army, he sent Upton around the world as a military observer.

Upton believed the constabulary focus was outdated. He was especially impressed by Prussia's ability to conduct war against the armies of other military powers and its emphasis on professionalism. Certainly Prussia's overwhelming successes against Denmark, Austria and France in the Wars of German Unification (1864-71) made the Prussian army the new exemplar of military excellence in Europe.

Upon his return to the U.S., Upton proposed a number of radical reforms, including abandoning the citizen-soldier model and relying on professional soldiers, reducing civilian interference in military affairs, and abandoning the emphasis on the constabulary operations in favor of preparing for a conflict with a potential foreign enemy. Given the tenor of the time, all of his proposals were rejected. In ill health, Upton resigned from the Army and, in 1881, committed suicide.

But the triumph in the U.S. of progressivism, a political program that placed a great deal of reliance on scientific expertise and professionalism, the closing of the Western frontier, and the problems associated with mobilizing for and fighting the Spanish American War made Upton's proposed reforms more attractive, especially to the Army's officer corps. In 1904, Secretary of War Elihu Root published Upton's "Military Policy of the United States." While many of Upton's more radical proposals remained unacceptable to republican America, the idea of reorienting the Army away from constabulary duties to a mission focused on defeating the conventional forces of other states caught on.

While the Army returned to constabulary duties after World War I, Upton's spirit now permeated the professional Army culture. World War II vindicated Upton's vision, and his view continued to govern U.S. Army thinking throughout the Cold War. It is still dominant in the Army today, with the possible exception of its small and elite Special Forces. The American Army that entered Iraq in 2003 was still Emory Upton's Army. But Gen. Petraeus's strategic adjustment suggests that the Army might be undergoing a significant cultural change.

Focused as it has been on state-versus-state warfare, Upton's Army has not cared much for counterinsurgency. This is illustrated by Vietnam, especially during the tenure of Gen. William Westmoreland as commander of U.S. troops from 1965 to 1968.

Westmoreland's operational strategy emphasized the attrition of the forces of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces in a "war of the big battalions": multi-battalion, and sometimes even multi-division sweeps intended to find and destroy the enemy with superior firepower. In so doing, he emphasized the destruction of enemy forces instead of controlling key areas in order to protect the South Vietnamese population.

Unfortunately, such search-and-destroy operations were often unsuccessful, since the enemy could usually avoid battle unless it was advantageous for him to accept it. But they were costly both to the American soldiers who conducted them and the Vietnamese civilians who were in the area. In addition, Gen. Westmoreland ignored the insurgency and pushed the South Vietnamese aside.

The Marine approach in Vietnam was different. It was based on the Corps' experiences stabilizing governments and combating guerrilla forces in the Caribbean during the early 20th century. This experience was distilled in Marine Corps Schools lectures beginning in 1920 and was the basis of the "Small Wars Manual" published in 1940.

This approach comprised three elements: pacifying the coastal areas in which 80% of the people lived; degrading the ability of the North Vietnamese to fight by cutting off supplies before they left Northern ports of entry; and engaging PAVN and Viet Cong main force units on terms favorable to American forces. Gen. Westmoreland focused on the third element at the expense of the other two.

Westmoreland was critical of the Marine Corps approach, which unlike his own, took counterinsurgency seriously. He believed, as he wrote in his memoir, that the Marines "should have been trying to find the enemy's main forces and bring them to battle, thereby putting them on the run and reducing the threat they posed to the population."

When Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced Gen. Westmoreland as overall U.S. commander shortly after the Tet offensive, he adopted a new approach -- one similar to that of the Marines -- that came close to winning the war. He emphasized protection of the South Vietnamese population by controlling key areas rather than the destruction of enemy forces per se. He then concentrated on attacking the enemy's pre-positioned supplies, which disrupted PAVN offensive timetables and bought more time for Vietnamization. Finally, rather than ignoring the insurgency and pushing the South Vietnamese aside as Gen. Westmoreland had done, Gen. Abrams followed a policy of "one war," integrating all aspects of the struggle against the communists.

But despite an improved security situation from 1969 to 1974, Congress ended support for South Vietnam, Saigon fell, and the Army, badly hurt by the war, concluded that it should avoid such irregular conflicts in the future. In the 1970s, the Army discarded what doctrine for small wars and counterinsurgency it had developed in Vietnam, choosing to focus on big wars.

But Iraq proves that we don't always get to fight the wars we want. While the Army must continue to plan to fight conventional wars, given the likelihood that future adversaries will seek to avoid our conventional advantage, it must be able to fight irregular wars as well. Gen. Petraeus's success in Iraq so far indicates that the Army has begun the necessary transformation. Let us hope that the Army will internalize these lessons, something Emory Upton's Army has not done in the past.

Mr. Owens is professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He is writing a history of American civil-military relations.
WSJ
25152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: September 06, 2007, 10:42:23 AM
The Massacre of Innocence
A stunning new book shows how elite culture made the Duke rape hoax possible.

BY ABIGAIL THERNSTROM
Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Privileged, rowdy white jocks at an elite, Southern college, a poor, young black stripper, and an alleged rape: It was a juicy, made-for-the-media story of race, class and sex, and it was told and retold for months with a ferocious, moralistic intensity. Reporters and pundits ripped into Duke University, the white race and the young lacrosse players at the center of the episode, and the local justice system quickly handed up indictments. But as Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson show in "Until Proven Innocent"--and as the facts themselves would show when they finally came to light--it was a false story, a toxic controversy built on lies and bad faith.

There was plenty of wrongdoing, of course, but it had very little to do with Duke's lacrosse players. It was perpetrated instead by a rogue district attorney determined to win re-election in a racially divided, town-gown city; ideologically driven reporters and their pseudo-expert sources; censorious faculty members driven by the imperatives of political correctness; a craven university president; and black community leaders seemingly ready to believe any charge of black victimization.

"Until Proven Innocent" is a stunning book. It recounts the Duke lacrosse case in fascinating detail and offers, along the way, a damning portrait of the institutions--legal, educational and journalistic--that do so much to shape contemporary American culture. Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair--the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline--was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide.





A bit of college-age stupidity triggered the sequence of events. The co-captains of the Duke lacrosse team held a house party in Durham, N.C., on March 13, 2006, and hired two strippers from an escort service for the occasion. The women who showed up--Crystal Mangum and Kim Roberts--happened to be black.
It turned out that Ms. Mangum--although the public would not learn of such details until very late in the life-span of the scandal--had a serious alcohol and narcotics problem. She had been diagnosed as bipolar and had spent a week in the state mental hospital the previous summer. Having arrived at the party late, she did not start dancing until midnight. Time-stamped photos show that her performance lasted only four minutes. By 12:30 she had passed out, as she often did--it was later discovered--at the Durham night club where she worked as an "exotic dancer." The other dancer, Ms. Roberts, eventually drove her to a grocery store and asked for help, and the security guard there called the police, who assumed that Ms. Mangum was "passed-out drunk."

In the custody of police, Ms. Mangum said nothing about a rape. (Ms. Roberts called the rape charge a "crock" when she first heard of it, until District Attorney Michael Nifong bribed her to say otherwise by reducing a bondsman's fee--from an earlier conviction--by roughly $2,000.) Ms. Mangum, fearing recommitment to a mental hospital, landed on rape as the explanation for her incoherent and generally woeful condition when she was prompted by a nurse-advocate at a mental-health processing facility. There was no medical evidence to substantiate the charge.

In a series of interviews with prosecutors, Ms. Mangum drew wildly different and implausible pictures of the alleged rape. DNA tests from swabs taken the night of the incident revealed that she had had recent sexual contact with as many as four men, none of whom were Duke lacrosse players. Defense lawyers discovered this damning detail only after combing through more than 1,800 pages of documents released by the district attorney months after the testing was done. The DNA cover-up was only one of the procedural travesties that eventually cost Mr. Nifong his job and law license and (last week) earned him a one-day jail sentence.

In two photo-identification lineups, Ms. Mangum couldn't identify anyone as her rapist. On a third try--before which Mr. Nifong announced to her that all the photos that she was about to see were of Duke lacrosse players--she suddenly fingered three: David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. It was apparently of no consequence to Mr. Nifong that the lineup violated basic departmental rules and that none of the men she identified bore the slightest resemblance to the descriptions she had given police.

Time-stamped photos--at the party and at an ATM--along with cellphone and taxi records showed indisputably that Mr. Seligmann could not have participated in the 30-minute, three-orifice gang rape and vicious beating of which Ms. Mangum accused the three players. Messrs. Evans and Finnerty did not have such air-tight alibis, but each cooperated fully with the police, even offering to take lie-detector tests, and there was not a shred of evidence against them. The district attorney branded the defendants as "hooligans," but others--like Messrs. Taylor and Johnson here--described them in glowing terms, as earnest, hard-working students.

The state attorney general--after an agonizing yearlong investigation, culminating in Mr. Nifong's removal from the case--determined in April 2007 that Messrs. Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were innocent of all charges. Nothing--absolutely nothing--had happened at the party. The players' innocence had been apparent to their own attorneys from the outset. It should have been apparent to Mr. Nifong, too, given all the exculpatory details he knew. But he was desperate to win a close primary election and needed black votes, so he proceeded with an unjustified prosecution and publicly vilified innocent young men.

In this fundamental injustice, he was aided and abetted by others in Durham. Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke, condemned the lacrosse players as if they had already been found guilty, demanded the resignation of their coach and studiously ignored the mounting evidence that Ms. Mangum's charge was false. He was clearly terrified of the racial and gender activists on his own faculty. Houston Baker, a noted professor of English, called the lacrosse players "white, violent, drunken men veritably given license to rape," men who could "claim innocence . . . safe under the cover of silent whiteness." Protesters on campus and in the city itself waved "castrate" banners, put up "wanted" posters and threatened the physical safety of the lacrosse players.





The vitriolic rhetoric of the faculty and Durham's "progressive" community--including the local chapter of the NAACP--helped to intensify the scandal and stoke the media fires. The New York Times' coverage was particularly egregious, as Messrs. Taylor and Johnson vividly show. It ran dozens of prominent stories and "analysis" articles trying to plumb the pathologies of the lacrosse players and of a campus culture that allowed swaggering white males to prey on poor, defenseless young black women. As one shrewd Times alumnus later wrote: "You couldn't invent a story so precisely tuned to the outrage frequency of the modern, metropolitan, bien pensant journalist." Such Nifong allies--unlike the district attorney himself--paid no price for their shocking indifference to the truth.
Ms. Thernstrom is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the recipient of a 2007 Bradley Award. You can buy "Until Proven Innocent" form the OpinionJournal bookstore.
25153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 06, 2007, 10:37:10 AM
This seems about right to me.  (Run Newt Run!)

The Thompson Effect
No dominant candidate gives Thompson a shot if he can seize it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Fred Thompson is scheduled today to make official what's long been obvious: He's seeking the Republican nomination for President. His entry brings adrenaline and new competition to the race, and our guess is that the ultimate nominee will be better for it.

The two Republican front-runners, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, have their strengths, but no one in the field has emerged as a dominant candidate. Mr. Giuliani in particular has been impressive on the big issues, including the war on terror and the economy. He understands the consequences of premature withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. To help sustain economic growth, he's proposed lowering marginal tax rates and eliminating the death tax. Still, many cultural conservatives remain skeptical of Mr. Giuliani's liberal record on gun control, gay rights and abortion. YouTube videos of the former New York mayor in drag don't help.





Mr. Thompson clearly has an opening here, if he can seize it. For starters, he's a Southern conservative in a party dominated by Southern conservatives. As a Senator from Tennessee, he gained Beltway experience. He's got natural charisma, and in standing up forcefully for Scooter Libby earlier this year, he showed political courage.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Thompson served as a U.S. attorney and Watergate investigator. And since leaving politics, he's enjoyed a successful acting career. Which is to say that the latest addition to the GOP field can plausibly present himself as an outsider at a time when the rank and file are unhappy with Beltway Republicans.

The biggest question he has to answer is, Why President Thompson? So far he hasn't provided one, other than he's none of the other candidates. But voters will want more than that, and it would behoove Mr. Thompson to think big in terms of campaign themes.

Mr. Giuliani is not only Mr. 9/11 but also the mayor who cleaned up a supposedly "ungovernable" city and is tough enough to take on our enemies abroad. Mr. Romney is the manager who built a company, saved the Olympics and can bring the same skills to Washington. Mr. Thompson, meanwhile, has said he wants to fix a federal government "that can't seem to get the most basic responsibilities right for its citizens."

True, but folksy populism by itself won't be enough. He'll have to get more specific, and that should include coming clean about his past differences with conservatives on campaign finance and tort reform. The Romney lesson is that trying to be all things to all Republicans opens you to the charge that you lack guiding principles.





The rationale for a Thompson candidacy may still be a work in progress, but that doesn't mean his entry won't have some immediate impact. There's a reason Mr. Giuliani has welcomed him to the race with open arms, while Mr. Romney nervously joked with reporters that it would be better if Mr. Thompson waited a few more months to declare. Mr. Thompson probably steals more of Mr. Romney's thunder initially, if only because the former's movie and television roles have made him more recognizable. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney is still introducing himself to voters. A recent CBS News poll found that two-thirds of GOP primary voters had yet to form an opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. Mr. Thompson's presence will make it that much harder for Mr. Romney to distinguish himself.
As the new kid on the campaign trail, press coverage of the Thompson candidacy will be voluminous. But media interest won't last any longer than voter interest if Mr. Thompson doesn't use it to put forward some intriguing ideas, and then show that he can defend them with conviction. Mr. Thompson will also have to demonstrate in short order that his fund-raising abilities can compete with Mr. Giuliani's extensive network and Mr. Romney's deep pockets.

With the public in a sour mood, Republicans aren't likely to win unless they make the 2008 election about big themes and issues. They need a reform agenda, and if Fred Thompson doesn't stand for something beyond his persona as a television DA and pickup truck populist, he's not likely to go the distance.
WSJ
25154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: SPP: "Security and Prosperity Partnership"/United Nations on: September 06, 2007, 10:29:46 AM
North American Union driver's license created
Posted: September 6, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


New security logo on the reverse of North Carolina's driver's licenses
The first "North American Union" driver's license, complete with a hologram of the North American continent on the reverse, has been created in the state of North Carolina.

"The North Carolina driver's license is 'North American Union' ready," charges William Gheen, who serves as president of Americans for Legal Immigration.
Gheen provided WND with a photo of an actual North Carolina license which clearly shows the hologram of the North American continent embedded on the reverse.
"The hologram looks exactly [like] the map of North America that is used as the background for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America logo on the SPP website," Gheen told WND. "I object to the loss of sovereignty that is proceeding under the agreements being made by these unelected government bureaucrats who think we should be North American instead of the United States of America."


Security and Prosperity Partnership logo
"To protest, I don't plan on applying for a North Carolina driver's license," Gheen told WND, "even though I am a resident of the state. I don't see how a Division of Motor Vehicles authorized in a Department of Transportation of a state of the United States can force me to have a license place that is designed with a North American Union insignia printed on the backside."
"My decision not to get a North Carolina driver's license could have very difficult consequences for me," Gheen told WND. "Without a valid driver's license, I may not be able to drive a car, fly on an airplane, or enter a government building."
Gheen told WND he does not have a U.S. passport.

In 2005, WND reported North Carolina was the state where illegal immigrants go to get a driver's license, with busloads of aliens traveling south on I-95 to get an easy ID.
The Tar Heel State's requirements to obtain a license are weaker than those of many surrounding states.
Marge Howell, spokeswoman for the North Carolina DMV, affirmed to WND the state was embedding a hologram of North America on the back of its new driver's licenses.

"It's a security element that eventually will be on the back of every driver's license in North America," Howell told WND.
Howell explained the hologram of the North American continent was the creation of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that, according to the group's website, "develops model programs in motor vehicle administration, law enforcement and highway safety."

Founded in 1933, AAMVA represents state and provincial officials in the United States and Canada who administer and enforce motor vehicle laws. The government of Mexico is also a member, though the individual Mexican states have yet to join.

According to the group's website, AAMVA's programs are designed "to encourage uniformity and reciprocity among the states and provinces."
"The goal of the North American hologram," Howell explained, "is to get one common element that law enforcement throughout the continent can look at on all driver's licenses and tell that the driver's license is an official document."

Jason King, spokesman for AAMVA, affirmed the North American hologram was created by AAMVA's Uniform Identification Subcommittee, a working group of AAMVA members.
He explained the goal is to create a continental security device that could be used by state and provincial motor vehicles agencies throughout North America, including the United States, Canada and Mexico.
King referenced a document on the AAMVA website that describes guidelines for using the North America continent hologram as an Optical Variable Device (OVD) that AAMVA has now licensed with private manufacturers to produce.

AAMVA supplies member motor vehicle agencies with a quantity of North American continent hologram OVD foils to use on their driver's licenses and ID cards as needed.

As the guidelines document on the AAMVA explains, each North American continental hologram OVD foil is embedded with a unique set of control numbers that permit law enforcement electronic scanners to identify the exact jurisdiction and precise individual authorized to hold a driver's license or ID card with that particular OVD foil embedded.

"AAMVA understands its unique positioning and the continuing role identification security will play in helping the general public realize a safer North America," King explained to WND in an e-mail. "The association believes ID security will help increase national security, increase highway safety, reduce fraud and system abuse, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and achieve uniformity of processes and practices."
Jim Palmer, press director for ALIPAC, told WND that ALIPAC first became aware of the hologram when Missouri State Rep. Jim Guest held a seminar in North Carolina to protest the Real ID law.

"The surprise came at a meeting on the Real ID that Palmer held in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday, July 28," Palmer told WND.

"When Rep. Guest asked participants to take out their driver's license and see what was on it," Palmer explained, "one gentleman was a state employee and on his license there was this hologram with the North American continent on the back. We were all surprised to see that on a North Carolina driver's license. Right there, that stopped the show."
Guest has formed a coalition called Legislators Against Real ID Act, or LARI.

"I was astonished when I saw that North American hologram on the North Carolina driver's license," Guest told WND. "I thought to myself that the state DMV has already included this North American symbol on the back of the driver's license without telling the people of North Carolina they were going to do this."

"I thought right then that this was going to be the prototype for the driver's license of the North American Union," Guest told WND.
"When we called the North Carolina DMV, they hedged at first," Guest said, "but finally they admitted that, yes, there was a North American continent hologram on the back of the license."
"This is part of a plan by bureaucrats and trade groups that act like bureaucrats to little by little transform us into a North American Union without any vote being taken and without explaining to the U.S. public what they are doing," Guest argued.

King explained AAMVA’s Uniform Identification Subcommittee created a number of task forces, including the Card Design Specification that developed the North America continent hologram OVD.

"The Task Group surveyed and met with many stakeholders during the development effort," King wrote to WND. "The Task Force gathered information from government and non-government users of the driver's License/ID card to determine their uses for the DL/ID card and how they believe the card should function. In addition, the Task Group surveyed and met with industry experts in the area of card production and security to gather their advice, especially about the physical security of the card."
King told WND the Task Group work was repeatedly reviewed by the UID Subcommittee as a whole, with final approval coming from the AAMVA Board.

In 2006, WND reported Pastor Rios Sanchez, 55, an illegal alien, was accused of killing three people, including two North Carolina State University students and a 26-year-old, while driving drunk.
"People who think the Real ID was created to keep illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses and IDs should come to North Carolina," Gheen told WND. "What the North Carolina DMV is doing is creating the basis for a continental driver's license."

"What difference does it make to North Carolina if an illegal alien gets a driver's license?" Gheen asked. "The photo on the license creates a close face scan that can be identified by face recognition technology, whether the DMV admits it or not."
"Illegal aliens who get driver's licenses are just being scanned in advance," Gheen concluded.
"Illegal aliens who get driver's licenses or IDs in North Carolina are just being prepared for their admission into the North America Union driver pool that North Carolina is at the vanguard of creating," Gheen said. "That is the truth, whether the North Carolina DMV or the AAMVA want to admit it or not."
King told WND North Carolina is the first AAMVA member jurisdiction to use the North America continent hologram on a driver's license or ID card.

25155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 05, 2007, 08:31:32 PM
IRAQ: "Foreign factions" have infiltrated the leadership of radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army in an attempt to expand their control in Iraq, Al-Hayat reported, citing unnamed sources within the movement. The factions reportedly provide monetary support, moral support, weapons and training. The infiltrated elements no longer obeyed al-Sadr's commands and instead targeted Shia and Sunnis without coordination with the al-Sadr movement.

IRAQ: Sheikh Abu Zeinab, spokesman for Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, threatened political and military reprisals if the Iraqi government does not release arrested Mehdi Army members, Al-Hayat reported. Five-hundred movement members and 12 leaders of the Mehdi Army were arrested recently. Al-Sadr's movement also called for the dismantling of the holy site protection force in Karbala, claiming the protection group instigated recent violence there.

IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to discuss the ongoing crisis in which Iraq's Cabinet has quit. Al-Maliki told reporters after the meeting that he came to hear al-Sistani's advice on filling Cabinet vacancies or forming an entirely new government. Neither al-Maliki's nor al-Sistani's office reported on how the meeting went.

stratfor.com
25156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 05, 2007, 07:34:02 PM
New thread.
25157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 05, 2007, 07:13:02 PM

HLF Prosecution: CAIR “affiliated with” Hamas

By Brian Hecht, IPT


On Tuesday, the prosecution in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) filed its motion in opposition to the amicus brief filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

In addition to picking apart the arguments laid out in CAIR’s brief piece by piece, the government set an important precedent, officially and definitively linking CAIR to Hamas, writing:
In the instant case, striking CAIR’s name from the attachment to the Trial Brief will not prevent its conspiratorial involvement with HLF, and others affiliated with Hamas, from becoming a matter of public record. That has already occurred as a consequence of the presentation of evidence at trial. (emphasis added)
The government also argues some legal basics, that CAIR has no standing to petition its removal from the list of unindicted co-conspirators since the list is not directly pertinent to the “actual, ongoing controversy” of HLF’s criminal trial, basically that, by filing the brief, CAIR has not acted as a “friend of the court,” but rather only out of self interest, and that, in the brief, CAIR has failed to show any injury as a result of its inclusion on the list of unindicted co-conspirators.
In arguing lack of injury, the prosecution makes similar points outlined in the August 21st blog post by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), CAIR’s Reputation and Incredibly Fluctuating Membership Roll. The motion states:

As support for its alleged injury-in-fact, CAIR provided this Court with data solely from a time period prior to the Government’s submission of its Trial Brief, a period when the alleged improper disclosure could not have affected such membership. CAIR alleges that the “negative reaction by the American public can be seen in the decline of membership rates and donations resulting from the government’s publicizing of CAIR as an unindicted coconspirator” (Amicus Br. at 10); that “the donations that they rely on for funding have suffered since the government named them as an unindicted coconspirator”( Amicus Br. at 38); and that “the government’s labeling of them as an unindicted co-conspirator has chilled their associational activity” (Amicus Br. at 51-52). In support for these assertions, however, CAIR relies upon a June 2007 article in the Washington Times, which revealed (by reviewing CAIR’s tax filings) that CAIR’s membership declined 90 percent from 2001 through 2006, down from 29,000 members to less than 1,700. ... The article provides no further factual information regarding CAIR’s declining membership since 2006. Ironically, the very same article, upon which it now relies, was publicly discredited by CAIR executive director, Nihad Awad, who claimed the article was “false and misleading."
Additionally, the motion argues that the relationship between CAIR, HLF and the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) is already public information, as described in a footnote on page 12:
The role of CAIR founder Omar Ahmad on the Palestine Committee, and the presence of Ahmad and Nihad Awad at the 1993 meeting of the Palestine Committee in Philadelphia, were described during the public trial of Muhammad Hamid Khalil Salah and Abdelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar in November 1996 (sic). See United States v. Salah, et al., Case No. 03-978 (N.D. Ill. 2006). During that trial, defendant Ashqar was represented by William B. Moffitt, author of CAIR’s current motion for leave to file an amicus brief.
The government also argues that CAIR’s amicus brief should be denied because it lacks both timeliness and usefulness, and, as perhaps a final nail in the coffin, that the brief is wholly irrelevant since both testimony and documentary evidence admitted at trial conclusively demonstrate the conspiratorial relationship between CAIR and HLF. For some examples of such evidence, see:
CAIR: Youngest Member of Hamas Family Tree
CAIR Identified by the FBI as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee
CAIR Executive Director Placed at HAMAS Meeting
September 4, 2007 10:21 PM Print


http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007..._affiliate.php
25158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: September 05, 2007, 06:48:51 PM
This really inspires confidence  tongue rolleyes angry Somebody screwed the pooch.


By Michael Hoffman
Military Times

A B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with five nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation, according to three officers who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The B-52 was loaded with Advanced Cruise Missiles, part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. But the nuclear warheads should have been removed at Minot before being transported to Barksdale, the officers said. The missiles were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber’s wings.



Advanced Cruise Missiles carry a W80-1 warhead with a yield of 5 to 150 kilotons and are specifically designed for delivery by B-52 strategic bombers.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Ed Thomas said the transfer was safely conducted and the weapons were in Air Force custody and control at all times.

However, the mistake was not discovered until the B-52 landed at Barskdale, which left the warheads unaccounted for during the approximately 3-1/2 hour flight between the two bases, the officers said.

An investigation headed by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, director of Air and Space Operations at Air Combat Command Headquarters, was launched immediately to find the cause of the mistake and figure out how it could have been prevented, Thomas said.

Air Force officials wouldn’t officially specify whether nuclear weapons were involved, in accordance with long-standing Defense Department policy regarding nuclear munitions, Thomas said. However, the three officers close to the situation did confirm the warheads were nuclear.

Officials at Minot immediately conducted an inventory of its nuclear weapons after the oversight was discovered, and Thomas said he could confirm that all remaining nuclear weapons at Minot are accounted for.

“Air Force standards are very exacting when it comes to munitions handling,” he said. “The weapons were always in our custody and there was never a danger to the American public.”

At no time was there a risk for a nuclear detonation, even if the B-52 crashed on its way to Barksdale, said Steve Fetter, a former Defense Department official who worked on nuclear weapons policy in 1993-94. A crash could ignite the high explosives associated with the warhead, and possibly cause a leak of the plutonium, but the warheads’ elaborate safeguards would prevent a nuclear detonation from occurring, he said.

“The main risk would have been the way the Air Force responded to any problems with the flight because they would have handled it much differently if they would have known nuclear warheads were onboard,” he said.

The risk of the warheads falling into the hands of rogue nations or terrorists was minimal since the weapons never left the United States, according to Fetter and Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent research and policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

The crews involved with the mistaken load at the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot have been temporarily decertified from performing their duties involving munitions pending corrective actions or additional training, Thomas said.
Air Combat Command will have a command-wide mission stand down Sept. 14 to review their procedures in response to this oversight, he said.

“The Air Force takes its mission to safeguard weapons seriously,” he said. “No effort will be spared to ensure that the matter is thoroughly and completely investigated.”
Source Drudge
25159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 05, 2007, 05:40:24 PM
THAT is a profoundly important question, one perhaps worthy of its own thread.
25160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 05, 2007, 01:35:25 PM
BP defends itself-- and us.  Well done!

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=dec_1188973780
25161  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: September 05, 2007, 01:04:02 PM
Poi Dog put together an Indian Club and Kettlebell routine for me and put me through it yesterday.  My body responded very well-- its been quite a whille since my back got so pumped  cool  While I did my thing, he did Torque Blades (which are based in great part on ICs) and pronounced them good.
25162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 05, 2007, 11:56:37 AM
-- John Fund
Some Religions Are Funnier Than Others

For the second Sunday in a row, the Washington Post declined to publish the popular "Opus" cartoon strip, written by Berkeley Breathed, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his daily cartoon "Bloom County" in 1987. Because the Post is Mr. Breathed's syndicator, other papers apparently took the cue and nixed the cartoons as well.

The offending strips featured the hippy, fad-chasing Lola Granola, who has decided, for the moment, to adopt the pose of a victimized "radical Islamist," veil and all, which she calls the "hot new fad on the planet." Amy Lago, the comics editor for the Washington Post Writers Group, told Fox News: "I don't necessarily think it's poking fun [at Islam... but the question with Muslims is, are they taking it seriously?"

Even as it spiked Mr. Breathed, the Post last Sunday had no trouble publishing on its Web site (under the heading "On Faith" no less) an attack on Christianity by author Sam Harris, who called the doctrine of Christ dying for humanity's sins "a direct and undisguised inheritance of the scapegoating barbarism that has plagued bewildered people throughout history." For his part, Mr. Breathed has been an equal-opportunity satirist over the years, once lamenting that the Bush administration's bumbling had all but made parody impossible. Perhaps his next target will be the selective sensitivities of newspaper editors.

opinion journal WSJ
25163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 05, 2007, 04:50:59 AM
Gen. Petraeus, the Real War and the Option Missing From the September Debate on American National Security

Dear Friend,

Next Monday, I will give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) marking six years since 9/11 and outlining the larger war we should have been waging in order to defeat our terrorist enemies on a worldwide basis.

My speech at AEI is designed to make the case for a larger and more productive dialogue about what we need to accomplish in the Real War we're engaged in -- not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in dealing with our enemies on a larger strategic scale, including Iran, Syria, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the worldwide forces of terrorism that want to destroy our civilization and eliminate our freedoms.

We will webcast the speech beginning next Monday evening, September 10, and also post the text of it online at Newt.org and AmericanSolutions.com.

The reason I am speaking out is simple: We need a war-winning option, and today we do not have such an option.

Let me explain.

What's Missing in Our National Debate About 'The War'

Next week will be the sixth anniversary of the enemy attack on the United States on 9/11. Six years ago, more than 3,000 innocent civilians were murdered by an evil barbaric force, an irreconcilable wing of Islam that seeks to repress women, eliminate religious freedom and punish personal liberty.

For six years, we have been at war on a worldwide basis with a movement funded largely by Saudi Arabian and Iranian sources.

For six years, we have failed to confront the scale of our enemy, the direct threat of nuclear and biological weapons if possessed by that enemy, and the scale and nature of the strategy needed to win the larger war with that enemy.

Next week, Gen. David Petraeus, who did a brilliant job in his two previous tours of Iraq and is the best counterinsurgency Army general America has, will issue his report on how the "surge" is working in Iraq.

And yet next week, our elites will continue to hide in the smaller argument about Iraq and avoid the larger argument about the global war.

When the analysis and debate on that report begins, there will be an important option missing.


The 'Stay the Course' Camp Versus the 'Lose Quickly' Camp

The debate over the Petraeus Report will rapidly be divided into two predictable camps.

There will be a "stay the course" camp advocating doing more of what we are already doing, hanging on and hoping for the best. This will be led by President Bush and echoed by his most loyal supporters in the Republican Party.

There will be a "let's lose quickly to end the American casualties" camp that will reject the Petraeus Report. This camp will note that we have failed to achieve a promised land of peace and stability in Iraq, and therefore, we should legislate defeat in the United States Congress rather than allow Gen. Petraeus to continue his efforts to engage Iraq to help defeat the enemy.

The Missing Option: A War-Winning Strategy

What will be missing in this debate is a third choice: "a war-winning strategy."

The great tragedy of the six years since 9/11 is that we have not had a national debate about the scale of our opponents, the depth of their hatred for our way of life and the very real threat that they will acquire nuclear and biological weapons. With the former, they may kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in our cities. With the latter, millions of Americans could die in a deliberate attack.

There is no debate about the potential for a second holocaust in which millions die if Israel is overwhelmed with nuclear weapons or if the missiles Hezbollah fires from Southern Lebanon are launched with chemical warheads or if a coalition of terrorist forces backed by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia simply wear down the Israeli will to resist.

Iraq and Afghanistan Are Campaigns Within the Larger War

Imagine that Lincoln had tried to assess Antietam and Gettysburg without thinking about the larger war for the preservation of the Union.

Imagine that FDR had tried to assess Pearl Harbor or Guadalcanal or Kasserine Pass without looking at the larger war with Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.

Clearly, any battle report which focused only on Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal or the Battle of the Bulge would have been so negative that many Americans would have wanted to quit the war.

Yet, in World War II, Americans understood that they were involved in a larger life-and-death struggle for the very survival of their civilization. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew they had to rally the American and British people to a hard, violent war with tyranny, and they brilliantly described the necessity of defending what they called "our Christian civilization" against Paganism and totalitarianism.

Because the American and British people understood what was at stake and because they believed there was a larger strategy for victory, they were prepared to endure defeats, frustrations and casualties to get to victory.

Once we accept that we are in a larger war, the assessment of Iraq and Afghanistan changes and the options available to win in both campaigns changes.

The Tragedy of Next Week's Debate

The tragedy is that next week there will be a debate between "staying the course" and "legislating defeat."

Both will be wrong.

Legislating defeat is more wrong than simply staying the course. Yet, staying the course is wholly inadequate to the long-term challenge of winning the larger war.

By focusing the country on a stay-the-course-versus-legislated-defeat choice, we have left no space for a dialogue about how to win the war.

Legislating Defeat Will Be Tragically Wrong, a Major Victory for Our Enemies and a Major Defeat for the United States

Let me be absolutely clear: I am unalterably opposed to legislating defeat.

And from talking to thousands of you across the country, including those in our armed forces, I know that the American people are opposed to defeat as well.

We know that defeat in Iraq will be a disaster for America, for the Iraqi people and for the cause of freedom and the rule of law.

If the American Congress legislates defeat, it will have taken on its shoulders the burden of politically defeating the United States at a time when it is impossible for our enemies to militarily defeat us.

If the "Reid-Pelosi Defeat America" legislation passes, every terrorist group on the planet will rejoice.

If the leftwing, pro-defeat activists celebrate a victory over Gen. Petraeus and President Bush, they will be joined in their celebration by every anti-American group around the world.

Legislating defeat should not be an acceptable option for any American who cares about our national security and who wants to defeat the enemy who attacked us on 9/11.

Staying the Course Is Inadequate

Yet as wrong as legislating defeat is, the present strategy of staying the course is simply not good enough.

As long as Northwest Pakistan (Waziristan) is a sanctuary, the Taliban can never be defeated.

As long as we have failed to create a better economy in which growing and processing drugs is no longer the best way to earn a living, Afghanistan will never be safe.

As long as Iran is allowed to ship weapons into Iraq, we will never fully bring stability to Iraq.

As long as Syria is allowed to serve as a transit point for foreign terrorists coming into Iraq, we will never fully defeat the insurgent forces.

As long as Saudi sources finance the spread of Wahhabism across the planet and the Wahhabists continue to advocate Jihad and martyrdom, the flow of new terrorist recruits willing to die will continue.

As long as the current dictatorship runs Iran and works every day to create nuclear weapons and to sustain terrorists groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the professional state-sponsored terrorists of the Iranian Guard units, our civilization will not be safe.

We Are Faced With a Large Worldwide Threat, and We Need a Large Worldwide Strategy for Victory

The greatest need in American policy today is for a strategy to win the larger war.

A strategy for a larger war requires a much more thorough statement of the scale of our enemies and their preparations.

A strategy for a larger war will involve some very difficult and, at times, frightening conversations about who is helping our enemies and what it may take to cut off that aid.

Confronting the Real War on its worldwide terms will require fundamental changes in national security, homeland security, budgets and preparations.

Setting out to win the larger war will require a new tempo and new rhythm for our bureaucracies and new determination to insist on real changes both in America and abroad.

My speech at AEI September 10 at 10:00 a.m. ET will outline the scale of changes required to win the real war.

Anticipating the Patraeus Report

We already know from a variety of sources, including interviews with Gen. Petraeus, what his report will contain.

Gen. Petraeus will report that things have improved, that we are a long way from winning but we are gaining ground, and that we need more time and more patience. The report will indicate that the military situation in Iraq is improving faster than the political situation but that both are promising.

However, we should be prepared for the probability that the enemy has spent the last several months planning and preparing to launch devastating attacks to coincide with the release of the report.

Our enemies understand how Washington works, and they understand how the media work. They increasingly plan the timing of their attacks in an effort to undermine the resolve of our politicians and our public by perfecting their influence of the war coverage in our news media.

If the enemy fails to attack during the debate over the report, it will be a modest help to Gen. Petraeus and President Bush.

If the enemy does succeed in a series of deadly attacks during the debate over the report, those attacks will be seized upon by the American news media and the pro-defeat left as proof that legislating defeat is the right solution.

Who Do You Trust? Gen. Petraeus or Gen. Pelosi?

No matter what happens that week, given a choice between the self-appointed political generals of Capitol Hill and the professional soldiers and Marines who have dedicated their lives to studying the art of war, it is a lot safer bet to believe in Gen. Petraeus' analysis than Gen. Pelosi's.

This upcoming debate is going to be the most serious effort to legislate the defeat of America in a generation.

No one should underestimate what is at stake. Please tune in to my speech September 10, and let your representatives know that we've had enough debating defeat. It's time for a serious discussion of what it takes for victory.

25164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: September 04, 2007, 10:07:25 PM
Ukraine: The Viktors' Parliamentary Struggle
Summary

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko warned some 300 members of parliament Sept. 4 that any decisions they adopted would lack legal force. While technically true, that does not necessarily mean the representatives will not get their way.

Analysis

Some 300 representatives of the Ukrainian parliament loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich met Sept. 4 and passed a document barring the scheduled Sept. 30 national parliamentary elections.

The events of Sept. 4 are simply the latest in a now three-year power struggle between Yanukovich and President Viktor Yushchenko, who are themselves the local representatives of a wider conflict between Russia and the West over the future of Ukraine.

The reason for the sudden meeting of Ukraine's parliament, known as the Rada, is simple: Yanukovich fears public opinion has turned against him and that his party will lose in the Sept. 30 elections. Such an electoral defeat would be crippling not just for him, but for Moscow, which sees Yanukovich as Russia's point man in Ukraine. With Russia gunning to restore its influence throughout the former Soviet space, Ukraine is critical. Ergo, Yanukovich -- almost certainly with extensive Russian backing -- struck deals with enough opposition parliamentarians to get a two-thirds majority to suspend the elections.

Yanukovich's problem is that his Rada lacks a legal standing. In April, the pro-Western Yushchenko dissolved the parliament and ordered new elections. Legally and technically, Yushchenko is in the right, as dissolving the Rada is something well within his powers as president.

Technically, the Rada is not even the Rada right now -- it is merely around 300 former parliamentarians meeting to discuss opinion. The reality of the situation, however, is somewhat different from what is legally correct. Yushchenko is not confident in his legal authority. Such insecurity is what prompted him to dissolve the Rada in the first place.

Ukraine has a split government -- and not split in the U.S. sense of executive vs. judiciary vs. legislative -- but rather split between personalities and loyalties to other countries. Put another way, Ukraine's institutions are so weak that even its constitution has very little impact on how the country's political life is led. Instead, charisma is the currency of the nation, and the country's power brokers negotiate among themselves to determine the country's path. Right now, the three most critical are Yanukovich, Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko, who is looking to play the kingmaker in the current round of instability.

So will there be elections on Sept. 30? Probably. But not certainly. The next step in the Ukrainian drama will be another meeting of the three to hash out what to do now that the Rada and the presidency have spoken on the issue.

Just as in the Orange Revolution of 2004, the same three people are dominating the country's political life. And just as in 2004, outside powers are destined to play a critical role. But unlike in 2004, the United States is distracted and locked into a bitter internal feud over the future of Iraq
25165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2007, 12:34:50 PM
His First Coming Feels Like a Second Coming

Fred Thompson will announce for president this week in the same unorthodox manner he ran his non-campaign.

He is skipping Wednesday night's Fox News GOP primary debate, but will air a 30-second ad on Fox just before the debate directing viewers to his Web cast campaign announcement the next day. On Thursday night, he will appear on NBC's "Tonight Show," whose six million viewers dwarf any debate audience, to preview his candidacy with host Jay Leno. In the following few days, he will attempt to lay to rest rumors that he is a slacker as a campaigner by making a dozen appearances in the key states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

All of this won't satisfy a grouchy media that became annoyed with Mr. Thompson's endless delays in launching his campaign and lovingly highlighted the ouster of several staffers. But Mr. Thompson is betting that voters have more patience and only now are beginning to pay attention to the candidates.

At least he will be in fighting trim. Using a personal trainer, he has lost weight and toned up, such that some voters may have to look twice to recognize the same man who will still be appearing on cable TV this fall in his "Law and Order" role (cable isn't covered by the federal equal-time rules that limit appearances by candidates on broadcast network shows). Those reruns air so frequently that voters are more likely to see Mr. Thompson in his fictional role than they are likely to see his presidential campaign ads.

-- John Fund
Early Pollsters Waste Their Money, Your Time

The presidential race begins in earnest this week as the hopefuls embark on a four-month marathon that will last until the actual voting in Iowa and New Hampshire sometime in early January.

While handicappers pore over the national polls showing Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani out front, it's important to remember just how fluid the contests for each party's nomination have been historically. At a similar point in the 2004 election calendar (i.e. four months before the Iowa caucus), John Kerry was drawing only 9% support among Democrats nationally and pundits were practically writing his presidential obituary. Then Mr. Kerry won the key Iowa caucus and quickly soared to 52% support nationally, eventually winning the nomination.

On the GOP side, large numbers of GOP voters traditionally make up their minds only in the final week before Iowa and New Hampshire. Sometimes they go with the frontrunner, other times they surprise and give a challenger such as John McCain in 2000 a big boost.

Here are some numbers showing just how late many voters wait before deciding how to cast their ballots. In 1996, when Bob Dole was battling Steve Forbes and Lamar Alexander in Iowa, exit polls found a full 23% of caucus voters made up their minds in the last three days before voting and another 19% made up their minds in the preceding week. In New Hampshire, 23% made up their minds on Election Day itself, and another 42% in the week prior. That means two-thirds of GOP voters made up their minds in the final days of the primary campaign.

In 2000, it was much the same. Iowa wasn't a factor that year, because John McCain chose not to challenge George W. Bush there. In New Hampshire, 50% of GOP voters decided in the last week, with 14% making up their minds on Election Day itself. In the key South Carolina primary, 9% made up their minds on Election Day with the total of those deciding in the last week reaching 38%.

What does this mean? Simply that while strong national polling numbers help fundraisers raise more cash for popular candidates and help build media attention, early polls are not nearly as important as what happens in the home stretch in the key primary campaigns. Voters still have the final say and they often take their own sweet time making up their minds.

Opinion Journal/WSJ
25166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: September 04, 2007, 11:58:10 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/ghosts-of-anbar-part-iii-of-iv.htm
25167  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Programación Neuro Linguística on: September 04, 2007, 10:59:51 AM
Muy interesante.  He tenido un pequeno interes en NLP desde los anos 80s cuando yo estudiaba con Paul Vunak, quien usaba tecnicas de NLP.

Lo que has compartido aqui incluye unos detalles que yo no habia visto antes.  Parece que me hija de 5 anos es un visual. smiley

He aqui algo que escribi' (en ingles por supuesto cheesy ) sobre NLP:  http://dogbrothers.com/article_info.php?articles_id=5
25168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 04, 2007, 09:37:35 AM
Second post of the AM:

MISSION AMENDED
U.S. Shifts Iraq Focus
As Local Tactics Gain
Central Government
Loses Clout to Regions;
Bush Skips Baghdad
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN and PHILIP SHISHKIN in Iraq, and GREG JAFFE in Washington
September 4, 2007; Page A1

The Bush administration is quietly moving toward a major shift in Iraq policy, driven by successes in formerly intractable insurgent strongholds combined with dispiriting failures at fostering national reconciliation.

After almost four years of trying to build Iraq's central government in Baghdad, the U.S. has found that what appears to work best in the divided country is just the opposite. So senior military officials are increasingly working to strengthen local players who are bringing some measure of stability to their communities. The new approach bears some striking similarities to the "soft partition" strategy pushed by senior Democrats, and suggests that despite the often bitter debate in Washington on Iraq policy, a broad consensus on how to move ahead in the war-torn country may be forming.

 
President Bush yesterday made a surprise trip to Iraq in advance of an upcoming congressional debate on the war. In a symbolic nod to the emerging administration strategy, it was his first trip to the country that didn't involve a stop in the capital of Baghdad. Instead he visited the former Sunni-insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, where he met with local sheiks who have received tens of millions of dollars in cash as well as training to help fight al Qaeda insurgents in Iraq.

The sheiks "told me that the kind of bottom-up progress that your efforts are bringing to Anbar is vital to the success and stability of a free Iraq," Mr. Bush told a crowd of about 750 soldiers and Marines. Mr. Bush yesterday suggested that if the local gains the U.S. is making continue to hold it could begin to reduce U.S. troop levels by the end of the year.

Senior Bush administration officials, including the president, still talk about the importance of national reconciliation between the three main sectarian and ethnic groups often at war with each other: the minority Sunnis who ruled under Saddam Hussein, the long-oppressed Shiite majority, and northern Iraq's Kurds. Indeed most of the 18 benchmarks drawn up by Congress earlier this year focus on key national reconciliation goals, such as a compact to share oil revenues and loosening draconian laws that had been aimed at purging from power any Sunnis with even a distant affiliation with Mr. Hussein's Baath Party. According to several high-level U.S. reports, the Iraqi government in Baghdad is failing in almost all of those endeavors.

When Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deliver their much-anticipated report to Congress next week they are likely to acknowledge little progress toward achieving these goals which had been central to President Bush's Iraq strategy. But they are also certain to point to big gains at the local level, in places like Anbar province, where violence has plummeted. At Gen. Petraeus's urging, Mr. Bush is also expected to announce a new infusion of aid to the Sunni Arab regions. The aid, which comes on top of $125 million pumped into the province so far this year, would be given directly to local leaders, instead of passing through the central government in Baghdad.

 FIGHT FOR IRAQ

 
 
See continuing coverage of developments in Iraq, including an interactive map of day-to-day events in Iraq and a tally of military deaths.
• Washington Wire: Bush trips up press corps againGen. Petraeus also is expected to assert next week that sectarian killings have fallen by more than half in Baghdad due to the increased presence of troops on the street.

Increasingly commanders in Iraq say that their pessimism and frustration with the current Iraqi government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have led them to focus more intensely on efforts to build up local security forces and funnel reconstruction projects through local sheiks. "The problems in Iraq are going to be stopped from the ground up, not from the top down," says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. forces in the mixed Sunni-Shiite area south of Baghdad. "At the national level you still get sectarian decisions being made, so you work on building capacity from the ground up."

The new approach was born last winter in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where senior Marine officials courted local sheiks with millions of dollars in cash for reconstruction projects and help training their men to fight radical Sunni terrorists. Since then it has spread through large swaths of Iraq as commanders elsewhere have followed the Marines' lead.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military is training and paying Sunni "neighborhood watch" groups to guard their homes.

In the latest move in the strategy, American commanders are trying to export recent success co-opting Sunni sheiks to the much more strategically important Shiite tribes. American commanders for the first time are pushing these leaders to turn against extremists from their own sect, much like U.S. officers have convinced Sunni chiefs to turn against Sunni extremists in places like Anbar. Among the Shiite tribes south of Baghdad, the Americans' weapon of choice has become the "concerned citizens" agreement. A typical deal involves the U.S. forking over a monthly payment of $350 per tribal guard willing to fight. The money is channeled through local sheiks who in return promise to keep their areas safe from attacks against Americans.

Conversely, senior military officials are worrying less about the dysfunctional central government that has been the focus of so much effort in the U.S. military and political strategy over the last three years. The change is the simple outgrowth of what the summer surge of more than 30,000 troops into Iraq has wrought. The U.S. has been most successful in areas where it has taken an intensely local approach, working with local leaders who share U.S. goals.

The logical result of the new policy is a profound shift away from the Bush administration's original goal of building a multisectarian democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Instead, the new strategy seems likely to lead to an Iraq with a very weak central government and largely self-governing and homogenous regions. Over the long term the goal is to connect these local leaders to the central government by making them dependent on Baghdad for funds. To qualify for U.S. assistance, local groups must pledge loyalty to the central government, though many Sunni leaders who are working with the U.S. complain the Shiite dominated government is illegitimate.

Some military officials say the local focus seems to be leading to an outcome that looks similar to the "soft partition" or federalism approach advocated by a growing number of Democrats, including Joseph Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longshot candidate for president. Senior Bush administration officials, of course, have never used the phrase "soft partition." Instead President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates often refer to the new approach as "bottom-up reconciliation." Yesterday the president expressed hope that the military successes would "pave the way for political reconciliation."

Gen. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, often refers to the need for "accommodation." He argues it is unrealistic to think Iraqis will reconcile any time soon. But maybe they can "accommodate" each other. Whether it's called "accommodation," "bottom-up reconciliation" or "soft partition," U.S. officials quietly acknowledge that they are basically talking about a strategy focused on strengthening local leaders to make them more self-sufficient and less reliant on the central government. "If the central government doesn't want to take control, maybe the locals will," said one senior U.S. commander who has played a key role in crafting the new approach. "It is too early to tell. We are riding a tiger. It may take us where we want to go."

To be sure, this approach has problems of its own. In some cases, Mr. Maliki's weak government has fought the U.S. efforts to build local Sunni-dominated security forces. The government in Baghdad, which is dominated by Shiites, worries that these troops could some day turn on it. In other cases, the government in Baghdad seems to fear a loss of power and resources. "If the government of Iraq does not buy into these local accommodations and deals, the progress will be transitory," said one senior Army officer who advises Gen. Petraeus.

Mr. Maliki has repeatedly denied that either he or his weak ruling coalition has a sectarian agenda. He also recently voiced support for a draft of a new law that would ease the ban on former members of Mr. Hussein's Baathist party, who were largely Sunni. That law must still be approved by parliament.

The potential -- and the limits -- of the current U.S. approach are evident in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which was once one of Iraq's most violent cities.

 
Today, Mosul is in the midst of a remarkable turnaround. There hasn't been a car bomb or large-scale attack there since early May, and U.S. commanders say the number of attacks in Mosul has dropped by half. No Americans have been killed there this year. U.S. commanders give most of the credit to local Iraqi security commanders like Col. Qader Saleem Qader, an intelligence officer who tracked and killed two key insurgent leaders in recent weeks, and to his boss, Gen. Jassim Habib Moutaa.

Mr. Maliki's government hasn't rewarded Gen. Moutaa and Col. Qader for their successes, however. Instead, U.S. officers say the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad has refused to promote either of the men, pay their salaries on time, or give the division its proper allotment of uniforms, weapons and other equipment.

"My Iraqi counterparts used to tell me that the entire government in Baghdad was controlled by Iran, and I didn't believe them," said Col. Christopher Mitchell, who commands a U.S. military advisory team that works with the division. "Now I'm not so sure," he added, referring to widespread suspicions that the Shiite government in Tehran is undermining any signs of success by the rival Sunnis or Kurds. The Iraqi government vehemently denies its policies are being influenced by Iran.

Another barrier could be the Iraqis themselves. Shiite leaders, who represent the majority of Iraqis, aren't eager to cede power to Sunnis. It isn't clear either that Sunnis will be willing to settle for a vast swath of land with few oil resources leaving them dependent on the Shiites for future revenue. "I don't think any of Iraq's communities would be happy with a soft partition type of solution," said one adviser to Gen. Petraeus.

The new approach also has shown uneven results in Shiite areas and may even be fueling some Shiite-on-Shiite violence in the south as various tribal and militia groups try to consolidate political and economic control over provinces and towns. Shiite Arabs make up some 60% of Iraq's population. U.S. officials say extremist Shiite militias constitute one of the biggest challenges to stability across the country.

"Any kind of Shia effort to come back to the center would be decisive," says U.S. Army Maj. Craig Whiteside, stationed south of Baghdad in Iskandariyah.

For now, getting Shiite tribal elders to resist extreme militias is proving more difficult in many cases than winning over Sunni sheiks, who saw many of the extremist Sunni elements as outsiders to their tribal ways. The Shiite militias, by contrast, are often viewed by the locals as a necessary, if violent, defense against Sunni extremists.

 
For example, in a cluster of Shiite villages called Jiff Jaffa, an American effort to co-opt local villagers away from Shiite militias, shows how difficult it can be to break the hold of Shiite militias. A year ago, the Americans helped the villagers set up an agricultural union, donating fertilizer and several tractors. Then, about a month ago, the Americans decided to broaden their alliance with Jiff Jaffa and offered the villagers a "concerned citizens' deal." Several U.S. soldiers had been killed on roads skirting the area by "explosively formed penetrators," a particularly deadly type of a roadside bomb favored by extreme Shiite militias. The U.S. troops wanted those routes secured. The Jiff Jaffa leaders embraced the idea and promised to come up with a list of 150 tribal guards.

The list took a long time to draft. The Americans assumed Jiff Jaffa's elders simply couldn't agree which tribesmen should get the job, a typical holdup. But a more disturbing picture soon emerged. Village elders had arranged a meeting with Shiite militants in a local mosque and asked for permission to cooperate with the Americans.

"We negotiated with [Shiite militants] for 10 days," recalls a local farmer who would only introduce himself as Abu Ahmed out of fear of retribution. "They said you are not allowed to work for the coalition forces."

Like many moderate Shiites, the farmer is chafing under the militants' intimidation and attempts to impose strict Islamism on the villagers. He complained about militant bans on alcohol and told stories of a relative smuggling booze in the tires of his car. "In three months, I'm going to Syria to drink some beers and relax," he said.

Shiite militants took root in Jiff Jaffa in part because Sunni extremists in a neighboring area waged war on the Shiite tribes. Over time, the Shiite militias' defensive moves against the Sunni incursions have helped entrench them in many Shiite communities. "Sunnis have a problem with al Qaeda, but Shiites don't have the same problem with their militias, at least not yet," says Sabah al-Khafaji, a local sheik of a large Shiite tribe.

Despite these reservations, village elders finally signed the deal with the Americans over the weekend. It's too early to tell how effective the deal will be.

It's also too early to tell how the mosaic of local deals will play out at the national level. Mr. Bush was met in Anbar province, the former heartland of the Sunni insurgency, by Mr. Maliki, the Shiite prime minister who rarely visits the province. In recent weeks Bush administration officials along with Democratic lawmakers have criticized Mr. Maliki for moving too slowly to reconcile with Sunnis.

Mr. Maliki's presence was clearly intended to show that national reconciliation is still a long-term goal. But some U.S. officials worry that the local deals may actually be impeding the Bush administration's policy aims. The deals are made with groups that are almost entirely Sunni or Shiite. "This works against national level accommodation because it politicizes sectarian identity," said one military strategist in the region.
25169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 04, 2007, 09:33:27 AM
'The Trial' in Brussels
September 4, 2007
Belgian justice brings to mind a certain novel by Kafka. Last month the mayor of Brussels banned a demonstration planned for September 11 under the slogan of "Stop the Islamization of Europe." An administrative court upheld that decision last week. So much for free speech and freedom of assembly in Europe's capital.

The organizers from Germany, Britain and Denmark had expected about 20,000 people from all over the Continent to protest what they called the "creeping" introduction of Shariah law into their societies. The rally was supposed to end with a minute of silence for the victims of the terror attacks on the U.S. six years ago.

True, the organizers' goal of "preventing Islam becoming a dominant political force in Europe" and their claims that Islam is incompatible with democracy are provocative. But the question is not whether one agrees with the message but whether the message is within the bounds of protected speech, which it clearly is.

Mayor Freddy Thielemans, while making no secret of his dislike for the organizers' political views, says his decision was based entirely on security concerns. The police, he says, had warned him of a possible breach of peace.

But Mr. Thielemans isn't worried that the organizers or their followers would turn violent. Instead, he fears that some Muslims and, in his words, "democrats" and "peace activists" might stage counterprotests on that symbolic day and perhaps clash with any racists who might infiltrate the demonstration. In other words, the mayor decided to ban an otherwise legitimate rally for fear of possible violence by people who are not linked to the demonstrators.

On their Web site, the rally organizers reject any association with racists and violent groups and called on the police to take care of potential troublemakers. It is the police's job, after all, to maintain law and order, which includes the right to peaceful demonstrations. Otherwise, extremists, be they skinheads, radical Muslims or "peace activists," could prevent any demonstration they disagreed with by the simple expedient of announcing they planned to show up.

Late Wednesday the administrative court in Brussels refused to overrule the mayor. It said the plaintiffs had failed to show "irreparable damage," such as those that result from contractual obligations. The court also suggested the demonstration could perhaps be held another day -- a rather speculative remedy as the mayor has not said he would allow such a rally on a different date. Besides, the organizers chose September 11 for its historic significance.

The judges overlooked that if law-abiding citizens are not allowed to express their opinions on any given day, it causes irreparable damage to the plaintiffs' rights and Belgium's democracy. Perhaps the civil court to which the organizers have appealed will give more weight to these arguments at tomorrow's hearing.
WSJ
25170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 04, 2007, 09:18:37 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Bush's Trip to Iraq

U.S. President George W. Bush stopped in Iraq on Monday on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Australia. Bush has traveled to Iraq on several occasions, each time arriving without warning, for obvious reasons. In that sense, there was nothing particularly important about his trip. But there were some potentially significant parts to it.

First, the location; he went to Anbar province, not Baghdad. Anbar province had been one of the most restive regions of Iraq, with Sunni guerrillas continually operating against Americans and others. One of the successes of the surge has been the reduction of insurgent activity in Anbar. The president's trip there, then, there was designed to underline one of the successes of the surge strategy.

Part of the success has to do with military operations. But guerrillas, by their nature, go to ground when major enemy units start to operate in their area. When they leave to pacify another area, the guerrillas resume operations. Therefore, the presence of some Sunni tribal leaders was significant. That is a tremendous evolution over the past year. Sunnis willing to be seen with the president are Sunnis who have confidence that they won't be killed. And that means these are both powerful Sunnis and Sunni leaders who have made political deals with the United States.

Bush was flaunting his political rapprochement with the Sunnis. Its broadness is unclear, but he clearly was pushing Iran's buttons. Tehran's fear is the restoration of the Sunni regime in Baghdad, backed by the U.S. Army. That is easier said than done, but Bush wanted to signal the Iranians that the United States is developing political options among Iran's enemies in Iraq. Under any circumstance it is interesting because jihadists operate in the region as well. The Sunnis are either remarkably brave or feel that the jihadists are under control.

While the Iranians were one audience for the trip, another audience is Washington. Gen. David Petraeus is issuing his report in less than two weeks. From interviews he's given, it appears that it will state that violence has been reduced. That is far from the only benchmark he must discuss and in some ways it is not the most important. Violence might decline during the surge, but what happens when troops are withdrawn? Nevertheless, Bush wanted to demonstrate one success in Anbar. Then when the inevitable fighting breaks out in Washington over what Petraeus has really said, the image of Bush in Anbar with Sunnis will frame the debate. Or so the president hopes.

Bush also threw out another option, new for him. He said that it might now be possible to start reducing troops in Iraq. This is critical for him, because more than any other benchmark, the ability to reduce troops in Iraq is going to be the test of the president's progress. Bush needed to say that and he did. What it means is far from clear, of course, and possibly Bush himself doesn't yet know what is possible. But he has thrown in with those Republicans, such as Sen. John Warner, who have come out in favor of a drawdown.

Our own view of a drawdown is that it is the worst of all worlds -- an unchanged mission with fewer troops. But regardless of our views, the fact is that Bush is being flexible in anticipation of the Petraeus report. He is preparing the way for some serious battling, with both Congress and Iran. Right now it would appear that Bush is playing to Congress and goading the Iranians.

stratfor.com
-----------
WSJ
The Tide Is Turning in Iraq
By KIMBERLY KAGAN
September 4, 2007; Page A17

The initial concept of the "surge" strategy in Iraq was to secure Baghdad and its immediate environs, which is why its proper name was the "Baghdad Security Plan." But as President Bush pointed out during his surprise trip to Iraq, operations and events on the ground are already showing successes well beyond Baghdad in Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin provinces -- formerly al Qaeda strongholds and hotbeds of the Sunni insurgency.

 
Considering the speed with which these successes have developed, and the rapidly growing grass-roots movement among Iraqis to support the effort, there is every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for establishing security in Iraq, and every reason to continue supporting the current strategy.

The first major combat operation of the surge, Operation Phantom Thunder, began on June 15 and accomplished its primary objectives. American troops and Iraqi Security Forces eliminated all of al Qaeda's sanctuaries in the Baghdad belts, including its urban stronghold in Baqubah. U.S. forces cleared Dora, al Qaeda's stronghold in western Baghdad. They established an extensive net of outposts in former enemy safe havens, degraded the capabilities of Shiite militias, and dramatically reduced sectarian violence and spectacular attacks in and around the capital.

Phantom Thunder was the first coherent campaign aimed at all of the major al Qaeda strongholds at once. As a result, terrorists could not move from one safe haven to another. Iraqi and Coalition forces killed, wounded and captured thousands of them.

Six months ago, insurgents operated freely around Baghdad's belts. Now U.S. and Iraqi forces limit them to discrete areas, more distant from urban centers, where they cannot easily defend themselves, or support one another or their vehicle-bomb network.

Smaller groups who escaped from their safe havens during combat operations generally fled along the Tigris and Diyala River valleys. The remnants of al Qaeda in western Baghdad can no longer quickly reinforce their positions from outside or within the city.

Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno followed up Phantom Thunder with Phantom Strike. The new campaign, launched on Aug. 13, aims to prevent terrorists and militias from reconstituting their forces in Baghdad, its belts or elsewhere. U.S. and Iraqi forces are moving along the river valleys to destroy the remnants of enemy groups and eliminate any new safe havens they try to establish. Their operations are also preventing Shiite militias from taking over territory al Qaeda once controlled.

Phantom Strike involves Coalition and Iraqi forces throughout central Iraq. U.S. forces are clearing a wedge of terrain between the Tigris and Diyala Rivers north of Baghdad and holding those river lines. Operation Lightning Hammer, part of Phantom Strike, cleared 50 villages in the palm groves of the Diyala River valley, permitting U.S. and Iraqi forces to establish a combat outpost 15 miles northeast of Baqubah to secure the area. U.S. and Iraqi forces have captured Iranian-supported extremist leaders on the Tigris River's east bank, and they are striking al Qaeda in Balad, Samarra and Tikrit.

Meanwhile, Phantom Strike has dismantled a vehicle-bomb network in central Baghdad. And to the south of the city U.S. forces are destroying remnants of al Qaeda in Arab Jabour and Salman Pak -- both al Qaeda safe havens just months ago.

Skillful combat -- and skillful negotiation -- have transformed the area formerly known as "the triangle of death" into a region of dawning, if precarious, stability. As Coalition forces consolidate their gains in these areas, they are also striking Shiite militia sanctuaries east of Baghdad and further south and east along the Tigris River valley. Gen. Odierno and his division commanders cleared territory gradually throughout Phantom Thunder and Phantom Strike, so that they could hold it after clearing operations.

The tribal movement begun in Anbar has spread throughout central Iraq, as thousands of Sunnis have either volunteered to join the Iraqi Security Forces or formed local defense groups under Iraqi government and Coalition auspices. These "concerned citizens" groups springing up throughout central Iraq have not been previously observed on this scale in the country. They permit U.S. and Iraqi forces to hold territory they have cleared more effectively. The volunteers who make up these groups, recruited and deployed in their own neighborhoods, have incentives to protect their families and communities. They are not independent militias, however. They are partnered with Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces.

The Baqubah Guardians, one such group, recently helped the Iraqi police in that city fight off al Qaeda insurgents until Coalition helicopters arrived. The Taji Neighborhood Watch association searched hundreds of homes for weapons caches. Iraq has hitherto lacked a local policing initiative, relying instead on national and regional models. The concerned-citizen groups are filling this gap while the U.S. and the Iraqi governments work to expand and improve the Iraqi Security Forces that many of these volunteers hope to join.

There is every prospect of extending this movement further. Residents of freshly cleared Arab Jabour have volunteered to join the Iraqi Security Forces, indicating that the population there feels increasingly secure from terrorists. Tribal leaders in the Diyala River valley, many of whom have fought with one another since 2006, met immediately after Operation Lightning Hammer ended and swore to fight terrorism and work together as a single tribe.

Tribal leaders encourage local citizens to join the Iraqi Security Forces, working as volunteers before they are accepted into the police or army to identify weapons caches and terrorists to Iraqi or Coalition forces. U.S. commanders hold tribal leaders accountable when they fail to secure their area properly. U.S. forces take fingerprints and retina scans and record the serial numbers of the weapons of citizen-group members. This helps them vet the groups for dangerous insurgents and hold accountable anyone who turns against the Coalition.

The Iraqi government determines whether or not the volunteers are accepted into the security forces. In mid-August, the government enrolled 1,700 new Iraqi policemen from the mostly Sunni former insurgent enclave of Abu Ghraib.

The destruction of al Qaeda sanctuaries has permitted Coalition forces to focus more on the violent Shiite militia groups funded by Iran. These groups are responsible for kidnapping numerous Iraqi government officials, running sectarian death squads and conducting mortar and rocket attacks against the Green Zone.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force and Hezbollah have organized, trained and funded this network of Iraqi special groups, which could not sustain themselves without foreign support. Offensive operations targeting these groups have intensified, a development also made possible by the increasing cooperation of the Maliki government. Coalition and Iraqi forces have been redeployed to disrupt the groups' communication and supply routes east and south of Baghdad. A multi-phase campaign to capture or kill secret cell leaders is also underway across central and southern Iraq and in Baghdad.

In short, American forces are in the midst of a large, complex campaign to defeat al Qaeda, dismantle Iranian-backed Shiite criminal militias, support a growing grass-roots movement in the Sunni population, and create space for political progress at the national level. Al Qaeda is not defunct by any means. It continues to fight and is trying to re-establish itself. It will certainly try to conduct a large-scale terror campaign to coincide with Gen. Petraeus's report to Americans later this month on the progress of the surge.

The Shiite militias seem more daunted. Moqtada al Sadr has ordered his Mahdi Army fighters to cease operations against U.S. and Iraqi forces -- from his refuge in Iran.

Significant challenges remain in establishing security, building up Iraqi forces capable of maintaining it and helping the Iraqi government achieve reconciliation and unity. But few expected the progress made so far. The tide in Iraq is clearly turning, as the Iraqi people are voting with their lives to fight with us against terrorists and militias. Now is not the time to give up the fight.

Ms. Kagan is an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and the president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
25171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IA criminals on: September 04, 2007, 09:06:58 AM
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/222841.html

Arrest renews debate over handling of criminal aliens

By DAVE MONTGOMERY
Star-Telegram Austin Bureau


WASHINGTON -- Sheriff Jim Pendergraph first noticed the changes in his jail population early in the decade, as illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries poured into Charlotte and elsewhere in Mecklenburg County, N.C., to find jobs in the robust North Carolina economy.
In Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard K. Jones became so frustrated with the swelling population of illegal immigrant suspects in his jail a couple of years ago that he symbolically billed the federal government for his incarceration costs and posted a big yellow sign near the jail reading: "Illegal aliens here."
Pendergraph and Jones are part of a growing national debate over how to handle illegal immigrant criminals, a debate that's flared anew with the arrest of an illegal immigrant in the execution-style slayings of three college students in New Jersey.
Criminal aliens, as the federal government classifies them, constitute more than a fourth of the inmates in federal prisons. Those still at large often fall between the cracks of an overburdened and uneven enforcement system, escaping detection and deportation.
More than 300,000 criminal aliens are expected to be placed in state and local jails this year, according to a forecast last year by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general. Most might remain in this country after serving their sentences because the federal government lacks the resources to identify, detain and deport them, the audit said.
The suspect in the Newark, N.J., killings, Jose Carranza, is an illegal immigrant from Peru who was out on bond on assault and child-rape charges. Authorities said they were unaware that Carranza was in the country illegally, largely because local policy prohibits officers from questioning suspects about their immigration status.
'Sanctuary' policies
Newark is one of dozens of cities with "sanctuary" policies designed to keep officers from racially profiling suspects and intimidating immigrant communities, thus making them reluctant to report crimes and cooperate with authorities.
The Newark case erupted barely two months after Congress abandoned efforts to overhaul immigration laws, bringing new calls from law-and-order conservatives to further safeguard the border and root out lawbreakers among the nation's 12 million or more illegal immigrants.
Pro-immigrant groups and a number of big-city police officials defend sanctuary policies and argue that police departments should concentrate on enforcing state and local laws rather than federal immigration policy.
In a study this year, the Immigration Policy Center contended that the perception of "immigrant criminality" is greatly exaggerated, noting that illegal immigrants commit proportionately much fewer crimes than native-born white males.
But others, including Pendergraph and Jones, say the accused immigrant in Newark is just one example of what they describe as a deeply flawed approach to dealing with criminal aliens.
"Most of them fall between the cracks," Pendergraph said. "How many in this country are arrested daily for serious crimes and have been convicted of serious crimes before, and nobody has bothered to check on their immigration status? It's obscene."
Different priorities
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of the Homeland Security Department, is charged with finding and removing criminal aliens. But ICE officials say they're stretched thin and often hampered by state and local sanctuary policies that limit cooperation.
"What we hope for is to improve our relationship with these local law enforcement agencies," said Deborah Achim, the ICE assistant director for detention and removal operations.
The police departments of eight major cities -- including Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Miami-Dade -- said in a joint statement last year that local police can't "even begin to consider dedicating limited local resources to immigration enforcement" until the federal government seals the border.
News researchers Stacy Garcia, Cathy Belcher and Marcia Melton contributed to this report.
Online: Immigration Policy Center, www.ailf.org/ipc/ipc_index.asp
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, www.ice.gov
Washington correspondent Dave Montgomery, 202-383-6016
dmontgomery@mcclatchydc.com
25172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: September 03, 2007, 10:45:27 PM
http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_08_27/article3.html


August 27, 2007 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative



The Chips Are Down

With our computers frozen, would the U.S. still be a superpower? China intends to find out.


byClaude Salhani

In this galaxy, in the not too distant future . . .

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan demanded that the U.S. military focus its attention—and much of its research and development—on how best to respond to low-tech threats such as primitive improvised explosive devices. While the IEDs proved to be deadly for the troops of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq—the majority of casualties suffered were from exploding roadside bombs—the long-term effect they had on the American military was far more consequential. The real impact was felt only a few years later when the United States became involved in its next major conflict—with China.

The two wars in the Middle East were, from a scientific perspective, low-tech engagements in which conventional military forces fought urban guerrillas. Following a sweeping victory that brought the U.S. military from the Kuwaiti border right up to Baghdad and beyond in record time, the administration believed that victory had been attained and prematurely declared the end of major combat operations. As we were to find out, this was far from the case. American soldiers and Marines—and the 60,000-odd contract workers supporting the U.S. military—soon had to grapple with a new problem: roadside bombs detonated by remote control. Lethal as they were, these homemade gadgets were rudimentary. They were relatively easy to assemble, hide, transport, place along the roads where coalition troops were bound to pass by, and detonate remotely. At one point, U.S. soldiers found that a simple remote control sold with $50 battery-operated toy cars at Radio Shack allowed American troops to preempt the IEDs by detonating the insurgents’ bombs ahead of American convoys.

As the casualty toll from the IEDs began to grow, the military focused on countermeasures. Resources from the military’s own research groups and defense contractors across the country became absorbed by the problem. As could be expected, the resistance and the jihadi fighters answered by creating more sophisticated bombs, for example, building the casing out of plastic to avoid detection by mine sweepers. This only prompted the military to keep looking for ways to thwart newer generations of IEDs. And the deadly cycle continued until the end of the war in October 2017—or at least the end of the war for the United States.

American engagement in Iraq officially ended when a detachment of Navy Seals—the last group of U.S. Special Forces—were extracted out of Anbar Province in the middle of the night. Al-Qaeda fighters, having learned from an informer of the U.S. evacuation plan, attempted to ambush them. They began firing on the 16 Seals—divided into two teams of eight—as they hooked harnesses onto cables attached to the underbellies of two large CH-47 Sea Knight Marine helicopters. The gunmen missed the Seals for the most part. Three Marine Cobra attack helicopters providing cover fire quickly silenced the attackers.

Between the time the first American soldier set foot on Iraqi soil in 2003 and the last of the Navy Seals commandos left the country in 2017, and while the U.S. military remained preoccupied in countering threats emanating from low-tech devices in an asymmetrical war, halfway around the globe the Chinese did not remain idle. Aware that the day would come when the People’s Liberation Army might have to face the American Army in battle, China began looking toward the place that conflict might be conducted. Their conclusion: the one who controlled space was guaranteed victory.

The Chinese leadership was fully aware that the PLA could never stand up to the U.S. military in a conventional war, despite China’s superior number of troops—one million under arms. The U.S. war machine is made up of the most fantastic pieces of armament ever incorporated into any fighting force in the history of man.

From the main battle tank, the Abrams M1A1, to Cobra attack helicopters, to Marine vertical take-off and landing Harrier jump jets, to the U.S. Air Force’s crown jewel, the B1 stealth bomber, to the magnificent armadas that the U.S. Navy can deploy with its nuclear powered aircraft carriers, attack submarines, and destroyers anywhere on the face of the globe, the Chinese military leadership had reason to worry.

Its war planners projected that the day would come when they would have to face America’s military in a standoff, most likely over the island of Taiwan, seen by China as a breakaway province and considered by the United States to be a friend and ally. They began to plan accordingly.

While the U.S. military was occupied developing simple solutions to counter low-tech threats in the Middle East, Beijing quietly went about developing high-tech systems to place aboard dozens of “communication” satellites that were developed, tested, and launched into space. Today, the Chinese have 56 satellites in space.

On Jan. 11, 2007, a missile was launched from the Chinese mainland to an altitude of 537 miles, slamming straight into its target—an obsolete Chinese weather satellite. The target was instantly destroyed, reportedly producing almost 900 trackable pieces of space debris. At that time, the U.S. military was far too preoccupied with what was happening in Iraq to worry about Chinese missiles. It proved to be an oversight—a major one.

China made good use of this oblivion. Along with its space-launched missile defense initiative, the Chinese busied themselves with finding ways to immobilize America’s far superior tanks, warplanes, and battleships and render the U.S. military’s computers and their communication and command-and-control systems useless. The Chinese knew that time was limited and that once the U.S. began to disengage from Iraq and Afghanistan, its military would regroup and reassess new threats and move to counter them.

The conflict began pretty much like most conflicts do: gradual escalation and exchanges of strongly worded communiqués, culminating with threats, followed by military action.

Beijing announced that if the newly elected government in Taiwan declared independence, China would intervene militarily. The United States responded by dispatching two carrier task forces attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Ronald Reagan. Besides the usual high-tech armament, including ship-to-shore missiles, ship-to-air missiles, and ship-to-ship missiles, and 400-odd warplanes aboard the carriers, the combined task force also included two Battalion Landing Teams, some 4,000 Marines.

The Chinese had nowhere near as many warships, planes, or tanks, but they had 350,000 men aboard transport ships—and they had a secret weapon in orbit.

As the Chinese expeditionary force approached Taiwan, they crossed an imaginary red line drawn across a Pentagon map, breaching the point American generals estimated would be one from which the Chinese would not turn back.

From his command post aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Adm. Anthony S. Samuelson picked up a secure telephone connecting him directly to the Pentagon and to the office of the secretary of defense. The secretary picked up on the first ring.

“Tell me it’s good news, admiral.”

“Wish I could, sir. They are now in firing range and are not about to turn around. It looks like this is it.”

The secretary of defense asked the admiral to stand by. He picked up a burgundy phone on his desk.

The president answered instantly. “Madame President,” said the secretary, “You must order the attack. If we are to proceed, it must be now.”

The president scanned the room, moving her eyes around the Oval Office where her national security advisers were gathered. Each in turn nodded his head, indicating a silent “yes.” The president of the United States put the phone to her ear and told her secretary of defense to proceed. With a heavy heart, Chelsea Clinton placed the receiver back in its cradle.

As the first Chinese soldier set foot on the beaches of Taiwan, the order was received from Adm. Samuelson’s headquarters to open fire.

Minutes before the order was given, some 300 miles up in space, a Chinese scientific satellite released a burst of electro-magnetic energy aimed at American and Taiwanese forces. Other similar satellites positioned strategically around the Earth released a number of similar bursts directed at strategic U.S. missile silos in the continental United States, Korea, and Australia.

Total confusion followed. Not one order issued electronically by U.S. command-and-control centers reached its target. Missiles fired from the ships of the Seventh Fleet went straight into space and exploded harmlessly above the earth. The Abrams M1A1 tanks started to turn around in circles like demented prehistoric dogs trying to bite their tails. The few planes that managed to take off from the carriers crashed into the South China Sea. Search-and-rescue helicopters were unable to even start their engines.

The Chinese were able to walk ashore and take Taiwan without firing a single shot.

Thankfully, the battle for Taiwan unfolded only in this author’s imagination. But the scenario is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. It is time to finish the war in Iraq and hand the Iraqis responsibility for their land and their own future. It is also time to look ahead. Our competitors are. 

________________________________________________

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, D.C.
25173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 03, 2007, 09:04:26 PM
Note whom the author is:

US PARADROP FOR A NEOBENAZIR

By B. Raman

The much talked about US plans for a political paradrop of a neo Benazir Bhutto into Pakistan in the hope of providing the badly-needed oxygen to President General Pervez Musharraf and saving the country from Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and an assortment of other pro-Al Qaeda and anti-US jihadi terrorist groups is likely to create a third mess in a row for the US after the earlier two in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2.  All the reports from a variety of sources in Pakistan are clear on one point---- there is widespread anti-Americanism in the general public. This is not confined to the fundamentalist and jihadi parties. It is widely shared right across the country.

3.  One of the reasons for the growing unpopularity of Musharraf is the public perception of him as a collaborator of the US in its so-called war against jihadi terrorism, which is viewed as a war against Islam.  Outside the tribal areas, the Pakistani people are by and large moderate. They are unhappy over the role of the fundamentalists and the jihadis in hampering the modernisation of the country and in retarding its economic development.  But they are equally unhappy over the perceived role of the US in influencing, if not dictating, not only the foreign, but also the domestic policy of the country.

4. Any leader---whether it be the Neo Benazir or anyone else--- who seeks to regain power with the support of the US with promises to co-operate with the US more effectively than at present in the so-called war against jihadi terrorism is unlikely to have much credibility in the eyes of the people.

5. Moreover, anyone even with rudimentary knowledge of Pakistan would know that Benazir, like Musharraf, is an opportunist par excellence.  Both have broken more promises than kept them in the past. Both have betrayed more political allies than stood by them.  Look at the way the Neo Benazir let down Mr.Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in her anxiety to come to power. Look at the way Musharraf is apparently prepared to ditch the PML (Qaide Azam), whose formation was engineered by him in 2002 in order to have himself elected as the President, in order to get her support for his re-election.

6. Benazir and Musharraf were birds of the same feather in the past. Remember how she, as the Prime Minister in her first term (1988-90) asked the Inter-Services Intelligence to start terrorism in India's Jammu and Kashmir in 1989? She, Maj.Gen.Naseerullah Babar, her Interior Minister during her second term (1993-96), and Musharraf, then the Director-General of Military Operations (DMO), were the joint creators of the Taliban and facilitated its capture of Kabul in September, 1996.It was she, who allowed Osama bin Laden, to shift from Khartoum to Jalalabad in 1996, thereby paving the way for the creation of Al Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghan territory.  She was as responsible as Musharraf for the rogue activities of Dr.A.Q.Khan and other nuclear scientists.  Pakistan's clandestine nuclear co-operation with Iran and Libya, started under Zia-ul-Haq, made headway under her and its clandestine nuclear and missile co-operation with North Korea started during her second tenure .

7. Musharraf has not kept up his promises to co-operate sincerely with the US in neutralising Al Qaeda activities from Pakistani territory.He has avoided action against the operations of the Neo Taliban in Afghan territory from its sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Not having learnt any lessons from its pathetic faith in Musharraf, which has not produced results, the US is banking on Benazir's promise of strong action against the extremists and terrorists if the US supports her return to power. It seems to believe that Musharraf and Benazir acting together could save Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists.

8. To expect that two opportunists such as Musharraf and Benazir, known for their insincerity, would now mend their ways and work jointly against terrorists is to live in a fools' paradise. Musharraf wants desperately to continue in power to save himself from ignominy. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that he would need the support of the US for this. She wants desperately to return to power, to have the corruption cases against her closed and to let her husband Asif Zirdari make more money as if the millions, if not billions, made by him during her first two tenures are not adequate.She feels she can do so only with US support.

9. Sections of the US media have quoted US officials as justifying the proposed Musharraf-Benazir patch-up as the best of the bad options available. So they said, when they gave unqualified backing to Musharraf post 9/11. So they are saying now.

10. US calculations of political stability in Pakistan under such a patch-up may be belied. Benazir of today is not the Benazir of 1988. She came to power in 1988 through her own efforts with the support of the people of Sindh and southern and central Punjab. The voters rejected the PML of Nawaz Sharif, which they saw as the creation of the Army and the ISI. She made a deal with the US after winning the elections in order to make the Army drop its objections to her becoming the Prime Minister.

11. Today, the Neo Benazir, who denounced Nawaz and his PML in 1988 as the stooges of the Army and the ISI, is seeking the benediction of the US even before winning the elections and the support of Musharraf and his Army for her return to power and the closing of the corruption cases against her and her husband.

12.Even if the US-engineered patch-up ultimately materialises and she returns to contest the elections, the victory of her party will be uncertain. The elections will be seen as between the collaborators of the Army and the US on the one side and their opponents on the other. The opponents will have a decided advantage in view of the prevailing anti-Army and anti-US atmosphere.  Moreover, she and her party could face difficulties even in Sindh in view of the expected strong showing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain.

13. Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal need to be protected from the hands of Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorists. Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power.  Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:seventyone2@gmail.com)
25174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 03, 2007, 04:58:18 PM
http://patterico.com/2007/09/02/the-state-of-the-mexican-union-is/

The State of the Mexican Nation is … Expanding
Filed under: Immigration — DRJ @ 5:58 pm
[Guest post by DRJ]

From Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s first State of the Nation speech delivered today:

President Felipe Calderon blasted U.S. immigration policies on Sunday and promised to fight harder to protect the rights of Mexicans in the U.S., saying “Mexico does not end at its borders.” The criticism earned Calderon a standing ovation during his first state-of-the nation address.


There’s more:

“We strongly protest the unilateral measures taken by the U.S. Congress and government that have only persecuted and exacerbated the mistreatment of Mexican undocumented workers,” he said. “The insensitivity toward those who support the U.S. economy and society has only served as an impetus to reinforce the battle … for their rights.”

He also reached out to the millions of Mexicans living in the United States, many illegally, saying: “Where there is a Mexican, there is Mexico.”

Even though it’s tempting, I will not respond to this with sarcasm or anger. I will respond with logic (for all the good it will do):

President Calderon,

I have some news that will undoubtedly shock you:
Mexico does end at its borders.

DRJ
25175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: September 02, 2007, 01:05:04 AM


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2369001.ece

From The Sunday Times
September 2, 2007
Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran
Sarah Baxter, Washington

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.

President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust”. He warned that the US and its allies would confront Iran “before it is too late”.

One Washington source said the “temperature was rising” inside the administration. Bush was “sending a message to a number of audiences”, he said – to the Iranians and to members of the United Nations security council who are trying to weaken a tough third resolution on sanctions against Iran for flouting a UN ban on uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week reported “significant” cooperation with Iran over its nuclear programme and said that uranium enrichment had slowed. Tehran has promised to answer most questions from the agency by November, but Washington fears it is stalling to prevent further sanctions. Iran continues to maintain it is merely developing civilian nuclear power.

Bush is committed for now to the diplomatic route but thinks Iran is moving towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. According to one well placed source, Washington believes it would be prudent to use rapid, overwhelming force, should military action become necessary.

Israel, which has warned it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, has made its own preparations for airstrikes and is said to be ready to attack if the Americans back down.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which uncovered the existence of Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, said the IAEA was being strung along. “A number of nuclear sites have not even been visited by the IAEA,” he said. “They’re giving a clean bill of health to a regime that is known to have practised deception.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, irritated the Bush administration last week by vowing to fill a “power vacuum” in Iraq. But Washington believes Iran is already fighting a proxy war with the Americans in Iraq.

The Institute for the Study of War last week released a report by Kimberly Kagan that explicitly uses the term “proxy war” and claims that with the Sunni insurgency and Al-Qaeda in Iraq “increasingly under control”, Iranian intervention is the “next major problem the coalition must tackle”.

Bush noted that the number of attacks on US bases and troops by Iranian-supplied munitions had increased in recent months – “despite pledges by Iran to help stabilise the security situation in Iraq”.

It explains, in part, his lack of faith in diplomacy with the Iranians. But Debat believes the Pentagon’s plans for military action involve the use of so much force that they are unlikely to be used and would seriously stretch resources in Afghanistan and Iraq.
25176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 02, 2007, 12:40:33 AM
 Hide Post
CAIR Revealed
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, August 31, 2007 4:20 PM PT
Trail Of Terror: We've wondered why the Council on American-Islamic Relations director has spurned Senate invitations to answer terror charges. Now we know.
Related Stories: Who Are CAIR's Paymasters? | CAIR's Fuzzy Math
For the first time, evidence in a major federal terror case puts CAIR's current executive director — Nihad Awad — at a Philadelphia meeting of alleged Hamas leaders that was secretly recorded by the FBI.
After the Associated Press last week reported the bombshell, CAIR denied claims of ties to Hamas. "That's one of those urban legends about CAIR," said Parvez Ahmed, CAIR's chairman. "It's fed by the right-wing, pro-Israeli blogosphere."
In fact, the evidence was revealed by an FBI agent who testified at the terror-financing trial under way in Dallas.
Her name is Lara Burns, and she's the lead investigator in the case against operators of the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in America. CAIR, which she says received startup funding from HLF, is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, according to court exhibits.
President Bush froze HLF's funds after 9/11. It's now accused of being a Hamas front, and its leaders — including one of CAIR's founding directors — are on trial for allegedly funneling more than $12 million to aid Palestinian suicide-bombing operations.
Burns placed both Awad and his ethnic-Palestinian pal Omar Ahmed, who founded CAIR with Awad, at a Philly meeting last decade where she says Hamas leaders and supporters hatched a plot to disguise funds for Hamas suicide operations as charity for HLF.
According to FBI wiretaps, it was decided at the Hamas summit, which took place inside a Marriott hotel, that most of the funds collected by HLF in the future would be steered to Hamas.
Awad, like Ahmad, does not talk much about his pre-CAIR days.
But before 9/11, when Muslim groups received less scrutiny in America, he made his support for Hamas publicly known. At a March 22, 1994, symposium on the Middle East at Florida's Barry University, Awad said: "After I researched the situation inside and outside Palestine, I am in support of the Hamas movement."
Three months later, he and Ahmad founded CAIR. They promote the group as a grass-roots champion of Muslim civil rights, a "Muslim NAACP." But many of the things CAIR's leaders claim and what we later learn from the factual record don't square.
For instance, they've claimed that they get no foreign support and that their funding comes from local dues. In fact, the bulk of their support comes from two Arab countries tied to 9/11 — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
They've claimed that the size of the Muslim population in America is 7 million. In fact, it's closer to 2 million.
They've claimed that they're mainstream American patriots, when in fact they've told Muslim audiences that they want the Quran to replace the Constitution as the "highest authority in America."
They've also claimed that they don't support terrorism, even as three senior employees have been jailed in terror-related cases.
And now this. CAIR claims to be the voice of American Muslims. If so, it's been an especially loud one. But it has lost its credibility to speak honestly for any legitimate cause.
25177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 01, 2007, 08:03:47 PM
One can only hope.

Anyway, on a more reflective note on the whole process, here's this:

WSJ


Presidential Leapfrog
The nominating process gets curiouser and curiouser.

Saturday, September 1, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The way things are going, the first votes in the 2008 Presidential election may yet be cast in 2007, more than 10 months before the national elections next November. This is not an improvement.

In a little-noticed move this week, Wyoming Republicans moved their party conventions to January 5, beating out Michigan, which just moved its primaries to January 15. State laws in Iowa and New Hampshire require those states, in turn, to leapfrog Michigan and Wyoming, potentially pushing one or both elections into December. So voters in those two states might have to interrupt their holidays to participate in a Presidential primary campaign better held during a much less busy season.





This maneuvering continues a Presidential election process that is changing in ways that make it both longer, yet paradoxically less reflective, than ever. Sixty years ago, Presidential nominees were chosen largely by delegates to conventions held in late summer, between 60 to 90 days before the actual vote. That system gave us FDR, Truman and Ike, to name three better than average Presidents. It also gave us Warren Harding--but then no system is perfect.
In any event, this was deemed too beholden to insiders, so the Progressives lobbied for primaries to open the nominating process to more voters. Yet those primaries were also spread out, from March through the early summer, allowing candidates to adjust to a defeat, raise money between primaries, and even to enter at a late date.

President Lyndon Johnson didn't drop out of the race in 1968 until March, after Eugene McCarthy's surprise showing in the New Hampshire primary. Bobby Kennedy entered the race that same month, and he only emerged as a real threat to the nomination after winning in California in early June. (He was assassinated on the night of that victory.)

On the Republican side, Ronald Reagan lost to President Gerald Ford in New Hampshire in 1976. But he turned his campaign around with a victory in North Carolina in late March, based in part on his opposition to the Panama Canal treaty. That began a series of primary victories that left him only a handful of delegates short of winning the GOP nomination.

Both scenarios would be impossible this election cycle, when the party nominees will be decided in a flurry of primaries that may transpire over less than a month. The big states have tired of the attention devoted to puny Iowa and New Hampshire, and so have elbowed themselves into an earlier, and they hope more decisive, role. The candidates have responded by kicking off their campaigns even earlier. Some have been running for a year already.

Republican Fred Thompson--expected to formally announce next week--will test the proposition that you have to start that early. But he's going to have to raise a lot of money very fast under restrictive campaign-finance laws to be competitive in so many states so quickly after New Hampshire and Iowa. Only someone already famous--Al Gore or Newt Gingrich--could still decide to enter later this fall and have a chance.

To put it another way, this process is both too long and too constricted. It is too long in the sense that it starts the Presidential race more than two years before the actual vote. This shrinks the time for actual "governing," to the extent this still happens in Washington, with Senators like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden having to calibrate every utterance for its impact on their nomination chances. This has only made it harder this year for the parties to find any bipartisan common ground on Iraq, for example. Then once the nominees are all but picked next year on February 5, we will have another long 10 months of campaigning before November. No wonder the political pros call this "the permanent campaign."

But the process is also too constricted, because once the primary voting starts, it will be over in a flash. This makes it harder for a dark horse candidate to break through; even with an early victory, it might be too late to raise enough money to compete in the fast-following giant states.

It also gives Americans less chance to scrutinize the nominees once the actual balloting begins. Sure, voters may know the names of most of those who are running, but average, rational citizens lack the time or interest to focus until an election is nigh. A nominating primary gantlet of three to four weeks is the political equivalent of a blur. This means that crucial facts about a candidate's experience and character may not be discovered until he has already wrapped up the nomination.





We're not sure what can be done about all this. Both parties have conspired in the past in moving up the primary dates for their own competitive reasons (such as getting the intra-party disputes out of the way early when taking on a sitting President). And this year, both parties have threatened to punish state parties that move up their primaries to crowd the early small states--to no avail.
Perhaps it will all turn out for the best this time around. But if the process leaves one or both parties lukewarm about their nominees, it could also open the field for a third party candidate to make a run. This is the scenario that New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been eyeing. Pressure could also build for Congress to intervene and set some new campaign limits--which, in the usual Congressional fashion, could make things worse. It's not too early for the parties to start thinking how to organize things better for the 2012 campaign. On present course, they are making us nostalgic for conventions and smoke-filled rooms.
25178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 01, 2007, 01:36:03 AM
Reaganomics 2.0
By STEPHEN MOORE
August 31, 2007; Page A8

Earlier this year the cover of Time Magazine depicted Ronald Reagan with a tear running down his cheek -- the message being that the political class has abandoned the Reagan legacy. There's no doubt Reagan's pro-growth, tax cutting philosophy is in full-scale retreat: This Congress has proposed higher tax rates on personal income, capital gains and dividends. Ironically, the Reagan economic philosophy of lower taxes, less regulation and free trade has never been more in vogue abroad -- so much so that it has become the global economic operating system.

Let's call this phenomenon Reaganomics 2.0.

In the Pacific Rim nations, for example, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam all have cut taxes this year or have plans to do so. Singapore has cut taxes multiple times in recent years and it now operates with no capital gains tax.

But the remarkable attitudinal shift on taxes has been in Europe, which in the 1980s and '90s showcased their gold-plated social safety nets, boasted of their citizens' willingness to pay high tax rates to maintain them and were openly contemptuous of the Reagan tax-cutting philosophy. Now those same nations of old-Europe seem to be in a sprint to see which country can get their tax rates lowest quickest. Nicholas Vardy, the editor of "The Global Guru" economic newsletter calls the phenomenon "Europe's Reagan Revolution."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has plans to cut his country's business income tax by at least five percentage points as part of his economic rehabilitation plan. Spain and Italy are negotiating plans to lower their corporate tax rates, and the U.K. already did so earlier this year. Sweden and Russia last year eliminated their estate taxes because they said the tax was economically counterproductive. In Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel, the corporate tax rate has been reduced to less than 30% from 39%.

Some of this tax chopping in Old Europe is a response to the success of the U.S. tax rate reductions and the fast pace of job creation that ensued from economic growth -- though few European officials will acknowledge that reality. But a bigger factor more recently has been the impact of the flat-tax revolution in Eastern Europe. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute says there are now 14 nations with flat taxes, 10 of them in nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain. "The pace of tax reform in these nations is so frantic, that it's hard to keep up to date with the changes," he says. Poland hasn't yet established a flat tax, but recently cut its business tax to 19% from 27%.

Austria cut its corporate tax rate to keep pace with its neighbor, Slovakia which recently adopted an 18% flat tax. Singapore is cutting taxes to compete with its 16% flat-tax rival Hong Kong. Northern Ireland wants to cut its tax rates so that it can compete with the economic gazelle of Europe, the Republic of Ireland. In 1988 Ireland was a high-unemployment stagnant economy with a 48% corporate tax rate, today that rate is 12.5% and the rest of the world is now desperate to match its economic results. Meanwhile German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck sold the latest tax cuts as "an investment in Germany as a business location."

The idea that jobs, businesses and wealth follow low tax rates is widely accepted. Nguyen Van Ninh, head of the Department of Taxation in Vietnam is typical. He concedes that the corporate tax cuts may lose revenues, but "on the other side, the business environment will become more and more attractive, resulting in increased investment."

This is all very good news -- except in the U.S. Arthur Laffer, one of the architects of the Reagan tax policies, believes that one major explanation for the strength of the euro and the weakness of the dollar in recent years, is the divergent paths on tax policies on the two sides of the Atlantic. Europe is cutting levies, while the only debate among the political class in Washington is how high to jack them up.

Still, it is a testament to the Reagan economic revolution launched in 1981 that, a quarter century later, global tax rates are 25 percentage points lower on average today than in the 1970s. And those figures don't even include this latest round of chopping under Reaganomics 2.0. The enactment of supply-side policies is helping ignite one of the strongest and longest world-wide economic expansions in history. Yet few are giving Reagan or his ideas the credit. Mr. Vardy points out that there are only two official statues of Reagan in Europe. Last month the Poles unveiled one financed by an American entrepreneur. The first was erected in Budapest to commemorate Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin. Now tax walls are being torn down.

Alas, there's only about one place on the planet where politicians hold Reaganomics in outright disrepute today -- and that is here. The Democratic leadership in Congress believes that tax rates don't matter much if at all, and that the Bush tax cuts were a giveaway to the rich. Presidential candidate John Edwards has even suggested a near doubling of the U.S. capital gains tax rate as part of his economic program, and his rivals all have schemes to soak the wealthy as well.

All of this threatens to move America from leader to laggard in the global race for job creation, capital investment and prosperity. Maybe that explains the tear rolling down the Gipper's cheek.

Mr. Moore is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

WSJ
25179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 31, 2007, 11:40:58 PM
What Women Want
How the GOP can woo the ladies.

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, August 31, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Hillary has herself. Barack has Oprah. John Edwards has his wife, Elizabeth. And what secret weapon do Republican presidential candidates have to curry the all-important "women's vote"?

(Cue silence.)

Expect to hear a lot about lady voters over the next few months, though most of it from Democrats. Women make up 60% of the left's primary electorate, and the front-runners are already going to the mat for their vote. It's why Ms. Clinton has six full-time staffers for women's outreach; why Mr. Obama sports a women's "policy committee"; and why Bill Richardson recently told a cheering mob that "women are better workers than men" (you go, Bill!).

Come next year one of these folks will be the nominee, and at that point will train a formidable outreach machine on the general female electorate. They'll mean business. Democrats understand that they need women to offset what tends to be a permanent advantage for Republicans among male voters. Al Gore's 54% women's vote got him a crack at the Supreme Court. John Kerry's 51% women's vote only got him back to the Senate.

A smart Republican candidate would be doing Twister moves to deny Democrats those votes. Yet what's extraordinary is that no GOP contender has yet recognized the huge opportunity to redefine "women's" politics for the 21st century. That's a double failing given that the GOP could win modern women by doing little more than tailoring their beliefs in freer markets to the problems women struggle most with today.





The Democrats' own views of what counts for "women's issues" are stuck back in the disco days, about the time Ms. Clinton came of political age. Under the title "A Champion for Women," the New York senator's Web site promises the usual tired litany of "equal pay" and a "woman's right to choose." Mr. Richardson pitches a new government handout for women on "family leave" and waxes nostalgic for the Equal Rights Amendment. Give these Boomers some bell bottoms and "The Female Eunuch," and they'd feel right at home. Polls show Ms. Clinton today gets her best female support from women her age and up.
The rest of the female population has migrated into 2007. Undoubtedly quite a few do care about abortion rights and the Violence Against Women Act. But for the 60% of women who today both scramble after a child and hold a job, these culture-war touchpoints aren't their top voting priority. Their biggest concerns, not surprisingly, hew closely to those of their male counterparts: the war in Iraq, health care, the economy. But following close behind are issues that are more unique to working women and mothers. Therein rests the GOP opportunity.

Here's an example of how a smart Republican could morph an old-fashioned Democratic talking point into a modern-day vote winner. Ms. Clinton likes to bang on about "inequality" in pay. The smart conservative would explain to a female audience that there indeed is inequality, and that the situation is grave. Only the bad guy isn't the male boss; it's the progressive tax code.

Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband's, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in "inequality," yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women. In some cases, the tax burdens and child-care expenses for second-earners are so burdensome they can't afford a career. But when was the last time a Republican pointed out that Ms. Clinton was helping to keep ladies in the kitchen?

For that matter, when was the last time a GOP candidate pointed out that their own free-market policies could help alleviate this problem? Should President Bush's tax cuts expire, tens of thousands of middle-class women will see more of their paychecks disappear into the maw of their husband's higher bracket. A really brave candidate would go so far as to promise eliminating this tax bias altogether. Under a flat tax, second-earner women would pay the same rate as unmarried women and the guy down the hall. Let Democrats bang the worn-out drum of a "living wage." Republicans should customize their low-tax message to explain how they directly put more money into female pockets.





Here's another one: Ask almost any working woman what the toughest part of her life is, and she'll say the complications of scheduling both work and family life. What makes that task so tough is a dusty piece of legislation called the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that hourly workers who put in more than 40 hours a week get overtime. Some women like overtime. But in a 1995 poll, an extraordinary 81% said they'd prefer compensatory time off. Put another way, many women would like to pack 45 hours into the first four days of work, then knock off early on Friday to catch Jimmy's soccer match.
The mod term for this is "flex time" and Democrats pay it lip service. But what the left won't mention--and Republicans have failed to mention--is that Democrats are the obstacle to changing the overtime law. Organized labor likes the 40-hour-week law, and union leaders prefer to be the ones to arrange any flex-time agreements on behalf of their members. So in 1997, when Republican Sen. John Ashcroft put forward legislation to allow flexible scheduling in the private workforce, it was Democrats, at the beck of unions, who killed it. Some intelligent GOP candidate might want to consider adopting the flex-time cause, or at the least re-crafting the usual "flexible labor law" jargon into real-world examples of how flexibility helps women.

The majority of health-care decisions are made by women, yet neither Rudy Giuliani nor Mitt Romney has explained how their innovative proposals to put individuals back in charge of care would help women in particular. No candidate has explained that only through private Social Security accounts will women ever see the full fruits of their payroll taxes.

This isn't to suggest Republicans treat women as a "special interest" or a monolithic bloc. But there are votes to be had for the candidate who owns the quotidian concerns of this population. And there are future generations of women voters to be won by the party that progresses beyond the stale rhetoric of women's "rights" and crafts a new language of women's "choice" and "opportunity" and "ownership."

Come on guys; the women are waiting.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
25180  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: August 31, 2007, 08:01:09 PM
That is an interesting point Sarge. 

Does anyone have any data on this?
25181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 31, 2007, 07:44:30 PM
Making
Summary

It no longer is a matter of if, but of when Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will leave the helm in Islamabad. The judiciary and the man he ousted from power, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are threatening to throw a monkey wrench into his evasive maneuvers. The issue, however, now turns from the day-to-day drama of internal Pakistani politics to the much deeper issue of whether Musharraf's fall from grace will be paralleled by that of the Pakistani military as a whole.

Analysis

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced Aug. 30 that he will return to Pakistan from forced exile Sept. 10. The same day, another exiled former leader, Benazir Bhutto, announced breakthroughs in negotiations with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that would ease the general out of power. Meanwhile, the country's Supreme Court began proceedings on petitions challenging on constitutional grounds Musharraf's bid to seek re-election.

Stratfor forecast months ago that Musharraf would have to concede his position as military chief if he intended to stay on as a civilian president, and that he would have no choice but to work out a political agreement with Pakistan's opposition parties, specifically Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Prompted by advice from his closest aides, Musharraf is now quietly working toward securing an honorable exit from the scene. He could be forced to throw in the towel sometime after the appointment of a successor military chief on or around Oct. 8.

Once Musharraf vacates the presidency, events will pretty much unfold as per the constitution -- the way they did when the death in 1988 of Pakistan's last military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, created a power vacuum. A caretaker government headed by an acting president and an interim premier will be charged with holding fresh legislative elections, which will likely produce a highly divided parliament resulting in a coalition government.

Beyond the change in political personalities and groups, a far more important shift will take place in Pakistan in the coming months. For the first time since the army took control of the state in 1958 under Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the military's grip on the reins of the state is in the process of weakening.

This did not happen even when Pakistan's second military dictator, Gen. Yahya Khan, stepped down in 1971 after civil war led to the secession of a major chunk of the country and the surrender of some 100,000 troops to Indian forces. Neither did it happen when Zia-ul-Haq and his top generals died in a mysterious plane crash, ending his 11-year stint. In both cases, the military merely went into the background for some years -- only to return when the politicians could not agree to disagree. Even when the army was not directly ruling, the civilian leaders had to look over their shoulders continuously to see whether the generals were still with them nearly each step of the way.

That was in the past, however, when there were essentially two players in Pakistan -- the army and the political parties. Today, a vibrant civil society and increasingly independent and assertive judiciary have emerged within the country.

The empowerment of Pakistan's civil society was catalyzed by Musharraf's ill-fated decision to sack Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March. Chaudhry, breaking with tradition, would not fold, which set in motion a series of events that, within a matter of days, energized bar associations across the country. In turn, this emboldened the judiciary to assert its independence and challenge the military's hold on power.

The Supreme Court already has asserted its power, reversing a number of the Musharraf regime's decisions. The court reinstated the chief justice, released a top Musharraf opponent who was jailed on charges of treason and ensured Sharif's right of return. The judiciary also has taken steps to limit interference by the military and the intelligence agencies in matters of governance.

Meanwhile, the country's media, particularly the private television news channels, also have emerged as a powerful driver of events. In the wake of the judicial crisis, Musharraf tried June 4 to place restrictions on the electronic media through new ordinances empowering the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to block transmissions, suspend licenses and confiscate equipment of electronic media organizations deemed in violation of the new laws. But five days later, under intense domestic and international pressure, he was forced to withdraw the controversial restrictions.

Pakistan also has witnessed an unprecedented surge in civil society activism. Instead of the political parties that historically have led protests, civil society groups -- especially the legal syndicates -- drove the protests during the legal crisis. There also has been an unprecedented outbreak of social debate on national issues, not only regarding the military's role in politics but also on the issue of rule of law. This debate has included criticism of men in uniform, as well as politicians.

All of this has been made possible by several structural changes that took shape mostly during the first seven years of Musharraf's rule. In order to counter the perception that he was a military dictator, Musharraf created a hybrid political system with a significant civilian component. Despite having manipulated the constitution on a number of occasions, he relied heavily on it to strengthen his grip on authority. In the process, he inadvertently strengthened the country's constitutional roots, which is now weakening the very power he consolidated.

Even within the military, Musharraf's repeated reshuffling of positions has contributed to his own undoing. It has brought to the fore a junior crop of generals that is inexperienced in politics and government. For a long time, this worked to his advantage by preventing any of his subordinates from rising up to challenge him. Now, however, as he faces challenges from Pakistan's civilian sectors, his top generals are unable and/or unwilling to support him.

In essence, the law of unintended consequences has worked against Musharraf. Moreover, it has weakened the military's ability to dominate the state. For now, this is limited to the political sphere. Eventually, the judicial branch can be expected to empower the legislative branch by forcing the military and the intelligence community to open up their books to parliamentary scrutiny. The weakening of the military's hold over the country's economic sector will be the next stage in the ongoing systemic change.

The question moving forward is: How far will the military's grip slacken before arrestors force the generals to take a firmer role? For now, the trend is running against the military -- and historical positions are being reversed. As the civilians entrench their power, it is the military -- not the civilian politicians -- that will mostly have to contend with limitations imposed by the judiciary. And civil society will serve as the watchdog.

And yet, there are plenty of issues that have the potential to topple this emerging civilian structure, such as the ability of Sharif and Bhutto to get along with one another and cooperate in order to check the military's power; the Islamists' level of power in the political system; the level of security in the country's Northwest; the status of the war on terrorism; the amount of pressure from the United States; and, of course, how India reacts to the changing political dynamic in Islamabad.

Any of these issues could lead to the military's return. Pakistan might be moving into the hands of civilians, but half a century of political culture does not die easily.
25182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 31, 2007, 07:40:14 PM

A New Member of 'Exiles for Hillary'?

Norman Hsu, the fugitive from justice who may have illegally funneled over a million
dollars to Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats, has apparently gone missing.
The New York Times tried to find the elusive Mr. Hsu this week and ran into a stone
wall.

There are no offices for Mr. Hsu at any of the addresses he listed for his
companies, and at the elegant residential tower that he gives as his personal
address, Times reporters were told he moved out two years ago.

Even E. Lawrence Barcella, Mr. Hsu's lawyer, seemed to be abandoning his client. He
said that Mr. Hsu was getting a California lawyer to represent him over a warrant
that was issued there in the 1990s when Mr. Hsu failed to show up for a court
hearing after pleading no contest to grand theft charges. Mr. Barcella carefully
declined to comment on the whereabouts of his client and stressed that he won't be
handling Mr. Hsu's argument with California authorities: "On that matter, he will be
represented by California counsel."

All of this is very reminiscent of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandal. A total of
120 witnesses either fled the country, pleaded the Fifth Amendment or otherwise were
unavailable for questioning. In the end, a total of 14 people were found guilty on
various charges relating to the scandal. No wonder the Hillary Clinton campaign
wants to change the subject away from Mr. Hsu.

-- John Fund

Opinion Journal WSJ
25183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 31, 2007, 06:55:36 PM
That UN piece is "shocking, absolutely shocking".

Changing subjects, here's this:

China: Central Asian Rumbles
August 31, 2007 18 05  GMT



Summary

China is making a bid for Central Asia's energy resources -- a move that will ultimately expand into a bid for geopolitical control of the entire region. Russia is waking up to the threat and starting to take countermeasures, setting the stage for a broad Sino-Russian conflict in Central Asia.

Analysis

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on Aug. 31 inaugurated the construction of a new natural gas project that will ship Turkmen natural gas currently destined for Russia to China instead. The event marks the formal beginning of a conflict between Russia and China for control of the entire Central Asian region.

The Chinese Gambit

China's desire for strong connections with Central Asia is neither new nor secret. Ever since China opened up to the world in 1979, it has been apparent that the country needs access to ample markets and resources, and that in turn has made China utterly dependent on maritime trade. Until China commands a sizable blue-water navy capable of reliably projecting power at least as far as the Persian Gulf -- which is to say, until it has a navy that can, without backup from its own land-based aircraft, pose a threat to the U.S. Navy -- China will remain at the mercy of U.S. foreign policy for its industrial, energy and trade policy. Since China desperately wants to avoid a confrontation with Washington so it can focus on its internal problems, the only way for China to square the circle is to develop a wholly land-based energy supply system that is out of the reach of U.S. fleets. Simply put, China's strategic imperatives dictate dealing with Central Asia.





A series of deals signed with Central Asian leaders Aug. 19 is actually the finishing touch on a project that has long been in the works. Since the mid-1990s, China has been engaging in energy projects, getting its foot in the door across Central Asia, particularly in Kazakhstan. This started with small oil fields in northwest Kazakhstan and gradually built into networks of fields, along with a few larger projects. In time, Chinese state firms built a pipeline to connect their projects to other infrastructure just north of the Caspian Sea.

Over the last few years, China has started linking up pieces of old Soviet-era pipes, with the goal of ultimately Frankensteining together a line reaching all the way from the Caspian across Kazakhstan to Western China. Parts of it already are operational, shipping roughly 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) from central Kazakhstan to China. One of the Aug. 19 deals provides the money for the last stitch in Central-Western Kazakhstan. Once it is complete, China's very first line -- the one near the Caspian -- will be reversed and linked in, and the entire project should be pumping approximately 400,000 bpd of Kazakh crude to China by 2009. Later stages will aim to increase the pipe's capacity to 1 million bpd.

Pipeline projects, of course, have political aspects, since they solidify relationships between producers and consumers (and cut out everyone else), but Russia has not shown much concern over this Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline. Russia understands energy politics better than most, and it knows that, ultimately, natural gas is truly the tie that binds -- far more so than oil.

Oil is a liquid, and liquids can be shipped not only via pipeline but also via rail, truck, barge and tanker. Oil also is used in such a range of products that there are many substitutes for many of its uses. So, while an oil pipeline certainly creates a relationship, it does not necessarily create a two-way dependency between the producer and consumer.

Natural gas does create that dependency. Natural gas is, well, a gas and therefore is very difficult to ship by any means other than pipeline. (It can be liquefied and shipped via ocean-borne tanker, but oceans are hard to come by on the landlocked steppes of Central Asia.) Unlike oil, natural gas is used primarily for energy generation in specialized facilities, which means -- among other things -- that there are no easy substitutes. Once a state is hooked into a natural gas network, breaking away is very hard to do. Russia has used this not only to bind the states of the former Soviet Union to its will but also to consistently affect the politics of states in Europe dependent on Russian supplies.

The other Chinese-Central Asian energy deal signed Aug. 19 involves just such a natural gas project linking Turkmenistan to China. Like the oil pipeline farther north, the natural gas line will consist of pieces of stitched-together Soviet infrastructure in a route that will take it through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The proposed pipe would take 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen natural gas -- roughly half of Turkmenistan's export capacity -- and ship it to China.

For China, these are all business deals. China has the interest, the need, the market and the money, so it is building the pipelines. The Central Asians are suitably impressed by the idea of cold cash backing up new infrastructure, particularly after 17 years of Russia building little new infrastructure and allowing the old to rust on the steppes. But in running a pipe from Turkmenistan, China is in effect drawing a knife across the map of Central Asia, slicing off the southern four "stans" from their traditional overlord: Russia.

The Russian Interest

Russia has financial and geopolitical reasons for opposing China's move.

First is the money issue. China plans to take natural gas for its line that is currently supposed to be sent north to Russia. True, China's plans do involve developing greenfield projects in Turkmenistan -- on Aug. 30, China National Petroleum Corp. received Turkmenistan's first post-Soviet license to develop onshore natural gas projects in the country's Mary and Amu Darya regions -- but these deals will be insufficient. Not only will it be years before they begin producing appreciable amounts of natural gas, but 17 years of mismanagement also has made Turkmen output unstable. So, at least for the next five years, whatever natural gas is shipped to China must come from production that would normally be shipped to Russia. At European retail prices, that alone will cost Gazprom $9 billion annually in sales.

But this is about more than "just" money. Gazprom is responsible for supplying Europe with approximately one-quarter of the natural gas it uses, approximately 150 bcm per year. But Gazprom lacks the skills and capital to both fill its European export commitments and supply the Russian market. To bridge the gap, Russia maintains a stranglehold on Central Asian natural gas exports via Soviet-era infrastructure, buying up nearly every molecule of the stuff exported from Turkmenistan (45 bcm), Uzbekistan (10 bcm) and Kazakhstan (10 bcm).

If Russia did not have those Central Asian supplies, Moscow would either have to let Russians freeze or give up a goodly portion of its energy leverage over Europe. (Technically, most Turkmen natural gas is purchased by Ukraine, but since it must pass through Gazprom's pipeline network en route to Ukraine, for all intents and purposes, Turkmen natural gas is fully integrated into the Russian system, with all the political connotations that suggests.) With the Red Army only a fraction of its former size and the Russian nuclear deterrent weakening, the energy hammer is one of Russia's few easily usable, reliable policies. China's Central Asian gambit would brand Russia an unreliable supplier and remove that very useful hammer from the Kremlin's geopolitical toolbox.

It also is extremely unlikely that China's encroachment into Central Asia will halt with just a Turkmen natural gas deal. If the region's primary energy infrastructure flows east to China -- and through both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- then it is eminently likely that Uzbek exports, too, will soon flow east rather than north. With the supplier states realigned, the consumer states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would have little choice but to look to China to ensure their energy supply security. The web of relationships that holds Central Asia close to Russia would be respun with China at the center, drastically revamping the region's balance of power to China's benefit.

For years, China's slow energy-spearheaded movement into Central Asia went unchallenged by the Kremlin; after all, it was limited for the most part to a disaggregated collection. But with the sudden surge in Chinese natural gas plans, Russia can no longer afford to do nothing while its erstwhile "ally" casually takes over Russia's southern flank.

The question in Russia, of course, is what to do about it.

Culturally, Russia has a blind spot as far as China is concerned dating back to the time of Josef Stalin. Russians traditionally (which is not to say accurately) see China as the little brother who would -- of course -- never do anything without Russia's permission.

So, in the Russian mind, rhetorically China is a Russian ally that is theoretically committed to building a multipolar world to hedge in U.S. power. As Russia is discovering, however, the key words in that sentence are "rhetorically" and "theoretically"; China looks out for China's interests, and it is in China's interests to have a strong economic relationship with Washington and ever-closer economic and political ties with Central Asia.

Russia's realization that its world view needs an update has been long in coming, but sources indicate Russian President Vladimir Putin has -- angrily -- come around. Realization will lead to retaliation, since Russia cannot hope to resurge its influence if its southern flank is not secure.

The first stage of the Russian pushback will be to hold quiet talks with Central Asia's leaders and remind them of their "priorities." Putin himself, who is of the mind-set that the Central Asian leaders are cheating on him, plans to deliver this message at an as-yet-unscheduled meeting with the Kazakh, Turkmen and - likely -- Uzbek heads of government. Should that fail, the next step would be a reminder to these same leaders that Russia retains a very long arm. The Kremlin tends to get personal in delivering such reminders, and it is likely there will be some reports of people close to Central Asian leaders committing suicide with five bullets to the head from a sniper rifle from across the street.

The bottom line is that the geopolitical imperatives of Russia and China -- always uneasily tolerating each other -- are now grating against one another in what is truly a zero-sum game. Only one of them can have Central Asian natural gas, and whoever controls that gas ultimately controls the region.

stratfor.com
25184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: August 31, 2007, 06:36:36 PM
That is fascinating!
25185  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: August 30, 2007, 03:07:10 PM
Global Market Brief: Mexico Sees a Decline in Remittances
Numerous factors are contributing to a stagnation or slowdown in the growth rate of remittances Mexican migrant workers send back to Mexico from the United States. These remittances will not suddenly evaporate, but the Mexican government cannot count on the continuation of what has until now been a substantial source of income for the Mexican people. The government will therefore need to look inward and consider domestic reforms to begin preparing for the decline in funds from migrants in the United States. Because remittances provide a safety net for many of Mexico's poor communities, the poor states and communities in central and southern Mexico will be much more affected by any decline in remittances than will the wealthier states in the North.

Whether Mexico implements reforms that will begin to reduce the need for massive migrations to the United States depends largely on the will of the Mexican government. However, the current dip in remittances is on the government's radar and could give Mexican President Felipe Calderon ammunition as he takes his case for further economic reforms to the public. The expected decline in remittances could serve as an impetus to make fundamental changes to Mexico's economy that might set all parts of the country on an economic trajectory of job growth.

In 2006, a record-setting $26.1 billion in remittances -- up 20 percent from $18 billion in 2005 -- represented 2.7 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product and was the country's third-largest source of foreign exchange after oil revenues and industrial exports. However, a recent study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank found that during the first half of 2007, remittances remained relatively flat, at $11.5 billion, compared to $11.4 billion during the same period in 2006; this does not even exceed a 1 percent increase.




The study also found that in the first half of 2007, 64 percent of Mexicans residing in the United States regularly made remittances -- down from 71 percent in 2006. If these trends continue, Mexico could have a serious problem on its hands.

Why are the remittance payments stagnating and the number of remittance payers decreasing? In the short term, there are several reasons. There is the sluggish growth in the U.S. housing sector, which employs roughly 40 percent of all Mexican migrant workers. Then, there are the U.S. government's attempts to clamp down on businesses hiring illegal immigrants, the economic uncertainty surrounding the subprime meltdown and other factors contributing to a general sense of financial insecurity among the migrant population in the United States. This uncertainty is leading to an increased savings rate and fewer remittances sent back home.

One trend that is both independent of short-term fluctuations in economic growth and most telling of the situation to come is the changing demographic of Mexican migrants staying in the United States. Mexican migrants are staying in the United States longer, and as the number of families reuniting on U.S. soil increases, the need to send money back home decreases. As more migrants give birth to children in the United States, they devote more money to domestic needs, such as education for their children and investments in housing. Furthermore, it seems that fewer Mexican workers are entering the United States, likely daunted by the declining job prospects brought about by strengthened immigration laws and increasing border security. U.S. authorities apprehended 24 percent fewer migrants crossing the border in early 2007 than in the same period in 2006, despite increased monitoring -- a fact that suggests a decrease in border crossings.

For Mexico, all of these factors add up to the potential for a continuing decline in remittances. This does not spell economic disaster for Mexico, but it is a warning to the government that it needs to implement economic reforms to compensate for the expected remittance decline in order to avoid uprisings in regions that depend heavily on the payments.

The reduction in remittances will be felt more regionally than nationally and is particularly relevant for Mexico's central and southern states, which receive the majority of remittances. Economic growth in Mexico's North has averaged between 4 percent and 5 percent since 1995, compared to growth of between 1 percent and 2 percent in southern states. This trend is continuing and is largely due to the northern regions' industrial economies that are based on maquiladora exports to the United States. In contrast, the central-southern state of Michoacan, one of Mexico's least-developed, receives more than 10 percent of Mexico's remittances -- about $615 per person, with approximately one out of 10 households receiving payments.

Remittances keep many families in Mexico's less-developed regions afloat. If Calderon does not create jobs for these communities, slowing migration and fewer remittances will tighten family budgets while increasing the number of unemployed, mostly younger males who would otherwise have migrated to the United States. While tightened budgets and rising unemployment might not spur a large social uprising, they could lead to increases in crime and general discontent, not only in poorer states but also in larger cities that might experience population increases if migration to the United States slows.

Calderon recently proposed a sweeping investment and tax reform policy that, if passed, should make some progress toward boosting economic growth and job creation in Mexico. However, to set Mexico on a path toward long-term economic growth, Calderon must encourage economic growth in his country's poorer regions. Simply increasing tax revenues and investments in pre-existing firms, such as Mexican state oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, and then subsidizing poorer areas will not translate into long-term structural changes; it will just help to replace losses in remittances in the short term. Outstanding structural problems in the southern areas include onerous legal and business transaction structures (especially for land sales and purchases) and the lack of a developed financial services sector. For the southern regions to grow in the long term, these issues will need to be addressed.

This short-term dip in remittances and prospects of a likely long-term decline are gaining Mexico City's attention and will help spur reforms. However, the strength of Calderon's ambitions to build up the South -- and, therefore, Mexico overall -- remains to be seen.

25186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 30, 2007, 02:34:11 PM
PAKISTAN, SWEDEN: The Pakistani Foreign Ministry condemned a cartoon sketch of the Prophet Mohammed published by the Swedish daily Nerikes Allehanda in the past week, describing it as offensive and blasphemous. The deputy head of the Swedish mission to Tehran was summoned to the ministry and a strong protest was lodged with her, the ministry said. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Danish newspapers in early 2006 sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world.

stratfor.com
25187  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: August 30, 2007, 12:52:55 PM
Well, at at the more superficial end of the spectrum, keeping the hips aligned is very good for both knees and shoulders.  WRT shoulders, some basic rotator cuff maitainence (e.g. "The 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution: J. Robinson) is a very good idea.  As for weight, my problem is maitaining it.  At my fighting peak I was 197, now I am 185.
25188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: August 30, 2007, 12:16:55 PM
Colorado Springs School Bans Tag on Playground, Citing Conflicts

Thursday , August 30, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. —
An elementary school has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will.
"It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school.

Running games are still allowed as long as students don't chase each other, she said.

Fesgen said two parents complained to her about the ban but most parents and children didn't object.

In 2005, two elementary schools in the nearby Falcon School District did away with tag and similar games in favor of alternatives with less physical contact. School officials said the move encouraged more students to play games and helped reduce playground squabbles.
25189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 30, 2007, 11:44:28 AM
Political Journal WSJ

Crime Without Punishment

The Federal Election Commission has just found that Americans Coming Together, a top union group active in the 2004 presidential election, spent $100 million illegally on federal election activity that year. The agency imposed a fine of just $775,000 -- and not one dime will go back to the union workers who financed ACT's illegal activities with their forced payment of dues.

This is a textbook example of what's wrong with federal election laws. The FEC takes years to catch up with those who break the law, then administers a slap on the wrist on the grounds that ACT disbanded after the 2004 election and won't be engaging in further election activity.

In reality, such groups may disband but their supporters and personnel have every intention of remaining active in politics under another brand name. That perfectly describes the ACT shell game.

Its largest donor was the Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically active labor unions. Its largest non-union donor was billionaire George Soros. And who was the group's president? None other than Harold Ickes, a long-time functionary of the Clinton machine who served as Bill Clinton's deputy White House chief of staff. Mr. Ickes is now a major player in the huge fundraising apparatus of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unsurprisingly has run into her own campaign finance scandal this week. One of her top donors, Norman Hsu, was revealed to be a fugitive from justice and may have illegally laundered campaign contributions to the Clinton campaign through "straw" or fake donors.

It's clear the FEC can't be relied upon to report on the law-skirting by major political players before voters render their judgment at the polls in 2008. Nor are its sanctions much of a deterrent to those playing for big stakes on the presidential stage. Mrs. Clinton's latest scandal appears to be a near-replica of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandals, in which 120 people either fled the country to avoid questioning, took the Fifth Amendment or otherwise failed to cooperate with investigators.

The FEC enforcement action against ACT came after a complaint three years ago by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Meanwhile, the news media resolutely ignored the story, insisting that looking into the modus operandi of the Clinton machine represented "old news." Here's hoping the press wakes up and realizes the time for vigilant reporting on the 2008 election excesses of all parties is before Americans vote, not years afterward.

25190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 30, 2007, 11:11:50 AM
By Kevin Mooney
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
August 30, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - A conflict of interest involving the radical Nation of Islam and the Washington, D.C., affiliate of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is an example of unethical journalism that benefits extremist Muslims, according to a national security expert and a Hollywood filmmaker.

Martyn Burke, director of documentary films at ABG Films, and Frank Gaffney, president of the conservative Center for Security Policy, produced a documentary for a PBS series - "America at a Crossroads" - that focused on Muslims in America, Europe, and Canada who speak out against Islamist extremists.

Their documentary, "Islam versus Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was, after a protracted battle, rejected in April by WETA, the PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.

The film is going to air on an Oregon PBS affiliate this month, and some other affiliates may run it as well. However, one of the more controversial aspects over the film is that PBS chose to have the documentary reviewed by the radical Nation of Islam prior to its decision to cancel the film.

The Nation of Islam (NOI) and its long-time leader Rev. Louis Farrakhan have a history of espousing racism and anti-Semitism. Farrakhan stepped down as NOI's leader in 2006 for health reasons.

PBS's decision to pass the film to NOI for review was a serious "breach of journalistic ethics," said Burke.

"Is there anyone who understands that no functioning journalist - or network, or publication can ever allow this kind of outrageous action?" Burke wrote in an e-mail to PBS officials.

"This utterly undermines any journalistic independence. ... It virtually hands the story to the subject and allows them to become an active party in shaping it. That is advertising, not journalism. Is that not obvious?" he added.

Burke noted that PBS hired Aminah McCloud as an adviser for the "Crossroads" series. McCloud, director of Islamic World Studies at DePaul University, is a "radical professor," according to Burke, and it was she who gave a "rough cut" of the documentary to the Nation of Islam.

Burke, in an interview with Cybercast News Service, further said that the PBS producers and advisers involved in the "America at a Crossroads" series were favorably disposed to the Islamist perspective and this was detrimental to the filmmaking. PBS officials claimed the "Muslim Center" film, a part of the series, was overly subjective and one-sided. They thus decided against airing it as part of the series. (See Related Story)

In addition, Jeff Bieber, WETA's executive producer, demanded that Gaffney and his CSP colleague Alex Alexiev - a national security expert who specializes in Islamic extremism - be fired from the filmmaking because they are conservatives, said Burke.

But "I'm not going to fire anyone from the right or the left unless their politics start skewing the truth as we understand it," Burke said. "So, when WETA asked me 'don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?' I said I can't believe I'm hearing this in America."

When PBS officials failed to blacklist conservatives associated with the project, they shifted strategy and began to attack the film directly, Gaffney told Cybercast News Service in an interview. Leo Eaton, the "Crossroads" producer for WETA, and other PBS officials pushed for editorial changes that would dilute the over-arching theme and central message of the film, said Gaffney.

The criticisms Eaton presented on behalf of PBS-WETA in a series of notes called for significant modifications to the content - changes that would portray Islamic extremists in a favorable manner, detached from reality, according to Burke and his CSP partners.

"What began as a struggle to prevent people like me from playing in the left's sandbox at PBS mutated into a concerted effort to ensure that a film that told the story of anti-Islamist Muslims never made it on the air," said Gaffney.

"I am personally committed to preventing PBS from doing business the way it has been doing it up until now. There's no doubt that part of what was going on at PBS with our film was a naked antipathy toward conservatives," he added.

A letter from Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, to Gaffney was dismissive of the concerns the filmmakers expressed over the hiring of McCloud and her subsequent activities.

With regard to McCloud's decision to exhibit a portion of the film to the Nation of Islam, Rockefeller wrote: "I am informed that while she regrets causing you and WETA any concern, she thought it was her duty as an advisor to check out the accuracy of information she believed to be incorrect, both for the benefit of WETA and the show producers."

The "Crossroads" series was conceived and financed through the liberal Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with $20 million in federal funds. The Burke and Gaffney film, "Islam versus Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," cost $675,000.

Allegations directed against public television officials that touch on questions of journalistic ethics have caught the attention of key congressional figures who are now seeking an investigation.

In a letter to Kenneth Konz, the inspector general for CPB, three Republican senators and two Republican representatives expressed concern over apparent conflicts of interest that may have affected PBS's decision to not run the "Muslim Center" in the series.

When the "Crossroads" project was initially launched, top officials within CPB, including former Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, expressed a strong desire to bring in a mix of views, including conservative voices, not traditionally heard on public television.

Tomlinson resigned in 2005 after an inspector general's report raised issues about some of his political activities.

Concerning this mix of views, it "was an initiative that came from CPB that did not necessarily have the concurrence of PBS," said Steve Bass, president and CEO of the Oregon Public Broadcasting System, which is now airing the "Muslim Center" film.

"The fact that you are broadening the pool of people involved in the film series and casting a wider net is almost by definition going to cause some problems," he said.

The creative and political differences that typically beset film projects were further exacerbated in the case "Islam vs. Islamists," Bass surmised, because public money was involved.

"We were attacked for having a point of view, which is astonishing since my understanding is that by definition documentaries have a point of view," said Burke.

"We set out to answer a simple question: Where are the moderate Muslims? What we found is they are speaking out, but they are speaking out in a vacuum and often at great peril and always with great difficultly," Burke added.

In his written correspondence with the filmmakers, Eaton described the film as a "one-sided narrative" that featured the conflict between so-called moderates and extremists in "very subjective and very claustrophobic terms."

For his part, Burke told Cybercast News Service that "wherever possible" anyone in the film advocated radical behavior was permitted to say so at length.

Although he found the film to be "quite compelling" and worthy of airtime, Bass said he felt some of the proposed changes the filmmakers were asked to make could have improved the overall product.

"If I found any fault with it, there were parts of the story that to me needed a little bit more information," he said.

"The film assumed a level of understanding on the part of the viewer that may not be there universally. That's why we decided to add the panel discussion. We think it poses the film in a greater base of understanding with more information," Bass added.

A panel discussion featuring Zuhdi Jasser, co-founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AISD), Rafia Zakaria, an associate executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, and Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR in Chicago has been produced to run alongside the film.

But individual stations are free to decide whether or not to include the panel, Bass explained.

Although Burke and Gaffney think the film's treatment at WETA warrants further investigation, they agree "Islam vs. the Islamists" has the potential to reach an even larger audience than it otherwise would have if aired as was originally intended on the "Crossroads Series."

Cybercast News Service attempted to contact Eaton and Bieber via e-mail, but did not receive a response. 

http://www.cnsnews.com:80/ViewCultur...20070830a.html
25191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: August 30, 2007, 08:13:24 AM

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/018175.php


Tomorrow Bensman will be the keynote speaker presenting his findings at a conference of some 120 Assistant United States Attorneys whose jurisdiction covers the Texas/Mexico border. Bensman has kindly summarized his findings for us:
-- More than 5,700 illegal migrants from 43 Islamic countries, including State Sponsors of Terror, have been caught while traveling over the Canadian and Mexican borders along well-established underground smuggling routes since 9-11, a traffic that continues daily. People caught coming from these countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa are labeled by our federal law enforcement agencies as "Special Interest Aliens."
-- I have estimated that between 20,000 and 60,000 have gotten through without getting caught since 9/11. Most are probably economic or politically persecuted migrants but all of those who evaded border patrol also did not undergo terror watch list screening and are walking around the country anonymous. This evasion constitutes the primary national security vulnerability of our unguarded borders.
-- These migrants, though relatively small in total numbers, are high risk because they hail from countries where American troops are actively battling Islamic insurgents such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Philippines. They come from nations where radical Islamic organizations have bombed U.S. interests or murdered
Americans, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Lebanon. And they come from State Sponsors of Terrorism such as Syria, Iran and Sudan. And lastly, they come from Saudi Arabia.
-- Unguarded U.S. borders are most certainly in terrorist playbooks as a means of entering the country. Since the late 1990s, at least a dozen confirmed terrorists have sneaked over U.S. borders, including operatives from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers and one Al Qaida terrorist once No. 27 on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list.
-- The general flow of routes across the world almost always head toward South America and Central America first because it puts them within easy striking distance of the Mexican border. Corrupt customs and government officials, as well as Arab settler populations in those countries help keep this this traffic moving northward, providing safe haven, jobs and smuggling connections.
-- Latin American consulates based in the Middle East are selling tourist visas outright for bribes or simply issuing them to local travelers in places like Damascus, Beirut and Amman Jordan without regard to U.S. security interests.
-- Large numbers eventually pass through Guatemala, which issues visas regularly from its foreign consulate offices in places like Jordan and Egypt, making illegal border crossings through Texas possible.
-- Since 9/11, Mexico has fielded a surprisingly robust effort to interdict Special Interest Migrants. Mexican intelligence officers interrogate and often deport special interest aliens in partnership with American FBI and CIA agents. Often, the Mexicans allow American agents inside their detention facilities. But severe shortages of manpower and interpreters result in the release of many onto the streets of Mexico -- without thorough threat assessements -- to continue on toward the U.S. border.
-- On the U.S. side of the border, the FBI is supposed to interrogate and conduct a threat assessment and interrogations on every captured special interest alien. But the process is severely flawed and open to error. Often, the FBI signs off on captured SIAs (allowing them access to the political asylum process) without conclusively knowing whether they are or are not terrorists.
-- Furthermore, border patrol agents are simply using a process called "expedited removal" to kick SIAs back into Mexico, where they will certainly try to cross again, with no investigation or FBI referral whatsoever.
25192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 30, 2007, 07:37:03 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Attempt to Redefine Regional Relationships

Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said Aug. 27 that Russia might consider basing nuclear weapons in Belarus if the United States deployed its missile defense system in Poland. A day later, Surikov backed away from the statement and Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Surikov's comment was purely "theoretical." He went on to say that, from a legal standpoint, there is nothing to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in any country that agrees to have them.

Russia is engaged in a systematic campaign to both reassert its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and take advantage of U.S. preoccupation in the Middle East in order to redefine regional relationships. The Russians have objected to the U.S. anti-missile shield and are demonstrating that they have options in response to the missiles. These statements were designed to rattle Washington's nerves without actually committing Russia to any course.

As a practical matter, the Russians don't really care about the anti-missile system the United States is building; Moscow retains more than enough nuclear-armed missiles to saturate the missile shield. Nor is the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus a particularly frightening idea to Washington; whether these missiles are in Russia proper or in Belarus really makes very little difference. This conversation is not about missile defense or nuclear missiles.

It is, rather, about the status of Poland and the Baltic countries -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- which are all part of NATO. The Russians see the extension of NATO to within 80 miles of St. Petersburg as a direct threat to their national interest and security. They see the placement of an anti-missile system in Poland as important because it is a military commitment by Washington to Poland that goes beyond mere formal membership in NATO. If there is a missile defense system there, it must be defended. The more confident Poland is about Washington's commitment to its security against the Russians, the more confident the Baltic countries will be. Russia does not see a confident Poland as in its national interest.

The threat to place missiles in Belarus is of little consequence. However, if missiles are placed there, then other military force can be based there as well. Where missiles go, so do troops. It is the same principle as is at work in Poland. The return of Russian troops to Belarus and the integration of the Belarusian military with that of Russia in some alliance framework is of very great importance. Belarus is a buffer between Russian forces and NATO. If Belarus were prepared to accept Russian troops, then the balance of power in northern Europe would shift a bit. Poland doesn't have to worry about the Russian army right now, and Poland is fairly assertive about its interests. With Russian troops on the Belarusian-Polish border and all along the Baltic frontiers, the real and psychological dynamics would start to shift.

There is little doubt that Belarus would accept the troops. In spite of recent friction over trade and other issues, Belarus is the least reformed country in the former Soviet Union, and it is probably most in favor of recreating some sort of alliance system -- or even something closer. If Russia wanted to position troops there, Belarus would allow it.

In our view, Russia intends to do precisely that. Given President Vladimir Putin's unfolding strategy, the forward deployment of the Russian army in western Belarus makes a great deal of sense. But the Russians want to be very careful about how those forces are deployed. By warning the United States and Poland that there will be consequences for constructing a missile defense system, the Russians can portray their re-entry into Belarus as a response to Polish recklessness.

The Russians are not planning to invade anyone. But they want to make the region very nervous and aware that Russian power is near, while American power is far away and busy with other things. By configuring this move as a response to missile defense systems, they want to create movements in Poland and in the Baltic states that will constrain some of the more self-confident and assertive leaders in the region. In other words, they want to scare the dickens out of the Poles and the Balts, hoping they will become much less confident in the United States and less likely to give Washington a meaningful foothold -- and undermine the national leaders who got these countries into such a mess.

The strategy makes sense, and it might even work. In any event, all this talk about nuclear weapons and missile defenses has much more conventional geopolitical meanings.
25193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 30, 2007, 07:09:18 AM
Sadr's surprising move of yesterday is explained in this NY Times piece:
==============


BAGHDAD, Aug. 29 — The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Wednesday that he was suspending for six months his Mahdi Army militia’s operations, including attacks on American troops, only hours after his fighters waged running street battles with Iraqi government forces for control of Karbala, one of Iraq’s holiest cities.

The surprise declaration was widely taken as a tacit acknowledgment of the damage done to his movement’s reputation by two days of Shiite-on-Shiite in-fighting, which killed 52 people, wounded 279 and forced thousands of pilgrims to flee birthday celebrations for the Mahdi, one of Shiite Islam’s most revered medieval saints.

Mr. Sadr’s aides declared an unequivocal end to all militia operations. Ahmed al-Shaibani, the chief of Mr. Sadr’s media office in Najaf, confirmed that this “includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers,” a reference to American-led coalition troops.

But Mr. Shaibani, who was one of the major commanders in the Mahdi Army’s August 2004 battle with American troops in Najaf, another Shiite holy city, left open the possibility that militiamen would react if provoked, saying only, “We will deal with it when it happens.”

It is also unclear whether the widely feared group will continue to exert its powerful hold over the black market distribution of everyday necessities in Iraq, including gas, diesel, cooking fuel and other utilities.

Mr. Sadr’s officials claimed that the freeze was intended to isolate and eliminate “rogue” elements of the Mahdi Army that no longer responded to Mr. Sadr’s orders.

American and British commanders have frequently made accusations in recent months that some Mahdi Army fighters have slipped out of Mr. Sadr’s control, operating as criminal gangs or receiving financing and training from Iran to carry out attacks on American and Iraqi security forces. One possible impact of the freeze would be to enlist the help of American forces to weed out rogue elements for Mr. Sadr’s group. In effect, Mr. Sadr was saying, anyone who attacks Americans is by definition violating the freeze and laying himself open to retaliatory attacks.

A statement signed by Mr. Sadr said the six-month suspension of the militia’s activities was intended to “rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image.”

“This decision will have great advantage,” Mr. Shaibani said. “It will distinguish and isolate those who claim to be working for JAM and who are actually not part of it.” He was using the acronym for the Mahdi Army’s Arabic name, Jaish al-Mahdi.

“JAM is a huge and active body in Iraq, but there are some intruders who want to create rifts. We don’t have masked men working with us.”

Many Iraqis said the announcement had more to do with the national backlash created by the television images of thousands of pilgrims who were celebrating the birth of the Mahdi, a revered ninth-century imam, on Tuesday being forced to flee machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenade exchanges between Mahdi Army fighters and the security forces of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government.

The government forces are dominated by the Sadrists’ main political rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its armed Badr movement. Many fear the Karbala clashes were simply the most public sign of Shiite rivalries between the powerful Sadr and Badr movements, who are vying for power in Shiite southern Iraq.

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said he welcomed the suspension order but, like many, said it remained to be seen if it would be carried out on the ground. “If it happens it will reduce the violence in the country by a great deal,” he told CNN.

Politicians and analysts said that Mr. Sadr’s action on Wednesday showed that he realized he had overplayed his hand by taking on the security forces and exposing internal Shiite rivalries and that he was now reining in the more extreme elements in his movement.

“This announcement has been triggered by what happened in Karbala,” said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker. “Everybody is blaming JAM. Karbala was the signal that enough is enough and that they have to purge the people who are not really true JAM.”

But while he said that the discomfiture of Mr. Sadr, one of Mr. Maliki’s harshest critics, could strengthen the prime minister, there was little sign that Mr. Sadr was making overtures to rejoin the government. Sadrist ministers resigned from the cabinet earlier this year because Mr. Maliki refused to set a deadline for the withdrawal of American troops.

“We have to wait and see how they proceed and what they actually do,” Mr. Othman cautioned.

Mariam Reyes, an adviser to Mr. Maliki, said it was a “step in the right direction” and would stabilize the security situation. “It will unveil the components that have penetrated JAM and carry out military activities against the police and army,” she said. Visiting Karbala on Wednesday, Mr. Maliki contended that a curfew had restored order to the streets and blamed “outlawed armed criminal gangs from the remnants of the buried Saddam regime” for the violence of the previous two days. He also removed from command the army general in charge of the Karbala command center.

Mr. Shaibani accused the security forces of causing the trouble by opening fire on pilgrims and Sadrists.

But many in Karbala blame the Mahdi Army for the street battles. Abu Ahmad, a 58-year-old Karbala businessman, said: “We have a proverb which says, if there are a lot of captains on board a ship, it will sink. This is what happened in Iraq. The illegal possession of weapons by the Mahdi Army and Badr, in addition to ignorance, led to the destruction of the city.

“The Mahdi’s birthday is a cheerful event, but it turned into a tragedy,” he continued. He said that Sadr supporters on the City Council had encouraged the conflict and that a weak provincial governor had been unable to deal with the problem.

One Iraqi Army captain in the town, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said: “The crisis started with a fight between Mahdi people carrying weapons and the guards of the shrine. All of a sudden we saw JAM snipers on rooftops of the nearby hotels, and weapons in the hands of pilgrims. It seemed as if they deliberately started the fight to attack the security forces.”

Ali Adeeb contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Karbala, Najaf and Hilla.
25194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Much to the NY Times' disappointment on: August 30, 2007, 07:06:01 AM
Marines’ Trials in Iraq Killings Are Withering
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
Published: August 30, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Aug. 29 — Last December, when the Marine Corps charged four infantrymen with killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, the allegation was as dark as it was devastating: after a roadside bomb had killed their buddy, a group of marines rampaged through nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.

Status of the Cases In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance. After a perfunctory military investigation, Haditha was brushed aside, but once the details were disclosed, the killings became an ugly symbol of a difficult, demoralizing war. After a fuller investigation, the Marines promised to punish the guilty.

But now, the prosecutions have faltered. Since May, charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman. Prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings violated the American military code of justice.

Now their final attempt to get a murder conviction is set to begin, with a military court hearing on Thursday for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the last marine still facing that charge. He is accused of killing 18 Iraqis, including several women and children, after the attack on his convoy.

If the legal problems that have thwarted the prosecutors in other cases are repeated this time, there is a possibility that no marine will be convicted for what happened in Haditha.

Nor is it yet clear whether officers higher up the chain of command than Sergeant Wuterich will be held responsible for the inadequate initial investigation.

At least one of the four Marine officers charged last December for failing to investigate the civilian deaths appears to be headed to court-martial. That officer, Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of Third Battalion, First Marines, “did not take personal action to fully investigate the actions leading to civilian deaths,” concluded Col. Christopher C. Conlin, the officer who examined the evidence.

But the case against Capt. Randy W. Stone, the battalion lawyer charged with failing to find out why so many civilians had been killed, was thrown out by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, whose decisions in the Haditha prosecutions are final. Charges against First Lt. Andrew A. Grayson, an intelligence officer, are in limbo because of his argument that the Marine Corps has discharged him.

In a wide range of cases involving abuses by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecutions have tended to focus on enlisted men and noncommissioned officers — those accused of having personally committed the acts — not on officers who commanded the units. And while there have been numerous convictions, there have also been many cases in which plea arrangements allowed for lesser punishments, or in which charges were dropped or found not to be warranted.

The sole officer to face criminal charges in the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, was convicted Tuesday on only one minor charge and will be reprimanded, Reuters reported, quoting an Army announcement. The officer, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, faced five years in prison and dismissal from the Army, but a court-martial decided on the milder penalty, the Army said.

The court-martial acquitted him of the charge of being responsible for cruel treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Experts on military law said the difficulty in prosecuting the marines for murder is understandable, given that action taken in combat is often given immunity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“One could view this as a case crumbling around the prosecutor’s feet, or one could see this as the unique U.C.M.J. system of justice in operation,” said Gary D. Solis, a former Marine judge who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center and at West Point.

Prosecuting the Haditha case was especially difficult because the killings were not thoroughly investigated when they first occurred. Months later, when the details came to light, there were no bodies to examine, no Iraqi witnesses to testify, no damning forensic evidence.

On the other hand, some scholars said the spate of dismissals has left them wondering what to think of the young enlisted marines who, illegally or not, clearly killed unarmed people in a combat zone.

“It certainly erodes that sense that what they did was wrong,” Elizabeth L. Hillman, a legal historian who teaches military law at Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, said of the outcomes so far. “When the story broke, it seemed like we understood what happened; there didn’t seem to be much doubt. But we didn’t know.”
=======
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Walter B. Huffman, a former Army judge advocate general, said it was not uncommon in military criminal proceedings to see charges against troops involved in a single episode to fall away under closer examination of evidence, winnowing culpability to just one or two defendants.

Status of the Cases When Sergeant Wuterich, the soft-spoken squad leader who faces the most extensive murder charges in the Haditha matter, walks into court here on Thursday, “all the prosecutorial attention is now going to center on him,” Mr. Solis said.

Sergeant Wuterich’s lawyers have an uphill legal fight. First, unlike the other marines who faced murder charges, Sergeant Wuterich is charged with the close-range killing of five unarmed men who were ordered out of a vehicle that rolled up near the scene.

Also, as a noncommissioned officer and the ranking member of the squad, Sergeant Wuterich may be used by prosecutors to argue that he had a greater responsibility to discern proper targets and avoid civilian casualties. He also led the attack against or was present in every house where civilians were killed.

But the earlier cases show that the defense has some opportunities, too.

The presiding officer, Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware, is the same Marine lawyer who conducted hearings for Justin L. Sharratt and Stephen B. Tatum, two other lance corporals accused of killing a total of five Iraqis in three homes in Haditha.

Colonel Ware later recommended dismissing the charges against those two men, and he has said the killings should be viewed in the context of combat against an enemy that ruthlessly employs civilians as cover. He warned that murder charges against marines could harm the morale of troops still in Iraq.

General Mattis’s statements expressing sympathy for the plight of other enlisted marines whom he cleared of wrongdoing in Haditha may indicate his willingness to see Sergeant Wuterich’s case in a similar light.

Regardless of what happened to charges against the other defendants, there is still great public pressure on the Marine Corps to investigate and punish any wrongdoing in a case in which so many civilians died.

“We can’t say those guys didn’t commit a crime,” said Michael F. Noone Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer and law professor at Catholic University of America. “We can only say that after an investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.”
25195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: No problem here, keep moving along on: August 30, 2007, 06:55:16 AM
linton Donor Under a Cloud in Fraud Case
by MIKE McINTIRE and LESLIE EATON
Published: August 30, 2007

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case.

The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to be co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones.

The event would not have been unusual for Mr. Hsu, a businessman from Hong Kong who moves in circles of power and influence, serving on the board of a university in New York and helping to bankroll Democratic campaigns.

But what was not widely known was that Mr. Hsu, who is in the apparel business in New York, has been considered a fugitive since he failed to show up in a San Mateo County courtroom about 15 years ago to be sentenced for his role in a scheme to defraud investors, according to the California attorney general’s office.

Mr. Hsu had pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft and was facing up to three years in prison.

The travails of Mr. Hsu have proved an embarrassment for the Clinton campaign, which has strived to project an image of rectitude in its fund-raising and to dispel any lingering shadows of past episodes of tainted contributions.

Already, Mrs. Clinton’s opponents were busy trying to rekindle remembrances of the 1996 Democratic fund-raising scandals, in which Asian moneymen were accused of funneling suspect donations into Democratic coffers as President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were running for re-election.

Some Clinton donors said yesterday that they did not expect the Hsu matter to hurt Mrs. Clinton unless a pattern of problematic fund-raising or compromised donors emerged, which would raise questions about the campaign’s vetting of donors. Mr. Hsu’s legal problems were first reported yesterday by The Los Angeles Times; The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday about his bundling of questionable contributions.

“Everyone is trying to make the implications that it’s Chinese money, that it’s the Al Gore thing all over again, but I haven’t seen any proof of that,” said John A. Catsimatidis, a leading donor and fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in New York.

Some donations connected to Mr. Hsu raise questions about his bundling activities, although there is no evidence he did anything improper. The Wall Street Journal reported that contributors he solicited included members of an extended family in Daly City, Calif., who had given $213,000 to candidates since 2004, even though some of them did not appear to have much money.

A lawyer for Mr. Hsu, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., has said that Mr. Hsu was not the source of any of the money he raised from other people, which would be a violation of federal election laws.

On his own, Mr. Hsu wrote checks totaling $255,970 to a variety of Democratic candidates and committees since 2004. Even though he was a bundler for Mrs. Clinton, his largess was spread across the Democratic Party and included $5,000 to the political action committee of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.

Last month, Mr. Hsu was among the honored guests at a fund-raiser for Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, given by Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group at the New York Yacht Club.

Al Franken, a Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota, said he would divest his campaign of Mr. Hsu’s donations, as did Representatives Michael M. Honda and Doris O. Matsui of California and Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, all Democrats.

Mr. Hsu’s success on the political circuit was not always matched by success in business.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu came to the United States when he was 18 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, as a computer science major. He later received an M.B.A. at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, according to a brief biography that appeared in apparel industry trade publications in 1986.

With a group of partners from Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu started a sportswear company in 1982 called Laveno that went bankrupt two years later, not long after he left the company. From that, he cycled through several other enterprises, mostly men’s sportswear, under the Wear This, Base and Foreign Exchange labels.

Mr. Hsu’s career hit a low in 1989, when he began raising $1 million from investors as part of a plan to buy and resell latex gloves.

Ronald Smetana, a lawyer with the California attorney general’s office, said Mr. Hsu was charged with stealing the investors’ money after it turned out he never bought any gloves and had no contract to resell them.

When Mr. Hsu was to attend a sentencing hearing, he faxed a letter to his lawyer saying he had to leave town for an emergency and asking that the court date be rescheduled, Mr. Smetana said.

He failed to show up for the rescheduled appearance, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. That was the last that prosecutors saw of Mr. Hsu.

“We assumed he would go back to Hong Kong, where he could recede into anonymity,” Mr. Smetana said.

The California attorney general’s office declined to comment on how it intends to pursue Mr. Hsu.

Mr. Hsu issued a statement yesterday, saying he was “surprised to learn that there appears to be an outstanding warrant” and insisting that he had “not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law.”

“I would not consciously subject any of the candidates and causes in which I believe to any harm through my actions,” he said.

At some point, Mr. Hsu resurfaced in New York, where he was connected to several clothing-related businesses, according to campaign finance records, which list his occupation variously as an apparel consultant, clothing designer, retailer or company president. He also began to donate to the Democratic Party, and arranged for friends to do the same.

He has been referred to in news accounts of campaign fund-raising events as an “apparel magnate” and his quick rise in the New York political and social scene — as well as his open checkbook — catapulted him into the big leagues.

He became a trustee at the New School and was elected to the Board of Governors of Eugene Lang College there. He endowed a scholarship in his name at the college and was co-chairman of a benefit awards dinner in 2006 that featured Mrs. Clinton, who had secured a $950,000 earmark for a mentoring program at the college for disadvantaged city youths.

Asked yesterday about Mr. Hsu, Brian Krapf, a spokesman for the New School, said in a statement that “it is inappropriate to talk about a matter involving one of our trustees, particularly while we are still gathering all the facts.”

Patrick Healy contributed reporting.
25196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 29, 2007, 10:54:33 PM
Intelligence Guidance: Aug. 29, 2007
August 29, 2007 19 00  GMT



1. The United States is preparing itself for the no-holds-barred fight over the future of both the Iraq war and the Bush administration that Gen. David Petraeus' upcoming report will trigger. We need to scrupulously follow something that we rarely do because it rarely matters: Congress -- specifically, networking among key national security legislators on both sides of the aisle. The Republican senators, of course, are the ones to watch most closely (doubly so if they are up for re-election), but also watch Hillary Clinton. As the Democratic front-runner, she has a vested interest in finding a solution before the November 2008 election. If enough shifts occur to allow for the override of vetoes, Congress could legislate away the president's options. This happened to Gerald Ford in 1975 and to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938.

2. The Iranians have noticed that the United States is paralyzed, and they understand that it will remain so until the country internally figures out first who will be making policy and then what that policy will be. Iran will be making a grab for Iraq in some form -- that is clear. What is not clear is when, how or what competition it will face. Watch the regional players who have an interest in all things Iraqi or Iranian; there are ample opportunities and dangers for each of them. Everyone will be waiting for the United States to tip its very confused hand, but it would be truly surprising if at least one party did not jump the gun.

3. Ukraine's parliamentary elections will be held Sept. 30. Those elections are Russia's best chance to reassert control over its wayward former province and resurge its power along its Western periphery. However, polls indicate the race is on the edge of a knife. If Russia fails to arrange for an allied Ukraine, its broader effort to re-establish itself as a major player will fail before it begins. Therefore, Russia cannot risk the election following Ukraine's internal logic. It must intervene. How? When? Via whom?

4. Turkey has selected its new president, Abdullah Gul of the ruling "Islamic lite" Justice and Development (AK) Party. Turkey's secular tradition (and the military, the guardian of that tradition) demands that Gul also be secular, and while Gul says he will comply, there is no shortage of doubts -- within both the military and the AK Party -- that Gul will be looking out for his party's interests. What are the military's redlines for the new president? Considering a rising Russia and Iran, where will Gul's first major challenge come from?

5. We are still more than six months away from the official crowning of Russia's next president, but it now seems that First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is the shoo-in. With that decided, Russian politics can now get on with the next order of business: figuring out who gets which jobs. In any country, the competition would be complicated and fierce; in Russia, it will be more complicated, fiercer and bloody. Who is on the rise? Who is falling? Of the people on those lists, who truly matters? And most of all, is Ivanov the real deal or merely a figurehead?

6. China has laid out a clear, crisp energy policy that, if completed, would largely redirect all of Central Asia's resources to Beijing and completely excise Russian economic influence from the region. Russia's response, so far, has been silence. Either Russia's Asian blind spot has reasserted itself with a vengeance, or China and Russia have struck a broader agreement that moves well beyond the isolation of Central Asia.

stratfor.com
25197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: August 29, 2007, 10:46:00 PM
Iraq: Al-Sadr's Six-Month Freeze
August 29, 2007 14 33  GMT



Radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered a six-month freeze on activities by his Mehdi Army militia to "rehabilitate" the organization, according to al-Sadr aide Sheikh Hazim al-Araji, who spoke on Iraqi state television Aug. 29. Al-Araji said that the suspension of Mehdi Army activities means the militia will not launch attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, and that the suspension will last for a maximum of six months.

Upon al-Sadr's return to Iraq in May after spending months in hiding in Iran, Stratfor discussed how the radical Shiite leader had put plans in motion to purge his militia of renegades. Al-Sadr had lost a great degree control over his commanders, who were largely operating on their own, threatening the Iranian government's ability to demonstrate it had enough sway to rein in Iraq's Shiite militias.

Al-Sadr is a highly unpredictable figure in Iraq's Shiite community, and is as much of a problem for the Iranians as he is for the Americans. His movement directly threatens Iran's closest Iraqi ally: the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. A spate of assassination attempts has targeted SIIC governors in southern Iraq, apparently as part of a larger struggle between al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and al-Hakim's Badr Brigades for control of the Shiite-dominated, and oil-rich, southern region of Iraq.

A Shiite pilgrimage in the southern shrine city of Karbala on Aug. 28 turned into a bloodbath between the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigades, killing 52 people and prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to order a curfew in the city. The riots reportedly erupted near the sacred shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, with al-Sadr's followers clashing with shrine guards and local policeman affiliated with al-Hakim's movement.

With or without a political agreement with the United States, the only way Iran can consolidate its gains in Iraq is through its dependence on the extremely fractious Iraqi Shiite community. With talk of a U.S. withdrawal gaining steam, Iran might have given al-Sadr an ultimatum to get his militia under control, or else face liquidation. Al-Sadr's movement already is facing attacks from U.S. and coalition troops in the south, and by announcing a cease-fire against U.S. and coalition troops, he could be trying to get himself out of a tight corner.

Sectarian tensions are running extremely high in Iraq, and Iran needs to make its own preparations for what looks to be an inevitable U.S. withdrawal -- beginning with getting the Mehdi Army's act together.
stratfor.com
25198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 29, 2007, 10:39:49 PM
While I certainly did not care for Gonzales and I think Ann Coulter often is wide of the mark and sometimes infantile,  this piece does make some fair points:

Reno 911
by Ann Coulter

Posted: 08/29/2007 Print This
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This week, congressional Democrats vowed to investigate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' firing of himself. Gonzales has said he was not involved in the discussions about his firing and that it was "performance-based," but he couldn't recall the specifics.

Right-wingers like me never trusted Gonzales. But watching Hillary Rodham Clinton literally applaud the announcement of Gonzales' resignation on Monday was more than any human being should have to bear. Liberals' hysteria about Gonzales was surpassed only by their hysteria about his predecessor, John Ashcroft. (Also their hysteria about Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, Rice, Barney and so on. They're very excitable, these Democrats.)

Liberals want to return the office to the glory years of Attorney General Janet Reno!



There is reason to believe Reno is precisely the sort of attorney general that Hillary would nominate, since Reno was widely assumed to be Hillary's pick at the time. As ABC News' Chris Bury reported the day Reno was confirmed: "The search for an attorney general exemplifies Hillary Clinton's circle of influence and its clout. ... The attorney general-designate, Janet Reno, came to the president's attention through Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham."

Let's compare attorneys general:

 -- Civilians killed by Ashcroft: 0

 -- Civilians killed by Gonzales: 0

 -- Civilians killed by Reno: 80

Reno's military attack on a religious sect in Waco, Texas, led to the greatest number of civilians ever killed by the government in the history of the United States. More Americans were killed at Waco than were killed at any of the various markers on the left's via dolorosa -- more than Kent State (4 killed), more than the Haymarket Square rebellion (4 killed), more than Three Mile Island (0 killed).

-- Innocent people put in prison by Ashcroft: 0

-- Innocent people put in prison by Gonzales: 0

-- Innocent people put in prison by Reno: at least 1 that I know of

As Dade County (Fla.) state attorney, Janet Reno made a name for herself as one of the leading witch-hunters in the notorious "child molestation" cases from the '80s, when convictions of innocent Americans were won on the basis of heavily coached testimony from small children.

Charged by Reno's office in 1984 with child molestation, Grant Snowden was convicted on the manufactured testimony of one such child, who was 4 years old when the abuse allegedly occurred.

Snowden, the most decorated police officer in the history of the South Miami Police Department, was sentenced to five life terms -- and was imprisoned with people he had put there. Snowden served 11 years before his conviction was finally overturned by a federal court in an opinion that ridiculed the evidence against him and called his trial "fundamentally unfair."

In a massive criminal justice system, mistakes will be made from time to time. But Janet Reno put people like Snowden in prison not only for crimes that they didn't commit -- but also for crimes that never happened. Such was the soccer-mom-induced hysteria of the '80s, when innocent people were prosecuted for fantastical crimes concocted in therapists' offices.

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Ashcroft: 0

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Gonzales: 0

-- Number of obvious civil rights violations ignored by Reno: at least 1

On Aug. 19, 1991, rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed to death in Crown Heights by a black racist mob shouting "Kill the Jew!" as retaliation for another Hasidic man killing a black child in a car accident hours earlier.

In a far clearer case of jury nullification than the first Rodney King verdict, a jury composed of nine blacks and three Puerto Ricans acquitted Lemrick Nelson Jr. of the murder -- despite the fact that the police found the bloody murder weapon in his pocket and Rosenbaum's blood on his clothes, and that Rosenbaum, as he lay dying, had identified Nelson as his assailant.

The Hasidic community immediately appealed to the attorney general for a federal civil rights prosecution of Nelson. Reno responded with utter mystification at the idea that anyone's civil rights had been violated.

Civil rights? Where do you get that?

Because they were chanting "Kill the Jew," Rosenbaum is a Jew, and they killed him.

Huh. That's a weird interpretation of "civil rights." It sounds a little harebrained to me, but I guess I could have someone look into it.

It took two years from Nelson's acquittal to get Reno to bring a civil rights case against him.

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Ashcroft: 0

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Gonzales: 0

-- Number of innocent civilians accused of committing heinous crimes by Reno: at least 1

Janet Reno presided over the leak of Richard Jewell's name to the media, implicating him in the Atlanta Olympic park bombing in 1996, for which she later apologized.

I believe Reno also falsely accused the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez of violating the law, which I am not including in her record of false accusations, but reminds me of another comparison.

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Ashcroft: 0

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Gonzales: 0

Number of 6-year-old boys deported to totalitarian dictatorships by Reno: 1

Not until Bush became president was the media interested in discussing the shortcomings of the attorney general. Whatever flaws Alberto Gonzales has (John Ashcroft has none), we don't have to go back to the Harding administration to find a worse attorney general.

From the phony child abuse cases of the '80s to the military assault on Americans at Waco, Janet Reno presided over the most egregious attacks on Americans' basic liberties since the Salem witch trials. These outrageous deprivations of life and liberty were not the work of fanatical right-wing prosecutors, but liberals like Janet Reno.

Reno is the sort of wild-eyed zealot trampling on real civil rights that Hillary views as an ideal attorney general, unlike that brute Alberto Gonzales. At least Reno didn't fire any U.S. attorneys!

Oh wait --

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Ashcroft: 0

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Gonzales: 8

Number of U.S. attorneys fired by Reno: 93
25199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 29, 2007, 09:52:53 PM
Was/is the Lippo Group related to the Riadys of Indonesia, the same Riady's who gave $700,000 to Webster Hubbell for a consulting contract for which he did nothing after he got out of jail for taking the rap for the billing fraud at Hillery's law firm in Arkansas-- the same fraud for which the billing records were found in her office in the White House a couple of years after they were subpoenaed?
25200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Katrina Boondoggle on: August 29, 2007, 05:03:35 PM
Part 2

Advocates pressing for federal action on climate change took this argument one step further and said the country's reliance on oil also was partly to blame for climate change, which most implied was also the cause of Hurricane Katrina. Former Vice President Al Gore and others made the argument explicitly and said that oil was not only leading to economic uncertainty and embroiling the United States in unstable foreign lands, it also was leading to hurricanes and other disasters that had direct economic and social repercussions. Though the links between energy security and climate change are tenuous, they have held in the public mind, and climate change has been linked with energy policy discussions as a priority in the new Democratic Congress.

Other issues that seemed likely to change in the wake of Katrina included the federal government's role and the politics relating to race. The debate over whether the federal government should have an active role in society or in local and state affairs has not changed. The attitude that the federal government should keep out of state and local politics -- a trend that came in with President Ronald Reagan in 1981 -- remains in place. Katrina did not lead to a rethinking of government or its role.

The civil rights community, meanwhile, failed to use Katrina to convince Americans that a significant and unjust racial divide persists in the United States and is actively maintained in parts of the country. The majority of the visual images of Katrina's aftermath focused on minorities, primarily black Americans. Due to a lack of insurance and savings minorities were generally less equipped to deal with the flooding. Despite all of this, American views on race were almost completely unchanged by Katrina.

That the core political discussion remains unchanged since Katrina is confirmed by the position taken by the presidential candidates -- Democratic and Republican -- who have been descending on New Orleans since the media stirred up the issue. Only populist liberal candidate John Edwards has focused exclusively on the symbolism of Katrina. The other Democratic candidates have roundly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the disaster, though, unlike Edwards, they have focused on offering pragmatic solutions to various troubles that still affect the city. These proposals include re-examination of government's role in society to various degrees, but they do not explicitly call for such a re-examination or a national referendum on the issue. If Katrina had fundamentally changed the Democratic Party, all Democratic candidates would be sounding like Edwards.

Katrina's Lasting Impact

Beyond softening the ground for a Democratic landslide, the disaster in New Orleans has not changed American politics. The final question is whether it will; in other words, whether Edwards is simply this year's lone progressive candidate -- the Howard Dean of 2008 -- or a harbinger of a new Democratic Party centered on issues relating to race, environment, labor and class.

We remain convinced that the major issues raised as a result of Katrina -- energy and climate, race and the role of government -- will emerge at the center of American politics in the coming years.

The impediment to the revival of a strong liberal wing of the Democratic Party is the popular view that liberal issues have no place in American politics -- or at least that liberal Democrats are overly idealistic and therefore cannot get things done in Washington. The concern over this is evident in that fact that even the Democratic presidential candidates are not emphasizing core progressive concepts during their anniversary speeches and tours in New Orleans. Rather, taking their cue from Bill Clinton -- the only Democratic candidate to be elected president in the past 28 years -- most candidates are attempting to exude confidence, competence and pragmatism -- not political idealism. Though their solutions to the country's problems imply a larger role for government, it is not central to their messages.

A new "progressive movement" is developing -- or at least that is what we call it since it has not yet been named and has no central leadership. This movement, however, clearly exists and it aims to reverse the negative view of liberal issues and leaders by framing its issues -- the same ones that mattered to the progressives of the past -- in pragmatic terms. In other words, by making the issues seem like mainstream concerns. To do this, the movement is relying on the proven technique of blurring the line between a fringe concept and a mainstream one. The climate change issue gained national prominence in this way. Environmentalists found a way to turn climate change into a foreign policy issue, vehicle fuel efficiency partly into a labor issue, and chemical regulation partly into a health issue and partly into a racial issue. Labor has used human rights and women's groups as spokespeople for its campaign against Wal-Mart. As these new ways of conceiving of traditional "progressive" issues become prevalent, traditional Democrats will find them easy to grasp -- and ultimately will support them.

As civil rights, civil liberties and social justice organizations learn to reframe their concerns in pragmatic terms, they too will gain momentum -- just as climate change has done. The only question is: How much longer will Katrina's impact last in the public mind? The 9/11 attacks lasted for almost four years as an active political tool. The Katrina issue is two years old, so if it has the same cultural permanence, 2008 is the last election in which it will matter.
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